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Why Are There No Popular Ultima Online-Like MMOs? 480

Posted by Soulskill
from the risk-is-not-our-business dept.
eldavojohn writes "I have a slightly older friend who played through the glory days of Ultima Online. Yes, their servers are still up and running, but he often waxes nostalgic about certain gameplay functions of UO that he misses. I must say that these aspects make me smile and wonder what it would be like to play in such a world — things like housing, thieving and looting that you don't see in the most popular massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. So, I've followed him through a few games, including Darkfall and now Mortal Online. And these (seemingly European developed) games are constantly fading into obscurity and never catching hold. We constantly move from one to the next. Does anyone know of a popular three-dimensional game that has UO-like rules and gameplay? Perhaps one that UO players gravitated to after leaving UO? If you think that the very things that have been removed (housing and thieving would be two good topics) caused WoW to become the most popular MMO, why is that? Do UO rules not translate well to a true 3D environment? Are people incapable of planning for corpse looting? Are players really that inept that developers don't want to leave us in control of risk analysis? I'm familiar with the Bartle Test but if anyone could point me to more resources as to why Killer-oriented games have faded out of popularity, I'd be interested."
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Why Are There No Popular Ultima Online-Like MMOs?

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  • by Captain Kirk (148843) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:49AM (#31227288) Homepage Journal

    A lot of of the people who rave about pre-Tramell UO are people who fit the "Multi-player appeal to the Killer" label Bartle uses.

    Sadly they needed 1000s of "Multi-player appeal to the Socializer" players to feed on. Beign griefed is not fun for such a person so UO failed to grow. No other game that allows griefign will be fun so you won't see them get developed or launched.

    WoW allows griefing on PVP realms - you have to opt in. Most of those realms are empty for the same reason.

  • Casual gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stjobe (78285) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:50AM (#31227292) Homepage

    Casual gamers are what makes up the bulk of MMO subscriptions. These gamers don't want to be robbed of their progress by full-loot, robbery and other nasty things.

    The casual gamer will happily spend his $15 if he knows nothing stands between him and the phat loot but time.

  • by jbb999 (758019) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:52AM (#31227298)
    My title sums it up really. Wow in particular has ceased to be a world full of adventure and exploration and has rapidly become just a game full of people who complain if there is anything to do that slows down their getting their loot. The whole game has shrunk from a huge world full of adventure into a tiny game with about 10 instances and raids that people do over and over and over, and complain if there is anything that slows that down. Many other games have followed WoW down this route, and yet I think it's success was despite that, not because of it. The other games may well be "obscure" but that doesn't mean they don't exist or they are no fun to play. Does it matter is there are 3 servers full of people you'll never meet in game, or 200?
  • Re:EvE Online? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tero (39203) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:05AM (#31227370)

    That's just bullshit, starting from scratch is equally fun and you don't "lose" anything in the process.
    EVE is a slow moving game and there's a point in not letting everyone fly everything from the start.

    But to answer to your main point - it's /perfectly legal/ to purchase a character with 30M SP from the EVE forums (check the Character Bazaar part), if you don't feel like starting from scratch - you're allowed to buy a character.

    So I guess I'll see you tomorrow then...

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:06AM (#31227388)

    In Eve, the PvP happens alongside (well, sorta -- too complex to go into detail about here) the PvE. Players can build their own "home" -- a space station (but it's not a home for one character, it needs to be built by -- and more importantly -- defended by, a group of people). You can steal from the weak, who in turn hire mercs to have their revenge. Pretty much a complete player-run economy.

    No Elves in lederhosen frolicking about in the woods hoping to steal a kiss, but then again, there are the Gallente...

  • Re:Casual gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xugumad (39311) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:07AM (#31227396)

    > These gamers don't want to be robbed of their progress by full-loot, robbery and other nasty things.

    Also casual gamers are much more likely to be robbed, and much less likely to be able to rob back.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:27AM (#31227456) Homepage Journal

    to play and put every 2-3 hours of your daily life into a game to increasingly progress and then get jumped on by a random group of 2-3 somewhere and all your progress stolen.

    it only works when you are a teenager and you have unlimited time in your hands, so you can stomach the loss. but doesnt work for people with little time.

    back then in uo days we had that kind of time, and we were stupid enough to stomach that kind of gameplay. but, curiously, i see that contrary to what we did back then, kids of today's generation do not waste their time in that fashion. they just go play proper mmos.

    that kind of gameplay only can work in a setting in which you are not required to put inane amounts of time to make progress. if you could make up for the stolen items/whatever in a single session (2-3 hours) that would maybe work. but, else, cant.

  • balance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:38AM (#31227508) Homepage Journal

    I'm playing (well, trying to, it's laggy and buggy) the open beta of Mortal Online, and I've followed Darkfall a little, as well as playing EVE and a bunch of others MMOs. What I've learnt there is it is very, very hard to balance a game that allows players to act against each other freely.

    Most MMOs restrict PvP to zones, disallow looting, etc. etc. - all those restrictions are mostly there because they make balancing a TON easier. Just read the Mortal Online forums and you can see how difficult it is to get thieving right. If it's too difficult, nobody will use it and you can just as well leave it out. If it is too easy, it attracts all the griefers and assholes who don't steal from people to advance their own character, but merely to annoy other players.

    It is unbelievably difficult to find the correct balance once your game has a certain amount of complexity, because all those features interact with each other. EVE did one thing right, and that's why they are still top dog. By setting things into space and a SciFi setting, they eliminated a lot of complexities. The seperation of the game world into solar systems is a natural seperation that players accept. It solves a ton of technical issues without the disturbing portals of other games. The whole cloning and insurance system covers the looting, death and resurrection part from a believable angle that gives the designers lots of freedom in tweaking things. And finally, having security ratings from 1.0 to 0.0 with a smooth transition from "carebear space" to "free for all hardcore space" is a brilliant idea.

    Any MMO that doesn't learn from EVE is doomed to fail, I say. And I don't play EVE any more, it's not my game. But they made a good number of brilliant design decisions and have the ability to learn from their mistakes. Kudos for that. Now if you look back at the failed or failure-in-progress games, you will often see devs fanatically defending an original vision that turned out to be impossible to implement. Those who can not adapt, fail.

    I still hope MO turns out to be right, but my hopes are fading.

  • by Tridus (79566) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:43AM (#31227536) Homepage

    Yeah, this. Griefing and thieving only work as gameplay when there are lots of victims. Unfortunately, for the victims it isn't very fun. Those people stop playing when it happens enough times to frustrate them.

    Game companies tend to dislike it when people stop playing, and the victim pool massively outnumbers the jerk pool. So naturally they make games friendlier to that group.

    Face up to reality. The number of people who actually want to do this type of anti-social behavior simply isn't large enough to support a big game on its own, and nobody else but those people actually likes it. Being killed and robbed is not fun for most players. Thus, most players go find games that are fun.

  • Re:Casual gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:57AM (#31227596) Homepage Journal

    I claim you are wrong.

    I'm halfway a casual and halfway a hardcore gamer - due to job and hobbies, my time for a game is pretty limited, but when I like it, I put my teeth into it and my satisfaction is getting as much or more return in a few hours as a lot of the "hardcore" kids with unlimited time on their hands get in playing all day.

    Most of the laid-back people that I play with don't mind losing progress. What they do mind is the constant grieving that goes along with it. Many of the thieves, PKers, robbers and yes, cheaters and exploiters in those games are not taking from your character to progress themselves. Heck, I've heard so many stories about thieves immediately destroying their stolen goods that it would fill a book. They're doing it because they can and because they enjoy annoying other people. Typical behaviour for a certain part of the 13-15 age bracket.

    Casual gamers are usually adults. They've been there, done that, realized a few later how dumb and asine it all was, and cringe when they see it in others because it still is dumb and asine plus it reminds them of their own faults back then.

    The other part that comes with it is why, in fact, for some cases many people do (contrary to my words above) hate losing progress: The stupid grinding to get it back. If there were less grind and more fun in progress, it would matter less if your progress is from 15 to 16 or from 14 to 15 - again. But since in most MMOs, losing progress or starting over means doing the same boring thing again, yes that is why losing progress sucks.

  • Heres why: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by brillow (917507) on Monday February 22, 2010 @07:00AM (#31227616)
    1) Getting your shit stolen isn't fun. 2) A game has to be pretty lame if you're spending time in your virtual "house." I don't need to log on to sit around my house.
  • by flimflammer (956759) on Monday February 22, 2010 @07:01AM (#31227622)

    I'm gonna have to call bull on a lot of this.

    Rose colored glasses have always been a thorn in World of Warcrafts side. This world of adventure you speak of is the first reaction you get being in a world you don't know, filled with dangers you haven't yet seen. Once it finally sinks in that the big bad world is actually rather small, and once you reach the level cap there isn't much to do, then that's a whole other thing altogether. You're never going to get back that sense of adventure and it's borderline ridiculous to expect Blizzard to somehow restore it to its complete former glory.

    You speak of the low instance and raid count as if it is something new. Those were all you had to do back in the early days too. Hit the level cap? Time for raids. You want to do something else? Too bad. Want to do something other than raids, like PvP? I hope you like being curb stomped by the guy in full T2. Hell right when release hit-- available options was even worse. All you had was Molten Core and Onyxia that you spent wiping to with 39 other people for weeks and weeks until the poorly itemized blue gear you were wearing was either buffed or the encounters were finally tweaked once Blizzard realized how bad they were.

    There has always been complaints about progression and inhibitors. Always. Blizzard finally realized it was in their best interest as a business to start listening to some of the complaint that had been heard far and wide. The primary ones were progression for less-than-cutting-edge groups to see the new content, and Blizzard opened it up. Honestly given your argument about how few things there is to do, this should have been seen as a blessing.

  • Fuck world pvp (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Monday February 22, 2010 @07:03AM (#31227646) Homepage Journal

    what was that ? 10 minutes wait to gather some 10-20 or so people to create a raid, 10 minutes to go to the location of the raid, 10 minutes of killing lowbies there until the high levels come, 10 minutes of killing 2-3 high levels until a serious raid forms up from the other side and arrives in your location, then 30 seconds of pvp, death, 5 minutes of running from gy, rezzing and repreparing. after 10 minutes, going back again.

    all that 1-2 hour hassle for only a total of 5-10 minutes of pvp. fuck that

    there is a reason why pvp battlegrounds are accommodating over 8000 players at godforsaken 03.30 at night in eu servers alone - instant, incessant action.

  • Re:EvE Online? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cbhacking (979169) <been_out_cruising-slashdot@y a h o> on Monday February 22, 2010 @07:06AM (#31227658) Homepage Journal

    Wow... you sound like you've actually played the game, but have some extremely odd notions about it.

    T2, in and of itself, doesn't take that long. With a knowledgeable friend and/or careful planning, you could do it before finishing a three-week trial if they didn't limit those ships to non-trial accounts. You can certainly do it in a month or so. Sure, an Interceptor or Assault Frigate is no Black Ops battleship or Command battlecruiser, but it's Tech 2 and perfectly usable in PvP. Of course, well within the trial period (I've done it), you can have a powerful T2-fitted Rifter or similar. Sure, it's T1, and it's a frigate... but hell, with the right fittings you can kill interceptors (despite them being T2) in such a ship. That said, a tech 1 hull with tech 1 fittings can still be perfectly valid as a PvP ship, for roaming gangs or gate camping or scouting a convoy or any number of other things. If you want, that's a valid approach right up through battlecruisers and battleships; the largest non-capital military ships, and you can get to battlecruisers in about a month if you really push it.

    For large ships, T2 does indeed take longer. A Vagabond (T2 cruiser) - one of the best PvP ships for solo or small gang warfare, due to its incredible speed, decent durability, and decent firepower - will take at least two months to train for (longer if you want all the support skills that such a ship's pilot ought to have, but not *much* longer). Of course, that's not really a *large* ship, although a well-fitted one can kill most battlescruisers. Command ships are at least a few months more, and at a guess I'd estimate 8 months for a T2 battleship. Of course, it's not like you can't do anything until you get there. Fly a T1 frigate until you can fly a cruiser or T2 frigate. Fly cruiser or T2 frigate until you can fly T2 cruiser (Vagabond or similar). Almost any combat ship can be valuable in PvP, and even relatively new characters can have the skills to succeed in solo PvP if they get a pointer in the right direction.

    The times above are assuming you train straight for that ship's skills; after over 2 years of EVE I still can't fly Black Ops because honestly I don't give a damn. They're awesome ships, and fill a very valuable tactical role... and yet their hulls alone cost several times what I spend on a fully fitted fleet battleship or even T2 battlecruiser. Most of my PvP is in a T1 battlecruiser, because frankly the Hurricane is fantastic PvP ship; it's got DPS comparable to a battleship, can tank well enough, is fast, and full fittings, rigs, and insurance for one costs like 70M tops (of which you'll get 30-odd million back from the insurance if you die). I use a fully T2 fit (rigs aside), and the skills necessary for my exact fit would probably take about 7 months or so to train from a new character. Within three months though, you could be perhaps 90% as effective; it's not actually that important to have a T2 MWD, or even T2 guns.

    In any case, the suggestion that you can't PvP for a freaking year is *complete* bullshit. It's not typically practical to try PvP in your first week, but I have a friend who tried the game and was brining his cruiser on roaming gangs with me before his two-week trial ended (you can get three-week trials now, and early characters now receive a bonus to skill training speed to get them started even faster). Hell, I don't even suggest rushing T2; cost for cost, T2 hulls aren't close to worth it. T1 is easier to train and typically the hull costs literally 1/10 as much, for a ship that is well over half as effective.

  • by CarbonShell (1313583) on Monday February 22, 2010 @07:10AM (#31227684)

    For todays 'RPG'-Gamers, actually (pseudo-)dieing is Hardcore enough. Their heads would explode if you did anything worse to them.

    Bad enough they have to actually WALK 1 min back to their corpse and regain ALL their stuff...

  • by dave1791 (315728) on Monday February 22, 2010 @07:12AM (#31227692)

    And there were not many other choices in 1998. If you wanted to play online and were not interested in being a wolf, then you had to be a sheep. Now you have 10^7 other choices and the only people who really miss pre-trammel UO are the killers. It is no accident that Shadowbane, which was built to cater to exactly those people, failed in the market and Darkfall will never be anything more than a niche. I predict that it will fail in the long term because a world that only appeals to wolves will force most of them to be sheep (there can only ever be a few wolves, even if everyone aspires to be one) and they won't stay.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday February 22, 2010 @08:13AM (#31228018)

    While you can be griefed on a PvP server, all that does is make you lose time. You have to go back to where you were. In the event someone is camping you, you can't do anything until that's cleared up, but that's all. You don't lose gold, experience, loot, etc. So it is annoying, but little more. However in UO you stood to lose a lot, and most people don't like that.

    You are correct in that what it comes down to is that there's few people who like this sort of thing. There are a fair number who like to be on the giving end, but less who are willing to be on the receiving end. So even if you decided to make a game that catered to grifers, you'd have the problem that many griefers wouldn't want to play it. Since it would more or less be a griefer only fest, they wouldn't have casual players to pick on and it wouldn't be fun for them. A large number of them aren't interested in an equal playing field where they might be griefed as well. They want a situation where they can band together with other griefers to pick on the weak, but that doesn't work.

    As such there will be a small market for games like this. You can see this well with EVE. Not only is it rather small, compared to other MMOs, but many of the player base positively HATE WoW. I don't mean they dislike playing WoW so found a new game, I mean they hate that WoW exists and that people play it. Now why would that be? Shouldn't affect them. The reason is because they want all those casual people to come play EVE. They want weak, inexperienced people to pick on and take advantage of. They are mad that these people have other places to play.

    What it comes down to is people play games to have fun. What fun is for various people is different, but for an extremely large amount fun means "Not losing everything because of a jerk." They want something akin to a single player game with checkpoints and quick saves and such. A situation where you don't always move forward, but you never move backward. They don't want the equivalent to a single player game that deletes your save if you die.

    As such, game companies will make games like that. If they don't make games people want to buy, they'll not be in business for long.

  • by Clover_Kicker (20761) <> on Monday February 22, 2010 @08:19AM (#31228046)

    Does it matter is there are 3 servers full of people you'll never meet in game, or 200?

    It matter if the publisher decides the game isn't profitable, how many MMOs have gone away in the last few years?

    I'd love to spark up my Hellgate London Summoner and farm heads, but the servers are long gone.

  • by Phoenix (2762) on Monday February 22, 2010 @08:20AM (#31228050)

    Years ago, I played UO and enjoyed it.

    For all of 5 days. Then it became a cringe-making hell for me.

    Unless you were one of the uber-elite of gamers out there who knew how to level to demi-godhood on the servers, you were their prey.

    The game became less and less fun the more I tried to simply to do something...anything to get better than a lowbie character, the more frustrating it became. I tried mining, and was frequently killed for my hard work. Logging, anything...I was a target for players who wanted nothing more than to kill and enjoy the sweat off of their victim's brow. I couldn't earn money, couldn't advance...

    In fact, the only thing I was great at was dying.

    Not exactly something I want to sink money into month after month. After 15 days, I gave it up as a bad idea.

    Everquest came along with something that allowed the PvP'ers to have their fun and would leave us casual players to progress at our own pace. There was no real need to level to the max in nothing flat just to stay alive, one could enjoy the game. World of Warcraft did something different, but has the same result.

    Why are games going this way? Because look at the "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode of Southpark. Once someone was able to kill at will and in fact seemed to get off on ganking lower-than-he characters...people stopped playing the game. The Fictional Blizzard company in the episode saw millions of their user base turning off their computers and going outside to play.

    The real Blizzard and other companies running MMORPG games would have a very real version of this problem. In fact, once EQ came out, people jumped from UO to it and most of them said that EQ was far superior not for graphics, or world development...but for the simple fact that they could PLAY the game and not flee anything that was controlled by another player.

    That's why everyone maximizes game play and leaves options for people to decide to play PvP without interfering with everyone else who doesn't want to play that game.

    Sure it sucks for the PvP'ers, but that's why there are PvP servers. If you want to be that kind of player...there's your world to do it in.

  • Re:Casual gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday February 22, 2010 @08:22AM (#31228066)

    If you look at human history, you come to realize that the strong few imposing their will on the masses is extremely common. The relative justice and equality enjoyed in some nations today is an anomaly, not the rule. Most of history, and plenty of places today, are the few oppressing the masses for their own enjoyment. The places that are not, well it took a lot of work, not to mention some extremely talented people to bring about.

    So, what this means in games is we are stupid to assume it'll be any different. If you make a game where people can steal from each other and so on and create their own rules, you are an idiot if you think anything will develop but a situation where a few oppress the many. This is even more true in games for three reasons:

    1) There's no permanent consequences. At least in real life a dictator can be killed or sent to prison or the like. In a game, you can't do that. So even if players band up and take down a trouble maker, that guy can just respawn, work to reclaim what he lost, and come back after them.

    2) People can, and will, take their money elsewhere. In the real world there's some motivation to try and stand up for others and make things better as this life, this world, is all you've got. In a game it is much easier to just say "fuck it" and take your dollars somewhere more fun. As such someone who might have the potential to be the leader needed may well just leave.

    3) Along those lines it is just a game, there's only so much effort many people are willing to spend on it. So again while someone might be the leader needed to try and fight against the griefers, they could well not be willing to spend the time.

    All in all what you have is a situation where the sociopaths WILL make life difficult for everyone else, if they are allowed to. You can't expect anything else and you have to design a game knowing that. That means, if you desire to cater to anyone but those people, you are going to need to enforce order at a higher level. You need the game to have mechanics to prevent that sort of thing from happening, you can't tell your players "Oh just deal with it yourselves."

  • Re:Heres why: (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xouumalperxe (815707) on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:04AM (#31228292)

    A game has to be pretty lame if you're spending time in your virtual "house."

    Yet The Sims is one of the most successful franchises ever. Just because it doesn't work for you doesn't mean there isn't a market for it.

  • by fractoid (1076465) on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:22AM (#31228440) Homepage
    No, he wants to be a griefing fucktard and then get camped by angry vigilantes. Griefing with impunity, especially by abusing game mechanics, is the domain of *non*-pvp oriented MMOs.
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:35AM (#31228558)

    There's a high nostalgia factor, too.

    Listen to people wax nostalgic about Everquest sometime, talking about how they had to line-up for 8 hours to enter an instance with 20 people, how if even a single person got disconnected they'd lose their spot in line and have to restart, how if they wiped in the dungeon it took 6 hours to get back to where they were before, how raiding was a 16-hour day almost every time, with no breaks.

    Then ask yourself, "would I want to play the game they're describing?" (No, you wouldn't.)

    Odds are, UO was actually just a pretty bad game. The reason he goes on about it is because his brain is infected with the nostalgia disease, which makes everything old look good even if it wasn't.

  • by Shinobi (19308) on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:51AM (#31228682)

    Lol, that bullshit again.

    The problem with ganking is, as the summary stated, a case of risk-analysis. If you are on a PvP realm, and know there's a risk of being ganked and you have an aversion to that, why are you doing them solo? The top guilds tend to have players who don't settle for mediocrity, and thus instead go in with the attitude of "I'll kick the ass of anyone who tries to mess with me", or do dailies together with other guildies and are thus better prepared to deal with any threat. Meanwhile, less capable people don't tend to have a mentality of being willing to deal with major challenges and thus improve by overcoming them.

    The major issue with playtime is that the average time played for the top guilds and less capable guilds tends to be the same over a period of time, say 6 months. The difference is that for the top guilds it tends to be in peaks, with plenty of time played at the release of new content tapering off to a deep valley when the new content is cleared and on farm status, while the less capable guilds have a more flat profile.

    I mean, it's such an obvious lie that it's hard to understand why people keep perpetrating it. Simply put, if their entire life was devoted to it, they wouldn't have girlfriends/boyfriends/wives/husbands(Which many do), they wouldn't have other hobbies(Which they do), they wouldn't be able to spend days making movies as another hobby of theirs.

  • by Delusion_ (56114) on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:53AM (#31228700) Homepage

    All of the people I know who miss UO were into the PK scene.

    Calling it PVP is misleading because for people who never played UO, that brings to mind more modern games' consent-based PVP systems. In WoW, you consent to PvP by playing on a PvP server, starting a duel, enabling your PvP flag, and/or joining a battleground. In UO, you could kill other players outside town, period. There were originally some "disincentives" to excessive PKing, but the biggest was getting a badass title that showed how notorious you were, so that was really more of an incentive.

    Also, to those who didn't play it, it's necessary to understand that UO was not a level-based system where the only way to kill someone ten levels over you was for them to be comatose. It was a character skill-based system where the skills you used the most increased the most.

    The typical PKer had an advantage over non-PKers because they had a different understanding (and in retrospect, a correct one) of how PVP combat worked. The typical non-PKer was far too enamoured of gear and character skills. The PKer understood that if you weren't ready to fight ten seconds after resurrection, you probably already lost. If your gameplay depended on superior equipment, you were quite honestly doing it wrong, and the difference between character skills was far, far less important than player experience. To add to the issue, UO was also riddled with a ridiculous amount of huge bugs. If you think you know what bugs are strictly from WoW experience, I have to say, you honestly have no idea.

    Non-PVP zones were limited to cities, so the exits to the cities were a killing ground. Graveyards were resurrection zones, so those were a killing ground. Dungeons were favorite destinations, so those were a killing ground.

    Many other posters have brought some or all of these issues up.

    The key for wolves was to have enough sheep, and that's where the legacy of the Ultima series comes into play. Ultima was a game series that, for its time, had a very large fan base. Furthermore, it was a very moral series of games. Ultima 1-3 where pretty much standard-fare RPG mishmashes of Tolkien, every bad fantasy book ever made, and science fiction. When U4 came out, it was extremely different. Though it hasn't aged well (meaning I don't think you'll get a correct sense of how different it was at the time, if you emulate it today), it was a revelatory experience. No longer could you win the game by destroying everything in sight and not taking everything that wasn't locked down (assuming you were strong enough to defeat the guards or clever enough to evade them). Ultima 4 was a game about what it means to be virtuous. Ultima 5 dealt with what it means to enforce virtue as draconian law, subverting virtue. Ultima 6 concerned itself with the problem of evil and the moral ramifications of messiah prophecy. Ultima 7 was less about moral dimensions, but had solid gameplay, and Ultima 8 was the first game which really failed to meet fan expectations.

    Due to the moral dimensions of U4-6, and the quality of U7, Ultima not only had a very strong following, but it appealed to a lot of people who liked the fact that it wasn't just another game where you can kill your way out of every situation. It appealed to players' senses of justice, fairness, and compassion. In fact, U4 introduced a Virtue System which not only codified 8 virtues (honesty, compassion, valor, justice, honor, sacrifice, spirituality and humility) and 3 principles which guided them (truth, love and courage). Ultima Online had a lot of players who remembered the U4-6 legacy with fondness, and had a fan base where such virtues were often exemplified in the community.

    Ultima Online shipped without any virtue system, needless to say. It was filled with a lot of non-PVPers, for many of whom UO was their first mulitplayer RPG. Many of the PK crowd came from other smaller games where PVP was more common. The collision of values is what was important, because it gave a lot of the n

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday February 22, 2010 @09:53AM (#31228710) Journal

    Actually, "be able to" never played much of a role in UO griefing. The only question was whether you want to be a griefing fucktard or not. Most of the exploits were so trivially simple, that if you could click with a mouse at all, you'd be perfectly able to. (And if you can't click, you wouldn't play UO in the first place.) There were no twitch-reflexes or l33t PvP skillz involved, just the willingness to be a griefer or not.

    E.g., since the summary mentions housing _and_ thieving together, that combination simply meant using a clipping bug to steal someone's furniture through the walls. There were no player or character skills involved at all. You didn't even need to be able to lockpick their lock or evade notice or anything. Just click yourself near a corner and do it. That was all.

    So, yes, everyone could do it. Maybe not "back", but rather to some other victim, but they could do it, if they wanted to. Some of us simply weren't inclined to spread the grief around.

    E.g., you could trap the lock on a chest and leave it by the roadside. (Heck, that was the _only_ use for tinkering skill anyway.) Then some hapless brand-new player would stumble upon it, try to open it, and die. Or poison some food, put it in a sack, and leave it by the roadside. Same deal.

    There wasn't even any "social engineering" involved or anything. Just wait for some newbie to spring the trap, before even knowing what they're doing in the game.

    E.g., even straight player-killing actually rarely involved any bravery or combat skill at all. Most of those did stuff as lame as waiting until some miner is overloaded with ore, so they can't get away, then gank them. Or they actually grouped to muster the balls to attack some newbie.

    Even the character skills involved, were often just gotten through some exploit. E.g., at launch the infamous drop-and-pick-a-coin trick, repeated for a couple of hours, would get you to the strength cap with no risks or adventuring or skills involved. Just brainless clicking or using a script were enough.

    Again, it was nothing that a casual player couldn't do if they wanted to. The coin trick was well known very soon, for example. But some people chose to do stuff like role-playing, or building their dream mix of abilities, instead of doing the one-track-minded griefer build.

  • Re:Casual gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday February 22, 2010 @10:27AM (#31228988)

    You are very right about the grifers not wanting to fight. I played WoW for many years on a PvP server and one of my very favourite things was to track down griefers and use them as a scratching post (I played a feral druid). Well funny thing, many of the griefer types (at least on my side) claimed that they did it to start a fight. Go in, kill low level people to pick a fight. Ok, but when I showed up and started chewing on them, they couldn't run away fast enough. Suddenly when there was someone who could beat them (since they were usually bad at PvP having little practice fighting their equals) it wasn't fun anymore for them. The reason they griefed was because they wanted to be jerks with no threat to themselves. When a threat showed up, they ran.

    In general though, I don't think it is such a problem as you make it out to be. While they may be loud on forums, and perhaps convince some people on /. that they are the major market, game makers seem to know better. MMOs these days do NOT cater to that type of player except with extremely rare exceptions. Seems the actual game developers understand that the market is people who want to have fun playing the game, not the griefers.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Monday February 22, 2010 @10:44AM (#31229138)

    This is the same dynamic that killed Asheron's Call 2. The entire gameworld was set up to be a sanctioned grief-fest.

    95% of the players spent time hating on the "carebear" players (the ones in the non-PVP server). The non-PvP'ers, meanwhile, all bailed because most of the game's content meant interacting with the griefing fucktards.

    The rest of the players went to the "faction" servers or the "hardcore" servers, where you either griefed the other faction with impunity, or griefed everyone with impunity. Or, if you weren't one of the cheating motherfuckers who used exploits to get to the level cap 2 weeks after game launch, ran around getting griefed till you found a griefer-guild to powerlevel you, or left the game.

    And no, there aren't enough "hardcore griefers" to spend enough money supporting a game like that with a subscription model. So it folded. Big surprise. Jessica Mulligan, who had previously said that PvP is only fun if "consensual", went on to design a gameworld setup where getting griefed was a way of life.

    I am reminded of George Lucas saying "A special effect without a story is boring" in 1977. Hey George, regarding Episodes 1-2-3 (Ep1 especially)...?

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:31AM (#31229650) Journal

    Well, your analogy has merit in its own right, but it's actually a bit mis-leading in the context of UO and generally of online griefing.

    RL oppressing and exploiting the masses was at least generally done for personal gain. Some guy got to make some money or have a big castle or whatever, by oppressing those peasants.

    In UO the somewhat surprising thing for many players was that a lot of people were not motivated by any kind of gain. They just wanted to make _you_ miserable. There was not even an attempt to enforce their will upon you, as in "you must do X because I'm the boss." They just wanted to make you miserable, that's all.

    My perfect example is the way some people tried (and for a while succeeded) to screw up the economy. It's not the most grief-worthy thing, mind you, but it's an illustration of something done not just without any personal gain, but often even at a personal loss.

    E.g., UO at launch required two wolves to make a third wolf. Some people took it upon themselves to exterminate the wolves, not to gain anything themselves in the process, but to keep the other players from having stuff to kill.

    E.g., UO at launch tried to have a maximum total quantity of metal in the world, including in swords and armours and whatnot, and would only spawn more ore when some metal items got destroyed. (Sold to vendors, despawned, etc.) That was their idea of enforcing some realistic level of supply and demand. But then some people started filling their and their alts' bank vaults with swords and armours and whatnot, just to prevent more ore from spawning. Not to corner the market and make a profit later, or any other kind of realistic motivation. Just for the sake of screwing up the economy for everyone else. Just to keep _you_ from finding ore if you want to play a smith.

    E.g., even plain old ganking, the stereotypical ganker didn't even own anything other than a cheap replaceable halberd. They didn't even bother getting new armour after being killed, but would just run around in their death shroud. They didn't kill you for your money or your posessions, except in as much as to prevent you from enjoying those money or posessions.

    What I'm trying to say is that RL history actually favoured more those who actually knew how to profit from others, not the plain old psychopath. To be a successful king RL you needed not just to make the peasants miserable, but to drum up popular support, make alliances, play the piety card big time, etc. UO was the other way around. It favoured the psychopaths who really had no other plan than spreading the grief.

    The real key is what you wrote at point 2: the lack of consequences for the griefer. And I don't mean as in "permanent death" or anything, but rather the more mundane realization that there's nothing you can do to someone's character that'll matter, when they only see that character as a disposable griefing tool. It's akin to making a murderer wear a different shirt for 5 minutes as a RL penalty for murder: you can probably see how some people would then run amok every day. Not because they gain anything, but just because they can.

  • Developer risk (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilWurst (96042) on Monday February 22, 2010 @11:55AM (#31229920) Journal

    Devloping an MMO is a long, expensive, and therefore risky proposition. Great rewards if you succeed, devastation if you fail. And a failure can poison your future opportunities, too - how many people are going to avoid the next Star Wars MMO after disliking the first?

    From a certain point of view, the history of MMOs since the late 90s has been one of a race for each generation of game to copy whatever was most successful from the previous generation. Less risky that way, right? Well, UO wasn't the most successful of its generation; Everquest was, and, in the far east, Lineage was. That's why we got level-based (or level-grind-based) MMOs from there. WoW's absolutely stunning success in particular has locked us into this rut.

    The PvP question is an equally important one. People hate griefing, but the *reason* they hate it is mainly the lost time/progress. Games that balance that have a chance to succeed, games that don't balance it very rarely succeed. EVE is the one high-risk success outlier we can point to - but even then, compared to WoW, which one is a developer going to copy? WoW.

    In practice, you could probably do a game based on the core ideas of UO, with modern adjustments added in, and be successful. UO had a lot of things going for it. Its approach to a player economy, its complete decoupling of trade skills from combat skills, and its comparatively low dependence on gear were all Good Things, in my opinion. Now add in modern conveniences like a UI that doesn't suck, auction house, soulbind-on-equip/soulbind-on-pickup items, better banking/party/guild/raid support, modern WoW-like quest system, instancing (but don't overdo it - those open dungeons were fun too), and so on. And, when you think about it, those changes would almost be enough to make UO's open PvP bearable, wouldn't they? Most of your good gear would be unlootable, as would the bits of monster parts from your current kill-x-collect-y quests, so there'd not be much penalty for your first player-induced death, and the other guy therefore only stands to lose by sticking around - you'd actually have a chance of killing him and taking back your stuff. The kind of NPC guard presence we see in WoW would also make for a lot less griefing too, since any place with questgivers becomes a small bubble of safety from the standard career criminal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2010 @01:12PM (#31231144)

    I am sorry, you are an idiot. If you ever played UO you would know exactly what is missing. After UO turned into a carebear land, there was only one remaining bastion. Siege Perilous. Point is, in "glory days", there were not only PK clans, there were antis as well. It was a continuous struggle between murdering psychotic bastards and those who tried to stop them where later were a minority. People would not just join "good" or "bad" side like in WoW. They would BE good or evil. Good and evil were not hard coded into game. People would shape what good and evil meant. If you met an anti, you knew you are pretty much talking to a paladin. If you met an undead lord you knew they were a psychotic fuck that would kill you, rape you, loot you, dismember you and store one of your organs in a box somewhere as a part of sacrificial ceremony to whatever dark gods they pray. If you are lucky in that order. And you would know that by staring at your own guts in a grey world. OOOOOoooOOooOOOo. Fucking horde in WoW? They are pussies comparing to sick and twisted shit you had to deal with in UO. Instead of "oh cool you are a zombie lol" you would get *stare* *cling* *cling* *swoosh* *don't mind me while energy vortex is chacing you* *o shit it's coming for me now* *OoooOOooOoO*. In UO "evil" was real. I loved it. And I was on the receiving end of it. Why do PKs get all the glory? Why do people always forget those who held the line against them? By playing UO you realize how rare decent people actually are. After that any other MMO with the artificial rules becomes boring. UO was like giving kids a loaded gun and getting them drunk which is not legal in US. You can get a gun tho. The only game that comes close to UO is strangely enough EVE online. In 0.0 space it is just as sick and twisted, except less fun and more of a second job. And don't bitch or I'll feed you to my wyrm...
      What I am trying to say in the end is, UO had no rules to guide the players. It was a chaos that gradualy organized itself. This "order" reflects our society. And that view was a good lesson. People are sick and twisted except few exceptions.

  • by JakFrost (139885) on Monday February 22, 2010 @10:40PM (#31239978)

    I would say that OSI then EA (Electronic Arts) slowly started killing Ultima Online right after the PvP shard split to Felucca (PvE) and Trammel (PvE) shard mirrors. After that the game became segregated into two different cultures and future patches started driving the game more towards a PvE environment that was newb friendly. After that the game started moving away from a skill based system to an item oriented one further devolving the game into a grind fest for goods which ultimately lead to free rate item awards for players based purely on the age of the characters regardless of skills. Not to mention increased stat caps based on age also that put all new players at a disadvantage that could never be overcome due to the younger status of their new characters. The Champion Spawn and Power Scroll drove the game insane with quests for rate +20 skill increase scrolls and +25 stat (int, str, dex) scrolls along with custom smith crafting hammers. Item insurance, no-body loot rules, item lockdown, and bags of teleportation just added into the item hoarding aspect of the game that slowly turned it into a grind for stuff.

    I played mostly as I lawful good character in the game, not a NotoPK, just a real good and honest player from the 1997-8 release until a few years later, with multiple periods of not playing in-between. I build my characters through normal playing and progression of skills fighting in dungeons with other blue's and ad-hoc formed groups of people just crawling through dungeons for loot and skills. The constant danger of random PKers was there and always the fear of a PK raid would exist but they made the game more exciting and interesting because they created real risks. The PK and NotoPK wars were the most interesting in pre-Trammel days since those were the early frontier times where you were only marginally safe in the cities since there auto-kill guards were not very effective to being completely on your own with ability to lose all of your loot, time, and sometimes skills for anyone turned red when you died.

    An accidental venture too deep into the forests north Britain could have you run into a lonely gazer who'd combo you with explosion, energy bolt, and lighting to turn you into a corpse as you're trying to run away, only to end up having to run on foot to the closest shrine for resurrection and hope that you can get to your body with no health without getting killed by a passing by red, a lowly monster, or bad luck on the way before you body expires along with all of your gear and loot inside requiring you to reequip everything. Those were the most memorable moments for me playing that game, the risk heightened the whole experience and the adrenaline dumps you would experience from the things that happened in the game since you knew the risk and the loss you could really sustain.

    Honestly, never being a PKer or griefer I preferred the original risky UO experience than the softened up consensual PvP that exists in games today, there is no risk to your game and the whole thing just devolves into skill grinding, item gathering, or a huge boring chatroom.

interlard - vt., to intersperse; diversify -- Webster's New World Dictionary Of The American Language