Although buggy beyond belief, overrun by murderous idiotic k3w1d0oDz and running on servers which have the processing power of a cheap wristwatch (they claim they are Suns, must be circa 1983 Suns), for some reason UO is extremely addictive and immersive. It’s inexplicable; I’ve been looted about 3 times, have to deal with morons every time I leave my one remaining secure house, have my friends constantly beg (or demand) money from me so they can waste it, and yet I still come back. There really is no other game currently on the market like UO, and the absurdist in me loves the interaction, even when it becomes utterly stupid (which is most of the time). The biggest problem with UO is not the bugs, the bad servers, the lag, or the unbalanced combat system, it’s the players. UO is designed to make money for Origin Systems Inc., and that money comes from players, many of whom simply wish to run around, act k3w1 and kill other players, loot their houses, and ruin their gaming experiences while enriching themselves. However, k3w1d0oDz have the same sort of money that serious gamers do (or at least their parents do), and so OSI looks the other way as the UO role-playing environment is systematically cut to pieces by their customer base.

Following the maxim of “the customer is always right” (or at least the biggest group of customers), this sort of idiocy was allowed and even tacitly (or actively, in the case of corrupt Gamemasters) encouraged until massive numbers of customers started quitting UO, as in the recent house break-in wave. Players had found a way to break into houses and loot them clean by using a bug, and this went on for an extremely long time, some looted homeowners even being told that “it’s part of the game” and this bug abuse was “a creative use of magic”. When accounts started getting cancelled left and right, Origin suddenly decided that house looting was a big problem and finally got off their asses to fix the bug. This had been going on for a long time; in contrast, a very minor bug which allowed the creation of pure black dye for clothing that didn’t really affect anyone was fixed within several days. Priorities, priorities.

As more online rpg’s come out, attempts are made at automating controls against such antisocial behavior, including PvP (player vs. player) switches that can be turned off if one does not wish to fight other players, statistic penalties for murderers (already in place in UO), superguards who protect the towns with their instant kill weapons and somewhat skewed sense of automated justice (also in UO), reduced weapon and spell damage against players, etc. These are not solutions. PvP combat, while disliked by some players, is a necessary part of a realistic contiguous game world. Walking around in unguarded woods SHOULD be slightly dangerous, and a well-played highwayman can be a delight. The problem is the PLAYERS, and no automated assinine behavior control system can deal with this. In a pen and paper RPG, if someone is an idiot and ruining the game for others, he is simply not invited back. In in online CRPG, there is no real enforcable rule about how to act in the software license agreement, and there is no real gamemaster as such to remove the offender.

Online automated morality is also somewhat tenuous, and leads to bad situations. Good and Evil are essentially meaningless; just don’t murder innocent people (or cows, the buggy karma-losing animal of the week), give away some cloth to the NPC tailors once in a while, and maybe kill some orcs and you are on the “good” side of the notoriety tree. You can still be a complete asshole in your personal interaction, loot houses, and generally be as annoying as all hell and you are still a “good guy”. Many good-aligned guilds are usually comprised of the same sort of people that comprise evil guilds, but since they go after evil people and don’t steal, they are still good even as they show up in forces numbering in the dozens to overrun a poor little thief who’s trying to roleplay in the woods. Sadly enough, having perused the various web pages of good and evil guilds, I have more respect for a greater number of evil-aligned roleplaying guilds who take it on the chin, don’t cheat, and support each other than the vast majority of “good-aligned” guilds who simply pick on the evils, worry about their notoriety, and will use a bug exploit in a heartbeat as long as it doesn’t ruin their reputation and they don’t get caught.

Many UO players have already quit UO, or are waiting for Everquest to come out so they can jump ship and still get their online RPG fix. The bad news is that the same morons will be in Everquest who plagued UO, and unless someone wants to write an onling CRPG engine and license it out for individuals to run their own campaigns (where k3w1d0oDz and their ilk can be excluded), they will always be there.

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