1999-09-14: Calandryll interview with thechosen.com
Calandryll interview with thechosen.com
Jinx: How many people are currently working on UO Live and Name them:
Calandryll: The UO team has over 50 people total. This includes the Development Team led by Producer, Jason Bell, the Lead Designers, SunSword and Toad, and Lead Programmer, Runesabre. The Dev. Team has about 12 people dedicated to Ultima Online. In addition to the Dev. team, we also have team members in Online Community Relations, Quality Assurance, Tech Support, the Web group, Network Operations, and Player Relations (which consists of the GMs and Volunteer program.).
Jinx: Describe in detail what you do during the day. What exactly are your duties and who assigns them to you:
Calandryll: Most of my duties are assigned to me by LadyMOI.
Jinx: My job varies from day to day, but some of the things I do on a daily basis include, reading the boards, e-mails, and newsgroups, e-mailing back and forth with the Dev. Team regarding important issues, and writing reports based on players' opinions and concerns. These reports are actually sent twice-daily and include the various issues that the players are talking about. Using these reports, along with GM reports concerning in-game issues, we can track players' opinions about the game and what issues are important it them. Overall we use information from many sources to make decisions, from out-of-game (message boards), to in-game, to our own internal data. My reports serve as the data to back me up when I go into Dev. meetings to give input from the players' perspective. Being on the boards gives me a unique and valuable perspective.
Calandryll: Some of the other duties I have are: picking the spotlight topics, choosing people to receive the Lord British Awards, answering questions via e-mail directly sent to me, and attending various Development and Support meetings.
Jinx: Is LadyMOI your boss?
Calandryll: Yes LadyMOI is indeed my boss.
Jinx: Is it hard working for her?
Calandryll: No harder than working for any other boss. LadyMOI has very high standards and expects a lot. But at the same time, she is very good at expressing what she is looking for from me and the feedback she provides is always useful and constructive.
Jinx: Is she bitchy at the office?
Calandryll: I don't think I've ever seen her angry, let alone bitchy. It's kinda scary actually. :)
Jinx: Have you ever put laxatives in someone's food just for laughs?
Calandryll: No, but I did once pour a bottle of hot-sauce into a friend's tomato sauce. The look on his face was priceless. Hehe.
Jinx: How often do you discuss things with the Dev Team during the day?
Calandryll: I discuss issues with the Dev. Team everyday. I'm constantly calling SunSword or Runesabre asking for information or to confirm something (I think Runesabre is going to get caller ID so he can screen my calls :P). All of the members of the Dev. Team have really gone out of their way to make themselves accessible so I can pass along the most up to date information.
Jinx: Do you sit in on all Dev Team meetings?
Calandryll: Sure. I go to quite a few Dev. Meetings. I do more than just sit in, I am an active participant most of the time. Having someone at these meetings who is directly in touch with the players on a daily basis is really helpful to the Dev. Team. Sometimes I can offer some insight into an issue from the players' perspective that they may not have considered. I think the interaction between the different departments in the UO Team really gives us an edge when it comes to game design. In fact, in the recent past, I've been invited to attend even more Development meetings. It's pretty cool.
Jinx: Does it get frustrating having to answer player problems when patches go wrong? By this I mean, is it hard to say "we are working on the problem"?
Calandryll: I'd prefer not to have to say things like, "We are aware of this." or "We are working on it." too often. But sometimes that is the most up to date answer I can give. I think a lot of players appreciate that though because they know I read their post or e-mail and that their voice was heard.
Jinx: Do you ever catch yourself glancing at LadyMOI's tatoos out of the corner of your eye at work?
Calandryll: No, but now that you've brought it up, I probably will. :)
Jinx: When the whole GM Darwin fiasco broke, did everyone take turns giving him wedgies?
Calandryll: No comment. :P
Jinx: What do you PERSONALLY feel are the most necessary things for the Dev Team to address?
Calandryll: I think the most important thing right now is to hit our 3-week update schedule as close to the mark as possible. Using both internal information and player comments to determine the most urgent or needed updates and resolving issues as quickly as possible would probably be my biggest goals.
Jinx: You are often on the message boards. Considering that perhaps only 15-20% of people who play UO are regular posters, how much consideration is given to them in defining UO's direction? How hard is it to pick out what player's really want from this minority of vocal posters?
Calandryll: 15-20% is not fact. At this moment in time, it's anyone's guess as to what percentage of the 130 thousand plus players actually participate in the out of game community. There are also non-players that participate in the Ultima Online community, out of game. I try to take everything I read with a grain of salt. Firstly, I like to try to get to know the regular posters, are they a PK, a PvPer, a PvMer, a RPer, a combination of some, etc? That allows me to get an idea of where they are coming from and form a relationship with them when I respond on the boards. Some people are naturally positive about the game, while others tend to be a "half-empty" glass kind of person. It's important to take that into account when reading a post as well.
Jinx: Overall it's hard to say how much weight they are given. I personally feel that the people who post on the boards are mostly very knowledgeable about the game, have a lot of experience with it, and most of all, are very passionate about UO. While they may be in the minority when to comes to our entire player-base, they are invaluable when it comes to tracking issues and getting ideas.
Calandryll: One of the really cool things is that we have a lot of inter-departmental contact and share information. I get to see the reports from our GM staff about what players in-game are talking about as well. Combining that with my own reports from the boards and our own internal needs, the entire UO Team can get a pretty clear idea as to what we need to do.
Jinx: As a company, we consider out-of-game commentary as a part of the big picture, not as the big picture.
Calandryll: On average how many emails do you receive a day? How many are complaints? How many are suggestions, or compliments?
Jinx: Not counting e-mails from people here at ORIGIN, I get about 250. Yeah, that's right, I said 250. :) Most of them are because I am on a few UO e-mail lists. I read all of them of course, but generally I don't have to respond unless a specific question is asked that another player on the list can't answer.
Calandryll: I get about 40 e-mails a day addressed directly to me though. I try to answer all of them within business 3 days. Lately I've fallen a bit behind though, but I'll catch up eventually and get back to the 3-day schedule. The best advice I can give to players who want to e-mail me is…keep it short. If you have to give details, it's best to list it out (in bullet points) rather than paragraph form. The more concise an e-mail is, the quicker I can get a response.
Jinx: I'd say about 50% are questions, with 25% being complaints and the other 25% being suggestions. Generally people don't write specific compliment e-mails. They do however, often write a compliment to me or about UO in general within their e-mails along with a suggestion, question, and yes, even in a complaint. Every so often I do get "thank-you" e-mail from players. I can't help but smile when someone takes the time to write one of those, makes me feel good that I could help them out and that they appreciated it.
Calandryll: How do you decide what gets forwarded to the Dev team and what doesn't?
Jinx: Well I try to forward everything in one form or another. For instance, if a lot of players are talking about a certain feature or idea, I make it a point to highlight that in my twice-daily reports. The Development Leads get those reports directly. If it's something really critical, like a bug or exploit, then I send it to them directly and follow-up with a phone call.
Calandryll: Do you and the other OSI employees make Quake 2 female death moans in front of LadyMOI as a gag to annoy her?
Jinx: So that's what all of those noises were!
Calandryll: You ever wear a crown and run around the office imitating Richard Garriot? He ever catch you?
Jinx: You know, every time I see Richard, he is simply dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. (note: he didn't answer this question now did he?:)
Calandryll: What did you REALLY think of the Wing Commander fiasco...err...movie?
Jinx: Actually, I never saw it. :)
Calandryll: Do you yearn to be a sex symbol for UO the way MOI is?
Jinx: Good lord no. If I ever become a sex symbol in UO, I will be very worried about the UO players.
Calandryll: Who is the new member of the OCRAP team and what does he/she do?
Jinx: Our newest member is Leilo. She is the content writer/editor for the Ultima Online. Her primary focus is to develop content for the Ultima Online website, including updating many of the sections like "What's New, FYI, and Shard Issues." She'll also be developing new content and new sections and features for the site.
Calandryll: Do you guys have a betting pool in the office about what problem UO players will bitch about next?
Jinx: Nah. That would suggest that we have time to sit around making silly bets, which we don't, because we spend all our time focused on solving those problems, so there!
Calandryll: Is it true you didn't go to the NY Luncheon because you fear me? Is the reason you aren't going to the Seattle luncheon is because you fear the Golden Brew players who will be there?
Jinx: Fear? What would I have to fear? :) (note: guess I'll have to hit the next Austin Luncheon with a video camera and tape recorder and show him what there is to fear:) Actually, I was really disappointed that I missed these luncheons. I really enjoy going to player lunches, both as an Origin representative and as a player.
Calandryll: How often do you play UO?
Jinx: I average about 10 hours a week these days. Unfortunately, in recent weeks, with all of the updates and announcements to the service, I haven't been able to log in as much as I'd like to. Before I came here, I played a lot, sometimes over 30 hours a week. I had to retire my main character, Calandryll, as playing him would be the equivalent of painting a huge sign on my back saying, "e-bolt me". :)
Calandryll: I have a character that I've started since coming here that I'd like to start advancing again once things calm down here a bit.
Jinx: Recently LadyMOI revealed on the Battle Vortex show that she rarely plays UO. Players have been up in arms over this on the message boards. Do you think it adversely affects her ability to converse with the community because she doesn't play UO?
Calandryll: I don't think it affects her ability to converse with the community at all. She certainly was able to answer all of your questions at the New York luncheon. :)
Jinx: Have you ever PERSONALLY witnessed Richard Garriott actually play as Lord British in UO?
Calandryll: No, not yet. I did meet Lord British in game though, before I came to work here. It was during the Divided Lands Rebellion. We met at a rather famous player-run tavern called "Silks" on Lake Superior. It was one of the highlights of my UO career and the really cool thing was it was not a Divided Lands event. I was just standing there listening to his speech when all of a sudden, totally in character, he started ordering me to stop the rebellion. I thought it was so cool that the folks here at ORIGIN knew about our scenario, especially since we had never gone out of our way to attract their attention.
Jinx: Did you get lost in Garriott's castle and were there any real bodies in the torture chamber?
Calandryll: I have yet to be invited to the castle. I haven't completed the proper quests to gain entry. ;)
Jinx: What's your personal feeling over the longest running split in the UO community, stat loss? Effective? Ineffective?
Calandryll: I think stat-loss accomplished its goal…to give PKing some penalties and to reduce the massive amount PKing that was going on before the reputation patch. Like any system though it is certainly one that is regularly re-evaluated.
Jinx: Everyone always asks about Lord British, but what about Lord Blackthorn? We never see him in game. More so we haven't even heard about him outside the game. Does Starr Long still work at OSI and does he ever play?
Calandryll: Starr Long is still with the company working on a different project. I don't know how often he plays UO though.
Jinx: Forget In development, In testing and the update center in general. What is the direction the Dev Team is planning on taking UO and what can we expect long term? (Im bracing for the standard alchemy/necromancy answer here)
Calandryll: We've got a whole plan for updating the website with this kind of information. We'll be updating the comments section soon. Comments will not only come from Development members, but also from other people in other departments as well. We are also working on a new section for In Development that will give a long-term plan to the players and even a section that details proposed projects that players can comment on. Overall, the direction of the team is to implement resolve issues while also implementing new features. Those features and fixes will be listed in In Development and In Testing as we are ready to release information on them.
Jinx: Do you ever walk into the GM room and find them shooting spitballs at one another instead of working?
Calandryll: Nah, usually they have their heads glued to a monitor. One cool thing though is I've recently started going to the GM meetings. This allows me to get an in-game perspective on things as well as out of game (the message boards). That combination of knowledge really helps me when making recommendations to the Development Team.
Jinx: How many pairs of female underwear have you received since Lum posted your pic at the Austin Player's Lunch?
Calandryll: Fortunately none.
Jinx: What's the best/worse pickup line you ever used and did your wife fall for one?
Calandryll: I don't think I have ever used a pick-up line in my life. Besides, my wife is way too savvy to fall for one anyway. :)
Jinx: Do you ever overhear DD and Faceless chuckling in the coffee room about "glad we don't have to work on UO anymore"?
Calandryll: I dunno, I think they miss it. I'd be very surprised if after giving their hearts and souls to this game for such a long time they didn't. I know they still read the boards from time to time.
Jinx: How much of UO2 is completed?
Calandryll: No comment.
Jinx: What the hell was the announcement on 9/9/99 that never came?
Calandryll: That was just a rumor. (note: this one smells fishy. There was something Origin had planned but never pulled off and haven't discussed since)
Jinx: Are there any attractive women at the office you can set my guildmates up with?
Calandryll: There are lots of attractive women at Origin, but most of them are already taken. We do have some single guys here though. LOL.
Jinx: You ever walk into Garriotts office and find him in a leotard prancing around to Lord of the Dance music?
Calandryll: No, I have to admit, I haven't. Thanks for putting that picture in my mind though. :P
Jinx: You ever come home from work and wonder why your vendor isn't on your doorstep anymore? Ever have a guy cut you off on the highway, then give you the finger and mutter to yourself "damn pks"?
Calandryll: Well, once I did walk outside and look on the ground for reagents (no, sadly enough, I am not kidding) and I still don't understand why I can't tame my cats.
Jinx: On a normal day, how many times do you find yourself repeating things to people on the Dev Board because they refuse to listen?
Calandryll: It's not that they refuse to listen, most of the time I repeat myself when I answered a question earlier in the day and someone loads up the board hours later when the messages have already scrolled off. There are certain popular questions of course and usually once I answer them, I let the other board posters answer similar questions.
Jinx: Did you laugh your ass off (as many did) when Dr.Twister put out the idea of DTN Official Merchandise on his web site?
Calandryll: Dr. Twister? *looks confused* Who's that? Heehee. I'm still waiting for TheChosen Belt-buckles and LumTheMad Boxer-shorts.
Jinx: Why do you feel UO players are so much more passionate about their game than EQ players?
Calandryll: There's something about UO that really draws players in and attaches them to their character and items. I think it's an amazing phenomenon that is not easy to reproduce. I also think it has something to do with the fact that the UO team has always had so much contact with UO's players. ORIGIN is committed to having people (such as myself) who listen and open up a dialogue with our players. We see them as more than just players; they are a valuable resource for ideas and suggestions and are incredibly useful when it comes to tracking down major issues. That belief is the whole reason the Online Community Relations Department exists and we are still pretty unique in the massively-multi-player online game industry. The opportunity to help develop something new and unique to the industry is a lot of the reason I came here.
Jinx: Did you break out in a cold sweat when you realized this interview was coming up? Have sleepless nights all week?
Calandryll: Most of the sleep I have lost is directly related to UO. :)
Jinx: When a disaster like the duping problem hits, what's the process you and the Dev team go thru to rectify the problem?
Calandryll: The first thing I do when we get reports about exploits from players is gather up the information and compile it. Then I forward it along to the proper people. We then have our Q/A folks confirm and after that, the Dev. Team prioritizes the issue and takes the necessary steps to fix it.
Jinx: A big issue right now is housing. How many houses have been legitimately placed in the last few weeks? Are houses placed every day? Can a GM tell without question whether a house is ok or illegal in a definitive, no mistakes way?
Calandryll: I honestly have no idea how many houses are placed each day. I do know that people are placing houses on the shards everyday, so while it may be very difficult to find a legal spot, it is possible. Actually, players should not call a GM to find out if their house is legally placed or not. Our GM staff is in game to help players with support issues such as being stuck or harassment. The website gives the details on what is and what is not legal. Gm's won't tell a player whether it is or not and should be not called for that purpose.
Jinx: What is your opinion of adding in a Nobility Structure to the world of Britannia? How would you envision it working?
Calandryll: I think having a nobility structure would be very cool. I've never really given it much thought though, so I have no idea how it would work.
Jinx: What ever happened to Seasons? Are you still planning on making clothing affect damage taken from extreme temperatures (hot & cold) during these seasons (or even in T2A)?
Calandryll: It's not planned for the immediate future.
Jinx: What about a Commons Issue List? Not like the one on the web site but one dealing with true game issues such as patch implementation, blocking, taming, barding, necromancy and alchemy? Some sort of official recognition rather than the "discussions" we read about on message boards? So we can know the true status of each issue brought up before.
Calandryll: Actually, we plan on doing something similar to this with the In Development section of the website. We'll be creating another section of In Development to discuss possible future design ideas; we are also planning on publishing our design documents for current features in Development so players can see how far along they are and make comments. I'm really looking forward to this.
Jinx: Also are there any real news bits about the above subjects? Stuff we haven't heard before?
Calandryll: As soon as we do, we'll update the UO site. :P
Jinx: Why do you feel some of UO's older problems have yet to be resolved after two years?
Calandryll: That's a good question. I think over time, priorities shift as the game evolves. We are of course committed to improving the game as a whole. Combining my reports, the in-game reports, and internal information into a solidified plan is the key to that and it's something we are committed to doing.
Jinx: Australia is petitioning for a shard. Do they have enough players in Australia to get a shard? If not what is a necessary number?
Calandryll: No. We continue to assess the feasibility of opening a server in that area while also working on other solutions to help improve the playing experience for Australians. (note: My personal opinion is that it would take at least 5-8000 registered players living in Australia to be truly considered for a server. Their petition is nice, but how many actual players live in Australia? If its at least 5000, then you have an arguement. If not, you got nothing. By the way, I'd like to thank Cal for the Company line Answer to this one:)
Jinx: UO seems to lack a definitive Ultima history. Many players find the fiction lacking. What possibility is their of enriching UO's history by adding permanent stories to uo.com? Perhaps using shard specific stories focusing on player establishments or famous individuals who have helped shape their respective shard?
Calandryll: We do weekly spotlights about player-run establishments and player achievements on specific shards. We did a spotlight on Kazola's and the Golden Brew as you may know. Recently we have been inviting players to write stories about their experiences in UO (Villains, Dungeon Month, Heroes, etc.). I really like highlighting player accomplishments on the web-site. I would invite anyone who knows about a player-run town or establishment to e-mail me a quick 5-10 line description about it and why they think it should be in the spotlight section. Don't send me a full story though, just a quick description will suffice. :)
Jinx: Finally when you were Dread Lord Calandryll, how many people did you kill? :)
Calandryll: A lot. Except, despite some rumors to the contrary, I wasn't a PK. I became a Dread Lord because the old Notoriety System allowed you to go "red" from noble acts, such as killing a looter or defending yourself against a mage who cast a firewall on you. Basically there were those of us who refused to let the system stop us from doing what we felt was right, so we became Dreads. It took me along time, posting under the name, "Dread Lord Calandryll, Virtuous Fighter" to convince people on the boards that some Dread Lords were not PKs. One of my favorite past-times though was walking to the cross-roads or in a dungeon, minding my own business and waiting for an NPK to attack me. Or walking up to an Order Guard and asking him to name 4 of the 8 virtues. Hehe. We spent a lot of time giving dirt-naps to NPKs. *laugh* I don't think I ever actually initiated an attack against anyone, except during a war. Being a Dread Lord, I didn't have to. Hehe