The Worst Ninja, Chapter 1: Hiding

By Alec Meer on August 29th, 2007 at 10:46 pm.

This may be the first in a short series, or it may be a one-off post of disheartened misery. Either way, you’ll soon be able to make pretty exact estimates about how much willpower I have. As mentioned yesterday, I’ve had a strange, some might say futile and insane, desire to take a poke around the Ultima Online overhaul, Kingdom Reborn, for a while now. It’s the father of the modern MMO, and, not being seriously internetted in its heyday, I’d never played it previously. So, I was curious to see how it compares to its many colourful children. It was released this week, and so I did.

After the jump: becoming 0.2% better at hiding, and accidentally turning into a rabbit.

Given I’ve left notes in as many places I can think of displaying variants of “For the love of God, remember to cancel your account before the free 14 days are up!”, it’s safe to say it’s not going well thus far. I’ve already tried to cancel once, but upon logging into the account page, it immediately demanded I give it my credit card details again, and then the entire site apparently crashed. This was either my unconcious self ripping out my network cable to prevent my weak-willed conciousness giving up just yet, or Ultima Online has been an elaborate, 10-year plan by EA to steal a tenner from me.

So, yeah, the following isn’t terribly positive, I’m afraid, and I apologise in advance for any wrong-end-of-the-stickness. Bear in mind, though, that I’m as much slagging off myself as I am the game – spoiled by World of Warcrafts and City of Heroes, I expected an easier time of it than I got. That’s my own laziness and stupidity as much as anything else, really. I also really haven’t played it for long yet, as will soon be entirely evident. I’m well aware that much of the game’s draw is its economy and society, not its monster-bashing, but it’ll take many hours I don’t have to get significantly embroiled in that. So, if any UO players are reading this and would like to submit a piece to RPS extolling the virtues of the game, we’d be only too glad to hear from ‘em.

Anyway, I made myself a nice ninja with a big grey beard and a very surprised expression, and I was in. Given Kingdom Reborn is an attempt to net new subscribers, I expected a reasonable degree of friendliness. I was right and wrong. Right, because, for instance, NPCs actively try to engage me in conversation about whatever it is they need done, instead of gormlessly standing around with an exclamation mark above their heads. “Hey, want to earn some gold?” asks one. Ooh. I like gold. OK! “Take me to the head wizard!” they demand. Squinting at the map, I somehow manage to do so, though am surprised at someone who actually lives in [whatever this town I’ve stumbled into is called] requiring someone who’s very obviously only just arrived (and has taken most of his clothes off, just because he can) to show them around. It’d be like me asking one of Bath’s [oddly yellow-coloured hometown of RPS – geography Ed] many foreign tourists to take me to the chip shop, you know, the one with the guy in it. There was some reason she wanted to see the wizard too, something about someone being turned into a cat, which I saw none of because I was mutely handed 500 gold when I found the wizard and that was that. Still, gold is gold.

This is me with beard and without beard. I spent a long time agonising over which to go with, and remain distressed that the creepy rictus grin is hidden whenever the massive facial hair is added.

Wrong, because, well, everything. While I understand that the interface has to remain largely as it was so the veteran subscribers don’t explode, having to hold down shift, click on something in my inventory, then select ‘assign as key item’ from a baffling menu before I’m allowed to give it to the man who’s just asked me to give it to him is a special kind of ‘huh?’. I struggled onwards, only to be almost immediately killed by the second thing I was told to hit. Then the tutorial announced it was over, after having pretty much only told me how to open doors. Everything else remained strange and terrifying; I felt like I’d been driven into the middle of the desert, where my escort helpfully explained “the yellow stuff is sand!” as he unexpectedly booted me out of the car and roared off, leaving me to fend for myself.

No sand here though, instead a bustling fantasy town of some sort (where I found the aforementioned wizard’n’cat lady), with a load of zombies wandering around outside. I blundered over to Ninja HQ, where some ninjas that looked much more ninja-y than me were stood motionless inside a tiny room. They told me I had to be a better ninja, which made sense.

First, I had to practice hiding. This involved rifling through unexplained menus until I found where the Hide icon was, uh, hiding, pressing it, being told I’d failed to hide, but was nevertheless now 0.2% better at hiding. Huh. My quest was to become Apprentice Hider or something – I had no idea how this remotely related to the miniscule numbers I was gaining. So I pressed Hide again. A different telling-off this time – I must wait a while before I can use another skill. I pressed Hide again. And again. And again. 12 seconds later, I was finally allowed to fail to hide again. +0.2%. Oh, God. I lasted fifteen minutes of this click’n’wait misery, glacially improving from around 28% hideability to 38% before I just had to stop, no sign of this button-pressing quest’s end in sight. And that’s where my story ends for now – a ninja, standing morosely in ninja HQ and failing to hide. I did, however, manage to turn myself into a rabbit for a while.

The buffonery continues here.

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17 Comments »

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  1. Crapknocker says:

    I can sympathize; I got sucked into UO by a bunch of friends. Without some knowledgeable friends or an excellent guide, things can get viciously irritating quickly. My advice: uo.stratics.com and make a mage and buy a spellbook with all of the spells already in it. Getting good at magery seems to me to be the quickest way to get familiar with the world, interface and monsters.

    Good luck out there.

  2. Mr Wonderstuff says:

    I have always wondered about playing this ‘grandaddy of mmorpgs’. Seems they have upgraded the graphics but not the interface/learning curve/mechanics which begs the question who is this prettier version aimed at? If existing users, why bother – I’m sure the people who have always played it are quite content with it as it is*(?). If new players (grab ‘em from WoW or LoTR) then, as this piece illustrates, they will be put off by the archaic interface and daft mechanics.

    *not forgetting the tiny hardware requirements the original had.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    UO inspired the PvP focus of Eve Online.

    Facts are super-true.

  4. Anaardvark says:

    Brilliant, it’s probably been about 9 or 10 years since I last played UO and this article has reminded me that I never want to play it again.

    I was almost tempted by the remake to give the free trial another go just too see how it had changed. Thank you RPS for saving my bandwith.

    Kal Ort Por indeed…

  5. Ryan H says:

    I haven’t played UO since the original beta, so I’m by no means an expert on anything like this, but why wouldn’t you go try and find some other quests and you know, stuff to do, and just make sure you hide once in awhile while doing those other things? It feels like you’re willfully boring yourself.

  6. Alec Meer says:

    Well, because the quest specifically states I should do my hiding in ninja hq, because whilst in it I gain a speed increase to hiding-learning. And it’s true – if I try to hide elsewhere, I usually get no skill increase. The game is definitely expecting me to stand still and press the same button every 12 seconds.

  7. icaruscoil says:

    1. Buy a Nostromo or similar accessory
    2. Map mouse button to macro that clicks every 12 seconds
    3. Turn on macro
    4. Go make sandwich and watch TV

    I did something similar for the sense direction ability in EQ, all day long as I ran around it would do it’s thing. Super fun.

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