February 2001

HOLY CRAP HE’S BACK!!!! [Author: hedron]

Hedron was on the spot to interview Lum immediately. It’s a good thing that he was… because it looks like Lum already changed his mind and removed his material. But damnit, I preserved it!

Hedron: I need to interview you. I warn you in advance that I may make up some of your answers to suit my own needs.

Hedron: 1) Those new articles are some of the most controversial work we’ve seen out of you yet, while still observing your own personal ethics regarding conflicts of interest. What was it that drove your recent return as a poster to LTM?

Lum: I dropped my glass of water on the floor.

Hedron: 2) Was there some deeper philosophical meaning to the dropping of your water that lead to some epiphany about the world’s need for your commentary?

Lum: All your base are belong to us.

Hedron: 3) Lum – some readers may have actually missed your fleeting return. In what ways would you compare your evanscent return to commenting with Michael Jordan’s brief yet orgasmic return to basketball?

Lum: I hope to someday assume ownership of the Washington Wizards as well.

Hedron: 4) Will there be more forthcoming material as cutting edge as this latest foray, or have we seen the last of your wit for some time?

Lum: That depends on how difficult it is to defeat the firewall at my new employer, whomever they may be.

Hedron: 5) If you could offer a word of advice to the readers out there on how to best catch your next updates would it be “refresh quickly and often?” or something more profound?

Lum: I recommend coding a bot that automatically queries the LtM webserver 3000 times a second looking for new updates. I don’t think that should impact the overall site performance any.

Hedron: 6) Do you think the creators of the game “Test” will be angry with you for using your former site as a bully pulpit from which to browbeat those who may soon be competitors to whatever project you end up on? I mean… telling people to ignore Test completely seems inflammatory…

Lum: I guess they should have hired me, then…

Hedron: 7) Is it true that “Test” is only the development name of that game, and that it will be released as “Test of Icles”? And what were your sources for such an early alpha look at this game?

Lum: Well, as the first PvP game requiring you to actually use the FuFme interface combined with revolutionary electroshock technology, it will really seperate the men from the boys. Or seperate something from the boys, anyway.

Lum gave indications that it might be awhile before he can work up this kind of inspiration again.


The False Prophet

Gratuitous RP Signature

BARNEY SEZ [Author: myschyf]

Well they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Mad propz to The Fallen Lords for this one. I have no idea who these people are but someone sent me to their website to scout out some big privacy conspiracy theory. There’s some reference to some upcoming privacy conspiracy that apparently OSI is the perpetrator of but they don’t say what and frankly, it isn’t as good as this pic. So you can go there and read about it yourself. In the meantime……..


The best place to start is where Fallen Age starts, with the following introductory letter:

If any live to read this:

\tab Know these things, and take joy in your survival. You are the last remnants of a once great race, the race of humanity. For many thousands of years we, your kind, ruled the surface world; we mastered all things and all knowledge, and the world rested in our palms. Yet, in our pride and curiosity, we delved too deeply into secrets and forbidden rites; and somehow, in our research, we attracted Thothan, the Dark Ones from Outside.

\tab Thothan came upon us in a sudden storm, and we were overwhelmed. Our cities, our fortresses, all were annihilated, all our arms and banners turned to dust; inside a few broken moments, all was laid waste, naught left but charred and scattered fragments.

<img border=”0″ src=”faspell.jpg”

Fallen Age hopes to rise above.

They came in upon a strong wind from the northwest, and the sky was blackened with their arrival; we were tossed to the winds, a lost people, and our hearts were given over to chaos. Then appeared among us our first great Emperor, Siam. He had survived the onslaught with his mind intact, and he taught us again the knowledge and science we had lost, organized us into bands and armies, and led us back to war again against Thothan.

\tab All that was longer than four hundred years ago. Yesterday, in a final cataclysm, The Great Emperor was slain. In his death he sent Thothan reeling; the chaos of that last clash is sweeping across the land, shattering all we’ve tried to build in these past four centuries. You, our children, are our last best hope. The best of our genes, selected by the Emperor before his death, are hidden away in catacombs deep beneath the earth. If all else is lost, then three hundred years from now you will emerge again into the surface world, the heirs to our knowledge and our civilization, the heirs of humanity.

\tab If you are reading this, then it means all was lost upon the surface; but whether through cataclysm, or the renewed power of Thothan, we cannot know. Your tenacity for life is in itself deserving of respect. Go forth, young ones, into the world; rebuild our cities, and spread the gifts of civilization. If any of humanity are yet living, find them. If they cannot see, help them to find sight. If they cannot hear, help them to listen. What they do not know or have forgotten, teach to them. It is not given us to know if Siam’s final price broke Thothan, or if they remain watching, waiting. Prepare yourself for them, and beware. Your objective is to unify mankind and develop a new civilization, and to annihilate Thothan.

It\’e2\’80\’99s your world now.

What exactly is Fallen Age? It has been called an MMOG, an RTS, and an MPRPG. It is none of these, yet it is all of these at once. The best way to describe Fallen Age would be to call it an MMORTSSRPG, or Massive Multiplayer Online Real-Time Strategy Sim Role Playing Game). Chew carefully before swallowing that behemoth. If you are looking for something simple and familiar to pigeon-hole Fallen Age, you could say it was a distant cousin to Shadowrun, taking place on a post-apocalyptic “future-Earth” filled with a struggling remnant of humanity trying to tame a world gone feral using everything from swords to sorcery and sheer human ingenuity. From looking at the spec sheet, it would appear that Fallen Age has something for everyone – it attempts to be all genres to all people. Whether or not this can be done, and be done successfully, remains to be seen.

The landscape of Fallen Age is an interesting one. There is no pre-dawn dash to place houses on recently liberated real estate. Instead, each player will be apportioned a patch of land that is their own – one that is not part of the interactive persistent landscape of Fallen Age. It is on this parchment of private land that the Real-Time Strategy and the Turn-Based Colony Building aspects of Fallen Age take place. Upon reaching level 30 and completing a quest, a character will be able to access their lands and begin constructing a colony.

<img border=”0″ src=”facolony.jpg”

Fallen Age, Colony mode.

Perhaps similar in design to Civilization or Age of Empires, a player’s colony can grow and develop, eventually producing an army which can be used to defend this colony and to wage war on opposing bases. While the development and management of one’s colony is turn-based (turns being earned through exploration and skill usage in the interactive persistent landscape), but the resolution and direction of one’s colonial armies is real-time. In addition to the colony map, guilds (referred to as Nations) will get their own territories within the interactive persistent landscape, and the warehouses they build here will be private and will contain secure storage. A guild will be able to assess dues to the membership roster, and use this money as the leaders see fit, perhaps to stock up on basic equipment, or perhaps used as wagers on guild wars.

<img border=”0″ src=”fapk.jpg”

Have at thee, thou post-apocalyptic knave!

Player-versus-Player combat was originally planned to be an “open warfare” system for any character over level 30 (think Ultima Online’s Dread Lord Era). Considering how many various and unique ways that players can openly compete against one another, it was decided to create a few “open warfare” servers to accommodate those who prefer that form of interaction. For those who prefer a bit less mayhem and a bit more competition when they play online, players can compete in nation wars, or in the colony-versus-colony struggles. In both venues, alliances and confederations can be built up and torn down in a day, but those who manage to keep a strong bond with their neighbors will taste victory often. Deathmatches, not just 1 vs. 1 duels, but up to 6 vs. 6 and winners gain “DM Points” which are used in an in-game Ranking/Ladder system.

Keeping in line with the seemingly schizophrenic nature of the Fallen Age design, Trade Skills are not in Fallen Age but are, at the same time, a large part of Fallen Age – allow me to explain. In the current selection of MMOGs, trade skills are actions done by repetition to generate item after item that can then be sold or traded with other numb-fingered players. Instead of using this method, Fallen Age uses the Colony mode, where you develop and maintain factories, farms, schools, and so forth. If managed properly, these structures will produce high quality and sometimes unique equipment for your character to use, sell, or trade with others. This means instead of spending your hours in-game clicking on trees or bulls, your colony will produce your trade items and materials while you are out exploring the interactive persistent game world. Once you have yourself a measure of wealth, you can use this to purchase your spells and your skills from specific trainers. As you gain experience by adventuring and by fulfilling quests, your stats will raise by spending your accumulated experience points with each level you gain.

Fallen Age boasts an item system of over ten thousand unique items, each which can be upgraded or enhanced to the player’s preference. There are over 120 spells and skills, three classes of players each with six sub-classes. There is no penalty from death to those characters less than level thirty. All pretty simple stuff. However, here is where it gets interesting. If you are killed, your penalty for death is random, being either a loss of experience or a loss of gold. There will be no corpse loot and if you participate in PVP, there is no skill gain as a result of killing another player. Last but not least, bug abusers will be hand-held much as they are in Asheron’s Call, the policy being basically – no penalties for bug abuse unless you make us look foolish publicly, at which time we will probably ban you regardless of our no ban policy, oh and taking down the servers is a bad thing.

You can find all of this and more at the official website. I’ve requested a sneak-peek at the game itself but at press-time, I’ve not personally play-tested this product. I would list it as “anticipated” but I’ll save any review until I can actually touch the product.

As most of you know, Savant recently took leave of his role as updater to the website in order to pursue a career in the computer entertainment industry. With the announcment of Fallen Age and the soon-to-begin beta, we bid official farewell to Savant and wish him the best of luck doing what we’d all wish we were doing, deep down. Just don’t make a sucky game or else in the immortal words of Hank Hill, we’re going to have to come over there and kick your ass.


Early this afternoon I caught wind of a new wrinkle in the ongoing production of Shadowbane. This RUMOR was that Shadowbane MIGHT not be published by GODGames or Take2 Interactive which MAY OR MAY NOT drive the big GODgames Choo-Choo.

I emailed requests for comment to two individuals: Warden of Wolfpack, and Andrea Schneider of GODGames. At this time, I still have not heard from either individual. It has been five hours. Crossroads of Shadowbane emailed several individuals; no response. Voice mail was left for Mr. Warden – no response. If there are any representatives who work in Public Relations, I’d be curious what your take might be on that. Email me, I promise I wont do anything shocking to rile you.

Meanwhile, things over in England seem to be moving along smashingly for a European release of Shadowbane.

There has been no official announcement from Take2 Interactive, Wolfpack games, Gathering of Developers, or Swing Entertainment Media.
Regardless of the capability of this rumor to hold water, development of Shadowbane marches ever onward towards ultimate and eventual worldwide release. Please set your paranoia button to the off position.


GODGames.com still lists Shadowbane as a future release, and calls itself a “subsidiary of Take Two Interactive.”

Take 2 Interactive says, “Hey we’re just partners with GOD. We only own 19.9%”

Swing Entertainment is like, in Europe and stuff.

The Shadowbane website says All Systems Are Go for 2001 release.

Can I buy a new set of these please?


I wont get into other companies\’e2\’80\’99 policies on the matter of bannings as it really is none of my business and I\’e2\’80\’99ve always felt commenting on other companies in such a manner was unprofessional. However, I am more than comfortable discussing our policy.

I do feel it is our responsibility to fix bugs as quickly as we can when we become aware of them. I don\’e2\’80\’99t think anyone here would argue that. And in fact, in this case, the fix was coded, tested and implemented as quickly as possible. However, at the same time, we coded, tested, and implemented logging to track those using this exploit. So yes, when a bug exists and we become aware of it, we should fix it as quickly as possible. And we do. We also do everything we can to avoid these bugs in the first place. However, it is also the responsibility of each individual player to not use bugs. Just because a bug exists does not give one the right to use it. The Terms of Service clearly states that using a bug can result in the termination of one\’e2\’80\’99s account.

As much as I hate using real world examples (because often people poke holes in the example since the real world and online world are very hard to compare, rather than accepting those differences and reading the example for what it is), I am going to use one here. I may have used this example before, so for those of you who have seen it, it may sound familiar. You are playing pool. You are losing and decide to walk over to the table, pick up the balls and put them all in the pockets. Needless to say, that is cheating and would probably get a pretty negative reaction from those playing with you. In a tournament, you\’e2\’80\’99d be expelled. But, nothing in the design of the table, the balls, or the game keeps you from doing so. Should the manufacturers have to design a system to keep people from touching the balls? Or should those playing the game simply be expected to follow the rules? Granted again, I know this is not the best example and I know some will poke holes in it, but I think you get the idea. People should be (and in UO, are) responsible for their actions. And the rules that govern such actions are clearly stated in the Terms of Service.

In the old days of UO, I read the boards a lot. I knew how to hack my stats, I knew how to dupe, and I knew how to break into someone\’e2\’80\’99s house with the gate bug. I never did and neither did most of the other players. Aside from the moral implications (which I will not debate here) when these old bugs existed, there was nothing keeping me from doing it. I didn\’e2\’80\’99t because I read and agreed to the Terms of Service which told me that using bugs was against the rules. I also knew that breaking said rules could cost me my account…as stated in the ToS.

Just because some players (and remember, bug abusers and exploiters represent a very small minority of players) will abuse bugs does not mean in any way that we should allow it. We don\’e2\’80\’99t catch them all, but show me any system that catches every offender. Again, simply because we may not be able to catch every offender does not mean we should not try…and in so trying, catch as many as we can.

Let me close this by saying that nobody here likes banning players. It\’e2\’80\’99s the seedy underbelly of the industry and one that I wish I did not have to take part in. But, as the Community Manager for UO, I realize the damaging affect these exploiters can have on the service and other players…and hence, I support the bannings fully.


What was the bug this time? Doing This. There was a bug that allowed a thief with a faction sigil to turn items being worn into a bright shade of purple. A few stumbled upon this bug quite accidentally. They were not banned. A few players with accounts in good standing tried it a few times and were issued a “final warning” against bug abuse. From reports that rolled in last night, a few hundred players who used this bug hundreds of times and had a pre-existing laundry list of bug abuse, were issued walking papers.

Some will say this bug was harmless – those people are either banned for using this bug, or never participated in a faction. Without town sigils in your stronghold, you can’t control towns properly.

Remember this update? I would like to tip my hat and give a hearty “up your nose with a rubber hose” to each and every fellow faction thief who thought I was an idiot for not giving out purple items or using other exploits that allow for the safe transfer of sigils. Sure, I might not be cool to you, but you know what I’m going to be doing tonight? Playing Ultima Online. Meanwhile, you’ll be installing EverQuest or Asheron’s Call. I suggest you go with Asheron’s Call because that game seems to welcome your play-style with open arms. Regardless of what game you settle for, please call me in 2015 when you get level 50.

AM I ASKING TOO MUCH? [Author: Eldin]

As a player on AC Darktide, there is no greater evil for me in game than leveling. (Well, except maybe for the rampant exploitation and bug abuse, but that\’e2\’80\’99s a different story for a different day.) If I have to spend one more day in the Dungeon of Corpses draining drudges, I just might go on a murderous spree in the nearest Quaketide Town (Holtburg sounds good right about now). As an Anti, that\’e2\’80\’99s not an option for me. So I trudge onward, loathing every moment I spend hearing that high-pitched shriek that is the drudge death cry.

While online games do havearcing storylines,there are large portions of the games where such features are entirely absent. As a level 36 archmage in AC, I\’e2\’80\’99m not sure I\’e2\’80\’99ve ever partaken in anything even remotely involving a storyline. That\’e2\’80\’99s not to say I have no interest in such things. I\’e2\’80\’99m merely saying the storyline is not terribly obvious unless a player devotes a large amount of time traveling the world or reading websites. Even then, I have to be lucky enough to have the devs install dynamic content appropriate for my level.

I\’e2\’80\’99d like a hollow
. I\’e2\’80\’99d like an atlan atlan
. I\’e2\’80\’99d like some shadow armor. I\’e2\’80\’99d like to explore Aerlinthe. At level 36, these things are far out of my reach without some major support from higher-level melees. So, I am left to discover the less popular aspects of the game. And they are lesser. So much so, in fact, that I cannot find a single link to a website with anything interesting in the game that my character might be able to do. To be sure, there must be some content in the game. I simply haven\’e2\’80\’99t found it.

In my opinion, a game should not require endless days of leveling before the \’e2\’80\’9cfun\’e2\’80\’9d parts are reached. This is simply poor craftsmanship on the part of developers. As players and consumers, we deserve better. We should demand better.

With a firm background in pencil and paper AD&D, I come to online games expecting similar aspects to be incorporated in the games. I like to see different peoples, cultures, religions, histories, etc. (Which I will refer to as static content). What does UO have in way of culture or variety? Nothing. The NPCs and towns remain trapped in medieval England. Even with the variety of creatures in Britannia, none seem to have much in way of religion, and no aspects of the game reflect the type of culture the sentient beings may have adopted over time. These aspects of the game seem to encompass creating a new monster, sticking it in a fortress, then lining the hallways with skulls, spider webs, and blood.

In Asheron\’e2\’80\’99s Call, there are three different races modeled after Europeans, Africans, and Asians. Imaginative, eh? With magic permeating the land, one would think the people of Dereth would be dripping with all kinds of philosophies, beliefs, customs, etc. Yet, they are not. With magic in the very blood of the people, one would think there might have been a fascinating evolutionary change. Alas, no. We are reduced to three races, each with cultures (what little there is) and architecture mimicking that of the real world.

It appears Shadowbane is making an attempt at this type of content. Anarchy
is introducing character variety (even if it is a huge Star Wars clone). Neverwinter
will definitely have it.

Dynamic content is only as good as the static content that creates the foundation. With no static content, the dynamic content of a game can only encompass creating a new uber-dungeon with a new uber-weapon guarded by new uber-monsters for some obscure, super-dooper uber-reason (if we\’e2\’80\’99re lucky enough to get a reason at all). While some static content may be added to the quests, it is merely filler for monster bashing and magic item accumulation. Surely there is more that can be done with online games. Newbie Magic can only take players so far. After that, there must be some meat to the game.

In the world of ORPGs, many players will do nothing if not prodded into doing so by the game. Why not require quests based on a character\’e2\’80\’99s religion? Why not make the character classes malleable and dynamic? In Final Fantasy II, Cecil had to climb a mountain and fight himself in order to change his character class from fighter to paladin. Why not encourage players to shape their characters via quests? Let decisions made during a quest have real and quasi-permanent advantages/consequences? Perhaps a paladin character must undertake a quest to earn the laying of hands ability. Perhaps a mage must take a test a la the Tower of High Sorcery in Dragonlance in order to be able to increase in skills. Perhaps a thief must use his skills to steal the Blue Opal of Nespar in order to become a master thief with more skills. Yet, obtaining the opal only leads to the possibility of more quests to test these new skills.

Seers and quest engines can only go so far and help so many players. There has to be some hard, static content in a game in addition to the dungeons, magic items, and quests. We don\’e2\’80\’99t need linear quests. We need quest branches. At the end of Quest A, the character has Options 1, 2, 3. Option 1 will take him to Quest B, Option 2 will take him to Quest C, etc. During Quest C, give more options.

Make quests require knowledge of the World\’e2\’80\’99s history and culture. Make the players think about the world they live in. Make the players recognize the totality of the reality their characters inhabit.

Make the games interesting.

With the possibilities inherent in different races, religions, philosophies, and cultures, I have to wonder why this sort of content never makes it into the games. Are the writers lazy? Are the designers and devs more set on pretty new images, uber-loot, and landscapes than the actual meat of their game? Are they rushing their product to market, thus neglecting these things? Are they simply unwilling to hire the required people to code these things?

Combat systems, magic systems, skill trees, and character classes are great things required in any game. However, without a reason for these things, there\’e2\’80\’99s no reason for a player to stay interested in a game.

I\’e2\’80\’99m a 36 archmage, and I\’e2\’80\’99m chronically disinterested in the game I play. The devs have nothing to keep me interested. Until then, I suppose I\’e2\’80\’99ll continue draining those drudges.

Who knows. Maybe one day, I\’e2\’80\’99ll be really excited about the world where my archmage dwells.