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UO:2001-12-22: Media & Games Online Network: UO: Developer Diary

UO: Developer Diary

Originally posted to Media & Games Online Network [1].


UO: Developer Diary

Ultima Online has always had a special place in our hearts, and it looks like the saga is being given new life. Check out the latest in part one of our developer's diary.

By Jonathan "Calandryll" Hanna
Designer, Ongoing Content


When the idea was first proposed to write a comic book in collaboration with Todd McFarlane, based on the Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn's Revenge expansion, our first thought was to create the story of Lord Blackthorn himself. After all, that is the name of the game! But after thinking about it for a while, we realized that Lord Blackthorn already had a history, and his story will be told through the in-game fiction. Rather than tell the tale of our villain, we decided to tell the tale of our new heroine... Dawn.

The first question players might ask is why we created a new character instead of using some of the better-known companions in Ultima lore, such as Dupre the Paladin or Iolo the Bard. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, in traditional Ultima lore, these characters have always played a supporting role. In the single player games, they were the supporting cast to the Avatar, the character the players controlled. Secondly, as we are introducing a Virtue System into UO, a system allowing players to earn rewards through virtuous deeds, we wanted to create a character that could symbolize “virtue”. Each of the companions in Ultima lore has traditionally represented only one virtue.

Changing one character to suddenly represent all of the virtues not only felt wrong to us, but also seemed to be very inconsistent with what had already been established. In the end, we decided that creating a new character - someone unique to Ultima Online but based heavily on the spirit of Ultima lore - was the best choice. Fans of the traditional characters will be happy to know, though, that the companions will still play important roles. In fact, anyone who has ever wanted to see just how good Dupre is with a sword and shield will be very pleased with his role in the comic!

The next question one might ask is, "Is Dawn the Avatar from the single player games then?" The answer is no, she is not. Dawn represents the virtues in UO, and will serve as a rallying point for the forces of good, but she is by no means the avatar. In fact, part of the concept behind the Virtue System is that any player will be able to achieve high status and rewards in all eight of the virtues... although doing so will be very, very challenging.

When designing the character of Dawn, we really wanted to create someone that the players would be drawn to. Mostly, we wanted Dawn to be a contrast to the dark and edgy look and personality of Lord Blackthorn. Creating a new character, virtually from scratch, is no easy task, however. It was important to us that Dawn not be of noble birth, but rather have an air of leadership about her... something we hope the comic book will demonstrate. We wanted her to represent "the people," and earn any titles she may receive rather than be born or created with them.

It was also essential to tie Dawn closely to the virtues in a fictionally sound manner, something else the comic book will reveal. Another aspect of the character we wanted to portray clearly is that she isn't perfect. All too often in fantasy fiction, the main character is someone who is virtually flawless, as the writer worries that mistakes or poor choices will tarnish the character's "good-guy" image. When deciding how we would use Dawn, both in the comic and in the game, we wanted to be sure that we portrayed her as a real person, with all of the faults and flaws that make us human. Dawn is being thrust into a role that she not only doesn't want, but will also resist.

Where Dawn grows from here will largely depend on how she is received by the players. We have no definite plans for her at the moment because we really want her to evolve just like a real person, rather than through some forced scripted story. But before she can travel through the land of Britannia, she needs to start somewhere and the McFarlane comic presents the reader with a captivating tale as the "dawn of virtue" begins in Ultima Online!