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.
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.
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.