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(Player News) The Peerage of Siege Perilous: [SPHS] Interviews Max Blackoak [TBB], VICE Alliance leader

Silent Singer

Certifiable
Stratics Veteran
UNLEASHED
I am pleased to submit the next of our Peerage of Siege Perilous interviews, Max Blackoak! Whether from the business end of his bow, or the business end of his Discord instructions, few on Siege have escaped the last Brigand's attention. Max took time to answer our questions, and gave it the same level of effort which he gives to all things Siege.

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[SPHS]: What was your first experience with Ultima games? Had you played any of them prior to Ultima Online? What was your first experience with Ultima Online?

[MB]: I was in France at my exchange student's and he showed me Ultima 7 - I must have been 13 or 14. I was intrigued and loved the isometric perspective of the game but at the time my own computer at home wasn't good enough to play the game so I never actually played any of the single player Ultimas.

[MB]: My first experience with UO was an article I stumbled upon in a newspaper describing a new kind of computer game that allowed people from all over the world to play together in a virtual world. I recognized the graphics and realized that this was probably developed from the Ultima series. Then in late '99 I was doing my military service and was on leave. All of my friends were busy at the time so I bought a copy of UO, installed it and a long fascination with this game began... Initially I only played on the weekend because I had no computer at my barracks and I was simply too busy with other stuff. That changed after I got out of the army and started university...

[SPHS]: What brought you to Siege? How long have you played here, and how frequently do you play now?

[MB]: I came to Siege very soon after the introduction of Trammel. I found a post on a German UO forum I read frequently where one Johan Blackoak called for people to join him on Siege to form a clan of brigands that were supposed to be roleplaying PKs. Johan was a former senior member (grunt) of the Shadowclan Orcs and wanted to add another RP-PK guild to Siege (at the time there were several undead guilds, at least 2 orc guilds, elves, etc. etc.). The only requirement was to create a character with the last name Blackoak. Until I joined Siege I had no clue about PvP and it was quite a learning experience.

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Above: The Blackoaks of Yore

[MB]: Long story short Johan ended up quitting UO and left me in charge. I ran the guild for a couple of years and we ended up becoming one of the top 5 guilds of Siege at the time with around 90 members (I believe only the two orc guilds were larger). Although not planned that way initially, the guild ended up becoming an entirely German guild. Some people might still remember being ambushed by a horde of red Brigands on foot, all with the last name Blackoak...

[MB]: I had an active account until around the time when Stygian Abyss was released but rarely played then. By that time the guild had become mostly inactive or left for other games and I was the only one left. I had trouble adapting to modern day UO and the entire concept of the guild didn't work in that environment anymore (which is also why large guilds like the orcs or undead quit btw). So shortly after SA I sold my castle (Delores Duende now owns that place), packed up whatever I thought was worth keeping and closed my accounts. After a couple of years I returned during RTB in 2014 and got hooked again. I became friends with Bo after he helped me adapt to modern day UO and we ended up creating the VICE alliance. Since my return I usually have logged in every day.

[SPHS]: What kind of templates / equipment did you prefer as a bandit? Aside from the Axe of the Heavens you mention, were there other OP pieces of gear used by the Blackoaks that struck fear in the hearts of travellers?

[MB]: Before AOS our standard templates looked somewhat like this: gm melee, archery, tactics, anatomy, healing, hiding. Some switched melee for stealth, others switched archery for poisoning or parry. The mages ran the usual 7xgm templates of that time, some used stun mages.

[MB]: When AOS went live we had trouble getting powerscrolls ourselves but we managed to buy some for most of the weapon skills. When we did spawns we usually did Neira because we had tons of former silver weapons that were converted to undead weapons with AOS. I got a 120 archery and resist pretty early on, so I dropped fencing and became a stealth archer with a blessed heavy crossbow for dismounts. When the stealth changes allowed you to instantly stealth after hiding most of us became stealthers. Then came Samurai Empire and Mondain's Legacy which would have offered even more offensive abilities to our templates but at that time many lost interest in the game and the remaining players had trouble adapting.

[MB]: Since my return I played stealth ninja templates - in fact I find it very hard to PvP without smoke bombs and stealth because of my high ping. I can't outrun people, even worse people often times are able to outrun me when chasing. You know you're in trouble when an archer doesn't even have to use moving shot but can just stop for a second, hit you with armor ignore and then chase again while you simply can't get away. My ping also made me choose archery because I had such a hard time staying toe to toe with anyone that I felt melee wasn't worth it. With archery I can at least be a worthwhile addition to my team and actually do damage. The archery nerf crippled my damage output a bit but it is still ok in a team.

[SPHS]: Did the Blackoaks have a specific territory that they claimed as their own? Were there rival gangs of brigands?

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[MB]: Mostly we set up ambushes at high traffic areas or set up traps at dungeon exits and had our mages run inside and chase people out. Initially we claimed the territory around the brigand camp south east of the Yew orc fort because that's where we had our large tower (later converted into a castle) and that's also where some of our main enemies for large battles lived close by - the orcs and the undead.

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[MB]: We ran into trouble because certain guilds would besiege our large tower for hours and kill (rez kill rather) our new recruits over and over so we decided to place a house out in the middle of nowhere where the young ones could train up their skills in peace. We chose the area south of dungeon Covetous and my ruined tower today (see picture above) is in the same location. It didn't take long until people found us there too, so we had to defend that area and the small tower we placed there just as much as the old one. However, small towers were much easier to defend than large ones because it was a lot easier to trap people inside (this was before private housing mind you) with only a one tile door and ladders. We became really good at defending our small tower and never locked the front doors to encourage people to besiege us there. The only problem was that some groups of mages knew where to aim their meteor swarms at so they would hit us inside. There was only 1 tile in the middle level of that tower where you couldn't be hit with spells from the outside. The only exception was the earthquake spell but back then you could only redline but not kill with earthquake, so we could just crossheal and wait for them to make a move or leave.

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[MB]: I remember one time when a mage got trapped by us inside and died (we simply surrounded and stamblocked him). Minutes later a GM showed up and took us all to jail giving out warnings to each and every one of us for "blocking". It was pretty ridiculous and obviously the GM didn't care that we never forced that guy to enter our house...

[MB]: The only ones to actually conquer our tower repeatedly were the orcs because they had greater numbers and used the same crosshealing and blocking techniques we did - and they simply were better with them. So this became the second territory we claimed - the area between Cove, Safe Haven, dungeon Covetous (including the dungeon) and the Vesper crossroads. Most of the pictures I posted were taken in that area. Rival brigands...none that I recall. There were obviously other reds and RP PKs but none of them roleplayed brigands. We had special rules for our members too. We were only allowed to use lightweight armor (studded leather at the most) etc. Our number of mages was limited and they were the only ones allowed to ride horses - the rest of us were on foot at all times (this also helped with the lag most of us had). While this put us at a huge disadvantage against mages we did ok against mounted dexxers, especially in wooded areas - they would either get stuck on trees or ran past us when we made a quick turn. Back then I used to carry greater heal wands to heal on the run too, so that increased my survivability. In dungeons the hiding skill was what saved us many times - run in the middle of the thickest spawn and manage to get a hiding attempt off and usually you were safe, although back then the magery spell Reveal completely negated your hiding skill and revealed 100% of the time. You had to hope that the spawn would target the mage first so you could re-hide while he was dodging spawn. If you had no way to shake the mages off you had to stand closely together, shoot arrows at them, and crossheal with bandages like mad, only moving when targeted with poisonfields. It all depended upon everyone paying close attention to who needed a heal and being disciplined enough to stay together. Sometimes this worked really well, other times our corpses littered the floor...

[SPHS]: Do you still have any historical items from that time (similar to the Undead guildstone that Malloc has from that IDOC several years ago)?

[MB]: I still have the original Blackoak guildstone - it is hidden by the undergrowth underneath the house sign. I also have AOS items from several Blackoaks (a sash with my name, sandals, a rose) and some crafted items with Blackoak names on them. One item I also still have is an AOS kilt from Contico (of PAG - perilous adventurer guild and later TAX - the tax collectors). He gave it to me as a good-bye gift when he celebrated his retirement from UO with a get together at the Wispwood tavern. He had become a good friend over the years and I hated to see him go.

[MB]: Another historical item is a blessed runebook made by F'ru. F'ru had been a Shadowclan orc and I had known him from the days when he was a newborn gruntee. He rose through the ranks of ORC and became a grunt and later even a mojoka. I missed the Undead IDOC mentioned above but I knew that F'ru's runebook was locked down on the floor inside, so I asked around and a GIL was kind enough to pass the book on to me as a souvenir. I forgot who that GIL was...shame on me!

[MB]: Other historical items would be the usual hero/evil dyed stuff and possibly a set of three lockpicks (see picture) - I am not sure if those are rare but I have never seen any of those elsewhere, so I kept them throughout the years.

[SPHS]: Aside from lower population, what are the biggest changes you've seen here since 2006?

[MB]: I like the revamped loot, imbuing, reforging and the taming revamp and introduction of shadowguard. All of which made it easier to run decent gear in an item based game. Back in the day people used to pvp in suits with only 2, rarely 3 resists maxed out. Almost nobody was able to run 45/45 hci/dci etc etc because it was simply impossible to achieve and maintain. This gave single players with access to one uber item with ridiculous mods a huge advantage in PvP over those who weren't as lucky with the doom drops or other highend items. Today the playing field is a lot more leveled...

[SPHS]: In the last month, what did you spend the majority of your game time doing?

[MB]: Scouting the land for players to kill...and some PvM.

[SPHS]: If you could pick one player who is no longer on the shard that you could return, who would it be and why?

[MB]: Tough question. The problem I have experienced is that people who quit UO a long time ago have a very hard time adapting to modern day UO. So most likely whomever I could return would quit again shortly after. Happened on numerous occasions... I believe those players belong to a certain era of UO and rather than single players I would probably prefer being able to return that entire era... Then again I have made my peace with the changes UO has undergone and don't necessarily want to turn back time...

[SPHS]: If you could permanently REMOVE one anything (activity / item / player / encounter / mechanic) from the shard, what would it be and why?

[MB]: I would remove any kind of instanced or semi-instanced encounters on Siege. People should NEVER be able to be 100% safe from attacks on Siege.

[SPHS]: If you could permanently ADD one anything (activity / item / player / encounter / mechanic) from the shard, what would it be and why?

[MB]: What I would love to see is a combined approach to the problem of "illegal" clients and cheating and the cause for their existance. This would require an overhaul of both CC and EC to make them both equal so no one has an advantage over another. It would also require an active staff of GMs that are actually there, supervising the game (preferably a team of dedicated Siege GMs) and keep an eye on cheaters/actually do something against them.

[SPHS]: Who is your nemesis, and why is it Malloc?

[MB]: My nemesis would probably be the RNG... I don't know too many people who would miss swings at an unarmed and naked player 3 times in a row... (yes, this happened!)

[SPHS]: Both then (early days of Siege) and now, who are the PvPers that you most respect, and why?

[MB]: I have the most respect for people that are good at what they're doing without using cheats and don't feel the need to talk trash. There are many people who qualify for at least one or two of these. The combination of the three is quite rare though

[SPHS]: You are dropped into an IDOC brawl and have time to grab one item. What item would you wish to grab above anything else?

[MB]: Whatever item is closest to me. I learned early on that at IDOCs you grab whatever you can without looking at it because if you focus on one specific item you will most likely end up empty handed because of lag, z-axis issues and others snatching stuff from right underneath your nose...

[SPHS]: What do you use your Siege bless on the most?

[MB]: With my current template my composite bow.

[SPHS]: To date, what has been your best day on Siege?

[MB]: Hard to say...I have had some memorable days. One was back in the early 2000s when we still had Japanese players on Siege. We found a couple of them farming the elder gazers in shame and after we killed them we realized that they had piled up what must have been around 500k in a corner that was covered by walls. That was when 1 mil was really an accomplishment in UO. It took us many trips to our tower to get all the gold out (this was also before bags of sending).

[MB]: Another memorable day was when I was able to publicly expose one of our really good mages to ridicule at a Wispwood fight night. I entered the duel arena and when the fight started he never got a single spell off on me because I consistently kept hitting him with paralyze shots from my bow until he dropped. Maybe this explains why the RNG seems to hate me nowadays... I must have used up all my luck.

[MB]: There are other and more recent memories about winning battles when vastly outnumbered etc. but they are all similar and I don't want to bore you to death...

[SPHS]: Which players do you interact with the most?

[MB]: Most of my alliance mates.

[SPHS]: Howhow many other players are in your guild now? What guilds were you in before this one?

[MB]: Still the same guild since day one on Siege. There are 41 members on the roster, I am the only active member though. I have not been in other guilds.

[SPHS]: How large has the VICE alliance become? What are the challenges to herding all of the smaller guilds in it to a common goal?

[MB]: Bo and I created the VICE alliance so we wouldn't have to leave our own guilds (for nostalgic reasons), so I would consider the alliance to be my actual guild. In there we currently have about 10 very active people and the rest semi active, so a total of around 20 players.

[MB]: The challenges: forging a strong relationship amongst the PvPers so they can rely on one another and improve team play is sometimes the easy part. Initially I found it much harder to get people to log into the alliance map and discord channel so they would actually play together and get to know each other which in a way is the basis for team PvP. I try to keep "policing" to a minimum but sometimes this needs to be done as well...

[MB]: The biggest challenge or what I find most annoying from time to time is diplomacy. For some reason I do care about my reputation and that of the alliance but every now and then I spend more time answering messages about alleged misconducts of our members and trying to get to the bottom of these stories to clear them up. What's most frustrating is the mistrust of many people simply because we're PKs. Accusations range from cheating to secretly having agreements with other PvP guilds to target non-PvP guilds first etc. etc. It gets really old having to explain over and over that this is not the case just to have the next person accusing you of the same thing a couple of days later (usually refering to the incident before as proof, like you never cleared up anything).

[SPHS]: Would you describe your play style as mostly PvP, PK, PvM, or PvE? In an average week, how many players have you killed?

[MB]: Deep down inside of me I am a PK and a PvPer, but in today's UO you have to be able to do it all and with the lack of people to fight in recent years I sometimes ended up PvMing much more than anything else. Over the last year however, PvP activity has finally picked up and I can go back to my fighting habit a lot more often.

[MB]: An average week would have to include all the years since 2014 and there were long stretches where I simply was unable to find more than one player to kill per week... Also I never really kept track of exactly how many I killed per week - maybe 10? I don't know. As I mentioned it has picked up quite a bit though...

[SPHS]: What could almost EVERY VvV particpant be doing better? What is your PvP pet peeve?

[MB]: The biggest issue used to be to get people to actually show up =)

[SPHS]: Are there any misconceptions about the VICE alliance that you've heard and would like to correct, both for potential new to Siege players and existing players?

[MB]: Hmm with those kinds of things the problem usually is that the people concerned won't hear them, so I might not even be aware of some of the bigger misconceptions. The usual mix of cheating accusations aside I guess the biggest misconception would be that we are "bad people" outside of the game or that our PKing has much to do with our real life character traits.

[SPHS]: If you could give one piece of advice to new or returning players to Siege, what would it be?

[MB]: If you run into problems on Siege don't hesitate to ask those who have been here for a while. Siege is different and many people have trouble adapting, so established players usually will be able to help. As long as you don't behave like an ass people will happily help you out.
 

n00bPvper

Journeyman
Nice interview!
Lots of respect for Max, I could probably say he taught me everything that I needed to know about the modern UO days, if it wasnt for him I probably wouldnt be playing here (and he still never hesitates to answer any questions).
The guy is a teacher ! =]
It's always good to know that in game full of "trolls" there r still ppl who contribute positively to the community
 

Ol'Rac Nnod

Seasoned Veteran
That was a "killer" interview, definitely one I was hoping y'all would do *shivers*.
All the interviews thus far have been really excellent and unique! Can't wait to read more!
 
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