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Games Entertainment

Lord British In The New Yorker 59

bigfatlamer writes "This week's New Yorker has an interview/article with Richard Garriot about the world of Ultima Online. Nothing here is going to be news to slashdotters, but it's well written and worth a read. There's another article on viruses in the issue but it's only available in print."
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Lord British In The New Yorker

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  • There were some very intersting comments in the article about virtual economies and ecologies, and the UO team's experiences with hyperinflation, hoarding, economic collapse, and various emergent properties of the MMORPG that couldn't have been predicted ahead of time. But the best quote in the article was this:

    "I found [UO] at once mildly addictive and boring, like the dances I used to go to in high school."

    It's too bad that non-Slashdot authors can't be modded up as "insightful".

  • "Gods, that was the most poorly written pile of pigswill I've seen in ages! I have no problems with the content, but rather the writing style..." You're an idiot, aren't you? C'mon, just admit it...
  • Some guy even pulled it off in Ultima Online during the beta test. The story is here [].
  • In U6 you can also clone LB and get him to fight himself.
    Lots of evil things to do in Ultima, including killing LB, killing Beren in U8, and solving Ultima IX while only completing 3 of the shrines. :>

    Also, they got their Ultima timelines wrong. They described Ultima VI as Ultima V.
  • why don't the people who publish these MMORPGs give away the games for free?
    Neocron [] will (though admittedly they're not opening the source)--and they're even going to offer a subscription discount if you buy more than one month at a time, bringing the cost of the game down to about $8 a month if you buy time "in bulk".

    As one of the first two hundred people outside the company picked to beta-test it, I'm very excited. I can't wait to see what it's like. I found the article very interesting, and I'm sure, as it said, that Neocron will have learned from the mistakes of its elders. The demo movie [] certainly looks enthralling . . .

  • That article is right here []. The batter hit two home runs off the pitcher, a former teammate, out of a grudge due to him getting his EQ player killed.

    Moral of the story: Be careful who you get killed, he might hit home runs off of you someday. Or something like that.

  • I think you may be right - however when I read that link to the article that stated what the reaction from origin was - I was like BS.

    but it had been so long - I didnt rememberthat it was in the beta....

  • Actually I posted to inform all you fucks that you're losers and you suck and that you really need to get lives or something. That and a lot of people feel the same way so I wanted to let them know that they are no alone wanting to beat up D&D fuckwits like you.
  • Although I didn't do a very good job of getting that point across, this is sort of why I submitted the story to /. in the first place. Most of the "reporting" we get on computer games is of the "it's turning our kids into psychopaths, it must be stopped" variety. This article, while it did delve into the strange parallels between the online and offline worlds, took a much broader approach and I thought it was worth taking a look at. --
  • You're wrong. And, hopefully, you're not a teacher. I bet you think I can't start a sentence with "And."
  • Anarchy Online: Cyberpunk themed, but still mostly an RPG.

    Neocron: Also SciFi, more FPS style of gameplay.

    WW2 Online: Realism-heavy Land-Air combat in a World War Two setting.

    Sovereign: Massively Multiplayer RTS, think Total Annihilation in a persistent universe with hundreds of players (like a modern version of the original Empire, if you can remember it, the one you played by Telnet).

    Jumpgate: Space Sim.

    There's others, ranging from a driving game (Motor City Online) to persistant universe, massively multiplayer versions of Black and White or The Sims. Lum the Mad keeps a collection [] of the ones that have gotten any significant attention or backing. The one I'm working on is a fantasy RPG, but the choices will be branching out soon.

    Some, like Anarchy Online or DAoC, will be out in a few months, others are a year or more out.

    --Dave Rickey

  • It was better. You should read the parts of the article you missed.
  • um really? ok I'd like a copy please.
  • wow, those are some pretty hostile feelings you have bottled up. Ever think about talking to someone professional about them? Or you could just live and let one is forcing you to play RPGs, and the people who do seem to enjoy it quite a bit :P

  • I was wondering if there was an open-source alternative to UO or EQ.
    Probably cost a whole lot, maybe some kind of peer-2-peer network, a la gnutella?

    Hey. i think i'm on to something. a distributed massive multiplayer opensource online roleplaying game. who's up for the challenge? :o)

    DMMOORPG, wohooo, another acronym! ;o)

  • I disagree with your statements about PK'ing.

    I was a big PK in the very early days of UO - and although there were many PKs out there that would gang up on players - there were also the ones who would not.

    My "guild" consisted of 3 PKs. Phlux - MYM - Draygor.

    We took on many battles where there were many against us - and yes we won the majority of them. NOT because we were fighting "noobs" as you call them - we would selectively pick on the top players, great lords, GM etc. all others were inconsequential - and would be on the periphery of the battle like flies.

    There was no challenge in taking out new players - they are not interesting. absolutely not a threat. not skilled. and not a mentally prepared for a good PvP battle.

    the PvP element early in the game had good balance at times. I can recall a lot of battles where it was 2 or 3 of us against 10+. we won most of our battles - because we had superb strategy. we were never cheap and would take on any head to head challenge that was offered. The excitement was when you take on a great lord/ GM - you expect them to *know* how to fight. you want it to be a very tense - difficult battle, and the more chance you have of losing - the better. but we also died A LOT.

    I remember that we were watched for weeks by the counselors and were even told that they liked to watch us because ofthe way that we roleplayed our characters - and how interesting and inovative out techniques in battle were.

    The only time they ever interfered with us was when we took out a group of about 10 tanks in order to get this great ax that one of them had (dont member specs on the weap) but after getting it, it had made MYM practically invincible - so it was taken away due to the fact that he could kill any player with one shot. Other than that - we had many conversations with the counselors and they used to spawn dragons and fire elementals into our battles for us so we would have more challenging obstacles - we always won.

    I see no problem with well done PvP combat in any MMORPG. the problem is that there are very few people who can handle being a solo/semi solo true PvP - and ROLEPLAY IT. there is a difference between a good human PvP character and a murderous mob.

  • As an outsider to the game, and a British citizen, I'm somewhat uneasy about a game that is set in Britannia and a bloke who claims to be Lord British.

    Britian is a real place. We don't live in castles and we don't carry swords. Most of us have boring office jobs just like everyone else in the western world.

    "Lord" is a real title and denotes a real member of a real government.

    I'm sure lots of Americans would be up in arms if I started calling myself "Senator America".


  • There was also the time in early UO when LB came to do an announcement in Britain.

    at the time - there was a bug in the fireball spell that it would kill any player in one shot.

    there was one guy - who in front of everyone - shot LB with fireball and KILLED hime :)

    It was great. but just to show how absolutely lame they were - they banned the guy who did it and cancelled his account. and said he could never play UO again.

    that was lame - that guy had guts and if LB was just any other player in the game - then he should have to play by the rules as well. it was a great assisination.
  • I like the idea of having parallell worlds that the characters may visit during their lifetime on an online game. Not just a bunch of servers as in EQ, but where each server is designated to a type of player. One such type of player could be the role-player, where if you get voted up and not voted down by the players on the RPG-server, you can stay and play on the RPG-server.

    - Steeltoe
  • To be fair, this is "well written and worth a read", so it is a bit of a novelty for Slashdot.

  • woo hoo! Sing it brother!
  • Actually -- my memory could be going, but I believe that the spell in question was Fire Wall, and the guy (Rainz, I believe), used it on both Lord British and Blackthorne... Blackthorne survived, though. In addition, they banned the guy for the remainder of the beta, but I think they let him back in to the full game...

    Of course, I could be wrong, it's been a few years.
  • I haven't started any of these online games even though I would probably like them simply because they take too much damn time and you have to pay for the privilege of playing it. If I paid $10 a month but only got to play it a couple hours a week, that's quite a bit of money for not a lot of enjoyment. So then I'd probably play it more to get my money's worth. And then I'd quit going to the gym and meeting up with friends (I already hardly watch any tv) and end up with no life.

    I was into MUDs a few years ago, when I didn't have any money to do anything, and had a boyfriend who lived out of town and had to cater to whether he might want to come up that particular weekend, and when he didn't, I was on the MUD. (it was a screwy relationship I admit, we're not together anymore). Once I gained immortal status the game became less fun though because then you know how everything works and how everything is put together and there is no more magic or mystery to it.

    *shrug* I've heard about people who spend all their time on UO and don't do anything else... that is sad, really sad...
  • For those of you who didn't know there was an Ultima 0. It aw a game called alkabetha. I have fond memories of playing it on my apple ][ back in the days when I was a lad. It's around in a DOS port and BASIC I think, It's a good play and I reccomend it. Since I just got another Apple ][ I may have to break it out (i've got my disks somewhere around here)
  • No, we'd just make fun of you.
  • I haven't played Ultima Online, but I do remember my first taste of an Ultima game, circa 1985. It was Ultima III:Exodus, where the goal was to stop Exodus, some large robot-creature (if my memory serves my well!). I remember the complexity (for its time) of the game, having grown up on Atari. I was immediately hooked, playing for hours on my old Commodore 64. I obtained the three other games available at the time and finished them all.

    Not much new to report on this topic, but it did stir up some fond old memories. Thank you.
  • Yes, in Ultima III, you were able to blast Lord British to oblivion by somehow getting to a ship in the castle moat. As for the standard means, in Ultima IV, I got close, down to Critical, but never finished the job.

    I think the King was also mortal in Ultima I.
  • Nothing here is going to be news to slashdotters,

    Then WHY does it make it to the front page of the "News for Nerds" site?
  • Check out this guys clone of Ultima III for the Gameboy Color

    You'd need to burn a copy to a gameboy rom (not to uncommon an item) or play on an emulator.
  • by alriddoch ( 197022 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:34AM (#205231) Homepage

    While this article contains no real news for anyone who is a regular gamer or techie, the existance of the article is itself interesting. Has an article on online games of this depth been published in a non-technical maganzine before?

    Its good to see such a well written and balanced article written on a subject that quite frequently gets mistreated or grossly misunderstood by journalists. With the huge number of new MMORPGs in development, are we about to see the genre trully come of age?

    Regular readers of threads relating to online gaming will recognise me as a developer for the WorldForge [http] project, reported [] here recently. I believe that online gaming is an area which stands to benefit a great deal from Open Source methodologies. There huge ammount of effort involved in creating an MMORPG has had its casualties, most notably UO2, but the commodity that is being sold to the user is not the software itself. It is the service, for which a subscription is payed. It is quite clear that the software itself is can be free, and benefit from code sharing, peer review, and all the other advantages of open development, without damaging the revenue model. There are of course the issues of game exploits by modifying the source, but that is being well enough debated elsewhere.

  • by BobGregg ( 89162 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:34AM (#205232) Homepage
    >Has anyone ever been able to kill Lord British in any Ultimas?

    Yes, in several actually.

    * In U3 you can lure Lord British outside by sneaking around the moat to a boat hidden on the left side of the castle. Head to the front of the castle, attack the guards, and then wait for LB to run outside. BOOM! Quite satisfying. Unfortunately, he reappears the next time you reenter the castle.

    * In U6 you can "kill" LB in his sleep with a glass sword. It's just a bug though, it doesn't really "kill" him per se, he just doesn't wake up.

    * In U7 you really can kill LB dead in two different ways. One, you can use the Black Sword to suck his soul (heh heh), and two, if you wait until he's standing right at the entrance to the courtyard, and then double-click on the sign right above his head, the sign falls on his head, killing him deader'n'dead. That was a special easter egg snuck in in honor of a sign at Origin headquarters that really did fall on Garriott's head, sending him to the hospital for stitches right about the time they were finishing up U6.

  • by Golias ( 176380 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:14AM (#205233)

    Note: while your comment inspired the following rant, it is not neccessarilly directed specifically at you...

    I work forty hours a week, and spend another 30 hours online building chairs, how much sense does this make? Yet, somehow manual labor at the click of a mouse is fun, who knew?

    Any Psych 101 student knows (or should know, if they passed the class) that the best way to reinforce a behavior is by rewarding it some of the time. Just as slot machines gobble up the retirement funds of old folks in Reno, killing a monster in an online game sometimes rewards you with "treasure", and sometimes you see your skill go up incrementally. The warm fuzzy feeling you occationally get keeps you going back and pulling the lever again, hoping for the food pellet.

    While the rewards of gratification seem to come at a slow-ish pace in online RPG's, they are still much faster than in real life. To learn how to play the trumpet well enough that anybody really wants to listen to you takes a solid five years for most people, but you can create a Bard in EQ and be tooting away in a matter of days.

    The problem is, the hours and hours you spend waiting for the chance to score that coveted pair of magic boots may give you the feeling of having accomplished something, but the truth is that you were just playing a game. You perhaps could have written three chapters of a novel in the time that it took, a task which would be no less tedious for most people, and you would have something to show for it when you were done. Those magic boots might impress your "friends" in the game (who are people you don't actually know from places you might never be), but your real friends will start to avoid talking to you at parties when they find that you keep steering the conversation back to the exploits of your 43rd-level Necromancer, because that's all you have going on in your life to talk about anymore.

    I don't want to sound too critical of UO and EQ addicts... Everybody who gets into these games goes through a phase of getting too much into them (I got it out of my system back in college, when MUD's were all the rage), but some people really need to take a look at what they are doing. Are you really enjoying the time you spend making virtual jewelry or camping a spawns-once-every-two-weeks monster, or are you just telling yourself "once I accomplish goal 'x', this game will be soooo much fun!"

    Here is what I reccomend to anybody who plays one of these games more that five or six hours a week: Take a month off. Don't even cancel the account, it's only 10 bucks anyway, just stop playing for a month. Among those who have, the vast majority came back and found that the game was not really as much fun as they remember thinking it was.

    Virtual living can be kind of amusing, but it is no substitute for real life.

  • by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @11:24AM (#205234)
    > At the worst point in the crisis, Britannia's monetary system virtually collapsed, and players all over the kingdom were reduced to bartering.

    No they weren't. Money was (and is) still used for buying. I have never seen (or heard) of anyone bartering goods. (This isn't Diablo 2, where people refuse to take money for items, strangely enough.)

    I was there in Apr 98, and the economy never "collapsed." (A good friend of mine played from Beta to Gold) Is the economy screwed, yes. Money grows on trees in UO. Prices of things have just steadly increased (aka hyper-inflation.) Hint to wanna-be-game designers: Don't put gold on EVERY monster in an RPG.

    > Britannia has suffered a wave of extinctions, paralyzing hoarding, and a crime problem so intractable that at one point the game was forced to, in effect, split itself in half.

    No kidding about the "PK problem." Gee, maybe because:
    a) there was NO way to track down the murderers. (You would get gang-banged by 5 PKs, they take your stuff, and recall out. All in a matter of minutes.)
    b) An expercienced PK could take on DOZENS of inexpercienced warriors and win.

    I lost a lot of friends who quit UO because getting PK'd was NOT FUN, and they had no choice to abstain from it, unless they quit the game. Guess what a lot of people did.

    > Early on, more experienced players figured out how to identify new characters, or, as they are called, "newbies."

    They are called "noobs" cuz they tend to ask a lot of annoying questions (Can you give me money, Can you give me a item, etc.) and are ignorant about the game mechanics.

    Noobs are dead easy to identity. If they don't have magic armor/clothing, or GM made equipment, they are newbies.

    > In addition to being unfamiliar with the landscape, newbies cannot defend themselves against older characters who have had more time to collect skill points.

    That USED to be true before mid 2000. ALL new characters start in "Trammel", a "mirror" of the world where you can't engage in PvP (Player vs Player) combat, unless you are in a guild, or factions.

    > Players can they can have pets and train them to do tricks;
    Tricks?! "Stay" does NOT count as a trick.

    > .. and they tend to use a combination of pseudo Middle English and computerese, slipping from "thee" and "thou" to ...

    Hahah. Yeah right. Old English is dead in UO. I have seen a FEW characters who were role-playing, but this is a RARE sight.

    > "You have to realize that the world is what you make of it."
    Sort of. Player's really can't shape the world. Trees CAN NOT be cut down, you can't destroy an enemies house, you can mine but can't make the caves any deeper, People walking do NOT leave well-worn trails, You can NOT place a house over landscape that has trees, etc.

    > Now the game is programmed so that the servers continually add more ore and sheep and wolves to the landscape.
    This is called "respawning". Ore, Wood, and other resources spawn every 15 mins. Daily rares only spawn once a day at server startup.

    A good article. Would be better if it was accurate and told more of the background, though.

  • It is quite clear that the software itself is can be free, and benefit from code sharing, peer review, and all the other advantages of open development, without damaging the revenue model.

    I was thinking the same thing the other day--why don't the people who publish these MMORPGs give away the games for free? I imagine most of their income is from the monthly fee anyway, and it seems like they'd get a lot more people hooked if they just gave you the software. (The drug dealer model.)

    I'm really excited about Anarchy Online [] ( and I've had to resort to offers of buying people software in order to get them to play. :P

  • Even though the exact details weren't perfect, it encapsulated the average UO player very well in one paragraph:

    One day, I spent several hours in the room, sitting next to the young man who plays Game Master Quinnly. Game Master Quinnly wears a red robe and tries to remain courtly even under difficult circumstances. "Hail, I'm GM Quinnly," he told one young knight accused of killing a friend and then looting his corpse. "GMs suck ass," the knight responded.

    The above paragraph is perfect.
  • The article was actually a bit of a walk down memory lane. I played UO for about 2 years, starting a few days after the official release. I watched the growing pains and lessons that the designers and community went through. This article was well written and well researched, and was a pleasent reminder of the ups and downs of UO over that 2 year period.
  • ahhh... the good ole C64...

    gotta love it... i have lost way too much time to that machine in the form of Ultima III, Ultima IV, Bard's tale, Wasteland, Infocom games...

    Space Taxi.. Jumpman... Lode Runner... H.E.R.O. ...

    oh lord... i spent an awful lot of time on that box...

  • Well written? WELL WRITTEN??!?!!!

    Gods, that was the most poorly written pile of pigswill I've seen in ages! I have no problems with the content, but rather the writing style. I would give a grade seven student a "C" for this article. There's no consistency between paragraphs, there's completely inappropriate and unnecessary use of obscure vocabulary (apparently used to make the author seem more learned), and the grammar is embarassingly broken. Note this early sentence:

    "A "massively multi-player online role-playing game," or, only slightly less awkwardly, an M.M.P.O.R.P.G., Ultima Online is managed and operated by Origin Systems, a gaming company based in Austin, which charges subscribers nine ninety-five a month to maintain a character, or "avatar," in Britannia."

    One sentence.ONE sentence! One sentence containing eight commas!

    Can't the New Yorker, that fine bastion of intelligent comment, afford editors anymore?

  • That was pretty good. But my favorite was "It was a crappy dragon." That had me in tears. I don't know why, it's just a funny thing for someone to say. HAW HAW HAW.

    Boss of nothin. Big deal.
    Son, go get daddy's hard plastic eyes.
  • Agreed, it was an awsome article on the nature of virtual society. Looks like we're in store for an even more terrifying, darkside, horror show in any virtual world. Give a human being two choices; live a virtuous, honorable life of self control, or become a dark, murderous monster that gives in to every little twisted whim that pops into his brain and he will certainly choose the latter in a place that doesn't actually have a heavier penalty than subtracting a few of his "virtue points". I never got into rpgs or muds, and I'm now sure why.
  • I don't see how this is redundant. This was the first post on this topic. I suggest anybody who hasn't reads Killobyte, by Piers Anthony. It was a quite interesting insight into the gaming world, written well before the popularity of online games reached its current height.
  • So that explains why I keep trying to make with the funnies in the hope of scoring another 5.

    "your real friends will start to avoid talking to you at parties when they find that you keep steering the conversation back to the exploits of your 43rd-level Necromancer, because that's all you have going on in your life to talk about anymore"

    It's true, so true, but I don't even have a Necromancer (actually, that sounds quite cool, but RPGs aren't my thing) - I'm reduced to talking about posts, then explaining the scoring system, then explaining Slashdot, then wondering where everyone's gone.

    Are there any support groups for this?

  • same for me i played those game way too much...
    and i continue :-) []
    it's the machine where i first put unlimited lifes on a game "giana sisters" (and not using life finder from datels action replay... it wasnt working ;-) and on which i wrote my first assembly program... "souvenirs, souvenirs, ..."
  • I have a post anonymously button here now FWIW.

    Not that I can provably use it ;-)
  • Yeah, instead of dealing with their lives they get babies and live through their kids. Nice to know someone actually have character and don't do what everyone else does.

    - Steeltoe
  • My skills are madder than yours Demian Phillips.
  • "Nothing here is going to be news to slashdotters"

    When has that stopped you before. :)
  • I'm still working on winning at Ultima III on my IBM PC jr at home. ha ha hah ahahahhahahha !
  • by John Whitley ( 6067 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:07AM (#205250) Homepage
    "Nothing here is going to be news to slashdotters"

    "News for Nerds. Stuff that matters."


  • illing_british.shtml Google. It's amazing what you can find.
  • If an article on a somewhat "popular culture" item
    isn't going to be news to /.ers then I cannot wait to plunk down my 5 bucks for the print issue to gain some amazing insights into the latest viruses and how to protect my systems.
  • I liked U2-U4, as they were tile games, like Larn, Nethack, Omega, Moria, Dungeon of Doom, and a host of others. They're fun, you can pick em up and play at your leisure. When the games tried to be realistic, I lost interest.

    BTW, we NEED more tile games!!!! =)

    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • Well finally the idea of "cyber-space" is out of the womb and in its infancy. The ability to BE someone else in a virtual word, including earning a living, is pretty cool, if not a little scary. I work forty hours a week, and spend another 30 hours online building chairs, how much sense does this make? Yet, somehow manual labor at the click of a mouse is fun, who knew? I hope another Ultima Online game comes out with a year or so, 10x as complex as the first. Hope hope hope.

  • by schussat ( 33312 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2001 @10:16AM (#205255) Journal
    The "nothing new here" comment does some injustice to the article. It's very well-written for either tech- or non-tech-oriented readers, particularly in its consideration of the social problems that arise in MMORPGS, like resource shortages, player-killing, and so forth. It's too bad that more people who come from technical fields can't write as thoughtfully as the author of this piece. It's refreshing to see "outsider" journalists write interesting articles about subjects with which so many regular slashdot readers are so familiar.

    There's also a sidebar interview with the article's author which is also an interesting read.


  • Moderation Totals: Offtopic=2, Troll=1, Insightful=7, Informative=1, Total=11

    11 moderations, and not one for Funny? Of course everybody that makes fun of M$ gets +5, Funny straight away. Oh, wait, then it isn't about linux...

  • Has anyone ever been able to kill Lord British in any Ultima's? Heard it was possible.
  • As others have pointed out, to have these virtual societies make it to the New Yorker, about as mainstream as press gets, is a sort of a vindication.

    I'm about as extreme a geek as you're going to find, and I make my living working on these games now (cheap plug []).

    At least in one major camp of design thought, more than making games we are engineering social constructs. It's not so much that the social evolution in these games is unexpected, as that it's incredibly hard to predict. Sometimes real-world parallels work (the Tragedy of the Commons in UO's closed economy) and sometimes they don't (player justice has always tended towards anarchy, when traditional social theory says it should work).

    Actually, the level of attention to these games from mainstream society is steadily growing, a while ago there was a sports story about how one baseball player was particularly pleased with a game winning home run because the pitcher had once let the batter's character die in EverQuest. My current project is funded by a major Movie and TV show financial group, has a TV show in development, and will have product placement in several major films. Now *that's* mainstream.

    --ave Rickey

  • In Ultima IX (which I loved, though I know everyone else hated it) you could kill LB by putting rat poison into the bread making machine in the real world, making poisoned bread, taking in through to Britannia, and putting it in LB's private dining room. I think I first saw this one on Spanky's [], though I am not sure who reported it first.

(null cookie; hope that's ok)