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Sierra Online's 'The Realm', May 5th, 1996 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: May 5th, 1996
"Sierra Online's 'The Realm'" [permalink]
    keywords: Sierra Online, The Realm, online gaming, RPG, MMORPG, games, Internet, ImagiNation Network, INN, The Sierra Network, TSN
    soapbox #: 31
    written: May 5th, 1996
    words: 983

"Sierra Online's 'The Realm'", an Essay

This week's soapbox has been submitted by Xeus, my character on The Realm. I let him write about The Realm basically because he is more entertaining to listen to and he's just too headstrong to pass up.

Hi all. :> I figured this week I would point out many of the flaws that I see developing in Sierra's new online game, The Realm. To be completely honest though, most of the flaws come from the people who play it, not the programmers.

The Realm started early in the year and I started playing about two or so months ago. Whenever it was, I was one of the first hundred to try it out. The place had a lot of potential and it seemed as if players from The Sierra Network/ImagiNation Network finally had a great place to meet again. But oh hoh, 'twas not to be!

Perhaps one of the most obvious problems was that The Realm was being run by people who weren't sure how to handle the project. They opened The Realm to general alpha testing prematurely, so all these people had nothing to do but sit around and complain. Furthermore, as is always the case, new code brought new bugs and more complainers.

If I were to compare Sierra On-Line's job with Origin's Ultima Online job, I'd say Origin's was a LOT more professional. I alpha tested Ultima Online for the short time it was up and they had plenty of things to do, like work on skills (steal, battle, magic), buy clothes, and kill monsters. Sure, they found some major bugs and had problems with game balance, but that's part of testing. They knew what they were doing, and it showed. The Realm, however, has too many people playing it with not enough things to do. There are two rooms or so where the special objects are, so imagine 200 people fighting to get the objects before anyone else. It's maddening! In my apathy, I stopped trying to get the good clothes and objects a long time ago. :>

The Realm also did not anticipate the problems they'd have with controlling people. Since The Realm's graphical niceties appeal to kids, we get a lot of young schmucks who can't help but say "shit" every time they open their mouths. Granted, many people who use obscene language and improper subject matter on The Realm are also college kids, but I'd say the majority is from teenagers. The Realm was unequipped, so they had to rush to come up with ways to punish people (but by then, it was chaotic). They installed a /smite feature, which kicked people off the system. Unfortunately, the person could come right back and harass the god who /smited him. Now gods have abilities to remove channels, ignore people, and throw them in rooms with no exits. But it took a LONG time to get those features.

MUDs, the text-based games on the Internet, came well-equipped to handle the troublemakers. With features like nochannel, freeze (the player can't move), ban (bans a site like Netcom), and disconnect (disconnects someone from the MUD so there's time to take more permanent action), troublemakers were more efficiently disposed of. And these MUDs are written by college folks, not professional programmers...*chuckle*

And then the programmers decided to pick players to be gods so they could enforce the (non-existent) rules (btw, it's hard to enforce something if you have no law to back you) while the programmers worked on coding. Now I don't know how the gods were picked, but it seemed to me to be a popularity contest. Those who were around often and were members of the same clique got to be gods. As history has shown, this is the worst possible thing one can possibly do! Within a matter of days, those gods who couldn't handle the job showed how impetuous and unfit they were for the job. DAmSeL is perhaps the best example, reducing herself to doing the same things the offenders did. A goddess must be ready to accept and dispel complaints, but she didn't do that.

Also, these elected gods took it upon themselves to abuse the powers they had. Gods have a /gold command which allows them to create gold. They began giving this gold out to friends (read, members of cliques). This smacks of favoritism. It's not fair for those with powers to give stuff to only their friends. On MUDs, favoritism is expressly illegal.

As I'm Xeus and my arrogance allows me to say such things, I'll admit that Jerrith is perhaps one of the most vain people I've ever met. :> Okay, he has the best Realm info page out there, but he gets his info by hobnobbing with the programmers. ;> His page has all the information except links to other peoples' pages. Poor guy, doesn't want to lose visitors, I guess. And his hitcount summary page is the epitome of self-indulgence. :> He has a fast link and takes the good objects, so he can pass them out to other people. Is this a publicity stunt or what? Why not leave the objects so other people can find them for themselves? What Jerrith does is take the objects and pass them out in the name of "charity." *guffaw*

All in all, I think gods will eventually evolve into good ones after rules and commands are implemented, and the game itself will eventually become fun and balanced. But The Realm has taken the hard route, and taking that road may hurt it in the end, when it starts to charge for its product.

Flames can be sent to me, where they will be picked apart and dissipated. This is Xeus, signing off. :>



 
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