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2002-01: GameSpy Dev Diary: UO: Blackthorn's Revenge, Volume 3: Working with McFarlane

UO: Blackthorn's Revenge, Volume 3: Working with McFarlane

This was originally posted at GameSpy [1] as part of their Dev Diary series, where developers would write about some aspect of game development.


UO: Blackthorn's Revenge, Volume 3: Working with McFarlane

Rick Hall speaks about collabortaing with Todd McFarlane while expanding the UO universe.

By Rick "Stellerex" Hall


The process of evolution is never easy. Sometime last year we began to think hard about where we wanted to take the world of Britannia going forward. After all, it's a four-year-old game. Everybody keeps telling us it's not possible to keep it fresh and interesting. But then again, we have a couple of hundred thousand players who will happily tell us that it's our job to provide a dynamic and entertaining environment for them to spend their time in. And they're right, of course. So we took a lot of time to mull the situation over.

We wanted UO to be a world that had a personality and style that could accommodate growth and change, but could still maintain a familiar consistency over the long haul. We wanted to set up a new system where we could keep introducing new fictional elements that were both stimulating from a content, storyline perspective and at the same time provide players with new interactive opportunities in-game that are compelling and graphically impressive.

When thinking about expanding the world of Britannia with monsters that had a unique feel and personality who else would we want to partner with than the master of fantasy art and creatures himself, Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn? So, we pursued the idea of having him create concept art for Ultima Online and he was as excited about the opportunity to be involved in a project wrapped around Ultima Online as we were about the cool, edgy, and totally unique art he could bring to the world.

One of the things we liked best about Todd is the detail orientation that he is known for both in his art and his figures. He brings so much depth of character to his designs that they take on a personality just by looking at the hunch of their shoulders or the way they hold their heads. His characters have a life to them, and that was an exciting prospect to bring into Britannia.

And with the birth of that partnership, we commenced work on UO:LBR. LBR will be a long-term effort, not just a flash-in-the-pan expansion pack. It's different from other expansion releases in that not only are we trying to slowly evolve change in the look and feel of our creatures, but we're also committing to long-term episodic content. Working with McFarlane, we've crafted a herd of new creature types, which will all be released over the course of the next year in episodic, relevant, story-driven style.

The idea is that between Todd and our design staff, we'll be able to evolve the world of Britannia in a new direction. This direction will be more dynamic, edgy, and interesting than ever before. Britannia is like Pinocchio, a world that we want to bring to life, and Todd McFarlane is just the Pappa Geppetto to help us make that happen.