Warning: this is a *long* article, and has a lot of graphics, so it might take a while to download fully. You've been warned...
Additional Note: This article is still pretty rough, there are facts that I still have yet to fully verify, and probably some spelling/grammar mistakes. Email me if you think there's something I need to correct.
I have been playing Role Playing Games (RPG) since the very early days, when D&D came in a little box with a couple of cheesy manuals, and paper 'chits' instead of dice. Between all of the negative press that RPG's received, my moving from state to state when I was a teenager, I kind of fell out of the RPG thing. Then I discovered computer RPG's. I got involved with computers back in the days of CP/M, when a diskette was 8 1/2 inches across, and 64Kb of RAM was considered a lot.
There used to be an old adventure game on our CP/M machine called, (duh!) Adventure, which has found its way onto every computer platform on Earth. Following Adventure were games like the Zork series from Infocom, Wizardry, Might and Magic, Bard's Tale, Ultima, and the AD&D series by SSI (there are others of course, but I am getting old and senile). The down side to these early RPG's was that they were pretty much designed as single player games (though you could sit multiple people around the keyboard if you dared). While these games were fun, without real life person-to-person interaction, it just wasn't quite the same as the 'ol days when I'd gather around the table with 4 or 5 of my good friends and spend the night sucking down sodas, eating pizza, and furiously shaking the 20 sided dice, hoping that that this slash would be the one to send the troll's head rolling.
Enter multiplayer RPG's. Within the last few years, several games have come out that allow you to hook up with other real life players around the world, and socialize while killing monsters with nasty big pointy teeth. Yeah, I know that MUDs (Multi User Dimensions), MOOs. MUSHs and the like have been around since the early days (almost as long as the original Adventure game), but until around the early '90's when the mostly university and research based Internet became known as the 'Information Superhighway', very few people were able to experience these games (there were also BBS based multiplayer based MUDs for a long time, but they generally were somewhat limited, since all the players had to be in the same area code or suffer extreme long distance rates).
If you aren't already familiar with the games listed above (and maybe even if you are), you will want to click on either the picture, or the hyperlinked text to go to the description of each of the games. Note that these links go to separate individual reviews from the comparison that continues below. If you hate waiting for downloads, you should be able to stop your browser from loading pictures, and still read the comparison)
I'm actually not going to compare the three games here, since Discworld is a text only game, and the other two are very graphics and sound intensive. For information on graphics, check the individual reviews.
The requirements for Discworld are minimal, which makes it a great choice even for those who don't own a top notch system. All that you need to play is a system with Internet connectivity, and telnet support (you can even play on a university dumb terminal if any of them still have those). Any modem faster than 9600 bps should give you satisfactory performance. Third party MUD clients will make matters a little more palatable, as they generally have ANSI color support, and allow you to customize buttons, aliases, etc.
You'll need at least a P133+ capable system with Windows 95, 16-32 Mb of RAM, a 28.8 Kbps modem, CD-ROM drive, and between 250 and 500+ MB of disk space(!). The reason for the huge disk requirement is that because there are so many customizable items in the game (clothing, armor, weapons, player bought houses, etc), the game needs to be able to load them up very quickly, otherwise players will appear on the screen naked (woohoo!) until the game can load up the graphics for their clothes and armor and stuff. I'm not sure that this should take up 250+ Megs, but I have played the game in both 250, and 500 MB installs (I use the latter now), and the game does run much faster at 500 MB. The upshot is that at 500 MB, you don't need the CD in the drive anymore.
To play Diablo with decent performance, you will need a P133+ (even though the box says it runs on a 60Mhz system), Windows 95, 16 MB of RAM, a 14.4 Kbps or faster modem, CD-ROM drive, and only a few megabytes, where the patched exe, a dll or two, and your saved games reside.
Discworld uses a text entry interface for game commands and
actions (i.e. up, down, east, west, kill, etc - there are something like 300 commands in
all, not counting 'emotes'). In order to reduce typing, one can create aliases for
commonly used actions, like:
alias A attack $arg:heric$;concentrate on $arg:heric$; impale $arg:heric$ with $arg2:katana$ which can be used as:
A , or A conina daggers
which would in the first case, attack heric with a katana held in your hands, or in the second case, attack Conina the Barbarian(good luck) with a set of daggers you have equipped in your hands, and then attempt a special move called an impale, which should inflict massive damage on them if it is successful..
You can also use MUD clients like GMUD, to set up aliased buttons within the client interface. If you look at the picture above, you can see that I have buttons assigned for some of my most used commands, like cure light wounds (clw), drink a green healing potion, or changing fighting tactics.
One item you should be aware of, programs like GMUD have the ability to use 'triggers', which automatically respond to text that comes up on the screen (i.e. when someone tickles me, I could have GMUD give them a wet willy, though there are less ethical uses of triggers out there). Most MUDs have strict rules against the use of triggers, as they are considered bad form to automate the gaming process so much. The difference between triggers and aliases is slim, pretty much only being that you still must manually activate an alias, while a trigger could allow a player to automatically play the game, while off doing something else.
If you are going to use triggers, use them for something innocuous as I have. I have GMUD play a unique .wav file anytime someone I know has logged into the game, so if I'm looking away from the screen, or in the middle of combat (where text scrolls by too quick to read sometimes), I will still hear the sound being played, and be informed that one of my bestest buddies has logged on (you know who you are). Using triggers to automate actual gameplay can (and has) gotten players severely penalized, or even banned from the game, so take my advice, DON'T DO IT!
UO is a GUI system, allowing players to access all functions in the game with a mouse, or with hot key combos. For instance, to attack a creature, one might hit alt-c to enter combat mode, and then click on the player/monster you wish to attack. UO also allows players to set up macros within the game, similar to aliases in Discworld, assigning them to any unused key combo.
There are third party macro programs that work similar to triggers listed above, and can automate game functions (keystrokes every n seconds, etc). While this is still considered bad form, and even cheating, it is perfectly legal within UO to do this (though to Origin's credit, they have been working to make this more difficult to do). Please do not use one of these auto key programs however, it is not only unfair to the other players who actually take time to play the game themselves, but I believe ruins much of the fun of the game. After all, you bought the game to play it, not to let the computer play it for you.
|Equipping items is as simple as opening your player's
'paperdoll', and dragging the item onto it. Using this method, one can equip/de-equip
weapons, clothing, armor, jewelry, etc. There is also what looks like a spellbook on the
lower left of the screen, but which, in fact, brings up your web browser, and launches
Origin's UO help page.
Using this drag and drop system, players can customize their character's looks by mixing colorful (or dull) combinations of robes, cloaks, dresses, pants, shirts, vests, footwear, headwear, jewelry, armor, and weapons. This allows players to give themselves a unique look for themselves, create uniforms for their guild, disguise themselves (thieves and pks do this a lot), etc.
You can get a player's name and notoriety by clicking on them, or pull up their 'paperdoll' (shown to the left), to get even more info, like what they are wearing and holding. It is possible to wear a robe over armor to keep people from knowing what you are wearing (and perhaps targetting you for your valuable armor). For instance, looking at Ajarel's 'paperdoll' to the left, you cannot tell that she is wearing a magic chain tunic, and magic chauses (leggings) underneath her red robe..
|As you can see in the picture here, you can drag items out onto the screen as free floating objects (note the closed backpack in the upper left, the 'paperdoll' character button in the upper right, skills button in the lower left, etc, etc). In the bottom center of the picture, Ajarel (my alchemist) has her reagent pouch open, and can walk around with the pack floating over the rest of the screen. This is handy in that it allows you to configure your interface however it suits you. You can make it as clean, or as cluttered as you like.|
Diablo's interface is even simpler than Ultima Online. You click on a person to talk to them, click on a monster to attack it, right click on potions or scrolls to activate them, or drag an item onto a 'paperdoll' of yourself to equip it (sorry, no picture of the paperdoll, I'm out of disk space on this site). There are separate popup screens for character info, spells, and inventory. You also have 8 quick access slots to place potions and scrolls in, and one quick access spell slot, that you can pick from your spell book. All you need to do is either right click on the slot, or press the number key associated with the slot to activate it. Health and mana are displayed on left (blue) and right (red) globes on the screen.
The paperdoll system is not as well implemented in Diablo as it is in UO however, as there are only about 3 costumes available for each character class (low or unarmored, medium armor, heavy armor). So if you've got 4 Rogues playing in the game, you will get very frustrated trying to figure out who is who.
The game world is pretty big, it can take a long time to traverse from one side of the Disc to the other, so much so that there are carriages for the common person to ride, places that can teleport you to far away lands for a price (vacation to Klatch anyone?), and those that dabble in magic can send themselves to a previously remembered position. There are environments ranging from cities, to forests, mountains, deserts, jungle, and even the underworld. The nice thing about Discworld over UO and Diablo is that the world is under constant development, and as such new areas are being added from time to time.
The time scale is about 4:1, in that 4 days of game time equal approx 1 day of real time (~6 hours per game day).
There are typically around 50-75 users playing at any one time.
The world in UO is immense, such that it takes over an hour of brisk walking to walk from tip to tip of Britannia (this doesn't count the other islands and such that are scattered about the world). While this may not seem like much (avg. walking speed of 3-5 mph x 1 hr = ~3-5 mi.), it is more than sufficient to convey a sense of a very large space. If it took you several real-time days to get from town to town, you'd go batty trying to role-play a merchant, or search the world for rare reagents. Even as it is it is plenty big, and you can get lost if you don't have a map handy. Higher level players use gate and recall scrolls to instantly take them to the desired location. The downside is that the world is static in the sense that you won't find any new islands (unless Origin writes some big patches), however, an interesting phenomenon has been occurring within the game. A number of players have banded together and built their houses (yes, you can build houses/inns/shops in this game) together to form new player run cities. Certainly an interesting development.
The time scale in UO is about 12:1, so that 12 days of game time elapse for each day of real time (~2 hours per game day).
It is not uncommon to have over 3,000 users on a game server at any one time (there are 10 regular servers, and two test servers).
The 'world' as it stands is one town. You can't leave it, you are stuck in the same town for eternity. The dungeon however is pretty darn big, and every time you start a new game, it shuffles the dungeon around, so there is some variation when you play. Supposedly in Diablo 2, you will be able to travel between a few towns, encounter monsters along the way, as well as venture into several different dungeons.
There is no time scale available in Diablo, as it is always night.
Diablo only supports 4 player online games, but for what it does, 4 players is enough.
Experience is gained for solving quests, killing monsters, and to a small part, staying alive. Advancement on the Disc occurs one of two ways, training (which uses experience points, and often money), and the taskmaster system.
Experience points can be applied to advance any skill that the guild allows (or any skill that a player can teach). The higher the skill, the more experience points are needed to advance it. Each profession has a guild limit as to how much a player can advance within the guild, and after that point, must seek training from other players, or rely on the taskmaster system.
Taskmaster is a system designed to make advancement more in tune with practical application of skills. As you use a skill, there is a chance that your ability in that skill will advance. The higher you advance within a skill, the less likely you are to see a taskmaster advance within that skill. While there is no specific skill cap that I know of, high level players often rejoice when they advance via taskmaster, because such things are fairly rare for these players (not a complaint). While you can advance skills via taskmaster, you cannot advance physical attributes (strength, intelligence, etc).
Dying in on the Disc will lower your stats on resurrection, but pretty much only temporarily (30-40 mins?), at which point they will return to normal.
Ultima also uses a dual advancement method, based on money and a method similar to taskmaster.
A player with a lot of money can go to an npc and request training. The npc, if he or she knows the skill needed will offer to train the player for a certain amount of gold coins. Players cannot expect to advance to mastery, or even to more than about 30% mastery using this training method. This is a good way to get a kickstart on a skill that you are lacking in, however.
The other method of advancement, is as I mentioned above, much like taskmaster, except it doesn't have a name. Using a skill will generally improve your proficiency, on an ever more difficult scale. The main difference between advancement on Discworld and on UO is that on DW, once you achieve a certain level of proficiency, you will always stay at that level (or increase it), while on UO, not using a skill is likely to make it atrophy (the higher the skill, the higher the rate of atrophy), though it will never go below the base level that the player started with. The speed of atrophy is very low, and in fact, pretty much frozen if all of your base stats (that is without counting bonuses) are below 700 (there are 46 skills in the game, so you could only master 7 of 46 to 100% if you tried). You can go above 700, but the higher you go, the faster the non-used skills will fall. Physical attributes can also be advanced (only via practical application), to a soft cap of roughly 225 (or 75 avg. to each of the three skills str, int, and dex).
Dying in UO is supposed to be bad, causing up to a 25% stat loss (which can be re-acquired through use), but not below the character's starting point. This has been de-activated for some time, but promises to be re-activated soon. With the upcoming patch, the more evil you are, the higher your stat loss is upon resurrection, and the more saintly you are, the less you will lose if you should be killed.
Advancement in this game is very similar to the much more traditional AD&D type. Once the player achieves a certain level of experience (from killing monsters, or completing quests), he/she goes up a level, and is given five points to apply to any of the base stats the he or she wishes. This is probably the most unrealistic method of advancement in that you can go around killing monsters all day with your sword, and then use your five advancement points to apply to magic.
There is a hard cap on skills, which is different for each of the three types of character. The only way to surpass this cap is by use of magic items that modify the players stats.
Dying in Diablo causes no loss of stats, however you appear back up on the surface with nothing, leaving all of your equipment laying around on a floor full of monsters that just killed you. In order to get your stuff back, you typically have to lead the monsters away, then double back to your place of death to grab up all of the items that you dropped when you were slain. Rings are almost always lost because of their small size.
Professions or classes that a player can play are warrior, wizard, priest, witch, thief, and assassin. There are skills that do not directly relate to these professions, such as blacksmithy and carpentry, but other than the being able to repair armor and weapons with blacksmithy, most of these skills seem to be used only for quests (at least I've never seen anybody make a living in the game by making clay pots and baskets and such). Small clarification. Wizards can make money by enchanting weapons, priests can bless, or ward items, and witches can make healing potions and such for sale.
While you can get training in almost any area, you are pretty locked in to whatever profession you choose in the beginning of the game. Starting a warrior, and then trying to become a master priest will be much more costly than if you had just started a priest in the first place. Furthermore, each guild (except fighters) have some guild specific commands, that no other player type can learn.
One of the great things about UO is that while there are something like 14 pre-defined character professions, you can mix and match them to create whatever sort of character you want. For instance, my main character is a blacksmith. I make money by making and repairing armor and weapons, and can make a very tidy pile of cash in a relatively short period of time. However, I would not be anywhere as successful if I had to buy the metal that I use for my smithing, so I go out and mine the ore and smelt it myself. Similarly, bowyers can go out and chop trees and kill birds to lower the overhead of making bows and arrows.
Even if you start a character as say, a warrior, you can easily change professions mid-game by training and practicing the skills you wish to become proficient at. This is the beauty of the game, you aren't locked into any one profession, and can make a decent (or excellent) living without even venturing into the wilderness to kill things.
You can play as either a warrior, rogue, or sorcerer. There are no non-combat related skills like blacksmithy or carpentry that one can use to make a living. The only way you are going to make money is to kill monsters (or players), get their loot, and sell it aboveground. Each character class has limitations as to how high you can advance. No matter how high a level you go, a warrior will never be able to achieve the same level of sorcery as a true sorcerer character (unless you cheat).
Quests are a big part of this game. They typically involve solving puzzles, or retrieving objects requested by npcs in the game, and either delivering them, or using them with other items/npc's elsewhere. You don't *have* to do quests, but you will be missing out on a lot of the fun. Having said that, I suck at quests, and have only managed to complete about 25% of the quests available.
Each quest can only be solved once by each player.
Quests are added from time to time, while others are sometimes taken down for maintenance (or removed altogether).
Rewards are generally in the form of experience points, quest points, and/or items like magic weapons.
I mentioned this before somewhere, but it is not considered to be good form to ask, shout, or chat requests for quest info. If you are really stuck, you could perhaps politely ask another player to give you a hint, but don't get upset if they don't comply (and don't ask creators at all for this sort of thing).
Quests are available in the game, and may consist of escorting npcs to another location/town, killing an npc and returning their head to the requester, or killing a nasty monster lurking around somewhere.
Each minor quest can be solved multiple times by each player, and each major quest can only be solved once by each player.
Quests are both randomly generated by the computer continuously (minor quests), and are put in from time to time by UO programmers (major quests), and sometimes even role-played by player characters.
Rewards are typically items (magic usually), or gold, or information for finding magic items.
Quests are generated from pre-defined lists, which are randomized each time you start a game. You may be requested to return a missing item, kill an antagonizing monster or monsters, or find a missing npc (I won't give this one away, but it is a major plotline).
Quest rewards are generally experience, gold, and/or magic items.
This is an issue that affects all of the games to some extent. Discworld probably has the best handle on it, with UO coming in a close second.
Player killing exists in Discworld in a most unique way. For those players who don't want to be a part of the pk community, they don't have to be. You can't be killed by, or kill another player unless you either: register as a player killer at the patrician's office, steal from another player, or join the Assassin's Guild (which makes you a pk automatically). This allows weaker players, or players who don't want to be stolen from (thieves can't steal from non-pks) to not participate in the action. Most of the playerkillers I've met on the Disc are fairly amiable too, and often even helpful.
Theft on the Disc is a sanctioned profession. Thieves must belong to the Thieves Guild if they wish to survive for very long. A thief is given a quota, which they must meet, but not exceeded by very much, every few real time hours. Thieves who either go under, or over their quota are fined, or punished by guild enforcers. The thief gets a cut of the loot he nabs, the guild gets a portion too. Thieves have certain ethics to uphold as well on this game. A thief shouldn't steal quest items, or items that a player would need to survive (like their sword). If you have an item that you really must keep from sticky fingers, you can have a priest cast a ward on the item, making it impossible to steal by a thief (though if you were to be killed, and let your body disintegrate, anyone could pick the item off the ground).
This is one of the biggest complaints/problems with UO. Playerkilling is rampant, and everybody is a target, newbie and older players alike. The problem is that the newbies wind up on the short end of the stick, since they have the most to lose, and the fewest number of ways to get back on their feet afterwards. This was 'solved' a couple of ways, by implementing a notoriety system (soon to be replaced by a reputation system), and by giving newly resurrected players some basic equipment that can help them get back on their feet.
The notoriety system sounds simple on the surface, but you can spend a lot of time contemplating all the possibilities. Players gain negative notoriety by attacking friendly npcs and player characters, stealing, or healing evil players or monsters. Notoriety is based on a sliding scale, the higher (or lower) your notoriety is, the harder it is to get to the extreme side of that scale. Performing a good deed while already a Noble Lord or Lady, will only slightly improve your notoriety, but a Noble Lord who performs an evil deed will see his notoriety shift a great deal downwards. Notoriety has two forms as well, local and global. Some actions will not follow you, if you pack up and move to another town (unless you are really really evil). Over time, notoriety has a tendency to drift towards 0 (or neutral), so time can, indeed, heal all wounds. Anyway, a player with a low notoriety can expect to pay more at local shops, and in some cases to be attacked by town guards on sight. In theory, attacking evil npcs or players will improve your notoriety, and attacking good ones will lower it.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of holes in the system, and notoriety doesn't work quite the way it should. For instance, mages can cast Energy Vortex, or Blade Spirit (two very nasty spells), and if the spell should kill another player, the mage won't suffer/gain from the kill. This leads to a lot of 'Noble' player killers. On the same note, a player who spends his/her time thieving from npcs receives a very low notoriety, even though he/she may be an absolute saint to player characters in the game. There is a change in this whole system coming in a week or two which should fix (or break) a number of these problems, like tracking two types of notoriety, one that a player gains against npcs, and one that they gain against players.
UO has an abundant supply of player killers. It would not be so bad if the pks were more like the ones in Discworld, but unfortunately, there are a large number of players who get no greater delight than slicing up a poor defenseless newbie who is trying to cut some logs in the forest, for no other reason than just to antagonize them. Luckily, towns are a relative safe spot for players. The town guards will teleport in and instantly kill any aggressor in town. This has lead to some interesting tricks by the unscrupulous, who fake certain aggressive, or thieving actions in an attempt to get the player to attack them, at which point the guards come in, kill the aggressor (who in this case is actually the unsuspecting victim), and then the trickster loots the corpse.
Thieving is also condoned on UO, but there is no guild, and no limit to the amount that a player can steal from another. Towns are relatively safe, as guards will instantly teleport in to kill any thief that has been caught pickpocketing within the city limits, but there are crafty players that have found a way around that too. The most common form of theft (performed by everyone) is looting a player's dead corpse, without giving them a chance to resurrect and retrieve their objects.
Hopefully, upcoming changes in the reputation system will make player killing and looting more unpleasant, and discourage higher level pks from picking on the newbies.
Though one of the main characters in Diablo is the Rogue, she cannot steal from players or monsters. The Rogue's only thief like benefit is that she can see trapped items. Therefore, thieving is pretty much limited to looting player's corpses when they are dead. Recent changes though, only allow the killer to walk off with the player's money, rather than all of their armor and weapons.
Player killing is a rampant problem, so much so, that it only pays to play with people you know. Before the previous patches there were ways to kill people above ground (which is supposed to be safe) using third party programs, and then loot the corpses.
Cheating is a major issue in every online game, and no matter how hard programmers try to stop it, someone always seems to find a way to exploit the system.
Cheating is dealt with swiftly and severely in the game, and may range from warnings to stat lowering, temporary banishment, permanent banishment, or even IP blocking, depending on the severity, of a player's indiscretion. Players who abuse bugs are typically warned first before administrative action is taken. Players who continue to cheat or abuse bugs after being warned will more than likely be banished.
Cheating is also dealt with harshly on this game, ranging from warnings, to deleting the player's account. There was a recent flap a while ago about players who had managed to duplicate items. Origin posted that if players who had done this would fess up and answer some questions as to how they had done this, they would be forgiven with the only penalty of losing the items they had duped. Players who did not confess by the specified grace period had their accounts deleted.
While Blizzard makes periodic attempts to do away with cheating in Diablo, they just never seem to get it quite right. Within days of each patch, cheaters have new cheat utilities that bypass Blizzard's anti-cheating controls. Unfortunately, because of the way that Diablo works, Blizzard cannot take any action against specific players who ruin the game by cheating.
The cheating is so rampant that I have stopped playing the game online with people, unless I know them and trust them implicitly. Cheats that I've seen out there range from item duplication, instant player kills, cloning a player (and his equipment, usually so some weenie can then use the victim's good name to tick off other players), or even crashing a player's client.
The reason why cheating is so rampant and easy on Diablo is that all player information is stored on the user's local computer. It has taken only a matter of hours or days for cheaters to hex edit the client exe or save game file, and produce workarounds for whatever scheme that Blizzard comes up with. Discworld and UO keep all player information on the server, which minimizes the amount of cheating that a player can do.
The only solution I see for Blizzard is to either save player info on their servers (not going to happen), or patch the client to use DES encrypted save games (they can't use anything more than 40 bits, since Diablo is available worldwide, and the US has silly encryption laws).
Lag is another issue that really affects all real time multiplayer games.
The old Discworld server used to reside in Australia. Historically, the Aussies have been very bandwidth limited compared to the rest of the world, due to a limited number of high speed connections, so much so, that a few years ago, MUDs were banned from university and government systems. I understand that the situation is better now, but not by a whole lot.
Discworld now resides in the US, on a much more capable server, with higher bandwidth limits. Having said that however, lag can still be a big problem. It is quite easy to get lag killed while in the middle of a combat with some nasty monster, or even to be attacked by monster or player while lagged, and not even know it until the lag clears up and you are dead. I know of no fix for this, it is just something that you have to live with (unless you would like to chip in to help Ceres pay for a dedicated T1 link). Update: Apparently, Discworld does have a shared T1 - Thanks Hobbes :)
Since the server has been moved to the US, it appears to be much more stable (the old server was hosting other activity besides Discworld, the new one is a dedicated server), and though occasionally it crashes, it doesn't happen as often any more. The server is regularly taken down for code updates, or maintenance, and players are generally notified 10 minutes in advance, giving them time to get out of combat, and into a safer position when the game shuts down.
Lag can be a real problem with UO too. It is especially noticeable since there are up to 3,000 players logged on at the same time as you, and sometimes you will be stuck, while other players go merrily on their way around you (or kill you while you sit staring at a frozen screen). Lag is one of the main issues in a class action lawsuit filed by 15 dissatisfied UO players, who feel that they are being unfairly taken advantage of. Unfortunately, they do not suggest any way that Origin could fix the problem, and their main demand is that Origin should do away with the monthly charge for the game.
In order to keep the problem at a minimum, Origin has set up its 10 game servers (server clusters actually) in three different locations around the country (west coast, central, and east coast), so that gamers can pick a server that gives them better performance. Even at that, lag continues to be a problem, and evokes loud and vulgar protests from frustrated players. I think that this frustration probably winds up being channeled into anti-social pk activity (lashing out at anybody in sight), but I have no way of confirming this.
There isn't a whole lot that Origin can to about this problem, as for the most part, it is due to Internet congestion. The only solution would be to change the format of the game to a dedicated direct dial-in game server, but then they would have to invest in thousands of phone lines, and players would have to deal with long distance phone charges.
Diablo seems to be the most forgiving of lag problems, since before starting up a game, the client will test and display the speed and quality of each potential player's connection. When lags do occur, they are generally not too bad, most likely because the game only has to deal with four players in the game (that is the max limit for any one game in Diablo).
I have yet to see one of Blizzard's game servers crash. I'm sure it happens from time to time, but I haven't been around when it occurred.
For players of all online games, there is a utility called UOTRACE that can test your connection to a target site, not only pinging the host, and testing for lost packets, but will also trace all the hops going from user to target, and test each hop in turn, offering to email the report to poorly performing server administrators. This program is free, and while it was designed to troubleshoot connections to Origin game servers, it will work with any IP address you put into it.
Discworld has a lot of little extras that you won't find in either of the other two games. You can use commands like emote, which allows you to present actions to other players that the game itself doesn't support. For instance, if I were to type 'emote scratches himself when he thinks no one else is looking', the other players in the room would see 'Broadman scratches himself when he thinks no one else is looking'.
Besides emoting, you can also 'remote', which has the effects of an emote, but can be transmitted to any other specific player in the game world, and only they can see it. Because of the privacy of remote, it is often used for...erm... things that you wouldn't want the rest of the players to see (and I'm not getting any more specific than that).
Discworld also allows one to 'whisper' , or 'tell' a message to a specific player, so that you can hold private conversations with other players.
For more public messages, players can acquire talkers, which allow them to chat in a manner similar to IRC within the game, or 'shout' messages around the game world for anyone to hear (at a cost of some social points).
UO allows players to emote, but there is no 'remote', so any player can see what it is you are emoting. There is also no way to send 'whisper' or 'tell' messages, as you can in Discworld. If the player you want to talk to isn't on the same screen as you, they won't be able to hear you. There *is* a device similar to a talker in UO, called a communication crystal, but you must physically link it to each target crystal beforehand, to create a sort of private IRC channel. This is usually used to link up all the crystals in a player guild, so they can all chat without broadcasting their intentions to the rest of the players on the screen.
The comm crystal in UO eats up charges for *each* player you are linked to, so if you're linked to 5 players, it will cost you 5 charges to send a single message. Once the charges are used up, you must get recharges for the crystal.
Players have gotten around the problem with crystals by playing UO in a window, rather than full screen, loading up an IRC client, or ICQ, and then chat that way.
Diablo does allow an 'all' message, or privately targeted messages, but since there are only a max of 4 players in the game, the chat system is not used in the same way as on UO or Discworld. Being that Diablo is an action oriented game, chatting just isn't something that tends to happen inside the game much (though it does go on a lot in the pre-game lobby).
This is perhaps the main reason why I keep coming back to Discworld. For the most part, people are friendly to one another, and are usually quite willing to help one another when it is needed (i.e. bailing one another out of jail, loaning a few coins when needed, etc). If you play the game for more than a couple of days, you will see what I'm talking about. It is often just as fun to chat with the other players as it is to play the game.
I have mixed reactions about this game. I do meet friendly people from time to time, some that I even kind of pal around with, but I just don't get the same feeling of friendship and acceptance that I find in Discworld.
There are just way too many people in UO that you just can't trust. Maybe they won't kill you, but they won't hesitate to loot your body when you get killed in the forest. There are a number of players who have found happiness in UO, and some that have even had their characters married, but with anti-social player killing so rampant, it is best to be wary of anyone that seems overly happy to help you out.
As with any game, there are some good people playing, but more and more I come across mental rejects who are only playing because they like to ruin the game for everyone else. My advice (as I've stated above) is to play the game with people that you know, because more than likely otherwise, you are going to run into someone with a name like MaLiCe, or KeWeLbOy who would like nothing better than to chop you into little bitty pieces with a hacked playerfile, and then make rude comments about your lineage.
|Game Type||RPG||RPG||RPG 'lite', bordering on arcade|
|Multiplayer||Multiplayer||Massively Multiplayer||Single or Multiplayer|
|Max. Players||100+?||3,000+ per server||4|
|Interface||Text with ANSI color support- differs based on client||GUI - mouse and keyboard||GUI - mouse and keyboard|
|System Requirements||Any computer with internet connection and telnet ability||Windows 95, P133+ 16 M RAM||Win 95, P133+ 16 M RAM|
|Connection Speed||9600 bps or faster||28,800 bps or faster||14,400 or faster 28.8 recommended|
|Disk Requirements||0 to a couple of megs, depending on client used||250-500 MB - YIKES!||<10 megs, primarily saved games|
|World||Huge||Immense||1 Town/1 Dungeon(randomized)|
|Advancement||Points and Skill use||Money and Skill use||Points only|
|Professions||6 pre-defined||14 pre-defined, several player created||3 pre-defined|
|Quests||Yes - Pre-defined||Yes - Random generated and Pre-defined||Yes - Randomized from Pre-defined list|
|PK/Theft?||Yes - Only by registration as a pk||Yes||Yes|
|Cheating||Occasional but infrequent - severe penalties to the guilty||Some - severe penalties to the guilty||Rampant - no consequences for actions|
|Lag||Some lag, occasionally severe||Varies by server, sometimes severe||Some lag, sometimes severe|
|Stability||Very stable||Somewhat stable||Very stable|
|Chatting||Yes - many different kinds of chatting options||Yes - limited number of ways to chat||Yes - very little chatting within game|
|Social Interaction||Much - a big part of the game in my opinion||Some - be careful of the overly friendly||Very little if any|
All three games, though they have their downsides, but all 3 of them are worth playing, because they deliver a different type of experience.
A fun game for those that like to read, especially Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, and also for those that like the feel of the old style D&D type games, where social interaction is a big factor. The game is often filled with Pratchett type satirical humor, and if you are familiar with the books, you will recognize a lot of the places in the game (and it will help with a few quests, but I won't say which). You don't need a supercomputer to play it, as it plays equally well on a pc (Mac, SGI Onyx, Sun, Amiga, Commodore 64, etc, etc) running W95, OS2, Unix, linux, or any other OS that supports Internet and telnet, and it is FREE. If you haven't tried it, JUST DO IT, and if you don't like it, you can always try one of the other hundreds of MUDS that exist out there on the Internet.
A good RPG, fun to play, and offers a deep role-playing experience if you give it a chance. There is a lot of potential in UO. Being able to follow different professions really makes this game interesting.
Perhaps my biggest complaint about UO is that there are a number of players who perhaps have been raised on Nintendo, Doom, and Quake (not that these aren't brilliant games, mind you), that they are expecting a blast fest deathmatch, and that just doesn't fly in a game like UO. Unfortunately, I think that they get bored with taking their time, and playing nice, find that they can take advantage of newbies, and get some sort of twisted pleasure out of ruining someone else's day (I've even heard players admit to as much).
If you can afford $9.95 a month, get around the pks (hiding and running work very well as a newbie), and find some reputable players (and there are several), UO can be a very enjoyable experience. Highly recommended.
Enjoyable, but more action oriented than RPG. Sort of an RPG 'lite' - less filling without all the calories. A good game to sit down with for a couple of hours, but don't plan on making any lasting friendships in this game.
Discworld players will most likely enjoy Ultima Online, as there are so many parallels between the two games. There are some Ultima Online players that I think would transition very well into Discworld, as there are a number of UO players who really role-play their characters, and try to make the game fun for everybody. Based on the maturity of Diablo players I've encountered in the past few months, I doubt very few would enjoy Discworld, and the ones that move to UO are I think some of the ones that are causing the biggest problems in the game.
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