2008-04-11: Ain't Five, but it's Friday

Ain't Five, but it's Friday

Cal Crowner

11 Apr 2008 16:08:23 EST

My introduction to the Ultima Online Community was met with the same fanfare as Gallagher at a Kiwanis Club bake sale: “Sure I hear claims he’s entertaining, but I ain’t gonna clap for the same old watermelon/sledgehammer shtick! Show me something funny, boy!”

Well, since the “hello” in February, a substantial publish in March, and the launch of Mad Mage … I am going to say this: we aren’t done yet. Yes, I am going to continue to state that we have big plans. What we have on the schedule for the next six months does not even begin to describe the amount of effort, creativity, passion, and downright ultra-engaging- sultry-deliberately mind-altering-should have swallowed-the blue pill, psyche-shattering, toe-sweating, eye-ball tearing goodness that we have in store.

We are on track for the Epic event still planned for the end of May. Given this, I want to announce our publish for April is light on bug fixes. The team is currently focused on a deluge of events to deliver during May culminating in the event mentioned above. However, do not despair. Draconi should be announcing a fairly tasty intervention planned for late April for all you adventuring addicts. However, we reserve the right to change our mind and fix anything we darn well please! You can’t stop us from trying to make a better game, so there!

On a side note, I’d like to say a quick hello to the UO team in Japan. Draconi, Kil, and I had a chance to go sit with the team for a week of embarrassing moments trying to speak Japanese, and Draconi translating that I “are noob.” Kilandra made him promise not to try to teach me anything else for the rest of the trip. While we were there, we had the honor of interviewing with Okata-san from The questions made us smile, as well as ponder the future of Ultima Online for Japan, and the international player base. Overall, I thank EA Japan for a fantastic stay and I will never look at an egg the same way again.

There is something else I learned in Japan, but I will save that for the end.

Next, I have two fairly serious topics that I’ve been addressing with the team here, and I’d like to share them with the community.

First, I’d like to hear boisterous applause for the crew that delivered Pub 51. The team right now is both growing and excited about what’s to come. It’s my responsibility to make sure they press forward while keeping perspective that we have a huge loyal community that deserves our response, and simultaneously insuring no one gets a shiv in the parking lot, because a fix didn’t make it into the client publish. (I’m kidding, there have not been any serious shiv incidents for at least three weeks). Given this, we’re striving toward perfection. Perhaps its that obsessive compulsive side of us that makes us gamers in the first place, but I can assure you, every one of us reads the boards almost fanatically. We heard the gnashing of teeth and screams from the lower balcony of Gehenna regarding Archcure. It was reverted, and we are still looking into the balance for that system. There are hundreds of similar gameplay fixes, bugs, and system design enhancements. Within reason we’d like many of them fixed and/or implemented to some degree. (With the exception of anything regarding lederhosen and mint jello because that’s just weird).

I’ve shown members of my team a small folder in my Outlook that has features from players that we are hoping “some day” (cue elevator music) we’ll implement. So please, keep writing. We’re watching. But, remember you catch more flies with honey and vodka, than just plain honey. Can you spell Stolichnaya? I knew you could.

Next, I’d like to share a quote I keep on my desktop. The context for this message is from a website at the time EA announced moving the team from Redwood Shores to Fairfax. The contributor cited a note from someone on the Ultima Online team who’d recently been released:

“… Business as usual, but you know it's that stinky EA business. While it's plausible Ultima Online will benefit from this move later down the road; thanks to more resources available under one roof, all the UO and DAOC devs doing quality assurance on Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, that sort of thing. One thing is certain and that is you can't replace a dedicated developer who worked on the project for years and poured everything they had and expect the same results from their replacement or non-replacement in some cases. I guess we can expect a skeleton crew for UO from here on out.”

The UO team covers four countries, and six times zones. Any team meeting we have, I must account for schedules in Japan, the UK, the West Coast, Texas (where time actually folds and gets bigger), and here in Fairfax. We have local, remote, and an extended team now in Asia. We’ve had one of the more significant publishes in seven months just days ago, a comprehensive plan that takes us through the next two years of development, an increase in player activity and subscribers, and increasing interaction with the community.

I’ve got your skeleton crew right here.

Now, for what else I learned in Japan. Okata-san from shared a word that I tried to translate, and I will apologize now if I spell it incorrectly. The word (phonetically) is kai-ko-shugi. Loosely translated, it is that aspect of Ultima Online that pays homage to the “retro” or ‘old-school” game design when graphics were a bonus, and sound meant you listened to the Tom Cruise and Mia Sara movie Legend soundtrack on cassette tape while dungeon crawling. There is a reason Ultima Online, and the Ultima series are legendary. It’s the return to something indefinable, unquenchable, and epic because of the vision Richard Garriott had $250,000, a dream, and millions of players ago. So ten years later, we’re still here. For the person who released the above quote, good luck with your website … this skeleton crew will see you on the 25th Anniversary of Ultima Online.

Finally, what am I personally working on? *Girds himself with cast iron +2 flame retardant and troll repelling forum gear* I am working on …

I KNOW!! It’s borked. Mesanna has taken to sending me every e-mail regarding the registration site. I missed an e-mail for a parent-teacher meeting within the deluge of e-mails … actually wanted to say thanks for that – I can’t stand those things. Anyway, I am doing what I can about the site and working with the powers “Who Be.”

In closing, thanks for sticking with us, wait your tip staff, and please safe drive homely.