2002-11-14: Markee Dragon Interview with SunSword

Markee Dragon Interview with SunSword

You said, and I quote, 'Any other combination of factors and I might have stayed. But the reality is that the OSI job is a better job for me and my family... period.' In what ways is the OSI job better for you and your family?.

There were 2 major factors that made OSI so appealing. The first is obviously UO. It’s a successful game, with a vibrant community and a long future ahead of it. The second factor was career growth potential. I was ready to move on to new challenges beyond game design, but with the project we were working on at SOE, there weren’t a lot of options for my personal career growth that let me stay in Austin. Because I have a new family, that was a priority. So when the opportunity presented itself to come back to OSI, I found myself saying yes. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave before the project shipped, but it was the right one. OSI and EA have both changed a great deal during my absence, much of it for the better. Now it’s a place where I can significantly contribute and grow in a way that just isn’t available elsewhere

Were you at all nervous about how well you would be received back at OSI?

A little bit. I know what it’s like to have a new producer brought onto a project; it happened to me at least twice when I was on UO, and happened once at my former place of employ. On the other hand, I’m a pretty easy guy to get along with, and I already know the project reasonably well. As it is, things have worked out quite well. I’m really happy about the people I work with, and I think they’re pleased with the way I operate.

From 'A Word from SunSword’: 'And I particularly enjoy helping people figure out how to solve problems. And that's what I'm here to do.' What kinds of problems are you helping to solve?

I do a lot of listening :). Frequently, team members only need a sounding board for their problems in order to come to the right conclusions. In that role, I function as a source of affirmation. And of course, I offer lots of suggestions. Another major part of what I do to help solve problems is find and allocate resources. Sometimes a team member is faced with more than they can accomplish on their own. I try to help out by finding other resources to help them get the job done, whether it is by reprioritizing some other work or getting better tools. Finally, I communicate. I do a lot of walking in my new job, moving from office to office, trying to ensure that everyone knows information pertinent to their particular job, so they can avoid problems in the first place.

Which of the major issues (bugs) is the priority right now?.

Well, as you probably know, we went ahead and fixed the tailoring BOD bug. The “zero damage” spellcasting bug is also a high priority for us, but so far has turned out to be quite elusive. And of course, any service threatening issue becomes top priority. The service always comes first.

In the thread entitled, 'Congrats to SunSword' at, a member named MrSpock made a post saying: 'What would REALLY help is to have like a monthly list of things you guys feel are important to the game and allow the users to have a say in whether it's REALLY important... or simply eye candy. Believe it or not, a lot of the users DO know what’s important or simply annoying.' Do you think this idea would ever be implemented?

Hmm. Well, first, I think we do a pretty good job of communicating our priorities on a regular basis by using the message boards, news announcements, comments from the team, etc. But I’m always willing to examine how effectively we are communicating to the public. The biggest challenge in gathering information on what “the users” think is measuring the feedback. Right now, the OCR department and GM’s do daily/weekly reports on what are “hot topics” from boards, fansites, and support calls. We (the dev team) find this kind of reporting particularly useful. Historically, using areas of the site such as “in-concept” have produced more dubious results because the feedback is so “open-ended” and the audience tends to be factionalized. We’ve discussed other methods for garnering better metrics on “what players” want, but I’m not prepared to elaborate on those at the moment.

Any plans for underwater cities?

Not at the moment.

I see that you have your own website -- how much time are you able to devote to that?

I have very little time, as you can probably tell from the date of the last news post. There’s a community on the forums that’s pretty active though, and it’s a place I can go and relax with players and developers alike.

Have you ever had to ban anyone from the site?

Nope. Everyone seems well-behaved there. I’ve had to give a few warnings, but I think everyone realizes that having a place where developers and players can hang out and just be people is rare and valuable. Not many people are willing to risk that special opportunity by misbehaving.

Do you get aggravated by the people in the forums who ask for help about problems they have in UO?

Not at all. It’s important to hear what’s important to players.

One of the members was asking about a fix for people with disabilities who wanted to play, any further news on that?

That line of questioning had to do with a previous project I was on. As I was the torch carrier for that particular issue, I’m not sure where it stands anymore. I sincerely hope they’ll attempt to support people with disabilities.

Why the wait on fixing the avatars with the 3d client until AoS? You know, this is an issue that I was not close to while I was away, and I’m still digging through the history and putting all the pieces together from both sides. The reality is: the art isn’t quite done yet. We haven’t made a final decision on when the art will be released, but the thinking behind waiting for AoS is that it allows us to give people a chance to obtain the art without a very large patch. That’s all. You should expect to see more on this topic in a “Comments from the Team” by Alai, and perhaps an official announcement from me.

How is the expansion AoS moving along?

It’s doing quite well; we are moving towards feature complete and full suite testing!

Will the beta be on the test shard?.

As of right now, there are no plans regarding a public beta, but if that changes, you can be sure that there will be announcements on the website, forums, and fansite news list.

Care to tell us about your time with SOE?

I learned a lot during my time in the Austin SOE office. From a production standpoint, the most interesting thing I learned is that even with the world’s best talent, you can’t just throw a bunch of bodies at a project and expect it to succeed without a great deal of painstaking effort. Developing a new title from the ground up requires extremely careful planning and lots of experience. I have some of that experience now, but I’m sure I have a lot more to learn.

Thank you SunSword for taking the time out of your busy day to do this interview!

And thank you Kerowyn for helping this to happen!