Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another true rare loses its rarity

A nest with eggs is supposed to be part of the new spring turn in rewards with pub 53. Bit sad about it because it is one of the items that has been on my list of rares to collect. However, I do not want one this way.

Rares are getting increasingly threatened as the live team gives out new rewards due to their tendency towards using existing art. That coupled with the fact that there are lot of rare items which are fairly obscure makes it likely that more rares will see the same fate even if developers try to avoid it.

I hope that the nest at least has a different name when it is finally released.

Added later: An update on this. Lady Sakkarah posted the following on the rare forums:

Actually, that picture is slightly inaccurate. There is no potted cactus. The egg nest is a different hue and the fire pit is the square one, not the round one displayed here.

The beehive is animated

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A New Hope

Today, in a surprise announcement, we were informed that Lady Sakkarah from my home shard of Atlantic has joined the developer team. This is by far one of the best news I have heard in a long time. I have had many chances to talk with her in the past and I cannot think of a more capable candidate. Here are the reasons why any Ultima Online fan should be happy to see her joining the dev team,

1) Lady Sakkarah was the guild mistress of one of Atlantic's largest and leading PvP guilds DEI for many a number of years. As such, she has hands-on knowledge about not only PvP but also managing large guilds and all that goes along with it.

2) She was famous on Atlantic for creating some of the best player-run events. She has impeccable knowledge of the lay of the land and its history - which she often used to enhance her events. She also shares my feeling that we need more tools to facilitate player-run events. If there was ever any chance of a developer gunning for this concept, this would be it!

3) As EM Sameerah of Baja, she created some of the most fun and exciting events, with many yummy rewards (spider web, Christmas trees, LT sash) to boot. So, we can only expect the quality of the events to improve in the future. Furthermore, she is well-versed in the effects of duping and sensibilities of the rare community. I remember her being very upset when the news of LS sash duping first broke out. All serious rare collectors will consider this as a promising sign.

Lady Sakkarah is a well-rounded Ultima Online veteran with experience in all the major domains of the game. The developer team is going to be better off with her as part of it - Join me in wishing her best of the luck at a very tough job.

On a side note: A little over a year ago Lady Sakkarah was kind enough to write a book about her experience with organizing an event in Baja during her time as EM. That book is locked down and accessible at my house - [Treasure Trove] Atlantic - for anyone interested in reading it. I also happen to have a Sakkarah rose given by her to me, also locked down next to the book :)

The Council of Rare - Why is it needed?

A few weeks ago I made a post in the rare collectors forum regarding forming a rare collector's community - A Council of Rare Collectors. Unfortunately, stratics has been at a hiatus so I cannot link at this moment.

One of the key ingredients that I had decided upon very early on was to have an in-game component to the entire concept. This means it would be.. no, has to be... more than a forum based community. As such, linking it to the Rare Collector's Festival was a no-brainer.

So far the response I have received has been largely positive. However, a few of the larger rare collectors have not shown much interest in it. I am hoping that this changes because, as I will explain later in this post, it is very much in their self-interest to see this succeed. I am very happy to note that Manticore, one of the largest and oldest collector, has been very positive about it. I should also note that many of the new collectors have expressed their interest. I was planning on posting a list of all the people who have signed up but that information is also tied up with stratics :P

Taxation without Representation is Tyranny - We have reached a point where people who are interested in collecting must band together to represent themselves. Rare community is facing an unprecedented backlash due to the association of duping with rare items. Under these circumstances, if developers take steps that do great harm to this part of Ultima Online then their will be very few that will think twice about it. It is in our best interest to show that collectors and people interested in collecting are assets to the game. I also strongly believe that collectors are not an insignificant part of the community. Instead that a significant number of people are interested in it and even more appreciate the fact that their are things like museums which display the history of the game. It is one of the core parts of Ultima that separates it from everything else on the market.

So keeping this in mind, we move forward on this idea. Some of the obstacles that I am facing right now is regards to the formation of the High Council. Initially, the plan was to have an election during the rare festival but I realized an important thing: Very few rare collectors really know each other, especially in the game. An election held under such an environment will be like a sham democracy organized by a dictator. Maybe this is what is needed to get things out of the door, maybe not. For now, my goal is to have a breakthrough ingame meeting during the upcoming Rares Festival, involving everyone who has expressed an interest in joining It is there and then that the Rare Council will be declared functional. We will worry about the finer details regarding elections only after everyone has had a chance to see and greet each other.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Know your dupe fencer

People who tend to sell duped items use various arguments to rationalize their actions and also to allay the fears of potential buyers regarding their goods. The surprising thing is how easy it is to buy into this line of thinking. I have seen many people, who should know better, fall for it. Here I would like to point out some of these arguments,

1) "Everything is duped. Hence, there is no reason to talk about dupes."

This is my all-time favorite one. It is quite a brilliant argument whose sole purpose is to act as a red herring. Lets break it down! The first part of the sentence: "Everything is duped," is in fact a huge (and wrongful) assumption which relies on the cynicism of the target audience to pass it as a fact.

The truth is that a large percentage of event items have never been duped. The reason you never see them for sale is... well... because they are rare! Rare items are not meant to be for sale every other week. Most people hang on to them for months, if not years, effectively taking them out of the market. Something popping up for sale too often is usually the first sign that all might not be well.

The second part of the sentence: "Hence, there is no reason to talk about dupes," supplies the motivation for the preceding lie. The biggest concern a duper has is that everyone will find out that the item he is pawning off as a rare is not really all that rare after all. This will always lower the value of the item in question, even PvP rares (although they tend to not fall as fast). As such, they are not proponents of having information available to everyone. By making everyone think that "everything is duped" and calling on to the ever present cynical part in all of us.. "whats the point" ... they effectively discourage candid discussions about duping and making information about duped items easily available.

So to make the record clear: No, everything is not duped and there are plenty of reasons to talk about duped items.

2) "There is no way to prove xyz is duped."

This is often used for items for which we do not have clear information regarding its initial count or which were given in large enough count making it very hard to get current inventory. However, I reject the notion that you need to prove beyond doubt that an item has been duped. This goes back to what I touched earlier: information control. If veteran collectors are staying away from certain items because they believe them to have been duped then I have no problem letting this knowledge be available to the general audience! For certain, you do not want to be paranoid and wrongfully label an item as duped but the fact of the matter is that most of the experienced collectors tend to know what they are talking about. They are not known for their knee-jerk reactions and if a consensus is reached then it is an extremely high chance that they are correct. So, it is an acceptable risk of being wrong on a rare occasion if it means you can prevent scores of people from wasting their gold. The former situation can be fixed, latter cannot be.

So to make the record clear: Yes, it might be impossible to prove beyond any doubt that a certain item is duped. However, it is not impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt.

3) "This is a video game. People should stop talking about morals and just play the game."

This is another one of my favorite one. The goal again is to discourage people from spreading information about duped items. The idea is to create an image of this cool person who is above petty pixel arguments and ask others to be like him. Why talk about pixel dupes when you could just buy them and enjoy the game? What you should always keep in mind is that, unlike most of you, this person relies on pixel scamming to earn their living. There is nothing cool about it.

So to make the record clear: Yes, it is a video game. We do not need to be the best by buying your illegal items. It is just a video game.

4) "Everyone owns dupes. Everyone sells dupes."

This is usually their last resort argument. When everything else fails, why not create a straw-man? It is better known as an ad hominem argument, because it focuses on the opposite person and not their positions. The goal of this argument, much like the others, is to discourage people from spreading information. It is pointless, everyone does it! You should too!!

Yes, I think a lot of people have owned duped items and also, often knowingly, sold them. However, I think there is a big difference between introducing duped items in the economy and one time trading of an item that is already part of the market, especially when you make sure the buyer is well-aware of its status. And guess what? EA Games, the final word on all things UO, agrees with me. They have made a clear distinction in the past between normal players and being a front for illegal items.

So to make the record clear: Everyone might have sold a duped item here and there. But not everyone makes it their business to mislead people into spending their gold or real life money into buying things that are obtained illegally.

Next time you see your favorite duped items fencer make any of the above arguments, take a deep breath and crack a smile. You can see right through it :)

Welcome to my Ultima Online blog

The purpose of this blog is for me to speak my mind regarding Ultima Online, without getting dragged down into arguments and be lost in the crowd.