You’ve seen Jinx’s history of the Year That Was, now here’s my pithy Top 10 list of things we’d be better off forgetting.
10: SIEGE PERILOUS (UO)
When it first was announced, it seemed as though it were the Holy Grail of UO – a shard designed to attract the best and the brightest, with as few artificial restrictions as possible to get in the way of player versus player. Then, even before it began, in a misguided attempt to stave off macroing, Origin began tinkering with the basic ruleset (first making the most basic skill usage eat stamina, then implementing Rate over Time) – moves which made the main target audience for Siege (rabid PvP powergamers) throw up. As Siege progressed, those who weren’t in hardcore PvP guilds were eventually driven away.
Siege still has a large and thriving PvP community – but it could have easily been much more.
9: NERFQUEST (EQ)
Speaking of tinkering with the basic ruleset, Everquest’s dev team has managed to piss off literally every class in the game. Well, Rangers haven’t been nerfed yet. Then again, the designer plays a Ranger. Think there’s a coincidence? Despite happy, Orwellian announcements of “enhancements” to each class, the only class that has really seen a net benefit to its playability has been the Warrior (which, before the changes, was completely subsumed by the Ranger and Paladin classes). Druids saw their ability to kite their way through levels taken away. In the process Necromancers had their main offensive weapon (DoTs) nerfed as well. Rubicite armor (the major high-level armor upgrade for almost all classes) were taken away and replaced with class-specific quests. Warriors and Rangers could get theirs done in an hour or so. Clerics might be able to get theirs in a month of camping. Rumor has it there’s still a Paladin somewhere trying to get his.
Combined with, until recently, an almost open hostility to the Everquest community (Verant recently hired an Online Community Coordinator who is trying his best to imitate Calandryll, albeit with somewhat more of a chip on his shoulder) half the game in EQ seems to be divining which class the dev team thinks you should play.
8: ASHERON’S CALL (AC)
Great game system. It would have been nice if they packaged a game with it.
While many folks do enjoy AC in its current state, the fact of the matter is that AC is incomplete. The world is empty (new players can often be seen wandering around the newbie spawn points wondering “what now?”), the creatures are basically palette-shifted versions of 5 or 6 models (yes, you are still fighting drudges at level 40), the much-vaunted plot is non-existent to most players, and the basic elements of world persistence – player housing and crafting – are “due to be patched in later”.
Another one that could have easily been much, much more.
7: DR. TWISTER NERFED (UO)
Whether or not you thought his UO site hurt the game (and yes, I think it did), Origin/EA’s lawsuit was chilling in its implications. If Stratics had posted the UO2 files, one suspects the lawyers would not have descended upon them with quite as much venom in their beaks. The fact is that Origin saw an opportunity to shut down a site that had been a thorn in their side for over a year, and took the shot.
One only wonders which site is next in the sights. (*You see Lum ducking for cover*)
6: CUSTOMER SUPPORT? WHUZZAT? (UO, EQ)
You’d think that staffing customer support with the same guys who actually play the game would be a good idea. UO and EQ are test cases that show that this is not always a good thing. UO’s GM staff has made some profoundly stupid mistakes (such as deleting buildings of players they don’t like very much), although recently they have shown signs of improvement. Thankfully, the EQ GMs and guides are stepping up to the plate to provide more tales of customer abuse that you enjoy so much.
5: THE MACRO POLICE (UO)
In a class all its own, UO’s jihad against its own userbase ranks, well, number 5 in the list of stupid things. Instead of actually changing the skill system so that it was no longer profitable to “macro” skill usage unattended, OSI decided it would just be simpler to ban everyone who tried. The result showed both UO support and the UO playerbase at their finest, as GMs spent most of their time answering calls from players “narcing” on their enemies in hopes of getting them banned.
If I had to pick one decision to make that would most fuck with UO, telling the GMs to ban everyone they see macroing would be up near the top of the list.
4: RACEWAR SERVERS (EQ)
“No, really, PvP in EQ can be cool! You see, let’s organize all the players into armies! It’ll be fun!” Unless, of course, you don’t see the fun in res-killing, zone-killing, naked magery, and all the other things that make Tallon Zek the least populated server in any ORPG.
3: XPL0IT KIDDI3S (UO)
From just taking the shards themselves down, to more selectively just deleting the houses of people they didn’t like, the players of UO proved that they can be a greater nemesis than any GM could ever hope to be. While some of the blame undoubtably falls on Origin for releasing such a patchwork client, the fact remains that there remains a hard core of idiots who get their jollies out of ruining your online day.
2: CONNECTIVITY “ISSUES” (ALL)
There’s this thing called the Internet, and some days it just sucks. At any given moment, out of the 3 ORPGs I have accounts with, at least one, and sometimes two are unplayable due to monstrous lag. Whether it be step-step-freeze in UO, watching the packet loss number reach 100% in EQ, or walking through sludge in AC, lag is the one undying constant that is the most irritating factor in any online game. Well, except for…
1: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS, BABY (ALL)
No, Richard, the corruption of an environment is not “cool”.
The worst excesses of every online game can be traced to one word – eBay. The worst customer support incident? GM Darwin, creating shake and bake towers and gold for resale on eBay. The worst player scandal in UO? Guilds that dupe gold for resale on eBay. The worst playability problem in EQ? The item farmers that block every lucrative camp so that they can sell the proceeds on eBay.
This is the problem that ORPGs need to stare down in 2000. As long as items or property or skills are so rare/difficult/impossible to obtain that an obscenely high real world value is attached to them, those that see an opportunity to make a profit will do so – to the detriment of those who simply want to play the game. And those who simply want to play the game will find games to play that don’t involve competing with those who see them as a brilliant career move.