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April 13, 2001

OSI: Comments from Calandryll

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

Comments from Calandryll

Scenario Building

Those of you who read Sage’s previous comments from April 3rd have already heard about the changes to the Live team, including the new content designer task force, which includes myself, Augur and Gromm. To quickly summarize what our task is, we are responsible for providing context for new content on an ongoing basis. This includes items, monsters, and even dungeons. The difference between past content updates and these content updates will be that the items, monsters, etc. will have a theme and/or a reason behind them that explains why they are there, rather than just appearing in the world.

Normally, these comments from the team are a chance for us to talk to you about our plans for Ultima Online. I’d rather not get into the details of what we plan to implement, as that is best left to be discovered by all of you as we begin to update the new content. Keep in mind, we’re still in the documentation and planning stages of this, so the updates themselves may not start soon.

I’d like to talk a bit, though, about where my thinking is. I break down what most people refer to as “interest” into two major sections.

Scenario: A scenario is a broad, general description of what is going on, sometimes referred to as the plot. A scenario should provide a simple answer to the question, “What is going on in the realm?” The reason I say “simple answer” is because any player should be able to get involved in the overall scenario, even if they missed the first parts. The purpose of a scenario is to provide a backdrop for players to tell their own stories and take part in events that have context within the scenario. For example, the scenario for the film The Matrix was: In the future the human race, held in thrall, is being used for their bioelectric power to fuel a race of robots created by an Artificial Intelligence. One of the human prisoners escapes the computer generated illusion of the 20th century, with the aid of rebels, in order to fight the AI and bring the human race back to the top of the food chain. Of course, those of you that saw the movie know it was more complicated than that, but if you wanted to quickly explain what was going on to someone who just walked into the room midway through the movie, that might be enough to help them understand and appreciate the rest of the movie.

Events: Events are the building blocks of a scenario and are often used to facilitate the progression of the scenario. In the Matrix example above, the individual scenes, such as Trinity fleeing the Agents, or Neo's visit to the Oracle, are representative of smaller events that have meaning within the larger context. An event can include anything from a new item related to (or coming about as a result of) the scenario, to a new monster or opponent, to a change or addition in the spawn, to just about anything outside the normal scope of one’s expectations. The event isn’t the new item or the new monster necessarily; it’s the experiences leading up to them and, more importantly, the interactions with other players that these new items/monsters/areas create. Working with other players to find a new item is an event. Finding a strategy to bring down an unfamiliar opponent that uses special attacks and defenses is an event. Discovering why the undead are suddenly attacking the shrines and subsequently defeating them is an event. When all of these “events” are all tied to the simple scenario, they create a complex story… the players’ story. And that really is my focus.

I have always believed that fiction is at its best when it is created by the players themselves. The best part of the Trinsic Invasions during the Renaissance publishes wasn’t the stuff we did… it was the stuff you did. What I do want, however, is to provide context for the changes and additions to the world, to create an interesting backdrop for all of you to tell your tales in, and to throw the occasional curve ball at you, just to keep you on your toes. ;)

How I achieve that is a far more detailed post than this one… and rather than going on and on about what I plan, I’ll let the updates speak for themselves.

Jon "Calandryll" Hanna
'Designer in Charge of Ongoing Content'
Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at April 13, 2001 6:13 PM

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