HAWKEYE PIKE -UO’s First Pirate
The Leader of the United Pirates of Catskills, Captain Trinsac and his friend, Wench Margaret, have arrived on Siege to serve as judges in Arrr’s Limerick Contest. I was Intrigued by their commitment to strong pirate roleplay (I had to throw all the windows open. Apparently, pirates fart alot.) I wanted to know more, so….
I tracked down Andreas Schulze, German born author and Trans-Alp bikepacking enthusiast who, as the UO character Hawkeye Pike, founded The United Pirates, UO’s oldest pirates guild.
Q: Why did you start the United Pirates of Catskills?
Hawkeye: When we started the United Pirates back in 1998, Britannia was haunted by lots of player killers. Those who preferred to play UO for the purpose of role-playing were quite annoyed by the “violence” that was forced onto them. They simply did not want to participate in pure unconsenting fighting contests with the result of being looted dry afterwards. (There was no such thing as a safe Trammel world at that time.) That’s when we decided to try something new by playing evil characters just for fun, without negative side effects for our “victims”.
Since we loved the pirate theme in general, UO offered items like tricornes, cutlasses and krysses and there were no pirates in UO yet, we found a handful of like-minded people, dressed up and started our shady business.
Q: What was pirating like back then, before the High Seas Expansion?
Hawkeye: The life of pirating should be divided into three eras: The first age before Trammel and Felucca. The second age before the High Seas Expansion. And the third age which came afterwards.
In the first age, players had lots of freedom and playing was more risky. You actually could play a highwayman, wait at some crossroads in the wilderness for travelers to come by and rob them. People traveled more on foot or horse and they had to react in some way to the threats of a criminal.
The reactions were mostly quite surprising. When people discovered that we were no typical PKs but actual role players (and they noticed quickly by the way we were dressed and acted), they played along, payed a little ransom or offered some wares in exchange for their safety. We took what was offered and let them pass. Same was done on sea where we seeked out fishermen and miners. Only rarely we actually had to kill somebody because he was very stubborn or macroing unattendedly.
The second age changed everything, since practically all role players moved to Trammel and role-playing an evil person was not possible anymore. That’s where we focused stronger on building a large net of guild relations. Due to game mechanics, this was the only way to actually impact the gameplay of other people. Extensive rules had to be established to avoid griefing, and as in real life, with the rules came a lot of problems. The job of a guild master consisted mostly of ironing out misunderstandings, teaching players who disobayed rules and keeping a good relationship to “enemy” guilds. (Most of the guilds we were connected to were our “enemies” in a role-playing sense.) Especially since the Age of Shadows (the expansion in 2003) more and more rare and powerful equipment was introduced into the game. In order to be able to compete in fights you had to put a lot of effort into equipping your guild. Which meant: More time went into items, less time into role-playing.
Although the third age sounded promising due to the High Seas Expansion, it did not change much. The expansion was about 10 years late. UO and especially role-playing guilds had suffered from a dwindling number of players. There simply weren’t enough people to make use of all the nifty ships, cannons and stuff. We managed to pull off a couple of sea fights, but it included lots of preparational and organizational work. Another disadvantage was that sea fights were extremely resource-extensive, which would have required even more time for mindless resource gathering and less time for role-playing. Thus, the expansion did not change a lot about role-playing a pirate.
Q: What could UO do, to attract more players to the High Seas?
Hawkeye: The question is, what could UO do to attract more players to the game in general. Because I think the High Seas expansion itself is actually quite good. In 2010 I have written a short essay about my opinion about this (http://www.aschulze.net/ultima/blog/blog_20100626.htm ). The most obvious changes would be in short:
Solve the problem with complexity. UO has become a very complicated game with uncountable features. A new player has a hard time learning the game. UO needs comprehensible guides and tutorials. It also needs step-by-step in-game instructions and quests making new players acquainted with the game content.
Solve the problem of Trammel. I know many of the remaining veterans will have a different opinion. But the invention of the Trammel facet (no non-consensual PvP) took away the freedom from the players. Since most players will choose the safe zone if it is offered to them, non-consensual PvP practically died out. But taking away this freedom also killed the UO community, because unneglegible good and evil is what triggers strong emotions and builds the foundations of our society. Taking away the last bit of responsibility and freedom from the players turned them into item-hunters and killed the spirit of the game. But at the same time, especially new players need to be somehow protected from massive griefing.
Find new solutions against mindless killing and griefing. Create up-to-date graphics. Nobody will start playing a game which has graphics that are outdated since 10 years. It’s as simple as that.
To be honest, I don’t think that UO can change as extremely as it would be necessary to turn it into a magnet for new players again. It would require changes that 90% of the current player base would not accept. Nobody will risk losing the active players, but rather milk the cow until it dies and then maybe invent a new game.
Q: What is your best advice to any player seeking to enjoy pirate role play?
Hawkeye: To me, the first step to enjoying pirate role-play is to free yourself from the item-equipment-treadmill. Make a new character, get some cheap pirate equipment and get into a pirate mood! Try to stay in character most of the time. This makes you authentic. Try to strike a balance between being an evil pirate and not annoying other players too much. If you stay in character, people will understand that your swearing, bad manners and harsh words are no personal affront against other players, but actually the attributes of your character in game. Take into account to be treated accordingly.
Q: Last question: What the hell have you been doing with yourself lately?
Hawkeye: That’s hard to put into one sentence. Aside from a full-time job I’ve been doing several projects in my spare time. I’ve been planning and going on several outdoor adventures by mountain bike and on foot. I usually make short video documentaries of these trips and put them on YouTube (just look for the name “gletschersau”). In October 2013 I will release a new video about my Alps Traverse by mountain bike. I also am writing two books. One is almost finished and will be released this year. It is a guide about wilderness, bushcraft and survival. I’m also doing some creative work for friends who have a small business and need stuff like logos, flyers, ad material etc. And of course lots of sports to keep me in shape for my outdoor activities. This pretty much keeps me busy and leaves no time for TV or computer games. Well, I play the old game Titan Quest for maybe 1 hour a week to relax. I wish UO had such graphics…
Thank you Hawkeye for the entertaining and informative interview!
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