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Gamer's Life: From the Archives

(all articles written by T. Rob Brown, aka Chokra Broodslayer)

Gamer’s Life
Originally published Wednesday, March 17, 1999, in the Branson (Mo.) Tri-Lakes Daily News

Online graphical gaming is a nearly-unique experience

By T. Rob Brown
(aka Chokra Broodslayer)

This weekend, for the first time, I joined an online graphical game, whose owners proclaim it hosts more than 100,000 gamers a day.

I’ve played numerous online games before, many of them text-based, such as MUDs (Multi-User Domains). These Internet locales feature traditional role-playing, where you pretend to be a character (of course many of the people on it are just chatting and don’t truly role-play their character).

In the tradition of fantasy/Medieval games, MUDs feature a variety of character races including humans, dwarves, elves, Halflings, and so on. They also include a variety of classes such as warriors, magicians (also known as mages), thieves, clerics (also known as priests), and so on.

People have been playing MUDs since before the Internet’s popularity really hit the Midwest. I started playing on them back in 1995, I believe. There are only three bad things about them.

1. They are addictive. In the pursuit of improving your character with higher levels and better skills, it takes a great amount of time. For instance, I created a giant warrior called Chokra Broodslayer on one MUD and eventually reached Level 104 or so in the game. Playing most days for at least a few hours, it might take a newbie (new player) at least 6 months to attain that. Once you’re experienced and know the ins and outs of the MUD, it takes much less time. All MUDs vary in difficulty.
2. The traditional MUDs are all text-based. Newer ones are called graphical MUDs, although they’re not truly MUDs anymore. They do not reside in the MUD domain on the Internet and are not accessible with normal MUD clients (shareware programs such as zMUD, which you use to get access and to play on MUDs).
3. MUDs have lag. Lag is created by a multiple of sources. It is often encountered over many facets of the Internet, depending on which servers information is routed through. There are utilities you can use to tell how many Internet hops data takes when it travels to a destination and how long each hop took, plus the hops and times when it comes back. This is also called a ping time, or latency. Another reason for lag is the number of users on a given MUD. Some MUDs will limit the number of users allowed to prevent this contribution to lag. A third source of lag is the speed of the computer and server of the MUD itself is running on. If that computer or its bandwith is slow, the MUD will run slow.

Well, enough about the old MUDs. The newer craze in online gaming are the graphical games. This weekend, I tried out Ultima Online (UO). I had passed on the somewhat popular Meridian 59. UO is very complex and takes a while to get used to, but it’s a lot of fun for people who like the fantasy/Medieval environment.

In many respects, it starts out fairly realistic. The graphics are up to modern standards and the towns fit right in with what one would expect to see, say in Medieval England. The only thing one might think is fantasy would be the magic shop in town.

Basically, it’s an online community, based in the past. You start out with basic skills and improve those you use. Skills can be as common as cooking or fishing or might be as complex as sword fighting and using magic.

If you plan to play this game or one of the many like it, be sure you have at least a couple hours at a time to play because it’s very time consuming.

One drawback to this new online graphical gaming is you must purchase the software. These games run anywhere from $30 to $50 new. Often, they include the first month of service – some offer free online gaming. It seems like most of the ones that do charge a monthly fee are about $10 per month or less and sometimes have special offers.

Another thing to consider if you play these online games is, “Don’t trust anyone!” Many of the gamers are true role-players – if they play a thief, they will steal everyone blind. Just by standing next to you, they can rip you off without you knowing.

Just Sunday, I was playing UO with a couple guys I know in real life, who used to work at another newspaper with me. We were out in the woods outside on of the many towns in the game. A guy came up to us, all friendly like, and asked us if we needed help. He was polite and everything, but after he left my friend said all his arrows were gone and we had to spend about 20 minutes creating new arrows (Yes, you can buy them in town too, but that costs gold pieces! Plus, it’s more realistic to make them.).

There are also PK (player kill) fanatics to watch out for. They wait out in the woods outside town and kill newbies for their gold and stuff. Remember, there’s safety in numbers. I try to only go into the woods with allies or near the edge, where I can run back into town quickly. If they attack you in town, you can call the guards on them. There is a bank to deposit your gold in so you can go back to town after your character is resurrected.

What I like most about this game is that it’s not generic. You don’t just have the traditional roles of fighter, magic user, thief and cleric. For instance, my friend has a blacksmith character. He can create armor and metal weapons. Mine is a lumberjack and bower/fletcher. He can chop trees, make bows and arrows and recently learned to create crossbows. You can sell this stuff to make gold at the shops in town.

If you happen to be a UO player, look for me online the Lake Superior location. My character’s name is Chokra. Just keep in mind, I don’t speak about the real world online – it’s an escape.

Hasta la vista.


[Editor's Note: Edits for grammar, punctuation, artifacts, and syntax made to press releases by GamingNews Editor T. Rob Brown,]

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