[MUD-Dev] UO rants

Matthew Mihaly the_logos at achaea.com
Tue Aug 22 05:54:20 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

On Mon, 21 Aug 2000, Koster, Raph wrote:

First let me say that while I sympathize with you Raph, I don't think that
some of your arguments would hold any weight in the mind of the writer of
that rant, as they amount to "We sold out the world because we could make
more money that way." I don't have any sort of moral objection to that,
but I do think that's what you're saying. 

Please keep in mind that I'm playing devil's advocate throughout much of
my post, and trying to reply from the point of view of the writer of that

> The very first question one should ask about tackling something like this is
> "can I possibly be faithful to the original property?" The answer will, in
> many cases, be no. For example, a heavily narrative property may well not be
> suitable for being made into a mud of any sort. A property which is driven
> primarily by characters will likewise translate poorly.

So right here then, you're basically saying "We'll bastardize the property
in order to make a buck."

> The absolute best properties/settings to develop for a mud will be the ones
> where
> a) it's easy to imagine the main protagonist getting replaced
> b) the central themes in the property are not about personal development but
> about the setting itself

Or, you could invent your own world instead of cheapening an existing,
much-loved one.

> To get back to the specific case: Ultima thematically is about ethics,
> indubitably. It is also about a single individual in a heavily narrative
> environment. These latter factors make it very very hard to adapt to any
> sort of multiplayer setting.

No arguments here.

> To this end, we chose not to put in such a system. Instead, we sought to put
> it in the hands of players as much as possible, to not make the game the
> judge and arbiter of ethical behavior. We did it via very crude means,
> really.

> The right choice? Probably to not use Ultima, frankly. It's not a thematic
> approach that is easily represented in massively multiplayer. Trying to
> satisfy the thematic desires of the playerbase was one of the greatest
> challenges we faced--it was hard enough trying to make player policing work
> without also having to make it be "Ultima." It's both the biggest boon and
> the biggest albatross around your neck.

Exactly. Not to use Ultima. Ultima was used because it could make money,
not because it was a suitable property. In the process, a fine property
was essentially devalued and embarassed. I think that's the intelligent
response from the ranter's point of view.

> "In the end, though, market forces proved to be far more important than
> vision or virtue."
> Nah--if anything, the dev team's insistence on trying not to put in a
> travesty of a gameable ethics system was a fight against market forces. It
> would have been easy to let you go to each shrine, do a little quest, and
> gain "Virtue Points." But it was felt that this was contrary to the spirit
> of the franchise.

Well, come now, the dev team existed to make a profit for Origin and EA.
Market forces were the beginning and end of the reason Ultima Online was
made, I'd assume. I don't see Gordon Walton (or whoever made the decision)
sitting around saying, "Hmm, let's drop 8 million dollars on Ultima, cause
I want to make a game that honours it."

> "There were lots of other careless mistakes:   "French" bread, katanas
> despite there not being an "oriental" culture, bronze ore, NPC quests which
> consisted of every shopkeeper wanting his co-worker dead, wrist watches, and
> many others which, in isolation, would have been very easy to forget.
> What's disturbing about them, however, is that they represent a consistent
> track record of just throwing stuff in without any regards as to how it
> affects or clashes with the context of the game.... [snip] You have the lead
> designer of Ultima Online telling players that the context isn't important
> because Ultima Online is a 'virtual community'.  You have OSI creating
> seasonal events based on Earth and not Britannian holidays"
> The simple fact is that those real world holidays have meaning. And the
> Britannian ones don't. We actually launched with a fairly full calendar of
> Britannia-specific holidays. You can actually go back and read old news
> archives about our attempts at celebrating things like the day on which you
> hunt walrus, and other such things. Nobody cared emotionally. The real
> holidays had emotional resonance to players--and the first thing that people
> did when the servers opened in Japan was start celebrating Japanese
> holidays. Much as it will disturb the full-immersion roleplayer types, that
> is what people like and what they want. 

Honestly, I (not the ranter) think that the reason the Britannia ones had
no meaning is because you didn't give it any time and you didn't put any
effort into it (here I mean the live team mainly). You can't just expect
to declare day X a holiday and have your first players give a shit. You
have to nuture that sort of thing, and build a culture that will honour
that sort of day. You probably won't achieve the same level of emotional
involvement that rl holidays achieve, but you can definitely get a
significant level of emotional involvement. I really think this is because
you guys dropped the ball and didn't have the patience to develop a
culture that respects in-game holidays.

Now, as the ranter, I'd once again say, "Exactly. You sold out to what the
broadest number of people wanted, and used that as an excuse for betraying
the soul of the property, in the name of getting as many subscribers as
possible and thus making as much money as possible. You are greedy
capitalist pigs who make me sicker than a really sick thing."

You know, actually, I can see that person continuing on and saying that
one reason he objects is that he thinks it's ridiculous that a company can
own a world that is loved by so many, and that it is, in fact, at least
partly owned by the fans (much as you, Raph, like to posit that the
players own part of a mud), and so it's completely ridiculous that a small
group of people can make decisions that destroy the spirit of the original
property in order to make a buck.

> Likewise, things like French bread are there in part because the Britannian
> setting was frankly poor in variation in many ways. Lastly, things were put
> in, like katanas, because of player desires to have a wide array of
> weaponry. When you start doing a mud based on a setting, you find out all
> the things that have always been glossed over or are plain missing, because
> ina single-player environment, or in a novel, or in a movie, you are trapped
> on a linear path, and it's easy to build stage sets that surround the path,
> and not actually have anything behind them.

Again, obvious criticism is selling out in order to get subscribers.

Anyway, again, I'm not really criticizing you. If there's anyone on this
list who appreciates the importance of games making money than me, I
haven't yet heard his or her voice. If I were the CEO of EA, I'd have no
problem at all with bastardizing, destroying, and otherwise mutilating any
original property providing I judged that more profit could be obtained by
doing so than by preserving the property and losing whatever opportunity I
was considering. To do otherwise would be, in my system of ethics at
least, completely wrong, as you are betraying your bosses (the
shareholders) and the mission given to you (increase shareholder value).

BUT, I swear to god, if Sierra wins their lawsuit with Tolkien Enterprises
and keeps the license, and then releases the predictable sell-out LOTR
game, I am going to their offices, and I am going to go postal. And I
don't think I'll be alone.

"He that is wounded in the testicles, or have his penis cut off, shall not
enter into the congregation of the Lord." Deuteronomy 23:1

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