2001-09-17: Gromm Discusses UO Fiction

Gromm Discusses UO Fiction

Sep 17 2001 4:49PM

This was originally posted to Development at [1]

One of my favorite things about my new position as an Ongoing Content designer for UO is the chance to work with the rich Ultima Prime fiction. I, like many of you, played the Ultima games when I was a wee lad. I grew up with people like Iolo and Dupre for heroes, and monsters like Mondain, Exodus, and the Guardian as enemies. The stories and characters from those original games influenced me growing up. Now I’m in a position where I’m partially responsible for those characters and stories.

So we have Ultima Online. A world parallel to the original Britannia, born when the stranger shattered Mondain’s Gem of Immortality. A world we all knew was going to have familiar heroes and villains. A world we knew was going to have familiar towns and cities. And a world we knew we were familiar with from the Ultima Prime games.

But here’s the fun part… it’s a world where everything you know about Ultima Prime lore could be wrong. Many people consider the original Ultima Prime fiction as sacred and I tend to agree, but my point, and I think it’s a very important one, is: This is not Ultima Prime.

When we plan a scenario we, of course, refer back to the prime fiction. After all, these are the events and characters that shaped the Ultima legend and made it what it is today. We like to make sure we don’t contradict the original principles that made Ultima what it is, but we want to avoid telling the same stories all over again. And now we have thousands of people to tell the story to instead of the single player taking on the role of the Avatar.

I tend to think of the way we plan on using the Ultima fiction similar to some comic book franchises. Take, for example, Batman. The story of the dark knight has been retold tons of times. Multiple comic book incarnations, movies, cartoons, and crossovers have been made. Every time the story has been told in a different way. Sometimes different characters live and die. Sometimes they have different relationships. On occasion, a story will go way out on a limb and take a totally new approach to the legend (Batman Beyond anyone?).

This is essentially what we want to do with the Ultima legends. You’re going to see some familiar faces and some familiar events come to pass, but in ways you may not have expected. The shards may be reflections of the original Britannia, but the events and characters within them are going to be very different from the way you knew them. The future is going to be a very different one, and the past may not be what you think it is.

Like any fantasy or science fiction, liberties must be taken at times to keep things interesting. Rules sometimes have to be broken or ignored. I’m not saying we’re going to ignore major game plot points, but sometimes the smaller things won’t be explained. Changes to game mechanics or spawn usually doesn’t come with a fictional explanation, it’s just a change made for game balance. It’s details such as those you won’t see us sweating too much over. We want the world to have a history and a story, but not down to every last patch of ground in the game. It’s not that we don’t care about having a realistic world, but we have to remember this is a video game. Sometimes we’re just going to have to ask that you use a bit of suspension of disbelief. I have yet to see any science fiction or fantasy where it wasn’t needed at all.

So hopefully this gives you a little insight as to how we’re currently viewing the fiction in UO. I think you’re going to find the events that transpire in game are going to surprise you and, I hope, entertain you.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you at the world faire this year and as always, keep the feedback coming.


Gromm Designer, Ongoing Content