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April 24, 2001

EA: Comments from Evocare

The following was recently posted to the Team Comments page on the Ultima Online Web site:

Comments from Evocare


As you likely know from the team comments heading, I go by the name of Evocare and I am a designer for Ultima Online. In my time at Origin, I’ve had the pleasure of working on a variety of game systems for both Ultima Online and the game formerly known as Ultima Online 2, and as a result I’d like to take some time to bore you with some game system theory. ;]

One of my primary goals here at Origin is to take a holistic approach the design of game systems. In order to deliver the best possible play experience, it’s crucial that we have a keen understanding of how each game system relates to other game systems. The idea is to create and maintain a web of essentially symbiotic game system relationships so that the combination of systems becomes dramatically more interesting and compelling than the sum of the value of each individually. Beyond creating an interesting and deep game world, one of the greatest benefits of this approach is the ability to deliver the aforementioned experience with a minimum of complexity and clutter when compared to a game of equal depth that is comprised of largely unrelated game systems.

Now that you’ve been given a mouthful of buzzwords, I’ll attempt to turn it into some tangible and useful information. Currently, Ultima Online has a foundation of basic game systems that establish the groundwork for your play experience. Although these systems are reasonably interesting on their own, they become considerably more interesting when meaningful relationships between them are developed. You can see this kind of relationship between the guild and housing systems, in that a guildstone must be located within a house. A result of this interaction is that the value of the guild system is compounded by the interesting qualities of the housing system (and vice versa), since players must work with the elements of attempting to establish a guild while balancing those desires with their housing needs. An example of one of the housing system’s effects on the guild system hinges on the ability of the players to (among other things) declare houses as public or private buildings, since it creates a meaningful meta-game in which a guild can make use of the “public” feature in order to have an open gathering environment, or the “private” feature in order to use the guild house as a sort of retreat from the outside world (all the while balancing the needs of the guild against the challenges of obtaining the best possible house type).

At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with the future of Ultima Online, how it is that we can expect to see this type of approach provide benefits to the existing game world, and why it isn’t like that already! Without giving away too much detail, we’d like to see Ultima Online evolve its current system design into a more cohesive whole, where the distinctions between systems blur as their interactions are built upon and encouraged to grow! Although this has been an elusive goal due in large part to the realities of live game maintenance and changing faces among the development team, I believe that as time goes on, you (the players) will see a gradual and noticeable refinement of the game systems within Ultima Online. Hopefully, this will translate into a more cohesive and fun game.

Take care!

Tom “Evocare” Chilton
Designer, Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at April 24, 2001 11:11 PM

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