2010-02-12: Producer's Letter - Where are we and what the heck are we doing?

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Producer's Letter - Where are we and what the heck are we doing?

Calvin Crowner

12 Feb 2010 20:45:02 EST

Where are we? Busy.

By the time you read this, our Valentine’s Day publish should be out the door. Just so you know, a handful of our intrepid developers braved the snowy wilds of Northern Virginia to get everything staged and delivered. Now if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. This publish was the first step toward a six- month dev cycle for updates to the live game and updating some Stygian Abyss (SA) content.

We’ve made some core updates to Mysticism that from early reviews seem to be on the right track … For our publish in March we’re taking another look at the entire Mysticism spell line and amping it up a bit. Yes, I know … we didn’t just add an expansion and then move on, we really meant what we said about continuing to support what we’ve put out into the community. Also, we’ve got some artifacts for humans that were never released for SA content. We have to get those out too.

And given that … what about Magincia? It’s just … there like the Statue of Liberty at the end of Ghostbusters II. (Esoteric reference +5 points) I will tell you there are four major topics that the team is discussing at present:

What follows is in no way a schedule or in any way meant to imply that these things will happen in the near term, but instead to give you a peek where my head is and what the team is iterating on …

First: factions revamp. We want to make it not only engaging for PvPers, but make it possible for those who craft and heal a contributing part of the system. In addition, we want to make factions a coordinated part of roleplaying. In my mind, if there is a purpose behind the factions beyond hacking for the sake of hacking, that make a much more engaging play experience. Given that … we need to address how factions play into the arc of Ultima and Ultima Online. More to come on this in the next month, to include an update on how Magincia will … or will not play a role.

Next: is there ever going to be a classic shard? I will tell you … it’s a good idea … in theory. In practice it gets a LOT more complicated. We had a Saturday lunch recently (the same method we used when we were developing for Stygian Abyss), and discussed the benefits and costs (resource and impact to community) for developing a Classic shard. First we discussed what does a Classic Shard really mean? We came up with some core ideas and left it at that. There are several other things surrounding the implementation, and we almost have it nailed. Will we do it? I don’t know and cant’ say for certain, but at some point we will put the idea to rest one way or another, and we hope to make that decision this year.

Third: Speedhackers and movement. We have had this on internal testing for a couple of months, and are in the last 5% of a 100% solution. So as anyone who has had any project management experience knows … this is where you sometimes have to consider …”Is this good enough?” I’m sure you’ll let us know. We’re going to implement the system in the next couple of publishes after some time on Test Center. After that we’ll be looking into coming up with a solution for 3rd party program detection.

Final thing: What are we doing about the live story arc (see the reference to Magincia above)? We need to resolve the relationship between Dawn and Zah. How are we going to do that? Well I’m a believer that we seed you with some of the basics and let the community roleplay the outcome and transitions for the story. In short, as in Dungeons and Dragons, we’ll give you the nodes of the story, and allow you to fill in the blanks.

Given that, we’re giving Event Moderators a few more tools that will allow them to create better gaming moments. This does NOT mean making better things to give to their friends, it means creating better creatures with interesting behavior that will fry your noggin and add to your gameplay experience.

Coming for March: Mysticism spell enhancements; updates to Gargoyles; and tentatively the first glimpse of the new story arc and factions. Also, we’ve been trying to come up with the best way to allow a fair and just method for winning the housing plots down in the Abyss. The idea on the table is an event where you hunt clues that give you an opportunity to find a unique key to “unlock” the housing plot. We have an idea now on how to implement it, but again … we want to make certain it makes sense and gives every person on every shard the best opportunity for winning some prime real estate.

Finally, not sure if you’ve heard, but the team has been playing in Baja. The reason? Cause we laugh hysterically when we do, and two, we want to learn how to reduce the barrier to entry for those who want to play our game. We need to understand what the ‘X” is for UO and help others get into it and love it as much as the community and the team does. I’ll be opening a blog in the near future that will journal our exploits (in a journey sense, mind you … not a cheating sense).

I will tell you I recently played another game that had a barrier of entry not unlike UO’s. But there was one major difference … when I play on any shard invariably there is a person who will assist and take me aside and shake his or her head sadly saying …”No no no … This is what you do …” Recently someone has helped one of our artists make her way into the warm fold of Ultima Online, and now she’s working on buying a house, when she swore she’d never be able to get into the game. That is UO. Eventually, everyone will understand how magnificent and sublime it is. I believe it because I’ve seen it.

Oh ... one last note... thanks to the guy who put up the MacDonald’s on Baja … it looks great in presentations to execs about what makes UO … UO. And for the record … I am gearing up a mage. Yes, I played a tamer for a while, and got all kinds of grief … and why the heck do I have to have 100 LRC anyway? There has to be a way that I can reduce the cost of reagents without having to know a dozen imbuers to get what I need. I’m gonna have to see who is in charge around here!!