2000-11-01: Comments from Adrick

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Comments from Adrick

Nov 1 2000 10:25AM

This was originally posted to Development at [1]

Hello - I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to you and offer some insight from my experience of going from a player to a designer. My name is Pete Warner. I am a designer on the UO Live team. I guess you could say I started this journey when I was in my early teens with a TRS-80 and the language known as BASIC. I hacked around playing those early games from a tape drive, cartridge, or later 5 1/4" floppy disks, games such as the Sands of Egypt, Bedlam, and Dungeons of Dagarath. It was many years later that I played my first Ultima game, Ultima V. I really enjoyed it and began playing more and more games as the industry started cranking them out. Another strong influence on me was the D&D pen and paper games that I played all through high school. I was a dungeon master, though not a very good one because I would fixate too much on details. This was a constant annoyance to my friends who didn’t care that the world had gods and this grand detailed fiction; they just wanted to kill a monster and gain a level.

My first experience in online gaming was Diablo. The game was a lot of fun for me, but it wasn’t persistent. As the magic faded for me with Diablo there was this new game in the stores called Ultima Online. I began playing it during the first week of release and became totally immersed in it. I went from being a pretty heavy gamer to a “super hard-core 8-10 hours every day” game player. . I found the social interactions, player vs. player, and competitive nature of the game to be absolutely an addiction. I became very active on the message boards on the fan sites, and was literally immersed for 90% of my waking hours in Ultima-Online. By day I would post and read from work, and by night I would rush home to play with my friends.

As a player in Ultima, I was heavily involved in Player Vs. Player. I began as a gung-ho anti pk and later was drawn to the dark side of lawful-evil (pk) gasp - a term I never liked. I was evil but had a purpose in the world and wanted to contribute to it, not take away from it. I wouldn’t say I was an elite pvper, I actually got involved in a lot of the politics and plots which often tend to detract from one another. I just enjoyed converting souls from the side of good to our way of thinking, based on a rule set that didn’t include notoriety or red/blue. I was an Idealist, and still am to a lesser degree, and I played the game as such. A majority of my playtime was spent in the Imperium, a large RP/PVP guild on the Napa Valley shard. Some may remember the no plate law and the Inquisition that enforced it. Anyway...

Some of you may know me from the website Battle Vortex. It was here that I hooked up with one of my closest friends, Fear, and co-hosted/produced a RealAudio show where we interviewed Origin dev team members and webmasters/players who shared a passion for the game. It was in this venue that I started to really listen and hear other opinions about the game and understand the conflicts between playstyles and beliefs that the game generated. Though we were bringing news to the public, we were also ranters, complaining and offering our ideas of how the game should be, etc. “This sux!!!! Why don’t you do it this way etc, etc.” Little did I know I was in for an education when I accepted the design position in June of this year.

As a player it was easy to design - just throw out ideas and suggestions that I thought would be cool. As a designer - this is not so. Several important things come into play; balance - what is good for the game as a whole, time - implementing and attempting to balance an idea or system with all of the other complex systems of the game takes time and lots of it, something I am learning while working on the faction system. Another thing that must be considered is legacy issues that your idea or system will affect. Yet another concern a designer faces is scalability, how well will a system work with 10 players, 100 players, 1000, 10,000. How will players react to a change? How will it affect a casual player vs. a hard core gamer like myself? All of these are factors in designing on a MMORPG.

So what does a designer do at OSI? It’s two-fold really. First we come up with ideas and concepts that will enhance the game, add value to a system already in place, or fix an imbalance, bug or exploit. Secondly we write the scripts that make this happen along with the programmers, who work more with the server or client C code. We are also heavily involved in the QA process in that we test our code as best as we can and work with the quality team to ensure that we deliver the best product possible to the players. This doesn’t always work as intended and its one of the major frustrations of the job. The last thing we want to do with the code is introduce another bug or imbalance into a system we are trying to eliminate them from.

My main areas of focus in the game are player interactions. Things such as reputation, guilds, trade, and the economy are my primary responsibility. I never knew my economics degree would be put to use in a computer game. I was responsible for the looting interaction changes, where we made it so only those doing damage could lawfully loot a corpse in pvp. I helped the team with the dungeon changes (my dungeon was Hythloth). I spent several weeks on the faction system, fixing bugs, testing and adding new features such as the faction traps and enhanced faction stone gumps. I worked closely with Evocare, and the rest of the team ironing out these new additions to the system. I’m very excited about the faction system and look forward to player reaction when it makes it to all the shards.

So what are my goals and hopes for Ultima Online moving forward? I guess if I could see one thing in the game improved its predictability of play. The unexpected is sometimes very fun in a game, but when the unexpected occurs in the form of bugs or exploits, it can often be very discouraging to players. I think we have made some improvements here but we have a long way to go. As a player one of the most frustrating things I faced were bugs and those who exploited them. I’d like to be a part of bringing positive change in this area and will continue this effort into the future.

Well I better wrap this up - I don’t want to write a novel. I’m excited about the future of Ultima Online and am proud to be a member of the UO design team. I look forward to the World Faire this November and the chance to discuss the future of Ultima with you in person. I just hope Tyrant doesn’t have me scheduled for any dunk tanks...

Thanks much for your time,


[email protected]

Designer - UO Live