05/19/99 9:30 AM NOT UO UPDATES FROM THE WORLD AROUND YOU

For those of you who still get all your news of the outside world from Dr. Twister, UOVault, and that patch message that comes up when you start UO, some things have been happening lately.

First up, Paula Jones has her own psychic hotline now. This is in addition to her new career as a country and western singer. (You know, I'm making NONE of this up. ZERO.) Women all over Nashville are now petitioning Bill Clinton, in the hopes that if he shows them his penis they too can break into the music business, or at the very least a psychic hotline they can call their own.

In proper commemoration of this triumph of the independent American woman, I now declare that Paula Jones is the official obsessive-compulsive icon of lum.webtoys.net, replacing LadyMOI and Sorsha The Amazing UO Cyberwhore. Expect more and more Paula Jones updates until I come to my senses.

In other news, we're still bombing Serbia, and will continue to bomb Serbia until they surrender, we run out of bombs, or Designer Dragon implements a Balkans PK switch. Oh, and I heard at work there's some movie coming out today or something.

05/18/99 10:00 AM DELUSIONS AND SMURFS, OH MY!

Got this in the mail this morning...

I find myself agreeing with most of your assertions in part 1 of your series of essays on community. I personally fit right in between Merchant and Roleplayer, with a small dash of Hunter mixed in. The vast majority of people I know in UO could also be fit into your categorizations. However, I find myself disagreeing with a few points in your second essay, mostly those involving the volunteer program.

My main objection is to your dismissal of the counselor system as merely deputized, untrained help. I was in the first wave of new counselors to be robed in December/January, and I believe that such an abrupt dismissal of them, even if unintended, is a grave injustice. Yes, the old system allowed in many that were not very qualified. Everyone has a horror story of their meeting with Counselor k3wld00d, who answered with "Sup?" and departed with "laterz".

That old system, however, is dead. The new system has a stringent set of requirements that DEMAND applicants be knowledgeable of every portion of UO. More importantly, it demands that they know how to find information through use of Stratics, the Crossroads of Brittania, UOVault, and the owo.com website. It also demands maturity. The Senior Counselors for each shard interview every single potential counselor who demonstrates the ability and knowledge, and I have seen NO applicant get through that process and later abuse his power, especially given the extensive training OSI requires its counselors to go through before they can work
on a shard.

With regards to the rest of the essay, perhaps the only solution OSI needs to look at is requiring the same stringent standards of its GMs as of its counselors. I won't argue that they exude an air of "this is only a job, don't bug me". Perhaps if OSI would just apply the counselor requirements to the GM positions, then the problem would solve itself, but in the meantime, I'd like to ask for a little separation of the two
in your writings...

An Anonymous Counselor

Well, you can certainly ask.

However, the unpaid volunteer program has been a massive disaster for Ultima Online, and any "new system" has got many miles of road to walk before the damage to the public trust can be repaired. The screening process for counselors was a joke. The vast, vast majority of counselors in UO were there only because they thought it was a promotion from Player. Calls in the queue went unanswered for hours as hundreds of Cs sat in #uo-council comparing dick sizes. PK guilds had pet smurfs scout for them and then gloat over the kills. This is not something you can just wash away with a breezy "it's better now, really!" We want proof.

You want my opinion? The counselor program needs to be eliminated. It doesn't work. The baggage from the KewlDeWd Smurfs is too heavy to wash away.

In its place, a comprehensive system of technical support must be created for Ultima Online. A thorough analysis needs to be made of the number of customer service calls per shard per night, skew that analysis towards the high end, and plan a system of blanket, complete coverage so that any call is answered within three minutes or less. That's the standards we meet in the real world, it's not too much to ask, as paying customers, that it be met here. There may be a place for unpaid volunteers within this system. There may not be. However, whomever staffs this system must be held legally liable for their actions as they reflect upon Origin Systems. They are customer service representatives, exactly the same as any GM, and must be held to the same standards of auditing, training and recruiting.

What? GMs aren't held to any standards of training and recruiting?

Oh, and a response to one specific point:

The Senior Counselors for each shard interview every single potential counselor who demonstrates the ability and knowledge, and I have seen NO applicant get through that process and later abuse his power

Oh really? Well, I have seen it, PERSONALLY, not second or third hand, and within the past month, involving the new experimental powers they were given to punish players. The ONLY reason I didn't immediately post a twenty page obscenity-filled rant about it was as a personal favor to the persons trying to track down the perpetrator.

Obviously The New Order faltered a bit in their "rigorous screening process". Or maybe it's all those smurfs from The Bad Old Days who somehow are still around?

Burn it down, and start over.

Next email comes from every cartoonist's favorite nemesis, Delusion;

I can sympathize with both sides pretty readily.  Much like real cops who get an attitude problem, that of a GM's is often crafted by the fact that GMs have to deal with the worst of the worst on a fairly regular basis.  More than that, it's not just the worst sorts who make GMing less enjoyable.  Banning someone who's been a contant participant in vulgar harassment is one thing, but even when they have to deal with the role-playing community, which you would think would be an easier crowd, you have just as many of them who try to "get something" out of the GMs.  In any player-GM confrontation, a GM is almost always required to say nothing about it publicly, whereas the victim is free to proclaim his unjust treatment, sometimes completely devoid of facts.

Lest I come off as an apologist, I've had my first-hand experience with careless GMing. The most memorable was on April 22nd 1998.  UOVault carried it in part, and the CoB carried it in full.  I saved it at https://www.delusion.smart.net/frustration.html.  The outcry was strong enough that GM Ed posted to the CoB news submission.  It was posted right above my submission.  It was important enough to e-mail me about it and promise me something would be done.  It wasn't, however, important enough to actually follow through and keep the promises he made in the post.

As to your premise that there wasn't any conflict between role-players and anti-role-players until the reputation system, I have a different take.  In my experience, they've been at each others' throats from day one.  Ultima Online has always been a challenging environment to role-play in due to the differing goals of these two groups.  Had OSI taken some of its tough stances early on rather than waiting until now, things may have been a lot different.  The anti-role-playing community is now bored and spiteful - they play to ruin events, cause other people needless misery, and when they decide they've had enough and quit UO, its only after they're satisfied that they've caused other people to quit.  The role-playing community is now jaded and intolerant - they don't expect things to change greatly, they paint all non-role-players with the same broad d3wd brush, and the interesting distinctly Britannian developments of early 1998 have given way to ghost town cities, Fight Night 204,653, and a sense that the dev team is never going to give them the tools that they pushed for shortly after release, such as some implementation of a virtue system, or the return of multi-shard plots.

Had some early attempt been made to clamp down on antisocial idiocy (it wasn't limited to who was killing who), and to encourage role-players to do more outreach and inclusiveness, perhaps these two groups - if not playing nicely in the same sandbox - wouldn't be stuck across a battle line with GMs in the middle, irritated with them both.

The fear of, to put it in the context of today's rant, "White Flight" from UO to EQ isn't much of an issue now.  The idea that EQ was either going to draw off all the PKers - or in contrast, become a role-playing haven - hasn't panned out.  Of course it didn't, EQ wasn't aimed at a niche audience, just as UO wasn't.

Rather than focusing on what is, what's important is to focus on what will be.  Each side of the RP/anti-RP line need to respect the others' right to play.  People who play just to make people miserable (be they a harassing PK, or an RPer too elitist to interact with anyone not in their clique) need to move on.  If that means changing how they play, fine.  If it means quitting, that's fine, too.  A renewed respect for the context and role-playing atmostphere of the game would certainly help.  Players not using GMs as a tool against other players would help even more.  When confrontational topics come up on messageboards, the surest sign that someone isn't willing to consider the other person's point of view is the use of the word "whine".  "Whiner PKs who want to kill without consequences."  "Whiner role-players who get pissed when you kill them."  Yeah, whatever.  In USENET, when newsgroups were still relatively free of spam and .edu domains were more common than .com domains, there was a rule of thumb.  If anyone called an opposing point of view or the person who held it "fascist", a "nazi" or made any insulting reference to "Hitler", it was jokingly said "nazis mentioned, discussion over", to indicate that when people were using the nazi analogy, they had ceased to make any point worth reading.  The UO community equivalent would be "whine".  "Everyone's a whiner, discussion over."

The UO atmosphere can be improved if the players think it's a worthwhile goal.  Also, the creators of the next role-playing multiplayer project, no matter what form it takes, need to learn valuable lessons from Ultima Online to make sure we're writing the same rants about a different game five years from now.

Delusion
Fascist whiner

Couple of points - I never thought that roleplayers and PKers weren't at each other's throats from the start. Merely that until the rep system, it wasn't a contest. In every meeting between roleplayers and PKers, the roleplayers were immediately wiped out. It wasn't until consequences for murders were introduced that the PKers had any inducement whatsoever not to annihilate everyone on screen. At that point, the community matured enough for actual conflict (as opposed to annihilation) to develop. Roleplayers actually have an actual agenda now beyond "Don't kill me".

Also, of course GMs see the worst of players, no matter the archetype. Hey... it's part of the job. Welcome to the wonderful world of customer support. If they can't handle the job, they need a new one. It's another excuse, not a reason.

(Guess what Lummy does for a living! And his customers are actually well behaved...)

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