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The Almighty Buck

OSI Starts Selling Preleveled UO characters 304

NinjaPablo writes "OSI has started a new service, detailed here which allows you to pay $29.95 to get a decent character premade for you, and bypass the hours of working skills at lower levels. Most of the player community is in an uproar about the whole thing, since it basically means a newbie can pay a little extra and be as good as an average player right off the bat."
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OSI Starts Selling Preleveled UO characters

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  • by John_Booty ( 149925 ) <johnbooty@NoSPaM.bootyproject.org> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:30AM (#4286842) Homepage
    ...buy a pre-karma'd Slashdot account with a +1 posting bonus?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:35AM (#4286860)
    Face it. UO is slowly fading into irrelivance. Everquest seems to be the "standard" mmorpg-- i don't know anyone who plays uo anymore-- and with the upcoming, mindblowing Star Wars Galaxies, soon UO will be attracting no new customers, only the diehards. UO could try to keep people with really good plots and stuff, but that would likely only retain old customers, and attract few new ones.

    So, instead, they're trying desperation tactics like this one. Think about it. This is not a decision that even a company as stupid as the one that bought and ruined Origin would make about a product they wanted to keep viable. This is a product that is near the end of its lifespan, the parent company knows it, and so they are trying to squeeze out the last couple pennies from it before it fades into complete obscurity.

    Origin's parent company doomed UO to stagnation, irrelivance, and eventual death the day they killed Ultima Online 2. The product is no longer maturing, and so it will be replaced by services that do. Plain and simple. Welcome to the gaming world, where the only law is that stasis is death.

    So what's Lord British been up to lately?

    --super ugly ultraman
    • by Bartab ( 233395 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:02AM (#4286959)
      Face it. UO is slowly fading into irrelivance. Everquest seems to be the "standard" mmorpg

      Oh please, how long do you think it will be before Everquest is doing the same thing? In fact, until this was announced, EQ was the -worst- abuser of "give us more money and we'll make you uber"... Verant's premium servers allows one to level faster, with a high quantity of loot and some of 'special' quality -and-, its the only server you can transfer your character away from (to another server) and keep all the items.

      Face it, this is a method for game companies to make a few extra bucks. Companies only pass up such "distasteful" practices so long as the outrage would cost more than the direct financial benefit.

      At some point, that outrage becomes less, and it's "Submit your CC# for the Vorpal Sword of Spiffyness"
      • by sahrss ( 565657 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:43AM (#4287089)
        UO is the only popular but unique MMOG out there! EQ, DAoC, AO, blah blah etc. are all clones of the same "leveling" concept, while UO has a sweet usage-based skill / stat gain system. UO is a game where a "perfect" char with top skills can only beat a medium char if he knows what he's doing. A medium char can destroy a weak / unprepared / stupid perfect char.

        Unlike the EQs where anyone one level above you is completely unharmed by anything you do to them, and they can kill you in one hit. Bah! UO rocks compared to that BS.
      • Actually Anarchy Online seems to be the worst.

        Can't remember the company name but there was one firm selling macro'd uber characters a while ago. Took them hardly any time to macro a character to top level.
      • How does the fact that EQ will do the same thing have anything to do with the original posters point? He already acknowledged that software has a lifecycle (duh) and that UO is nearing the end of the road. Of course EQ will repeat the pattern and so will the next MMORPG after it. What's your point?

  • A great idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Character selling has become a common occurance on many of the larger MMORPGs/MUDs, but I think the way OSI is going about it isn't too wise.

    Back when I used to play MUDs quite a bit, I sold a max-leveled character I was -given- on a pretty popular MUD for US$200 (no equipment, just the character). I always thought that if I ran the game, I would create souped up characters and sell them on the side anonymously or disguised as other players. This would prevent the uproar that OSI is experiencing (since it would appear to be regular character selling), and it would allow me to make some quick cash off my game.
    • I am disgusted by your plan.

      Growing up on MUDs and more recently on MMORPGs, I have always respected the sense of community that is present in these games. The fact that you - even theoretically - think about not only deceiving your playerbase but completely unbalance the world ("souped up") is pathetic.

      The MUDding community as a whole already have enough trouble - please don't be one of the trash that's causing it.
  • In Other News... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CBNobi ( 141146 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:38AM (#4286870)
    Players of Ultima Online are outraged to discover a service called eBay [ebay.com].

    Really, though - who didn't see this coming? "end-of-ultima-online" seems inappropriate here; the end's been coming for a while now.

    - At least four (five?) expansion packs
    - The canning of UO2
    - Premium services offered by Verant for their Everquest

    Obviously, they're just running out of ideas, and at the same time, trying to milk every last drop from the cash cow that is Ultima Online.

  • Origin, Inc. screwing over it's user base? That would simply never happen. I mean, just look at Ultima IX! [members.aon.at]

    Besides, what's the further insult? Anyone still there shouldn't care too much about stats any longer. Plus, you can always just start up or join a player-made shard. This would make a very expensive strategy for "grief" players to try and just get a boost with a new character - so you can laugh if anyone uses such a stategy. :^)

    Ryan Fenton
  • ...the nice folks at the Open Source Initiative [opensource.org] sell such accounts?

    Oh, it isn't *that* OSI? Never mind, then.

  • Nothing so odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by E1ven ( 50485 ) <e1ven@e 1 v e n.com> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:39AM (#4286881) Homepage
    So.. Basically OSI is trying to cut in on the After Market [ebay.com] selling of property and accounds, and try to take in some of the profit themselves.

    That's no such a bad idea. People on Slashdot always say- Don't attack a new technology or development, find a way to adapt to make it work for you.
    That seems to be exactly what they are doing here.

  • by aralin ( 107264 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:42AM (#4286890)
    The problem with this is that you found that the value of your time to put in gaining the character's levels and skills is priceless. You think that it requires unique dedication and makes you get to know the game and people in there in the process. You can say that someone sticking around for so many levels is worth it. He knows how to play his character and so on.

    Now they just give a very cheap price tag on this and what more, you have complete newbies who you cannot rely on to do their part of job in group right and no way to distinguish them.

    Its like if they would be selling Masters Diplomas for few bucks and they would be as good as these you earned. Wouldn't you think it devaluates your efforts throughout the school?

    • That is an absolute load of CRAP. It's a freakin' game. I tried to play UO a few times, and every single time I stopped...

      Why? Because it took TOO GODDAMN LONG to get anything done. If you wanted to actually go out and enjoy what the world had to offer, you had to spend a goddamn month of your time wasting away in your computer room just to get halfway there.

      The fun part of the game is playing it, period. It doesn't matter what your style is, as long as you have fun playing it. If you play from the beginning and enjoy it, great. If you start somewhere in the middle and enjoy it, great. That's all that matters.

      You whiny assholes who are complaining this ruins the "value" of your character? Give me a freaking break. It's a goddamn video game. Most of the games you have to agree NOT to sell your characters anyway, so the value is essentially 0 no matter how much time you put into it. You play the game. You have fun. That's all that matters.

      This is a GREAT idea. For somebody like me who simply DOES NOT have the time to build a level 50 character in Everquest (I hate to say this, but I have a fucking job) and would like to actually SEE the world (I did enjoy playing it afterall) this is a GREAT option, far more cost effective than buying this shit on Ebay, and not only that it's happens under controlled circumstances so that EA can do what ever they need to keep the economy from going off balance.

      Bryan
      • I have just one thing to say to you. Go play single person game and you can have a character as high as you want.

        Its the part when you change the game AFTER everyone spent so much time on their character. If the game would allow it from the start, I would not complain a single bit. But then, I would not play the game either. And many others as well.

        We would simply let these cheapskates like you who want something without earning it to play it.

      • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @02:53AM (#4287273)


        This is a GREAT idea. For somebody like me who simply DOES NOT have the time to build a level 50 character in Everquest (I hate to say this, but I have a fucking job) and would like to actually SEE the world (I did enjoy playing it afterall) this is a GREAT option...


        Ahhh yes. The instant gratification option. Also the "I have a life, unlike you loosers" excuse. Its much the same line you hear from those who run various game cheats.

        If you don't want to play the game, don't play it. If the game requires some degree of time and experience and you are either unwilling or unable to meet that requirement, go find another game to play.

        Multiplayer games are not there for your own personal ammusement. Don't screw with other's fun. Or put another way... if you want to play the game, PLAY THE GAME. Stop whining and looking for a shortcut.
        • I hate to break it to you but it is a game with rules written by people, people who reserve the right to change them at any point for whatever reason. It is not like the real world where no matter what you cannot accelerate your learning or make things fall up. If tomorrow they want to set a cap on how much $ you can collect they could do that to. Don't get wrapped up in thinking a game is an unchangeable absolute universe.
        • Ahhh yes. The instant gratification option. Also the "I have a life, unlike you loosers" excuse. Its much the same line you hear from those who run various game cheats.

          You must have not really played the game. If you start a new character, you spend a hell of a lot of time building them up just to walk outside of town without getting PK'd.

          It seems to me, if I was waiting with a bucket of cold water outside your door every morning, you might get a little pissed off after getting drenched time after time.

          Really, all OSI has done is reduce the load on their servers, by allowing some people to avoid macroing for weeks on end. (Believe me, it took me at least two just to get a decent hiding level.)

          In any case, when your WIFE (if you have one) is saying you're getting bitchy after playing UO, you might want to think about that REAL LIFE you have.

    • The problem with this is that you found that the value of your time to put in gaining the character's levels and skills is priceless.

      maybe you and me enjoyed walking up at 5am to squeeze in a couple hours of gaming before work and before the girlfriend would notice every day, and maybe we enjoyed the comraderie of those awaiting the spawns in the dungeons, assaulting the orc town, or later on adventuring into the dragon caves, maybe we enjoyed the gaming and the level advancing, but plenty other folks just joined a clan and automated the task of advancing their character.

      i earned every point of my character's 100 magery; each could be traced back to a key comination i pressed and time during which i actually had fun role playing, even when i was a weak character. But there were plenty of times where i met up with someone who one day had no skills and the next had double 100's simply by automating it. A world that allows that might as well sell high level characters too.

      Many players seemed to have this idea that the only way they could enjoy the game was to have 100 skills in everything. Why? The game was plenty fun when i died every night and when i was able to teleport out in the nick of time and when i could actually handle tough situations. If you met up with some good people (as opposed to the virtual zombies who couldnt think past waiting, killing, advancing), your skillset didnt really matter, instead you just had Fun.

      Its like if they would be selling Masters Diplomas for few bucks and they would be as good as these you earned. Wouldn't you think it devaluates your efforts throughout the school?

      no one can take away what you learned in school, and no other person's paper can either. in terms of the game, i still had fun playing UO and there is nothing that can ever change that.

    • I'd love to see it! Imagine a world where employers were forced to evaluate employees based on actual ability rather than a little piece of paper! Hey... I might even be able to compete in the job market again.

      Get a grip. The skills you developed through shool should give you an advantage over someone who purchased a metiphorical diploma-in-a-box(tm.) If you really didn't learn anything from those years then you probably don't deserve the preferental treatment.

      UO is a game, and I personally applaud this decision... Others have already said why.
    • by tuxedo-steve ( 33545 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:46AM (#4287093)
      Your hours of work aren't worthless. They're worth precisely $29.95. There's a big difference there. :)
    • Its like if they would be selling Masters Diplomas for few bucks and they would be as good as these you earned. Wouldn't you think it devaluates your efforts throughout the school?

      Yes that would, but this is a game. Paying a little more to get ahead might mean that people would enjoy the damned game. As a rule I don't play RPGs, because you suck for hours before you can do anything cool. I don't have that kind of attention span, and I refuse to play through hours of digital hell just to get some nugget of actual fun.

      Oh yeah, lest we forget: THIS IS A GAME. A masters will give you money, respect, and women (real women) in the real world, and that's worth a slight fuckton more. At any rate, judging by the spam I get daily, you CAN just buy a masters. Not that anyone in their right mind would accept that masters.

      SetupWeasel
      -- M.A. Universe
    • It's an MMORPG. You think the company running it gives a good god damn about you? Sorry, but they're only interested in seeing how little service they can provide before people start dropping it en masse.

      Maybe you should have thought about the possibility of something like this before you wasted all that time. Ever read the EULA?

  • heh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Squarewav ( 241189 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:44AM (#4286893)
    if you look at the page for the character templates you can use its pritty lame, Ive played UO and its very very easy to get those stats only a few days of playing a few hours a day will get you that high, Its not like they are setting you up with GM status, the stats they give you is about min for what it takes to fully explore the world, sure its cheating a little bit, but its not so much to give someone an advantage
  • Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bogie ( 31020 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:45AM (#4286899) Journal
    Let me say first off I support gaming and roleplaying and all that, but to the people who are freaking out about this I say so what?

    Now a bunch of UO geeks are mad because they just realized that they have wasted hours and hours of their life that could of been spent otherwise.

    If anything this should be a wakeup call that spending hundreds of hours "developing" a computer character may not lead to the payoff you think it did.

    To the people who feel they have been cheated, your the ones who are cheating yourselves by investing way too much time in a game.

    Life is too short, time to unplug.
    • Re:Meh (Score:2, Insightful)

      Who are you to decide what is a worthy use of time and what is not? Does a 5 digit slashdot ID make you wise enough to tell other people what to do with their time?
      It seems your eagerness to insult strawmen has made you overlook something: it's not really the people who play the game abnormally much who have cause to be angry, but casual players. For people who can only play a few hours a week, gaining levels and developing their characters (which make you more competitive in the game) take much longer, and for someone now to be able to pay a bit more and jump past that is rather insulting.
      How many hours someone plays a game is frankly irrelevant. Bending the rules based on the size of a player's credit card is simply unfair and players have a right to be irate about that.
  • by po3t ( 544034 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:45AM (#4286902) Homepage
    I used to play Ultima Online, however, I stopped a while ago. These prepaid characters are clearly an outrage. The hours it would take to build a magery with the skills mentioned on the page are many, and selling these characters GREATLY undermines the efforts people like myself have made in the past to build characters. Personally, I think OSI is trying to make the game much more newbie-friendly than it once was. They're making certain stats lockable that haven't been before, and certain skills easier to gain in and others less effective. They've also made many 'rare' or unique items in the game worth far less than they used to be due to their horribly thought out rewards system. Instead of introducing new items, they change the hue of a once VERY rare and VERY old item that no longer spawns and then the value for said items plummet to zero. In the process of making Ultima Online more new player friendly, they're just going to make the Ultima Online environment less friendly and less desirable to new and veteran rpg'ers alike.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:46AM (#4286906)
    I have a pair of 3+ year accounts, with characters and housing active on 3 shards. There is *no* uproar that I can see amongst experienced players! This article is sensationalistic at best and a troll at worst!

    If you look carefully at the templates, they are only selling characters with up to 85 skill points in any given attribute (presently the maximums are up to 125 in some skills and 100 in others). Any player with even modest experience can get up to 85 skill points in desired categories in *DAYS*.

    As it turns out, *MOST* of the hard work is spent getting your character up over 85 skill anyway!

    So, this is not really disruptive to the game at all. Read that again, its not disruptive *AT ALL*

    MUCH more disliked by most long-time gamers is the noobs who buy an account on EBAY and wander around like complete a$ses... and these accounts can be at max cap (7x100 skill, 5x125, etc). /yawn/

    The only templates that are even moderately interesting that are offered are the tamer and the alchemist because taming and poisoning presently take *Forever* to get up to really high stat levels.

    -The Glorious Lord AK Wallace
    GM Mage/Eval/Med/Scribe/Alchemy/Wrestle
  • by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @12:46AM (#4286907) Homepage
    This acknowledges that UO wants to cater more to the casual gamer.

    Who is the casual gamer? The casual gamer is someone who just does not have time to spend levelnig mindlessly like some 13-year-olds do, nor do they wish to have UO be their only non-work related fun. They still want to participate in the fun quests, and other great parts of UO, without having to deal with month after month of macroing, doing repetitive tasks, and being PKed by the aftermentioned 13-year-olds who do nothing but school and UO.

    Naturally there will be an uproar by players who are jealous they didn't buy a preleveled character, and by other people who feel "leet" because they've spent 3 weeks fishing they skills up, but they're not the intended audience of this.

    I stopped playing UO a long, long time ago. Why? Because after a summer of playing UO, I was still PKed a lot. Often times losing some cool stuff. You see people outside of the banks all the time giving stuff away because they don't want to play anymore, and don't want the items to go to waste.

    The folks behind UO are trying to strike a balance between casual gamers, and people who like to do this sort of thing every day, for years on end. I'm not sure if they can ever make it close to perfect, but I applaud the choice they are offering to the gaming population at large.
    • by Nogami_Saeko ( 466595 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @02:24AM (#4287193)
      A well thought out post that I totally agree with. I simply don't have the time to devote to playing a single game for hours upon hours to raise a character to a level I can enjoy. That said, I did play Diablo II from the beginning, but my highest characters were only around level 40 or so. I didn't have the patience to just go and "kill more stuff" to get into the 80+ range. Got bored.

      The obvious solution would be to make two seperate game communities - if you buy a pre-made character, you are restricted to only play with other pre-mades. If you start from scratch, you have to stay with other players from scratch.
    • While I don't like the fact that it's for-pay in a game where killing other players is a part of the game, it allows UO to reach new crowds that would never have played the game before. As someone mentioned, these templates are for "basic" accounts that are considered "bare minimum low level" for actually having some fun in the game.

      DAoC has done some similar things, although not for pay. They analyzed the leveling patterns of players to find out when people were most likely to get frustrated/quit/stop, and discovered that from 41-50 people quite like flies because Lv40 was like some kind of brick wall after which XPing went MUCH slower. In the next patch, they're reducing leveling time from 41-45 to alleviate this. In addition, they're planning allowing Level 50 (highest there is) characters to start new characters at somewhere between 20-24. Some are annoyed, but most are happy because:

      It gives more incentive to level to 50 initially rather than giving up and moving to an alt, resulting in more 50s for RvR.

      Once at 50, it gives more variety to actually try out a new class. If they start at 20, they can go to the first RvR battleground immediately.

      Early starts aren't that much of an individual advantage in a game where you can only kill players from other realms (and you really can't RvR before 40 anywhere other than the BGs). The two PvP servers are a different story, but I believe they only plan this on the main servers.

      I wouldn't mind even if they implemented something like this in DAoC - As long as they kept it off of the 'dreds (PvP servers)
  • Which means I have no idea what UO is actually like, but onlike multiplayer RPG type games can't be all that different...but anyway...

    I've played Muds for awhile, more than I'd like to admit. And I've come to realize something. The least productive period on a game is the first few levels, where you can't do much of anything, explore anywhere, or look at all respected. And when you have multiple characters in the same system, you tend to sit around doing pointless stuff you've done before with another character just to become halfway decent.

    The way this story looks is that they're selling what amounts to mid-level characters. Something that can at least walk around the world and kill a few of the really weak things. At the same time, there is still a lot of upward mobility to be attained. Thus, you still really have to work for your character to make it exceptional. Buying a character off Ebay usually entails starting at the very top and blowing it all away. This is something of a compramise.

    Also note, I'd never sell characters on my mud, nor would I ever buy one for Ultima Online. Quite frankly, I'm too poor to buy them, and not poor enough to need the money that badly. However, I do make it a point to try and design my mud so that a starting player doesn't feel completely useless.
  • What a rip off, especially when you can do the same thing in under an hour with the Guaranteed Gain System [ezboard.com].
  • As someone who once played UO for 5+ hours a day for 3 months (and then sold my character), I think the whole idea is terrible. But not because it means people can't sell their characters for inflated prices, but because it destroys the very thing that makes UO such a powerful game.

    In any game, people need to strive towards a goal for the game to be interesting. Getting a balance between striving for a goal which is impossible and a goal which is too easy is the essence of game design. Sure pre-fab characters are okay ... if they are beginner characters. But looking at the UO page, the pre-fab characters aren't beginners - they have stats in the 80s ... it takes weeks to get to that level through normal play. Why is this bad? Well because the game becomes to easy ... and why is this bad? Well if you think that Pking is a problem now, imagine how bad it will be when anyone can instantly get an advanced character to play ... and not worry about putting in the time or effort to get a character to that level. Which leads to my second point.

    Community. It is UOs primary strength. Any policy which destroys the community, destroys the game. Pre-fab characters will only encourage an 'easy comes, easy goes' attitude to people's characters. They won't have any attachment to them nor care about the consequences of their actions. Basically, it encourages anti-social behaviour online which will destroy the community.
    • Re:Why it is bad ... (Score:3, Informative)

      by ShaunC ( 203807 )
      Sure pre-fab characters are okay ... if they are beginner characters. But looking at the UO page, the pre-fab characters aren't beginners - they have stats in the 80s ... it takes weeks to get to that level through normal play.
      When I sold off my accounts in May, it was possible to get a brand new character to 80 Magery/80 Meditation/80 Eval Int in less than 5 days. A GM Miner/Smith with Tinkering in the 90s if not GM took a week to make. And that's taking into account the time I spent playing all the other characters. Granted, I wouldn't have fallen into the category of "normal play" - I played at least 8 hours a day, sometimes closer to 16 hours - but that time was spread among 3 shards and probably 15 different characters. In any case, a character at 80 isn't really too much of a gimme, but along with other changes implemented over the past couple of years it's clear that they're catering to newer players.

      Community. It is UOs primary strength. Any policy which destroys the community, destroys the game. Pre-fab characters will only encourage an 'easy comes, easy goes' attitude to people's characters. They won't have any attachment to them nor care about the consequences of their actions. Basically, it encourages anti-social behaviour online which will destroy the community.
      That happened long ago. I'm not going to launch into a huge Trammel flame, since I spent most of my time there post-Renaissance, but IMO the community started going downhill at about the point when newly created characters started out with 1000 gold instead of 100. It was a half-fix to an obvious problem (inflation due to months of rampant duping).

      If I had to come up with a single root cause for my leaving UO, it would be that the economy was fucked up beyond repair. That took a lot of the community down with it. It's tough to be nice to the 20 other people in the reagent shop competing for resources, or the group of folks hoarding those resources and selling them at 10x markup on their vendors. It's hard to be nice to the guy who follows you around a dungeon kill-stealing because he has to save up 6 million gold for a small wooden house in the middle of nowhere.

      Contrary to what I'd see daily on the UO boards, I never ran into many "grief players" who were out to ruin others' gameplay for the sake of doing it. Most of the problems I ran into were with folks who wanted gold, or real money from eBay. The aforementioned reagent hoarding and kill-stealing, as well as looting, spawn camping, tamers with 3 dragons in tow, rogue bards hogging an entire dungeon, exploiting, account hacks, and just about everything else annoying was being done for in-game or real life financial gain.

      Money is the root of all evil, and in UO, it shows. Seems rather ironic that money, or EA/OSI's need for it, is causing this "divide" in the community. I'm glad I managed to permanently break the addiction, else I'd probably have wasted 6 hours on the boards today. Now if I can just get rid of the slight DT's induced by this article :)

      Shaun, aka

      Frigax
      Lake Superior
  • by palo0019 ( 120416 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:18AM (#4287009) Homepage
    These idiots are gonna pay $30 to get a sweet character ripe for the picking when he walks outside the city gates not knowing how to defend himself from getting assraped by everyone. Then he'll sue OSI for his $30 back. :)
  • For those of you too lazy to build up your RPG characters yourselves, why not instead play an RPG that does not require you to do lots of work to level up.

    ProgressQuest [progressquest.com]

    Quoth the Info page:

    Progress Quest follows reverently in the footsteps of recent smash hit online worlds, but is careful to streamline the more tedious aspects of those offerings. Players will still have the satisfaction of building their character from a ninety-pound level 1 teenager, to an incredibly puissant, magically imbued warrior, well able to snuff out the lives of a barnload of bugbears without need of so much as a lunch break. Yet, gone are the tedious micromanagement and other frustrations common to that older generation of RPG's.

    Clearly you don't have to pay to get a leveled character here. All you do is wait, while dedicated 1% of your CPU resources to the PQ Daemon.

  • The real problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Magila ( 138485 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:20AM (#4287014) Homepage
    If people are willing to pay to skip the first part of a game isn't that an indicator there's something wrong with that part?

    Just an observation.
    • by Saxerman ( 253676 )
      If people are willing to pay to skip the first part of a game isn't that an indicator there's something wrong with that part?

      Perhaps. There is also the possibility that having to invest time and effort into getting something is 'stupid' when you can just pay for it. I've certainly heard the arguments that "being a newbie sucks" but the counter-argument is that you exist as a newbie until you learn enough to evolve. This would mean the newbie stage is a required proving ground that demonstrates you're a team player and willing to invest your time and effort into the game world. Sorta like wearing a tie at work. There are those who would make the argument that they don't want to play in a game world populated by people who just want things handed to them. Others, of course, would claim it's "just a frelling game" and everyone is entitled to enjoy whatever parts of it they like, especially if they're willing to pay (extra) for it.

      I personally like the idea that I can look around a game world and see the uber level characters and know that they have worked hard to get where they are and deserve my respect for the dedication, time, and lifelessness they have committed to the game. This means no eBay, no bugs, no cheats, no renegade admins gifting their favored characters, and a pot of gold at the end of each rainbow. Certainly a tall order to ask for. One compromise would be to segregate those players who don't want to work into their own game world so everyone can play the game the way they want. Another would be to only allow people to buy pre-leveled characters after they get at least one character to level foo.

      These multi-player games are tricky. The more people you have playing them, the harder time you have keeping them all happy.

      • Trouble is, its NOT about learning to use your character effectively so you can move on. To get past the newbie phase all you need to do is invest a lot of time.
        • "Trouble is, its NOT about learning to use your character effectively so you can move on. To get past the newbie phase all you need to do is invest a lot of time"

          Care to rethink that statement? Learning to use your character effictively is a part of the newbie evelotion into experienced player, which of course requires an investment of time. They *are* the same.

          I remember when I played UO - in '97 and '98... it took a little while to get the hang of the game... but when we were GMs - we knew that game and how to play our character inside and out - so did the other GMs. We were PKs way back when - and it was a challenging and very exciting game back then.

  • I can understand where you are coming from ... but let me use another example to explain the outrage that some UO players would be feeling:

    Imagine you lined up to buy tickets to your favourite band. You have been in the line for an hour waiting patiently and you are near the front of the queue now. All of sudden, the concert promoter says that for people willing to pay an extra $X bucks, they can jump to the head of the queue ... how would you feel then? Come on, surely you can't be upset ... it's only a concert, a form of entertainment .....

    Not a perfect analogy I admit, but perhaps you might understand why some people would be getting upset about it.
    • Bad analogy.

      In yours, you're stating that people who pay extra without waiting as long as you have in line get better seats for the concert.

      In UO, these people aren't getting assigned seating. They're just skipping a small wait. If the concert were completely general seating, and large enough to hold everyone who wanted tickets, then it wouldn't matter whether you waited in line or bought your way to the front.

      In the end, it's who arrives at the gate for the concert first who gets the best seat.
  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre@gee k b i k e r .net> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:22AM (#4287026) Homepage Journal
    When UO first came out, I saw my roommate spending hours fishing, making fishcakes, and selling them. Day after day. What kind of fantasy game is that? Why, I asked? "So I can make some money so I can get some decent equipment so I can do stuff," was his response. It sounded like a rip off then, and still sounds like a rip off now. You pay a monthly fee to spend all your time building your character up enough to actually play the damn thing, and some punk kid with an uber character pks your ass and steals your gear the first time you go out.

    I'll stick to my private diablo 2 xpac realm running under bnetd, thank you.
  • by wuice ( 71668 )
    I don't see why something like this would have people in such an uproar. I've played a few of these games and it seems like the whole fun in them is starting from scratch and building your character up, making all the decisions that go into it. If someone wants to pay a premium to skip that whole aspect of the game, which to me skips a big chunk of the fun in having the game, they're more than welcome to do it. They'll hear no complaints from me.

    They're paying to lose out on fun. I think the uproar begs the bigger question, though. If the process of leveling up and getting to that stage is so un-fun that people are willing to pay a premium for it, and people who don't pay for it consider themselves cheated for having to make their characters from scratch, why the hell are we doing it? It's a game. It's supposed to be recreation, not a chore.

    Of course, I think the real objection is the competitive aspect of the game. A lot of gamers get off on how many people they're better than on the server, and the sense of accomplishment in being better. Well, where does that line get drawn? I can start off by saying if I had my hand-crafted character trashed by someone fresh out of the box, I'd be a little miffed. However, I know that when I have characters on these games, sometimes I get help from others either via getting cash donations, spell buffs, power leveling, and so on. This is "cheating" too, and it seems like it would diminish that sense of accomplishment in the same way, but I don't hear many people crying foul over that. The people who do, are hardcore gamers who are likely to be much stronger than these pre-packaged "powerful" characters anyway.

    But, back to my first point. Buying a pre-made powerful character, to me, takes away the whole point of the game. However, if people want to pay to do that, more power to them. There's always going to be someone more powerful than you on the game - the fun is found in the journey, not the destination. But, that's just my opinion. I feel the same way about people who use hacks or exploits.
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by case_igl ( 103589 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @01:28AM (#4287040) Homepage
    As both a gamer and someone who runs a business in the online gaming space, I can see both sides of the coin here.

    Personally I see this as a great first step for massively multiplayer gaming. Not necessarily a great first step, but a move forward nonetheless.

    I used to play EQ for 10 hours a day. Then I met the right woman, got married, and had a baby. When Dark Age of Camelot came out, I managed to play 4-5 hours a handful of nights a week (at the expense of sleep). Luckily my wife loves gaming too, but she was in the same boat.

    I really enjoyed both games, but in both situations I could not compete with teenagers and college students who could throw 12-14 hours a day at the game. It really ruins the fun if you can no longer group with your friends because your character has fallen behind.

    So, yes, I think it's great that I can get the +10 Not-so-rusty sword for $9.95 or whatever... Otherwise I would just be camping some spawn mindlessly wasting time to get it in the game. That makes me get bored and want to quit the game, taking my subscription revenue with it.

    Gaming companies and the games themselves are better off long term if they can keep people attracted to the game. For those of us who love the games, but simply don't have the time, this is a good thing.

    I think a better (even more powerful idea) would be to create servers/shards/realms with a MAXIMUM amount of hours played per account per week. This would be great for people like me who can only play so many hours a day -- basically you're keeping the power gamers out of one or two servers to allow casual players a chance.

    Especially in newer games like DAOC where realm vs realm is so important, there is no way someone who can only play 10 hours per week has a chance. I applaud the companies for realizing this and starting to take baby steps towards addressing it.

    Case
    • I'd like to argue that in DAoC where RvR is the focus is the game where someone with only 10 hours/week to play is most likely to have a chance.

      Why?

      Because you can level at your leisure, without worried that the people you formerly grouped with will turn on you. Take your time. You'll hit 40 eventually. In the meantime, you've got the BGs from 20-24 and 30-35. (Theoretically 25-29 too, but Mythic has to give people more incentive to go to Murd since no one goes there on any server... Fortunately 25-29 is pretty easy.)

      The worst in DAoC is from 41-50, and 1.53 is going to fix that.

      Still, it would be nice to have some sort of "quickstart" in DAoC. 50s will get that soon, and I wouldn't care if Mythic gave a pay option since it just means more people to RvR in my realm. (ofc, it means more Hibs/Mids too).
    • Mythic is apparently working on a PvE-only server for DAoC, which may solve some of your problems, unless RvR is what turns you on about it in the first place. No time frame that I've heard regarding when it is coming out, but it is in the works.

      I know how you're feeling with the time. After I was laid off, DAoC came out, and I was looking for something to do, and there it was. Now that I'm employed again, I can't play nearly as much as I used to (unemployed, after I did my morning resume e-mails/faxes/mailings I jumped on the cable modem and played). These days I try to limit myself to just the evenings, though my girlfriend plays, and she's going to grad school on the other side of the country, so it's a nice to have it as something we can do together more than just spend gobs of money on phone time and sending IMs.
    • Re:Well... (Score:2, Funny)

      by MyHair ( 589485 )
      I used to play EQ for 10 hours a day. Then I met the right woman, got married, and had a baby.

      How did you meet a woman when playing EQ for 10 hours a day? Let's see: Eat, sleep, shower (I assume), 10 hours of EQ, some form of school or income. What, did she break down your door and molest you while you were playing EQ?

      Does she have a sister?
  • But why the hell is the Open Source Inititive spending all this time making UO characters? Are they really short on money? Is Bruce Perens having trouble finding things to do with his time? Or should the article poster have made it a bit clearer what he was talking about?

    Maybe one of the OSIs should sue the other OSI for trademark infringement or something. I mean, talk about "confusingly similar." If there's no legal conundrum here, be on the lookout for my upcoming "MS Linux 2002," to be released early in 2003!
  • As a player of UO, I can confirm the above posts stating that any newbie who buys one of these premade characters is going to be decimated if he tries to play with the big boys.

    In fact, a newbie using such an account will probably be at a disadvantage - for never learning how to gain skills, and never experiencing the improvement of his UO gaming skills over time. And UO remains more awesome than EQ etc. *because* character skill only counts for half of your ability...the other part is your personal experience with the world and its quirks.

    Veterans like me on the other hand can buy an account to skip over all the boring newbie skill-gaining stuff that we've done a million times. These chars for sale would save me ~10 gametime hours, and 10 hours of my life is worth a lot more than $30 to me. :)
  • I initially misread the article title as "ISO selling characters" which made me think that for $30 I could get my own special character added to Unicode. Damn! That would actually have been useful to me.
    • I initially misread the article title as "ISO selling characters" which made me think that for $30 I could get my own special character added to Unicode. Damn! That would actually have been useful to me.

      I thought the same thing. As a taxpayers we have forked out a hell of a lot to have the Euro sign added, $30 sounded like a bargain. How about the-artist-formally-known-as-Prince buying a character with that little squiggle that he (still?) calls himself so he can actually sign his emails? Actually I'm glad we misread, or we'd end up with our emails being stuffed with 'cute' smilies.

      Phillip.
  • Maybe now some of us who don't have hours a day to waste levelling-up can begin to enjoy MMORPG's.

    Those who are complaining should really think about why they're upset, and realise that it's because they have an elitist attitude.
    • Re:Good Idea (Score:3, Interesting)

      > Maybe now some of us who don't have hours a day
      > to waste levelling-up can begin to enjoy MMORPG's.

      I accept that this is a problem, but I don't think this is the solution. Perhaps seperating "bought character" servers from the "spent time" ones might.

      > Those who are complaining should really think
      > about why they're upset, and realise that it's
      >because they have an elitist attitude.

      It's not that at all, at least for me.

      I just got sick of wasting many more hours of
      gametime because the n'th level experienced
      tough adventury type I met deep in the dangerous
      parts of the world turned out to be someone
      who'd bought his character on eBay and got me killed over and over because he had no idea how to play the game.

      In a game world, I expect a character with level n to have experience and abilities appropriate to the level. When they don't because it's a new player who's bought their way in, that breaks the
      world, and the game, for me. And it's not fun.

      I do agree that casual gamers should be able to
      play these games too, but I think that mixing "bought" characters with "earned" characters destroys the game for the "earned" characters.

      - MugginsM
  • Similar to CCGs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jason1729 ( 561790 )
    This is the same marketing plan as collectable card games. The more you pay, the stronger your play level regardless of skill.

  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug@NoSPAM.geekazon.com> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @02:51AM (#4287267) Homepage
    I am Nakombo Aragumba, secretary of the recently deceased President Sani Abacha of Nigeria, who was avidly an expert player of the American computer game, "Ultima Online," amassing the sum of 26.3 million gold pieces. Before his untimely death the President entrusted to me control of these sums of gold, in the fear that our new and corrupt government would want to seeking control of this fortune.

    My character is constant watched under by Government spies searching for this moneys who have infiltrated the game. It is the asking of your help for the transfer of this gold from my personal Ultima Online character to yours, in exchange you will receive a consideration of 2.3 million gold pieces.

    Please contact me immediately to arrange for the transfer of this important fortune, as will be to our mutual benefit.

    Respectful of yours sincerely
    Nakombo Aragumba,
    "Brentley of the Shire"
  • Lets see how far we can take this:

    How about an Ultima On-line VISA card - where every purchase you make gets you valuable experience points in the game?

    Double points if you buy Electronic Arts merchandise - and every $10,000 will get you a free magic item of your choice!
  • by EricLivingston ( 162103 ) <eric&thelivingstons,org> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @06:47AM (#4287696) Homepage
    As a 30-something with a wife, 8-month old, and a well-paying but demanding job, I tend to have more money than time. I tried playing Everquest for a while in the evenings for 1/2 hour to an hour after the baby was in bed but before I turned in, but it soon became clear to me that at that rate I'd be wandering around fighting bats for literally months of real time before I'd get anywhere.

    All these on-line games show off spectacular screen shots of high-level characters killing dragons and doing heroic things, but when you actually start you're mucking about in the weeds killing vermin.

    Don't get me wrong - I get the value of reward for hard work. If I was in college or simply lacked a life and could spend 4-8 hours/day in the game cranking out the XPs I could put up with several weeks of toil before some kind of payoff. But months? Or Years? I guess I just don't have the patience (not to mention the money - it really started to irk me that I was PAYING for the priveledge of wandering around killing rats).

    I've often mentioned to my friends that I'd give online games another shot if I could buy my way past the drudgery and actually have some fun right away. I'd pay real money for xps, weapons, equipment - you name it (assuming the prices were reasonable and reflected that fact that it was a game).

    One way to control that spinning out of control would be to just have a subset of equipment/weapons available (perhaps just good quality, yet non-magic), and only allow a certain max number of xps to be bought, thus limiting the "buy-in" potential of new players. Then the uber-characters of 50+ level can still feel like they "put in their time" while we "casual gamers" (or is it "life-balanced gamers") could at least enjoy some aspect of the game besides killing bats and rats.

    Anyway, the bottom line for me is I'll not play another online game until some sort of system like this exists in a game I care about. For instance, I'd love to try out Star Wars Galaxies when it comes out, but if I'm going to have to spend a year of real time wandering around killing insects and small rodents because I can't put in more than 1/2 hour a day towards the game then I'm out. Life's too short to screw with that kind of boring, arbitrary beginning play (and to pay for it as well!)

  • Didn't the OSI take $6M and build a Bionic Man to aid the country's intelligence departments?
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi@ y a h o o.com> on Thursday September 19, 2002 @08:45AM (#4288276) Homepage Journal
    My pal would pay his little brother a nickel to 'do the circuit' in Super Mario Brothers. Little brother would jump down into a cave, get a bunch of coins, come back up the other side. Repeat.

    Apparently, he sat there and did it for several hours while my pal went to a movie and got some grub. Came back, little brother handed the controller to him, and my friend started playing.

    A little brother will work for many games where repetition is necessary. You might also want to try this with other small children. Neighbor children can be used in a pinch, under the guise of babysitting, or collect your own!

    • Great... child labor! Have you no sense of decency?!

      Then again... get a bunch of blank accounts, have a bunch of kiddies train up the characters on those accounts, and pay them "a few pennies". Then sell the accounts on eBay. Heh, you may be on to something here.
  • by 2Flower ( 216318 ) on Thursday September 19, 2002 @08:47AM (#4288291) Homepage

    ...since you can whip open the toolkit and give yourself +1 Uber Glowing Longsword of l33tness and 20 levels of XP, it makes the whole collecting-stuff-and-points issue moot. Once that's shoved out of the way the only fun you'll have with the game is with the genuine roleplaying experience -- what do you DO with your glowing sword, once you've got it? Granted, not many NWN modules have gotten to the point where the roleplaying is emphasized over the Monty Haul, but they're definitely getting there and it's an eventuality.

    I don't mean to do a 'nwn r0xx0rz uo suxx0rz' post, but really, this is really the problem with any persistent world MMORPG -- yes, they have roleplaying elements, but the core of the game basically Progress Quest. How much l3wt can you acquire? How uber can you get? How many days will it take you to get there, and if there is no limit, how many days until you get bored? It's less a roleplaying game and more a game, if that makes sense.

    Once you realize that, paying more and more money just for more points makes perfect sense -- and is nonsense at the same time.

  • a newbie can pay a little extra and be as good as an average player right off the bat.

    Um that seems to imply that there is an actual "skill" of leveling up a MMORPG... well other than resting a stapler on the left button on your mouse.

    Compare that to something like Quake where, no matter how much you spend, the only real factors are skill and talent.

    I'd rather play BF1942 where I can observe my ability improving instead of just saying "wow, I just spent the last 20 hours making shields". Oh and I also don't get screwed out of 20 bucks a month.
  • It's all about play balance, isn't it? MMORPGs are hard up against the problem of how to balance appealing to new users against rewarding the die-hard, eight-hours-a-day kiddies. You want the real devotees, but you'll die without new blood. Anyone who's tried to enter one of these games more than a month after it was released knows how quickly the thing gets out of hand.

    A while ago /. linked to an interview with the author of The Sims (and a lot of the earlier Sim titles). He talked all over this subject. The newer games are trying conceptual stuff to address this, but at some point in a competitive game, especially a leveling one, you get monster players nobody new can come near. UO is a little older, so they didn't build their game around some larger concept that'd constrain the problem or player behavior.

    The ebay option was already there. The only difference here is that UO is offering the cheap catch-ups officially. It's an unimaginative approach, sure, and you wish they could think of a way to address the problem systemically... but when they can sell quick fixes for $30 a pop, do you expect them to think abstractly and long-term? (Do you expect your LAN team to think that way, when just fixing the latest problem makes them heroes and gives them job security?)

  • guess I'm just an old fart. when I saw OSI, I thought of that standards body that tried to propose alternate network stacks to what most of us use today (ie, IP).

    I admit I'm not at all (even a little bit) into gaming. still, this is the slashdot crowd. we're technical folks here. was I the only one who saw OSI and thought 'seven layer model' ?

  • "OSI has started a new service, detailed here which allows you to pay $29.95 to get a decent character premade for you, and bypass the hours of working skills at lower levels."

    *what* did the Open Source Initiative start doing now???
  • if these whiners where walking down the street and some guy pulled up and tossed them a million bucks, they wouldn't touch it becase it would be unfair to all those people that work hard for money.

    I'm sure the fact that it pretty much made it impossible to sell a character for any real money had nothing to do with all the complaining.
  • The most important ramification of this move is that it decreases the need for people to role-play and meet others online to enjoy UO. People who make bows for catch fish for hours on hours in the early years of UO (and I was one) simply don't make [purely online-fantasy] friends easily! And that's what you have to do to really get ahead in UO, and is something that so many gripers here who played UO years ago haven't quite gotten. (That said, it took me money months and hours than I care to admit to figure it out myself.)

    Once you partner up with a guild or just an experienced player, believe me, your scores will shoot up to what these folk are paying an extra $30 for in no time flat. Rich (in the virtual sense) UO characters/players abound, and freely give out the kinds of equipment and experience a newbie needs to get the kinds of scores you pay for now. A little online searching, emailing, and ICQ'n used the be the prerequisite for a good UO character, now $30 is -- but they won't have as much fun playing by themselves as old timers do adventuring with the people who gave them their start.

    And heck, remember how long it takes you to get from an 85 skill to an 100 skill. I haven't played for about a year, but that's where you really put in your time. I'm not too worried about these people buying their way to 85.

    Quick last point -- This kind of social gaming (Multi-User Shared Hallucination or MUSH) isn't for everyone. Obviously EA is trying to get make money than MUSH with this and other recent moves. The proverbial "casual gamer" isn't a MUSHer, but maybe some casual gamers will pay their $30 and get hooked. And that's a good thing [if they don't have gpa's or jobs to worry about :^D].

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