The Death of RoT?

by Azaroth | January 23rd, 2012

One thing that has consistently popped up and been a repeated complaint has been skill gain and “RoT” (or RCB) on IPY 2.

I can’t necessarily say I agree with any of the complaints. I think very slow skill gain makes for an epic UO experience – if you live and breathe UO.

If you’re just hopping from one shard to another, or playing UO in between bouts of farmville, then obviously slow skill gain and RoT are going to be seen as pretty stupid. Pretty real stupid.

The problem that has developed here is that much of our initial 2300 online were not diehard, live-and-breathe, ’till death do us part UO fans. That’s okay.

But because of that, in some ways, I missed the mark. Your target audience with UO should always be the hardcore UO players, but once in a while there’s an opportunity to expand beyond those that are still diehard for a decade and a half old game. If you have that chance, you need to consider the audience carefully before you leap.

To make a long story short, as you can probably imagine, when designing IPY 2… my target audience was … me. I wasn’t designing a shard for the average player. That much I can admit to.

Slow skill gain is epic for so many reasons, and UO as a throwaway time killer, afterthought of a second rate game with superfast 7xGM characters and everyone having their own set of crafters, easy millions, and so on… it’s a sad thing to do to such a wonderful game.

But that’s just my opinion.

Why Slow Gains Are Epic

1. Reliance on other users

Interaction. It’s what UO is.

If gains are super fast and all crafted items are ultimately easy to come by, why visit player shops. Why barter in town. Why care when a red pops up on screen and you risk losing your equipment.

Suddenly the entire economy and community flies out the window.

Why care at all?

2. Characters with meaning

Emotion. It’s what UO is.

How do you feel anything for a character you made by setting and forgetting a script and watching Netflix? Sure, that’s very easy, and I’ve gotten very used to everything being very easy. In fact, I might very well complain if it’s hard. But ultimately I know that anything worthwhile takes time, and that skipping the entire game and scripting a character from start to finish leaves me with no sense of attachment to the game world, no emotion about my character, no value or pride in its existence.

Everything about UO is emotion. Everything about a good, visceral experience is about emotion. Sometimes it’s not the game, but the human reactions to the game world. A dungeon isn’t scary if I can waltz through, but add some scary music, things to chase me with big claws and a sense of urgency toward a goal on the exact same map, and it becomes an emotion filled, even memorable experience.

Sure, at the time, I might have preferred being able to waltz through – on the surface. Subconsciously, I’d be so glad we didn’t have that option.

Sure, when I started UO in 1997, I would have pressed a button to have a completed character one day 1. I’m so glad we didn’t have that option.

In this day and age, that option has become the norm. It’s called RMT, facebook games, money to skip a dumb game and get to the point.

UO isn’t a dumb game. The journey is the point. Perhaps it doesn’t belong in “this day and age”, but we’re trying.

3. Immersiveness

It’s what UO is.

Ultima Online isn’t built around silly gimmicks and schemes. Ultima Online is a real world that lives and breathes, but you need to have your feet in the grass to see it. Everything that’s special about Ultima Online exists between your login and your end result of a tower, five million gold bank account, ten thousand vanquishing spears and account full of five completed characters. Sure, that’s an attractive goal, but it doesn’t mean that everything between should be skipped.


4. Nostalgia

Memories. They’re what UO is.

In this day and age, everyone wants to skip to the finish line. That’s an understandable mentality, and it’s one you can’t talk out of someone. I had hoped to force people to get their feet back into the grass on IPY, perhaps giving them an incredible experience unknowingly while they complained about the things that enabled them (“forced them”) to have it. I was willing to be the bad guy there.

Perhaps it worked, perhaps it didn’t. Perhaps the long term trouble is the stickyness of UO having become outdated and worn off over the years, and not the slow skill gain.


Should slow gains and a gain capping system still be in place for the relaunch? Who is the shard for, anyway? What are our goals at this point?

What do we want to show people of UO when they get here?

I don’t know.

In a lot of ways, this blog has been a conversation with myself and an appeal to hardcore UO fans. But what about those that aren’t hardcore UO fans?

Believe it or not, the RCB (or “RoT”) system is great for them. Unless they’ve got buddies that are setting them up with EasyUO scripts, the RCB system provides for huge bonuses in skill gain every day when logging in, and a cap they’re never likely to reach through their own casual play. At the same time, it keeps those that would automate to get ahead in check by limiting them at the point which the casual gamer would likely never pass, evening the playing field and, with the introduction of the skill scroll (a small skill gain bonus trinket that rewards active play) makes both methods of play entirely viable – even making actual play faster than macroing, once our dungeon bonus is factored in.

I think it’s a good system. I think it does a lot of good things. I think it’s one of those good things that people aren’t willing to listen to. They hear “RoT”, they cover their ears and turn away. They hear “no instant gratification”, they cover their ears and turn away. I think it’s a condition that’s come on from too much farmville and too much instant gratification in life, and it’s preventing us from stopping to smell the roses.

One might argue that it’s “been done before” by now, that a person could reasonably want to just skip to the end. I say relive Ultima Online, stop making it into some throwaway two dimensional version of Quake. The game is more than blasting orange players. Get your feet in the grass and breathe the air in the world of Britannia. Maybe you’ll discover again what made you love the game in the first place.


Ultima Online is about stopping to smell the roses.



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11 Responses to “The Death of RoT?”

  1. longliveuo says:

    Completely agree with this. Back when mmorpgs were fresh, bold, breaking new ground and tried to capture that sense of atmosphere and feel that the old (pre-Renaissance) UO had, that was where real fun was to be had. But now, so many games just want to appeal to the mass audience at large with games that feel more like you’re playing an arcade game than enjoying a deep, thoughtful and memorable experience that, so far, only the old UO has ever managed to create. For me, anyway.

  2. The main problem with ROT as it was implemented on IPY is that it is a finite cap on what a player can accomplish with their freetime, which is almost the antithesis of what UO stands for. I’ve played UO off and on since its release for the pure reason that I can do whatever I want in the game, if I’m willing to work for it. And I completely agree that having a player have to actually work to build a character has a lot of merit. The problem lies when an artificial cap stops a player from being able to put their full effort into a game; to play and build their character on their terms.

    There should be no difference between a player spending 1 hour a day playing every day for 8 days, versus a player spending 2 hours every day for 4 days, or even versus another player spending 8 hours in game once every 8 days. Yet ROT places a stranglehold on players unable to maintain a DAILY regimen of UO. Essentially, if you want to build a character, you have to follow OUR schedule in order to succeed, which to me seems the exact opposite approach one should take to a classic sandbox game.

    Some hardcore UO players who have played UO for over a decade but due to work/life/schedules have only able to play in infrequent, but large chunks of time (i.e. 8 hours per week in a single day), are no longer are able to play in a rewarding manner; i.e. they make very little character progress playing actively.

    And yet in the end, the ultimate result was largely the same: towns full of players macroing 24/7 to achieve their 7xGm characters. Except now they feel like it’s a burden since they have to do it daily for weeks on end. Personally, I’d have preferred there been no ROT at all, but slightly lower skill gain rate (but still +300%/+200% dungeon/crafting bonuses), and huge limitations places on town/wilderness macroing (i.e 25% skill rate instead of 100%). Skill scrolls and zoned-skill bonuses were still a great idea.

  3. There is not too much wrong with the RoT system, but it does have some flaws. Alot of the issues fall from the fact that you actually get capped. It seems to make it useless to even try gaining the skill past that point.

    The skill scroll drop rate is another issue. I understand it is meant to motivate players to want to hunt instead of macroing but at the rate the scrolls drop it still does not seem worth while to do so. One could spend hours with little [or sometimes nothing] to show for it skill wise.

    For me UO is a game about diversity [seeing other players of different play styles] and also freedom which I feel the current RoT system invades into as there is that daily cap.[An example would be 1. I am exhausted. 2.I feel like grinding some spells on a dragon since there is 200 skill gain in dungeons 3. I am disappointed as I do not gain anything, though might get lucky and get a scroll but usually unlikely.]

    What I would suggest is to boost the skill scroll drop [so that someone in 90s could maybe get .4-.5 skill gain in about 2 hours of hunting.] and also that the RoT system was removed but ONLY in dungeons. Since the risk of being killed or getting in trouble for macroing in dungeons is at stake that would leave only 2 options. People actively watching themselves grind skill in a dungeon, or hunting the monster spawns. Though this would be more actively occurring once they are exhausted in the outside world.

  4. I don’t believe RoT is helping the macroer or the average player, I’m not even convinced it’s leveling the playing field. Instead, it’s hurting both parties.

    The main issue is IPY allows for 3 accounts logged in simultaneously. This of course means macro 2 and play 1. Ignoring that fact… There are a LOT of other things I can be doing aside from playing UO, but if I want a 7x GM character I can always macro 1-3 accounts in the background. If I’m dedicated I can exhaust all 7 skills. If I’m a dedicated ACTIVE player I can do the same. At the end of the day, the active player and dedicated macroer are going to raise at approximately the same speed. You’re not helping either, but you’re handicapping both.

    The obvious solution already seems to be in place. Skill scrolls (brilliant idea by the way), but I’ve tried to exhaust 7 skills actively hunting. It’s REALLLY hard even with scrolls. And if you’re really serious about scrolling up, shame is really the only place to do it which is kind of unfortunate. If you really want to “reward” the active player skill scroll drops need to get faster or there needs to be a harsher penalty for macroing.

    Not sure why I’m commenting since I like slow gains and I think the system is ok, but I empathize with the complainers : ). I also agree that the crafting system needs to very difficult to get master. If you adjust skill gain rates make sure the crafting ones remain slow!

  5. It’s amazing how stupid you are Az.

  6. I think a lot of people are on the same page as you, Az. However, they’re also dealing with the desire to play the game and not feel excessively handicapped.

    People still rely _heavily_ on macroing. You will struggle mightily to create a PvP competitive character without macroing religiously. If scroll drops were amplified 5x or something like that it would do a lot to help with this.

  7. It’s cool that this isn’t just in the theorycrafting phase anymore.
    I know there’s about 20 pages of ‘what do you want to see in 2.5′ stuff on the forums, so I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible before I go and check that out.
    I played extensively at launch with a few of my friends. In fact I gave about two months of my life to the game before I had to ween myself off, having completely relapsed into UO addiction. It was an awesome period of time.
    So, from that experience, here’s what I learned:
    The skill scrolls worked way better than I ever could have imagined. The system worked wonderfully. It made the game more engaging for old players and it was such an intuitive system that new players could understand it and start whacking away immediately. I would focus on developing this system more, I think it’s some kind of valorite ore vein.
    I think you are completely right to have slow skill gain. If anything I would suggest tweaking it to make it slower, and the mechanics such that it wasn’t a 7x or nothing pvp system. Because the underlying issue of why people want to get ‘end game’ seems to be that only then do they feel they can start competing. I dont think this is sustainable.
    Other than that, it’s awesome to see a precedent set for change in UO. Most of us chasing ghosts should realize by now that, like always, the thrill is in the hunt. And for those who arent just shamelessly grappling at the past, I think the UO sandbox offers things no other game has, and those should be focused on more than anything.

  8. Fantastic comment, Einsacks.

    While most of you should realize that, 99% don’t. It’s natural for people to want the end result now, however. To enjoy a journey is something you need to force from people now. While they’ll enjoy it immensely at the time, they’ll barely realize it during or even afterward.

    I really can’t even comment further, because the vast majority of my playerbase is demanding instant gratification from me right now. It’s become politically incorrect to say that instant gratification isn’t all it’s cracked up to be around here, unfortunately.

    My main regret there is that, once the entire game of UO has become something to skip over, what are we working on great content like portals for? Without our skill gain system, it’ll all just be skipped.

    That, and the fact that UO doesn’t really have an endgame to hold on to players once they skip the rest of the game.

    But, my hands are tied at this point.

  9. longliveuo says:

    This may be one of those unpopular mechanics of the original pre-T2A UO, but I remember that there was a skill-decay system where if you haven’t used a skill for a while it will start to decrease slowly?

    I think one of the reasons why people are only interested in the so-called “end-game” now is because a 7x GM character is perhaps seen as the sole achievement and purpose for them in UO.

    The skill decay system may have encouraged players to see the game differently than they do now. Instead of seeing a fully maxed out skills character as an achievement, perhaps they saw it as just a nice thing to have, a means to an end, because they knew it wasn’t permanent and they had to keep working on it.

    That may have motivated them to actually play the game as it was intended, enjoy the experience, live a virtual life, etc instead of racing to get all seven skills maxed out on their character and then get bored with the game.

    I don’t know, I may be wrong here but looking back to how UO was when it first launched there might just be a solution to this problem.

    Any thoughts? :)

  10. I still don’t believe instant gratification has anything to do with it. If someone wants to build a home and they build it with their own hands over a month, versus someone else who builds a home over a year, its the same amount of work. ROT simply adds red tape and permits and bureacracy preventing players from working at their own pace. If you want players to take agency over their characters, simply remove all ways to macro and force entirely active playing. Make skill gain slow, and balance skills that are currently only feasibly done by macroing (crafting/fishing/etc) so that they can be gained realistically through active play. Through dungeons, crafting quests, player interaction.

    If you impose hard timelines for player development, people have to make a decision right out of the gate whether they are willing to slow down and curb their own playstyle to the server’s vision of character development. If it takes 100 hours to build a character, let players decide when and how they invest that 100 hours; especially now that this is a 14+ year old game and people have real life responsibilities.

  11. I like the screenshot here. How do I get my game to look like that?

    Also, I love the rot system. People are actually in dungeons experiencing the game. Not just running around trying to kill people. My only complaint about the server is that the skills try too hard to be era accurate. I’m not sure why everybody things choosing between only 2 classes for PVP is the best UO version. But I think its boring. I like to encounter people with different builds. Part of a great sandbox and the random factor. Knowing that I’ll either encounter a tank mage or dexxer, is pretty much boring. I’d like to see some variance in character templates. I do commend Az for recreating the UO experience though. Nice job.

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International man of mystery, jetsetting billionaire playboy, world renowned philanthropist and notorious double agent, Azaroth enjoys charitably running online games in his free time for the people he loves most - internet stalkers.