Saturday, November 19, 2011

My first UO essay - from 2003

The current state of the ‘real’ Ultima Online – Felucca and PvP.

With Ultima Online, things always seem better in retrospect. I’ve had good and bad times in all era’s in the game since mid-1998, but when I look back on them, they all have that golden glow of the good times, the friends, the fights. The opposite has always applied when looking at the present. We think of the overpowered dexxers, tamers, para-blow, scrollwhores, items, axxers. Rarely do we acknowledge that UO is fun in the midst of our bitching. Six months later, we’re all looking back saying how great it was. I’ve seen it time and time again.

So, I’m about to shock you all with an essay in praise of the UO Development team and Age of Shadows. I’m not joking.
I’ll make it simple. The easiest way to judge whether a period in UO can be classed as ‘good’ for PvP oriented types is to is to measure if it provided the elements required to make it ‘enjoyable’, for want of a better word.

What are these elements? For me, and also for almost everyone I know (Although most don’t realise it), they are:

An active Feluccan Community – To thrive, this needs to involve more than just PvPers. You need Sheep as well as Wolves.

A purpose – Everyone gets bored eventually of logging in to fight for no reason other than to fight. OSI realised this a long while ago. Factions were created as an attempt at ‘purposeful PvP’ 

Balanced PvP – How wide is the gap between the veteran and the newbie? The rich and the poor? The 24/7 player and the casual? The Mage and the Warrior?

My study is based mainly upon what I witness/have witnessed upon the Europa shard where I actively play and also from guilds page, as well as Fel based message boards from other shards.

Europa has an active Feluccan Community. Fights are easy to find, there’s interesting guild politics and rivalries, a healthy population of PvPers and PvMers, and even some RPers.
Two of the top ten Europa guilds for veteran members are exclusively Felucca-based. Many of the other top ten guilds visit Fel on a regular basis.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time this has been the case since Trammel was implemented. The biggest guild in UO (BC of Great Lakes) is Felucca based. The 5th biggest guild in UO (FL of Pacific) is Fel based. Most shards have at least 2 Fel guilds in the top ten for members. This is unprecedented in this post-UO:R UO.

Felucca is alive and well. But why is this? It’s simply due to the dev team finding a way to give purpose to combat. Factions tried and failed, Champion Spawns coupled with Statloss removal has worked.

Publish 16 was genius. Parts of it were horrid, but it achieved its objective: The revitalisation of Felucca. People that had never dreamed of entering Felucca before now found themselves daring to enter its spiritual homes, Shame, Deceit, Covetous. They got a taste for PvP, risk, and the money that could be earned. Many of these people are now prominent AOS PvPers. At the time I didn't like the idea of skill and stat scrolls, but in hindsight, what else could have motivated and energised the player-base like they have? 

Resource control and player justice is at the very heart of purpose, and are concepts that were key to the original UO development team’s dream. Evocare and Adrick know this. Factions attempted resource control with town finances, etc, but it failed. It only ever affected those players involved in the system (A tiny %). Factions had no impact on the ‘lives’ of most UO players.

Champion spawns and their rewards affect every UO player. Everyone wants scrolls. You either go out to fight for them, or you buy them from those that fight for and win them.
The people that control these spawns control a major part of the UO economy, including prices and availability. This is player justice resource control and purpose.

Now we come to the negative. PvP Balance. What there was is gone. If UO:R was the most balanced period, AOS is the least. I can’t begin to list the problems (Another article maybe^^), but however bad they are, they don’t outweigh the positives I’ve listed above. I’m not convinced that balance will be restored, as this Dev team realises that a good percentage of UO players will simply cease PvPing if you take their advantages away. I’m certain a lot of the imbalances of AOS have been brought in intentionally for this reason, similar to the 'special move' additions of UO:R perhaps.
It may just be something we have to suffer to have the thriving Fel we’re now witnessing. The same goes for insurance and private housing.

In conclusion, I believe we have an ally at the head of that Dev team. Using the ‘trammelised’ Felucca dungeons of p16, he tempted a new generation of potential Feluccans. With AOS, he then took away statloss, gave us back our dungeons and set us loose on them. In some cases, these new Feluccan's were the ones being "set loose" - so far had they come.

Necromancer and Paladin are good additions to the game, if unbalanced at present. Customised housing is great, although private housing is horrid. Statloss removal is orgasmic. Removal of p16 dungeon rules is great. Upcoming p19 changes look good.

If they can balance PvP some, we have the best UO I’ve been a part of.

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