Specific Issues and Topics

Combat Balance (Aug 19, 1998)

I'd like to talk a little bit about combat balance. Lately I've been under the impression that UO was designed from the single-player perspective, that like the standard Ultima Adventures, the player is assumed to be interested in being the hero, interested in mastering magery and melee combat to achieve his or her goals.

But from a role-playing standpoint, the design tends to inhibit some of the original vision of the game, which was that players would have the opportunity to play whatever roles they want, be it a craftsman, a warrior, or a mage. The problem lies in the fact that the current system drives players towards a single "ultimate" form for their characters (in ALife, this would be refered to as a problem with "maxima"). To be able to survive in combat, *everyone* must master magery and melee at the same time. Additionally, there is little incentive to play various other roles, as the economy and game mechanics don't allow for interesting and effective ways of earning money by means other than killing monsters and other players.

A system that promotes diversity will be less likely to hamper the role-playing efforts of those who want to role-play, and it will also make things more interesting for those who wish to do nothing but fight. To this end, I feel that the "tank-mage" situation is the single greatest problem in UO. No one wants to fight with maces, because a halberd is better. No one wants to fight with daggers, because everything is better. No one wants to use chainmail, because plate is better, and not much more expensive. Price alone will not encourage diversity, since gold is easy to come by for the experienced player.

Let's take a look at melee combat, leaving out magery and archery for the time being. One of the unfortunate things about the current system of dealing with close-combat weapons is that there seems to be a linear scale of effectiveness. The halberd is often considered to be at the top, and the dagger at the bottom. I think this design concept is a throwback to AD&D, where characters would tend to get better weapons as the character improved over time, but in a massively multi-player environment, it's extremely easy to skip steps and just use what you find to be most effective. Diablo balanced the weapons far better, IMHO, by making all of the weapons have very similar average damage per time ratios.

In reality, with sufficient skill, any standard close-combat weapon can be just as deadly as any other. You usually can't just point to a sword and easily say "that one is better than that one over there", because different styles of weapons typically filled different niches, or were very similar in overall effectiveness. If a weapon wasn't effective, then it simply never became a standard weapon (just like in UO, if it wasn't useful, no one would use it). The reason there are different weapons at all in real life is because you can have differrent styles without severe differences in effectiveness, and because they were used in a variety of different ways (which is hard to simulate in a game like this, so equal ability in different styles should be assumed if the characters have equal skill). For instance, someone with a dagger or a short-sword could easily defeat someone with a halberd, simply by moving in too close for the halberd-user to fight effectively. This is called "in-fighting".

What I propose is a weapon revision that makes all weapons equal, or close to equal, in average damage per time, assuming equal skill. For instance, if a longsword does 3 to 5 damage per hit, perhaps a katana does 2 to 6 and a viking does 1 to 7. A dagger then might do 1 to 3, but swing twice as often, and a halberd might do 6 to 10 but swing half as often. All of the swords, maces, spears, etc, should be balanced in this way, resulting in equal average damage per second. In some cases, a particular weapon in each skill-class could be better in average damage by a half a hit point or so (for instance, by design and when properly used, katanas are extremely potent), and obviously the quality of the weapon should influence it as well. The point is, people will start to use certain weapons because they like them, because it suits their tastes, or fits the role they're trying to portray. I bet some people will probably start groaning and wincing when they read this, but it's the best way to make a balance and equity within melee combat (removing the single maximum while not creating severe local maxima either).

As for the tank-mage problem, I've already suggested in previous articles some possible methods for making the skills influence each other such that a maxed-out tank-mage won't have any more overall effectiveness than a maxed-out pure mage or a maxed-out pure warrior. But putting those aside, there are some other suggestions I would make.

One idea is to make mana cost for casting spells increase with use of metal armor, so much so that using full-plate makes it extremely difficult to cast even the most basic spells. Another idea being worked on out there right now of course is to have a skill called "Channeling" that allows mages without large amounts of heavy armor to regenerate mana very quickly. Something else I would like to suggest in addition to these is to make it possible to cast spells while holding a staff or a wand in-hand. Of course, wands aren't intended to be used as maces, so their average damage should be less than other weapon types. The spellbook should also be capable of being used as a blunt weapon, less effectively than a standard weapon. Staves should be quick-swinging but light-damage weapons in the scheme of things as well (yes, they are rapid weapons in real life). Additionally, I'd like to see the creation of some magic items that are very useful to the mage, but not quite so nice for a warrior. Some good examples would be robes that increase mana or magery skill but also have *severe* penalties for other forms of combat (perhaps cutting all combat skills in half). Also staves that allow faster mana regeneration but at the cost of drastic reduction in swinging speed. And perhaps magic wizard hats that have stronger effects than the current ones, such as +20 INT but -15 STR and -25 DEX.

I like these ideas, as they will have multi-pronged effects on the game:

  • Leather armor suddenly becomes useful again.

  • Mages are less likely to wear heavy armor and engage in close-combat (their warrior friends should do that).

  • Warriors are less likely to pummel their foes with spells (their mage friends should do that).

  • Mages won't have much of a problem with wrestling. Instead they'll learn mace-fighting, and have a chance to actually do some damage at close-range if they get charged. Macefighting is useful enough that they can still use it effectively if they insist upon trying to find a happy medium between magery and warrior abilities. While casting, they'll use weapons appropriate to their profession.

  • It would be far easier, by using the tools and trade-offs available, to become exceptional at one field (fighting or magery), if you're willing to sacrifice the other.

I'd also like to see more useful high-level spells for mages. Room can be freed in the 8th circle by combining all of the elemental summonings into a single summon-elemental spell. This would create enough room for 3 new spells to be added, ones that only high-level mages can cast effectively. Perhaps a ring of fire spell, a version of invisibility that allows you to walk and stay invisible (but casting or attacking or stealing reveals you), or even a restoration spell that restores all hit points and cures all poisons in one casting.

Wrestling has been practically useless for a long time. It would be easy enough to add some small weapons to use for wrestling, without having to add or change the existing 3D art. For instance, there could be a variety of types of brass knuckles, some with points, some with small blades, and some that are just studded. They'd be small enough that adding 3D art wouldn't be necessary because they really wouldn't change the character's appearance much anyway, and a patch to add 2D art for the paperdoll wouldn't need to be terribly big.

Personally, I think archery should be adjusted so that it's still very potent, but nearly impossible to use effectively while moving or on horeseback, even to the master archer. Have you ever tried to aim a bow or a firearm while moving? How about a flashlight or a laser-pointer? It's very hard. Archers should have to sit still to aim straight (or just hope they get very lucky). If the archer gets rushed into close combat, he should be forced to run or to switch weapons. In-fighting with a bow is impossible, except by bashing the person with it, which the bow is not designed for. Bows and crossbows should be highly susceptible to breakage in close combat, should do little damage, and should use the macefighting skill since they're technically a blunt attack. Hitting someone who is preparing a shot should interrupt the shot, potentially even breaking the arrow they were about to use. To make up for all of these penalities and difficulties, the individual hits should be potent. All of these, I believe, will help to balance archery against the other forms of combat, and also make it more realistic at the same time.

Anyway, these are some opinions I've had for a while. I'm not sure how much of an influence I may have on the rebalancing that's being worked on, but as I say, even if my ideas aren't used, as long as someone just thinks about them I will be satisfied. An informed decision that looks at a wide range of possibilities will tend to be a much better one in the longrun.


The UO-Comics Strike (Jun 21/22, 1998)

I'd like to take a moment here to discuss the apparent strike that is being undertaken by several UO comics sites, and my stance on it.

Of course, everyone who is making their own creative material is free to handle it as they choose, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And for the most part, I too have said that the comics sites should stick together. However, I will not follow into this strike.

I will not argue the specific points that have been made about flaws in the new reputation system, and bugs in general. Yes, there are many unfortunate problems in the game, some new, some old. The reputation system isn't perfect, and there are some new exploits appearing. However, I feel that despite these issues, the reputation system is far superior to the old notoriety system. And I'm not just saying that because I was one of the first people to publically condemn having a simple linear good/evil scale. Around the time when I stopped playing my main character regularly, that was my biggest source of frustration. I was slowly getting turned to evil simply by defending my mage-supply shop, and by defending my customers. I couldn't do any serious PvP without becoming either KOS or an NPK, neither of which were appealing. Notoriety has been a thorn in the side of role-playing for a long time, and the new system vastly improves the situation by seperating good/evil titles from criminality. It makes more sense, but of course it requires a readjustment period on the parts of the players, and the design team as well as they try to solve the problems that have arisen with the insertion of the patch. This was a huge change that has been implemented, and it would be damn near impossible to foresee every possible contingency and have it work flawlessly the first time it's put to actual use on all servers.

While it's certainly true that many of the problems pointed out by my colleagues are verifiable annoying bugs and exploits, I think sometimes we (myself included) often lose sight of what UO is all about. If you play for the sole reason to of being a Great Lord, or to kill as many other players as possible, or for some other very specific goal, then any time a patch is made that either intentionally or accidentally makes it more difficult, you will be annoyed considerably more than if you were to play for the goal of having fun, or of role-playing, etc.

Some of the issues I agree are potentially unpleasant problems include things such as having pets guard other people's houses so that they'll lose karma, repeated hacking down of freshly-resurrected people because their criminal flags don't wear off as ghosts (I've been affected by this one personally), looting corpses while hidden... and of course we all hate lag and crashes, but of course aside from server-side latency, lag is here to stay in one form or another until the Internet gets redesigned. But essentially, I think most of the flaws that have arisen as a result of the reputation system are relatively minor (after all, bad karma doesn't have much of a tangible effect on you), and they'll be fixed soon enough. And despite the flaws, it's still a major improvement. It reminds me of what happened when the Hubble Telescope was put into orbit. The media frenzy made it out to be a disaster. While it was a blunder, it wasn't as bad as it sounded. Even with the flaws, with software tools compensating, Hubble was still the best telescope in use, bringing in far better images than any ground-based observatory. Once a correction was in place, it got even better. It's because of such incidents that I try not to listen to all the hype, but rather form my own opinions based on my own experience.

Now, there are a few points that have been made that I can argue against, or at least shed a small amount of light on. One issue was that certain shards are being neglected by the GM's and Seers. To some extent this is true, but not intentionally. What has actually happened is that the first-wave of seers have undergone a few changes... some have quit, some have been reassigned as senior counselors, some have left UO completely. This has left a few shards with few or no seers. HOWEVER- New seers are slowly being introduced in an effort to balance things out. In terms of the GM's neglecting certain shards, such as GM assistance in weddings, furniture lockdowns, etc... this is just another symptom of the absence of seers in those locations, as far as I can tell, since the actions and interest of seers are often the catalyst behind such GM intervention.

As for the point of only logging in to refresh houses, boats, and vendors... well, personally I hit a similar point back around Christmas. Up until then, I played about 40 hours a week, for 5 months!! I've never had a computer game that kept me glued for that long. And I enjoyed all of it. Since then I've only rarely played my main character.. However I have found other things to do, such as get involved in player-run events, make these comics, play newbie characters on other shards, perform wedding ceremonies, and more. Even so, I don't log in nearly as often as I used to. But I still think of UO as something fun... a hobby of sorts. When the fun fades, you either move on to something else or find new ways to make it fun again. It's amazing how much indecision there is about this. People can't seem to just quit, or stay either... they drag it out for weeks or months, complaining striking and boycotting the whole way.

Something that I've found really odd in the UO community is that it seems like the only purpose to gaining fame (and I don't mean fame points in-game) is to have a large audience when you quit, complain, or whatever. I've seen it happen many times before on a variety of UO web sites. As soon as some fame is gained, as soon as there is an audience, often it is at that moment that a strike is called, or a boycott, or an account cancellation. And those who don't have the resources or the desire to maintain a website try to do it through the message boards or through someone else's web site. (I'm not pointing fingers here, or saying that anyone in perticular is like this, either in terms of message boards or through one's own web site. It's just a general observation). To an outsider, it would appear that every last one of us hates the game, yet we continue to play and create/update websites for it. What a strange paradox we must seem to be to anyone who happens to chance upon our pages.

Despite popular belief, there are many people who like UO as it is, and are in favor of the new patches, including the reputation system. On the ImaNewbie site, Tryon posted some numbers showing a breakdown of percentages. I'd just like to remind everyone that this isn't necessarily an accurate portrayal of public opinion, since it is only showing the percentages from within the subset of the community that actually e-mailed him. And my experience has shown that those who are angry about something, or are completely against something are the ones who tend to be the most vocal. People are quick to complain, and slow to compliment. It's always easier to speak up when you're upset. So chances are that there are more people in favor of the patch than his numbers show. The CoB poll is probably a little more accurate, but we can't know for sure. The only way we could get reasonably accurate results is if Origin made it mandatory to vote on such a poll through your UO account before being allowed to log-in. However, I am extremely pleased to hear that Tryon didn't get any childish flames, and that many of the letters he received were well thought out and sincere. This gives me some hope.

I'm not specifically defending OSI, nor am I trying to blow holes in the arguments of the strikers. Everyone has their own opinions, and I'm not trying to change anyone's mind. The point I'm making is that I'm going to try to keep having fun, in my own way, and hopefully entertain my most loyal fans at the same time. If other people make a different choice, then all I can say is that I'm sorry to see them go.



I just wanted to give a little bit of an update concerning the so-called UO-Comics strike....

I've received a lot of very positive and sincere e-mail messages in response to my rant concerning my stance in the strike. I just want to thank everyone who wrote. It's nice to know that my effort is appreciated, and it also proves a point that I tried to make. There really are a lot of people with a positive viewpoint towards UO, the patches, and the rep system. The only negative response I got tried to point out that it's not just the reputation system that precipitated the strike, but rather the on-going problems, broken promises, etc. But my rant doesn't just focus on the rep system. It doesn't really matter what the source of your frustration is, it's how you deal with it that counts.

We've seen similar situations in regards to counselors, normal players, website maintainers, and anyone and everyone in the UO community. A lot of people seem to try to get well-known and earn respect for the sole purpose of pushing their views onto others in the form of a dramatic exit. If I ever decide to completely quit UO, or shut down the comics, I will post a message explaining why, but I won't make spiteful attacks, nor will you just end up getting a "404 - File not found" error either.

I think it was well said on the "Lost in UO" site, and on the "Killed on Sight" page... The comics are supposed to be a means to entertain, to make a satirical statement, and to relieve the frustration that many of us face. If anything, flaws in the game give us more material to work with. If you haven't visited either of these two comics sites in a while, please check them out and see what they have to say about this mess.



Skill Interactions (Mar 16, 1998)

Well, I've had a few ideas floating around in my head as to how some of the skill system could be adjusted to help "level the field" so to speak. I think most of you will agree with me that the "tank mages" are a problem. Certainly, people should have the option of being a "mixed class" such that they are both a warrior and a mage. But doesn't it make sense that such a character would not be as good of a mage as a pure mage, or as good of a warrior as a pure warrior? One would think that no matter the ratio of specialization between these two spheres of expertise, the overall effectiveness of the character should be the same. It should not be possible to be *the* best at both.

In most paper/pencil role-playing games, mages are not allowed to wear armor, or they can't wear the heavier types. Also, there are sets of proficiencies or skills, or even skill bonuses that are available only to those of certain classes or with certain stats. No matter how it is achieved, there is always some sort of balancing mechanism that keeps mages from mastering melee combat, and warriors from mastering magery. In several of the games that use a class system, there is often a "paladin" class or something similar which is intended to be a warrior/mage mix. These characters are often very effective and comfortable to play because they have options, but if they were to try to rely only on swordfighting or casting spells against an equal level opponent (i.e. a 10th level paladin uses only spells against a 10th level mage), they would be sure to lose. The strength of the mixed class should lie in their versatility, not their brute strength in any one area.

In UO, since there is just a skill system with linear advancement that is hardly even influenced by the character's stats, and is not influenced by the character's other skills (except via forced atrophy), you *can* be grandmaster level in both fields of expertise. This drives all of the players towards one "ultimate" or "godlike" character profile, with little to no variation (different colored robes don't count as variation in this argument).

Previously I've suggested a method of putting caps on various groupings of skills based on what groupings you chose at character creation, or based on which ones you seem to work towards the most. While this idea would work, it would be very limiting in terms of being able to change professions, and to implement it now with so many well-established characters would certainly cause all hell to be let loose in the UO community (it's the sort of thing that would have needed to have been in place since day one).

Another idea I presented is to limit the types of armor mages can use by having it influence spell effectiveness or mana cost. I'm still in favor of this idea, but by itself it will not reduce the tank-mages to a level equal to the pure classes. It needs something more...

So now I propose a system of skill groupings that influence one another's effectiveness through a set of sliding scales of percentage based penalties and bonuses. Whew, what a mouth full. :-) These sorts of issues can become quite convoluted and complex, so I may have difficulty describing this in a concise and comprehensible manner. But here goes..

The way this would work, is that skills that belong together (such as swordsmanship and tactics), will be considered to be in their own groups. Skills within a group have bonus modifiers on each other (not on the skill level itself, but on the effective level of the skill in determining success probabilities and the like). For instance, lets look at swordsmanship and tactics. These two might each have a possible 5% bonus to each other, based on how high the skill is. For instance, tactics of 0% has a 0% improvement on swordsmanship (and thus no change), whereas 100% tactics would increase swordsmanship by 5%. So in this latter case, if swordsmanship happened to be 50%, it would become 52.5% for success calculations (50 * 1.05), and if it were 95% it would be considered 99.75%.

Different skills might have different influences on each other. For instance, tactics might only have a possible 5% bonus to the weapon skills, but swordsmanship (and the other weapons skills) in turn might have a possible 10% improvement on tactics. The actual strengths of these bonuses would have to be tweaked to find a set of numbers that actually results in a good balance.

More importantly than the bonuses, there would be penalties between "rival" skill groups. For the sake of argument I'll use warrior vs mage skills, since those are the ones that are really driving the need for such balance efforts as these. These penalties would be far greater than the bonuses, on the order of a possible 20% or 30% influence, so we'll assume 25% for the sake of the examples.

Let's say someone has earned 100% in magery, resisting spells, inscription, swordsmanship, tacitcs, and parrying. The key skills generating the penalties in this case are magery and swordsmanship. Each of these would have a 25% penalty from each other, so the effective level of those spells is now down to 75% each. Now we apply the bonuses. Since each of these is getting a 5% bonus from each of two other associated skills, they each get a 10% increase, for a total effective skill level of 85% in magery and swordsmanship. That's not bad, 600 skill points are in use, and the character performs at "adept" level in both disciplines. A mage who has no warrior skills, but 100%'s in all three mage-skills would still operate at 100% (perhaps slightly better, if there is such a thing), and would thus beat the pants off the tank-mage in a spell-for-spell exchange, but the tank-mage has other options and the pure mage does not.

You're probably thinking that you spotted a flaw in my math. Well, you're wrong. :-) The reason that I could add the percentages the way I did is because how many skill points they add and subtract is based upon the original skill level, and are not applied as successive multipliers. Let's represent the original skill (say swordsmanship) as "X", and the resulting skill effectiveness will be "Y". That means that:

Y = X - (X * 0.25) + (X * 0.05) + (X * 0.05)

Since X is 100 in all cases, we can condense it down to:

Y = 100 - 25 + 5 + 5 
Y = 85.

Let's say the tank mage has 80% swords and 80% magery, but still has 100%'s in the other associated skills. This means they only get a 20% penalty on each other instead of 25%, but the bonuses are still 5%:

Y = X - (X * 0.20) + (X * 0.05) + (X * 0.05)
Y = 80 - (80 * 0.20) + (80 * 0.05) + (80 * 0.05)
Y = 80 - 16 + 4 + 4
Y = 72

So a character in this case who has 80% (barely "adept") in both fields of expertise can only hope to be at the low-end of "expert" level at best.

What this means is that those who wish to be a pure mage or pure warrior will stand a chance against those who do both. Now, most people have some combination of both types of skills, and so nearly everyone will suddenly find combat and magery slightly harder to achieve than before. However, the benefit to the game balance is worth it, and of course the damage potential of weapons, spells, and the like can also be adjusted to be more influenced by strength and intelligence respectively to compensate. If done correctly, many people may not even notice the difference when they go to do battle against monsters (asuming those compensatory adjustments are also taken into account), but PvP (player versus player) combat will be greatly affected, and much more fair for everyone.

It's a shame something like this wasn't in place to begin with; It should have been obvious that players would gravititate towards an "all-powerful" profile. *sigh* But OSI has shown that they are willing to make changes. My ideas might not be the ones to get implemented, but that is OK with me. I just want to see the game achieve a higher level of balance. In terms of my own ideas, I'm satisfied as long as my words are heard and reflected upon. :-)

Addendum: (Mar 16, 1998)

I just wanted to make a another comment about this proposed system:

  • The beauty of it is that the penalties become negligible at the lower end of the scale. Let's say you only have 20% in each of magery and swordsmanship, and no other skills to even add a bonus to them in compensation for those penalties. They each only take a 5% loss (assuming a possible 25% maximum), and 5% of 20 is 1, so each of those skills would still operate at 19%!


More Thoughts (Mar 13, 1998)

As is often the case, I have many small issues of which I have taken notice, and thus I like to just put them forth all at once in a single article. This is one of the cases in which the intended audience is shifted more towards OSI, as it takes the form of suggestions and ideas. However, please keep in mind that none of my articles are meant to exclude anyone, and are targetted towards anyone interested in UO and who wish to see it improve.

One issue I always seem to have something to comment on is the undead. In this case, the player ghosts. I would really like to see ghosts become translucent, though I am quite glad to see that they now vanish properly when invisible, and it looks like the auto-manifesting may now be functional as well. Translucency would help greatly, I believe, because ghosts still look like people wearing robes. :-)

Using InsideUO I have been able to see that there are many things included graphically that are not available in the game, and many of these things are actually functional as far as the client is concerned. For instance, using UOX (and presumably with FUSE as well), you can actually wear leather caps, and some types of tunics and surcoats that simply can't be found within UO. I have to wonder why! These things would add more detail to the game, and they're functional, so why have they been neglected as such? There's also a second type of long spear in existence, as well as all the 3D graphics necessary for the spellbooks to be equipped in either hand (I don't remember if the 2D art for the paperdoll exists for the spellbooks, but it does exist for the other things). As I once suggested before, perhaps the second type of spear could be implemented as a type that can easily be made from wood by using a dagger (perhaps by using the dagger on "fallen logs" or something equally easy to find in the woods). This would have the side-effect of allowing some self-sufficiency for wilderness-types, as they could make their own simpe melee weapon (of course, I think you should be able to simply equip a log and have it turn into a club, one with no value so you can't sell it to the shops in town).

Another thing that I find interesting is that if you ride a horse in UOX, it shows the correct horse type underneath you. In UO, it always seems to use the same horse type for riding, no matter which type it actually is (there are about 4 different appearances that horses have). Why can UOX get it right but not UO?

There are two different drinking sound effects used for drinking ale and other beverages. One is a sort of slurping sipping sound. The other goes more like "glug glug glug ahh!" Well, in the latter the "ahh!" sound is always female, no matter the gender of the drinker. It has been this way since about half-way through the beta. Prior to that, there were both male and female versions. Why was this changed? I've often been surprised at how things get "broken" in the game that once worked correctly.

Unfortunately, the death animation sequences and sound effects that are available aren't used. For instance, when someone dies, you just see the corpse appear instantly, but the animation for the guy falling over into that position exists. Also, monsters do the same thing, but in their case I don't remember hearing their deathcries (which I also have found using InsideUO). In fact, there are corpse positions for every one of the 8 possible directions that you can face, but only one angle is used, no matter how you died. I think enabling the various corpse and death artwork would help add some variety.

Something else I've found odd is that sound effects exist in the game for some creatures that aren't even used. Case in point: water elementals. They use those weird chirping sounds just because those are the first ones in the number system they're using (starting at 0). But water elementals do actually have their own set of sound effects, they just simply don't use them. How odd!

Learning by watching has annoyed many people who have had their primary skills atrophy because of it. My suggestion is to make learning by watching capped at around 15% (so any skill over 15 will not improve by watching). Also, I would make it automatically shut off altogether if the character is at or above the total skill cap, that way atrophy due to it will no longer be an issue. That way, learning by watching can be kept, and limit the negative impact that it has often had.

Unfortunately tank mages still seem to be the "ultimate form" in the game. While the classless system is an interesting idea, it has the unfortunate side-effect of driving everyone towards the same form, a character that masters both fighting and magery, wears full-plate, and swings a halberd or viking sword w/ heater shield. *yawn* One thing that could be done to encourage people to choose one or the other to focus in primarily (not necessarily to the full exclusion of the other) through an introduced trade-off would be to make armor have effects on the effectiveness of spellcasting. In general, I think that players should be able to cast spells while wearing full plate, but at a severe cost. I would like to see more of the serious mages wearing chainmail, or even dropping down to the various forms of leather armor. If they're trying to be primarily warriors, then their spells just simply shouldn't be as effective as those cast from someone who is focusing mostly on magery. It has been suggested before in various forms, but here's a few different ways in which it could be implemented:

  • Metal could negatively impact spell effects, such that leather and bone armor have no impact at all. Studded leather would have a slight impact, and ringmail slightly more. Chainmail would have a moderate impact, and platemail a *massive* impact. Bone offers good protection, and has no impact, but since it is rare and can't be repaired, that's the price that is paid for its use. How the impact could be handled in several ways:

    • Capping the effective magery level. This is not an actual cap on how high you can learn magery, but rather on how high it is considered to be for the purposes of the spell. For instance, your magery might be 95%, but counted as no higher than 50% if you're wearing full plate. This way, apprentice mages and grandmaster mages are identical in magery ability if they're both wearing full plate.

    • Skill level modifier. Have a flat number subtracted from magery based on armor, or a multiplier. Perhaps with full plate, you would get 50% of your actual magery level, so a grandmaster would have 50%, and an apprentice would have an effective 25%.

    • Mana usage adjustment. This is probably my favorite. Basically, the amount of mana used for a spell would be affected by the armor worn. The excuse is that metal absorbs/dissipates the ethereal energy as the spell is formed, thus causing the mage to have to expend more energy to get the desired result. Perhaps studded leather would only increase the mana cost of the spell by 1 point, and full plate would double the mana cost. Chainmail might increase the mana cost by 25%. Personally I like this one the best because many "tank mages" often use lower-circle spells anyway. If they want to overcome their mana penalties, they need higher intelligence, something which true mages will have in abundance. True mages should always be more powerful at magery than the "mixed classes".

So far, alchemy has never truly been a viable profession. It has only been something that warriors pick up along the way to make potions for themselves. It's a shame that such a noble science has degraded to that level! The primary reason alchemy doesn't work well, is that when you buy bottles and reagents, the best you can hope for in selling the potions is a break-even amount. You can't earn a profit, except under very rare conditions. And some potions require a minimum of 2 or 3 reagents each, or the reagents cost more than 3 gold each, and in those cases you will take a loss in selling the potions. For this reason I believe that the bottles should cost about half what they do now, the finished potions should be worth slightly more, and the value of the potion should be based on the number and type of reagents used to make them. Also, it would be nice if the potion creation menus would tell you how many reagents would be required for each type of potion that you can choose from, and it would be nice if you could tell by clicking on a potion whether it is a lesser or greater version of that potion (or make Taste-ID practical for that use, but that shouldn't be necessary if you're the one who made the potion). Of course, one down-side to making alchemy a viable money-making profession is that it could cause some reagent shortages, which leads me to the next idea...

Once again, I really feel that there should be a way to harvest reagents from the wild. The current "spawning" of reagents is not adequate, and not very realisticly handled. The artwork exists for the plants (such as ginseng plants) and the like, so let's put them to use! In the past I suggested making a new skill, perhaps herbalism. But I think making it part of the alchemy skill would work better. Perhaps your alchemy skill would determine your aptitude at finding reagents with a shovel, and for things like the ginseng and nightshade plants, your skill might determine how many viable individual reagents you can extract from the plant (perhaps by simply using a dagger on it). As I've stated in the past, the reagents should be restricted to different regions appropriate to what they are. Perhaps mandrake in the swamps, nightshade in the forests, sulphurous ash in the mountains, etc. This would make alchemy extremely useful for mages, and would also help to make it a viable profession without causing shortages. This would also allow for the possibility of mages who can "live off the land". Personally, I feel that reagents shouldn't be the make-all or break-all of magery, but still an important part of the practice of magic.

Well, that's basically it for now. I still have some ideas for dealing with skills in general to improve diversity and discourage people from being a tank mage. These ideas a similar to ones I have posted before, and are not intended to completely eliminate the tank mage, just make it so that tank mages are not the ultimate form of character. Anyway, these ideas should appear in another article at a later time. Thanx for reading. :-)


Good Change, Bad Change (Feb 24, 1998)

What exactly constitutes a "good change" or a "bad change" to the game? Many would think that a "good change" is one that somehow improves the game, and a "bad change" is one that damages the game. Apparently this would seem not to be the case. While any given patch can not easily be described in terms of black and white, but rather some sort of grey, the activity on the message boards would seem to indicate that "no patch is a good patch".

Part of the problem is the perspective of the people involved. Most of the players (and to some extent OSI as well) are used to single-player games, and often approach the problems in UO from that viewpoint. However many of the players behave muh like the citizens in a community in real life, in that they want everything to work their way. This reminds me of the age old arguments of needing more government support, but in turn higher taxes would be required. Unfortunately there is rarely a balance that will appease everyone.

But another aspect of this situation is the way in which the game is being created and changed. The bank-box fiasco is a very good example. During the beta test, and the first several weeks of the full release there were no bank boxes. You would have to sell everything you found in order to be able to keep your assets safe, since only gold could be stored securely in the bank. Everything else you either had to carry around with you, or put in a house (which is not secure either), or put on a "mule" character (which was a pain because it required the help of a friend). When the bank boxes were added, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and started using it happily. At the time, there was no limit on what or how much you could store. Now limits have been imposed, and are slowly being made more and more restrictive, so the populace complains. Now for a moment, imagine how different it would have been if the bank boxes were initially instituted with a 100-item and 400-stone limit. Would people have complained? Maybe a little, but not much. The bank box would still be a godsend. People would still use some mules and their houses, but the addition of a bank box in which you could store a few extra reagents and recall runes and maybe a weapon or two would have been a godsend in the eyes of most, despite the limitation, simply because nothing like it had existed yet.

There's an important distinction to be noted in that example. When something is "given" or added to the game, and then taken away or restricted, people will complain. For instance, there are already people complaining about the possibility of adding "natural disasters" to take away boats and tents (though it is probably a good thing if you think globally), as well as the addition of stat-loss for all deaths, and the continued decrease of storage capacity on vendors and bank boxes. Actually, when I first started playing UO back in Beta-2, I was initially surprised at how loosely a few things were dealt with. I fully expected stat/skill losses for every death.

I remember having similar problems when I ran my BBS a long time ago. It is very hard to take things away from people once you have given it to them, so the lesson is to make things restrictive from the start, and then slowly lessen the limitations when possible. While the end result will be the same, the perception of the people affected by these changes will be a positive one rather than a negative view.

However, it's not completely up to OSI to hand-hold everyone through these changes. In many cases a lot of the players have a lot of room to be a little more open-minded. Sometimes thinking about how something affects you and only you will only serve to make you angry. :-)



= Ed T. Toton III / NecroBones Enterprises / Contact
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