Frustration, Frustration…

 

From the OGPlanet Forums:

We understand your frustration, however they do not help in resolving the issue in any ways. Please do not spam forum with multiple threads regarding to this issue, reply to this post if you wish to comment. All other posts regarding to the same issue will be removed.

Unfortunately we have experienced OGP wide login issue in the early morning. Players already logged into the game are not affected.

We are fully aware of the external reason causing it and IT team is doing what they can to mitigate the it. However, the issue may repeat. We ensure you that any game data (characters/items/astro purchases) will not be affected, it’s strictly related to login/launcher.

If you wish to comment on it, you can reply this post. Please do not start multiple posts discussing this issue, it’s not necessary and they will be removed.


 

I have not been playing UWO a whole lot for the past several months.  This is due to a number of reasons having to do with the game itself and with personal matters.  When I first heard about the Atlantis updates, however, I started to get excited again for the game. I downloaded the updates, and began working on my characters again (I’m currently preparing for a number of Nanban runs to boost my finances).

And then I read the post – and commentary – in the Forums…


 

In one of my other sites (RandomGamingThoughts) I’ve been spending a good deal of time talking about another video game that I was enjoying for quite a while called The Division.  I’m not going to rehash everything I’ve written before (you can read my earlier posts here and at RandomGamingThoughts), but suffice it to say that both Ubisoft-Massive and Koei-OGPlanet are suffering from similar issues regarding customer service and satisfaction.  It’s sad to keep reading about the frustrations of players who’ve been dc’d out of GAMMA server while sailing in the ocean and it’s sad (although at times humorous)  to see those players take out their frustrations in the forums and on Facebook.  There’s still speculation that the TalesRunner hackers are continuing to DDOS OGPlanet, and that speculation isn’t going to go away until OGPlanet issues a definitive statement regarding that issue.  And yet it’s still disheartening to take breaks from UWO and then return to see the same issues plaguing this game again.  Having gone through the “lockout” issues that plagued The Division, I’m a little less flustered about OGPlanet’s server woes, but I’ve also happened to be online when their servers are actually running properly (i.e. evening hours Hawai’i Standard Time or approx. early morning hours Greenwich Mean Time).

In my latest post on RandomGamingThoughts (“Consumer Protection and Overwatch Hype – Why I’m Feeling a Bit Cynical These Days About AAA Games…”) I wrote a good deal about the need for greater anti-consumer protection in the video game industry.  The issue is a bit more complicated in the case of games like UWO because players are dealing directly with the distributor of the game (i.e. “OGPlanet”) rather than the developer/publisher (“KOEI”).  The fact that UWO is also a Japanese game that was translated for the international market does not make things simpler either.  Nevertheless, I still believe that people who play games like UWO should feel like they have a recourse to turn to if they feel like they are not being given the customer service that they deserve.  As someone mentioned in the OGPlanet forums, customers will simply find another place to spend their hard-earned money if they feel like they are wasting their time and money on UWO.

To be fair to OGPlanet, they seem to be more responsive to the constant server issues and have offered fairly generous compensation packages for past disruptions (especially when compared to Ubi-Massive’s efforts in The Division).  While OGPlanet is responsible for maintaining the UWO servers, KOEI still maintains control over game patches, so OGPlanet (to a certain degree) is caught in the middle when it comes to technical issues with the game.  But all that being said, I do sympathize with those players who feel like they are being “cheated” of their time and money, especially those players who have limited time and/or money for games.  I guess the only thing I can say to these players is that it never hurts to take a break from a game (or from gaming in general).  It’s hard not to get attached to a video game, especially one as immersive as UWO, but if there’s anything I’ve painfully learned over the past several years, it’s that it’s important to not get “too attached” to any video game.

[I think the Buddha talked a great deal about “letting go of attachments,” but like many important things in life, that’s more easily said than done….]


 

I hope that KOEI and OGPlanet will eventually be able to fix UWO’s server woes so that players can get back to enjoying this game again.  But it seems like I will have to be quite careful if I intend to do any kind of sailing outside of Europe (bring extra No-war pacts and supplies and minimize the deep ocean sailing as much as possible) until things stabilize with the servers again.

 

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Why MMOS can be the most addicting – and most frustrating – games to play

In case anyone reading this is still wondering, I am still playing Uncharted Waters Online, although I’ve been taking a bit of a long break again from the game. UWO has been a fun, immersive, and addicting game for me to play, but after nearly three years of playing it (more or less), I’ve found myself spending time on other games and then coming back for the proverbial trade grind or sailing run. Maybe if I spent more time adventuring or maritime pvp, I’d probably get back into UWO in a heartbeat, but I’m really not so interested in those elements of UWO right now, and the reason for this is related quite closely to another MMO (or lite-MMO) that I have been playing for the past month or so on Xbox One.

But before I dive into my (admittedly biased) views, I will confess that I am no expert in MMO’s or MMO culture. UWO in fact is the first MMORPG that I’ve extensively played. I also happen to be a solo gamer, which of course begs the question why I play MMOs in the first place. The answer to that is that I play games not because they are meant to be solo or social but because I find them fun and addicting regardless of how they are meant to be played.

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So the game I’ve been playing for the past month or so has been Tom Clancy’s The Division. In case anyone reading this doesn’t know, The Division is a third-person shooter/MMORPG where you are tasked to retake New York City after a disastrous smallpox pandemic. It plays similarly to games like Destiny (which I have played) and Diablo (which I have not). You play through the missions and side missions leveling your character along the way to 30, and then you slowly gear your character through replaying missions on harder difficulties and exploring through the “Dark Zone.” The Dark Zone (DZ) is a curious hybrid of PvP and PvE that’s similar in some respects to the “hostile” and “lawless” zones in UWO (except that there is no “blue flag” for players wishing to avoid PvP). Players kill PvP enemies and bosses for better gear and weapons and then head to “extraction” areas in order to take their new loot out of the DZ. Players can kill other players and steal their loot, but they end up going “rogue” in the process (which is very similar to UWO’s piracy system) and can be hunted down by non-rogue players. The latest update to the game has also introduced “Incursions,” which are supposed to be similar to “Raids” found in other MMO games. And finally, players can craft their own weapons and gear in the game (the materials are earned from pickups throughout the regular map/DZ or from finishing missions or quests).

So….

Here’s how character progression is SUPPOSED to work in The Division:

1. Finish story and level to 30

2. Replay missions in hard mode/start grinding the DZ for levels and gear

3. Replay missions in challenging mode/continue grinding the DZ for higher levels and gear

4. Team up with well geared players to beat Incursions/max out DZ levels.

Here’s how character progression REALLY works in The Division:

1. Same as Above

2. Start farming glitches/exploits to shortcut grinding in the missions/DZ and to max out on crafting materials

3. Farm Incursion glitches and quickly get best gear in game

4. (if not burnt out already) Rampage through the DZ with maxed out gear.

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I know that some of you reading this are probably wondering by now why I’m talking about a shooter MMO that has little or no relation (at least in terms of content) to Uncharted Waters Online. The reason why I’m doing this is because in many respects the issues that have been plaguing UWO for the past several years are similar to the ones that are now plaguing the Division. There also some key differences between these two games, however.

First, the similarities:

1. The character progression systems in both the Division and UWO have suffered greatly from changes made into the game by their respective developers. These changes have led to a great disparities in gear between “hardcore” veterans, more casual players, and newcomers.

2. The PvP in both The Division and UWO has underwent extensive changes that have led to debates within the community over its significance and replayability.

3. Both games have struggled with communications between the developers/game managers and the player community. These struggles can be seen in the forums, which (like most other video games) are full of complaints about one aspect of the game or another. Communication issues are commonplace in any situation, not just in video games, but both The Division and UWO have undergone some very rough patches in terms of community management.

4. Both The Division and UWO are online-only games.

Now the differences (most of these are quite obvious, but I’ll lay them down anyways):

1. UWO has been around for over five years; The Division was just released a month ago.

2. UWO is a free-to-play game (with micro transactions) whereas The Division costs sixty US dollars (plus additional money for those who bought the season pass)

3. UWO and The Division have different story content.

4. It has been much easier to hack/glitch/cheat in the Division than in UWO. The Division also suffers from a whole number of bugs and glitches that have contributed to the disparity between players in that game. UWO in comparison is a relatively bug-free game, although it’s suffered from other technical issues (e.g. server lag, login issues, etc.)

5. The Division relies more heavily on RNG (random number generation) than UWO,
which in other words means that your luck plays as much a role as your skills or tenacity.

———————————————————————————

So what’s the point of all this? Why spend so much time writing about these games and just play them instead?
Perhaps my best answer to these questions is that video games are never just games to the players who invest their time and money in them. They are more like passionate hobbies or sports. And whenever people spend a significant amount of time on something, they are going to get passionate about that something (hence the term “fan”).

But what saddens me about video games these days is that it’s so easy to become critical and cynical about them that it nearly ruins the whole purpose of gaming. This frustration is most often seen in social media or in the online forums that nearly every video game has. I’m not saying that it’s wrong to criticize something that’s wrong with a game, but when a game ends up stirring so much frustration that it leads to a toxic community, then it’s probably time to find another game to play. This is kinda where I’m at with the Division, and it’s a stage that I’ve experienced before with UWO. It’s the stage where you kinda wonder why you’re even playing the game in the first place.

I know however that despite whatever criticisms I have with a video game, I will probably still play that video game until I find another interesting game to play. And one of the nice things about solo gaming (in my opinion) is that you have the freedom and flexibility to choose however you want to play.

Finally, I want to say a little something more about the relationship between the developers of a game and the players who play their game. No matter how well made a game is, if a game’s devs are either unable or unwilling to address very difficult situations with their community, then that community will probably wither and die. I know that OGPlanet has made more than its fair share of mistakes when its come to managing UWO, but these mistakes have paled in comparison to the ones made by Ubisoft and Massive since the release of The Division. Deleted characters, numerous bugs/exploits, and the lack of a clear or effective anti-cheat policy have all poisoned The Division community. And the fact that Massive has only recently stated its intent to punish anyone caught exploiting their game says alot about how they’ve handled their game in general. It would be like KOEI or OGPlanet telling the UWO community that they are now going to punish those who have used the ESBTs to farm millions of ducats out of EA dungeons instead of just nerfing them and moving on.

I doubt that Ubisoft or Massive will really come down hard on those who have been exploiting glitches in The Division, and if they choose to do so, these players will probably just quit the game and tell everyone they’re quitting because of the punishment. I would do the same thing if I were in that position. But the fact that they are even threatening players with punishment over something that they should have fixed before the game was released is really sad, in my opinion. A negative reaction is only going to spawn more negativity at a time when the devs should be focusing on repairing the damage caused by all the controversy surrounding their game. Of course, players will always be angry about other players who are taking advantage of a glitch or exploit to advance ahead in a game. But this is why it’s extremely important to have good communications between developers/game managers and the player community. When the communication is not there or is vague, then the community suffers. And if the community suffers, then so does a game’s future.

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Having gotten all of that off my chest, I want to end this post on a more positive note. For all the glitches and bugs and whatever that’s been happening to The Division, I still believe that that game has the potential to be a great game. It is the same hope that I share with the future of UWO, and my experiences with UWO have colored my experiences with The Division. And if worse comes to worse, there is nothing wrong with taking a break to focus on other games.

Who knows where the trade winds will take me on my next gaming journey….

Charting the Northeast Passage Part 5 – End in Sight

The Northeast Passage was one of my favorite sailing routes in Uncharted Waters 1 and New Horizons. With the arrival of Gran Atlas, the Passage is finally here in Uncharted Waters Online! But how difficult is it to actually sail through the Passage? Here is the story of my efforts to chart UWO’s Northeast Passage…..


 

For my fifth and final day of charting the NE Passage, I decided to sail west via the Panama Canal to Japan. I’m not sure if I really saved too much time doing this (it took 66 in-game days for me to sail from Amsterdam to Edo via the canal), but I figured it’d be a break from the Arctic sailing. From Edo I sailed northwards to Petropavlosk, a supply port on the Kamchatka Peninsula and the eastern terminus of the Northeast Passage.
The Bering Sea region consists of the western and eastern Bering sea zones, the Kamchatka coastal waters, and the Sea of Okhotsk. This section of the NE Passage yields ALOT of adventure exp and fame, but it is also one of the most dangerous regions to chart. Ice floes, for example, can damage your ship for up to 140 durability. The good news, however, is that the GvoNavi course tracker WORKS for the ENTIRE region (so at least you have won’t worry about that issue!).

 

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve become quite used to charting the sea zones, and the Bering Sea quests were more difficult to complete than quests in the other regions of the Passage. Petropavlosk is also conveniently located between the different zones in the Bering Sea, allowing me to break up my charting trips. After finishing my charts for the Bering Sea, I returned to Amsterdam to receive my “Sea Passage Pioneer” title from Mercator.


 

In hindsight, my journey to chart the Northeast Passage was not as difficult as I imagined it would be. Although I did not expect to have GvoNavi issues while traversing the Passage, the ice floes that I had heard so much about proved to not be so problematic as I had feared, especially after completing the charts for each region. And although I am still unsure if the NE Passage will make a viable alternative to sailing around Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope (especially with a full load of trade goods), nothing can take away the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a long but rewarding grind.

 

In closing, I decided to put together a number of some general tips for anyone who is interested in charting the Northeast Passage. While these tips are meant to be a “guide” of sorts for charting the Passage, most UWO players will probably be familiar with these suggestions, since many of them are also part of basic sailing and adventuring knowledge in UWO:

 

1. Bring a fast, durable ship into the NE Passage.

Your ship will be hitting a lot of ice floes in the Passage, so you want to bring a ship that has durability to withstand those hits, but you also want a ship that’s fast and nimble enough for sailing in around various inlets, islands, and choke points. Clippers are good ships for this purpose (I personally used a Big Trading Clipper with Emergency Acceleration). Aide ships on the other hand are not affected by the ice floes, so you bring whichever aide ship you wish to use for the Passage.

 

2. Bring LOTS of lumber (or MCCTs/LCCTs), vigor food, and ducats.

The Arctic supply ports do not contain banks or taverns, and you don’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere without money, supplies, or energy to get back home. Like everything else in UWO, planning and preparation will save you time and stress later.

 

3. Make sure you have the repair, recognition, AND survey skills (or their substitutes) BEFORE heading into the NE Passage.

This is pretty self-explanatory. The steering skill is also very useful for charting the Passage (especially if you’re using a bigger ship with a slower turning speed), as well as the emergency acceleration skill If you have the necessary prerequisites.

 

4. Don’t forget to switch to an adventure job BEFORE heading into the NE Passage.

You’ll earn lots of adventure exp – and a decent amount of adventure fame – from charting the Passage, so you don’t want to lose out on the extra exp and fame because you forgot to change your job.

 

5. If you want to earn even more adventure exp and fame, do adventure-related Oxford theses while you’re charting the NE Passage.

Any adventure-related thesis will do here, although many players prefer to do the “Shipwreck History” thesis because it yields plenty of adventure exp and fame for simply sailing around (you will need to rank either the salvage or haul skill to level 2 before you can do this thesis, however).

 

6. Bring Secret No-War Pacts (Blue Flags) if you don’t want to deal with pirates.

The NPC pirate fleets in the Arctic are both huge and powerful, and they are also located in strategic positions in the NE Passage (including near quest objectives). Unless you’re planning on bringing a high-end warship into the NE Passage, you may want to consider investing in (or trading for) blue flags. I know this may mean having to spend real money in order to purchase these in the astro shop, but for most players blue flags will make the difference between a tedious but otherwise routine journey or a stressful, frustrating experience in the NE Passage.

 

7. The GvoNavi course tracker does not really work in the NE Passage.

GvoNavi, it seems, will start glitching as soon as you sail above the 1000 horizontal line. This means that you will need to rely on your in-game compass and survey skill for a good deal of the NE Passage. You may want use a UWO world map with an x-y (i.e. horizontal-vertical) grid in order to make your journey through the NE Passage much easier (that way, you can manually track your current position and destination on the world map by using your survey skill coordinates).

*UPDATE* (2/21/2015): There’s a new edition of GvoNavi available from the OGPlanet Forum that is supposed to fix this problem.

 

8. You DO NOT have to chart the entire NE Passage in one day.

Even if you follow all of the above suggestions, charting the NE Passage can still feel like a repetitive grind, so if you’re feeling burned out, take a break and go do something else for awhile. On the other hand, if you’re feeling up to it, you can probably chart the entire NE Passage within a day (one of the more experienced players in UWO was able to chart the NE Passage in eight hours), but be careful. Even though charting the sea zones will eventually become routine, you do not want to end up crashing into a random inlet somewhere in the Passage or running out of something in the middle of nowhere. As the Ben Franklin adage goes, “haste makes waste”


 

My journey to chart the Northeast Passage has finally come to an end! Although I can continue charting the rest of the world map, I’ve decided to take a break from map charting and other adventure stuff and focus on other things in Uncharted Waters Online. I’m curious to see what’s new in the dungeons (particularly Bordeaux dungeon), and I’m also working towards unlocking the rest of the East Asia ports for Nanban trading (I’m currently focusing on China). And at some point, I’m probably going to take a short break from UWO (I have family visiting next week, so I’ll probably be taking my break from the game around that time).

 

Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed my quest to unlock the Northeast Passage, and I hope that the Gran Atlas updates will help encourage other players to try out adventuring in UWO. If nothing else, unlocking the Northeast Passage has also helped me keep up with my blog posts (which if anyone reading has noticed has been pretty stop-and-go since I began my UWO blog about a year ago). And it’s also refreshing to be writing about the more positive aspects of UWO for a change (the “Uncharted Drama” is still around of course, but that’s why we have world chat and the OGPlanet forums 😀 ).

 

Mahalo to everyone who has been following my blog entries, and to my fellow UWO players, I wish you all good luck and Happy Sailing!

 

Mahalo Nui Loa to KOEI and OGPlanet for making Gran Atlas available on GAMMA server and to all the players in Uncharted Waters Online who have been sharing their knowledge about Gran Atlas and the Northeast Passage in world chat and the forums.

Charting the Northeast Passage Part 3 – Into the “Danger” Zones

The Northeast Passage was one of my favorite sailing routes in Uncharted Waters: Sea Prince and Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. With the arrival of Gran Atlas, the Passage is finally here in Uncharted Waters Online! But how difficult is it to actually sail through the Passage? Here is the story of my efforts to chart UWO’s Northeast Passage…..


 

I began my third day of charting the Northeast Passage with a good deal of concern. The first adventurers to have gone through Passage have returned with stories of ice floes repeatedly banging up against their ships and have cautioned voyagers to bring plenty of tools and lumber into the Arctic. So far, it seems like I’ve been getting lucky with the ice floes, but will my luck change for the worse?

 

There’s only one way to find out…..


The western entrance to the Northeast Passage consists of several sea zones: the north Norwegian, the western and eastern Barents Sea, and the White Sea (although Mercator did not requite me to chart the White Sea, I decided to do so anyways). At the western end of the North Norwegian sea lies the port of Narvik, a useful jumping off point for any ships heading into the NE Passage (it’s a supply port, but at least you can get fresh provisions, pickup new sailors, and rest your crew for a bit).
Approaching Narvik, I finally encountered the ice floes that I’ve heard so much about. They began hitting my ship about once every minute, and they can pack quite a punch (approx. 60 – 150 durability per hit)! I decided to use an MCCT to repair the damage and found – to my delightful surprise – that they restore 100 durability per use. After charting my first zone, I also discovered that the damage from ice floes goes down considerably (from 60-150 to 15-25 per hit) after you finish charting a zone (you don’t even have to wait until you’ve turned in the map, the effects apply immediately after you finish the map).
Aside from the ice floes, charting the North Norwegian and the Barents Sea zones was pretty much straightforward. I still encountered the same GvoNavi issues that I had while charting the earlier Arctic zones (the issues seem to begin after I sail north of the 1000 latitude line), but I’ve become quite adept at using the compass and survey skill in order to makeup for this problem.


After finishing the Northern European Coast, I returned to Amsterdam and received the permits for the next region of NE Passage zones – the “Northern Eurasian Coast.” This region more or less lies in the “middle” of the NE Passage and is also where the narrowest parts of the Passage are located. There are three zones in this region: the West and East Kara seas and the Leptev sea. Mangazeya serves as the regional supply port in this area, but sailors wishing to use this port should keep in mind that Mangazeya is located at the mouth of a pretty narrow river.
Fortunately, I’ve been developing my steering skill proficiency, and I was able to steer my ship through the various islands and inlets that dot this portion of the NE Passage. With the exception of the immediate area around Mangazeya, the GvoNavi tracker is also useless in this region. But despite these issues, charting the Northern Eurasian Coast proved to be no more problematic than charting the other regions . And as with the Northern European Coast, the ice floes in this area caused much less damage after I finished charting each sea zone.
After finishing my charts, it was time to return to Amsterdam. During my return trip, I discovered that it was faster to use the Barents Sea zones rather than the White Sea or North Norwegian (I decided to skip Narvik and sail further West across the Barents Sea before making my southern turn towards Bergen). As a result, I managed a twenty one day sail from Mangazeya to Bergen, which isn’t too bad.


Overall, my third day of charting has helped answered at least some of the questions that have been bugging me about the NE Passage. The ice floes were a real pain in the neck at the beginning of each charting voyage, but eventually become more a nuisance rather than an obstacle to sailing through the Passage. I was also able to sail reasonably fast between Narvik and Mangazeya and from Mangazeya back to Bergen. And the MCCTs really performed wonders for ship repair.
Based on all of these developments, it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll be able to traverse the Northeast Passage with a sizable amount of trade goods. My journey. however is not yet finished. Completing the North European Arctic and North Eurasian Coasts means that I’m now about halfway finished towards charting the rest of the Passage. While the Far East end of the Passage looks pretty pretty easy to chart, I’ve noticed that many of the sea zones in this area are wider than the ones in the western portion of the Passage. This won’t affect my ability to chart the Passage, but it may affect any attempt to bring large amounts of trade goods through this Passage.

 

 

In other words, I am finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel…..but how far away is it?

 

 

…..To Be Continued

Charting the Northeast Passage Part 2 – North By Northwest

The Northeast Passage was one of my favorite sailing routes in Uncharted Waters 1 and New Horizons. With the arrival of Gran Atlas, the Passage is finally here in Uncharted Waters Online! But how difficult is it to actually travel through? Here is the story of my efforts to chart UWO’s Northeast Passage…..


My journey to unlock the Northeast Passage continues. As with any journey, there will be surprises – both good and bad. But as far as the second day goes, there were few if any surprises. Much of the map charting has become routine – steering the ship here and there and fishing (or shall I say “trawling”) along the way.

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise I’ve run into so far seems to be with the GvoNavi program (in case anyone reading this doesn’t know, GvoNavi works like a “GPS” app for UWO). GvoNavi is a very convenient program to use in UWO – especially if you’re going to be sailing thousands of miles into the ocean. What I’ve noticed, however, is that when my ship reaches a certain area (somewhere above the Arctic Circle perhaps?), I’m no longer able to track the ship in GvoNavi. At least not in its actual location. It’s kinda like a compass going haywire as a ship approaches the magnetic north pole.

 

Aside from the GvoNavi issues, however, everything else went smoothly during my second day of map charting. Today’s efforts – as my title suggests – required me to sail NORTHWEST of the NE Passage and chart three sea zones located between Iceland and Greenland. Why Mercator requires me to do this first before tackling the NE Passage itself I have no idea. But I guess these quests are meant to be like an audition, a chance to make sure that I’m ready to tackle the more difficult sea zones in the NE Passage.

 


The three zones I charted on my second day were the Icelandic and Denmark Basins and the Fram Strait. Icelandic and Denmark are pretty much “ocean” zones, zones that are relatively easy to chart since you don’t have to worry about running into land or ice. Charting the Fram Strait however proved to be a bit more challenging than the two Basins. As in the Lofoten Basin, my GvoNavi failed to work correctly at the Fram Strait, forcing me to rely again on the good ‘ole compass and survey skill window. I was also expecting to run into the dreaded ice floes at Fram but none turned up. A couple of my charting quests forced me to sail pretty close to the ice pack, but I was able to successfully complete the quests despite these closer encounters with the polar ice.  In the end, charting the Fram Strait proved to be a much easier task than I had expected.
After finishing the charts, it was time to head back to Mercator in Amsterdam and turn in the new information. My reward for doing so was the permit for the first sea zones that are actually in the Northeast Passage!


So far, it looks like I’ve been very lucky with my map charting. I haven’t run into any ice floes yet, and there’s been little trouble otherwise on the open sea. But how long will my luck hold, especially now that I’m actually going to enter the Northeast Passage?

 

Will I finally run into the ice floes that I’ve been hearing so much about?

How long will it take for me to chart these new zones?

Will I be within easy reach of supplies?

And will all the time and trouble I’m spending to unlock the Passage be really worth it in the end?

 

The answers to all of these questions await me in the Barents Sea…

 

 

….To Be Continued

Sir John Franklin and the Potential of Teaching History Through Video Games

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.
Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Psalms 107:23-30 (King James Bible)


With the arrival of Gran Atlas and the Mercator map quests, players are now sailing all over virtual world of Uncharted Waters Online, completing the world atlas. Many players are charting the Northeastern Passage, battling storms, pirates, and ice floes in order to do so. I have begun my own efforts to chart the Northeast Passage and will detail these efforts in an upcoming series of posts. Yet in beginning this undertaking, I could not help but remember the story of a real-life attempt to chart the uncharted waters of the Northwest Passage.

 

 

The story of Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition ranks among one of the most famous – and tragic – stories of sea exploration. Sir John Franklin is not the first explorer that most people think of right away. Columbus, Magellan, Cook, and even Henry Hudson are usually remembered first before Franklin. But in my view, Franklin’s 1845 expedition stands out as a particularly tragic story of exploration not so much because it failed (many other sea explorations failed during the Age of Discovery) but because it failed despite its tremendous technological advantages – and despite the overwhelming confidence of Sir John Franklin and his men.


“More than any other expedition, this attempt” to navigate through the Northwest Passage “should have succeeded” notes a NOVA documentary on the Franklin Expedition (“Arctic Passage – Prisoners of the Ice,” 2006). “The men had every advantage. What could have happened?”

 
To make the long story short, Sir John Franklin and his men were unprepared for the harsh and unforgiving conditions of the polar ice. Despite their advanced and well-equipped sailing ships, and despite of (or perhaps because of) the extensive supplies and equipment that Franklin and his men brought into the Arctic, the expedition was practically doomed from the start. The men of the Franklin Expedition relied too much on their ships – and on Sir John Franklin – to make it through the Passage. And when those ships became permanently trapped in the ice – and when Sir John Franklin died after two years of battling the polar ice – the surviving officers and men were doomed to a heroic – but inevitably tragic – attempt to walk of the Canadian Arctic.

 
More than any other story of sea exploration, the Franklin Expedition is a sobering reminder of the very real dangers that come with sea exploration. And although Uncharted Waters Online is a video game, it is a game that portrays – at least to a certain degree – some of these dangers.

 
I realize that sailing in virtual waters is not the same as sailing in actual waters. Those of us who play Uncharted Waters Online from the comfort of our computers, laptops, or Ipads will never know the hardships of being on a sailing ship in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, or 1800s. Video games create the illusion of reality, and the more detailed the graphics, or the more detailed the simulation, the more powerful the illusion becomes.

 
On the other hand, games like Uncharted Waters DO give players an idea about what it must have been like to be on the sea during the Age of Sail. And one of the things I have been enjoying about Gran Atlas so far is that it ENCOURAGES players to go back into the sea, rather than simply sitting around in port all the time.


So why the allusion to Sir John Franklin? Why should somebody playing a Japanese online video game in 2015 care so much about a tragic story that occurred over a hundred fifty years ago?

 
The reason is because I believe that video games have the potential to inspire people to learn more about actual history. Players who couldn’t have cared less about sailing ships or the Age of Discovery can download Uncharted Waters Online (for free!) and experience all the excitements – and a little of the actual dangers – associated with sailing a ship. Students who may have fallen asleep in their world history class can play Uncharted Waters Online and maybe not fall asleep when their next class is about the Age of Exploration. Players doing the various adventure quests in UWO may actually want to learn about the stuff they’re exploring in the game. In my own case, learning the “Arctic Languages” skill today led me to learn about a Japanese sailor who spent over eleven years in Russia after becoming marooned in Sakhalin during the 1700s.

 
I know that video games are not the most accurate way to learn history. Reading books (and preferably academic studies) serves that purpose well. But if a game like Uncharted Waters can inspire someone to read a history book or watch a historical documentary, then that counts as a victory in my book.


Maybe I’m being a little bit too idealistic about all this. After all, most people play video games in order to escape their daily lives rather than learn something new about the world. But there is a reason why so many students end up leaving school thinking that “history is boring.” History does not have to be “boring” any more than Uncharted Waters Online has to be “boring” or “repetitive.” There is the potential – at least – of video games becoming a powerful tool for reaching people – especially young people – who could have otherwise cared less about the past.

 

 

In other words, if I had not been introduced to Uncharted Waters, I may never have become interested in people like Columbus, Magellan, Cook, or Sir John Franklin.

“Gameplay Bias aka What is “Really” Playing the game(?)”

Earlier tonight, I came across a thread in the OGPlanet forum that really got me thinking again about some of the issues with Uncharted Waters Online (the thread name is the title of tonight’s post). I posted a brief reply to the thread on the forum, and for those of you who are interested in following the original thread, here’s the direct link:

http://nforum.ogplanet.com/uwo/forum_posts.asp?TID=602659

Below are my thoughts about this thread….and arguably the most reflecting I have done on any video game (or on video games in general).

Enjoy!!

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Most of us who play video games probably don’t spend a terrible amount of time reflecting on how we play or why we play what we play. And that’s probably a good thing, for video games – like any other form of entertainment – are designed to get our minds away from the stressful “grind” of our daily lives. One of the collective stereotypes about us as video gamers is that we pretty much play mindless, violent first-person shooters (Call of Duty come to mind?). Anyone who follows the news (and especially in the United States) will know about the ongoing political debate over regulating video game content, and I believe a large part of what’s fueling that debate comes from this stereotype about video games and video game culture.

Perhaps I was very fortunate that as a young kid in the 1990’s, I was exposed to different kinds of video games, games like the original Uncharted Waters for the SNES. In fact, I still remember the day I bought the first Uncharted Waters video game; the young guy who sold it to me said that it was a very addicting game and had a lot of depth – both gameplay and historical-wise. Uncharted Waters was one of the first (and one of the few) role playing games that I played for the SNES and I loved it!! Those of you who remember the original game may still remember that incredible feeling you had as you were leaving Lisbon on Leon Franco’s first journey in his tiny caravel. To think that you can go from being in that tiny ship to commanding an armada of galleons with hundreds of sailors; that you could sail all around the world (and I mean the WHOLE world!); and that you could rise from obscurity to marrying the daughter of the King of Portugal? And that you could do all of this however and whenever you wanted to (despite the fact that you automatically died after you reached 36 years of age?

That’s awesome stuff!!

Of course, much has evolved since those halcyon days. Video games are still wildly entertaining (or at least the best ones are), but they have also become incredibly diverse….and incredibly complex.

And I’m not just talking about the video games themselves.

We as a gaming community have also become incredibly diverse and complex.

There are a few of us, for example, who are considered by marketers to be the “hardcore” type – the gamers who play a game from the very beginning to the very end, striving for every achievement possible and investing all the hours that such effort requires. And then there are the millions of “casual” gamers, gamers who like to sink in a few hours or days (or weeks or months) into a video game, but who then move on to another video game. There are even a growing number of gamers who like to “retro-game” – i.e. play the old video games that have become “obsolete.”

And then there are video gamers like myself, gamers who have pretty much done all of the above (even the so-called “retro-gaming,” although I prefer to call this activity “Enjoying the Classics!”).

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So……I quote the title of this post:

“What is ‘Really’ Playing the Game?”

The question mark was missing in the original title, but I think it should be there because CPC (or Crazy Psycho Chick – the author of the original thread and one of the older UWO vets) raises a very legitimate question. The question is not only about what is “really” playing Uncharted Waters Online, but what is “really” the point about playing video games in the first place.

I’ll try not to get to abstract about all this because that would ruin the “game” (so-to-speak) about dealing with CPC’s question.

And I’ll try not to take too long either (although I am enjoying this thought exercise)….

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Okay, let’s start from the premise that:

Video games are meant to be entertaining.”

If we then substitute the words “Uncharted Waters Online,” then we get:

Uncharted Waters Online is meant to be entertaining.”

But if we then add an additional phrase, we come up with this premise:

“Uncharted Waters Online is meant to be entertaining because you can do anything you want to.”

Well, that is basically the original point (or thesis, if you like the fancier word) of CPC’s thread.

We are free to do pretty much anything we want in Uncharted Waters Online, whether it’s Running companies, Engaging in piracy, Running spice trade/nanban trade, Pulling adventure chain quests, Grinding production skills, Discovering new ports, Sinking baby pirates off the coast of Seville, Running Seville Bazaar alts (yes, I’ve done this as well), Doing Epic Sea Feuds, Investment Battles, or Academy Competitions, Competing in the sailing races, Running Syracuse, Bordeaux, or FSD Dungeons……..

And the list goes on and on.

Well, basically you can do just about anything you want in Uncharted Waters Online. And that’s why UWO is such an entertaining video game. Whereas other MMO’s basically limit you to fighting dragons in dungeons (no offense to those video games), in UWO you don’t even have to leave your home port. You can earn hundreds of millions of cold hard ducats by hanging around places like Seville and auctioning stuff (Seville being the auction capital of UWO). Whereas other video games require you to complete a storyline campaign or tutorial phase, in UWO you don’t even need to do the tutorials before diving right in (although I personally would not recommend that). And of course, since Uncharted Waters Online (on the GAMA server) is a “free-to-play” game, you don’t even need to pay a single cent to play this game! All you need is a decent computer with a decent internet connection and you’re good to go!!

(Well, you may want to spend a few dollars now and then so you can grind skills faster or if you want to sail out of Europe without worrying about the pesky pirates! =D)

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There is a problem with CPC’s original premise, however. The problem is that since Uncharted Waters Online allows players to do anything they want, then there’s inevitably going to be SOMEBODY who will take that premise to its logical conclusion.

Before continuing, I would like to point out that my comments are in no way meant to offend any player or the larger UWO community. I am simply trying to state my humble opinions. If anything there are many friendly players in Uncharted Waters Online, and I am deeply grateful to all of the players (a few of whom may even be reading this blog post) who have helped me enjoy this game over the eight months that I have been playing this game.

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I’ll name a few examples:

1. Scamming other players, either in-person or using their gold-spamming player bot programs

(that of course is not just a UWO problem; It’s a problem in other MMO’s, including World of Tanks)

2. Attacking other players indiscriminately

(this is probably why KOEI and Netmarble decided to severely curtail player pirates so that they can only attack players after they reach a certain level)

3. Driving up the prices for everything in the player economy so that players are forced to go into dungeons and farm them in order to make millions of ducats

(I personally try not to sell things for too much – especially vigour food – although I understand why people have to charge so much for things in the bazaar or company shops)

…….And in my opinion the worst offence

4. Making personal attacks on other players in the forums or in game chat

(Obviously this is not just a problem confined to UWO, but it is an issue within the UWO gaming community)

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I think #4 is especially what motivated CPC to start her thread about “Gameplay Bias” and I don’t blame her. I have read the comments made against her on the UWO website Ivyro, and some of them are quite vulgar, about as bad as any of the stuff that gets thrown around on the Internet these days (and an embarrassment to Ivyro, which otherwise is a very important database for UWO players).

Despite whatever issues CPC may have caused with the way she has chosen to play UWO, I do not think she deserves that kind of online abuse.

And to those of you who may be thinking that CPC can simply ignore these players and their personal attacks, I think you are missing an important point about MMORPG’s like Uncharted Waters Online. Because MMO’s require multiple players to be in a persistent game world, they require players to interact socially, one way or another. This is one of the biggest differences between Uncharted Waters Online and the original Uncharted Waters games. In the original games, you can do anything you want (even cheat, especially in the emulated versions) because it is pretty much yourself against the computer. While there are NPC’s (non-playable characters) in Uncharted Waters Online, gamers are the lifeblood of this game. Without them, UWO would pretty much be dead. And because CPC is an auctioneer, she is especially vulnerable to players making personal attacks on herself and damaging her reputation in the game (so that players will not want to deal with her).

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For nearly nine months, I have been playing Uncharted Waters Online almost non-stop, although I’ve slowed down more recently to focus on other video games like Titanfall (which btw, is an excellent game on the Xbox One!). To be honest, this is one of the longest stretches I have spent on any particular video game, which is one of the reasons why I believe UWO is one of the best MMORPG’s out there. And in the process, I have started this personal blog, along with a second blog for my in-game company The_Lords_Paladins.

In short, I have invested a lot of time and energy into this video game, and that’s pretty amazing when you think about it, especially in a world where we all seem to have shorter attention spans for anything (let alone video games). Heck, if you’re still reading this post, then you must have a pretty good attention span, since I did not intend to write as much or as long as I ended up doing tonight. But having looked back on everything I’ve written, I feel good for having gotten all these thoughts off my chest. Perhaps this is the time to finally come out and express my own views about a video game that in certain respects has become more than just a video game. Too often, it seems like gamers (and especially non-gamers) look at video games like kid’s toys, something to trifle with but not really something to take seriously. I think any serious gamer would tell you however that video games do contain a certain cultural and even psychological power. Look at it this way, if video games did not have psychological power, then why do we spend hours of our free time playing them?

In closing, I commend Crazy Psycho Chick for finally coming out into the open with her thread on the OGPlanet forum. Even though making forum threads – or blog posts – is not exactly like public speaking, it does take a certain amount of courage to publicly state your views in a candid manner, online or offline.

And that’s what Crazy Psycho Chick did. And I respect her for what she did, even if I don’t agree with everything she has to say.