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A review, based on the R7 "Contest" invite. Warning - possible adult language involved.


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Yes, in advance.  I realize this is touted as a pre-alpha 'release'.

 

1)  Release is an inappropriate term,  This was an 'invitation' of sorts to a sneak look at a closed community - an invitation to the first 1000 people that clicked on a link and were lucky enough to be chosen.  More on that later.

 

2) 'Pre-alpha' is a deceptive term - just because they choose to use that term doesn't make it factual, especially when compared to other products at the same stage of production.  To me, pre-alpha denotes nothing more than proof of concept.  This is well beyond that stage, with pretty much all systems inserted except PVP, and lets face it - they still haven't gotten that installed properly in his first online project, let alone his newest.

 

  • No, alchemy and cooking aren't in yet.  The rest of the crafting system is, and choosing from the menu is pretty much universal, as is harvesting of resources.  You already kill animals for hides, so meat is no stretch to add to the loot table, and you already chop down trees, harvest cotton and dig ore/crystals, so again, nothing new.
  • No, the crafting skill tree isn't installed yet, but the combat system is - and from what I've read, it's a matter of removing a couple of comment markers in the code, and it's ready to go.
  • No, PvP isn't in yet, and they still (supposedly) haven't decided how to deal with death, and the bitching over full loot vs a proposed 'gear hostage' system is heating up their forums.  As I said above, they still haven't got PvP correct after almost 18 years on his first child - and by 18, you'd think someone would have managed to steer the child in the proper direction, even if it is, at this point, step-parents handling the job.
  • And, beyond the name, where in "New Britannia" is the storyline?  How does this tie in to anything concerning the Avatar?  EA may own the Ultima franchise, and Jeff Skalski may have been allowed to masturbate all over it with the circle jerk that was Ultima Forever, but Garriott created the Avatar - created the story.  Where's Tracy Hicks?  He's supposed to be on board, doing story... there is NO story.

 

Graphically, it's very much like Ultima 9, although the tones were a bit darker.  The perspective is 3rd person, and although not as tightly wound as, say, Dead Space, to me, it's still annoying.  That 3/4, over the shoulder thing works fine for games like Ultima Online, in the 2d client.  In 3d, it sucks, and for immersion, it sucks even worse.  You ARE the Avatar in these games.  It's supposed about YOUR experience in the world, and not some familiar riding on your shoulder.  It's my opinion that 3rd person has been the demise of modern gaming, but that's mostly my opinion.  As long as people still buy 3rd person games, they're going to continue to be made.  Anyway...

 

The housing choices aren't bad - they aren't great, but they aren't bad.  The buildings are very generic, and in a sense, that's a good thing, especially with what we have experienced on occasion in UO (yes, there are a lot of comparisons being made.  They are, after all, both his children, and supposedly being made in the same spirit).  But, on the other hand, there's very little individuality.  The deco somewhat generic, and again, that's a good thing and a bad thing.  It's all work-a-day stuff, that's mostly realistic looking, and not some of the garish neon stuff we're used to.  There also seems to be no way to individualize things.  Just because I have a wood bench doesn't mean I can't have a red wood bench, or green, or blue, or whatever.  If I can have blue trim on my house, or red trim, then I can have red or blue furniture.  Generic works - it really does.  Cookie cutter doesn't.

 

Combat is standard, generic MMO hack and slash, with some hot-key 'special' moves.  Nothing great, nothing bad.  It works.  I didn't have time to check out the magic system.  Honestly, I spent most of my time figuring out the housing and crafting systems - that's what's important to me in these types of games.  Odds are, it will be standard MMO fireball fireball heal fare.  There's absolutely nothing to indicate that this game will have the depth and breadth of Ultima Online as far as combat, skill sets, or magic is concerned - and by today's standards, UO is sub-generic.  However, much like Ultima Online, the game feels like it's very heavily ping dependent.  And in this day and age, that's stupid.  Nobody makes a multi-player game that's highly dependent on latency.  Nobody.

 

They are also going to have to a far better job at providing bandwidth.  It's obvious they're planning on multiple thousands of people - they just invited 1000 non-backers to take a look over a 4 day period... yet the best download speed for the client that I got was a little better than 300k... or 'standard' dsl speed.  And that wasn't average - just peak.  That won't work.  Nor will the non-obvious P2P switch for distributing the client.  Activision/Battlenet may be able to get away with that crap for D3 and WoW, but at least it's front page, and not on an options page.  Bandwidth isn't free, and people deal with data caps - and with the vast majority of people being on asynch systems, if you flood your outbound pipe, you'll freeze your inbound, making transfers take even longer.  And there's no indication on if this runs while your actually playing in game - again, bad juju on a latency dependent game.

 

Back on June 16th, Plantronics,  a company that's partnered with SotA, announced a 'contest' for 1000 people to get 'early access codes' for this latest release.  It was a very nice gesture, although the execution was sort of screwed up.  You see, there was no early access code.  There's no codes, period.  It's all based on subscriptions, and e-mail addresses.  And once the release went live, guess what - those of us that had 'won' weren't put in to the system.  (Long story - see my post about the new boss being the same as the old boss).  Short story - they hadn't bothered following through, and it took some irate posts on Facebook and a screenshot to prove they hadn't done it - 8-10 hours after it going live.

 

I'll be forthright - I went into this with low expectations.  I appreciate all of RG's prior works.  I can't stand RG.  He's an egomaniac who will, ultimately, break his own arm patting himself on the ass.  I played the original Ultima's before many of the current generation of gamers were even born.  That being said, he hasn't put out a truly decent product since U7, and his participation in that project was minor.  U8 was a flop, and U9 was a complete and total waste of time, talent and programming, and reading history from people that weren't RG pretty much indicates that the problems between he and EA on that project were mostly one sided, and it wasn't EA's side.  I won't say I was pleasantly surprised with this offering.  I wasn't, and I'm not.  It's UO lite, with prettier graphics.  There's nothing to indicate that will change.

 

Perhaps the most disheartening thing, to me, has been the actual community.  I've spent a fair amount of time over on the SotA forums, observing.  And, as no great surprise, there's a giant sense of entitlement there.  There's been a huge discussion over house placement, timing, etc, and the people that feel they have 'spent' the most money on the game are the most deserving.  I'm not sure why people who participate in kickstarters for MMO's feel they have this sense of entitlement, while those who invest in single player projects don't.  It's the same amount of money - often times far greater (SotA isn't even close to the top 10 of software kickstarters, let alone all time).  This isn't all inclusive - there are a number of backers who are unhappy with the current layout, and even more upset over the new stretch goals, and the store - something which wasn't even in the picture in the beginning.

 

My final conclusion, on a product that hasn't even been finished:

 

I won't be paying $45 or up to be a backer.  It requires a donation of at least $500 to have a SHOT at getting a decent housing plot.  Seriously.  And that may well go up.  I won't be purchasing it retail, for much the same reason.  As is pretty much the standard with most M/MO's, housing is mandatory, and much like the telestorm sessions when housing went live in UO, your actual chance of getting a house with just a retail purchase is pretty much nil.  And I hate that they're still running on the lie that UO is the longest running MMO in history - it isn't.  Sorry,   There are at least 5 others that can make a more proper claim on that title.  The game will be released - of that there's no doubt.  And it will either go completely p2w, or go subscription, or go down the tubes.  And that's within the first (being generous) 18 months.  But don't worry - I see emulators out far more quickly than that.  Although I'm not sure why anyone would bother.

 

Sorry, folks - this game is a complete and total pass.  Too much poison, from too many directions, and too few potions.  But it *MIGHT* last longer than Tabula Rasa... then again, it may not.  It's not that it's terrible.  It's not.  It's just not good, even if certain websites are busy falling all over themselves about how great it is.

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I have no real expectations from Sota.

Might give it a try and maybe some emulations might be good if the standard game is too generic.

 

I think Garriot will cash in nicely with this game and nice for him.

I just hope  it is at least semi decent and fun :P

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 months later...

Im a backer and will keep it short. I am growing increasingly more concerned and I feel the OP hit the nail on the head with a number of issues. I got swept in with the hype after swearing off MMORPGs for some time as I was burned out (mainly from supporting other indy projects with similar claims and visions) and felt the market overall had lots its way hard. I really hope RG pulls it off but I am extremely concerned with some of the attitudes, side politics, and borderline deceptive practices that seem to be creeping to the surface now that I have done my homework.

 

Ho hum. Here's hoping,

 

Crimson

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