2003-08-03: Our 2nd Interview With Alai

Our 2nd Interview With Alai (8-4-2003)

Interview by [1]

uocompendium So Alai, you've moved on from the Lead Client Programmer position to Associate Producer. According to SunSword, your primary duties are project management and whip cracking. How are you enjoying these new rolls?
Tim "Alai" Schubert Thankfully there's a little more to do with it than that - my skills with a whip are not particularly keen. I try to keep track of everything that's going on at any given time, which is usually quite a lot. My overall goal is to accomplish some of that synergy they're always talking about in Dilbert and make sure all the individual parts of the development process are going well and taking advantage of each other's strengths. The idea is to ensure we're operating efficiently and releasing high quality content. This includes making sure all features are well thought out, carefully developed, and released in a timely manner. Another very important part of my new job is making sure the work we do is all in alignment with our long term plans. Of course part of all that is gently encouraging the developers to keep up with the schedule. I find that a yardstick is good for this kind of delicate work.
uocompendium As a Producer you must be fairly familiar with the bug tracking procedures at OSI, from the point someone sends a bug in via [email protected] and [email protected], to the point it's fixed. What can you tell us about this process, specifically how bugs such as the BODs on vendor selling for really cheap slip through the cracks after it was reported a full 11 days before it was released.
Tim "Alai" Schubert Our staff goes through the bug boxes and looks through the boards looking for new issues regularly. From there they are put into a bug tracking system and triaged. How critical a bug is depends on what it does, how many people it affects, and to some degree how old the bug is - bugs added in with new features tend to get precedence. The confusion sets in when it isn't clear if a bug is even legitimate, if we aren't clear how dire the ramifications of a bug are, or if we don't understand how new the bug is. That said, sometimes a bug isn't given the amount of credence it deserves and when this happens a new bug can slip through the cracks to find itself lost amongst the preexisting bugs. The trick is to make sure we mitigate the risk associated with the possibility that a bug could sneak into production. The single-shard rollout strategy served that purpose well (whereby each new publish remain lives one one shard before being published worldwide), and prevented what could have been a far greater problem with Publish 19.
uocompendium Are there any plans to change how customers send in bugs to the dev team? Other games have in game menus to report bugs to the dev team, the benefit of this, is that the client and the server can take some metrics at the time of the bug report.
Tim "Alai" Schubert We don't have any plans to change how we handle this in the near future. Back when Third Dawn was being tested, we actually had a "submit bug" button on the paper doll interface. We took it off to get that screen geography back. For the foreseeable future, posting issues to the boards and/or emailing them to one of our bug mailboxes ([email protected], or [email protected] for bugs found on a test center shard) will remain the way to go.
uocompendium Can we expect night sight to be fixed anytime soon? Quite a few people complain about this and submit bugs. When you can't see where you are in a dungeon and ask for help from a GM, being told to submit another bug report is not helpful.
Tim "Alai" Schubert Yup, the same fix that took care of this for the 2D client will be applied to the 3D client soon™. If you encounter this problem in 2D, please let us know (via [email protected]) - be sure to be specific about when you saw the problem and which client you were using. Any clues as to how to reproduce issues you find would be very useful and are good to include in any reports.
uocompendium Publish 19 fixes the age old problem of plants blocking movement; however, it could possibly allow many people to place houses over treasure map locations. Can you go into more detail on the plan to correct this for treasure hunters? Are you planning to move those locations, revamp t-maps, or leave them wandering?
Tim "Alai" Schubert This whole situation is quite unfortunate. Our likely course of action will be to move some treasure map locations to areas that houses can't cover with the new rules. Existing maps will most probably be updated to use new locations so we don't render them valueless. The scope of the update isn't something we have determined yet. Players are encouraged to send us locations that have been blocked by houses to our bug box at [email protected], so we can be sure to fix them
uocompendium As an Associate Producer, will you now get to have more say on the direction of UO's clients? If so, do you have anything you want to have changed in them?
Tim "Alai" Schubert It's hard to say how much more or less I'll have to do with the direction of the UO client in the future. I was pretty free to do what needed to be done when I was the Lead Client Programmer. Some of this was small "off the books" features (think skill icons), while others involved taking point on larger initiatives (i.e. house building interface). In general, I think the client needs to be faster, easier to use, and experience a vast improvement to its graphics quality. Most of the team agrees, and we'll be doing what we can to improve the client in all these regards. Along the way, there are some other features we'd like to add.
uocompendium Quite a few people enjoyed the final fall of Blackthorn, however we were all told don't expect this to be the start of new content. Was this just to tidy things up with that story line, or is it a foretelling of new content? Or perhaps more ant and hag style quests?
Tim "Alai" Schubert Mostly we're just trying to control expectations. The Blackthorn event was something we wanted to do to liven things up for a bit, and was not a kick off event to a new series of ongoing fiction. We were concerned that players would expect a new barrage of ongoing content, and we didn't want them to be terribly disappointed when/if it didn't come. Everybody supporting UO is a fan of ongoing content as well as in-game events and what they add to the game; we're presently investigating how both can be provided in the future.