2002-03-22: Chatting with Evocare

Chatting with Evocare

Player2Player interview with Evocare by Angel Storm.[1]

Player2Player Who is Evocare and why is he working for OSI/EA?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton I'm the lead designer for Ultima Online! What that means is I manage our team of 9 designers/scripters. This involves determining what game systems are developed and/or changed, establishing the boundaries for those changes, assigning the tasks to our designers, ensuring they are developed as best as possible, and ultimately (no pun intended) making sure UO is as fun as possible for as many people as possible for as long as possible!
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Although there are a lot of opportunities in the gaming industry, I was attracted to OSI/EA as a thoroughly addicted UO player and, therefore, decided to give it a crack once the opportunity arose.
Player2Player How long have you been with OSI/EA?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton I've been with OSI for two years now - first as a designer for UO, and now as lead designer (since May of 2001).
Player2Player Do you actually play UO? What shard? How long?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Yes. Over time, I've played extensively on Napa Valley, Siege Perilous, Lake Superior, and Pacific.
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Since September of 1997.
Player2Player PK, RP, kewld00d?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton All of the above. ;] I'm very adaptable, and have always enjoyed PvP'ing with the PvP'ers, RP'ing with the RP'ers, crafting, and speaking dewdish when I'm with the dewds.
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Really, UO's diversity of players is what has kept me interested in it for so long. I just can't imagine a UO without the idealism of the RP'ers, the determination of the PvP'ers, the interaction with the crafters, or the sheer entertainment value of the kewld00ds. =]
Player2Player Since fan loyalty doesn't last forever, how does UO intend to compete with the new generations of MMORPGs?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton In my opinion, UO offers substantially greater depth and re-playability than any existing or foreseeable MMORPG. Although the glitter and promises of the newer games are attractive, I feel that in the end UO's depth will still hold a lot of staying power.
Player2Player Do you feel that UO can continue indefinitely in its current incarnation?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton UO's "current incarnation" changes with every publish in one way or another, sometimes more substantially than others. The real question is whether UO will continue to evolve effectively enough to meet the needs of the audience. In respect to this, I'm betting we can.
Player2Player Have the recent releases hurt subscriptions?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton More competition always has an impact, although the impact has never been as significant as many people expect.
Player2Player How many subscriptions are there currently?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton 230,000.
Player2Player Boxers or briefs?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Either. Depends on what I'm wearing that day. :P
Player2Player Can we ever expect to see the themed shards again (IE: Santa's Slay, Abyss)?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Never say never. However, it's not something we're focusing on right now.
Player2Player How happy is the team with the way the faction system is running now?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Reasonably happy. The system achieved what it set out to accomplish. There are certainly things I'd do differently given the chance to go back in time, but I can't think of many games or game systems where that isn't the case, for any designer.
Player2Player Oxenfree (one of our staff) would like to know if she re-instates her account, will you give her a keep?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton We'll give her the right to shop for one!
Player2Player What kinds of scenarios can we look forward to?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton The fun kind! You can expect that Britannia will continue to change and be shaped by the actions of players!
Player2Player Will there be more town invasions?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton My crystal ball tells me the forces of evil do indeed have their sights set on the towns of Britannia.
Player2Player How has the absence of Richard Garriott affected UO (and OSI), both for better and worse?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Honestly, I have no idea. Richard Garriott had already left OSI in early 2000, shortly before I began working here, so I really don't have a point of reference. What I can say is I'm quite happy working here at OSI. =]
Player2Player With its open ended gameplay, UO has been described, by both critic and detractor alike, as more of a 'virtual world' than its competition. Simplistic hack and slash seems to be where the market is heading, however. Everquest, for example, would have to be called more of a commercial success than UO. With this in mind, is the temptation there to 'dumb down' the existing game? What about future incarnations of UO?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton We want to satisfy as many people as we can. Sometimes that requires that we shift UO's focus to one degree or another. However, we are very proud of UO's "virtual worldness," and do feel that it helps us capture and retain an otherwise overlooked segment of the market. As a player, the virtual world aspect is and was, without a doubt, a significant part of why I always enjoyed UO so much.
Player2Player What about those 4 yr. vet rewards? Seahorses?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Unfortunately, the seahorses ran into some very unanticipated technical problems related to the way the coastlines of Britannia work. These problems have greatly reduced the priority of seahorses, since they'd require a very large time investment to get working properly.
Tom "Evocare" Chilton We haven't forgotten about 4th year rewards - keep your eye on for more information!
Player2Player What are your personal goals for the future of UO (pet projects, etc)?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton I'd really like to develop our game systems in such a way that players feel as though they hold a greater stake in the world of Britannia. This implies a greater level of player impact upon the world, better long-term social meta-games, and a greater level of interdependence.
Player2Player What are the team's goals?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Keep UO growing.
Player2Player What are the biggest challenges in being a designer for UO?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Keeping UO growing. ;]
Player2Player What is the most rewarding part of being a designer for UO?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Watching UO grow.
Player2Player If you had the opportunity to try and convince ex-players to return to UO, what would you say?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Although players leave for a very wide range of reasons, I'd say that many of the reasons they left either have been or are being addressed, improved, or solved.
Tom "Evocare" Chilton If we execute our plans effectively, UO will be more fun than ever before. The part that makes it challenging is the unbelievable number of opportunities for failure! ;]
Player2Player If you had a magic wand that you could wave and correct any single imbalance or bug immediately, what would you choose?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton I'd give everyone a perfect internet connection.
Player2Player Finally, can you give us one juicy tidbit of information that hasn't bee released yet? A press release? A scoop?
Tom "Evocare" Chilton Have you ever played "Operation"?