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April 9, 2001

OSI: Comments from Vex

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

Comments from Vex

Howdy! Iím Vex, designer on UO Live. Let me start this off by talking a bit about how I got to be here.

Back around March of 2000, Origin sent out the call for new designers for the UO Live team. After reading the requirements on the job listing on OSIís web site, I found myself suddenly re-evaluating how I thought about my career and, in many ways, my life in general. At that time, I was already an all-out UO addict. I literally played daily, and some weekends I would get in twelve hours or more in a single day. And if I wasnít playing the game, I was talking about it on message boards.

So - the job requirements fit me to a T. The first thing I decided was that there was no doubt about whether or not Iíd send in my rťsumť. And then a question bowled over that (rather simple) decision: Why in the world hadnít I gone looking for work in the gaming industry before? I am a gamer to the core. Iíve played games for as long as I can remember. Pong. An Atari 2600. Pen and paper roleplaying games. Board games. A Commodore Vic-20. An Atari 800XL. A PC clone. Card games. MUDs. Play by mail. You name it, chances are Iíve played it. My wife and I had been running a MUD together for about four years.

My career to date had been satisfactory. I was making enough to live comfortably and my work (mostly Windows based database and software application design and implementation) was interesting. But I still hadnít answered that question. I donít know why it took me six years to realize that being a game designer and programmer was what I really wanted to do professionally. I guess I figured that it was adequate as a hobby. Silly me.

Origin flew me out to Austin for a grueling round of interviews. I met many UO people who Iíd only known until then by their handles. And when it was all over and done with and I had landed back home, still in awe of the whole idea of moving to Austin and actually getting paid to design for Ultima Online, they turned me down.

In retrospect, I see the toughness of the decision they faced at the time. All of those who got the jobs instead of me are amazing people. Carly (aka LadyMOI) and Sage basically built a new design team from the ground up, and I guarantee you they did one hell of a job. Back at home, I talked with Carly on the phone and exchanged a few emails. I was definitely disappointed about losing out, but I also realized that there would certainly be other opportunities. And another opportunity did come several months later. This time, after another round of interviews, I was extended a job offer.

So, here I am. Itís now been just a touch over six months since my first day at Origin. It feels like itís been six years. I was used to working hard before, but I wasnít really prepared for the pace kept around here. Iíve already lost track of the number of late nights and weekends Iíve spent here in the office, helping to put out one fire or another. I donít remember the number of weeks weíve been in crunch since I started. But even though this has by far been the most demanding job Iíve ever held, it has also without a doubt been the most satisfying one.

In my time here, I have quickly learned the difference in scale between running a MUD with a few hundred players and working on a big-time online RPG. Writing code for a server cluster instead of a single process involves levels of complexity heretofore unknown to me. Having to balance the needs of thousands upon thousands of diverse players completely eclipses the same task in the context of a small MUD. I am still a neophyte in the commercial gaming biz, but in these six short fast-paced months, I have already been able to prove my abilities while at the same time gaining what feels like a lifetimeís worth of knowledge about the relatively new field of massively multiplayer games.

Carly and Sage made it possible for me. I thank them both for looking for new talent outside the gaming industry. Theyíve given me a very rare and precious opportunity. It was a gamble for them and for me, but one that has paid off well. I am honored to work with Sage, who manages to be everything a leader should be while being pulled in every direction at once. This entire team is strong, and we augment each other well. Each of us brings a unique perspective to the table. But even though we all have different interests in Ultima Online and different opinions as to what the game needs, we work together well and get along splendidly. My hat is off to you guys as well.

This is an interesting time for all of us on the UO team. With the recent inauguration of the Event Design team, UO now has the largest design team in its history. With the former Third Dawn team merging with UO Live, we now also have the largest software engineering team in UOís history. We are in a position where we have unprecedented resources to distribute. I feel like everything that has happened with this game until now has just been a prelude. Weíre gearing up for prime time now, ladies and gents, so buckle up and hang on to your hats.

Whatís in store for Ultima Online? Well, that is still largely being decided. Hereís what I do know. First, WE WILL SHIP VET REWARDS. No promises as to when. I am working on the Vet Rewards system with some of the programming team. I feel good about the progress we are making. Look for it soon on a Test Center near you. Next, we are setting a goal of attacking all known bugs in the game. Until now, there have never been enough resources to throw at this task, and many harmless but annoying bugs have gone unfixed for way too long. In addition, we are looking forward to adding new content to the game. What else do we have in store? I canít give any more details than these. As we complete our restructuring and flesh out our plans for the upcoming year, more and more will become known.

These are exciting times to be working on Ultima Online. With the release of Third Dawn, these are exciting times to be playing Ultima Online. Now we are poised to take this game to new heights, and I am honored to be part of the team that will accomplish that task.

Michael ďVexĒ Moore
Designer, UO Live

Posted by Nobody at April 9, 2001 9:15 PM

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