UO Forever: Death by dragonfire

While Aventurine continues to uphold the DF:UW NDA, and :stuff:, I’ve decided to entertain myself with a bit of UO:F, joining up with Keen and his crew. So far it’s been very enjoyable overall, and also leads to one amusing story.

Just north of Britain there is the ever-popular dungeon Despise. It’s a good spot to farm some gold and the odd magic item, and it’s where I’ve spent the majority of my time in-game so far. The ettins and trolls found on floors 2 and 3 are very doable solo and drop a nice amount of gold, while killing deep earth elementals in a duo lands you a very nice 600-700 gold.

It was in this duo setup that a rather… amusing thing happened. Deep inside the third level there is a glowing portal. I had seen it before, but did not enter. With my friend along, I figured now would be a good time. My character is not ‘done’, but he has a few skills to 100, with other in the 60s or 80s, and I was wearing full plate while wielding a magic hally.

As soon as I entered the portal I knew I was in trouble. For starters, you are in agro range of not only a dragon, but a special ‘boss mob’ dragon as well. In addition, this portal was a one-way trip. Needless to say, I lasted for all of a few seconds before the welcome embrace of black-screen death took me, and I was standing inside a new dungeon as a ghost.

Just to provide further proof of my silly actions, as I made my way out of the dungeon in ghost form, I passed multiple dragons and other major creatures; all which would have surely seen to my end had the original two mobs not been so quick.

And because this is UO, all of my items were left on my corpse; a corpse that would not be recovered. Furthermore, instead of an instant portal to some graveyard, I was left to find my way out in ghost form. And when I finally did get a rez from a wandering healer, I was quickly dispatched a few minutes later by some random mob. Back in ghost form, I finally made my way to a town, got rezzed again, and spent about 30 minutes and 3000 gold to get myself back into fighting form.

All of this happened while my friend was laughing at my misfortune on vent. He was smart enough to wait for my initial reaction rather than jump right into the portal, and lived. And during my stumble back to town in ghost form, we talked about how quickly such an experience would be ‘fixed’ in modern MMOs. How someone would be quick to point out how ‘unfun’ such a trap is, and how during their ‘casual’ playtime, they can’t afford to not make progress. How such a ‘harsh’ experience has no place among the masses.

And it’s probably true. Far too many players are absolutely risk-averse, can’t deal with setbacks, and will only sign up if they are promised rainbows and lollipops just for showing up. It’s also here where having a strong dev team with solid vision comes into play, because while I do believe most players don’t believe they want this kind of experience, I am fully convinced such experiences are what make an MMO great, and make you stick with a game. They are memorable, make you work harder, and give you something to come back to and hopefully get your revenge. And if they do/did cause you to rage-quit, you would have anyway over something else. Knowing who is NOT your target audience is just as important as knowing who is when it comes to designing an MMO.

16 Responses to UO Forever: Death by dragonfire

  1. hevy says:

    Me: You’re REALLY just going to go through that?

    Syncaine: Sure, why not?

    Lol. Good stuff.

  2. Scott says:

    I suspect that, back in the early 1900’s, there was some group of people that lamented the lack of difficulty in “Monopoly” compared to the strategy and difficulty in its predecessor “The Landlords Game”.

    MMOs are just drowning in Monopoly’s right now, as the relative gold rush in the space hasn’t played out. I’m looking forward to the future where we have a wider variety of “Settlers of Catan” in the niche space, at a higher price point, to offset the simple and mainstream.

  3. Gorbag says:

    There’s lots of space between fluffy bunny rounded corners gameplay and “door of you just lost all your shit, gg.” It’s a false dichotomy.

  4. Xyloxan says:

    Agreed. UO forever. Glory early days of MMOs. I hate virtual glittery sparkle ponies and glowing welfare epics of “modern” MMOs.

  5. bhagpuss says:

    It’s not just a question of whether the dragon door of death experience is “fun”, it’s also if it IS fun, how often is it fun?

    I agree completely that these experiences are memorable. I can remember half a dozen like that just from my first few weeks playing EQ, in detail. Once I even did rage-quit and stop playing – for all of three days. I’m glad those things happened and I cherish the memories.

    The thing is, though, I stopped finding experiences like that exciting, thrilling and memorable some time before they stopped happening to me. By the time MMOs began to change design ethos to remove them I was more than ready to see the back of them.

    It is possible to have enough of a good thing, and to have had enough of one, too.

  6. “Far too many players are absolutely risk-averse, can’t deal with setbacks”

    Setbacks are a question of time invested.

    In the example, you lost the time to head back to town + time to repurchase weapons + time to recover the gold. Your 30 hour gaming week can comfortably accommodate that while you are waiting for the DF2 beta to get fixed/NDA to drop.

    But let’s imagine that you lost 50 hours’ MMO time in recovering your position. Would your blue portal experience not have made you substantially more risk averse?

    In fact would you have bothered to start the corpse run at all knowing that you would be back where you started in 1 2/3 weeks’ time?

    • SynCaine says:

      So like losing a city in DF, or a WH POS in EVE? Yea, the bigger the risk taken, the greater the reward (if designed well). If I’m rolling around in 50hrs worth of gear in UO, I better be doing it for a damn good reason/reward.

      • Raelyf says:

        I’m not really sure I see this as a risk vs reward scenario. It seems to me that it’s just an insta-death portal for those who don’t look up online or ask someone what’s on the other side. That seems silly.

    • Xyloxan says:

      In the MMO world, the scale of time is dramatically different from the scale of time in the world of say FPS games. I can imagine that in a game that grabs a few years of my gamer’s life having certain setbacks costing a few days of my playing time might be a perfectly fine and balanced element. I’m not talking about running for a week to retrieve your corps – that is silly. But losing a week of progress in a complex and engaging MMO that requires taking calculated risks and doesn’t make you a world-saving hero just for showing up is fine with me.

  7. Dà Chéng says:

    This is the sort of virtual world I’d like to see more of. As Gorbag said, there is no dichotomy between harsh and fluffy, there is instead a scale; but it would be nice to see a more even spread across that scale.

    On the subject of risk aversion, it seems to me that the world determines your level of risk aversion. the harsher the world, the more risk-averse the adventurer. To take your own example, Syncaine, in Ultima Online: Forever, you had seen this portal before, but waited until you had the backup of Hevy before going through the portal. I don’t believe you’d have waited in GW2, for instance.

  8. bonedead says:

    I always specced bow so that I could enter combat with the dragon and then stand off screen plinking my shits at him. Also makes kiting insanely easier.

  9. Ahh that takes me back. I have many such loopy memories from UO. But I can’t say that I enjoyed them at the time, and this sort of thing happening in a game often leaves me spitting with rage.

    I sometimes feel that I’m not really allowed to say this as a gamer, but the idea of losing everything for a mistake made in seconds actually turns me off. I don’t like a lot of risk in my games, because I play games to enjoy them, not to get stressed out, and boy does that sort of thing stress me out! I realise that there are plenty of people that enjoy high risk gameplay though – otherwise Dark Souls wouldn’t be so popular. Maybe I’m just weird eh!

    I do see the risks of developers going too far down this road, and I haven’t liked what I’ve seen recently from games where they give you little to no penalty for dying. You should lose SOMETHING. I just don’t want to lose everything, or get shoved back to a far away checkpoint.

  10. Matt says:

    WoW used to have something like this, in the form of Sons of Arugal, which killed many an unsuspecting Horde player in those days. There were other examples, but they had the effect of being totally unfair and therefore of adding a sense of danger to the world. I remember skulking around EPL on my rogue at 60, due to it being full of mobs that could kill you, with patting elites in almost every area. The feeling was that this zone meant business, and you’d better be careful. Now, Azeroth is so sterilized that you never get that feeling. And there’s definitely something lost there.

    Now, WoW doesn’t kill your gear on death, but in WoW a naked character can’t do anything, which as I understand isn’t the case in other games.

  11. hevy says:

    Alot of these comments prove exactly why games are made easy-mode these days. The adults who were kids “back in the day” don’t have time for the same types of games and kids of this generation have so much ADD that they could barely drool their way through a short story without suffering a seizure of some kind.

    That portal isn’t there just to fuck you over. That dungeon is Destard and we were in Despise, very far away from Destard I believe.

    That portal is there as a staging ground for a guild in order to quickly hit one of the main boss rooms instead if wading through the entire dungeon. I guess that’s easy-mode convenient as well though. ;)

  12. I miss having dangerous mobs mingled into the maps and the feeling of having to be careful. That said, different time and a different place. UO came out in a day where everything in these game was not documented on the internet so thoroughly, and certainly most of us looked there as a last resort. MMO culture now treats anything of consequence like this as a loot barrier. Because something like a powerful dragon is something you need a group for it’s gonna be pretty hard not having people spoil this for you when you decide to return.

    As much as you dislike GW2 they have experiences that are similar but the context is much different. For instance I came across a portal while in Diessa Plateau which then led to a mini dungeon with mobs I needed at least a small group for and puzzles to figure out. I died on a champion but because death penalty was low I was able to ask a couple guildies to come in and help me and we were able to get through more of it. We ended up stuck on the puzzles and decided we would come back at a later date. Point is so much surrounding it was inconsequential so no one was ready to jump on wiki, there was more of a satisfaction in figuring it out ourselves.

  13. [...] all this recent talk from diehard nostalgia blogs about UO, it makes you wonder what game they were and should be [...]

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