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Five Days of Adventures on the High Seas Analysis

Discussion in 'UHall' started by RaDian FlGith, Aug 31, 2010.

  1. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Over at GameBlog, we're taking a look at the Booster Pack expansion model, theorizing about its potential strengths, weaknesses, failures, and successes.

    Today's article looks at the benefit of more frequent expansions vs. specialized content.

    So join on in the discussion!


    Day One : Waves of Content
    Day Two : Distractions (added 9/1/2010)
    Day Three : Booty vs. Adventure (added 9/2/2010)
    Day Four : Thar Be Bugs Har, Matey! (added 9/4/2010)
    Day Five : Long Walks and Short Planks (added 9/6/2010)
     
  2. Babble

    Babble Guest

    Uhm lol
    Everquest does the booster edition for years now and it seems to work.
    As for Blizzard, yes they could milk teir playerbase more with boosters, but it seems even they think they make enough money so, so that they can give free updates from time to time

    Will be interesting to see if they manage to produce those boosters on time and how they will do against free to play lotr which has lots more boosters to offer.
    :p
     
  3. Tek

    Tek Seasoned Veteran
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    ahhh my eyes! too much yellow.
     
  4. Willard

    Willard Seasoned Veteran
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    Yes, that was painful to read--Whats up with the Yellow!
    Interesting, but painful read.
     
  5. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Would a softer yellow, or maybe a white background for the text be potentially less painful on the eyes?
     
  6. MalagAste

    MalagAste Belaern d'Zhaunil
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    try a different color...

    White might be too bright as well.

    something softer like a pale blue perhaps or gray.
     
  7. Martyna Zmuir

    Martyna Zmuir Crazed Zealot

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    Ice blue! Fire orange!

    Oh, wait, those are too bright too... :lol:
     
  8. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Looking over the previous EQ expansions, I'd have to say that their expansion sets have -- comparatively -- been on the average of what we see here at UO. I can't really speak intelligently on the DevTeam that's behind EQ anymore, as I haven't actively played EQ since sometime after Shadows of Luclin and maybe a little after their following expansion that I didn't buy.

    But I definitely agree that it seems that it's a model that works for them. At least by scope of UO:AHS, I think it's got a little less ambition, but then, from my viewpoint, hopefully this will at least be a two-part experiment. One where they gauge the overall feasibility of the content model, and find out if there's enough interest. Then, second, where they take the lessons they learn from the first outing and play it through into a second outing.

    Truthfully, I don't expect them to get it right the first time because it is a fairly untried model -- EQ perhaps notwithstanding -- and because this expansion was sort of a "no-brainer" in terms of content and context.

    Well, truthfully, I'm not aware of any MMO that fails to provide "free" updates. But one thing you will notice on the Blizz forums is that even the casual gamer gets tired of the expansion content about half-way through to three-quarters through the expansion's cycle. Now, Blizz does a fairly decent job of providing distraction content to keep people busy, and a fairly decent job of meting out large-scale additions that they had planned at expansion time, but they aren't necessarily meeting the pace with which their players are expecting new content to be delivered.

    Part of that, I think, is their current expansion model.

    I personally couldn't see Blizzard abandoning that expansion model, but I could see them doing smaller-scale supplemental expansions. Obviously it's just opinion, but the potential exists.

    Well, the F2P model's an entirely different model altogether. I mean, yes, the game's technically "free" to play, but if you want the good stuff, you pay for it.

    Some of them -- I'm not sure on LotR's -- limit the level you can reach, some of them give you basic stuff and you pay for the premium. Very rarely are there ones where you can play endlessly and just pay for cutesy perks.

    I will say, that UO isn't F2P while WAR has been sent in that general direction is pretty telling both on how well WAR is doing, and how well it's expected to do.
     
  9. Babble

    Babble Guest

    I see lotr f2p model as one with lots of boosters.
    I want a series of quests? Then I can buy it for some cash.
    Then take maybe a few months break and return and buy another different questchain.

    Lotr might manage what wow also managed to get very very casual gamer friendly.

    Lotr offers packages of ongoing content as you progress.

    UO will offer additional content added to your monthly fee.

    The boosters will mainly be interesting for existing accounts, though if they are lucky and anyone even reports that they do them, even other gamers might check back.

    mmorpg.com for now has nothing reported on UO yet it seems and I guess other sites also know not a lot about EA's 'boosters'. Though saw something about warhammer round table?
     
  10. Nok

    Nok Lore Master
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    Hi RaDian,
    Added to the Community|Blogs menu of the UltimaXbar.
     
  11. TheBlackCobra

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    I'm a lifetimer for LOTRO (which means I've been playing for free for the last... 18 months, by my reckoning) so I've been following their F2P model with interest, which includes beta testing it.

    They added F2P as a subscription option because the game was doing fairly well. The revenues F2P can bring to the game vastly exceed those available with just subscription play, because of the Instant Gratification players. Both LOTRO and DDO offer (and will continue to offer after LOTRO goes F2P on the 10th) pay-to-play subscriptions. These get unlimited access to everything, but have to buy expansions (as with UO and WOW, they have free content updates as well. Not sure if we're keeping the free content as well as the boosters...).
    Expansions can be bought with Turbine Points.

    All pay-to-play players (including lifetimers) get free turbine points to spend in the store each month (which stack). This means you can buy expansions for just the points earned, if you don't waste them on other stuff. Free Players can either buy points for money, or earn them from grinding certain content.

    Now, free-to-play gives you the basic pre-first-expanion world to play in. It limits you to the number of trait slots (I can't think of a way to explain this in UO's gloriously nonrestrictive terms... but think of it like talent points in WOW.) and where you can quest - you get the entire Epic Quest Line included, but have to buy quest packs for zones past L20ish. Again, these quest packs can be earned through playing, if you're patient.

    WHO never really impressed me (which is sad, as a fan of the Warhammer multiverse), but I think their incentive for going F2P might be more along the lines of "We need to encourage more players" than the "let's milk this cash cow!" concept. UO doesn't currently have the income to risk F2P - which may well be why we're getting boosters. A way to inject more cash into the game, give players some of the things they've been wanting, and not raise subscriptions.

    Either way, HOORAY for an upgrade to the sailing system!

    *edit* Also, let's get the word spread out to the gaming sites that cover MMOs and haven't heard of this. Anything that might encourage people to be curious and try UO!
     
  12. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Alright, alright... the yellow has been replaced with a softer blue-gray that's close to the one in the Q*Bert Cubes on the background. Hopefully it's a bit easier on the eyes. :)


    Nok, thanks so very much!!! Greatly appreciated!!!
     
  13. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    It's actually quite a funny misnomer this whole F2P concept, isn't it? Not that we didn't already know that the reason for games going "free to play" was to make money, but it's actually nice to see it working on particular games.

    Now, my understanding -- and I've truly followed neither, so please let me know if I'm wrong -- was that DDO's move to F2P was more of a dwindling subscriber base and an attempt to build it back up. I have, on the other hand, heard and agree that LotRO was doing fine, but had suspected that the DDO model had encouraged them to believe it would work well with LotRO anyway.

    Out of curiosity, what kind of stuff do they offer for points. Is it just quest packs, or do they offer mounts, special clothing, whatever else as well? This is the one area of the F2P model that I find most fascinating, truly, because there isn't one cut & dry formula for doing it, but on various games, it does seem to be pretty successful.

    Can you advance past level 20 without doing quests, or is it pretty much something that you'd need to have to advance further? I honestly could see the casual gamer -- in either case -- being okay with earning this through play, depending on how it's earned, and the hardcore games paying to jump further into content.

    The problem with WHO/WAR is that they did something in an age where it's pretty unacceptable to do that anymore: They started cutting features to rush it out the door, and the product left over -- at least as I read the articles on it around the net -- made for a less than stellar experience.

    Don't get me wrong, I hope BioWare Mythic can turn it around, because that's an awful lot of development to crash and burn on. I would bet that it cost a lot more to develop it -- not to mention license cost -- than UO did.

    As for UO and an F2P model, perhaps you're right on that, that there's simply not a large enough subscriber-base to risk losing that kind of money initially. I do, honestly, feel that if this booster model takes off well, without being a detriment to the game, that it could do some good things at least for UO's revenue. Of course, that only scratches the surface of its needs, but it could be a step in the right direction.

    Agreed, on both counts!!!
     
  14. TheBlackCobra

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    You're absolutely spot on there. DDO was dying in the water, so Turbine gave it a shot to try. The marketing all the news sites gave it got people curious. Now, the down side of this is that the starting zone makes trade chat in world of warcraft look like a group of cultured nobles discussing the economy over brandy and cigars. I *think* we might be in a position where the same wouldn't work for UO, but I'm not sure. It's a risky experiment to try on a low-population game.

    There were a couple of things that you couldn't get otherwise (increased storage space, etc), expansions, the quest packs, and then you do indeed get into buffs, cosmetic armour, mounts, etc. HOWEVER, most of those items are obtainable in game. You can buy packs of food (which can be crafted by players), buffs which can be purchased with Destiny Points (gained through leveling or PVmP), mounts which can be earned through rep... so the only store-only benefits are things like UO's storage expansion.

    You absolutely can - it doesn't stop you doing dungeons, grinding mobs, or doing the epic questline. Doing the purchased quest packs are faster, but if you grind out the Deeds (achievements) in each zone you have a quest in, you get enough points to buy at least one quest pack - and a quest pack covers and entire zone. A F2P player who spends 0 money at all and doesn't spend points on the expansion is limited to Level 50. Buying the first expansion for points limits you to L60, and gives you all the quests from 50-60. The second expansion gives you all the quests from 60-65.

    I was put off it when they cut some of the major cities, and some of the races. Basing a game on Warhammer Fantasy RP, and then not including half the basic stuff, was such a bad idea. And yes, I hope it does well - not least because I want Mythic to do well so UO keeps going!

    I can see a potential for the boosters and the new store (if that happens) to eventually replace the subscription, and that's something I'd like.
     
  15. Babble

    Babble Guest

    Guildwars 1 and probably 2 has the concept pay for the expansion with no monthly fee.

    Advantage I see with the lotr f2p system is that I can play the game in my own pace. No monthly fee and I can spend as much/little as I want.

    With monthly fees I just expect or need to play a certain amount a month to think it was worth the fee.

    I see EA's Booster packs just a way to get more cash out of an old game. Is their game so they can try and good luck.
     
  16. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Day two article posted...

    This article delves into the ups and downs of how distracting expansion packs are on Ultima Online development, and what we may be able to hope for in the future.

    So head on over and take a read, and join in on the discussion!!!


    Tomorrow: A look at the potential revenue stream vs. the appeal of the booster.
     
  17. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Day three article posted, discussing the longevity factor of the booster pack model of Adventures of the High Seas.


    Tomorrow: looking at bug squashing vs. content additions.
     
  18. Babble

    Babble Guest

    'The largest concern that Adventures on the High Seas will have to face is longevity.'

    This is actually a small concern as the booster just adds to normal gameplay.
    More disturbing is how much attention 'storage increase' gets.
    :p
     
  19. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    My argument is that if there's little longevity to UO:AHS, when the next booster pack rolls around, if you weren't "wowed" by the gameplay added in the first one, you'll be less likely to purchase the second one. Clearly, most expansions add just that: normal gameplay. But if you're all done with that gameplay a month after it's released (speaking on casual gamers, as hardcore gamers will always exhaust an expansion's content long before its intended peter-out), then the expansion probably feels a bit flat for the money.

    Oh, I completely agree, and that's part of the balance that I think Mythic needs to strike in this. If these boosters become "Pirates with Storage Expansion," and "Orc Race with New Color Soulstone," and "Deceit: The Next Five Levels with Two New House Tile Sets," I guess the overall question will be how much content vs. flash-bang is the right mix or are we doomed to mini-content with hopefully attractive secondary reason to buy?
     
  20. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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  21. Babble

    Babble Guest

    Can anyone explain to me why the heck live content is so difficult and mysterious that UO developers sometimes take weeks in between advancing it?

    How difficult can it be in a hiostory rich game to think about some events thens et spawners with conditions and the let it run?

    But most times the developers think they have to bring something new (Bane) when most of the people would be happy with at least some storyline or development.
    If the developers think there have to be some rewards too the throw in some weapons you can think of with funny names for the item geeks.

    As for blowing up parts of the map, as far as I know they did it once and one of the reasons they do not like to do it is because they have to patch the whole map which is uncompressed about 70 mb (zipped about 40).

    As for the 2 teams one with live content others with bugfixing .. 10 Minutes talking would avoid any conflicts in development I bet.
    :p
     
  22. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Well, the problem with "live content" is "what exactly is live content?" In truth, live content ranges from everything from actual plot and creatures and so forth, to things like a new cooking recipe or chocolates. Sometimes they're going to put something out that isn't all that exciting to anyone (ie: the current state that the Bane are in... at least the advancing battles were enjoyable for a bit... no idea what they're doing in Ilshenar now except staring at the Meer from a distance).

    Today/tomorrow's article (whenever I get around to writing it) is specifically aimed at longevity, but I'll tell you a bit of what I think they need to do, and something they (and most MMOs to be honest) have been spectacularly bad at doing.

    All of these new systems they have designed should, ostensibly, be built in a manner that allows for easy expansion. By "easy expansion" I mean that it should not be difficult to add new like-themed items. For instance, adding new rewards to the Stygian Abyss puzzle rooms should be easy. Adding new items to treasure chests should be easy. Adding a new resource to a gardening plant, or even adding a new plant to gardening should all be easy to do. Now, I'm not saying that they are easy to do, because in many cases, I think they hard code without mind beyond the system they're working on -- and this is both inside and outside of UO.

    Actually, they used to have to parse out the whole map file. They don't anymore. Not since Lord Blackthorn's Revenge when they finally took advice I'd been detailing on the official UO forums for months and months and months. What they do now is patch out a pair of files that says, "This is what the map looks like in spot X, Y and here's what's in map tile X, Y, Z." They only do this for stuff that's different. The game then -- and I'm not certain which route they took here, the easy way or the hard way, because I don't have access to the source code -- either patches the map file or loads and applies the differences when the game's run. But, in either case, they don't have to send down 70mb of anything anymore.

    Just look in your UO folder for stadifx.mul and mapdifx.mul -- those are "static differences" and "map difference" for each map (0-5 at present).

    Nah... I truly believe it's more intricate than that, speaking as a programmer. What I will say though is that regularly scheduled weekly meetings of an hour or two with supervisors meeting throughout the week in shorter (your 10 minute meets) meetings would certainly do the trick, and should be nothing that would interfere with either team's progress.

    The problem is, UO isn't running a Live team and an Expansion team anymore. Blizzard is, and their live game -- if it suffers at all -- doesn't suffer much from parallel development.
     
  23. canary

    canary Guest

    Well, I think shelving arenas and the Bane storyline for a while to focus on the booster (even though Cal says boosters are supposed to be in place NOT to deter said projects, interestingly enough) kind of shows what a skeleton crew is in place currently at UO.

    IMO, of course.

    BTW, wonderful articles so far.
     
  24. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Day five article posted, analyzing the potential longevity of UO:AHS and offering some suggestions to keep it lively.

    This article concludes the series, though we'll definitely be keeping up on the expansion as it moves forward, and there'll be plenty of general video game as well as UO-specific articles to come in the future.
     
  25. Babble

    Babble Guest

    'Cooking seems to be getting a huge boost with plenty of new fish to catch, and fishermen (whose skill will finally be able to exceed 100.0 Grandmaster and reach 120.0 Legendary level with power scrolls) will have plenty in terms of variety of new fish to catch.'

    Uhm, no.
    Cooking finally gets some recipes again which make it useful after they neglected it for the first 10 or so years. UO is one of the few games with fully systems cooking/taste id/forensics which are TOTALLY useless.

    They added some small recipes to coking without ever overworking the fully system. We actually have hunger levels (not sure about thirst) but except for regaining stamina cooked food is useless (same as the peculiar fish which give buffs for 5 seconds)

    Now we get some buffs only from the fish leaving the rest of cooking still untouched (probably)

    Cooking could use its own booster with harvesting/brewing and so on (check out what freeshards have on ideas and steal it if you cannot come up with anything)


    As for longetivity I see the booster more like a paid enhancement of gameplay and not as in eq2 a fully system. It adds to the gaming experience, but is just something which should have been added anyway.


    How to keep boosters updated .. uhm .. you don't.. you just add to the game without forgetting what systems are there and instead of throwing new ones on top of each other enhance the old ones. (how many different questsystems do we now have ? 2 or 3?)

    As for keeping it fun and interesting.... MMOs are now here for 13+ years and most of them are still static garbage with one static spawn after the other. Why not have different set of spawners in some places. For one week it could spawn Lizardmen. If a certain number is killed, with next serverup undead could have taken control over the area and so on. Add some 'bosses' (unknowns) sometimes to those spawns. Make the world more unknows instead of a static farming game.

    Themeparks cannot change their spawns at willb ecause of quests, but UO which does not have such things is way too static still.

    If we only have those few developers then be more innovative even with the small ressources. If a system they introduce is messed up, that is nothing new and players are used to it anyway, but at least try....
     
  26. Babble

    Babble Guest

    Way of adding Art and such stuff.. why not make a contest?
    There are programs out there to add graphics to uo mul files (mulpatcher I think it is called).

    There is lots of custom artwork out there which EA could tap if they wanted to, without outsourcing their graphical work to 'North Korea' or so.
    :p
     
  27. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    Actually, I meant to say "with plenty of new recipes..." Silly me was clearly thinking too far ahead in that sentence and didn't catch it on a second pass.

    However, while I agree taste id, forensics, camping are totally useless skills, cooking is useful if tertiary to the skillsets. There are foods that offer buffs that are good in various instances. Now, can they do better? Yes. And my understanding of the town hall -- subject to change as the designs do -- is that there will be some useful recipes in this lot.

    Well, truthfully, no game should ever penalize you for not eating. Maybe give you a bit of a bonus perhaps (though then you'll have the reverse analysts who will say that it's the same thing because you don't perform as well when you're hungry). This is one area where game should not mimic real life, IMO.

    Again, my understanding is these foods from the new recipes will provide buffs, but I won't swear to it either.

    Well... harvesting/brewing/et cetera are certainly good ideas, and I agree, a booster that focused solely on minor systems and giving them some love would be just fine with me.

    However, I advise mostly against checking out free shards for ideas. Maybe check them out to see what they're doing and work from there, but honestly, just because something's done on a free shard doesn't make it a good implementation, a proper implementation, or even a good idea. But that's a whole different debate.

    Certainly there is that side of the argument... is what we're being presented "expansion" quality material? I will say that on one hand, the smooth movement being all-or-nothing (meaning we all benefit from it regardless of expansion) is a good thing. I am curious if it affects the current boats, but I'm going to presume it does.

    The sea quests, sea encounters, and so on... honestly, I think the scale of it is probably a bit more than live-patch material. Now, I know we've had live patches in the past that have offered tons more, and I'd love to see us return to those days, but for the here and now, if they can perfect the booster format, I'll be okay with that too. As long as they don't completely abandon live content in favor of boosters.

    I'm not suggesting keeping it updated per se, what I mean is keeping the stuff added with expansions (booster or otherwise) open ended so that they're easy to add things to.

    How many systems do we hear "It's not as simple as copy and pasting?" for? I know they said that frequently about gardening. In all honesty, once a core system is in place, it absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, should be nearly as simple as copy and pasting. The balance issues should be playtested and adapted, but any core system should have the ability to be updated and added to with a fair amount of simplicity. If someone wants to add a new recipe to cooking, it should be as simple as ingredients needed, product produced, add the recipe to whatever spawn system, and voila (obviously there'd be a proper check-list in place to ensure all aspects are handled).

    There should never be a core system that adding new things to should be a huge process. Huge processes should be things like new AI systems, new types of quests (not new quest systems, which should all come from the same core -- which, as you rightly point out, they don't currently). UI revamps.

    I agree with you, which is why I even went to suggesting adapting the champ spawn system to boat encounters. Now, I haven't laid out a full design doc on it -- and maybe I should as a future feature on GameBlog -- but essentially it's to allow for some more dynamic spawning going on, and to keep the system challenging and interesting.

    Completely agreed. What I'd like to see them do over time is to go through the dungeons and make them more dynamic feeling. I have some suggestions in mind, but I'll save those for another day.

    Well, I'll tell you, the new treasure hunt system is an excellent example of a dynamic system (that needs to be fixed, but makes the system truly random). I agree... they should look for creative ways to make it seem like they've done more and provide systems that allow them to either provide excellent content through dynamic spawns, or put systems in place that are easy to add to.

    I mean, let's take SA for example. It *should* be easy for them to add new items to either of the puzzle rooms to encourage use out of them. Right now, they're both pretty well dead because most everyone is done with them. Me, I still think I should do them more often, but, you know, I don't. However, if they swapped out, or added new stuff, or changed puzzles, or whatever every now and then, there'd be renewed interest.
     
  28. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
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    They don't need mulpatcher to patch those files... they already patch them on a regular basis. Every time a new item (like the crystal display) or gump is put into the game, they've patched it. I'm pretty sure they don't push the whole file each time they patch.

    Honestly, I wouldn't use most of the artwork out there because it's not in the vein of UO.

    Now, clearly that brings the argument to "has all of the stuff presently in UO been in the vein of UO" and that's a huge mess of an argument. At very least, there have been some super screw-ups like putting in colored items into a system that hues things, and prevents them from being properly hued, but frankly, all of that can be laid solidly on the art department's doorway. It has been mismanaged for years, the buck has been passed for years, no one is willing to accept responsibility for things that do or don't get done, and frankly, it moves slower than molasses in January when it comes to putting new things in game.

    If I were in charge of UO, I'd be looking for a new art department from the ground up, because they've been a continued failure for at least four years now. They do -- occasionally -- put good stuff in, but by and large, it's not quality it should be, it takes to long, and someone in that area fails to require higher standards when dealing with outsourced projects.

    But, all that said, I don't think contests are necessarily the route to go. I mean, three items exist in game that are wearables that came from a contest, and their quality isn't exactly the greatest -- and they aren't actual wearables either. They can be worn, but they use existing artwork for having been worn, and for some strange reason, even though it's three items, the art department has never tackled a full-sized render of them.
     
  29. canary

    canary Guest

    This. A thousand times over.

    I don't want people unemployed, but if the can't do their jobs correctly, and have had MORE than enough time to prove their worth and failed to do so, they should be shown the door.

    UO's art team, imo, is a constant embarrassment. The sad thing is, UO management obviously is aware of this, yet nothing is done about it.

    You know, much like working more closely with GM's on proper service.
     
  30. RaDian FlGith

    RaDian FlGith Babbling Loonie
    Stratics Veteran Stratics Legend

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    Well, and you know, it's not as if the art department is incapable of putting out quality work -- though in truth, we have no idea if any particular piece is in-house our outsourced -- it's just that there doesn't seem to be a particularly strong management structure.

    There are TONS of pieces of artwork from KR that should have NEVER made it through any approval process whatsoever, and there are even things from the SA expansion that should have been refined appropriately, and weren't.

    I do understand that there is certain an issue wherein most of the BioWare Mythic games out of the Mythic Entertainment studios in Fairfax are sharing art resources, but that doesn't preclude there being a strong management presence involved in the pipeline. And for outsourced stuff, you're actually paying people outside of the company for this stuff, and yet, you're approving it in a less-than-perfect state.

    It boggles the mind, to be honest.