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Utopia Depot Staff Interviewing Mehul Patel
People seemed to either love or hate this round. What are your feelings? Did it meet your expectations?
It was a mix. I like the general direction of the game -- however, this round got off to a very rocky due to a combination of bad events, so I didn't get as good a feel for it as I would have liked. The general trend however very definitely very positive.

At the beginning of this round, there was a large wave of kingdom attacks. Halfway though, relations were changed and landgrabbing returned. You’ve stated several times that you are in favor of promoting kingdom wars, but do you plan on keeping random landgrabs a part of the game?
We need to strike a good balance here. The idea is not to remove landgrabbing, but instead to encourage kingdom to kingdom wars, since that is where all of the features of Utopia -- teamwork, coordination, etc -- really come together. A big part of Utopia is to emphasize the Kingdom rather than the individual, so I do want to do things that encourage that. At the same time, I don't want to overly restrict players. I think the original change might have gone too far, so we decided to back off a little for the time being.

One cause for uproar this round was the large increase in exploration costs without any notification. Did you feel that the exploring situation was so bad that you had to change it immediately? If so, why?
It was a bad situation, and combined with the delay of fixing the attacks, I felt it was something that had to be dealt with immediately. Not notifying players was a mistake, though. We actually have done this once before, but it wasn't as noticable and no one complained that time. :)

At the beginning of this round you said that the multi/cheater detection and deletion system would be entirely automatic. Has this system been effective and will it continue to be used next round?
Yes and no. It definitely has helped tremendously. However, I still need to commit more time to the manual deletions, so in that respect, it hasn't been as effective as I'd like. The original goal of the automation was to get rid of the obvious multis, giving me more time to focus on other multis... Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out that way just yet.

On July 2nd, around 800 accounts were deleted, and as you said, 400 were done so unjustly. Have you identified what caused this bug, and has it been fixed? Can Utopians feel confident that something like this will not happen in the 5th round?
Yeah -- that was a fluke situation that happened because of a combination of factors. It should never happen again (at least, that particular situation), but we put extra precautions for it as well.

Kingdoms like 1:1, 2:2, etc... as well as the “Newbie Ghetto” (islands 25 and up) have been plagued with heavy attacks ever since the First Age. Do you see any solution to this problem?
Honestly, not really. If we spread players out too much initially, and we over-estimate how many players will play, then we have a big mess of unfilled kingdoms. If we go the other way too far, we get the ghettos. It's a matter of finding a balance, but it's almost impossible to predict how many players we'll have next round, especially since many join throughout the game.

Another issue of fierce debate was your decision to have every province start fresh in a new kingdom, although it died down quickly as the round progressed. Are you happy with this decision?
Definitely. Many, many players got a chance to experience the politics involved from the start, and many new players got to be regents. I felt that after the 3rd round, alot of the game was being lost because everything was determined from Day #1. I don't think it's necessary to do it often, but I do think it worked in that particular situation. It's one of those things that has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

This round has been dominated by Humans, Elves, and Faeries. Can you clue us in as to how you might try to balance the races?
Since this took too long, the new stats are already posted :)

Server speed this round has been excellent, a cast improvement over the previous rounds. Do you feel confident that the system you now have in place with provide the same level of quality in the next round?
Hopefully, yes. We made some serious improvements in the file access last round that's helped. But at some point, again, the server will get slow and we'll go through this all again.. It's one of those things that goes in cycles, just as a home computer will be fast for a year or two but then be seriously out of date, our servers need constant replacement to stay on top of things...

Many people would like to encourage their families to play as well, but are afraid of being deleted. Do they run a real risk of losing their accounts? If so, are you working on a solution to this?
Our standard response to this is (1) Be honest, (2) Play only your account, and (3) Don't try to fool the system and you'll be fine... It generally works. When people try to get around the system is where they tend to get in trouble most.

How do you feel about players exchanging info through ICQ? It is a fast and effective way of sharing targets, but seems to promote "gang banging".
I'd prefer there were no informal-type alliances, but that's unfortunately a part of any internet game... It also makes the game more involving, so it does have good points. We're hoping things like the diminishing returns and lower returns for random landgrabs helps in this respect. A smart player should realize that they can get more working with their kingdom than through ICQ.

Many people have requested the option to be reborn into the same kingdom they died in. This could promote self sacrifice and working as a team, but could also give rise to new problems. How do you feel about this?
I don't like this idea. For one, it's relatively difficult to kill someone -- what is the point if they can just come back to life? Also, it would encourage multis (giving their stuff away, dying, coming back to life, etc) and fraudulent gaming in general...

Players who start late are still at a huge disadvantage, and have a much less change of reaching the Top 100 lists. Do you have any plans to help give provinces who started late a better boost?
No -- that's part of the game. Yes, it's more difficult to get in the Top 100 if you start 2 weeks late, but then, it should be. If it was not, then there'd be no benefit to playing the whole time. The best players should be the ones who can survive and grow over the whole timeframe of the game, in my opinion.

Unlike Earth, Utopia alliances, although always having been present, remain informal. Some claim that they are the main reason for “gang banging”. Do you plan on banning them or perhaps make them formal?
I don't like alliances at all, but they are unfortunately not something we can really control. (It is also difficult to define them -- are 3 friends who play together an informal alliance? What if they play separately but occasionally talk about who they attacked?) In Earth, it works OK because we have separate games for those who like and those who dislike these alliances. Since Utopia is just one big game, that doesn't work. However, we would like to make them less effective and rewarding if possible.

Utopia is not as nearly as high paced as Earth, and some people feel that after a while it gets boring. Do you want to increase the speed of Utopia gameplay?
I've never really considered this. Utopia is more of a social-interaction game than Earth, where many players get by as loners. In that respect, I think the pace of the game is fine... Another issue is that once you've sped up a game, you can never slow it back down again, even if it's best for the game. Think about the response if were to change Earth from 40 minutes/turn back to the original 60 minutes/turn...

Do you ever plan on including competitions in Utopia, like the person who does this and that gets this and that?
These kinds of things are always possible. As we grow and have more resources, we may offer prizes and the like, but we have to ensure the integrity & fairness of the game before we do anything like that.

Some people can only play through school and library computers, where other might have accounts as well. Should people not play on public and/or shared computers?
People are more than welcome to play at these kinds of places... However, they have to understand that they may be subject to deletion based on the actions of others. There's no way for us to know where they are playing from and to analyze each individual's circumstance. If at all possible, it's always safer to play from a private computer.

The economical structure of utopia was changed this round, are you happy with the outcomes?
Again, because of the rocky start, I couldn't get quite the feel I would have liked. But in general, I definitely think we're heading in the right direction. There were many areas that needed refocusing, and I felt it would be best to get it all out of the way in one reset (the 4th Age) so we could go ahead and start tweaking things again. We still need to work on the building balance, but otherwise things are definitely headed in the right direction.

This round arson was toned down a great deal. Are you happy with the changes you've made to thievery operations?
Yeah -- Unfortunately, this is one of those things that's multi-abused. The best solution would be to eliminate multis, but that's obviously more difficult. As we get more resources, though, we'll do better in that area and that's automatically balance thievery more.

Inactives have been an issue since round 1. There is no way to clean out an inactive if you don’t kill him by taking his land, this hurts the kingdom severely, is there a solution for this? A suggestion in the forums was to let the kingdom kick provinces out providing that the province has been inactive for a few days and the majority of the provinces vote on it.
This is one thing we won't allow ... Alot of players aren't as active as others, but that's their choice and it's something kingdoms have to individually deal with. I believe it's part of the concept of organization and teamwork -- sacrificing resources to eliminate inactives, etc. I think voting a province away is too easy a way out..

- Utopia Depot Staff (August 16th, 1999)

Readers' Comments

Day Walker
(Posted as CoS Lance)
Posts: 2
(25-Apr-2002 10:00 pm)
ahahah go mehul the monkey
(Posted as Adam)
Posts: 1
(13-Jun-2002 01:37 am)
All I know is that I stopped playing the game for a long time, because of the whole Undead thing, I am not a great player but I am not bad either. The first round I played I broke over 350k, and that was around round 4 or 5.
Posts: 2
(29-Jul-2003 01:19 am)
I respect mehul
But there's something i must tell, why did mehul delete my friends account just becoz we all used same theme for alliance indication.

My fren is having war and the enemy king get unhappy with my fren becoz he got propoganda.....And he reports and then........
Utopian Devil
Posts: 397
(06-Sep-2003 04:51 am)
klaa dirk, get some respect..
dAtAb0y.. what are you doing?
tzeteng, better post this at the forums.. don't you think so?
Posts: 1
(28-Jan-2005 09:28 am)
cant find where to put this so putting it here am having a problem with my military calc on two occasions that I saw now in my last 5 attacks my personality (orc) has been changed to feary and dwarf both have failed obviously in our paper yesterday there were 7 failed attacks in all so am wondering if this is a bug you need to look at or not dont really understand how it can change my character ? to fail my attack

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