My personal opinion, well known to those well read in archives of LumtheMad.net, is that macroing is a form of stealing. Without getting into the iddy-biddies of how gains work, or whether using a looping macro to make leather caps is a “cheat”, the bottom line is that the landlord has said, “No pets allowed” and people are getting angry when he kicks them out for having hump-back whales in their apartments. A colossal “what did you expect?” to those who got caught. That’s my personal opinion.
But there is more to the story than just what’s floating around in old Arcadian’s snot locker. No, it’s true! There are all sorts of excuses for using macro tools in UO, and they range from “I need it because I have a slow ADSL connection,” to “I only use it because casting In Lor somehow uninstalls my operating system and replaces it with The Anthological Barry Manilow in MP3 format.” Setting those viable explanations aside, I’d like to suggest the possibility that the “anti-macro crackdown” policy might be a failure. If the policy of any law or any rule is to restrict “unacceptable actions”, then this policy has certainly failed as a deterrent. People know the penalties, but they macro anyway. Without turning this into a psychological analysis, I’d like to offer up a theory that I personally think is a total crock.
Far be it from me to be right about everything.
Raph Koster, the original Lead Designer of Ultima Online, has the following to say regarding macroing:
“No matter what you do, someone is going to automate the process of playing your world.”
So we have a crime that more or less, will not go away, regardless of the penalties or the consequences. I have to agree with him here, and the fact that players are still being banned for it as late as yesterday afternoon validates his point. Macroing will always be there – thus, OSI will always be closing accounts for macroing. Raph further states that, “Looking at what parts of your game players tend to automate is a good way to determine which parts of the game are tedious and/or not fun.” This is hardly the first time this statement has been quoted, nor is it the last time it will be used to demonstrate something that is still wrong with Ultima Online. That something is it’s client. For example, if you are a healer, you need to have between fifty and one hundred bandages at any given time. Because nobody cares to buy them from NPCs at a rate of ten every thirty minutes, every UO healer cuts them from cloth. While cloth is stackable, and the bandages you cut will stack in your container – you must cut every single bandage one at a time. This is a feat that requires a double click, a target, a single click.
Needless to say, doing this one hundred times a day sucks. Any one who tells you otherwise is probably on the Dev Team. So quite a few players make use of various looping programs that allow you to record UO actions, and loop them until you are done. They use this to make their bandages, for obvious reasons.
This is a bannable action. You cannot use any utility that alters the “no repeats” feature built into UOA macros (The UO client has never had such a feature). So what we have here is an unnecessarily tedious process in Ultima Online, that is automated by an easy ninety-nine percent of players who use the healing skill – and the solution is to ban them. Earlier I said that I’m a firm believer in fair and balanced play. I don’t break a rule unless I happen to lose my cool and my head explodes all over the room (I don’t think I have to be any more specific than that, faithful readers). But I do have to ponder about my “no holds barred” approach to this topic, and wonder whether it is justice to ban a player because he was able to cut up one hundred bandages without having to click his mouse four hundred times. If you had an automated Raph Koster bot, and you fed him that question on a punch card, he would no doubt tell you to improve the way in which players create bandages from cloth. Click once on a stack of cloth with scissors – prompt window says “all or one?” – you click one, you get a bandage. You click all, you get one hundred bandages.
And nobody gets the MMORPG equivalent of the death penalty. Now don’t get confused – I still believe that even if you use a macro to make one hundred bandages, you have violated a rule that is way too easy to comprehend. You deserve the punitive actions that are promised. But let’s compare this to a recent problem at my office building. Our parking lot used to be public access. It was clearly labeled as a tow away zone if you parked there without a permit. But people still did it. Some didn’t see signs, some didn’t read English – but most of them just assumed it was worth the risk. Four tow trucks worked non-stop dragging cars out of the lot. The were not able to keep up with them. Cars would park illegal in spots that a tow just emptied, waiting patiently for the truck to move out of their way. The final solution was to use a bar code scanning system – you either have a valid bar code on your window, or the barricade doesn’t let you enter the lot. They realized that in spite of the severe penalties, people still broke the rules. You see, the goal was not to tow away cars – the goal was to make spots available to people who work here. When they realized that “banning cars from the lot” wasn’t working, they improved the way the lot worked.
OSI needs to consider that, I think. They need to ask themselves, why are we banning the “bandage bandits”? If the answer is to enforce the rules that are in place, perhaps the best cure is an ounce of prevention. If the purpose of the bans are to eliminate macroing, it stands to reason that improving the client to make things like this far less tedious and time consuming, is a far more effective prevention.
The wild hairy rumor is that there are mysterious things being done to the UO client deep in the bowels of the Origin catacombs. We can only hope that the efforts done recently to snare and expel 3rd party tool users are matched by efforts to investigate and improve some of the reasons people feel the need to use them in the first place. While certainly nobody needs to be able to see hidden or stealthing players, certainly nobody should be banned for automating the bandage cutting rigmarole.