This story is for the Star Wars Galaxies MMO, which closed this week. Rest in peace.
Archive for the ‘Games’ Category
I was seriously prepared to hate this game.
There are so many things wrong-headed about the design that it’s hard to know where to begin. There are no character bios. Everybody has the same origin. While you can create your own character, the templates steer you towards replicating a handful of existing heroes and villains. And the ultimate elite gear that you can earn is a battlesuit bearing the logo of an iconic hero, so you can be part of an army of identical warriors all bearing the same logo.
But I don’t hate it. It’s fun. It’s playable. They’ve got a style system so you can keep your own costume instead of whatever random armor piece you peel off a downed robot.
This is not a great game, by any stretch. The content is thin, and the game systems just don’t measure up to City of Heroes or Champions Online. Most troubling, the executives at Sony Online come off as being apathetic if not actively hostile to the entire notion of community building, player relations, and incorporating player feedback.
But at the end of the day, it’s just plain fun to explore the Justice League Satellite headquarters and meet Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and all the other classic characters that DC is famous for (although, disconcertingly, some of them appear to be carrying on some retail business on the side — guess even heroes have to make ends meet).
It’s not bad. I’m hoping it gets better.
Now if you’ll excuse me… Luthor’s kidnapped the big blue boy scout, and it’s up to me to get his Kryptonian backside out of the frying pan.
This is another short story based on one of my characters from Ultima Online. She was created as a temporary character to appear in a production of the Golden Brew Players, but after ten years or so, I guess she’s not so temporary after all, and deserves a bit of a background story. She’s also the only one of my characters to appear in a non-fiction book, sitting near Lord British in an illustration from Amy Jo Kim’s book, “Community Building for the Web”.
***This story is based loosely on an actual event that happened to me last night in the MMO Star Trek Online. There has been considerable controversy over the addition of the cat-like Caitian to the game — and by controversy, I mean the kind of blind, mindless, spittle-flinging hatred generally reserved for talk radio shows.***
N’Shan’s tail twitched irritably as the doctor swept a tissue regenerator across the gash on her cheek. “There we go,” said the doctor, “good as new.”
In 1997, Origin Systems launched an ambitious project called Ultima Online (UO for short). UO is a massive-multiplayer roleplaying game (MMORPG or MMO), which is an intimidating mouthful that refers to a computer game that is played in a shared setting with thousands of other players.
Among those playing the game at launch were three friends who had adopted the character names Joshua Rowan, Robert the Red, and Sir Lancelot. They formed a guild that they called The Golden Knights, Guardians of the Way, and set themselves the task of defending a chokepoint called The Crossroads against other players who had taken on the roles of killers and thieves.
Shortly after launch, one of Joshua’s real-life friends expressed an interest in the game, and soon created a character on the same server as the Golden Knights; Ursula. Her husband at the time, watching over her shoulder, soon got an account and created a character of his own; Thorin Ironbeard. That’s me.
My return to Ultima Online has left me thinking about why this antique game resonates with me when so many newer and flashier titles have left me feeling flat.
One draw that UO has that so many others don’t is a dedicated contingent of contract staff (Event Managers) that run events and scenarios, playing characters in the game and interacting with players and player communities. It’s an extension of the successful and popular volunteer program of the early days of UO (which was derailed by a lawsuit).
Advice to developers: in-game staff is critical. Obviously out-of-character support is vital (and just as obviously most companies short-staff support — when your accountants start tearing their hair out and screaming that you have far too many GMs, then you probably have about half of what you need).
But it’s just as important to have staff in the world that are part of the world. Your NPC queen should stand up from her throne now and again, stretch, and stroll down to the nearest player-run village to borrow a cup of sugar. Or something.