Belxan's Comments on World Affairs

Here thou wilt find a few musings on the state of the world.

(April 5, 2002)

For many years, UOAM was hosted by the kind folks at UO Stratics. As you can read elsewhere on this page, they stepped in when my small ISP was about to give me the boot and offered to host UOAM. They have given me great exposure. They helped make UOAM the success that it is today. They even put up with my occasional complaints.

All good things must come to an end.

The time has finally come for me to move off of the Stratics servers and onto my own host. I have registered the domain name and I have secured my own web server.

Various factors have led me to make this decision. The recent instability of UO Stratics certainly had something to do with it but they appear to have sorted that out and that wasn't really the reason I decided to leave. The real reason I left is that I feel that this will enable me to provide more consistent service. It will also enable me to once again have complete control over the look of my site (be that for better or for worse).

As time has passed, the Stratics network (like many other busineses on the web) has had to make some drastic changes. Although I have tried to remain insulated from most of those changes it just wasn't always possible. I've watched as more and more of my screen space has been eaten up by ever more intrusive advertising. I've seen my own web pages completely reformatted to the point where it was actually difficult for me to update my own site. And of course, I've seen the instability that comes from being on an overloaded set of servers. Hopefully all of that will now change.

I would like to once again extend my deepest thanks to Xena Dragon and the good folks at UO Stratics for having hosted this site for so long. Without their generosity, UOAM would not still be around after all this time.

And while I'm at it, let me also thank you, the many registered UOAM users. It is your donations which have allowed this site to exist.

Belxan of Moonglow

Belxan's Previous Comments on World Affairs
Lag and Overpopulation
Urban Sprawl
The Last Straw
My Return
The Price of Fame
Responsible PvP
UOAM version 3.0
Moving to UOSS
UO Assist is finally approved by OSI
How NOT to Impress Belxan
I don't run UO Stratics; I only live here.
My Take on the New Order
Why Do I Do It?
Register UOAM? What's up with that?
Finally: UOAM Chat!
Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law or What the heck happened with the latest patch?

(June 5, 2001)

What a weekend! Those of you who played UO this weekend were put through a bit of a rough ride so far as UOAM is concerned. Here's the skinny on what happened.

For some time now, I've wanted to improve the way that UOAM handles client patches. You see, for those of you who don't use UOAssist, UOAM must be calibrated every time OSI changes the UO client. If it isn't calibrated properly then UOAM will not be able to determine where your character is standing. UOAM can be calibrated by hand, but a lot of people (particularly new users) don't know how to do that or even that they need to. UOAM can download the calibration data from the update site but ONLY after I've put it there. Before today, if I didn't hear about the update right away, or if I couldn't get to my computer right away to update the database, then UOAM would remain effectively broken for a lot of people until I could. That generally translated into a lot of angry emails in my inbox. (Of course if they would just read the FAQ then they'd know what's going on but, sadly, most people don't.)

So a few weeks ago, I came up with a way for UOAM to figure out the calibration data ALL BY ITSELF with no intervention from me whatsoever. Now when OSI patches the client, UOAM will recalibrate itself "auto-magically". Everybody will just keep playing and nobody will fill my inbox with nasty emails.

Before I could release the new code I needed to do some things. While I was preparing the self-calibration code I was handed a whole new set of nifty icons by Rhodar Drakk (Pacific). He's a professional artist and he wanted to help UOAM look a lot prettier. How could I refuse? Of course that would mean updating UOAM to take advantage of all the new icons, which meant creating a whole lot more default categories, which in turn meant that I had a bunch of new things which potentially needed translating by UOAM's localizers. And as if that weren't enough, I'd also received some Ilshenar maps from Luke "Klesk" Canvin which needed to be folded into my maps. I figured that as long as I was adding a bunch of new categories, I should do this too.

Well here's where we get to this weekend.

I was just about ready to do my final testing of the new UOAM before posting it to the world when my wife (bless her) surprised me with a short weekend get-away. Three days and two nights away from the kids. Nice! The update would wait until I got back.

Murphy's Law strikes!

Wouldn't you know it. While I was away OSI patched the client. I came home to find my inbox stuffed with email (some polite, some not so polite) from people who didn't know why UOAM wasn't working any more. If only I had been able to post the new version before I left then none of this would have happened! Or so I thought.

So instead of going to bed like I would have preferred, I spent late Saturday night rushing out the new version to get everybody working again ASAP.

Imagine my dismay when I awoke Sunday morning to find my inbox jammed with angry email from people who had run afoul of UOAM's new self-calibration code. Murphy's Law strikes again! Seems that in my haste I had somehow forgotten to test UOAM on all of my test platforms. Had I done that, I would have realized that the new self-calibration code ran dog slow on Win9x systems. (My bad. It should have never happened at all and it will NEVER happen again.) So I quickly disabled the self-calibration code and everyone was fine again.

Well, since then I have been able to come up with a fix for the problem and the self-calibration code is back in. Hopefully I'll be able to keep Murphy's Law at bay for a while. To those of you who put up with all of this, I'm sorry and thanks for being patient.

Belxan of Moonglow

P.S. For those who may not know (can there be such a person?) Murphy's Law states that "if anything can go wrong, it will".

Finally: UOAM Chat!

(October 2, 2000)

Since the beginning, chat support was one of the more frequently suggested features for UOAM. I thought it was a pretty good idea but with ICQ and similar tools being in such common use, adding chat to UOAM just wasn't all that high on my list of priorities. They did the job. Would adding chat to UOAM be all that big of a deal?

You see, I have a family and a pretty demanding day job and finding time to work on UOAM can be tough sometimes. So before I add any feature I have to balance that against the other things that I could be working on instead.

Well, when UOAM gained the ability to read commands directly from within the game and put messages directly into the game window (thanks to UOA) I immediately began thinking about chat again. I realized that I now had a compelling reason to do it. UOAM could now allow you to chat with your UO friends in way that would be substantially different from using ICQ or even UO's in-game chat features.

I figured that UOAM Chat would be cool but I must say that it's turned out even better than I thought it would. From the first day that we started beta testing the new chat functionality we knew that we had something special. I only wish that I'd had the time to do it sooner.

Upgrade your UOAM servers. Give it a try. I just know that you're going to love it!.

My only fear is that you're going to like UOAM Chat so much that Britannia's going to become a much quieter place. Please don't forget to talk to strangers every once in a while. *grin*

--Happy chatting!

Belxan of Moonglow

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Register UOAM? What's up with that?

(May 18, 2000)

Those of you who have been using UOAM for a long time will notice something new the first time you start up UOAM version 5.1. For the first time, I am asking people who are using UOAM to actually compensate me for my work.

Many of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering why I changed my policy. Some of you are probably a little miffed. Hopefully that number is relatively small. Hopefully most of you realize that UOAM has never really been free.

What? UOAM wasn't free? Of course it was!

Well, perhaps it was free for you (and technically it still is since no one is forcing you to register) but believe me, it has NEVER been free for me. I have invested countless hours of my time on this utility. If I were to charge each of you what I would charge my employer, you would consider the $10 minimum contribution that I am asking to be an amazing bargain.

Well, perhaps. But why the sudden change?

Actually it isn't so sudden. Read back through my recent comments below and you may notice clues that I've been thinking about doing this for some time.

The simple truth is that this little side project of mine has grown to such an extent that it is consuming an incredible amount of my time. It has grown to the point where I have reached a crossroads: either find some way to justify all of my time and effort or find a way to dial way back on my level of commitment.

What do I get for registering? What's in it for me?

Registering UOAM will not get you anything immediate or tangible. Registering UOAM does not imply any contract to provide services now or in the future. UOAM's features will continue to work whether you register it or not. In fact, UOAM is still technically free.

By registering UOAM, you are telling me that you appreciate my work enough to reward me for it. You are telling me that you want me to keep doing what I have been doing. You are telling me that you want me to keep this site up and running for as long as you guys continue to express interest in it.

Hopefully there are enough of you out there who are honest with yourselves and realize that UOAM is worth far more than a measly ten spot. I know to me, UOAM is worth far far more than that. Many of you have written to me telling me how valuable UOAM is to you. Now's your chance to prove it.

Please consider registering UOAM. And when you DO register UOAM, please consider how much it's worth to you and pay a fair price for it.

Your servant,

Belxan of Moonglow

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Why Do I Do It?

(April 19, 2000)

This is a question that I have been asking myself a lot lately.

UOAM has become a huge project. It's much larger than I had originally planned and just when I think I'm done with it, there always seems to be something else that needs to be done; some little thing that would make it better.

As you may have guessed, I write code for a living. Why would someone who writes code all day long go home and write MORE code all night long? And for a game no less! AND FOR FREE?!?! Let me tell you, my wife simply doesn't understand it *grin* and to tell you the truth, sometimes I'm not so sure that I do either.

When I first started UOAM, way back in November of 1998, it was originally intended as a way to replace all the paper maps that I had printed out to help me get around. All the original version was intended to do was display the map and let me label it. I didn't care about linking parties together. I didn't care about tracking the player. I didn't even care about running it along side of UO. Mostly it was started as a fun little side project that would let me quickly generate printed maps. Sir Edmund Hillary summed up my original motivations well when he was asked why he climbed Mt. Everest. His answer? "Because it's there."

Well, that first version turned out so well that I decided to add some other features to it (such as player tracking) and make it available to some of my friends at work. Soon one thing lead to another and I decided that I'd go ahead and share UOAM with the rest of the UO playing community.

Believe me, that was a tough decision. I realized that the minute I put it out on the web that I was opening Pandora's box. People would begin requesting that I add features. People would begin second guessing my intentions. People would call me a cheater for providing an unendorsed add-on to UO. But I figured that there would be more people who would recognize it for the useful utility that I knew it was and thankfully I was right. The response was far better than I expected. Email came pouring in. My poor little mom-and-pop ISP was so flooded with traffic that they had to ask me to remove my site! Now THAT was entirely unexpected. *grin*

Now here we are one and a half years later. UOAM is bigger and better than ever before. It's got more features than I had ever imagined. And still I continue to find new things to add to it. Why do I keep doing it? Well it's partly because I like writing code and this gives me the chance to write code that's a bit different in nature from the more mundane stuff that I write professionally. UOAM's a pretty cool project. But it's also because, out of all the rude and obnoxious emails I receive, there are always just as many (if not more) excellent emails from grateful players. I feel as if I've made a difference and let me tell you, that is very rewarding.

Reward me some more.

Belxan of Moonglow

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My Take on the New Order
(Be warned. This is a long one)

(March 14, 2000)

Well, unless you've been living under a rock you must surely be aware that there are a lot of changes brewing for our beloved game. Surely, the first question on everyone's mind once they heard about all these new changes must have been, "I wonder what Belxan thinks about all of this". And so I suppose that I must speak to appease my mass of avid fans. (Yeah, something like that.)

First a disclaimer: I don't work for OSI so I don't speak for them. I also don't work for Stratics so I don't speak for them either. I speak for myself and myself alone.

Now for a little background. Why are all of these things happening? Well it seems pretty obvious to me that in order for a game like Ultima Online to keep its fan base interested in the game, they have to be continually reinventing it. Recently there have been a few upstarts to challenge UO's reign as the granddaddy of all massively popular massively multi-player role playing games. Ever Quest and Asheron's Call have each had a certain measure of success and while I don't think that OSI is necessarily afraid of EQ or AC, they can't help but have noticed that the upstarts are attracting a few customers. When something new comes along you learn and you adapt. Furthermore, it's been a while since UO had a pretty new box to put on store shelves and attract new blood. T2A is old news. It's time to re-press the plastic and put it in the channel and you can't justify a new CD unless you've got a significant amount of new stuff to put on it; hence "UO Renaissance" as it's being called.

So let's talk about the changes.

First there's this little bee that's been in OSI's bonnet for a long time: macroing. The problem is that players discovered early on that the easiest way (and in some cases the only way) to build the character they wanted was to turn Johnny into a little robot and have him plinking away at rocks (or whatever) 24-7. This problem was only exacerbated by Raph "Designer Dragon" Koster's little pet project: the skill economy. This cool-sounding but inherently broken concept meant that as a skill's popularity rose, it would become harder for players to gain in that skill. While this sounds interesting on paper, it fails miserably in practice because it makes it harder for players to build the type of character they want to play. It was intended to encourage players to diversify but what it really ended up doing was encourage players to spend even more time macroing their little robot tank mage. The players weren't happy because they had to spend longer getting that 7xGM tank mage and OSI wasn't happy because their precious bandwidth was being used up by people who weren't actually playing the game. Everybody lost. It seemed as if OSI had forgotten the cardinal rule of on-line gaming: the best customer is a paying customer who seldom plays. Their system actually encouraged people to be in the game all the time; even when they weren't actually in the game.

So how do we solve this little problem? Well I think that OSI actually got this one right. First you make it so that little Johnny Robot doesn't gain skill by just plinking away at the rocks. Second you throw out that stupid skill economy. (Face it people, it never worked anyway.) Third you enable people to control which skills they gain and which they lose (skill locking). And finally, you make it so that skills gain like mad for an hour a day just by playing the game. That last one is important. It rewards the casual player who doesn't macro. It encourages people to actually play the game. And it doesn't penalize people who want to log off after an hour of play time (remember our cardinal rule). The concept is sound; unfortunately the implementation isn't quite there yet. Some skills are gaining faster than they should and others aren't gaining fast enough. As usual, the UO development team didn't quite get it right on their first try. But be patient people, sooner or later they'll get it right and when they do it will be better than it was before. Let's just hope it's sooner rather than later.

The next change we'll talk about is the Faction War system. Basically what we have here is just a big game of capture the flag. It's a tried-and-true multiplayer formula that has been very successful in other games. Clearly one of the hopes here is that it will give the more aggressive among us something to do besides pick on newbies. I'm not sure if it will succeed at that goal or not. I suspect that the bullies among us will always behave like bullies no matter what. However, I do think that it's an interesting idea and I'm sure that many will find some enjoyment in it. Since it will have a minimal impact on those who don't want to participate then I call it a good thing. More choices is almost always better.

On to the party system. This is something that has been woefully lacking in UO. Witness the popularity of my little tool: UOAM. One of the main reasons UOAM is so popular is that it gives groups of players a way to keep track of one another. Add ICQ (or a similar tool) and you have the ultimate UO party system. A while ago, UO tried to make it so that you didn't need ICQ to play the game. They failed miserably because the communication system that they hacked into the game is thoroughly broken in many ways. It's harder to use than ICQ. It's buggy. I could go on and on. The party system might actually finally succeed in making ICQ unnecessary... but only if it works! Release an unessential feature that's a bug-ridden pile of you-know-what and no one will use it.

So it looks as if this party system may be a good thing (it works well in AC by the way) but in my opinion, they haven't gone far enough. They could really score a coupe by going one step farther and turning the game window into a heads up display that shows the locations of all the players in your party relative to your location even when they're off screen. But I guess I shouldn't complain. That's just one more reason for people to use UOAM. *grin*

One more thing on the party system before we advance to the biggie. This business with karma and fame sharing is all well and good but it doesn't really amount to much. Nobody I know gives a rat's patootie about fame and karma. It's loot and skill that we care about. THAT's what needs to be shared. I don't know how you'd share skill but a method to at least split the gold collected in the party would be nice.

And now the biggie: the new lands.

First let's have another history lesson. Since the world began (UO's world) there have been two requests that have been shouted from the rooftops by large segments of the player population: "give us more land" and "give us a no-PvP switch". Both AC and EQ have the latter and, like it or not, they have been siphoning players from UO because of it. So, assuming that you want to solve these two problems, how do you do it? Let's look at the land issue first.

As someone who is well acquainted with how UO's map works, I'm here to tell you that expanding the land of Britannia is NOT a simple matter. The dimensions of the map are hard coded into the system and they could not be changed without some serious pain. All of the geographical data: the oceans, the continents, the forests, the swamps, the mountains, even the cities are all stored on every player's computer in a set of data files. These data files are BIG. And I mean they're whoppers. You simply can't resize these files without some serious repercussions. And their large size dictates that, for the most part, they must remain static. You can't simply patch in new data at will. Making significant changes would pretty much dictate a very large patch and customers would certainly be upset as a result. (There are ways it could have been done without a large patch or a new CD but I, for one, am glad they either didn't think of them or decided against it.) You also have to realize that if you enlarge these maps, you run the risk of overflowing someone's hard drive and thereby losing a customer. So when I heard that OSI was promising to double the land mass available to players I figured it was a forgone conclusion that the new lands would somehow be based upon the same map. It's really the only logical solution.

So now what you have is a simple switch that says "off: you're in the old lands; on: you're in the new" or something like that. Why not take advantage of that to finally create a no-PvP land? Seems like a reasonable thing to me. After all, EQ and AC have them and their players seem to like it. Those that don't like it don't have to go there. Ah! But now you have another problem! With two worlds that look so much alike and yet behave so differently, you obviously need some way to distinguish between the two. Why not take the leaves off the trees (or use the fall foliage or whatever the simple plan of the day happens to be)? That's simple, it requires no new artwork, and it's immediately recognizable. It's also relatively easy to work this into the fiction. I'm sure that the loss of Trinsic is just a precursor of what's to come. Certainly we will soon hear how a new threat has forced some of our citizens to flee Britannia into this alternate dimension.

So to sum it all up: it seems like a perfectly reasonable plan to me. And best of all, it's simple to code! And time and time again this development team has shown us why it's oh so important to keep it simple!

(And the fact that it doesn't break UOAM doesn't hurt either. *wink*)

Belxan of Moonglow

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I don't run UO Stratics; I only live here.

(December 13, 1999)

Lately I've been experiencing a most welcome influx of email. Much of it, as you might imagine, has been in response to my last commentary (which you can read below) but there have been a few noteworthy exceptions.

Strangely enough, it seems that quite a few people lately are becoming confused about how far my influence actually extends. I don't quite understand why this should have suddenly started happening but in the last couple of weeks I've started getting email from people complimenting me on how helpful UOSS is, what a great site it is, etc.

Let me set the record straight: I don't run UO Stratics. The only content on Stratics for which I am responsible is contained on the pages that bear my name. Those would be all the pages that are listed in the index bar to the left of the text that you are reading right now.

The Ultima Online Strategy and Statistics (UOSS) site is run by Xena Dragon and her host of helpers. If you would like, you can follow this link for a comprehensive list.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the response to my last commentary has been overwhelmingly positive. Out of hundreds of responses, only a couple of them were negative.

To those one or two percent who didn't get it, perhaps this will help ease your mind: it was an attempt to use humor to make a point. Don't worry. Nobody is going to pick through your email and make sure it measures up. You don't need to be afraid to write. I'm actually a very nice guy. No really. I am.

Fare thee well.

Belxan of Moonglow

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How NOT to Impress Belxan

(October 20, 1999)

I've got something that I just had to get off my chest. So read on if you please. Hopefully you'll get a laugh out of this and perhaps we'll all learn something in the process.

Since I first released UOAM, I've received a lot of email. I make it a point to answer each and every one and I try to be as polite as I possibly can. You see, although I don't get paid for this, I do take a certain pride in my work and I like to believe that I provide the absolute best experience possible for my clients.

But every so often I get an email that makes me really struggle to come up with a polite reply.

So here then are a few of the ways NOT to impress me:

  • Compose your email in all lower case letters. People, those rectangular keys near the bottom of your keyboard are Shift keys and they are put there for a purpose. Your email is much easier to read when you have the courtesy to properly punctuate it.
  • Compose your email in ALL UPPER CASE LETTERS. No. Not that key. You wanted the one just below it that says Shift. What you've just found, Johnny, is called the Caps Lock key and it's even more annoying than failing to use the Shift keys. It's considered shouting and I don't like to be yelled at. Once upon a time we all had Apple ][ computers and we didn't have a choice but to type 40 characters to a line in all caps. But those days are well behind us now so it's time to move on.
  • Swear like a sailor. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to express yourself without resorting to profanity.
  • Use "gangsta" slang (or "d00d speak" or whatever you want to call it). Talking like a hood doesn't make you cool or "in"; it just convinces me that you are an immature boob who has difficulty expressing himself (or herself) properly. Save the slang for your junior high school classmates.
  • Name yourself after the devil, Hitler, a serial killer, or some other blight to society. Naming yourself Baelzebub or Charles Manson isn't cute or funny; it's just trite, cliche, tasteless and immature. It doesn't shock or offend me it just makes me shake my head and think to myself, "Oh look! Another email from some stupid punk kid."
  • By all means, don't use your spell checker! I realize that most Americans don't know how to speak their own language (much less write it) but the least you could do is make the effort to check your spelling before you hit the send button. (Apologies to the many people from other English-speaking countries and those who speak English as a second language. I don't mean to slight you in the least. I realize that you are just as capable of butchering the English language as we Americans; although perhaps not as likely to.)
  • Ask questions that are answered in the FAQ. These days probably 90% of the questions I get asked are answered in the FAQ. I went to a lot of effort to write it. The least you could do is make an effort to scan the index.
  • Demand that I add some special feature just for you. Feature suggestions are always welcome but I am amazed at how upset some people get when I don't jump to implement their pet feature. Remember Jack, nobody paid me to do this and I am not under any obligation to do anything. You get what you pay for people and, guess what, you paid nothing.
  • Tell me that you can't figure out how to get your browser to let you download the app. Buddy, if the download link doesn't work then it's probably a problem with your browser. Guess what? I didn't program your browser and if it doesn't work IT'S NOT MY FAULT! Another possibility is that Stratics is having server trouble and you know what? THAT AIN'T MY FAULT EITHER! Or it could be a problem with your internet service provider and, you guessed it, THAT'S NOT MY FAULT EITHER. If you ask nicely I might email you a copy but don't blame me if you can't figure out how to get your browser to work.
  • And above all, don't even think of sending me an email just to say thank you or share some positive experience you had with UOAM. After all, why would I want someone to send me email who doesn't have a problem or an agenda? [Editors note: Note the double negative here. Belxan's complaining about people who don't say "thank you". Belxan actually likes to get "thank you" emails.]

Well that feels better. Thanks for reading. I look forward to your next email.

Fare thee well.

Belxan of Moonglow

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UO Assist is finally approved by OSI

(June 9, 1999)

Today OSI surprised everyone and finally did what I have long felt to be the right thing to do: they approved UO Assist.

I would just like to use this space to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Tug. I can't believe that you stuck with it as long as you did. It was long overdue.

To those who perhaps may not understand what a big deal this is (is there such a person?), the UO Pro program would not even exist if it were not for the efforts of Tug. UO Assist was instrumental in providing the impetus for creating the program, and Tug was instrumental in providing the feedback to OSI that caused them to revise the legal documents into something that was actually worth signing. I have always felt it was shameful that OSI would refuse for so long to grant approval to UO Assist after all the work Tug did to bring this program to the position it's finally in.

Congratulations Tug! And thanks from the rest of us.

Belxan of Moonglow

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(April 7, 1999)

On the evening of April 2, 1999, sometime between 9pm and midnight (central time), someone hacked on to this site and posted a file named that contained the Back Orifice trojan. The hacker posted a message on the front page posing as me and claiming that the file was some new experimental "UOAM plug-in". The file wasn't there for long but it was there long enough for a few people to have downloaded it.

If by chance you are one of the unfortunate few who were taken in by this louse, let me be the first to offer you my condolences. Know that we at Stratics take this kind of thing very seriously and measures have been taken to try and prevent this from happening again.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that there are losers like this out there and there is no way to be completely free of them. This incident only serves as a reminder that you should NEVER trust ANY file you download off the net (including ones you believe to have come from me).

Let me repeat that.

Never trust any file you download from the net!

Those who regularly run virus checks on the files they download were not fooled by this loser. The virus checker is your friend. Please do us all a favor and use it!

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Moving to UOSS

(March 24, 1999)

So what's the story? How did Belxan end up at UOSS? I'm glad you asked.

Last Friday I returned home from work to find an email in my inbox from my system administrator at my ISP. It seems that so many of you good people had been visiting my site that it had become the most popular site (by leaps and bounds) that my little ISP had ever seen. The downside is that the site had been producing over 2 gigabytes of traffic each month; more than twice the bandwidth my ISP allowed me to have.

Naturally, I was politely asked to fix the situation. If not, I would have to pay for the additional bandwidth; and it wouldn't come cheap either.

So I quickly sent an email to my friends here at UOSS. They had offered to host the site earlier but for my own good reasons I had politely declined. Would they still be interested? They would! And so the move began.

I would like to thank Xena Dragon and all the other good people here at UOSS for allowing me to continue to provide this service to the players. And most of all, I would like to thank all of you, the players, for making UOAM such a resounding success.

And with the ongoing negotiations with OSI, it looks as if UOPro approval won't be too far off.

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UOAM version 3.0

(February 9, 1999)

Today I submitted UOAM to OSI for the second time. Apparently the postal service lost the first mailing because I never heard from them. Hopefully this time I'll at least get an e-mail.

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Responsible PvP

(December 21, 1998)

Since the release of UOAM I have received a lot of email, most of which has been extremely positive and gratifying. But every now and then I get one that disturbs me. Typically it reads something like this:

Hey D00D. Thanx for the warez. Now me & my killa budz can go kiksumass.

Or something to that effect. (Well, OK so maybe I exaggerate a bit but bear with me.)

So, how do I feel about player vs. player combat? Well I'm glad you asked.

To all you PKers out there I would ask you to remember one thing: not everyone plays this game to kill. There are plenty of people who have put their heart and soul into this game only to have it ruined by some immature boob who thought it would be fun to ruin somebody else's day.

I am not against PKing, I am against people who are out to ruin the game for others. If you want to PK, please do it responsibly. Confine your activities to areas that are supposed to be dangerous. And if somebody begs for his stuff back, please don't be an ass, give it to him. It may be all he has. Someday you may want someone to do the same for you.

And to all of you who are ready to quit because of a PK: don't. Although it may not feel like it at times, it IS just a game. Although we'll never get rid of all the immature brats, there are still plenty of others playing this game who aren't there just to vent their petty adolescent angst. Don't give some immature twit the satisfaction of ruining your game.

On A Related Note

A lot of folks have asked me to publish the communication protocol for UOAM so they can write a public dedicated UOAM server. So far I have refused. Here's why:

It's about security.

Think about it. The minute you connect to a UOAM server, the owner of that server learns a lot about you. He knows exactly where you are in the game. He also knows where you've been. An ambush is a pretty easy thing to arrange when you know exactly where your victim is and have a pretty good idea where he's going.

But even more dangerous: that UOAM server knows your IP address. It's a pretty simple thing for a hacker to treat that IP address as an open invitation to help himself to anything on your computer that he wants. Do you really want a stranger sifting through your Microsoft Money data files? I thought not.

UOAM's linking feature is intended to be used by a small number of players who all know and trust one another. Please be careful. Don't link to strangers. You could really live to regret it.

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The Price of Fame

(December 16, 1998)

Ah fame. With it come certain unexpected pleasures.

This hath been a truly remarkable month for me. UOAM hath been truly well received. The number of visitors to my fair realm hath broken all bounds of expectation. Truly it passeth strange.

Naturally, all of this attention is very flattering. My heart doth swell within my bosom at the thought of having aided so many travelers like unto myself.

Unfortunately, fame doth not come without price.

It hath recently come to my attention that some of you have been approached by one falsely claiming to be me. If imitation be the surest form of flattery then I suppose I am flattered indeed. And yet it doth leave me somewhat unsettled to think of good stouthearted yeomen being duped out of hard earned gains to some blackhearted scoundrel who useth my name falsely.

I would ask that before thou art duped by one claiming to be myself; please read thou this so thou canst be assured of the veracity of his claim.

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(November 19, 1998)

Believe it or not, most of UOAM was written between my last entry and today. I'd been thinking of writing a similar utility before my "sabatical" from UO. Now that I'm back I figured it might be fun to get off my duff and actually write it. Aren't you glad I did?

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My Return

(November 5, 1998)

Somehow I knew I wouldn't be able to stay away for long. Try as I might, Sosaria beckons me like a siren.

When I learned that OSI was releasing the new "Big Window" client to all UO subscribers free of charge I took notice. This was a feature that I'd been cursing them for not implementing from the get go. Then when they reduced the price for the T2A upgrade to a mere seven bucks I was hooked. And when I heard that they were initially not allowing houses in the new land I was reeled in like a 180 pound flounder. (Or is that sucker fish? No matter.)

So I thought to myself, "I wonder if the new client fixes the crashing bugs I was having?" I figured it would only cost me $10 to find out. *grin* So I reactivated my account.

Well I've been playing for a week now (as of November 5) and I must say that things are very much improved! The new client is indeed much more stable for me and the larger screen real estate is like a blessing from the gods.

So I ordered T2A and we'll just see what comes next.

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The Last Straw

(August 4, 1998)

Alack a day! Belxan has finally snapped. On this page you may read some of the many reasons that Belxan has left the realm of Britannia for good.

The last straw was in a word: bugs. I have friends who have had less problems with crashing bugs than I but my experience was that in any given UO session, I could expect the client to crash at least once. After I got my new computer (a fully loaded Dell P2-400) the client bugs got even worse. It got so bad that my client would crash at least once in any fifteen minute period. I tried everything I could think of to correct this but since I had already been thinking of quitting the game for some time, this just seemed like a good time to do it. Easier to quit now than to try and fix the problems just so I could quit in another few weeks.

Along with the bugs, there was the boredom. Folks, I'd pretty much done it all. There was nothing left to see, nothing left to do. I found that whenever I found time to play games on my computer, I ended up playing other games because I was getting bored with this one.

In addition, there are the subjects which I have commented on previously. These are still listed below.

It's been a fun ride but it's time to move on. Perhaps we'll meet again in another realm.

Yours truly,

Belxan of Moonglow

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Urban Sprawl

(Summer of 1998)

A new problem hath arisen in our fair land of Britannia. The forests and remote places are being overrun by buildings. Yea, structures of all types are clogging the highways, filling the forests, and choking the glens. Even the poor woodland creatures are affected as the gods often grant them birth within cottage walls and castle halls!

Due to some strange trick of nature, it is often not uncommon to find buildings literally materializing in front of thy very face. They seem to remain hidden from view until thou art almost upon them. Then suddenly and without warning they pop into view. `Tis most disconcerting.

`Tis sad but no place on this world seemeth to be free from the spoils of human progress.

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Lag and Overpopulation

(Late spring or early summer of 1998)

Of late I have noticed a thick pallor hath descended upon Britannia. `Tis as though the very ether that surrounds us hath grown thick as treacle. Oft times `tis so bad that one can barely take two steps without pausing for breath. `Tis at its worst when travelling in the cities, but travelling the remote highways is not much better.

The hunting hath been poor as well. At times I have travelled the length and breadth of the land to see little more than a hare or a lark.

"How are these two observations related?" I hear thou ask. The answer springeth readily to mind. Both are signs that this world hath way more people than it can support. Apparently when Mondain shattered the gem that held Sossaria, it did not split into nearly enough pieces, for the Baja shard (on which I reside) hath grown so over-populated that even in the most remote parts of the wilderness, there is sure to be another human somewhere within shouting distance at any given time.

Lord British, if thou art listening DO SOMETHING! The multiverse groans under the weight of an ever-expanding population. New shards must be found. One or two new shards would be insufficient. What is required is at least twice as many shards. Perhaps three times as many.

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