1999-11-23: Sage Advice

Sage Advice

Nov 23 1999 4:30PM

This was originally posted to Development at[1]

I would like to begin this edition of Comments From the Dev Team with an introduction of who I am, what I do, and then go into something that may actually interest you. My name is Paul Sage, and I am a designer on Ultima Online. For those of you who have not already inferred, I generally go by Sage. (It has a good fantasy ring to it, and who am I to argue with that kind of “generational” planning.) I began work at Origin Systems over four years ago, almost at the time that a little project called UO was just starting to take shape. I was hired for technical support, but was lucky enough to be assigned to the UO QA team when the product came into test. There were six of us on the original test team, but that number swelled faster than that of rats spawning in a cell in Wrong.

As the Beta Test got into full swing, a new department at Origin was created to address in game issues. I was asked to join the Player Relations department as a GM. The early days of GMing were much different than what they are now, as we learned what was proper, and what was not. (Note to self: Do NOT leave the hot key mapped for dropping a Daemon spawning black gate after the beta event, especially when it is mapped next to the go to next call key. Whoops!) Being a GM may have been one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had. There were times when issues arose that were not verifiable, and were not able to be corrected by the GM. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to fix something to help someone and not being able to do so.

This is why, when I was offered the position to be a designer back in June, I jumped at the chance. Not only was it an opportunity to get to work with an incredibly talented team, but it was an opportunity to continue the improvements which are always underway in a project like UO, hopefully making life better for the players. In this vein, last week I introduced a document to the team entitled Remove Recall From Aggressors. I knew this was going to be controversial, but I felt this was a long overdue change.

Let me say straight out that I am not a recall hater. I think the spell is an excellent spell which may be one of the keys to the success of UO. Friends can readily meet up with one another in UO via this travel spell. They don’t have to trek across the landscape for hours on end hoping to catch a boat just to start an adventure with their buddies three hours later. Recall, however, has a bigger split personality than Harvey Dent; it is the dark side of the spell that I wish to address. Recall could just as easily have been titled, “Remove me from danger”. Much like Sir Robin’s Tune in Bard’s Tale III, recall is a quick way to hop out of a situation when things start to get uncomfortable.

Frankly, I would love a spell like this at the office. When I introduce my next “over the top” design document in a meeting, I will have a little wooden oval in my hand with a glyph on the front. When I feel things are getting ugly and the Nerf guns come to bear on my head, I will chant “Kal Ort Por”, and reappear in my office. This is part of the problem. For UO to have a feeling of danger, immediate escape routes are not a good thing. With player versus player combat, this problem is amplified, and what was once a convenience becomes an easy way to harass any passersby.

Currently, people who wish to attack people can do so without worry of reprisal. They can pick any target in the game and attack, knowing that a battle can easily be escaped should things go wrong. I won’t say that individuals(criminals) who use this tactic(yellow) are playing improperly(cheap). I will say that it removes any feeling of danger when attacking a random person as it removes any worry of reprisal. This plan will still allow victims to recall out, but attackers have to finish what they start.

The plan, however, does not hurt just PKers, as some would imply. (Topic for another day.) Quite the contrary; a blue should not be out hunting reds and not expect to have to remain in the fight. Sometimes a red wants to play the game without fear that any Tom, Dick or Raistlin can come swooping in and smack them a few times, but escape when things don’t go as planned. What this plan does is makes instigating combat with another player a commitment (a terrifying word.) With this plan there will now be some danger involved when facing off versus that player coming down the road (or hiding at your local dungeon entrance.) Maybe the guy in the ring mail and bone helm is the piece of cheese in the trap, or maybe he is the worst dressed miner in all of Delucia.

The feedback we have received has been both for and against the change. (Believe me, we know about field jumpers, AKA noto PKs.) Nothing has been decided yet, as we are still looking at the subtle implications of such a change. My feelings are the bounty system will work better, and random attacks will lessen. Players will need to coordinate attacks, and guild wars will definitely improve. It will not stop PKing, remove escape opportunities for players, or kill PvP. I think the most important thing about this change is that it transforms the certain into the uncertain. There is no victory when the results are certain, just as there is no victory when the little calculator spits out 4 when you press 2 + 2 =.

For those of you that made it this far, I appreciate it, especially those of you who disagree. Please feel free to point out why I am wrong, question my parentage, or even agree with me by writing to [email protected] If any letter gets too uncomfortable, I will simply chant “Kal Ort Por” and go to my happy place.