The MurmHat (left), the GhostHat (right) and the LumHat (left at home)

05/05/99 1:30 PM BRITFEST 99 CONTINUES, AFTER THIS BRIEF WORD FROM SNICKERS

Murmandamus, the Evil Bastard, posted his recollections of our sojourn here. He was also drunk, although I think he is more used to being drunk and thus remembered more.

Crimson Ghost, the Malicious Bastard, informs me that the pix are developed and winging their way to Casa Del Lummo via post post haste.

05/03/99 12:30 PM MORE FROM BRITFEST 99

As I continue to regain consciousness from driving for 20 hours within 2 days, things come back to me from the Austin player's lunch. Note that due to those "experiments" back in college, at any moment factual recollections may change into stuff I just made up without warning.

Lord British, Murm and I had a pretty interesting discussion about the Ultima Collection, prompted by Murm's being unable to actually run most of it. Basically LB plans to, once Ultima: Ascenscion is released, redo the older Ultimas using the Ascenscion engine. He'd also like to take the opportunity, a la George Lucas, to rework much of the earlier ones since it was pretty hard to cram actual plot and characterization into an Atari 400. I asked why OSI didn't just port the tile-based Ultimas (1 through 5) to a more Windows 95-friendly engine, since that would seem to be the quickest way to preserve the older titles. LB agreed that it would be easy, but the problem was no one save us terminal Ultima geeks would actually pay money for them (after all, OSI gives Ultima 4 out for free). This does go against Origin's announced intentions to only do online games (which was reinforced in his talk), so unless they're planning on releasing a massively multiplayer Ultima: Pagan, we're probably out of luck for the forseeable future.

Lord British said that Wing Commander Online (or Privateer Online, which I'm sure is what it will turn into anyway) was an on again off again project that was currently off again, but is their number 2 priority (number 1 presumably being that last single player game they're shoving out the door currently).

Every attendee got an Official UO knicknack (a UO zipper thingy that hangs onto your zipper or something). I'm sure it will appear on eBay shortly if you want your own.

Oh, and speaking of official UO knicknacks, after much discussion, our group has decided that LadyMOI is in fact a babe. We have a sexist and demeaning nickname for her now, as befitting her new objectified status, but it would really only make sense if you came of age in the early 80's.


The LadyMOI, a kind, sweet, gentle soul who was
brutally mocked unbeknownst to her shortly thereafter.

05/03/99 09:00 AM LORD BRITISH SUCCEEDS AT HIS PEACEMAKING SKILL

"My God! The puppy is updating!"
      -- Designer Dragon

"I can't believe I paid OSI $20.00 to go eat at a restaraunt."
      -- Murmandamus

"I can't believe I travelled 1000 miles to pay OSI $20.00 to go eat at a restaraunt, only to not be allowed in and have to go next door to buy drinks, only to be let upstairs and fed luncheon meat."
      -- Lum the Mad

"So, are you the Lum the Mad who chain lightning'd me on Pacific?"
      -- Anonymous

Well, I spent much of this weekend in Austin with my posse Murmandamus the Evil Bastard and Crimson Ghost the Malicious Bastard. We had all heard a vicious rumor that some dude who styled himself Lord British was going to show up, so of course we had to go laugh at him. After an hour of warming up (which consisted of drinking tequila and muttering "yeah, I can take 'em" to ourselves in an apparently lesbian bar) we were all shepherded upstairs and proceeded to sit at tables and stare sullenly at the pale-faced geeks who were staring sullenly at the pale-faced geeks across from them.

Richard Garriot and entourage showed up (note: not in frilly cuffs), and after a bit he sat at our table. I figured I'd be cool and be, like, undercover (plus I really didn't have a whole lot to say since I was busily struggling with my low alcohol tolerance), which lasted all of three seconds...

Sir Fragmor: So, Richard, have you ever read "The Rantings of Lum the Mad"?

Lord British: Actually I was warned about him...

Sir Fragmor: That's him, right there. (points at Lum, sitting next to LB)

Lord British: (looks down at Lum) Oh REALLY.

Lum: (tries to look innocent, but only succeeds in looking like a gimp) Hi.


As Lord British (center) details his plans for global domination to an
obviously bored Lum (left) a small child recoils in horror (right)

After that bit of unpleasantness was ended, he held forth about his new castle for a while (he's building an escape tunnel to the sea now, or something like that), and also had a few things to say about the future of UO. Basically, the next set of enhancements will be designed to make the game more accessible to newbies. This includes newbie training areas in game (such as a newbie dungeon), developing an automated quest engine that one or two people can use for quests, and a greatly expanded offline component, similar to the current demo on the T2A CD. Also in the far future are enhancements to the game engine for advanced users, including a plugin to allow for a 3D view of the world and eventually UO2, which you will somehow be able to move your current UO characters to.

We were all pretty impressed with LB; he seemed a great deal like a "cool boss"... someone who has kind of a vague idea of where he wants the company to go, but actually delegates the details to the people responsible for implementing it. Any questions about UO's specifics he almost always referred to Designer Dragon or Dupre (Rich Vogel, the UO project leader). Plus, he really wasn't that much of a gimp, so it was hard to make fun of him.

After all, despite being the object of scorn and hatred for UO players everywhere, he actually had the cojones to meet those players, as opposed to the "Sullen GM Table" where about 8 GMs, all in various stages of body piercing, none of which were old enough to order drinks legally, stared morosely at each other, radiating waves of "they-told-me-to-be-here-they-didn't-tell-me-to-like-it-goddamit". Every so often we pointed and laughed at the sullen-GM-table and made them feel even more uncomfortable. It was our job, after all.


The GM table, without adult supervision.


"So tell me, who is this Senith chap?"

Soon there was a Q&A session between the assembled players and the dev team. Here's the notes I tried to take (my PDA didn't work well in the darkness, so many of my notes read "dd said pxyl1$achg2.,qe as well as boards"):

Richard Garriot then gave a short speech which basically sketched out UO's long term future as a VR sort of Amway, where if you got enough "points" you could have OSI fly you out to Austin and digitize your spirit and send it into the Matrix where you could duel to the death with the Men in Black and hang with Keanu Reeves, who knows kung fu.

Afterwards, it developed that the dev team all read this page and are great fans and in fact will probably link to it from owo.com just to spite me and make me look like I sold out to the Man. (Lum says another dirty word.)

And they asked, along with everyone else, when I was going to ask Lord British THE QUESTION. The question I had threatened to ask for, god, weeks now, and held in dark secrecy. That question, as I had planned it, was this.

Mr. Garriot, I work on a UO related website, and as research for that I came upon an interview you gave for the Site, a web-related TV show on MSNBC, where you said that the key to a successful online game was the ability for the players to feel as if they mattered, by involving them in a greater plot, and key to that would be the regular appearance of you as Lord British and Starr Long as Lord Blackthorne, interacting with the world and its players on a regular basis. My question is -- what happened?

Sounds noble and coherent and to the point, no? Well, as mentioned before, I had basically turned into a drunken gimp that day, and my QUESTION turned into:

Um, er, how come you're never online?

The answer.. well, here it is.

LB: I'm online as Lord British once a week.

Lum: You ARE? (goggles)

LB: Yes, but you know, I'm just one person, out of a hundred thousand players, and word doesn't usually get out when I'm there.

Lum: But... but people have ICQ, and IRC... and...

LB: Not everyone has ICQ or IRC.

Lum: So what do you do when you're on?

LB: I'm usually led by GMs to player establishments, to place plaques and give speeches and the like. Sometimes I like to go on adventures with players, and occasionally I'll take a GM call...

Lum: You TAKE GM CALLS?

LB: Yes, it's very instructive. I try to do it once a month or so.

Lum: What GM are you?

LB: I show up as GM Lord British.

Murmandamus: So, is there any chance that "invulnerable" tag over your head will go away?

LB: (backs away) Well, there's always the chance that a mistake will happen and someone will accidentally clear the flag... um, I have to go.

So there you have it. If you macro unattended, LORD BRITISH WILL BAN THEE!

It was an interesting weekend overall. Texas is very big and I drove through most of it at high speeds. The web site was in capable hands while I was gone, although rumors that Fear will be interviewing the puppy are probably false.


Afterwards, longtime friends Lum (left) and Murm (right) socialize.

 

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