To see almost every developer from that team laid off, to see Harry Potter moved to Redwood, to see OSI stripped of everything that once made it great and reduced to little more than an empty shell to keep a dying game alive as long as possible makes me so sad. I can go on about how EA management wouldn’t know a great game if one came and slapped it upside the head or couldn’t manage a development schedule if their lives depended on it but why bother? What I can’t figure out is how they keep making so much money when they keep wasting so much much money.
Then I found out that Kesmai Studios was stripped of everything development-oriented and turned into a support shell. The grandfather of all online game companies gutted and looted — and the loot was thrown in the crapper. I’ve never hated EA with as much gusto. I’ve never wanted less to give them my money. I smoked cigarettes for 20 years and in the end, when I quit, it was because I just couldn’t stand supporting the tobacco industry anymore. I have that same exact feeling now when I think of giving EA any more of my money. I keep going into the store and staring at the Black and White display. I want to buy the game because I really want to play it. But I don’t want EA to have my money even more than I want to play Black and White.
Which brings me to the question of my UO accounts. I have cool stuff. Phat lewtz. Rares. Lots and lots of rares. From playing UO for three years. I have a house a step away from a guard zone in a wheat field. Do I run a contest on Lum’s designed to cause the maximum amount of mayhem in the game? Do I quietly let it all decay? Should I sell it on ebay? I am really quite torn.
Then along comes the new event team, headed by Calandryll who has been the shining star of customer service in MMOGs for the last 2 years, to bring story to Ultima Online. Yet another announcement of something many of us are interested in and many of us have wanted for lo these many (ok, well three) years. Why am I not excited?
I am actually. Well excited is the wrong word. Intrigued might be a better word. Curious is a good word too. Words don’t do it though. Because as curious or intrigued as I might be, I find myself wondering if THIS time OSI will keep their word and implement what they say they will. I have my doubts and I have every reason to doubt. The fact that they offer this on the cusp of a dissapointment that has me and many other people considering cancelling their UO accounts gives me even more reason to doubt. How many times have we been promised plot lines? Stories. Roleplaying that doesn’t suck. Hell even roleplaying that DOES suck. (The absence of roleplaying does not, in this case, count as roleplaying that does or doesn’t suck.)
For really the first time since I’ve been involved with UO I don’t believe them. Sorry guys I don’t. If anything I believe you will giveth and taketh away before completion (veteran rewards anyone? How about a nice game of UO2?) I think they have the best of intentions. I don’t think the development team is lying to me. I think Sage and Cal could really do quite a bit with an events team. I just don’t think they’ll be allowed to complete it — for whatever reason. I think OSI and EA is incapable of delivering what they say they will. I cannot even tell you how much it pains me to say this. But right now I have more reason to believe that in 6 months, with the event team gearing up to go into full speed, EA will come swooping down and cut out that unnecessary little expense. Or it will be late and Cal will be needed somewhere else to fix something else. Or he’ll take an opportunity somewhere else. Good community development managers are hard to find and Cal damn near wrote the book on that subject.
Its not that I doubt his intentions or even his ability to do a good job. But look at some of the things that OSI has either undelivered, unfinished, or delivered so late as to become laughable: UO2 (’nuff said on that I think); Factions (released one year almost to the day from when UO:R was on the shelves); Veteran Rewards (came and went so fast that if you blinked you missed it. I blinked); Alchemy and Necromancy (what can I say about this that hasn’t already been said?); Good/evil (only on SP and they took that away too); a working and convenient (read: easy to use) chat system; the list is so long that I can’t even remember what was promised, what was delivered, and what was unfinished. I’ve become so inured to dissapointments where OSI and EA are concerned that many of the smaller ones just pass me by almost unnoticed. Such a sad legacy for a once-great company to leave.
Of course the million dollar question that no one has asked yet is how Cal and his team are going to pull off real storylines and real plots with real events with fake volunteers. I am assuming that volunteers in online games are a thing of the past. Perhaps not. But lets say they are since all roads lead down that path at the moment. Is anyone besides me wondering how a three-man team is going to support 20+ shards without volunteers? I somehow doubt the money is there to support a fully-staffed interest team. Or are they just going to create random monsters and items that are not separate and unrelated to the nonexistent overall story (uh Sage… what overall story? There isn’t an overall story. You guys aren’t gonna do that Minax stuff, yet again, are you?)
Ah well maybe it will all work out for the best. I kind of doubt it but it could happen. Pigs could fly and world peace could happen too but you know unless you look really good in blue — don’t hold your breath. In the meantime, if anyone can come up with something really interesting to do as a contest (with my house and stuph in UO being the prize) let me know.