Following part 1, me and Scorpinox are once again back to our hotel after another day of PAX excitement. There were many excellent panels today, including the PA Strip Panel (where Tycho and Gabe illustrate a PA comic live while giving a QA session), and the ever-popular Red Vs. Blue group. Unfortunately, Scorp and I missed most of these, as we were embroiled in PAX’s Battlefield: 2 tournament for most of the day (which might I add we emerged from on the #1 team, and got to actually get things from the prize table). Even while missing the majority of the panels as the tournament ran massively late, we did manage to sneak down to the exhibition floor for a little while, and checked out Rockstar’s Table Tennis, RedOctane’s Guitar Hero 2, as well as large booths for Fury, America’s Army, and Pirates of the Burning Coast. Also, as to be expected, Microsoft and Nvidia made a strong showing on the expo floor this year. I’ll let Scorp comment further on the expo floor since he was on it much longer than I. We wrapped the day up by attending a showing of ‘The Video Game Revolution’, which takes an interesting look at the past, present, and future of videogames on a variety of levels. It helped to see it in a theatre full of gamers who made the experience much more… interesting to say the least. Finally, after 3 half hour long sessions of Guitar Hero, we staggered back to the hotel, which brings us to as I type now.
The anticipation for Asheron’s Call 2 was tense. The game went into public beta and appeased the masses with free accounts and playtime until release. Beta testing progressed nicely, and the End of Beta event was a great success. The beta servers shut down, and everyone waited for the retail release of the game they had just enjoyed for free. In the middle of November, AC2 released much to the dismay of many parents who only saw the aftermath in the grades of the players.
That was the beginning of AC2. The game has survived 4 months of abuse, and on March 27th the developers celebrated the first 100 days of Asheron’s Call 2. There are a good number of people dealing with the elder game at this point, and a good deal of information available about the game. The only problem I see is that there has not been a review that deals with the full range of the game, yet. This review intends to fix that.
First, I present you a short background on my experience. I have dabbled in many games, and only really completed or gained a high level in a small number. Here’s what I think happens. I play the game until about the middle where things get tedious, and I tend to get wrapped up in something else and forget about the game. Morrowind was that way, though Neverwinter Nights was not. Half Life was that way, but Halo was not. Everquest was that way, but Ultima Online was not. To the list of games that I have more or less played through, I add Asheron’s Call 2. I have a Level 49 (soon to be 50) Tumerok Clawbearer on Morningthaw server with my namesake.
I began playing AC2 about 3 or 4 weeks before the End of Beta events. I am a junior in college right now, so my time was limited when the game came out, and I achieved a mere level 20 before end of beta. I had done many things on Osteth (the starting, lower level continent), but I barely set foot on Omishan. I wouldn’t have considered my experience of AC2 Beta to be at all comprehensive, but I knew from playing those mere few weeks that I was going to buy retail when it came out. This I did, and after much anticipation, Retail went live.
When tackling an issue considered as serious as this, there is a lot to think about and a lot to go over. I wasn’t entirely sure I had made my own mind up about the issue, so it’s certainly been a clarification process for me.
The question at hand started over in this thread, when Mat’hir whatthehellever suggested that the reason Blizzard implemented the rest system was to take up some level of social responsibility and dissuade gaming addiction.
What the hell?
In the past I haven’t been very responsive to it as a problem, but then, I never really gave it a lot of thought either. This time around though I decided to actually take it seriously. What is gaming addiction? Does it exist? Are we going to see a movement to stop it? Should there be help for people who are afflicted with it?
The first time I ever heard about gaming addiction was with EverQuest. Now, I highly suspect the term was bandied about with Ultima Online as well, but it was EverQuest’s nature to draw certain types of players in so deeply that they cared more about the game than life that I think really brought it mainstream. They dreamed about it, stopped eating, stopped showering, etc.
It’s where terms like ‘catass’ came from, describing the nature to be so deeply involved in something that requires so much time, you allow your real life to degenerate around you. The litter box doesn’t get cleaned, the dishes pile up and yes, if you were married, you’re not any more.
There were even the stories where EverQuest caused death, and don’t forget the stories about Lineage where Korean gangs were supposedly killing each other in real life over what happened in game.
Gaming to the point of obsessiveness where the end results could have very real and damaging results on peoples real lives. It wasn’t really that in particular which brought the idea of gaming addiction into the mainstream though. Instead it was the fact that these people would make conscious decisions to choose the game over important things in their real life. This communicated a sort of unhealthy dependency, that is very similar to other addictions, most noticeably drug based addictions where junkies will make conscious decisions to harm their life just so they can get another fix. They’ll steal, they’ll run away from their families and friends, they’ll do whatever it takes no matter how life damaging it may be to them.
Due to the similarities and such, as well as it receiving more discussion and the term more often used in the literature surrounding the phenomenon, certain groups who had a vested interest in it (aka lack of spouses), really latched onto the idea with both hands and pushed it as a very real and serious issue.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just going over the evolution of the issue as far as I know.
At first there was a lot of people who resisted the idea of this as a problem. Most of these were gamers who played the games in question, and even played the game to the same obsessive level but didn’t see themselves as dependant upon it.
With time though and social conditioning, it’s been easier and easier to just accept this as a problem and indeed the resistance to it has somewhat decreased, with the naysayers accepting it as something felt by certain people, and not others, and many gamers even applying the term to themselves, and seeing it as a very real problem when they reach that point.
As the industry has continued, it’s an issue worth revisiting as more and more MMOGs come out, and there is a good chance we’ll see players who believe this as a serious problem applying pressure on companies for ‘social responsibility’ even to the point of taking an issue like this to be settled in courts (we all know the history of the tobacco companies).
But where do we begin?
Arguably, the best place to begin when analyzing this is to start with the definition of addiction in itself.
• a. Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance: a drug used in the treatment of heroin addiction. b. An instance of this: a person with multiple chemical addictions.
• a. The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something. b. An instance of this: had an addiction for fast cars.
Hmm, and already we run into a problem. An addiction for fast cars? Verbally correct, but certainly not medically correct. I can’t go and sue Ferrari because the word has an acceptable usage, nor can I expect Ferrari to be socially responsible and make slow cars (it’s a Lada by the way), just because I am ‘addicted’ to fast cars. This does very quickly state one thing though (and I’ve been involved a lot of these discussion so it’s an important point to make) the ‘word’ addiction can indeed very easily be applied to gaming, and it’s totally acceptable under the English language.
Unfortunately, the definition under the English language and what is acceptable is often mixed up with the medical definition, which is where we really run into problems and big arguments.
You see, obviously addiction as a word can be applied to basically anything. I can be ‘addicted’ to the Macarena, but, uh, well not only does the idea of me participating in that make most of western civilization want to ‘end it all’ but obviously, we all know I can’t really be addicted to the Macarena (though I would like to sue South America in general, and demand that from now on they be more socially responsible).
The usage of the word for matters of law and medicine needs to be more clearly defined, and so from the medical dictionary, their definition:
[psychiatry] Pattern of compulsive drug use characterized by a continued craving for an opioid and the need to use the opioid for effects other than pain relief. (Psychological dependence).
The state of being given up to some habit, especially strong dependence on a drug.
This is interesting isn’t it? Here is something with a little more substance to deal with than the simple English definition of the word. At the same time, while this generally refers to addiction as a pattern of drug use, it also touches upon the ‘state of being given up to some habit’. Now, if you’re in the camp of arguing that gaming is an addiction there are a variety of paths you can choose here. One being that gaming is a ‘drug’ though according to the medical dictionary (1. Any animal, vegetable, or mineral substance used in the composition of medicines) it’s not. Another is that it’s the state of being given up to some habit. That habit being gaming. Unfortunately the medical dictionary doesn’t define what habit is, so there is certainly a gray area there it can fall under.
Really though, your best bet is the word ‘dependence’ as the definition is:
The quality or condition of relying upon, being influenced by, or being subservient to a person or object reflecting a particular need.
Which is essentially the basis most people use for the ‘general’ medical definition of addiction. Basically in our society if you become dependant upon something, you are ‘addicted’. If you ‘need’ something to the point of making poor life decisions to satiate that ‘need’, chances are you’re addicted to something.
If you need nicotine, despite knowing full well IT’S GOING TO KILL YOU, you’d better believe you’re addicted. Now, you could be addicted to the nicotine, you could be addicted to the habit of smoking a cigarette as a comfort tool. One falls under medicine, the other psychology, but we know that both are very real (and I’d argue that most smokers suffer from both, but that’s another matter altogether).
So for the sake of argument, the medical dictionary has outlined a foundation for us, but allow me to build upon that and make my own definition up for the type of addiction gaming would fall under.
The condition of relying upon, or being dependant upon a habit, to the point of being unable to make conscious healthy decisions.
Yes. I think that works. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? People ignoring their wife and kids to play a game. People not eating properly to play a game. People losing their job to play a game. People neglecting their school to play a game.
This definition certainly covers things like gaming addiction, but excludes things like being addicted to the… tango (rowr, it’s the dance of love you know?).
The amusing thing about this is it’s far more close to the definition of insanity as we know it, than the definition of addiction.
A legal term representing the inability to know right from wrong or the inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions.
Can you start to see why this is a quandary of definition?
Now that we’ve decided upon something, the problem only becomes more confusing though, as opposed to clarifying as we might hope.
You see, while this is an identifiable definition and problem, we have taken it out of the realm of the physical and into the realm of the personal. Gambling addiction is accepted as a very serious problem, and psychologists have accepted it long ago as a serious problem (which from the beginning lent strength to the argument for gaming addiction), even to the point of having gambling addiction hotlines, crisis centers, etc.
This is a large level of social responsibility being taken for something that affects some people, but not others. Arguably, the reason for this is dependant upon a variety of variables. The first I think is how many people the problem affects out of those who partake of it. So for example (pulling numbers out of my ass), whereas Nicotine Addiction on an average may affect 90% of those who partake of it, Gambling Addiction may only afflict 15%. The second variable I would imagine would be the results of said addiction.
For example, say I was addicted to iced tea, and say 15% of all iced tea drinkers were in fact addicted to the product, what effects would this have on us? Well, chances are apart from maybe a higher rate of diabetes, it’s not going to be something that the iced tea makers need to be worried about, as the results of the addiction aren’t damaging enough to justify ‘social responsibility’.
Addiction to gambling though?
“Yes, honey, I just lost you in a game of craps, but really baby, I swear, I’m going to win you back. Alright, here’s betting my first born, c’mon lucky seven! DAMN. Uh, honey, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. The first, the college fund is all ours! The second, meet Bruno, he’s your new husband…”
Right. Bad things.
Now, with gambling, this is my logical conclusion of what happened. People like gambling. A lot of people. There is money in gambling. Gambling was made legal in certain areas. A lot of money was made.
There were people though who became dependant upon gambling, and found it habit forming. From my knowledge in certain people gambling triggers identifiable psychological effects, in other words it plays on human nature. The idea of winning big. Whatever. Some people ruined their life. Those people were generally ignored or had their legs broken by Guido the bookie. Then with the 90s social consciousness was sexy, and so movements were made to help those with problems. Because governments weren’t about to act against gambling due to the fact that they liked a bit of gambling themselves here and there, they said: “we’ll appease the masses and put a hot line up, heh, what the masses won’t know is a drunken money will be taking their calls, and we’ll pay him in bananas! Woooo democracy is great! Back to snorting cocaine off hookers for everybody!”
Psychologists saw this movement and said: “well… I’ll be jiggered” and immediately accepted gambling addiction as a serious problem that requires therapy, three times a week, a hundred bucks an hour (if you’re a psychologist and reading this, don’t take offense, I’m not saying it’s not a problem and I’m not saying you don’t help with it, I’m just saying that it also makes you money in the process, which before people saw it as a psychological problem, it did not).
So is gambling addiction a problem? Most definitely yes. We have defined a number of variables. One is that it does indeed trigger a psychological response within us. Two is that it can be habit forming, and that psychological trigger can create a dependence within certain people. Three is that there is a large enough percentage of people that make it a ‘problem’. Finally, four, the result of this problem for those who suffer from it can possibly be life ruining.
I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re sitting there thinking: “well damn, that’s basically gaming addiction. Good games trigger responses, they are habit forming and in some end up in the form of dependence, there is certainly enough gamers who feel this way, and as we know, it can be life ruining.”
That’s great. Back up for a second. Right now we are seeing some interesting lawsuits in the US. People suing McDonalds for being obese?
Let’s see if eating too much McDonalds can fit under my definition. Yes, you can eat and live off of McDonalds, and have a dependence upon it even to the point of making poor decisions in regards to the rest of your life (ie. eating healthy). McDonalds food also is created to cater to triggers within us (grease is delicious). The meals they make with the chemicals they use, etc, taste very good to many, to the point of being better than anything else. Seeing the numbers of the obese in the US, there is certainly a large enough percentage of people who suffer from it as a problem. And, well, obesity kills. When was the last time you saw a ninety year old obese granny? Never.
Being overweight will kill you quicker, with more consistency than smoking (after all, there are people who have smoked regularly well into their nineties).
Right now I imagine there are a few groups of you. Chances are the more conservative you are politically, the more you’re going to be sitting here scratching your head thinking: “well, gambling ‘is’ a problem, I’m not sure gaming addiction is a problem, but McDonalds addiction is just absurd. Get off your fat ass fatty and go exercise.”
Chances are the more liberal minded will be saying: “yes, all three of these are problems and while I don’t feel comfortable with McDonalds being an addictive substance, it certainly is possible to fall under those categories and therefore people who suffer from it as a problem do need help.”
If you’re a psychologist, you’re probably saying: “yes you idiot. They are all very serious issues, and for people who want help, we can help. We can treat these problems with therapy!”
Personally, I agree that psychologically all are problems and all are potentially life ruining. I empathize strongly with those who suffer ‘addictions’ (under the definition I created).
Which leads us I think to the next logical step in the analysis. We’ve defined addiction, we’ve defined that many things can fit under the definition. And we’ve defined what variables are required for things to fit under the definition.
What we haven’t done is decided how we need to react to these ‘problems’ that fit under the definition. And I believe this is where the schism between groups really occurs. Some people believe the more rules and regulations and help groups the better. People believe in a social consciousness and believe that at the point a problem like this forms in somebody, it is beyond their control and therefore they need outside help, understanding and possibly intervention.
Others are going to say: “what the hell? Gambling hot lines, fair enough, but I do not want somebody telling me how long I can play a video game for, or next time I walk into McDonalds have a warning on the top of my Big Mac box that says ‘Burgers Kill’ with a picture of a clogged artery.”
So how are we supposed to define what social movement should be taken as a whole to target these problems? Should people be allowed to sue McDonalds for making food and not warning them that they may become dependant upon it, and it may ruin their life? Should video game companies be held accountable by single mothers who have ‘lost’ a husband to EverQuest?
Do we need to be educated? Do laws need to be put in place making sure game designers don’t make games that are too addictive? It also gets into dangerous areas like, if gaming is addictive, then how can we promote it for our youth? The reality is that people start gaming when they’re like six or seven now pretty commonly. Maybe even earlier if they have parents who game.
But we don’t let our five year olds try smoking, or gamble away to their heart’s extent. Should Electronics Boutique suddenly require a bouncer at the door to ID everybody who wants to go in? A lot of questions are raised.
And here is where it gets into personal opinion, more than before. In my opinion, while I empathize with those who suffer from said addiction, I think that as a society we need to take some personal accountability. I recognize gaming addiction as a problem some people suffer. I do not place the blame or accountability at the feet of the companies designing the games, just like I do not blame McDonalds for making fatty food. I do believe that if psychologists want to provide help and therapy for people who suffer from these problems, than they most definitely should. I do not believe though that there should be a social movement taken by the masses, or touched by the government to control or regulate these activities. I don’t believe there should be funds in place available to pay for people who need therapy for these problems no matter how psychologically dependant upon it you are.
Why do I feel this way?
Arguably, by definition I’ve ‘suffered’ from gaming addiction. I catassed EverQuest with the best of them. I woke up, started playing EQ right until time for bed where I rolled into bed and dreamed about EQ. I was a loser (though even then I still had enough good sense to spend time with my family and friends etc).
Never did I call it an addiction though, and never did I believe that either somebody else was accountable for me wasting my life, nor did I believe that I couldn’t stop. It was fun so I did it. I did it a lot. Then other things arose in life and I said to myself: “man, I should be doing other things.” So one day I told the people, the community I interacted with, ‘I’m quitting’ and I walked away and never played again.
At any point in time, if you have somebody you know who suffers ‘gaming addiction’ you can take a bat, smash their computer up and then haul them off on a trip to backpack around Europe. I’ll promise you something. It’s not going to hurt them and will probably cure their ‘addiction’.
So was it that hard? Was it really that big of a problem? From my point of view, no. I believe the reason that gaming addiction has become an issue and picked up by the media so much is because we as a people really get a kick out of making other entities accountable for our own stupidity.
When we do that though, we find those entities trying to make us follow rules to prevent us from our stupidity and that restricts our freedom which is something that really doesn’t appeal to me.
What do you guys think? Do you agree with admitting gaming addiction is a problem? And how should we as a society and treat this issue?
The Penny Arcade Expo is here, and FPBBrandon and I are chilling in our hotel after the first night. We started out with seeing Never Winter Nights 2 (images to come next week) including it’s freakishly amazing amount of skills and abilities for when you create your character. Gabe and Tycho held a panel where they announced their upcoming game, Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. They’re teaming up with Hothead Games who have a bunch of people experienced in creating games based on well established characters, including Simpsons: Hit and Run, and The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. There were also a couple tournaments during the day, we got a chance to watch some of the Super Smash Bros. Melee Tournament, some pretty killer players walked away with some nice loot including a very sweet PC Tower Case. The day wrapped up with a concert by the Video Game Pianist, Optimus Rhyme, and the NESkimos.
Yes! Shadowbane! Now this is a game I have been waiting for for a very long time! For years now, I have been waiting for a game to rob me of all my free time the way Ultima Online did; a game that allows me to create a unique character that can actually affect the in-game world and the lives of other players. My expectations for this game were extremely high, and the truth is, it was a little scary to actually play the game for the first time knowing that it might not be as fun as I had hoped. But alas, I got into the beta test a few weeks ago, and I wearily stepped my way into the world of Shadowbane. I love it.
Why is Shadowbane so good? Well, mainly because it’s not like any of the other mindlessly boring MMORPGs out there. I’m sorry for those of you who like Everquest, but killing computer controlled monsters so my character can be more powerful so I can kill more computer controlled monsters is not fun. It’s boring. Not just boring, but pointlessly boring. Dark Age of Camelot tried to remedy the incessant leveling by implementing “realm versus realm combat.” That gives me a little purpose, but the idea of a place where everyone goes to fight it out is pretty silly. On top of that, you are never fighting for yourself. You are forced to pick a faction based on what type of character you want to play. I wanted to play an Elf, so I had to fight in the name of nature, but I didn’t want to fight for nature! I didn’t want to fight for my “realm!” Who are these people I’m fighting alongside anyway? I don’t know them! I’d rather be killing them because they are tree-huggers! Again, it’s pointless. I want to be able to make my own guild. I want to be able to build my own city. I want to be able to recruit my own army. I want to be able to start my own war. I want to be able to kill, or at least try to kill, anybody that I want to die simply because I can. Is that too much to ask? Well, apparently not because Shadowbane has gone gold.
One of the main differences that you will encounter first in Shadowbane that sets it apart from other MMORPGs is character creation. One of the countless reasons why Everquest is the most boring game ever created is because every character is the same. You’re a necromancer, I’m a necromancer. We have the same spells, same stats, and we’re both chicks because everyone thinks Dark Elf women are hot. In Shadowbane, you’ll notice from the very beginning that apart from the normal stat point placement you also have the option of choosing traits. Traits can do a variety of different things, but mainly they help make your character unique. For instance, I chose to be taught by a master thief, which gave me a bonus to be dexterity but subtracted from my strength and constitution. Traits vary from weapon proficiencies to basic skills. It really reminds me a lot of Fallout to tell you the truth, because many traits have pros and cons to them, and like Fallout, they all sound pretty cool. I mean who wouldn’t want to have “lightning reflexes,” or to be “tough as nails,” or to possess “eyes of the eagle.”
Character advancement in Shadowbane also plays out very differently from other MMORPGs. In the beginning you choose a class, which is pretty much going to make you just like every character of the same class for the first ten levels. At level ten, however, you must choose a profession. This is where it starts getting interesting. Professions define your character for the most part. There are over 20 different professions including Assassin, Warlock, Crusader, and Priest. But it doesn’t stop there. Different skills and abilities unlock as you gain levels, and you must put experience points into them in order to raise them. The main thing that sets Shadowbane apart from other games that have tried this, like Dark Age of Camelot, is the fact that there so many different skills and abilities for each profession that it would be impossible to effectively raise them all. This creates an extreme amount of diversity between characters of the same profession. On top of that, at level twenty players may also choose disciplines if they wish, which add even more skills and abilities for a more specialized character. Disciplines are only effective if you have a goal and stick to it. If you spread your points all over the place and try to be great at everything, you will never be able to take a good discipline. This makes players think hard about their characters and really gives them the freedom to play any type of character they want.
Another thing you will notice right away is leveling. It’s fast! Unlike other MMORPGs, Shadowbane does not put any emphasis on leveling, because; let’s face it, leveling sucks. Nobody likes to sit in one spot all day and kill the same monsters over and over again, and Shadowbane discourages this by letting you bust levels like there’s no tomorrow. Even when grouping with nine other people, you still get 80% of the experience per kill; as apposed to other games where you would get only 10%. From level 1-20 you may stay on the “Newbie Island” and level in peace without worrying about getting attacked by other players. From then on you must step out into the real world and live a little more dangerously, but you can still call one of the NPC-run cities home. These cities are safe-zones which prohibit player versus player combat. Then, at level 35, you’re on your own and you either have to start your own guild, join an existing guild, or live in the wilderness by yourself. Leveling up will go very quickly too until you hit the soft-cap, which will cause you to advance much slower. The soft-cap, and the fact that you are booted from all safe areas at level 35, forces players to stop their endless power-leveling and actually do something productive for once; to be a part of something big, or to start something big of their own. This game is not about leveling up and getting “l33t” items. It’s about building a community of players and changing the world.
This is where one of Shadowbane’s biggest selling points comes in. No, I’m not talking about personal housing. I’m not talking about having a little place to rest at the end of the day and to store all that useless junk you find on monsters. I’m talking about building a city, no, an empire! Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten to experience building a city for myself, but I’ve visited player-built cities that are larger than NPC-run cities. I’ve seen small player-run shops near high-traffic areas where people go to buy harder to find weapons and armor and train their skills to higher levels. I’ve seen an entire continent filled with the small cities of one powerful guild, with one gigantic capital city in the center. It’s amazing to think of the possibilities, because quite frankly they are endless. Building and defending your city is a huge part of what Shadowbane is, and conquering another player’s city only brings you one step closer to conquering the world.
Now, my favorite part of any MMORPG: player versus player combat. Having balance in PvP combat is the most important aspect of any MMORPG that attempts PvP combat at all. Because Shadowbane is based on PvP combat, balance is even more important, and allowing such a wide variety of ways to create a character while maintaining that balance is especially difficult. In Dark Age of Camelot warriors beat rogues, mages beat warriors, and rogues beat mages. In other words it was like a big game of rock, paper, scissors. In Shadowbane, it’s rock, paper, cardboard, plastic, scissors, knife, spoon, fork, dish, bowl, screwdriver, hammer, and a variety of other household objects. A warrior might attack an assassin thinking that the assassin would never be able to hold his own toe-to-toe, but then the assassin might have decided to put his points into spell casting and now you have a really good fight on your hands. Every character can be totally different, and every character class has its strengths and weaknesses. Player versus player combat in Shadowbane is definitely a lot more interesting and exciting than in previous games.
Ok, so you put all these things together and what do you have? In my opinion, you’ve got the most revolutionary and exciting PC game to come out in a very long time. Shadowbane is the first step to taking online games in a new direction. Trying something new can be risky, but it paid off for Wolfpack Studios. We can only hope that game developers take such large leaps creative leaps in the future. All I can say is this game is more than worth checking out. I’ll see you all on the front lines of the biggest battle online gaming has seen yet, if you’re up for it. Play to crush!
Ultima X: Odyssey, currently in development by EA and Origins was made available to us in a little booze laden environment in San Francisco. Well, what we saw impressed us so much that we are actually going to write about it. Ultima Online, the first Ultima game to go massively multiplayer is still going strong, so EA is not going to mess with a good thing. UXO will not replace UO, but act as a sister product. Imagine Diablo 2, only massively multiplayer and enough remarkably unique ideas to intrigue even the most jaded gamer. Intrigued? Of course you are. UXO, the first MMOAG (Massively Multiplayer Online Adventure Game), has a few features that every other MMOG will have to have (but you’ll have to wait until the very end to find out about those, because I’m a bastard). Storywise, the game is an extension of Ultima 9 in which your character masters the 8 virtues and ascends to become The Avatar and fight for good. Well, apparently The Avatar isn’t doing so well, so he creates a new world to train other avatars and their disciples. The landscape is very diverse and contains several notable locations from the first 9 Ultima games (we’re not going to tell you what they are, as we’ve got to save something for later articles). These Virtues play a HUGE role in the game, which you will find out more about down in the ‘Gameplay’ section of my swank write-up.
I’ve seen the beauty of Everquest 2, I’ve had the privilege to behold the majesty of Dragon Empires, I’ve wandered the roaming ranges of Dark and Light. Ultima X Online, however, looks almost like World of Warcraft, only not as polished. Now, the important thing to consider here is that UXO is still only in pre-alpha and that the graphics are by no means shabby. As Rick Hall, Senior Producer said, “You can’t get stylish with photo-realistic. You play these games to escape reality.” In a world where every game is trying to reach photo-realism for imaginary creatures, the UXO team has crafted a very cool and sometimes wicked looking set of monsters. From the towering ice giants to the hulking Rhinorks to Toadstool’s steroid imbibing cousins, each monster is very well crafted and already looks quite good (1k to 3k polygons per model). The maps (or zones) are all quite large, and there are going to be at least 56 in the initial release, possibly more if Andy Dombroski ever manages to repair the damage we did when we discovered the “ShowHUDCommandList” command and wreaked havoc (more on that later). The maps, while large, are all hand crafted and have some truly stunning views. The game isn’t going to set any records for graphics, so why would you play it? Well, because games are much more than graphics, you ocular whores.