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UO is Community: Three Ways to make UO a better game

Discussion in 'UHall' started by Masuo Kenji, Jul 17, 2008.

  1. Masuo Kenji

    Masuo Kenji Guest

    UO is Community: Three Ways to make UO a better game
    by Masuo Kenji (Writer of Mythbusting Siege and Former Siege Reporter)

    From my amount of online game-hopping (I am now back in UO for the long haul now), observations of online game community interaction, development and design, I am listing some steps here that Mythic can use to improve and promote UO. This isn't a list about improving certain features of the game, it's more of a general series of guidelines that the development team and community representatives of Mythic can use. I originally made this to be a lengthy article, but I decided to trim it down to three major points.

    Feel free to add constructive feedback to this thread. Please, no "They'll never listen" posts. I am sure Mythic reads these posts more than you think.

    Three ways to make UO a better game:

    1) Mythic must realize (I am sure they do to a certain extent) that UO is a niche game, that attracts a certain audience and market (ex. Sandbox gameplay fans, older age groups, etc). In order to gain new players, they must really work to make it the best game in its niche.

    They should sit down and make a list what makes UO unique from other games (ex. Skill systems, sandbox gameplay, depth, community and interaction between players), and work on making those unique features even more refined, defined, and better. (This is the way popular niche games like EVE-Online have improved and increased in subscribers over the years.)

    Instead of making UO play "catch up" to other games, UO needs to stand out from the pack by re-defining, improving, and promoting its best core features. It's sometimes good to look at other games and take what's good from them, but remember that this game is an Ultima game, and it needs to show the world what an Ultima game is all about.

    2) Remember that UO is a community game. Even the minor actions of a player can affect the greater whole. Sometimes I noticed EA Japan advertised the interaction between players in UO, about the power of the community of the game. There were official EA Japan UO sites that promoted the game by showing interviews with members of shard communities, and the real people behind them. I don't see this advertised enough on the western side, for some reason. Sure, you'll see some of this stuff on UO Stratics, but they need to put this kind of stuff on the front page of UO Herald. Currently, what's only advertised are a few blurbs about gameplay features and the KR client. Show the world that your game is unique and diverse, show the great things about this game that players can do that they can't do in other games.

    What's a fairly easy way to get more recognition about your game? Officially film the UO town halls, edit them, and post them on the UO website (or YouTube). Don't rely on just UO players to do so. It'll make UO players enjoy seeing their shard celebrities making public appearances and asking questions, and show to the world that Mythic cares about their players, unlike other games.

    That brings us to #3.

    3) Customer service and interacting with your game's community. Staff at all levels should take a more active involvement in the community of the game. In the past, devs and representatives alike would appear fairly frequently in game, talking directly to the players and adding a personal touch to their customer service. Today, there is this "forbidden city" element where we send off questions to the palace, and we get a few answers back.

    I know that Staff-Player interaction has decreased over the years, due to the cutback of Seers and Counselors, EMs, and GMs turning into game answering machines instead of interactive members of their shard communities.

    If UO wants to stand out from other online games, the interaction between Mythic and UO players must be more open. I understand, that the dev team and community representatives are very busy, they work hard at their job, they want the best for this game, and that they do listen.

    The problem, is that the players do not recognize that they are listening. They don't understand that they're working hard on the game. This must be remedied.

    The reason why UHall folk are a bit testy, is because they feel alienated.

    Even if you can't provide any information, say something like, "I don't have a response at this time, but I'll get back to you soon on this."

    I see this sometimes, but not often enough.

    Remember to interact with your community. You also don't need to be an answering machine. Talk with them about other things. Heck, make a post about that Tuna melt you had for lunch, what you like about UO, talk about the work that went behind something cool you put into the game, or something silly you saw on the Internet. You don't need to wait for someone to interview you. Show us that you are a person just like the rest of us!

    It was refreshing to read the fairly recent post from Robert Mull. Even though it didn't answer questions that we'd frequently ask about the game, it was funny and amusing, and answered our internal questions about some of the people behind the game. It shows that they are human beings like us, and that they have passion for the game.

    UO is COMMUNITY. Remember that, and use that to your advantage.
     
  2. hawkeye_pike

    hawkeye_pike Babbling Loonie
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    While I agree on most of your statements, I still think that UO will hardly attract any new players if it sticks to their old-style graphics engine. Yes, most of us old-timers are happy with the 10-year-old graphics, but hardly any younger gamer will bother taking a closer look at UO's depth when they see the crappy graphics.

    KR was a nice try, but a) it is a crappy buggy client that still requires a lot of fixing and b) the graphics still need a lot of tuning.
     
  3. Masuo Kenji

    Masuo Kenji Guest

    I actually like KR, and compared to a few months back, it's a lot more stable now. It also runs a lot smoother. I have had more crashes with the 2d client recently compared to KR.

    I only have a few nagging issues left with it (that prevents me from using it exclusively), like the fact that the game freezes for 10 seconds if you change animal forms if you have your paperdoll open, it has fullscreen widescreen support but no windowed widescreen support, you can't assign hotbar commands to mouse buttons, there are a few minor tileset problems, and sometimes icons in the interface get a bit warped.

    I also use UOAM to keep track of guildmates (they should add guildmate/alliancemate tracking to KR), but I am sure UOAM will go the way of the dodo anyways since the UOAutomap developer does not care about UO anymore and will not release the sourcecode, and it's a few client patches away till UOAM becomes very dysfunctional.

    KR is on the way to becoming a solid client, and if they keep on working on it, it would be better than the old one. The old 2d client has its charms, and I like it's graphics (using legacy tiles actually looks pretty neat in KR, alongside the new monster graphics), but with the 2d client running at a choppy 15-20 frames per second (on my gaming rig) it's a strain on the eyes compared to KR.

    There are so many great things about KR that I want to use it, it's just the nagging issues left over that need to be fixed. If I can PvP in KR with no problems, I can be fully satisfied with it.

    ~~~

    Aside from the KR stuff, there are a lot of "ugly" games out there that are still widely popular, mainly because of their gameplay. There needs to be a central focus when it comes to moving UO forward, and the main issues in my opinion are old gameplay designs that need to be relooked at and improved, missing features that need to be added, and lack of staff-to-community participation.

    To put it simply, there needs to be enough to bring in the new, and enough to keep those new players, as well as the older players here.

    It's a lot more than just "new content".
     
  4. ParadoxUO

    ParadoxUO Guest

    One way to make it better...


    Make the barbed kits, reward hammers, fletching kits and bods account bonded...

    That alone would disrupt alot of the cheating and duping that plagues UO.

    (then improve the % of colored bods and allow us to get more bods than just one per a certain amount of time... and make the fletching quest work like the gauntlet arties... you get one after a number of completed quests...)
     
  5. GalenKnighthawke

    GalenKnighthawke Grand Poobah
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    Nice analysis.

    Those of you who are replying to him with proposed changes in game systems are missing his point.

    -Galen's player
     
  6. Tomas_Bryce

    Tomas_Bryce Rares Collector Extraordinaire | Rares Fest Host
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    A really nice analysis. I am going to steal it and post it on my blog before it gets lost in the sea of despair that is uhall.
     
  7. Strawberry

    Strawberry Guest

    Ultima will never win any of those gamers. No matter how much EA tinkers with a 3D client, gamers like that will never play a game that's been out for ten years. They want the newest game, they don't want to tell a friend they play a certain game and him respond that he played it too ten years ago. EA should do something radical: try for customers who are not males between 15 and 25, maybe even seek out women 35-55. Promote the game as a way to interact with relatives who live far away and advertise it as working well on older computers. Stop chasing a demographic that wouldn't be caught dead playing Ultima and go after a demographic that has lots of money, has shown themselves willing to spend hours online playing puzzle games, and whom the rest of the gaming industry ignores. Yeah, some people will laugh, but those idiots laughed at The Sims too and look at its sales!
     
  8. Masuo Kenji

    Masuo Kenji Guest

    This is the kind of feedback I'm looking for! :thumbsup:
     
  9. Emil Ispep

    Emil Ispep Sage
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    Until EA makes an effort with marketing, i dont expect many new faces to come around. You go into EbGames, and ask for a copy of UO, and they look at you like you just slapped them in the face. Thats a big problem for the future of this game.

    Now there are die-hard fans of this game (me), from day one to the present.. and they will keep playing pretty much until the servers go IDOC IRL.. But as each new MMO or whichever genre of games individual players prefer gets released, it just chips and hacks away at the existing player base.

    Ive taken it upon myself to bring in as many RL friends as i can. Some stay, some leave. But on the grand scheme of things, its more than EA has and is willing to do to attract new players.

    I suggest you adopt this method.. or at least try it.. if you would like to continue playing this game for many more years.

    Bring a friend to UO.. If they stay three months, its their turn to bring in a friend. ect ect.. And you even get a lucky necklace out of it.. i think.. unless they took that out..

    UO dying? No, its just getting started.
     
  10. hawkeye_pike

    hawkeye_pike Babbling Loonie
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    Well, I personally know a lot of people (age 25-35) who would love to try this game, but won't play it because they say the graphics are impertinent. Maybe I just tend to know the wrong people...
     
  11. EnigmaMaitreya

    EnigmaMaitreya Crazed Zealot
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    I agree with Numbers one and two and disagree with number three.

    Number 1:

    What is best for UO is for EAMythic to 100% invest the revenue stream into aspects of the game that will yield the greatest returns. That is a rather obvious and simplistic statement. BUT under it is a rather complicated and subtle issue. What does provide the greatest return on investment? Fixing the core isssues and old problems OR roleing out new expansion's, items, mobs, pets, skill caps etc. My take is this. Given the age of UO and the make up of its customers, I suspect the best yield MAY be in improving on the core systems and fixing OLD problems and not really looking at new expansions. I accept that some people wont agree with that but I also believe the majority of players would NOT leave UO or close accounts if new expansions do not come out.

    Number 2:

    They should do every thing in their collective power to encourage ... intensity of UO Community and Shard Community. To me this is probably far more addictive to the majority of UO accounts than any thing else in UO.

    Number 3:

    QUALITY Customer interaction is EXPENSIVE. That is an expense that is more likely than not going to leave some one unhappy with the end results. Hey you didn't answer my question and answered 3 of hers. Hey you didnt film me. etc

    Hey you didn't restore my lost item of uberness etc.

    This is just a losing proposition. It in fact may be destructive of UO Community/Shard Community.

    I would propose the opposite. Customer Interaction be removed to the extent of being ... unseen, unfelt, unheard more like a Force of Nature. The role being more along the line of Dealing with violations of ... what are they called now, the terms of service, the terms of agreement to play etc.

    Encouraging the community to be responsible for assisting each other to resolve problems that are NOT about Violations of the Rules.

    In this approach, they also need to increase the ability for people to resolve their own problems, either individually or collectively.

    One of the thorny issue UO has always had is Player Accountability. This is simply destructive of Community (my opinion and I am sure others WONT agree). This is an area that OSI could improve on while encouraging the players to be more socially responsible. This MAY help strengthen the sense of Community.

    There should be the encouragement of Tying the In Game sense of Community to the Out of Game Sense of Community, such as this Message board. If a player has a problem there are undoubtedly people on these boards that can resolve the issue (if it can be resolved). BUT how many of UO players really come here? I suspect a statistically insignificant number of them do.
     
  12. One key thing that EA/Mythic should be concentrating on is the one key weakness that WoW has with it's game, which would be the forced grouping and requirement of several hours of time in order to participate in end game content. This is the #1 reason people quit WoW, and should be the biggest thing EA should be hitting on since UO doesn't have that issue.
     
  13. EnigmaMaitreya

    EnigmaMaitreya Crazed Zealot
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    I could repackage your view this way (And your statement applies to Everquest as well)

    The new games seem to be focusing on RAID (massive group) centric content, that at any given point in time is the end game but is sure to be trivialized with the next expansion. This totally drives the evolution of the character to be 100% about itemization / bragging rights as you lose the ability to be functional IF you do not follow expansions / Itemizations.

    This is the Old Carrot on a String on a Stick thing.

    People grow tired of this and UO could certainly capitalize on this segment of the market. BUT to do so, would require the High end scenarios of UO to be essentially Soloable or small group doable. This of course MAY lead to "Ok, I beat your UBER mob what do I do next? Come on EAMythic Entertain me"
     
  14. AEowynSP

    AEowynSP Certifiable
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    I must disagree. I get a bit queasy even looking at some of the KR screenshots. I love the 2d look and the perspective as well. It darn well stays put no sudden zooming in or out or panning about because you did the wrong thing or the cat grabbed your mouse hand.
    Also it was pointed out older/cheaper computers run it fine. This is a HUGE +
    My graphics card is a NVIDIA GeForce2 MX/MX 400 on a basic computer bought back in 2003....Yes I know some kitchen apliances could run games better than my doorstop of a computer. However I do just fine (on Siege no less with PvM tamer and a stealth herder/ninja) and keep up with most people with no problems.
    I think a retro marketing program would be great, encourage nostalgia. Not everyone goes out and buys the latest console game machine and even the ones that do still enjoy breaking out the old N64 or attari once n a while.
    The difrence between console and UO is Ultima is a constantly changing environment.
    Perhaps if the Devs/ gods of EA popped over to some of the free shard forums they could get some great new ideas and several hundred more players to boot.
     
  15. Landicine

    Landicine Seasoned Veteran
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    The Sims is one of those phenomena that so many game designers ignore:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_video_games#Top_PC_sellers_by_genre

    One of the top individual games and one of the top franchises! From this list, it seems to be beating Madden and Final Fantasy, though these exact numbers may not be perfect. The fact that the Sims can compete or possibly outreach some of these older beloved franchises and the fact that this is ignored by gamers and game designers alike are both very interesting. Gamers have every right to play the games they think they will enjoy; their money, and all that. Game designers don't get as much leeway. If you are working on the best game in your genre, you are free to make as many mistakes as you like, but if you are 5th, 10th, or 20th in your genre, you probably should consider trying to borrow a page from the Sims.

    The Sims has an active community still making items for their original game and for their new version Sims 2. Heck, some of their players are so active, they have patched problematic expansions before EA. The Sims has a very similar sandbox/community feel to UO. I know this because my wife tends to enjoy the same aspects of both games.

    I agree that community is important to UO, I also understand that it isn't one monolithic community. PvP, PK, Player Towns, Roleplayers, PvMers, Crafters, Bank sitters, Socializers, Explorers, etc. Changes that promote community need to understand this. I could suggest changes I would like, but some of them would be very community specific (events and roleplay). I don't know what the PvP community needs to be a more cohesive community (fixed and improved factions, maybe?).
     
  16. Tamais

    Tamais Lake Austin Reporter
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    I agree that this is very much a niche game. I am a woman 50+ who began gaming with the old atria (sp) sytem. I got both of my kiddos hooked. But I hadn't tried an on line game due to an old computer and frankly fears of hacking. Then my daughter showed me UO and I've been hooked. The main reason I play is it does give me a chance to do things with her even though we live in different states. I've also found the people are more understanding in UO when you are stuck and ask a question. Plus I love my house. Have you noticed other games such as LOTR are now allowing housing.
     
  17. Gildar

    Gildar Babbling Loonie
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    You disagree that he knows people who don't play the game because of the graphics?
    :confused:


    A stronger community will make the existing people happier and more likely to stay.
    Graphics and other content will make new people come.

    What kind of a community, what style of graphics, what type of content... that's all up for debate. There's no simple formula to make UO the best it can be... and there's nothing that Mythic needs to do to make UO better. Lots of things will make UO better. Lots of things will make UO worse.
    It only seems simple if you only look at it from the perspective of those who think like you.
     
  18. Raina

    Raina Journeyman
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    I think this falls under actually working on what makes UO Unique from other games. Obviously the first thing they could do would be to redo all of the '3D Imports' they've done on mobs from UOTD & KR. Then perhaps undo all the uglification they said they'd fix to the map but never did... Then start working on, if necessary, working on the existing 2D art work to improve the quality, add variation 'etc.

    Instead of trying to 'reinvent' the game, simply try to make what exists better. There isn't really anything wrong with the 'engine' they currently use, it works just dandy. It's the graphics themselves that could use a bit of work. Hell they could even provide graphics packs for the game to let people choose how they see the world, all using the same engine.

    ~Rai
     
  19. Samaira

    Samaira Lore Master
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    Great post, Masuo, and great thread in general. Lordy I hope someone up top reads this.

    /agreed on needing to work with what we have. There is a reason so many people have played this game for so many years. There is something about UO that keeps people coming back (or never leaving in the first place). Pinpoint what it is, highlight it in marketing, iron out any kinks, and develop ways of extending and improving whatever it is, and you have our MMORPG fountain of youth.

    Also a big nod from me on the nostalgia front. Just the other week I bought an NDS... one of the first games I grabbed off the shelf to go with was Sonic the Hedgehog. Why? Cos I can remember playing the original game on a Sega Master System and loving it. Sometimes simple/old-fashioned/retro is an asset. More than any other generation, we are seeing the major development of computer gaming for all ages. So now when Mum and Dad go Christmas shopping for lil' Johnny it's not uncommon for them to take something home for themselves... "cos I loved it back then."


    Keep up the good thoughts, folks.
     
  20. AEowynSP

    AEowynSP Certifiable
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    Sorry I was not clear Gildar, I tend to simply quote the latest part of a conversation.
    I was rebutting a graphics opinion with my own and adding other comentary, especially the seeking of input from people who quit paying yet still play UO.

    The sad fact is UO has no publicity, many more would play if they only knew about it.
    I have often wanted to play an old game on my computer but they will no longer run because of compatibility issues.
     
  21. Joyous2K

    Joyous2K Guest

    1.) Agree. "refined, defined, and better. " Agree. It doesn't seem they are doing that. I am certain 2D code is unmanageable mess. I hope KR was programmed by team of organized programmers. I think KR can be involved in this even though it is new and high tech.

    2.) Agree. I don't think the team or the website or anyone there knows how to put their best foot forward in terms of representing the quality of UO. Overcomplication of the game makes it difficult I think. I don't know how that can change.

    3.) Disagree. Not a fan of the friendly developer. I think it is unprofessional and a conflict of interests. I am in favor of them doing things and announcing them and then actually doing them. Not what we have been seeing in the past year. I think they need to be accountable and need to keep us informed but not to the point of "friendly dev syndrome" which many of you have.
     
  22. hawkeye_pike

    hawkeye_pike Babbling Loonie
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    While I personally fully understand nostalgia and the wish for a game running on old computers, you simply won't conquer the market with old-style stuff. You may like it or not, but that's a sure fact. No new people will come to that game if the graphics look how they look.
     
  23. Masuo Kenji

    Masuo Kenji Guest

    Great posts all. Thanks also for your counterpoints. Keep the suggestions coming!
     
  24. Landicine

    Landicine Seasoned Veteran
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    A few years back, we gave my mother-in-law a Game Cube. One of the games was a collection of old Zeldas. While she played a newer Zelda to completion, she also played through a few of the old ones. I've also seen her play online puzzle games with some very simple graphics.

    Certain demographics will not play games with dated graphics, but I think there are untapped demographics who will. For example, there are still people who play on MUDs.