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September 1999

UO: A Scammer's Paradise
Or: How I learned to love the con

I don't know why I don't just give up on trying to bust scammers in UO.

I had another juicy one the other day. Fake Zamboni Driver all ready to scam someone, the person was smart enough to contact me before getting taken for 1M gp (for a tower - way too cheap to be a real deal).

So, I call a counselor (I've given up on trying to communicate directly with GMs) who shows up quite promptly and we discuss the situation.

She was very nice and I could tell that she was constantly seeking advice in her counselor chat, which is good, so I know that she was being told what to say (either by an ASRC, SRC or a GM - although since her GM was anonymous in her IRC chat I doubt it was him giving the advice).

Well, the OSI party line is still "if they don't use an exploit, then there's nothing wrong with scamming". Here are my problems with that statement:

(1) By imitating another player (eg creating a fake Zamboni Driver), the scammer is using a game limitation (no way to distinguish between characters of the same name unless you've personally met the original) to effect the con. The fake ZDs almost never look like my characters, but people still get fooled, just because the name is the same. If this game limitation didn't exist, this particular scam would not be possible. Therefore, OSI should shut down all scams relying on this exploit of a game limitation.

(2) The scammer almost always uses ICQ or email to perpetuate the scam (I don't think I have enough RAM to download all the fake Zambonis on ICQ). This action constitutes RL electronic fraud - a federal offence. However, the OSI response has always been "it's not an in game exploit, so we won't do anything about it". My viewpoint has always been the opposite - the scammer has gone beyond the boundaries of UO to perpetuate the con, so OSI should step in quickly to stop this illegal action.

(3) House scams rely on an imperfect trade system in UO - if you don't use a UO Market broker (who could be a scammer/impersonator, unless you followed proper UO Market procedure), then one of the players involved in the deal has to trust the other or the deal can't be completed. This game limitation (no secure house trading) is what allows 100% of house scams to be successful. House scammers are exploiting this game limitation and should be stopped. (On that note, how long has a secure house auction system been promised but not delivered? I guess we can expect it sometime just after we get necromancy.)

(4) If I sit in my house and practice hiding, I can get banned from UO. If I sit at Brit bank and scam 14 year olds out of their life savings, OSI congratulates me for my fine roleplaying skill. 'nuff said.

(5) 99.999% of scammers ARE NOT ROLEPLAYING. If someone could show me that the character that she is playing is a con artist, then I would have some sympathy for the plight of the poor scammer. However, when players turn around and sell what they've scammed on ebay, that really makes the argument tough to buy ("I also roleplay a criminal in RL").

(6) There is NO in game justice system for scammers. Killing a scammer is irrelevant - they're not flagged criminal for their actions (no computer AI could evaluate that), so aside from a brief moment of joy, there's only a downside to killing a scammer (murder count). If a detrimental criminal action exists for which there's no in game justice, there has to be meta-game justice (ie return of stolen goods, suspension and eventual banning).

(7) Scamming is bad for OSI's business. This point is what makes it hardest for me to understand the stance that OSI has adopted. The only people who like scammers are scammers. The vast majority of the players of UO are honest (in most situations) and would be extremely happy to see scammers gone for good. Why can't OSI recognize this mass opinion and impose harsh penalties on scammers?

So, here's my suggestion. Everyone who reads this editorial and who agrees with me should copy and paste this into an e-mail to [email protected] Maybe, if we bash OSI over the head with our opinions, we can get a response - I'm not too hopeful of that, though.

As always, feedback (flame or constructive) is welcome. If you're going to flame me, please make it amusing - I'll respond to any feedback that's written rationally and with some thought; I'll ignore all feedback of the "you suxxx, yur just pissed cuz you got scammed!" variety. (For the record, I've never been scammed, nor have I scammed anyone - as all true merchants know, in the long run, honesty is far more profitable.)

Posted on Monday, September 13, 1999, 3:07 AM EDT by Zamboni Driver (Editorials)

UO: How long can it last?
A very good question indeed: How long can this 2D-perspective game stand up to the upcoming 3D generation of online games? Some people would say a long time, due to its devoted user base, while others would give it less than 2 years due to it's severely out of date graphics engine.

Let's have a look at the different points raised for and against the game that changed (and does it continue to?) the course of multi-player game's for the future.

Points in Favour of UO

The Ultima Series

Many Ultima Online players (mainly role-players) had being playing the Ultima series long before UO ever showed up. The story and background that the 15+ games provide gives UO a massive advantage over its competitors. I'm sure everyone would really enjoy playing Zelda in an online version. Why? It's a familiar name and a familiar world. This is the same effect that UO had on Ultima players. They had a chance to go and live in a thriving world full of fellow adventurers, magic and dungeons (k3wl d00ds don't really feel this way about it). Even though I had never played an Ultima game, when I read a feature on the Beta-test in a PC magazine, I was hooked on the idea. It seemed so ambitious and looked like a chance to live in a different world. Of course, once I started playing I was disappointed it wasn’t as in-depth that I had hoped, but the UO Community was a thrilling surprise to me. The community in UO is run mainly by role-players, whether you like it or not, and these we're the people coming into UO after playing through the many different Ultima games (I hope no-one was put off by the horrendous Ultima: Martian Dreams, featuring Albert Einstein on Mars). Asheron's Call and EverQuest don' have such a background, and people entering these games have to accept whatever fiction the programmers create, as they have nothing else to go on. They could probably defend "Killer bunny rabbits" being put into a game as they could just make up that these things plague the land, while in UO people can look at the previous Ultima's and say, "What the hell are you talking about?".

UO has a proper story line, with a proper world and a proper ruler (with a castle in real-life to prove it).

Depth here, depth there, depth everywhere!

Buy properties, engage in wars, set-up guilds, raid dungeons, and errrrrrr, bake bread. Being serious, no other game has ever had so much depth. You want a home away from the hassle of the cities? You got it! Well, if you can place it. But that's not the point. UO suits every type of player on this planet and is truly one of the most adaptable games ever. If you're a competitive person who likes challenging others, be a Pker. If you are a role-player, start a town. If you're a merchant, make some clothes, and if you're the kind of person who loves to chat, head to the bank and start chatting. No other game covers so many types of players this well and UO deserves credit for that. EverQuest is really for the warrior type (the advertising slogan went something like "Tired of making furniture" I think) and Asheron's Call is for the type who like exploring worlds, while Middle Earth looks set to be a role-players dream (and their dream only). UO covers all sorts of players, as communication is simple as it can get, and UO is so much more in-depth. Every town has pretty much every type of shop you can think of for all of your needs.

But MUDS have lasted a very long time!

MUDS, those old text-only adventures have been around for a very long time and many of them are still active in different places around the world. Sure, they may have no sound or graphics, but like UO, there will always be a devoted user base who wont stop playing until the servers close, and even then they'll play on their own servers. I would probably be one such person, as I know I would be very sad to see UO go. The "k3wl d00d" type sees UO as nothing more than a game to beat other people at, while the role-player's treat UO as a real world, and if you look at it that way you feel a bit unhappy at the thought of never again being able to walk through the streets of your favourite town (you probably will be able to in UO2, but it wouldn't be the same). Some people will always see UO as a world, and it will be painful for these people to let it go when the "End of the world" comes.

So far, UO wins hands down in background and depth. But not is all well in the land of Britannia…

A Dev team who listens to the players!

Whether you believe it or not, the UO Live team do indeed listen to what players have to say. Many players have changed the course of the game through protests and petitions, and what players want, players get, sooner or later. We are lucky to have a dev team who listens to us. As far as I can't tell, Verant don't listen to the players and have a pre-conceived idea on how to run EQ and won't take any "suggestions" from players. Because of this, I bet you that in 2 or 3 years, everyone will be trying to forget about EQ. Verant may not realise this, but when you release a constantly running game like EQ, you have to listen to the players. Unlike single player games, where once it's released it finished, MMG's have to be constantly changed to the player's demands. Someone should tell Verant this, and thankfully the UO dev team most certainly don't need the same lesson.

The ideal game for those who love to chat!

UO's chat system is so remarkably simple that even a chimp could figure out how to speak. In AC and EQ, who have to select a box first and then type, and even then only some people can hear you, and its never too clear who's talking to you. In UO, its very clear when you stand beside someone that you're talking to them, and communication is very simple.

Points Against UO

Ooh soooo SLOW!

My UO server is in London, just across the Irish Sea from me. The AC server is in America somewhere and AC is much more complex than UO. Taking these facts into account, you would be wrong if you said "UO must run faster". Errrrr, no. I regularly suffer laggy periods on Europa despite the fact I'm no more than 300 miles away, while I get a faster connection to a server over 2,500 miles away in a full 3D world, which is much larger than UO. Can anyone tell me why? I doubt anyone in the world on a normal telephone line gets what could be described as a "fantastic" connection to UO. It must have just been badly designed at the time the servers were put together, and perhaps they are in need of some serious re-designing. On Atlantic, the sub-section that contains Trinsic used to grind to a halt every night for about 20 minutes, so I'm sure players don't like being in there. I rarely experience lag in AC, and I can't see how UO can be so slow!

Simple Simon!

I personally don't like UO's weird view on the world. It was probably the best that could be done at the time of release, but it certainly does put some new customers off, as it just looks so dated compared to a full 3D view. Although, I suppose there is some charm in its simplicity and this is one of the reasons why I've stayed with UO. I prefer easy to control games, which UO certainly is, and I'm not to fond of the type where you have about 100 commands all macroed to keys. It's simplicity may keep its current player-base, but at the same time it probably drives away the portion of gamers who want "cool 3D graphics!" (These are the types who are Pkers and "bugz xpl0iters", so good riddance if you look at it that way).

Xpl0its and k3wl d00ds

UO's biggest problem is (and probably will always be) is the type of player who plays to wreck others gaming experience by using whatever bugs they can to make themselves "k3wl d00ds" in the eyes of their friends. What type of loser gets a big kick out of looting someone's house? What is going through their mind at that point? It's a fair bet that k2wl d00ds are the type of people who in real life are bullies and generally dis-likeable people who only play to get one up over someone else. These people do the game no good whatsoever and don't really care about the likes of necromancy, but are always the first to start bitching about something if it gets delayed. In short, these people are big mouths who love to show off all of their cool stuff (or whatever they want to call it). Apparently, at the recent GenCon show, the UO booth was clogged up with k3wl d00ds wanting to show other people all of their super stuff. Do these people actually feel a need to make themselves look big? These are the same people who will flame me once I've finished this essay. If they hate OSI and the faults of UO, why in the name of hell are they still playing? One simple reason: They want to wreck it for everyone who still plays. I think you agree these are the types we can do without.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would have to say UO has the edge over its competitors. No other online game has the same amount of story, depth, background and such a flexible game system. I can easily see it lasting sometime into the next decade, but not beyond that. We have a dev team who listens to us, and knows what the players want. Also UO has an easy to use communication system and is great for chatting. When you take all these factors into account, you don't really care about all of the k3wl d00ds, and the games faults. Sure it has a few problems, but we are in the early age of online-gaming and of course there will be problems, but what did anyone expect from a game? It certainly is revolutionary, so I for one don't really care if the likes of necromancy didn't come, as you can't complain about something that doesn't exist yet. UO will always have a dedicated user-base as long as servers are running, so its more of a question how long OSI will support it, but I doubt that they have any intention of stopping any time soon.

Posted on Friday, September 3, 1999, 4:49 AM EDT by Damarr (Editorials)