"They don't know anything! I've asked so many times to so many different counselors and they cannot tell me!"
"I want them to teleport me here and they cannot do that. I mean what good are they then?"
"What do you mean you cannot do this? What do you mean you cannot call a GM now?? I've been waiting for hours and I get this?"
"They are useless!"
These are the frequent comments I hear about counselors, how pathetic and useless they are, that they cannot do anything and don't know anything. How many players have said the above to counselors, and asked them questions or pointed out problems that they cannot answer, are unaware of, or cannot help at all? Many of you have, at one point, encountered players or postings like these I'm sure.
The problem I see arise from misunderstandings about the role of the counselors and the abilities that counselors have. I will try to describe the "player support" structure that we have in UO in the hope that these information will enlighten the many confused, and upset players in the game.
When you have a problem, encountered a bug, need some question answered, typically you hit the Call GM button and wait for a GM to turn up to help you. If your question can be answered by players, that would be your best option as you will tend to get answers fast. If players are helpful. But it seems that newbies in the game are even more lost now than in the Beta days, when players are more keen on helping than now. Maybe it's the fact that players are now paying for the gametime that they have become hardened to new players and have left them to fend for themselves. Clearly, most players who know the ropes of the game have forgotten sometimes that they were once as lost as the newbies are in the final release now.
Counselors are the buffers between the player community and the GameMasters (GMs). They help the GMs to answer calls for help, to answer player queries if they can, help them resolve problems, and if they cannot, to pass the player's queries/problems to the GM to handle. This way, the GMs get to work on the more serious issues at hand for the day, and help out to resolve the difficulties players encounter.
This is what happens. You, the player, call the GM by pressing the Call GM button. Your name and the message you enter gets put into a queue for that particular server. That queue is managed by counselors firsthand. They, the counselors, are your first line of enquiry. A counselor who's logged in to the server will go to the top of the queue list and teleport to the player in question to help him or her out. If the counselor cannot help the player, eg it's a serious problem that only GMs can resolve, they transfer the player (data and location of the player etc) to the GM to resolve. The player can go about doing his business as the GM will teleport straight to the player.
However, if you, the player, happened to be around and a counselor teleports in to help the "calling" player, and you asks him some questions or points out some problems you are facing when he has sorted out his "call", (and you didn't call the GM yourself), you are not in the queue at all. THAT means that the counselor, as it stands now, will try to help you if he can at the moment. For example, if it's simple queries that the counselor can answer, he will endeavour to answer them. IF they are more technical or serious issues, and the counselor cannot answer them or resolve them for you, BECAUSE you are NOT IN THE QUEUE, he cannot transfer you to a GM. Only people who are in the queue, and whom the counselor is helping at the moment, can be transferred to the GM. This issue is being looked at to see if it can be streamlined, but as it stands now, if you just happened upon a counselor and reported your problem, and he cannot resolve it, you will have to call a GM yourself so that you can be in the queue and a counselor will drop by and THEN he can transfer you to the GM.
If you had called for a GM and you perchance meet a counselor answering a call from another player and you speak to him about your problems, he still cannot "push" you up the queue so that he can transfer you to the GM. You STILL have to wait for your turn in the queue.
I know it can be very frustrating for players when they meet a counselor (and they've been waiting for hours) only to be told by the counselor that they have to either call the GM again, or wait for ANOTHER counselor to come by to help them out! But the UO team and the counselors are working very hard together to work out the counselor system to make it more efficient, with better and faster response times in the future.
What CAN we do and what CAN'T we do? As of today (10 Oct 1997) :-
We are only human. Like you. And we volunteered our time to help you.
So why become a counselor? If we are so limited in our powers and abilities and knowledge?
Because to a fraction of the player population, particularly the new players, who come into the world not knowing anything, and are totally lost, whatever small iota of knowledge that we might have gained as players in the world for the past couple of weeks, we impart our knowledge to these "newbies". We help them to take their first steps, learn their first skills, attack their first creature.
To players who encountered "bugs" or problems or something strange, we can help report these to the UO Team. When too many of us seem to be reporting the same problem, they have to take notice.
To players who need any form of help, we try OUR BEST to help them.
However, to players who want to complain about the state of the game, or demand for certain items or compensation, we have our hands tied. We cannot do that for you. We really do understand the frustrations you are going through because we go through the same frustrations as well. BUT we are players like you. So be understanding when you next encounter a counselor.
You know what I personally miss, as a counselor, what brings a smile to my face when I'm out counseling? When a passerby or a call comes up to me and asks me questions that I can help answer. When a player CHATS to me just to say Hello.
Players are missing what I'd argue to be the soul of the game: Social Interaction. This may be the world's first largest Multiplayer Role Playing Game, but more importantly, this is the world's first social virtual environment, where people have a chance to interact and meet and talk! Where people can form theatre groups, and help others out in the game. This is not just a big combat arena, where you build up your character to Grandmaster level and then go out hunting. This is a WORLD you're in. Help others. Live in it. Play the role. Speak medieval english! Bow and salute!
So what if it's a big funny now. So what if it lags, it crashes, it burns. We have, installed in our hard disk, the world's FIRST TRULY MULTIPLAYER EXPERIENCE. Not a GAME but an EXPERIENCE. In the years to come, there may be other such "games", maybe better. But this will go down in history as the FIRST, and we are all building the very foundations that will be used by others to come, to make other worlds. The pioneers in the world never had an easy life, as developers and as the common people who had to live in their strange lands. Neither will we. Not for now, but it WILL get better, as the UO team works, sweats, have waking nightmares about Ultima Online. As counselors try to help make the game a wee more pleasant. As players help to make the game more vivid, multidimensional, interesting. Bear in mind that our counselor duties and abilities will change as the world changes.
We WILL get there eventually. When Ultima Online will truly rise to be the Game that everyone will remember changed the world of gaming. And we HELPED make that happen... The Players of Ultima Online.
Disclaimer: (Hey, I don't want to be banned because of this article!
*g*) This is not the opinion of Origins or of the UO Team, nor of all the
counselors. I wrote this because I saw (when I was playing), and encountered
(when I was counseling) these situations and I feel the players should
know how the system and how I as a counselor feel when we encounter difficult