Ultima Online has a streamer problem
(Bail out of this thread now if you don’t want to read an essay.)
Let’s talk about a problem that OSI UO has in context to the greater gaming landscape. OSI UO needs streamers.
To preface this, I’m late to the video game streaming party. I’m from the generation where nothing is more aggravating than watching your cousin hog the NES controller as he gets Mario killed over and over. Watching others play a video game was a very foreign concept to me for the longest time, but over the past year I’ve begun to grasp how integral to modern gaming it has become. I want to discuss why it’s so integral and why there is a tremendous issue with UO OSI streaming on Twitch.
In short: there are not nearly enough OSI streamers, these streamers are not supported by the game’s marketing strategy (such as it is), and what streamers there are are completely choked out by bootleg shard competition.
First, let’s take a quick survey of what OSI streamers are currently at work on Twitch. I know there may be other platforms but I’m only going to focus on Twitch here because of the ways in which the platform’s affordances help illuminate the issue. Twitch is a problematic platform for many reasons, but one can’t deny the place it occupies in modern gaming. Also, this is not an indictment of the few UO OSI streamer’s efforts. They are small islands within a sea of content and do their best.
On Atlantic we have Waffles_McGreggor who does stream semi-regularly, articulates specific goals for the stream, and uses the EC. They’re probably the largest remaining Atlantic streamer. There were others who have left for bootleg shards, ones who stream Atlantic so inconsistently so as to not bother mentioning, and ones who unfortunately have stepped away from the activity.
KittieKitsuneko mostly streams EM events. Unfortunately, while their content is tagged under the Ultima Online category they limit viewing their past streams to only people who pay to subscribe.
Southern_dreams is a small channel without a lot of followers, but also seems to mostly stream EM events as a record of the proceedings. This is a needed function and I’m glad they do it, but there’s not any “putting on a show” with them.
For a hot minute, EpicLuteGaming was probably the OSI streamer making the most hay on the platform with a very active community, 100+ viewers on streams, and regular content. Things seemed to be going great here but it looks like a hiatus and some life changes have forced them away from UO streaming and streaming video games in general.
These are just some of the few I’ve found by scrolling back through the Twitch Ultima Online category. Which brings me to the first major issue OSI UO streaming has. There is no category distinction between OSI shards and bootleg shards. This is a monumental issue as “Ultima Online” searches either on the platform or in Google will bring up bootleg shards first. I’m not trying to knock these other shards, but, for the health of our game it would be better if there was a clear distinction between OSI and other shards on the platform, beyond what the creators put into their video titles and metadata. On more than one occasion I’ve watched people come into EpicLute’s stream and ask “which shard is this?” or some flavor of “Is this BOOTLEG shard?” just to need to be corrected. Now, is this a Broadsword issue or a Twitch issue? Who determines how these categories are joined? Could this issue be resolved with someone from Broadsword speaking to the Twitch gaming representatives and asking for a fix? It’s hard to find these few OSI streamers as their content is consistently drowned out.
A second major issue is there is no public engagement from our team with what streamers are out there. I think this sort of “hands-off, no favoritism” policy works in an internet 1.0 era, but we’re well into the age of community engagement with creators. OSI streamers should be encouraged and supported, even if in minor ways. Our team should be comfortable with the potential benefits and, of course, likely warts to arise from throwing a little light on the community. This could be accomplished with a streamer spotlight on the homepage and/or launcher. They could intentionally reach out to creators before the TC publishes hit and invite them to preview the content on the day so creators have some notice to prepare. There are many, many ways a more “community managed” mindset could benefit the game via the involvement of streamers.
So what do we lose by not doing these things? What is so wrong with the status quo? Not amplifying the ways that modern gamers discover games is a choice that our team has made and can continue to make. Don’t mistake me, I believe that this choice is probably intentional and not made in haste. They likely have very valid reasons. I’m simply arguing that as gaming has changed so should the ways our game finds an audience. I do not believe that new gamers can not come to UO. I do not believe that the only people who can find and stay in our game are returning vets. We can find both these kinds of people, though, by going to where the audience is. The audience is out there, right now, on these gaming platforms.
If you want to talk about what you'd like to see the dev team do to appeal to streamers constructively, please, go for it. Or, if you have no ideas to contribute there, maybe share what streamers on twitch or the other platforms you're in to and discuss why their content works.
I have moved to doing also adding the Atlantic EM Event as well as the Great Lakes EM event and am ALWAYS open to suggestions for other EM Events or other things that someone would like me to stream. So please, send me your suggestions!
So again, if you want to see more UO and other shards, etc. Please, let me know. I'm always open to stream when I can!
Duchess of Moonglow
I have watched YouTube videos from time to time. They run the range from very good to not so good. Generally they are hard to follow for a newbie as the text is small and moves fast making it hard to read on screen. It’s often hard to figure out what’s going on, on screen. But, some of the narrated ones are quite good and UO could use these kinds of videos to attract new players if it had someone on staff that knew how to make instructional videos.
I guess to one line it, I just don’t any evidence UO is even interested in attracting new players. I appreciate that EA continues to make the game available to those players that have enjoyed the game for so many years.
I was aware of your backups on YouTube, but I didn't want to be like "go there and get around their paywall!" as I figured you had the past streams set to subscriber only for a reason. Looking back at some channels, is there like a difference in tier support or something for archival? I see that some of Patrick's streams go back two months, and others, like you said, go only a few weeks.
And, yes, my comments above are more about what the game could be doing as opposed to trying to rouse people to be streamers. I certainly couldn't be one. But at the bare minimum that category distinction on twitch would probably do a lot to help creators like you and encourage others into the space.
No worries, I literally put them up that for that reason, so people could still watch them, they would be archived longer and not have to pay to see old stuff that gets deleted every 2 weeks. It's not set for any other reason than Twitch recommendation. A moot point IMO, if they just delete old streams anyway.
So, I am an affiliate, so my streams last 2 weeks, I believe Partner, theirs last longer. But to get Partner, you have to have x amount of followers, stream x amount of days for x amount of time. At that point, they consider it, you're making it your JOB to stream. And for most big name streamers that's absolutely true. But for us small fish, no way.
And even then, most of those streamers have other means to make up lost wages if they get sick or if their numbers start to dip (merch, donations, etc). Most of us streamers are moving to Patreon now to make up revenue, since it's a solid means for people to support you with out someone in between taking most of that money (Twitch and YouTube take a CHUNK of any money you make.. making it seem like you are getting no where as a dedicated streamer. For example, I WOULD be making money streaming, But I see NONE of it, because of "Twitch Fee's" and what not.).
Unfortunately, this is why a lot of people don't stream older games, because it seems only the PvP games and newer games make the best content.
I stream UO because I LOVE UO and I love interacting with people! I find the events SUPER fun and the stories really involved! So for me? It's a hobby. A well LOVED hobby.
Duchess of Moonglow
I do not sell NordVPN, I am an affiliate, which boils down to, if people click and use it, I make a couple bucks. Nothing more, nothing less.
The idea of a "paywall" I didn't agree with, but that was Twitch's recommendation after making Affiliate. Which is why I upload to YouTube, so people CAN watch them for FREE.
I am a bit critical when it calls to be. I'm not going to shout everything is perfect, kittens and rainbows at every moment. People like me (so I've been told in messages and on streams) for my honesty. I'm not going to say "x did something, that's GREAT!" when it's clearly NOT.
If you want kittens and rainbows 100% of the time, then I'm NOT the streamer for you.
So yes, this is a HOBBY. There is NO shame in trying to make money to fund the hobby. I'd be honestly happy if I just made enough to cover the cost TO stream. But not having that doesn't mean I'm going to stop either.
Duchess of Moonglow
Slight add-on to this since I stream as well (not UO, though I did think about switching to it for the LS event last night): If you have Twitch Prime/Prime Gaming, you also have the ability to save your vods for 2 months. Saving them as a highlight is an option, though I admit that it's not really feasible for every stream (Especially when Twitch doesn't allow for comments on vods anymore)
I really dislike the idea that Twitch makes it increasingly more difficult for Affiliates to become Partners by further hindering what they can offer and do. They think that making everything "pay only!" for the streamer is going to "help" them, when in turn, it just turns people off and away. This is why I just move things to YouTube for people to still interact without the idea of paying to do so. I'm all about saving a buck here and there, why wouldn't the people who watch me want to do the same?
Duchess of Moonglow
I believe it was basically about that Broadsword/OSI needs to stream the game more in an effort to gain more of a following(?). That there are a few Twitch Streamers, but not many who are well diverse in all areas of UO. But Jepeth could answer that better.
I'm personally on Twitch and YouTube as KittieKitsuneko. (twitch.tv/kittiekitsuneko and youtube.com/@kittiekitsuneko)
Duchess of Moonglow
Putting videos on YouTube is great, and excellent. As mentioned, they can be a resource to refer back to later for those to return to the game. I'm not advocating for tutorial creation, I'm advocating for community building.
Being a streamer implies an active community. It's not a passive experience for the viewer, like a YouTube video. A person watches the streamer stream the video game live and, ideally, takes part in the comments and community as it happens. If you haven't sat down and watched a live twitch stream, you probably aren't aware of how active and engaging of an experience this is.
This is what I failed to grasp, too. As mentioned, I didn't get why folks liked watching others play video games until I sat and watched it happening and the community of viewers give and take with the performer. As an example, Patrick of EpicLuteGaming was pretty great at responding to the live comments during his live streams, answering questions, taking advice, and generally being active. That's the key difference between YouTube as a passive archive and Twitch (or similar platforms) and live content. Communities form around the broadcasts of the game.
Maybe the best model for this is the difference between watching a comedy act live versus recorded. Both can be fun, but a live experience always offers more to the viewer. It's just straight up more fun.
I agree with all 3 things you listed but I think right now only 1 & 3 are realistic. Again I don't want to come off as a negative Nancy but 2 would be a real hurdle given the Dev team's track record on communicating (period) and pushing out new content. Don't get me wrong I'm all for it and would subscribe simply for #2 to see what's new but I think that #2 would require more than 2 publishes a year & the same recycled dynamic content twice a year. The treasures of Archlich went onto TC back in like Sept 2022 and the newest content wasn't put on there until Feb (and even that was very limited)? I don't think the Dev team can wait 4-5 months in between "new" things for that to be successful.
The point here is what can the team do to help encourage and support streamers to cover this content?
Here's me just spit balling an idea, but we have the EM calendar, and it helps. Obviously streamers are using it. But there is no community calendar for events that players could submit to. Put that on the homepage and give streamers an avenue to find other content to cover without them having to scour this forum, Stratics' forum, and the myriad of UO discords. That would be a community-minded policy which helps grow UO and addresses the streamer problem.
Because to be frank, bootleg shards are doing these things.
What could possible be more niche than our ~26 year old wizard MMO? And further, what has more in-built nostalgia than our ~26 year old MMO? You only need to look at any of the Ultima facebook groups to see how deep people still care about the game, even if they're not actively playing it.
I have the time and a real mic and camera that I bought for my wife to work from home with. She never used them. I doubt I have the content and mannerisms needed. I would love to curse at the commenters!
1 - Most UO players have no idea what Twitch is or how to access it. I had a lot of viewers who made accounts there for the first time to come watch me and participate in the giveaways.
2 - The one thing I wanted more than anything was for the devs to acknowledge me or any of the other OSI streams and get us involved like the free shard devs do with their streamers. I wanted to know they see us trying and want to help us help the game.
3 - The community ONLY WANTS UO which makes it hard for streamer growth in general outside of UO. So if you build a community and try to introduce them to other games you enjoy as a streamer, they want nothing to do with it. That makes it hard on you as a streamer to push more content.
4 - Each shard has become set in its ways outside Atlantic. You come in and shake things up, bring attention to activities, or point out things that are not ok and you as a streamer are asking for trouble. The folks who play UO can take things so serious that sometimes you have to remind them this is just a game which a lot of people did not like me doing.
In the long run its a tough landscape for an OSI based streamer and not one that is best for growth if that is the overall goal of the streamer. I think anyone who is dedicated to only playing UO and has the time to stream OSI should do it though as it is a great adventure and the die hards to do love the OSI stuff.
I wouldn't mind. Some of my favorite phrases while streaming the FF4 randomizer: "Oh. ****" or "that's a massive pile of **** no" (both of those said when I run into a boss where they're particularly powerful.) Whenever I get the "wanna be famous" spambots, it's "I'd like to offer you the opportunity to GFY" right before I ban them.
UO content that you think wouldn't be very interesting absolutely can be. I watched Waffles buy up a ton of resources on Atlantic the other day to try and manipulate the market via vendor search. Just simple vendor searching, teleporting, buying, repricing. Content you wouldn't think was fun but like I mentioned in my initial post, he's got stated goals for his streams around making money and that drives a lot of the "plot" so to speak.