July 18, 2001

Raph Koster Interviewed by Computer Games Online

Computer Games Online posted an interview with Raph "Designer Dragon" Koster, one of the creators of Ultima Online. The article is here, and you can read the introductory text, below:

Rapping with Raph
Star Wars Galaxies point man Raph Koster talks about online games
by Mark Asher

Raph Koster is the point man on Star Wars Galaxies, the LucasArts and Sony Online game that folks are predicting will be the first million-subscriber online game. As "Designer Dragon," he was also one of the creators of Ultima Online and is a veteran MUDder. Although unable to discuss specifics on the Star Wars game, he was willing to talk with us about online role-playing games in general.
I feel the need to point out Raph's personal "shout out" to a fine group of native Baja players. When he was asked, "What was UO's biggest triumph?" part of his response included the following (I added the bold text):
I think that we were successful in making a more dynamic environment than what was the norm. It wasn't anywhere near what we'd hoped for, but it was enough, I think. We got that amazing player economy, we got those player towns, and theater troupes—shout out to the Golden Brew players here—and just this stunning array of guilds and the like. I don't know that the level of community involvement, and of so many microcommunities, has manifested anywhere else.
Congratulations, Golden Brew players! (Click to find out more the Town of Golden and the Golden Brew).

Posted by Nobody at 8:27 PM

July 14, 2001

OSI: Ultima-Online Celebrity Chat

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

Ultima-Online Celebrity Chat

Join us Monday, July 16th at 7:00PM CDT in #Ultima-Online for another Ultima Online Celebrity Chat, sponsored by Stratics. Guests this week will be Calandryll, Gromm, and Augur from the UO Scenario/Content Design Team. Stop in and ask them your questions about their current and upcoming scenarios and projects.

Never been on Stratics IRC before, click the link below for more details.

Ultima-Online Celebrity Chat

Posted by Nobody at 10:49 AM

July 10, 2001

OSI: More News from the Community Front

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

More News from the Community Front

It's time for an update on the Community Relations Department hiring process!

To fill anyone in who hasn't been following the Community Department here at Origin, I'll recap a bit. Typically we have a three-person OCR team, consisting of a Community Manager, a Community Coordinator and the Website Content Editor/Writer. All three of these jobs are extremely time-consuming and vital to the service as a whole, since without the community, we have no service.

So on to the point at hand - a couple weeks ago two of our community team moved on to other opportunities, and I took on the role of Community Manager. I have been conducting a search for the right people to hold the positions of Community Coordinator and Website Content Writer, and it has been a really tough search! We have such a passionate community, many of whom would add greatly to the Origin team. How do we pick only two people out of nearly a hundred responses?

Well, after two weeks of reading resumes and conducting interviews, I have chosen my Website Content Editor, and I'm thrilled to say that she accepted the position just yesterday. She will be moving onto my team within the next two weeks, and I'm really looking forward to introducing her to the community! :)

And I am close -- so close -- to finding the right Community Coordinator. However, the choice has not been an easy one, and I can't make anything public just yet.

Until I have these two people on my team, I'm doing my best to maintain the essential duties of each position - i.e making sure the players on the boards are updated and notified of changes, making sure the important news announcements are made on the site, and seeing that the dev team has the information they need and the exposure they need to make the right decisions for the game. However, I have had to choose my priorities carefully, since my time is limited and there is so much to do.

I know many of you are anxiously awaiting the news of who will replace Melantus and who will take over the site, and I must say I'm anxiously awaiting the moment when I can give you that news! Building this team has been my number one priority since I took on the role of Community Manager, and it's a task that is too important to rush. I hope that my next Comments from the Team will be a more thorough introduction of the new community folks, and that in time, you'll get to know them as well as any of us!

Amy "Cynthe" Sage
Community Manager
Ultima Online
ORIGIN Systems

Posted by Nobody at 4:47 PM

July 8, 2001

OSI: 89th Spotlight: “Orc Chess Game”

Recently, the 89th Spotlight was published to the Ultima Online Web site. Below are the first couple of paragraphs from this new tale:

Orc Chess Game

If anyone tells you chess is a game for intellectuals, they haven't seen it played the Ultima Online way. Join us for the story of a battle of brains and brawn as we watch the unlikely pairing of orcs and humans in an intellectual battle to the death.
"'Motherless swine!'

"'Dum dum pugdung femmy!'

Insults and empty bottles hurled back and forth. It was another typical night in the Hungry Halfling.

"Emma Frost and Tiger Dream had lived in relative peace and quiet on the border with the Stormreaver Clan. Occasionally they would watch the war bands as they passed their way, striking further and further in their quest for Empire. Until recently, the Orc Horde had ignored their small village, tucked between the borders of Yew and the Clan. By providing their services as metalsmiths and alchemists of no small skill, they had earned the good graces of the Clan. Lately, however, the restless Horde had begun to harass the two women and their retainers.

"Tonight was typical. Trying to find a drink, the two had settled into seats at the Hungry Halfling, only to be accosted by filthy marauders seeking to make 'lil Orcs' with them. Throwing a drink into the face of the rudest only resulted in another of the bar brawls that made the Hungry Halfling famous.

"Qog jumped up atop the table before the two women, brandishing his great axe. Quickly, Tiger yanked hard on the tablecloth, bringing Qog crashing to the ground. A flash of silver and Emma pressed the kryss, oozing green with venom, against Qog's throat.
The remainder of this story can be read here.

Posted by Nobody at 2:51 AM

June 26, 2001

ImaNewbie finds a New Home at Stratics

The following anouncement was posted by Xena Dragon to UO Stratics:

ImaNewbie finds a New Home at Stratics

I'm proud to announce that as of this week, Tryon's ImaNewbie has found a new home here on the Stratics network. Without further ado, because I know you addicts need your ImaNewbie now, here's the latest announcement:
That's Right Folks, "the rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated", as the old saying goes. ImaNewbie is alive and well and happily ensconsed in his new home right here on the Stratics Network. The URL is the same as always so no need to modify your bookmarks, just get yur butts over to my site and check out the latest! Enjoy :)

Added June 25th, 2001
  • Toon Episode #140: In Danger of Collapsing plus
  • Britannia Enquirer Vol 2, No. 4
ImaNewbie does Britannia
http://www.imanewbie.com/

later...Tryon
Welcome to Stratics Tryon!

Posted by Nobody at 4:00 PM

June 15, 2001

OSI: OCR News from Cynthe

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

OCR News from Cynthe
Most of these Comments from the Team lately have started off with an introduction of sorts. Well, I've introduced myself before, so we'll skip that part. This is an introduction to a new beginning, if you will, of the Ultima Online Community Relations Department.

As you may have seen on the UO.com Employment Listings, we're looking to bring on a new Ultima Online Community Coordinator and a new UO.com Online Content Editor/Writer. This is pretty big news, so before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I wanted to lay out a few details of what's happening here in OCR, starting with a timeline of the OCR history since I have been here (I'll keep it brief).

When I came into OCR working on Ultima Ascension in November of 1999, LadyMOI was the OCR manager, Calandryll was the UO Community Coordinator, and Leilo was the UO.com Content Editor/Writer. I learned a lot from LadyMOI about management, and about community. I also shared an office with Calandryll and Leilo, and learned about the value of close communication, and about caring for the needs of the players. Later, when LadyMOI went on to a new role in Ultima Online development, Calandryll stepped up to Community Manager, and Melantus took over his role of Community Coordinator for UO. Leilo continued on in charge of the UO.com website content.

When Calandryll was presented with the opportunity to dip his hand into development and begin creating new global events in UO, he jumped at the chance, and Leilo ascended from her position into the role of Community Manager. I was brought into the UO OCR Department at that time, filling her role as Website Content Editor/Writer, and working closely with Melantus. But as Melantus mentioned in a recent post on our boards, this industry is growing rapidly, and people tend to move quickly when new opportunties arise. So as Leilo and Melantus move on to pursue those other opportunities, I've been given the opportunity to lead the department as Community Manager.

Losing friends is always difficult, and Leilo and Melantus are both extremely close friends of mine. Being talented people, they will no doubt be an asset wherever they go. But looking forward is important, and there is a LOT to look forward to! Stellerex's last Comments from the Team talked a lot about UO's future, and the exciting things planned... so I won't go into that again. But let's look at the OCR department. I've learned from the best, and I have a lot of my own ideas for things I would like to see happen. I want the discussion boards to become a more useful place. I want the players to feel we're listening on the edge of our seats. I want the community to have a voice in the game's design, and make sure the players' desires are heard and considered. I want the UO.com Update Center to show a steady stream of development and progress. I want a lot of things.

And what do I have? What I have now is a new position from which to work, and a completely open department. I have the opportunity to choose the people that will make this happen, and the people who will bring the most excitement and the most passion into the Origin Community Services department. And I'm going to do it soon... time is of the essence with a game as rapidly evolving as Ultima Online. It's not often that someone hands you the power and says, "Here - build the team that can do this."

It's a fresh start, and we're going to make the most of it. :)

Posted by Nobody at 6:24 PM

June 12, 2001

OSI: Stellerex on Spring

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

Stellerex on Spring

They tell me that Spring is often the season for change. Maybe this was just wishful thinking on my part, but I’d always assumed this was more of a poetic metaphor than a part of everyday life. Change means we sometimes have to say goodbye to things that we've grown accustomed to.

A few weeks ago, I got a dose of Spring. Two of our friends and colleagues here at OSI stopped into my office with those little envelopes in their hands and a look that told me even before they spoke that spring was not yet over. Yes, it's true: Runesabre and Sage have moved on from our development team.

Over the past two years, both of these very talented individuals have become more to me than just co-workers and fellow comrades in the foxhole of game development. They've become friends. We've worked together through the long Autumn of Renaissance, and the demanding Winter that was Third Dawn. And while Spring heralded the fledgling birth of a new 3D era for UO, Kirk and Paul have made a tough decision to follow some other friends into a new venture and new challenges. Those of us who remain here to carry the banner of UO into the future salute their enormous effort and dedication. We will truly miss them.

But Spring also symbolizes new life, and this is certainly true of UO. Spring has brought us Third Dawn, distributed backups, and the new global events program. It's brought us new optimizations, better stability, new hardware, more headway against exploits, and much more is just over the horizon. The current Dev team has incredible talent and resources, and contrary to what some people might assume, is larger than ever. For the first time since Ultima Online’s creation, we have a dedicated art staff creating new art for the game, and thanks to the enhancements to the client that Third Dawn brought about, we can add this new art without having to ship a new CD! Along with the artists, we have more than 20 people in product development, a proportionate amount of QA testers, many with extensive programming knowledge and experience, and our community and studio management folks - all dedicated to Ultima Online. And that doesn’t even include the customer support and network operations groups here! So, while Spring had its bumps in the road, Summer is here, and it’s time to look ahead. Publish 12 will be released by the end of June, and anyone who’s read our posts on the boards knows that that includes the long-awaited release of veteran rewards!

So what else do we have planned? Well, the global events are being extremely well received by the players, so we're going to proceed ahead with making this a perpetual effort. Thanks to our artists and our new event designers, you’ll see continuing global events, new and fresh magical and non-magical items, and bizarre and exciting monsters added to the world of Sosaria on a much more frequent and systematic basis. We’re also focusing closely on the Third Dawn client, which has improved by leaps and bounds since its release - and we’re certainly not stopping yet.

Additionally, we're doing some behind-the-scenes prototype work for an even more revolutionary enhancement for Ultima Online. These are the very early stages, but expect to see details revealed in the coming months as we get further along. We're still discussing a few different concepts, but our underlying goal is to make the game more exciting and engaging, with more possibilities than ever - and without halting the momentum we’re creating with our systematic bug fixes and our popular new content.

As I mentioned in a previous letter, we're also handling a number of infrastructure and service-related issues as well. It may not sound as exciting as adding new monsters or magic items, but these changes will help the servers with performance and latency as we continue to grow our subscriber base.

So for now, Spring is over. We've planted some new seeds, and it's going to be an energetic and vibrant summer as we help them grow into an exciting Fall harvest.

Stellerex
Senior Producer
Ultima Online

Posted by Ursula at 10:53 AM

June 9, 2001

OSI: When Bears Attach

Have you read the latest UO Spotlight? It's written by Baja's own Randum, The Heroic Stoic. It has probably the funniest ending you'll ever read in a Spotlight. Great job, Randum!

Randum's tale is posted on the Ultima Online Web site site, here. The start of the story is below.

When Bears Attach

They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but often there's a story behind the picture that's just as good as the picture itself. This week's spotlight features one of the most humorous shots we've seen, and the delightfully devilish story of how it came about.

"I'm tellin' ya, it's a piece of cake! Just pop that head off, skin it back, and mount it on the board. Five minutes, tops!" Lord Randum was serving drinks behind the bar as these words erupted from the mouth of Doug Deep, resident taxidermist of the Heroic Stoic. He was well into his second keg and regaling the crowd of adventurers with tales of his prowess.

"Well, then, Doug. Show us how it's done!" spouted Doom Monsterbane from the corner.

"All right, but I'm out of taxidermy kits. I'll make a run into town and when I get back, you'll see just how easy it is to pop the heads off those dang bears!" Being too drunk to remember the words of power for the recall spell, Doug set off on foot toward Vesper, weaving through the trees until he was out of sight.

"That man chaps my hide sometimes," growled Lord Randum, " I kill the bears, and mark runes for him so he can make his trophies AT NO CHARGE, and he takes the credit for the kills. Sheesh! We all know Doug couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag!"

"Well, I have an idea," said Dragoneer, one of the local tamers. "Why don't we play a bit of a joke on ole Doug? I'll go tame a couple of bears and Chyna here is a craftswoman. She can make a hole or two in the wall back there where Doug keeps his display trophies, and maybe make up some trick plaques to put around the bears’ necks. I'll get the bears lined up with the holes and keep them calm. When Doug gets back, Randum can ask him to take a look at the books or something to get him into the back room. When he sits at the desk, I'll poke the bears and make them growl. We'll see how brave Doug is then!"
This humorous tale continues at here, including a funny screenshot which I won't spoil for you!

Posted by Nobody at 2:34 AM

June 6, 2001

A Tale or Two Role Playing Board

The Ultima Online House of Commons (UOHoC) has posted its 26th Ultima Online Celebrity Chat. The night's guests were Nikademus, Curunir and Riptide, the Ex Intrest Volunteer Leads. Dariuas, in charge of the chat for the evening, noted that the "guests are no longer with OSI, so they do not represent their views or opinions."

Nikademus was the Interest Coordinator for Events Programming, Curunir was the training coordinator for the Seer program, and Riptide was "the Plot Role Coordinator for that past year or so, right after the UO:R fiction ended."

During the conversation, Nikademus shared the following amusing anecdote, from his time as an Interest Volunteer:

Nikademus - Well, one night I get all sorts of PMs in IRC from the vols on Atlantic, saying some demon was in front of Trinsic spawning monsters and attacking players
Nikademus - and apparently none of the Seer were doing it
Nikademus - So I logged in and tried to contact the demon
Nikademus - They weren't responding, so I jailed him
Nikademus - Called in the GMs and IGMs, to see what was going on
Nikademus - Turns out it was the head of the department, starting the next phase of the plot. He was playing one of the demon generals, Anmac. :(
Nikademus - er, :)
Nikademus - So my first jailing of a person turned out to be my boss. :)
The entire 26th Ultima Online Celebrity Chat log can be found here.

Posted by Nobody at 6:22 PM

June 5, 2001

OSI: Jalek Speaks

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

Jalek Speaks<

Hail and well met,

Since this is my first Comments from the Team, I would like to introduce myself for those of you who do not know me. My name is Kevin Saffel, a.k.a. Jalek, and my title is Client Programmer on UO Live. I would just like to take a moment and tell you how I got to Origin and then let you know what I am working on.

As I graduated high school, I realized that I didn’t have the money to go to college. I joined the Air Force and became a Nuclear Weapons Technician, believe it or not. :) While serving my country, I was introduced to the Ultima series of games by a friend of mine. I could not get enough. I played every one of them that I could, night and day, and eventually realized that I wanted to get a degree in programming and try to get a job with this company I admired so much. A couple of years out of college, I found a game called Ultima Online, and it was even more addicting than the other Ultimas. I then applied even more to get a job at Origin, and finally in November of 1999 my dream came true.

I have worked on client bugs, helped out with the party system, done some server work and I was one of the client programmers on UO: Third Dawn. Now, I am working on cleaning up some of the client code, fixing bugs, and supporting the events team to some degree.

Bug fixing is very important to the UO Live team, and we put a lot of work into seeing that all our systems are at the level that we designed them to be. UO is a huge game, with many systems interwoven and dependent on each other. It is also a code base that has been worked on by MANY different people. The changing of any minute part of a system - yes, even in the client -- can result in one or many other areas being broken. So, we have to be careful when we change anything, because each change requires multiple systems to be completely retested every time we go to patch (and I know you want updates more often than every 7 to 8 months!). We start off by investigating the bugs, then finding a solution, implementing the solution, and giving QA time to test the bug. If problems are found, we have to start all over. Even so, things get missed from time to time. This is why we will sometimes just rewrite systems when time permits, to decouple the strict dependencies that some of these systems have on each other.

The UO team loves UO and wants our players to have the best time possible while playing the game. That is why we will never stop fixing bugs, rewriting systems to make them better, and adding new content to the game. Yes we do and will continue to make mistakes, I can guarantee you that, but we will do our best to correct them.

So, if you have a bug, a question, an idea or just want to shout and say hi, give me a holler at jalek@uo.com.

Kevin "Jalek" Saffel
Client Programmer
Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 4:38 PM

June 4, 2001

UOHoC Update - Planned for Thursday

The following was posted by Joshua Rowan to UO Stratics:

UOHoC Update - Planned for Thursday

Just a quick heads up about the UOHoC for this week. There were several rumors that it would be on Tuesday, but as usual it is still being planned for this coming Thursday, June 7th. We'll have an official post up soon with details about it. In the meantime, if you would like to check out previous UOHoC's, make sure to check out our UOHoC Website.

Posted by Nobody at 6:52 PM

#Ultima-Online Celebrity Chat!

The following was posted by Joshua Rowan to UO Stratics:

#Ultima-Online Celebrity Chat!

Join us in #Ultima-Online this Monday, June 4th, 7:00 PM Central Time, for another Ultima Online Celebrity Chat. Our guests will be Nikademus, Kieron, Curunir, and Riptide who are all former UO Interest Volunteers. They'll be around to answer your questions and chat.

Never been on Stratics IRC before? It's easy! Simply download an IRC client such as mIRC and connect to one of the following servers, and type /join #Ultima-Online.
  • dhp.stratics.com
  • compu.stratics.com
  • frws.stratics.com
  • intworks.stratics.com
  • tac.stratics.com
As an alternative, you can use our Java client via your web browser here.

Posted by Nobody at 6:51 PM

June 1, 2001

OSI: Comments from Oaks

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

Comments from Oaks

For exactly one year now, I've been working at Origin Systems as a designer for Ultima Online. As these are my first comments, I believe introductions are in order. My online name is Oaks, and, had I known how many times I'd be called Oats or Oak, there's a good chance I may have picked something else. But I like it, gosh darn it! Anyhow... who's seen the cool magic effects in Third Dawn? I designed almost all of them, as well as worked on the Ilshenar map, dungeon Khaldun, and many bug fixes, including the change to cutting bandages.

Right now, I'm focused on making the journey to whatever goals you are trying to reach in UO more enjoyable - more fun. In life, finally reaching a goal and reaping the benefits is sometimes the only reward, but there's no reason is has to be like that in our game. Imagine if you had to climb a bleak mountain to find a treasure cache. It's nothing but a long haul up a boring landscape, where you are driven only by your (admittedly greedy) desire for loot. What if, instead, you had to solve stimulating intellectual challenges or trek through a dangerous forest filled with traps and monsters, both with the same end reward? If the difficulty were balanced, very few people would climb the mountain.

Anyway, I've got my own ideas, but why don't you tell me yours? Pick a skill, quest, or even your own goal that makes you cringe at the thought of achieving it. How can we make it more fun to arrive at that goal? What would make you actually look forward to the journey, rather than just the end reward?

In the past, I may have been scarce on the boards, as I read much more than I post. This may still be the case to a point, but I do want to become more active in the community - especially the Development Board, since that’s where I hope to find the most discussion on what really makes UO tick. So tell me those ideas and thoughts about what you hope to see as the way we build our characters and our world, and not just what we hope to gain at the end. As a team, we bounce ideas and designs off one another constantly, and I feel we can gain even more from you.

See ya there!

Jonathan "Oaks" LeCraft
Designer, Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 5:41 PM

OSI: Seeking Orc Adventures

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

Seeking Orc Adventures

There's something different in the air... some have attributed it to the tension caused by knowing that there's an enemy close by, but not yet seen. Maybe it's the sobering realization that we haven't actually seen the true evil yet. Or perhaps it's just the smell of the charred bones in the cookpots at the orc encampments, permeating the air around the previously peaceful cities of Britannia.

Have your adventures taken you into the orc forts, or the orc camps now dotting the countryside? If you and your companions have braved the onslaught of the orcs, we want to hear your tales. Even if you're on the other side, and preparing to defend the orcs against an even more sinister force, tell us your stories!

Send an e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, June 8th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include “Orcs” in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to “uo-profiles” become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 5:40 PM

May 29, 2001

OSI: Bug fixing, Hanse-style

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

Bug fixing, Hanse-style

Howdy!

It’s been a year since I started with the design team for Ultima Online Live. As I sat pondering whether I should comment on any hot topics debated on our web boards, I realized that I am just one person on a large team and any changes/additions being considered could not really be commented on accurately. Those changes can be altered at any point in the development cycle and be very different at the time of release, thus any specific comment I make on upcoming changes could be misleading. I’d like to discuss instead bug fixing by the Ultima Online Live team, rather than new and upcoming changes to the game.

Over the last year, I’ve helped squash many bugs in the game. Most of my development time has been bug fixing. It’s not the most glorious of designer tasks, but seeing something fixed, and seeing players enjoying the game more as a result of the fix, is a sweet reward.

Bug fixing continues as one of our big challenges for this year. In fact, we have more resources to devote to bug fixing now than we did last year. The past approach of “find and squash” has also been revisited and altered. Along with the previous approach, we will start separating bugs into classifications of bugs and attempting system-wide approaches to the fixes. Time to devote to systematic fixing was not available in the past. You may think that this approach is a “no brainer”, but last year was a busy one, with development split up between many new systems (after I came on the team, not including UO: Renaissance and before) and one expansion product.

The developers here devote their time to many different tasks, which are split into different groups. This allows us to work efficiently on the specific areas of the game we are assigned (a few examples are bug fixing for server code, bug fixing for the client that runs on your computer, and new content). The whole team does not stop what it is doing to create an “orc mask”. One or two developers can make an “orc mask”. Quality Assurance maintains a database of bugs for us to review and their priorities. Many of the bugs in the database were submitted by players or brought to our attention through posts on the MyUO boards. Usually, there is not a workday that goes by without someone deliberating over some kind of fix for the game.

Now that we have a larger group of developers working on fixes, the publish process is taking longer to QA. The next two publishes will be large, with some noticeable fixes to standing bugs as well as new content (some items left out of previous publishes for Ilshenar), more localization, some optimization, and various other changes (of course, this list is subject to change as dictated by our Quality Assurance team).

In closing, we’re aware of many of the issues in the game and are making good progress on strengthening our foundation. This process continues while many other systems are developed. It is my privilege to get my feet dirty squashing all these bugs. In fact, it’s one of the most rewarding positions I’ve ever held within a company. If you have knowledge of a bug within the game, please feel free to stop by our developer board on MyUO and say hello with a description of the bug. :)

-Hanse
UO Live Designer

Posted by Nobody at 8:36 PM

OSI: Wanted: Let's See Your Homes!

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

Wanted: Let's See Your Homes!

"All right, put the throne over there. No, over there - under the big fish. Wait... let's dye the rug. How about green? Or maybe fuschia."

Is your home a place of divine elegance? Or is it a shrine to tackiness? Whether you own a tower or a thatched roof cottage, we want to see and hear what you've done with the place! Owners and friends of the house are welcome to submit screenshots and stories of their homes and the styles they've chosen. The wilder, the better, we say!

Send your story as an e-mail, with a single screenshot attached, to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, June 1st. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include “Home Designs” in your subject line. The screenshot should be in bitmap format, and 600x480 resolution. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to “uo-profiles” become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

NOTE: This is a call to see some of the residences of our citizens. Please do not submit shops or establishments for the spotlight - we are always happy to receive these submissions at http://town.uo.com/establishments.html.

Posted by Nobody at 5:25 PM

May 23, 2001

EA: NetOps has a Deathwish - and he speaks!

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

NetOps has a Deathwish - and he speaks!

This update comes to you from Sean "Deathwish" McMains. I started at Origin about 8 months ago as a web application developer after having become dissatisfied with life as a dot-com drone, ironically at another company in the Origin building. After moving downstairs to Origin proper, I was quickly taught to swim by being tossed in the deep water of maintaining our customer management and billing system.

In spite of having been a long-time fan of Origin, I'd never actually played UO before coming to work here. Now that I've spent a good deal of time in the game and in the company, I'm convinced that for someone looking for deep gameplay in a Persistent State World there's nothing to compete with UO. (And with UO:3D, we're getting a bit of the eye candy too.) Since we've narrowed our focus solely to UO in the last couple months, we've been able to put even more effort into improving the game and its supporting systems. One recent improvement I'd like to bring to your attention involves the communication between the systems where you pay and the systems where you play.

As you know, to play Ultima Online, you have to pay a certain amount monthly. The server that's responsible for maintaining that billing information is completely separate from the server that decides whether or not you're able to log into the game. So, years ago, a system to transfer information from one server to the other was built. Though this system worked fine under normal loads, it would on occasion get a bit behind when there was an exceptional amount of data to move.

One instance of this occurred only last month, when we opened a new Japanese shard. The enthusiasm of the Japanese players was such that the shard filled to capacity within minutes of its opening, and stayed maxed out for days. We were thrilled to get such an enthusiastic response from our loyal fans, but unfortunately the database that serves the login servers began to show signs of strain. Though players were still able to log in to the game, our data transit system wasn't able to get its job done as efficiently as we hoped.

Our team immediately came together and started moving the data manually to ensure that players who had paid for the UO service would be able to play. This, however, was obviously a short term solution. After analyzing the situation, several of our database experts -- Mike "AviStetto" Howard and Doug Mellencamp most notably -- decided on a design for a new data transfer system that should be more efficient and robust than the one we had been using. After presenting their plans to our supervisors, they decided to go ahead and build the new system, estimating that it would take two days of a couple of our guys' time.

They set feverishly to work, and were ready to flip the switch right on schedule. We were all excited to see the results of the work, since the new system was simpler and would theoretically be much easier to maintain than the old one was. They made the switch, and were delighted to see the old system shuttling the data around as much as 30x as fast as was previously possible. Best of all, the very farthest behind it's ever gotten now in the couple of weeks that it's been operating is only about 8 minutes, and it averages much closer to 2 minutes -- far better than we'd ever seen with the old system.

This is just one example of the kind of improvements that are being made to UO daily. They're not all big, glamorous things that you notice right away when you log in. But we hope that, as we continue to improve UO's foundations, that you'll eventually notice even fewer interruptions, and will just be able to get down to the serious business of GMing that character you've been working on.

Sean "Deathwish" McCains
Network Operations
Origin Systems

Posted by Nobody at 1:11 PM

May 22, 2001

Battle Vortex Interviews Adrick

Battle Vortex recently was able to interview Pete "Adrick" Warner, one of the designer for Ultima Online. This audio interview is 64 minutes long, and you can go here to listen to it.

The description of the interview topic from that page is below:

Interview with Pete "Adrick" Warner, Designer for Origin Systems. Focus on Factions for UO. Topics Include Election system changes, Blues in strongholds, falling sigils, kill point issues, quitting factions, point banking, joining factions and hiding in Trammel, Blue interference, bug reporting for faction issues, communication, point mules, guild changes, player interactions, reputation system, murderer reprieve, thieves in Factions, stronghold balance, faction armor, Warhorses, silver rewards for kills, Bards in factions, and more...

Posted by Nobody at 1:19 PM

May 21, 2001

EA: Gromm on the Stage

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

Gromm on the Stage

Evening everyone,

"All the world's a stage..."

One of my favorite quotes, growing up acting. I loved acting in plays. Later I got into improvisation and fell in love with it even more. I became addicted to going up on stage with another actor and being given something random by the MC to create a scene with. The whistle would blow. We had to react and start a scene and make people laugh. We never knew what was coming next and by comparison, acting in plays got dull for me. I still loved acting, but improv was and always will be my favorite. I'll get back to that in a moment.

So right now we're looking at our big stage, Britannia. We've had this stage for a long while now, and we've done some very interesting things on it. We've changed the set a few times. We added a few magnificent actors with brilliant scripts. Occasionally we tossed in a new prop. Like I said, we've done some interesting things on this stage. Now we want do to something *with* it.

We're going to take what resources we have and try out a new style of theater. Ladies and germs, it's time to improvise.

Think of us (Cal, Augur and myself) as the MC. We're going to call out a scene bit by bit, and we want to see how you react. We're going to make new sets, build new props, and do some new tricks with the stage. You are the actor. You are the star. How you react is up to your character. There is no script.

Now don't think that we've abandoned the idea of a plot! These sets and props aren't a random assembly of ideas. They all go together, forming a cohesive background story. But it's just that, the background. You are in the foreground.

This is not a quest engine. That would be handing you a script. We're presenting you with a situation. A change that makes the world itself the stage, a more interesting place for your character to live in and react to. We want to surprise you. We want to keep you on your toes. We want you to expect the unexpected. At the same time, we want you to be able to see what's going on in the background situation and see it react to you. Improvising as you go and living in the situation makes you a part of the plot.

This is our first run, so we're watching closely and we're going to be reacting as well.

As I’m sure some of you are aware, the first scenario has already begun. Many of you have been finding and unlocking the secrets of the new orc mask. A new situation has been placed on the stage. Actors, play your roles as you will; it's improv time. You are now creating the script as you go...

Enjoy,

Gromm
Designer, Ongoing Content
UO Live

Posted by Nobody at 8:40 PM

May 20, 2001

GameSpy Reports on Ultima Online at E3

Tina "Dragoness" Haumersen wrote an article about Ultima Online from information she gathered at E3 for GameSpy.com, which can be found here. Here's the introduction for the article:

Ultima Online
The Dragoness continues her dogged pursuit of the Ultima team and brings you latest information.
By - Tina "Dragoness" Haumersen


Rick Hall was producer on UO: Third Dawn
When I was originally scheduled to meet with David Swofford to discussion the future of Ultima Online, he mentioned that Paul Sage, Ultima Online's lead designer, would be with him, and Kirk "Runesword" Black, UO's lead programmer and executive producer, might possibly even join us. That was about nine days ago. Since then, both have voluntarily left Origin Systems for parts unknown. So instead of meeting with them, I ended up meeting with David Swofford and Rick Hall.
Below is the third of the article's five paragraphs, concerning the new system for events that's under development for UO.
One of the improvements that is coming soon is a global event system which will allow for serialized fiction, stories arching over a period of time, which they can use to introduce new storylines, new monsters, new equipment, etc. Each cycle will last about 8 weeks, then another cycle will begin after that. It will even be possible to have different outcomes to the storylines per shard and world, although it doesn't sound like the branching stories will be long lasting. It seems as though once a new cycle starts, all shards and worlds will begin at the same place once more.

Posted by Nobody at 11:39 AM

May 17, 2001

EA: Comments from Cynthe

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

Comments from Cynthe

Hey there,

Many of you have seen my name since I pounced onto the boards in March, but some of you may not have any idea who I am. :) I’m Cynthe, otherwise known as Amy Sage in that other thing we call real life.

Like many of the recent Comments from the Team, I’ll start off this one with a bit of an introduction. I’m a native Texan, and attended the University of Texas, studying Music, English, and German. In 1998 I was hired on at Origin to help out the Ultima Ascension team with some database work (okay, so it’s a glorified way of saying data entry, but hey, you have to get your foot in the door somehow). After six months of doing some behind-the-scenes design work, I was hired on as a full designer, and stayed on until the game shipped. After that, I accepted the position of Community Coordinator for Ultima Ascension. The position was a good fit for me, because I knew the game well, and… well… I tend to talk a lot. :) In February of 2000 I moved on to the role of Community Coordinator for Ultima Online 2, later to be called Ultima Worlds Online: ORIGIN. This role included weekly website updates, as well as lots of posting on message boards and answering questions in the community when possible.

So now on to the present… after the decision in March of 2001 to concentrate on Ultima Online, I moved over to UO, filling the position of UO.com Content Editor/Writer. To say the pace has picked up would be an understatement. I used to think that weekly updates kept me pretty busy. The UO site is another beast altogether… the updates are daily, and at any given point in time there are twenty people waiting for information, updates, and changes done to different sections of the site. Talk about a lesson in scheduling!

I’ve had people ask exactly what the Content Editor/Writer does. Well, it's important to note the term "content" in there, since that's my domain. The actual design and appearance of the website, and the coding of the sections is not done by me - we have an extremely talented web team with an incredible knowledge of web design and code. And as for editing and writing, I actually seem to do a lot more of the former than the latter, but that’s mainly because the community’s more interested in hearing the developers talk than the editor. And that’s certainly fine with me! My tasks include things like soliciting/selecting/editing weekly spotlights, Comments from the Team, and the daily alerts (which involves deciphering the emails between the billing department, the network operations group, the development team, and the support group to figure out exactly what these things mean for the players and make sure that there’s something on the site to let people know what’s going on). I’m also now in charge of keeping the site updated, which is a gargantuan task, and one I have only begun.
    *side note - I’m well aware that there are many pages that could use an update. I’m always cool with getting emails about those pages… I file them into my “list of things to fix” folder.
And since I, for some reason, always find it difficult to pull myself away from the community “front line”, I also try to help Melantus on the boards when I can… which in and of itself could be a full-time job. Since I’m much less experienced with UO than Melantus, I tend to focus more on board moderation and trying to keep things reasonable and civil, leaving him free to address more game-related issues.

So I’m always open to discussion, and I welcome thoughts on the website (keep in mind there’s no way I can actually take all the suggestions I receive, but there’s always the chance it’ll grab my attention and end up in that “list of things to fix” folder).

Till later,

Cynthe
Website Project Supervisor
Origin Systems

Posted by Nobody at 6:36 PM

May 15, 2001

Opinions from Sage

Sage posted to the Ultima e-mail list of Yahoo!Groups what I felt was a compelling insider's view of why some coding events in UO's past were needed and enacted. He brings up PKing, stat loss, the "need" for Trammel, responsibility for one's actions, player justice, the "easy escape" of Recall, and much more related matters. The post is long, so we've posted it into the Freeborn Press message board, here. Feel free to make any relevant comments you wish into that post's thread. Below is the first few paragraphs, to hold you over while the message board loads:

Stat loss. Those two words strike fear into the heart of every PK in the game. To understand why stat loss was put into the game, you need to analyze the past of Ultima Online in an objective manner.

Originally, the ability to kill an opponent in UO was a way for the players to police themselves. It was a survival of the fittest plan, where those people who bothered you could be killed by you. However, you could also be killed by people you weren't bothering, or kill people who weren't bothering you. The system did not try to divine intent, which is impossible for a game to do.

Those who did not wish to be killed could stay in towns, which were basically safe areas. The problem, of course, was that towns were not very interesting places. Other than buying things from the NPC vendors, the only thing to do in town was bank. Even the bank was a paranoia zone, because while murdering was outlawed in towns, sneaky thieves could steal with very little worry of being caught. Players were more wide-eyed and paranoid than a mob stool pigeon on crack in the Sopranos house. At that time, you had to yell "guards" for a thief to be caught, unless an NPC noticed it and yelled for you. Thus many people created the macro "Vendor, buy, bank, guards!" Even towns weren't safety zones, and UO was basically a PvP world.

So what did a PvP world really mean? Basically, it boiled down to might makes right. As most of you know, in UO, might is equal to time. The time you invest in your character usually means your character will become better (usually being the operative word, since some people don't spend their time on character growth). Thus those with more time to spend in the world could pretty much beat on (gank / r0xx0r) those who spent less time in the world, or those just entering the world. This, of course, created some pretty severe problems. As the game matured, you started to whittle down your playerbase because new players could not join the game without spending a majority of the time looking at a screen with more black and white than the first season of Gilligan's Island. Some new players were tenacious and willing to stick it out, but many weren't. Even older players got tired of getting beat on because they could not exact retribution.

Posted by Nobody at 5:18 PM

May 14, 2001

EA: Melantus on Community

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

Melantus on Community

Hello all,

I am Dwight Spaulding, a.k.a. “Melantus”. As you may know already, I’m the Community Coordinator for Ultima Online.

The past few months have been strange, difficult, hopeful and ultimately inspirational. There is a lot of desire behind the scenes here to improve UO, and to press forward even harder to make Ultima Online great. This is due in no small part to the relationship we have with our players, and the relationships of the players with each other. Though at times a bit of a bumpy road, our communication with the players has helped to directly shape UO and influence our way of thinking over the past months and years. Of course, that is all dependent on information flowing into our ears from you, and out of our mouths to you. And this is something I’d like to talk about more: communication.

Communication is perhaps one of the more difficult aspects of an online game. How players see the game and the company that runs it affects not only their willingness to continue to play (and pay for) the game, but also how they feel about future games that a particular company might release. Of course, there are hundreds of thousands of players in today’s online games, and pleasing all of them all of the time is impossible. So at any point in time, someone will be hating (or loving) the game they play and whoever operates it.

One question that players have asked of me is why we aren’t more open with them with our ideas or our plans. To some degree we are, but this is an area that has unfortunately been the source of trouble in the past. We certainly like to talk to the players about UO, and listen to their ideas about the direction the game should take.

But about “wishlist” discussions, or even regular updates… why are they worded like “political” talk? Well, we can’t talk about systems off the top of our head that we haven’t thought out, or done initial design documentation on, or at least considered in a balancing regard, because what we say winds up getting taken literally, or even somewhat misquoted at times. Also, if we sound positive about a system or design, we’d better be working on it, because players that like the idea will be expecting it to get actual attention and progress. Even for just a brainstorm session idea, you say? Surely not! I have had feedback from players telling me that they can easily distinguish between something that’s just an idea and something that’s been promised. And I’m sure that concerning those people, that may be true. However, we have a very large community, and even just this week there have been two examples of our words being misinterpreted. So what difference does it make if we talk about something that is just an idea? Who cares if some people mistakenly assume that this conversation about the idea is a promise to deliver?

Well, I care... because it means the integrity of our word. Whether we can deliver what we talk about is much more important than one might realize. Do we have a lot of fanciful ideas but no delivery? I would rather us take an idea - even if it’s based on the many great discussions on the UO Boards - and put a bit of necessary thought and research into it before openly talking about it with the players. Does this mean we don’t or won’t talk to the players about our ideas and the great potential for UO? No, we do a lot of talking with the players, and will continue to strive for that, but there is a need to be careful of what is said. In perhaps no other business besides politics is the words/information said looked over and examined so closely by the public. This is a good thing overall, because it definitely shows high interest. It also shows an unwillingness on the players’ part to just “take whatever is given” by the dev team, which is something I consider healthy for the industry. It means responsible communication by us, with the understanding that we need to not be so tight-lipped that our players feel we’re off in an ivory tower. I would rather we be respected for being able to deliver what we promise. I also want to try and minimize misunderstanding of what we say by posting clear information.

Players still do get input into our changes and the direction of UO - more than they perhaps realize. Changes go into testing before release, where players can try the change out and give us feedback. We are open to the feedback, and have made many changes to upcoming systems based purely on that feedback. We also watch the boards, and see all of the “wouldn’t it be cool if...” posts. All of this affects UO’s direction. So players are involved to varying degrees, some of those degrees being quite involved. Being more open with the players is something I’d like to work on, as long as there is no compromise of our integrity.

Dwight “Melantus” Spaulding
Community Coordinator
Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 6:34 PM

May 12, 2001

Baja Community Honors Ex-Volunteers

The following article by Cymidei Fier was posted to UO Stratics:

Baja Community Honors Ex-Volunteers

Today players gathered from all over Sosaria to honor the senior counselors, counselors, elders, and seers that have served the community.

What started as a small group at 6:00 PM soon grew into a large crowd. Everyone donned a colored robe and held a candle. Soon people started talking about their memories of the volunteer program.
I overheard many players from the community giving heartfelt thanks to the seers and counselors who have helped them over the years. The following ex-volunteers came tonight: Eliar, Meredith, Lady Geri, Justinarius, Tearyl, Lord Jim, Cupid, Athena, Illithana, Tar, Paul, Tarragon, Takara, Gar and Verkat.

The sentiment of the gathering seemed to be "I can't believe its over..." One of the ex-counselors said "It was over too soon! I just went solo three months ago...I was so excited." She was not alone in her sadness. A seer in training for Baja also said, that he was only days away from earning his robes.

It was a privilege to get a chance to talk to the volunteers that have helped us, entertained us, and been there for us. Each one in their own way helped to make Baja a better place. They will be remembered.

Posted by Thellaren at 12:55 AM

Game Developer Magazine Editorial on “The Passing of a Legend”

Chuck Walbourn's "Soapbox" editorial in the June 2001 issue of Game Developer magazine [Web site] reflects on "The Passing of a Legend," referring to Origin Systems. For those of you who don't, or won't, have this magazine, below is part of his introductory statement to the editorial:

The Passing of a Legend

Origin Systems has always been to me like some Ivy League college, an institution beyond my reach or means. Many refer to it as "Origin U," a place where young, creative people went to learn if they had the chops to make games. Attending Origin U required starting at the bottom — usually working in the QA department or as a technical design assistant — and working outrageous hours for very little pay. A college degree was as helpful in getting into Origin U as it would be at an Army boot camp — more of a handicap than anything else.
Mr. Walbourn continues on with a sense of respect, or even awe, for Origin in it's early days, leading into his sense of loss with the more recent developments of the cancellation of UO2 and all "in-development projects at Origin." He continues later on with the following thoughts:
It certainly seems a sad ending for one of the founding institutions of our industry. Some will no doubt blame Origin's demise on the "suits" at Electronic Arts, but I suspect the company culture was also to blame. There is no doubt that Origin's development teams demonstrated creativity and vision aplenty, but according to many ex-Originites I have known over the years, the teams were often plagued by a lack of engineering discipline and productivity, relying heavily on the efforts of a dedicated few. There is probably an ex-Origin employee in your organization who can attest to this.
He finishes with the following:
The age of heroes is past, and while we remember the buzz of those wild days, we should also remember the wasted human effort, personal lives, and money which could have gone to worthy projects instead of keeping developers in the manner to which they had been accustomed ["...when content was king and developers controlled the concept"].

Posted by Thellaren at 12:07 AM

May 10, 2001

A Thank You From Sage

The following from Sage, Lead Designer of UO, was posted to UO Stratics:

A Thank You From Sage

As all of you probably know, for obvious reasons, we are limited in what we can say about the volunteer program going away. What I can say, and what I think needs to be said is "Thank you." Sincerely. I have been associated with Ultima Online as long as anyone. I saw the birth of the volunteer program and I watched the first people get indoctrinated into it.

Yesterday I saw people questioning the motives of Counselors and Seers, and that stunk. I don't want to go into a long diatribe, I just want to thank you for your passion, your kindness, and your willingness to help others. I hope you continue to show that same Compassion in all of your endeavors; it is a strength, not a weakness.

Posted by Nobody at 6:16 PM

May 4, 2001

EA: Seeking Tales of Home

The following was posted on the FYI page on the Ultima Online Web site:

Seeking Tales of Home

Everyone has a special place that will always feel like home. For some people, it's the town where they started their first character, armed with only a few meager possessions. For others, it's the player-run town where they set up their first reagent shop, or the tavern where they met the person they'd eventually marry. Tell us your story of the place you call home, and let us know what's special about it!

Send an e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, May 11th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include “Hometown” in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to “uo-profiles” become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 5:48 PM

EA: Prophet Speaks on Veteran Rewards

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

Prophet Speaks on Veteran Rewards

Hail Citizens of Britannia,

As we begin public testing of veteran rewards, I believe this is a good time to stop for a bit and discuss it. If I’m correct, many of you are thinking, “What happened? Why was the system so late in the first place? Why is it so late coming back?” Well, I hope to answer many of those questions in the following paragraphs, as I explain the history of veteran rewards from the beginning to the present. I apologize in advance for the lengthy nature of this document, but as we all know, veteran rewards have been in development for a long time!

I want to preface that explanation with a very short account of my history here at Origin. I started working on UO in September of 2000 as a server programmer, dealing mostly with the back-end server systems of UO. Since then I have touched just about every section of code in one way or another, either through bug fixes or new content addition to all the various servers and both clients. My first encounter with veteran rewards was in November of 2000, so all my information from before that time has been re-constructed from conversations I’ve had with the various developers who have worked on veteran rewards.

“Ok, so what’s so special about veteran rewards and why is it so complicated? After all, you did the Christmas gifts without a problem!” Well, with veteran rewards, we are trying to distribute a limited amount of gifts by account over all shards rather than by the number of established characters per shard. There were several reasons for this - for one thing, storing extra data slows backups down and generally decreases the performance and lifetime of the server. As well, by distributing fewer gifts, we make them more intrinsically valuable to the players.

So everyone involved at the office decided that the idea of distributing gifts by account was great. Right from the start, two significant issues were recognized as problems that would have to be solved. The first was that shards had never talked to each other before - ever! So we were going to have to design and implement a method in which they could trade information, and have this system operate in real time. The second momentous task was the calculation of account age. As it stood, a shard knew how old any one character was, but did not know the amount of billed months an account had. That information was stored in a database deep in the heart of the operations group - a completely different team than the UO live group.

The task of getting the account age to the servers was given to the operations group, and the live team took up the task of getting the servers talking to each other. Development continued for a while as planned, and things appeared to be working out well. In the summer of 2000, problems surfaced in the account age determination method. The operations group suddenly discovered that the method they had designed was hindering operation of one of the back-end servers. They informed us that they would need to redesign their solution. In an effort to keep to the planned release date, it was decided to attempt to solve the account age problem from within the UO Live team. The UO team then started work on a completely different way of calculating the account age. The new method showed promise, and the shards were successfully talking to each other, so rewards were opened to the public for testing. This is about the time I came aboard. The programmer primarily responsible for veteran rewards was moving onto another project and they needed someone to maintain the system. I was given that responsibility.

During the initial testing phase, we received quite a bit of concerned player feedback, which convinced us to re-evaluate the rewards. We pulled rewards from testing and re-designed a number of the reward choices. By this time, veteran rewards was a few months behind schedule, and with factions on the way we were running out of resources to develop and test rewards. Factions were just about ready for launch, so a push was made to finish it. Development on rewards was frozen during this period.

Just before the Christmas holiday, we had a meeting on when we would launch rewards, detailing a plan that would launch the system without interfering with the final developments of Third Dawn. A major push was made to test the system and eliminate any bugs. It was launched on Sonoma, and a major problem was found and fixed. We then proceeded to launch on the rest of the North American and European shards.

I should pause in the story to mention some of the flaws in the system that we only found later. The veteran reward system was initially designed as a simple data storage system. Over time, it has been modified to be specific to veteran rewards. During all these modifications, one of the primary design goals was to have multiple safeguards to prevent a player from ever losing a reward during a backup and not being credited for it. The failure here was that little was implemented to prevent people from getting more rewards than they were supposed to.

This is the point where things really went awry. First of all, the central data server was getting requests for account age and reward information over 200 times a second. The problem was that each of the calls took half a second to compute. In other words, every 60 seconds the server was getting 100 seconds worth of work to do. This meant delays that quickly grew out of hand. People soon had to wait 5, 10, and even 15 minutes before they got to choose rewards. Then, to make matters worse, the server system would run out of memory at times, after which it would halt all work and try to reclaim that memory. This reclaiming period took approximately half an hour. Of course, during this 30 minute period, requests for information kept piling up, making the delays even longer.

So our first pressing issue was that it was taking over 500 ms to calculate the account age of a player. This was aggravated by aggressive information polling on the shards that caused it to “hit” the data server more often than it really needed to. We immediately got to work to come up with solutions as fast as possible. Within a day, we had come up with stopgap solutions to both these problems, and by prime time the next day we were looking much better.

Things appeared to be working fine, except for a trickle of reports from the player base that people were getting extra rewards on the European shards. We quickly investigated these reports. Part of the veteran reward system gives us the ability to see who is taking what reward, and how many rewards any one account has taken. Our generated reports told us that everything was fine. Little did we know that the server was telling us this because of a flaw in the program that was corrupting the data. The next day, the trickle continued, so we looked a bit harder at our reports and checked the raw data. Eventually we found one possible loophole that could have caused a few extra rewards. This was immediately fixed. However, we still hadn’t found the more serious flaw mentioned above. In a few more days, the trickle had become a flood. I just couldn’t believe the server would be lying to me - all the tests we ran showed things were working just fine! At this point, we looked hard at the raw data and uncovered some striking discrepancies in it. It was then that we finally found the problem and pulled rewards.

We stepped back, took stock in what had led us to this point, and discussed what we could do to fix rewards. A fix was found for the flaw but no one wanted to re-launch the rewards system without putting it back on a test center. The problem at this point was that we didn’t have the resources to test rewards, as we were well into the alpha of Third Dawn. In order to keep from skipping around and dividing our focus, it was determined that all development had to be put on hold until after Third Dawn launched.

After the release of Third Dawn, we took another long look at the rewards system. What we found was that too much had been patched into the system since its original design, adding too many unknowns. It was determined that we would clean up the back-end system. Over time, what started as a clean-up and an attempt to add more fail safes turned into an almost complete re-write of the system. The new system makes sure players will always get their allotted number of rewards, no more, no less. We also added more tracking and logging information, and we should be much better equipped to analyze what’s going on in the future.

So that’s pretty much were we stand today. We hope that you will take the time and test our rewards on our test shards. The more people we have trying out the system, the more confident we will feel that we indeed have a stable and robust system.

Yours truly,
Christian “Prophet” Lassonde
Lead Programmer
Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 5:46 PM

May 3, 2001

EA:A Word From Marketing

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

A Word From Marketing

As UO nears its fourth birthday, which is an amazing feat for a game that was only supposed to last one year and garner less than 50,000 players, we are focusing more on what got us to this point and how we can keep the game exciting for another four years (at least!). Specifically, we are thinking about what our players want from us as a committed company and how we can keep both the in-game and community experience thriving.

To that end, we are looking to conduct a number of focus groups and online surveys this year, and solicit the feedback from our players on what their needs are within a number of areas - so look for those in your email box if you have opt-in status. We understand that some players have felt that their feedback has gone unheard, but the truth is that it is more likely used much more than you might think! We do hear and implement individual player feedback, but often in a subtle way that integrates other ideas as well. We also want to bring our community more into the forefront of our thoughts and deeds by re-invigorating the website, and adding some new promotional content, thereby providing opportunities for our players to have some fun while visiting the site and maybe win some UO goodies as well. Additionally, we are looking at ways to promote exciting events and player stories within and across shards, as well as enhance our tips and tricks related information to enable more of you to gain insight on how to prosper in Britannia.

Finally, we are considering hosting another UO World Faire. There was a strong turnout last year and we received a lot of great feedback on how to improve on the original model. It is not a “sure thing” but we are keeping our fingers crossed that we can make it happen. So, if you have any thoughts on the Fan Event front, be sure to bring them up on the UO Fan Events and Luncheons or the Discussions Board; we would love to hear them.

Our goal this year is to focus on our most valuable asset - You, our customer. So, don’t be shy - use the Boards and let us know how we can improve your game-play experience and your website experience. And, when and if you meet us at the Fan Event, hey, maybe we can sip some ale and you can tell us how we're doing!

The Marketing Dept.
Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 6:12 PM

May 1, 2001

EA: Comments from Adrick

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

Comments from Adrick

Greetings,

My last comments were back in November around the time of the UO World Faire, an event I enjoyed very much. It was fun to meet the players and hear what the community had to say about the game and the future from their individual perspectives.

In these Comments, I thought I would take some time to let people know what it is I’ve been doing over the last several months and what I am currently working on.

Right after the Faire, I was given the assignment of managing a new project - localization - from the design side. What a task it was, and we are still working on it! It was a huge learning experience for me, and even to this day the magnitude of what we had to do is mind boggling. Our goal was to make the game accessible to non-English speaking players with as minimal an impact on our current playerbase as possible. This was challenging, because when the game was originally designed it was not done so with the intent that it would be localized. Many things had to be rewritten - some from scratch - to accommodate our supported languages. During this process I learned a ton about how the game works. I was on the project for about 4 months and over its course I made changes to over 500 scripts - the biggest portion were all of the gumps in the game. Things like the house gump, the faction gumps and the guildstone gump had to be rewritten to allow them to be localized. So why localization? I’ve heard that question a lot. The reason we localized UO is to expand our playerbase by bringing UO to people that would not have any interest in playing the game because of the language barrier. The result of this is that as the UO playerbase grows, our resources from the development side will as well. The current team is the largest ever in the history of the game - the prospect of a growing and expanding playerbase is what allows us to do this, and that means better quality content delivered on a more regular basis.

Now that Third Dawn has shipped, the designers have once again been given areas of the code to manage. I‘m very pleased to be working on the faction system, the guild system, and all player/player interactions such as reputation, trade and the party system. All of these areas are of great interest to me, and as we move forward it will be my primary focus both to clean these systems of bugs and exploits and to stabilize them. I am currently working on fully documenting these systems and identifying the bugs that need to be fixed.

I’m particularly excited to be working again on the faction system and building on the initial design that I helped write and code when I first joined the team almost a year ago. I think the faction system can be improved and expanded in many ways. The area I am most concerned about is the amount of blue interference that is occurring in and around the strongholds and in the 8 faction towns, and I am working on several ways to limit this or remove it altogether. In addition to this problem, I'll also be focusing on other bug fixes and balancing issues over the next few weeks. The second area I am responsible for is the guild system, which I think is one of the most important systems in our game. It is a great community builder and organizer, and a way for people to work together towards a common goal. I expect to be spending a lot of time making these two systems work together, as they overlap in many areas and depend a lot on each other. The final area (player/player interactions) is also a challenge. I’ll be responsible for making sure that these interactions are bug and exploit-free (mostly regarding scams), and working to provide the players with a comfortable experience when interacting with other players (at least from a game mechanics standpoint).

Well, that’s it for now - thanks again for your time, and as always feel free to contact me at my email (Adrick@uo.com)or on the boards with suggestions, ideas and concerns.

Take care,

Pete “Adrick” Warner
Designer - Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 2:31 PM

April 27, 2001

EA: Comments from Canyon

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

Comments from Canyon

When I was asked to make a post for the Comments from the Team, I felt that it would be a good opportunity to introduce myself and discuss how customer service is addressed from a training perspective. I’m known as Canyon, and I am currently in charge of training for the Player Relations group. One of the questions people ask me at player gatherings is how I ended up with Origin. I graduated from a small liberal arts school in San Antonio a few years ago, but my degree in Political Science isn’t really put to use when teaching someone how to deal with problem players. My minor in Sociology helps a bit, as does my teaching and customer service background.

My first experience with an EA game was Wing Commander 3. I then went back and played all the Wing Commanders, and Privateer 1 and 2. Oddly enough, I never played any of the Ultima games. That changed when Ultima Online came out. I had to wait several weeks to get a copy, since it was always sold out in the stores. My first week of the game was tough (I was one of the newbies that got killed by a deer), but I made some friends who showed me the ropes, and I was hooked. I found my niche as a roleplayer, and quickly became a part of the UO community.

I got my break in the industry as a volunteer, and I eventually became a Game Master in September of 1999. I have worked as a Game Master, Senior Game Master, and I am currently responsible for training in the Player Relations department. When new hires join the team, I work with them for several weeks, introducing them to the game and the responsibilities they will have as Game Masters.

It has been a challenge to create a training division for Player Relations, but it has also been very rewarding. All new hires get consistent training that teaches them the latest policies and issues. We also have ongoing training for GMs when issues change, or when we add new features to the game. Training is a priority because we recognize that the Game Masters need to have the tools and knowledge to provide great customer service. We also conduct testing so we can see how well GMs understand the issues that they have to deal with in game.

We recognize that providing great customer service is essential for us to remain competitive. We have all worked very hard to improve the level of service that we offer, and we have made great strides in both the quality and quantity of service we offer to players.

When I go to a restaurant and receive bad service or food, I don’t go back. And if I am really displeased with the service, I’m going to warn everyone I know about it. Not only will the restaurant lose my business, but the restaurant will most likely lose the business of my friends and family. The positive side of this is that when I have a good experience as a customer, I’ll go back and also recommend it to my friends. I understand that our customers do the same thing with Ultima Online, and we want to keep our customers happy with the service that they receive.

I understand that players will not always be happy with the outcome of the call, but I want to make sure that the GMs are doing their best to give the customers great service. There will be times when GMs have to tell the player “no,” but this should always be done in a polite way that educates the customer on why we need to follow a certain standard of conduct. It’s my job to make sure the GMs understand what this standard is, and the best way to apply it in customer interactions. Regardless of the outcome of the situation, we want the customer to feel they dealt with someone who was polite and professional who was knowledgeable about the situation.

Canyon
Player Relations
Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 7:34 PM

Game Revolution reviews UO:3D

Baldric from Game Revolution recently reviewed Ultima Online: Third Dawn. The entire review can be found here. Below is the "summarizing" last two paragraphs from the review, along with their "report card" for UO:3D:

Now if only they could make it 4D...

The game has changed a whole hell of a lot since I wrote that first review years ago. The near elimination of server lag and fixing most of the ways people used to be able to cheat have improved the game a lot. But not all the choices made by the design team have thrilled me. Ah well, you can't please everyone, and UO (not in 3D) is still a damn good game.

While preparing for this review, I ran into more than one player online who had actually removed Third Dawn from their computer and reinstalled the old client. And frankly, I'm going to do the same thing as soon as I finish taking screen shots. Then I can get back to battling for control of Britannia in the name of Minax. All I ask is to be made sheriff of Skara Brae.

Revolution Report Card

C-

+ 3D!
- Not very good 3D
+ New land
- Fluffy nicey-nice new land
- Buggy
- Old client is just plain better
+ UO is still a good game
* Join another faction so I can bash you

Posted by Nobody at 8:44 AM

EA: “Spring Festival” Spotlight by Ursula of the Golden Brew

The 84th Spotlight at the Ultima Online Web site is by Baja's own Ursula of the Golden Brew. Congratulations, Ursula!

The entire tale is told here, and the introduction to it is below:

Spring Festival

One of the few things more enjoyable than a holiday is the chance to spend it with friends. And even better than that is the opportunity to win lots of gold!

This week's story tells of a unique holiday celebration, complete with polymorphed chickens and tame rabbits. Curious? Read on for more about springtime festivities at the Golden Brew.

Posted by Nobody at 12:03 AM

April 26, 2001

VirtualGamerz.com reviews UO:3D

VirtualGamerz.com recently reviewed Ultima Online: Third Dawn. The original review is here, but the entire review can be read, below:

GAME NAME: Ultima Online: Third Dawn
GAME TYPE: PC
Written by: A.J. McLellan

(amclella@attcanada.ca)

The everlasting multiplayer online roleplaying game, known as Ultima Online, continues to grow even today. With the release Click to Enlargeof the new expansion Third Dawn, players are now playing in an enhanced 3D client, and are travelling through the new world of Ilshenar.

There are plenty of exciting new features included in Third Dawn, such as new creatures, an outstanding particle system, various new sound effects and improved music, improved expandability, and last but not least, the exciting fulfilled world of Ilshenar.

Advantages and disadvantages are part of every game. Third Dawn shows a little bit of both. Due to the early release of this expansion, there are still a fair Click to Enlargeamount of performance and hardware issues, however the new patching system allows the these issues to be easily resolved, instead of working around them as seen with the UO:Renaissance client in the past. New patches are constantly being created, and are released almost every week. The new expandability system has many improvements that UO:R didn't have in the past, this creates the opportunity to continuously improve the game.

The new land of Ilshenar is designed for adventuring. It consists of several hunting grounds, dungeons, shrines, and finally, settlements. Settlements are the 'towns' in Ilshenar, they are NPC village-like areas, located all over the world. Each settlement has various different NPC buildings, where you can buy and sell your goods with NPCs, these settlements have banks as well.

Ilshenar also provides a wide variety of creatures, such as animals and monsters. There are several new creatures that can be seen Click to Enlargein the world of Ilshenar, as well, there are plenty of the original Ultima Online: Renaissance monsters. All of these creatures can be seen in various locations throughout the lands of Ilshenar, especially in the dungeons. This world offers several dungeons to explore, all of which offer something different, and new to adventure.

There are various ways of transportation in these lands, all of which are convenient. You can move by foot, or by mounts such as horses, ostards, and llamas. There are rumours that famous 'Sea Horses' are being implemented. Sea Horses will be the main method of water transportation in Ilshenar, as boats are unfortunately non-existent on that facet. This form of water transportation should be very interesting to see in the future. Moongates are also found at each of the eight shrines around Ilshenar, they offer facet and town transportation as well.

In conclusion, Ultima Online: Third Dawn is an all around fun game to play. It has been an enjoyable experience exploring the new features that Third Dawn has to offer. You have the option to be whoever you want to be, and do whatever you want to do, it is your life, and nothing can prevent you from achieving your goals.

Fare thee well, and see you in Ilshenar!

Posted by Nobody at 6:13 PM

UOHoC Chats with Den Dragon

The complete log of the Twenty-fourth UO Celebrity chat with Den Dragon, founder of Stratics has been posted at the Ultima Online House of Commons (UOHoC), here. Below is the first question to Den Dragon:

Sephiroth - Ok Den, when and why did you start the Stratics corporation?
DenDragon - well, the corporate thing happened at some point along the line... ;) as for the network, it began as a homepage on GeoCities
DenDragon - probably kinda familiar for a lot of you: bored at work, interested in UO, couldn't find stats for the scimitar
DenDragon - so I decided to find out myself :)
Sephiroth - thanks =) That's all from gimpy ole me
DenDragon - what started as "Den's Den: the UO Statistics Site" grew into the UOSS, and then into Stratics
DenDragon - cool, thanks for the question

Posted by Nobody at 6:04 PM

Building the Ultimate RPG Game

Wired News Radio recently was able to interview Rick "Stellerex" Hall, Senior Producer for Ultima Online. It's an MP3-based audio interview, and the introduction is below:


Courtesy Ultima Online
A conceptual drawing for Ultima Online
Building the Ultimate RPG Game

Ultima Online revolutionized the online gaming market by combining action gaming with community aspects from the Internet. UO senior producer Rick Hall discusses his company's philosophy.

Listen up:
Today's MP3 file is 20:00 min. Download (3.5 MB) | Stream

Posted by Nobody at 3:28 PM

EA: Seeking Tales of Bravery

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

Seeking Tales of Bravery

Ever heard the saying "More brawn than brains"? What about "Fortune favors the brave"? Well, whichever of these you feel applies to you, we want to hear of your foolhardy stunts. Whether you faced down a dragon armed with only a dagger, or confronted a Lich Lord while waving about a piece of cooked fishsteak, this is your opportunity to tell your tale of supreme bravery (or utter stupidity, whichever you feel applies).

Send an e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, May 4th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include "Bravery" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to "uo-profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 11:54 AM

EA: Comments from Leilo

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

Comments from Leilo

Greetings!

I’d like to take the time today to talk about the various ways we communicate information from Ultima Online, and why we communicate in the ways we do. There are three major ways we handle communications: Site Announcements, Message Board posts, and Comments from the Team.
    Site Announcements
    Our most ‘official’ method of communication is through the various announcements we post to the UO site. These range from game updates, to service announcements, to shard announcements, to policy changes. OCR works with the various teams within the company to sort out information for these announcements and come up with as concise as possible an explanation of the information you need to know. While sometimes the announcements are templates (explaining why every time you see a client patch announcement, they always read the same way), most of the time we write up announcements from scratch to address the current issue. The announcements are then approved by producers, managers, and those directly involved to be sure we’ve covered the appropriate information, and then are published to the website, sent to a list of fansite operators, and if extremely important, published to the login server message. While this method helps us be absolutely certain that the correct information is being posted, it also requires a bit of a time lag - explaining why situations arise from time to time where you may be aware of an issue before we’ve posted on it.

    Message Board Posts
    From time to time, you’ll see ‘red names’ posting on the UO.com message boards with questions, comments, or suggestions. These UO staff members have gone through a training program to help them answer your questions and concerns in the most effective way to help you. Message board posts are generally written ‘on-the-fly’, and because of that, the atmosphere of our message boards is relatively casual. As a rule, we try never to make important announcements only on our boards, but because of casual conversation, occasionally items may slip through. If this does happen, we’ll always try to clarify as quickly as possible.

    Comments from the Team
    The Comments from the Team section of the website was designed to provide you with a closer look at the people who contribute to UO from all of the various service areas. We keep the editing to a minimum, and the topics open - if one team member wants to write a bio, another talk about his experiences as a player, a third theorize on game design, or a fourth share a story of her trip to Tibet, that is their decision. (Though we’d likely talk her out of the Tibet stories.) Much like an editorial in your local paper, the Comments from the Team are the thoughts and ideas of the people behind-the-scenes, and as such are probably the least ‘official’ news we’ll ever publish. Does that mean they won’t have substance? Of course not. It does mean that much like all of you are a huge, diverse community with different ideas and goals and thoughts, so are the people writing these comments - and in this section, you may not always find us informational, useful, or even interesting… but you will always find the ‘real’ us - or at least the PG-rated versions.
In closing, I also want to take a moment to welcome Cynthe to the Ultima Online Community team. Many of you know Cynthe from the hours she invested in supporting the UWOO community, and she’s rolled up her sleeves and jumped right in to UO. Cynthe will be handling the major content editing and writing duties for this site as well as keeping our website content up-to-date, helping organize new site additions, and much more. Cynthe and Melantus will continue to be the core of our UO Community Relations team, and I think you’ll find they have some exciting and useful plans for the future of UO Community Relations.

Susan “Leilo” Kath
Manager, Community Services

Posted by Nobody at 11:46 AM

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

Greetings,

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 11:11 PM

April 20, 2001

EA: Comments from Stellerex

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

Comments from Stellerex

Stellerex? Who the heck is this guy? Oh. Another producer on UO, right?

I don’t expect many of you to know who I am, since I’m not much for stepping into the limelight. Most of you probably don’t even realize that I was a UO Live team producer last year for a while. And better yet, most of you had no idea I’d been a producer on UWO:ORIGIN last year, and had just returned to that project before the big shake-up at Origin a few weeks ago. But now I’ve returned to the UO team, this time as senior producer. Still don’t have any clue who I am? That’s okay. Like I said, I don’t really crave the attention. I just like to do my job and try to help the team make the best games I can.

But with the aforementioned shake-up in EA World, the inevitable rumors and speculations have started to surface. So I thought it was only prudent to speak out for a few minutes to clarify things a bit.

Yes, there was a big layoff here at Origin last month. And yes, a couple of projects got cancelled. After having just rejoined the UWO:ORIGIN team, I can tell you it was hard to hear. But as much as people want answers, the ‘why’ and ‘who’ and ‘how much’ questions aren’t really what's important. What it comes down to is that the decisions were made. And as I said before, I like to do my job and try to make the best games I can. So before I continue, let me state for the record that the vast majority of the UO Dev team remains intact. In fact, quite a number of folks from other projects have rolled onto the team. We’ve made a lot of statements since last month's events about putting more focus into UO. So why should anyone believe us? Well, I know actions speak louder than words, but here you go anyway.

First of all, we decided to make some adjustments to our organization. At this point, the UO Dev team is larger than at any time since the game shipped, so we needed to expand our team management a little. Let me be the first to publicly congratulate our own Kirk Black, a.k.a. Runesabre, on his promotion to producer. He’s done such a great job for us over the past couple of years that it was really inevitable anyway.

Next, we decided to sit down and take a look at everything. And I do mean everything. We’ve got more resources than at any time in the history of the game, and we have a responsibility to get the most we can out of them. We're starting some really big initiatives right now, and this year’s efforts will help to position UO to get constantly bigger and better for the very long haul.

Over the course of the next twelve months, we’re going to be pulling out all the stops to make the game more stable and efficient. You’ve already seen a big part of this with the distributed backups that have just been implemented. Additionally, we’re going to make a concerted effort to try to locate and eliminate problems, improve performance on the 3D client, and continue to improve server stability.

And now you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, that’s great. Big deal.” Well, if that’s all we had planned, you might be right. But like I said, with our expanded team size, we’re going to be doing something completely new for us - we're devoting a segment of the team to focus on nothing but Live Content. That’s one of the efforts that Runesabre will be heading up, and personally I think it looks pretty exciting.

And just because we have the manpower, we’re also going to be working on lots of boring-but-critical infrastructure stuff, and a couple of things that are far enough off that we aren’t quite ready to reveal details about them yet. But suffice it to say, the UO Live Dev team is alive and well, and we’ve got an ambitious future ahead of us.

Rick "Stellerex" Hall
Senior Producer
Ultima Online

Posted by Nobody at 6:02 PM

April 19, 2001

EA: Comments from MrTact

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

Comments from MrTact

THE APOLOGETIC PREFACE

Forgive me for not using Britannia-speak. I hope you'll understand that I don't wish to embarrass us all with my incompetence.

THE OBLIGATORY INTRODUCTION

Enter MrTact, also known in an alternate life as Tim Keating. I started here at Origin in August of '99 as a programmer/DBA for UO operations. My responsibilities included such mundane but important tasks as doing development on the UO login server, generating service metrics and maintaining the billing system. Early in 2000, I became the manager of my team, and was chartered to grow the team by several people. Toward the end of last year, I hit my limit for responding to pages about login server meltdowns, and decided to look for something else to do.

As it happened, QA was looking for an engineer right around that time, it seemed to be a good fit for both the team and myself, and I made the jump.

THE ACTUAL UPDATE, or WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

This is an extremely exciting time to be a part of UO. Throughout the lifetime of the game, parts of the community have been very vocal about problems with bugs and stability. Historically, the dev and QA teams have been in a kind of Catch-22 situation: given a finite amount of time, they had to balance adding new features to the game with fixing bugs. Some bugs had to be left in, not because no one WANTED to fix them, but because the necessary resources had to be dedicated to adding and testing promised new features.

That's not the case anymore.

The upside to all the chaos of late is that many people and procedures from UO2 are now a part of the UO team. This is a big win for UO. There are more people working on UO now than at any other time since its launch. Additionally, with only one product, our focus as a company is very narrow. We can afford to pay attention to details that previously we would not have had the bandwidth to address.

From a QA perspective, we've never had the kinds of engineering resources devoted to UO that we do now. Where QA used to just mean "testing" (and black-box testing, at that, for those of you who know anything about software development), we are now fully responsible for improving the quality of UO from stem to stern. We are starting, slowly but surely, to get involved with development earlier in the lifecycle so we can help dev catch bugs sooner.

Add to that the renewed commitment by the OSI management team to stomping bugs and improving the quality and reliability of our service, and you can see why I'm so enthusiastic to be getting involved with UO at this point in its lifetime. I hope you'll stick around, because we're going to see some really exciting improvements.

Tim "MrTact" Keating
QA Engineer, Ultima Online
Origin Systems

Posted by Nobody at 6:42 PM

Richard Garriott Interview at RPGDot

RPGDot posted an interviw with Richard Garriott, here. Below is the introduction to the interview.

Richard Garriott Interview

Being one of the industry's most famous game designer, Richard Garriott is finally free to return into the business after his one year non-compete term. We all know, what games he has brought us in the past – but we all want to know about his future, his plans and his feelings about the latest developments in the industry.

Enjoy our interview with Lord British.
One particular question & answer stood out, concerning Mr. Garriott and his future with creating computer games.
Let’s talk about your plans: Will you bring us new games with emphasis more on the single player or on the multiplayer aspect? What is your opinion about the future of Online RPG’s in general?

Richard Garriott: Both. We plan to do online games, but which blend the best features of both solo, and online styles. For example: In a solo player game, each person who buys the game is blissfully unaware that everyone else is also the 1 hero that saves the day. Yet they do this alone and lonely. In most multiplayer games, you are far from lonely which is cool, but not everyone can be the one hero. We have designs that accomplish both. You will be able to achieve greatness alone or with friends.

Posted by Nobody at 8:41 AM

April 16, 2001

OSI: Comments from Runesabre

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

Comments from Runesabre: Big change lies beneath

You probably won’t hear many folk speaking about one of the most significant changes to UO over ale at the Salty Dog Tavern. This recent change is about as flashy and exciting as a young citizen’s wardrobe as she first steps into the realm of Britannia, but it affects everyone, without exception, in a dramatically positive fashion. In my 3 years working on UO, nearly everything has changed significantly in one fashion or another, except for one system: the backup system.

Ever log in to play UO and wonder why your mined ingots from the previous early morning mining session are no longer in your bank and you are standing back to the Sweet Dreams Inn just like the night before? It’s called a ‘timewarp’ and it has been an ugly plague that has been ever prevalent since the beginning of UO. Nastier than any undead invasion, timewarps have been a constant source of anguish and frustration. All of that is about to change, and in fact has already changed if you inhabit the AOL Legends or Atlantic shards.

What causes a timewarp? A timewarp is caused by the period of time it takes to create a backup, a snapshot of the world of Britannia. Imagine taking your camera to a park and taking a picture. You now have a snapshot of the park, but it’s still in your camera. The time it takes for you to process the film and finally produce a picture would be similar to the backup processing time it takes to process all the data that comprises a UO shard. Once you have that picture of the park processed, imagine going back to the park and comparing the changes between your snapshot and the current state of the park. If, for some reason, the park was destroyed later and you had to rebuild it from the picture, you’d lose all of the changes that happened since the picture was taken. Luckily in real life the timewarp phenomenon isn’t common, but UO can and does timewarp on a regular basis.

The most frequent source of timewarps occurs during regularly scheduled maintenance periods in the morning. The length of a timewarp is determined by how long it takes to actually process the snapshot of Britannia into a complete backup. When a UO shard restarts, it has to restart at the last fully formed backup. Up until now, timewarps have typically been as high as 2 hours or more!

We’ve been working hard to attack this timewarp beast and have designed and implemented a new system that drops that backup processing time from 2 hours to 10 minutes! As an added bonus to this new change, our new design allows us to chop the server restart times by half so shards will now be taking as little as 6-12 minutes to restart instead of the usual 20-40 minutes. This time will vary depending on the size of each shard’s backup.

Currently, only AOL Legends and Atlantic are running this new optimized backup system. Changes to the backup system, the foundation of all of UO, are taken very seriously and rolled out to production shards with extreme caution. We are carefully monitoring both AOL Legends and Atlantic on a daily basis. Once we are satisfied with the operation of this new backup system, all shards will be activated, experiencing reduced timewarps and restart times.

Every day UO continues to improve; but as with many of UO’s changes, a lot of the bigger changes are not readily apparent to everyone. But just think of the stories you can tell new citizens that venture to Britannia in the upcoming years! After all, I know years ago I had to walk uphill both ways to Minoc to smelt one small pile of ore, losing stamina every other step against the sleet and snow, only to not succeed, timewarp, and do it all again; and that was when plate gorgets required 2000 ingots!

Runesabre
Producer
UO Live Team

Posted by Nobody at 10:48 PM

April 15, 2001

Computer Games Mag - “Massively Entertaining”

The following announcement was posted to UO Stratics:

Computer Games Mag - "Massively Entertaining"

For anyone that is a fan of MMORPG's (Massively Multiplayer Online RPG's), the May 2001 issue of Computer Games magazine is going to be a must buy. It has a special section this month called "Massively Entertaining - The past, present & future of online role-playing". Tons, and I mean TONS, of information. In total it is 17 pages long and discusses almost every game in the MMORPG market. It also has a great interview with Raph "Designer Dragon/Holocron" Koster (former Lead Designer of Ultima Online and current Creative Director of Star Wars Galaxies) and a special focus on an upcoming game called "A Tale in the Desert".

The list of games discussed are as follows:
  • Ultima Online

  • Everquest

  • Asheron's Call

  • Legends of Kesmai

  • Neverwinter Nights (original)

  • Meridian 59

  • Dark Sun Online

  • Gemstone III

  • Kingdom of Drakkar

  • 10six

  • Mankind

  • Allegiance

  • A Tale in the Desert

  • Star Peace
  • Neverwinter Nights (upcoming)

  • Anarchy Online

  • Lineage: The Bloodpledge

  • RedMoon

  • Dark Age of Camelot

  • Shadowbane

  • The Sims Online

  • Motor City Online

  • UWO:Origin (ouch!)

  • Jumpgate

  • Neocron

  • Planetside

  • World War II Online

  • Atriarch
  • BigWorld

  • Sovereign

  • Earth and Beyond

  • Star Wars Galaxies

  • EverQuest 2

  • Project Entropia

  • Caeron3000

  • Horizons

  • Galcom Online

  • Dungeons & Dragons Online

  • Middle Earth Online

  • Warhammer Online
WHEW! Anyway, I highly recommend it. Make sure to head to your local bookstore and get it immediately (front cover has "Aliens Versus Predator 2" on it) and enjoy!

Posted by Nobody at 2:57 PM

April 14, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon!

Tryon of ImaNewbie Does Britannia sent out the following announcement:

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon!

Hi there :)

Ever since Britannia split into Trammel and Felucca I have been reading on the boards about how deserted Felucca is, how all the PKs have nothing to do now that everyone is playing in Trammel, etc. and it got me to thinking about what all the PKs are doing now that there are no easy kills left, so I decided to send ImaNewbie over to Felucca to investigate. What he found was amazing, but don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

Added Saturday, April 14th, 2001:
- Episode #137: Where Have All the PKs Gone?

ImaNewbie does Britannia
http://www.imanewbie.com/

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 12:51 AM

April 13, 2001

Lum the Mad and the UO Event Designing Team

There's been some articles and discussions at Lum the Mad's Web site recently. One in particular concerned last night's Ultima Online House of Commons (UOHoC) chat, to whit:

"REMEMBER WHEN UOHOCS WERE JUST ABOUT IBN SHAUN NAGGING US ABOUT HEALING?"

Stratics held a UOHoC last night, right after Heather's whither-the-Interest-program piece was posted. So it was a nice, albeit unplanned transition there.

Needless to say, there were some questions about said Interest program. By the way, for you non-UO lurkers, "Interest" = in-game plot development, almost always "in character" over a long period of time, usually facilitated by "IGMs", or Interest Game Masters. At least, that's the way it was up until now. Now, well, it's different. How? No one knows, but some hints were given last night. Such as:
[GragDash] I am wondering why the dev team constantly grows, while the IGM team has been locked since oct 1999. What is happening with intrest team, will it expand? are player establishment blessings commign back?

[Sage] The interest team has been linked to the dev team now, so there is no separation. Player establishment blessings promoted hard feelings and hurt the community more than they helped it. They will not be returning.
Gee, exclusive benefits to otherwise undistinguised members of the community at the expense of players who have given years of their lives towards building said community? Say it isn't so!
[po`folks] does OSI feel localization has improved the RPG elements of UO?

[Sage] If you don't speak English? Immensely.
And you thought there was no roleplaying on Asian shards. You're just not looking hard enough!

In any event, new Event Czar Calandryll promised a "Comments" filing today; more when that happens. Or less. Or something. Maybe we'll design an Automated Lum Rant Generator. Can't be that hard, and continuing to use volunteer labor for Lum's may be legally dicey. Plus, you know, people resent it when we create rants specifically for certain people. And stuff.
The discussion continued with this more recent article, which more-or-less were personal observations on the future of UO Events under Calandryll:
CALANDRYLL TAKES THE BLUE PILL

Jon "Calandryll" Hanna, newly dubbed 'Designer in Charge of Ongoing Content' for UO, has posted his thoughts on the future direction of UO's story development, both in a Comments piece and further exposition on the UO message board.

From his comments:
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.
The message board post goes into further detail, describing a theoretical Undead invasion, complete with mongbats. No UO event is complete without mongbats, don't you agree?
Suddenly, the undead strike! The shrines are under attack by Vampires and another new monster, undead mongbats (ooh, scary!), and other undead and the town criers plead for players to help defend them. Spawners are put in place that allow players to actually defeat the attacks...ie: players affect when the attacks stop based on how actively they fight back.

A new dungeon is created, Vampire crypts. This is where the Vampires spawn once their attacks are defeated and becomes a new Point of Interest for all players to enjoy.
So, unlike the Kobayashi Maru Trinsic scenario, players can actually win an event, without the mystical guiding hand of offseen overworked IGMs. The question remains, though, if OSI can actually carry off an involved, engaging plot. I mean, these are the same people who thought Ultima 9 was a triumph of the storytelling craft. Who created a guy cleverly named "FOA Leader" as the hidden hand behind the Cabal Formerly Known as Zog. And whose idea of a hidden motive force of evil was a leather-clad dominatrix with a henchmen named Lord Snidely Whiplash. Yes, most of the player-generated and interest-volunteer-generated content has been far above the standard set by OSI, but only because the standard up until this point has been so laughably low.

Clearly there's some work to do. As Origin shifts gears in how they move the metagame behind the game forward, whether they succeed or not depends on how the players - that would be you, boss - react to all of this.

Posted by Nobody at 6:28 PM

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 6:13 PM

Gamezilla Reviews UO:3D

Gamezilla reviewed Ultima Online: Third Dawn (UO:3D). The full review can be read here. Below is the "overview" which introduces the article:

Ultima Online: Third Dawn
Electronic Arts Reviewed by: Shawna Walls

This is the latest in a series of updates to the original Ultima Online. Many changes to the game simply come through downloaded patches, but Third Dawn is an almost entirely new client, with a new set of 3D graphics. Don’t expect the kind of 3D experience you’ve seen in other games however; this feels far more like Diablo 2’s graphics. To be compatible with the 2D version that’s still out there, this update only puts a 3D skin on characters and monsters, and upgrades some textures. Those familiar with the 2D version won’t really see much change in the look and feel of the game. The playfield and angles are exactly the same as before, as is perspective. To see any real effects of the 3D, it’s necessary to zoom in for more detail (a neat new added feature). Still, it’s a nice face lift to an otherwise outdated graphic.

Posted by Nobody at 5:50 PM

OSI: Seeking First Prize Tales

The following was posted to the FYI page at the Ultima Online Web site:

Seeking First Prize Tales

And they're off, with Bundor in the lead, followed closely by Mitch and Par! But wait, there's another contestant who's coming up fast...

Do you thrill to the feeling of competition? Do you constantly find yourself telling your friends and family about the time you outran the fastest ranger in Britain? Pulled the most fish from the Vesper Seas? Or mined 4000 ore in one session to win the Great Minoc Mining Contest? Here's your chance to tell the story of your great win, what you won, and how you spent your winnings.

Send an e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, April 20th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include “First Prize” in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to “uo-profiles” become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 5:41 PM

Interview with Richard Garriott

An interview with Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultimas, was recently posted at CDMag.com. Read the full interview here. Below is the introduction paragraph to the interview:

Lord British, we hardly knew ye
Richard Garriott speaks about his years with Origin and what went wrong

Although you'd never know it by talking with him, Richard Garriott belongs to the truly "old school" of game design. His continued passion belies the duration of time that he's been in the industry, and his boyish exuberance, while just a bit less frenetic than a few years ago, still abounds.

Garriott has been around seemingly since the beginning of time, or at least since the Silicon Dark Ages of the 1970s. During the latter part of the decade, he created his first commercial game, Akalabeth (which he has described as having been "packaged in Baggies and sold out of the trunk of my car"). Eventually he and his brother Robert founded Origin Systems-the "We Create Worlds" folks. Shortly thereafter, Garriott introduced the first Ultima game, which enjoyed eight sequels and which spun off Ultima Online, the first graphically sophisticated (in its time) massively multiplayer online RPG and its satellite products. [more]

Posted by Nobody at 5:38 PM

OSI: Comments from Jack Benny

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

Comments from Jack Benny

Hi! I'm Drew Adams - the Manager of Online Operations here for Ultima Online. What that means is that I manage the team that administers the servers here.

It's always strange starting out something like this... where to begin? Well, I'm a gamer and I guess that's really what brought me here. I was one of the first players in Ultima Online (started my first account over 3 years ago) and I'm a huge fan of online gaming. My background is really what got me into online gaming - in college, buddies and I used to get together and play on a LAN - that was back when nothing was out in TCP/IP and it was all IPX/ODI DOS-based gaming. Hands down, network gaming is the king. AI routines have definitely come a long way since then - but when it comes right down to it, humans do some really strange, unexpected and fun things that AI can't hold a candle to. After college, I decided to work for an ISP - I went from Network Engineering to running the Network Capacity Planning for one of the largest ISP's in the country. I had a front seat to watch online gaming go from 2-4 person games set up using KALI to full blown persistent worlds like Ultima Online.

Coming to work for Origin/EA was really just the next natural step for me. I've always scanned the EA job site (http://jobs.ea.com/), and saw this one open up last year. It's always been a dream to come and work for a company like this. Coming from the "outside" of the gaming industry, I knew that one of the things I could bring to Ultima Online was a really strong feel for what the customer base was looking for from the technical teams here at OSI. One of the things I've tried to foster is communications - I post mostly on the Connectivity board at http://boards.uo.com under the pseudonym "Jack Benny". I know many of you want to know more about how things work inside the company, and I try and answer what questions I can there.

I'm excited that UO is growing and I'm looking forward to helping lead the team that will make it possible. I'm committed to the game, and I'm committed to making UO better.

Drew Adams
Manager, Online Operations
Origin Systems
EA.com

Posted by Nobody at 5:29 PM

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! I’m 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 OSI’s 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 wasn’t 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 I’d send in my résumé. And then a question bowled over that (rather simple) decision: Why in the world hadn’t I gone looking for work in the gaming industry before? I am a gamer to the core. I’ve 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 I’ve 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 hadn’t answered that question. I don’t 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 I’d 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. It’s now been just a touch over six months since my first day at Origin. It feels like it’s been six years. I was used to working hard before, but I wasn’t really prepared for the pace kept around here. I’ve already lost track of the number of late nights and weekends I’ve spent here in the office, helping to put out one fire or another. I don’t remember the number of weeks we’ve been in crunch since I started. But even though this has by far been the most demanding job I’ve 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 lifetime’s 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. They’ve 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 UO’s 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. We’re gearing up for prime time now, ladies and gents, so buckle up and hang on to your hats.

What’s in store for Ultima Online? Well, that is still largely being decided. Here’s 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 can’t 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 “Vex” Moore
Designer, UO Live

Posted by Nobody at 9:15 PM

Richard Garriott Interview

GameSpyDaily posted an interview with Richard Garriott today. The full interview can be found here. Below you can read the entire interview:

Richard Garriott Interview
Lord British's NDA with EA is now over - we've got the full story on UO2 and the future.

Richard's Garriott's NDA with Electronic Arts expired as of April 1. GameSpy's Tina "Cassandra" Haumersen was able to track down Lord British and get the first post-NDA interview with the man who created the Ultima universe for Origin Systems. Garriott talks about the demise of UO2, his dealings with EA and what the future holds.

GameSpy: What lead to your departure from Origin Systems, the company that you co-founded with your brother 20 years ago?

RG: After 20 years of Ultima Next, I was extremely motivated to do something NOT called Ultima. The success of Ultima Online meant that all spending growth went to grow the online support of UO1 and UO2 which EA felt we must do ASAP. Soon it became clear that Origin would be only an Ultima company. That combined with my lack of shared vision with the EA placed GM, Jack Heistand, meant that it was time for me to move on.

GS: How much creative control did you have after Origin was purchased by Electronic Arts?

RG: I was still the creative leader for the Ultima's I produced, but overall company direction and spending was highly influenced by EA corporate directives.

GS: Thinking back on everything that has happened since then, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

RG: Regrets? Some. When we joined EA as EA's hopeful savior of their PC strategy, we grew the company very fast. That was a huge mistake. We did not have the management bandwidth to grow intelligently. Soon after we began the slow downhill yearly EA layoff cycle that has never stopped.

GS: When Ultima 9: Ascension shipped, it was, shall we say, slightly buggy and seemed as though it had been rushed out the door. What happened?

RG: U9 only survived at all as a project, by shear force of will. Few if any exec's within EA, and even Origin supported it at all. I had a very hard time keeping funding and staff to do what we did. I am proud of the results, yet also aware of the shortcomings.

GS: What's going to happen to Lord British now that Ultima Online 2 has been cancelled? Is EA going to be able to continue using actors to play His Lordship in UO?

RG: Upon my exit, I agreed to leave my character in UO1, but no future Ultimas. I guess that won't be a problem now.

GS: What did you think of the direction Ultima Online 2 was going as far as the complete change to Britannia and the cyberpunking of the world we all loved so much?

RG: I had mixed feelings. It is not what I would have done, but it was not "my" project, per say. I believed in the team who took control of the game. I was interested to see what they would do with it.

GS: What did you think of the creature concepts of Todd McFarlane?

RG: I think Todd's work is great! They fit well with the direction the game was evolving.

GS: How do you think the long-time Ultima fans (fans of Ultimas 1-9) would have reacted to Ultima Online 2, had it reached completion and opened for business?

RG: At first, I was very concerned, as the departure was great. However, the team began to develop the proper Ultima story crafting that is essential to an Ultima. Over time, they were getting it down. Ultimately, it would have worked and been accepted I think.

GS: What are your greatest sources of inspiration?

RG: Early on it was fantasy work like Tolkien and D&D. Over time I went from a young kid stabbing in the dark, to a student of the craft. I now read more and study the issues more, like: Joseph Campbell's work on mythology, and Amy Jo Kim's work on Online Communities.

GS: What are your plans for the future? Would you still like to create Project X, which you spoke about a little over a year ago, or have you abandoned that idea for something else?

RG: Well, until recent OSI news, I was expecting to hang my hat with a California company, and start to rebuild slowly. Well, now it appears that I can hit the ground running with all my old team mates. So, last month, "X" seemed a remote dream, this month, very likely!

GS: If it were possible, would you continue making Ultima games?

RG: Sure! Ultima like world games, but not Avatar in Britannia experiences.

GS: For years, Origin has been known as a spring board into the industry. How do you feel about having been a part of "seeding" the industry with extremely talented people like Harvey Smith, Warren Spector and Chris Roberts?

RG: Very proud to help them learn and grow and yet also often sad to see them leave the fold.

GS: You changed the world as we knew it when you created Akalabeth, and then again with the subsequent Ultima games, and set the standard for all other RPGs that followed. I think its safe to say that the Ultima games touched many people, even if they didn't know why. What's it like to have played such a pivotal role in so many people's lives?

RG: I feel very lucky. There are lots of people just as smart and creative as I am out there. I was at the right place, at the right time, with the right idea. Then I was bold enough to go for it! Fortunately, it worked. By the way, I believe that I have the right idea, right time, right place
again now. And I'm still just as bold. We will see if fortune smiles again. The odds look good.

Posted by Nobody at 1:17 PM

April 7, 2001

OSI: Comments from Maleki

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

Comments from Maleki

Greetings,

Many of you all probably wonder who Maleki is, so a little introduction may be in order. I came to Origin in January of ‘00 to work as a Game Master on Ultima Online. Before coming here, I had dealt with the game since its release, mostly as a volunteer. After countless hours spent as both a Counselor and Senior Companion, I realized that I wanted to further my career with Origin. Ultima Online was the first real game I could get into. I played UO for a little under three years, and went through good and bad times (even lost several houses due to exploits myself). Taking a step back, I feel the game has changed a lot since the early stages. The current Development team has done an awesome job with fixing a ton of bugs which plagued the game for a long time.

I currently am the Development Liaison for Player Relations. So basically what I do is communicate the bugs that affect our service as a whole to the development team, and set up a schedule with the development team to get them fixed. I also work as a Lead GM, overseeing the Game Masters and the Player Relations Admin Department.

I feel we have a very strong group of Game Masters now in the department. These folks, day in and day out, perform an outstanding level of service. The GM staff answers over 100k calls a month. Hard to imagine such a group could affect such a large percentage of the population, so I would like to give them the recognition they deserve.

In closing, it has been a pleasure being able to talk with players over the year and see the game from your eyes. I hope this lets you see the game from mine.

Maleki
Lead GM/Development Liaison
Origin Worlds Online

Posted by Nobody at 12:42 AM

April 6, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon!

Tryon of ImaNewbie Does Britannia sent us the following announcement:

Hi there :)

This week ImaNewbie is back to his usual pastime of exploring for new wonders and adventure, this time on Ice Island. Wandering around he stumbles on the corpse of a freshly killed frost troll. Investigating further he finds a wondrous magical weapon left on the corpse. Nuf said... check it out.

Added Friday, April 6th, 2001:
- Episode #137: ImaNewbie and the Magic Halberd

ImaNewbie does Britannia
http://www.imanewbie.com/

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 5:31 PM

April 3, 2001

OSI:  Comments from Sage

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

 Comments from Sage

Last week at the Game Developers Conference, I met some really great people and caught up with old friends in the industry. Almost all aspects of game development were discussed, but one of the hotter topics debated at the conference was ways to integrate meaningful story into our games. Like all good debates, there were two sides:
  1. the story should be pervasive in the original design, and players should be encouraged to involve themselves in that story
  2. the story should be emergent based on behavior of the players, and the design should offer interesting choices so the story derives from player activities.
I am confident that there is a middle ground, as Lee Sheldon said, and that developers will be able to find that road more and more. Still, I think we should concentrate on the second argument more at this time, as this is the more underdeveloped of the two concepts in the industry, and perhaps the best in dealing with MMOGs. (<-- Fill in your favorite acronym here.)

As I’ve grown to know MMOG community, I’ve found endless fascination in the ability of players to create their own stories, sometimes because of what tools we have given them, and sometimes in spite of the tools we have not given to the community. I want to devote time to exploring this, both because I feel it is important, and because I believe we (the dev team and the community) can do more. I think enabling tale-weavers to create better stories derivative of their world involves, at least, the following three items:
  1. An interesting overarching fiction, or a history if you will.
  2. The ability to make a meaningful decision that the player might not be confronted with every day.
  3. A captive audience for the stories that are told.
The history of the game world is important because it couches the emergent stories in a meaningful context. For instance, a great experience in Pong might be fascinating to you as a gamer, but telling people that the Great Paddle Battle of 1979 involved the final bank shot of the dot with a blistered thumb, is about as exciting as a sack of wet mice. However, telling someone living within the same world, that you met the scoundrel Skeeve the Magician, who had of late run around as the scourge of Trinsic, and defeated him in a heated duel, has meaning. Still, if a player doesn’t understand who Skeeve is, the story has less impact on the listener. This is why it is important that as many people as possible know about the story, and why the story shouldn’t be overly complex. Most people, I am sorry to say, are not interested in investigating the stories of the world. Whether that be a problem with delivery, a problem with public interest and attention span, or a combination is up to you to decide. So, perhaps a story about an incredible fight with a valorite elemental is more meaningful to most of the audience. Is it any less stupendous of a battle than the one fought with Skeeve, scourge of Trinsic? Probably not. Is there room for both stories? Of course. While one may be more closely tied into game fiction, the other has a far greater chance of reaching more people. Will Wright, of Sims fame, calls this a “point of brag”, or a point in the game where two people can share stories about what occurred when said event happened to each of them. Stories are much better when they develop into conversations!

One of the points I clearly remember from college literature is that the main character / protagonist of a novel is usually the one who has undergone change. The amount of change can be small, but change is important. Remember a battle where you tried something different for the first time? Normally, you might send a dragon in to deal with a valorite elemental, but when the valorite elemental goes through your dragon faster than Dean Wormer expelled John Blutarsky, a new choice has to be made, and quickly. That choice makes you change your tactics, and a story emerges. Afterwards, you realized you needed to relate your story so that others might learn about the problems you encountered, or you just wanted to relate the final outcome of the might battle.

So how can you tell your story, if no one is around to hear it? Unless trees in the woods have imparted secret information to you about an age-old conundrum, you can’t. One of Jonathan Barron’s rules on MMRPGs is: Glory is the reason why people play online; shame is what keeps them from playing online. Neither is possible without other people being present. Glory is all about story. Being able to relate your stories to others who understand their context is important, because it is the social nature of people to relate events. I think UO provides this opportunity in a very unique way, and therefore is one of the best storytelling platforms in the entertainment medium. Still, I think one of the weaknesses in UO is that much of our past contributions to story have been limited to reaching a small group of people who know about “events”, while leaving many of our other players in the dark. It is a matter of logistics; when you have finite time, and finite resources, you can only reach a small number of people if you must have manpower involved in each of the events. Exceptions to this pattern are events such as the invasion of Trinsic during Renaissance, but even that required a massive amount of effort and manpower. I would like to get back to the kind of event where everyone can benefit, but I would also like to have more ongoing content with items such as glacial staves, gargoyle’s pickaxes, etc. New items, monsters, etc. introduced in context has a better chance to reach the majority of our players. The impact of the new slayer weapons appearing in the world reached a vast majority of our players, and gave them something new to do. As we put new additions in a better context format with more story, the interest in the game grows. This is an area in which I believe we can show quick improvement over the course of the next few months.

In order to do so, we will be making some changes to our in-house events team. Our current event staff will be trained in the scripting language and given the power to see that new items and creatures going into the game have meaning and are part of a larger plan, rather than being separate and unrelated to the overall story. Jonathan “Calandryll” Hanna will be heading up the “event” team, with Tom “Augur” Ivey and Dave “Gromm” Saleh rounding out the team. We understand this will be a very different way of bringing story into UO than what we do currently, but we think the majority of our players will benefit. What we will be able to do over time will grow as we learn to stretch UO’s limits.

Finally, I would like to end this Comments from the Team with a fond farewell to many of my friends who have recently departed OSI. Losing the ability to see your friends day to day is a very hard thing on anyone, and I hope they know they will be missed.

Posted by Nobody at 4:58 PM

March 29, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Britannia Enquirer!

The following announcement from Tryon at ImaNewbie Does Britannia was posted at UOSS:

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Britannia Enquirer!

This week I've loaded up the rant cannon and it's aimed squarely at all the new changes affecting this world we know as Britannia, as it relates to UO (2D), UO Third Dawn and the recently cancelled UO2. The new edition of the Britannia Enquirer should leave no doubt in your mind as to how I feel about where I stand on the changes. It seems lately about the only thing certain about UO is that it will continue to cost $9.95 (US) a month, and the issues the perpetual beta testers (you and me) really consider important will continue to take second place to whatever cockamamie scheme EA has dreamed up this week.

Added Wednesday, March 28th, 2001:
- The Britannia Enquirer - Vol 2. No 2 - What's wrong with this picture

ImaNewbie does Britannia
www.imanewbie.com

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 7:51 PM

March 24, 2001

UOHoC posts log of 22nd UO Celebrity chat with Tugsoft

The Ultima Online House of Commons (UOHoC) has announced that the complete log of the Twenty-second UO Celebrity chat with Tug of Tugsoft has been posted, and is available here. The chat centers around UOAssist's features and suggestions for improving this "third-party" tool.

Some information on UOAssist: Tug/Tugsoft is the creator of the extremely useful multi-purpose UOAssist tool, one of the few applications for use with Ultima Online that enjoys UOPro status and the approval of OSI. UOAssist can be found at www.tugsoft.com. You can download & use it for a short time for evaluation purposes, and have the option of paying a registration fee of $14.95 U.S. (plus 6.25% sales tax for Utah residents) to remove the time limit. UOAssist is updated frequently,which is an important feature considering the frequent changes made to UO, itself.

Posted by Nobody at 8:49 AM

March 15, 2001

Comments from Calandryll, Leilo, and LadyMOI

The following was just posted to Comments from the Team on the UO.com website:

Comments from Calandryll

For almost two years, I've spent my time here at OSI listening to player feedback and then going into someone's office (usually a designer) and delivering that feedback to them. I've always enjoyed these conversations, learning the thought processes of the designers and working to find compromises and solutions between the original design and the hundreds of different players' feedback. During that time, I've had more than one person ask me "So when are you going to become a designer?" It's something I have thought about a lot during those meetings.

Starting next week (Monday, March 19) I'll be on the other side of those conversations as I move from Manager of Community Services to a Designer on the Ultima Online Live team. As much as I truly enjoy Community Relations, the opportunity to work with folks like Sage, Runesabre, and of course reuniting with LadyMOI (the person who hired me in the first place) is something I could not pass up. Add to that the chance to work directly on the game I have played for over 3 years with one of the most dedicated teams I have ever had the pleasure of working with and it really was a no-brainer. I am also very pleased that Leilo is taking over as Community Manager as there is no more qualified person in the industry that I can think more worthy.

So how does this affect all of you? Well, for one thing, I won't have time to answer anywhere near as much e-mail or post as much as I used to. That's not something I am particular happy about, but given my new responsibilities, the time to do so simply won't be there. I'll still be reading the boards as much as possible though as I've always felt those posts are an invaluable resource to anyone who works on UO. At the same time, I hope to bring what I have learned as a community representative to my role as a designer.

I do have a long way to go however, before I even approach the level of skill of the current design team. For the next few months, I'll be learning the scripting language, previous designs, and everything else I can before they even let me actually change anything.

So while this is certainly not a farewell, for me, it does sort of feel like one. It's never easy to leave behind something I helped build from the start, but at the same time, I could not be leaving it in better hands. To say I am excited about this new opportunity would be an understatement and I am looking forward to the future of UO, now more than ever.

Calandryll
Comments from Leilo

On Monday morning (March 19th), I'll be stepping into the role of Manager of Community Services here at OSI. In doing so, I'll be following in the footsteps of two pretty amazing and talented people — LadyMOI, who created the Online Community Relations group here and helped lead the group to becoming fully integrated with the game teams, and Calandryll, who has been working with Cynthe and Gbob to expand our community to ORIGIN, while providing Melantus and I with the tools we needed to focus on Ultima Online. Though much of my time has been spent behind-the-scenes in the last year and a half, I've had the fortune to work with many of you in my previous role as UO's Web Content Supervisor - a task that allowed me to work on growing the UO website to support all aspects of the UO community. In my new role, I'll be focused on supporting my team - which includes both community relations teams and the Events team - as they focus on the communities of Ultima Online, ORIGIN, and whatever new and exciting games lie in our future.

As for the immediate future? I'll be reading your comments on our Message Boards, familiarizing myself with ORIGIN, exploring the new land of Third Dawn, working with Melantus to gather your opinions, and wrestling Calandryll's laptop computer away from him by Monday.

I'm very excited to be given this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to helping my team work with all of you to keep the communities of UO and ORIGIN exciting, fun, interesting, and productive. The communities surrounding both games are already fantastic, but things can always be better, and I hope with your feedback and participation, we can bring about a great future.

Leilo
Comments from LadyMOI

I hope that you will all join me in congratulating both Calandryll and Leilo on their promotions to these new positions. This is a particularly sweet moment for me, since I am responsible for hiring both of these talented individuals into Origin.

First Calandryll, who, through his dedication and hard work, helped me to evolve the community relations role into one that is wholly committed to serving the needs of the UO players and the future players of Origin games. Now he will join forces with me again, this time on the dev side of things, where we will continue to listen to what you like and want and need in order to grow and develop UO further and further.

Leilo was my second hire to Origin and within a few months of her arriving began to develop some of the coolest web features we have seen. Her creativity and her tough as nails work ethic are stellar. You will not be disappointed in her efforts in her new position.

I feel very proud of these two individuals and am grateful for my continued opportunity to work with them. The future is very exciting.

LadyMOI

Posted by Nobody at 6:50 PM

March 9, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon and more!

Tryon of ImaNewbie Does Britannia sent out the following announcement:

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon and more!

Hi there :)

This week's ImaNewbie toon is all about the recent "localization and macros" announcement from OSI stating Players will no longer be able to combine long strings of speech commands to use as a single macro, such as “Vendor, tell the guards to buy me the bank.”. Also I have added a bunch of new screen pics of monsters I have encountered in UO Third Dawn. I have also added a whole bunch of new terms to the UO/ICQ speak dictionary and there is a new ImaNewbie does "Othergames" review of the hot new 3rd. person anime, kung-fu, shooter - ONI. So there is lot's to see...what are you waiting for?

Added Friday, March 9th, 2001:
- ImaNewbie Episode #136 - The more things change...

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 7:03 PM

February 23, 2001

OSI: Seeking Stories of Luck

The following was just posted to FYI on the UO.com website:

Seeking Stories of Luck

Some call it a lady - some call it far worse. It can shine down on you, save you from certain death, or forsake you completely. When it's good, you may find yourself leaning back, feet propped atop the smoldering corpse of a dragon, polishing your new sword of vanquishing. When it's bad, you're apt to find yourself stranded on Ice Island, wearing only a fancy shirt and short kilt against the freezing snow, and not a reagent or rune to your name. What is it? Luck. And without it, sometimes all the skill in the world won't make a difference.

We want to hear your stories of luck. Has luck pulled you out of a dangerous situation? Has luck brought about a chance meeting - good or bad? No matter how luck has changed your life in Britannia, we'd like to hear your story - and perhaps share it with the UO community.

Send an email to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, March 2nd and tell us a tale of luck in Britannia. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words. Be sure to include the words "Luck" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to "UO-Profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 10:43 PM

February 22, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Survivor!***New Toon!

Tryon from Imanewbie Does Britannia sent us the following announcement:

***ImaNewbie does Survivor!***New Toon!

Hi everyone!

Yep, you read it right. This week ImaNewbie reveals a shocking revelation about the "Reality TV" Show, Survivor. Unbeknownst to the millions of viewers who tuned in every week, there was actually a seventeenth contestant and a "lost episode" that never aired. Head on over to my site and read all about it.

Added Thursday, February 22, 2001:
- ImaNewbie Episode #135 - Survivor - the Lost Episode

ImaNewbie does Britannia
http://www.imanewbie.com/

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 7:44 PM

February 13, 2001

OSI: Looking For Something To Do?

The following was added to Online Community Relations page on the Ultima Online Web site:

Looking For Something To Do?

While virtually all of my previous comments from the team have been about Community Relations, I am also responsible for the Event Programming team here at OSI. Hopefully many of you have seen the recent event announcement and accompanying event calendar. I’ve seen a lot of questions from players asking what the motive is behind these events, as they are a bit different than what we have done previously, and I figured this would make an excellent opportunity to talk about events in UO.

Before my time here at OSI, as a player, I experienced three “events” that I was aware of. I say “that I was aware of” because often, players are involved in an event and don’t even realize it. The recent change assigning purple names to volunteers has helped this somewhat, as players are now more easily able to discern whether that mongbat is part of something special or not. I recall all three of those events with great fondness and each one gave me a sense of accomplishment and made Ultima Online feel more alive. Even though, for the most part, I was fighting the same AI controlled monsters I always fought, the fact that killing these monsters had a purpose beyond skill and loot made the battles more exciting.

While everyone wants to create vast, dynamic fiction (what I refer to as a scenario) that touches and changes the game-world, the basic building blocks of a scenario, the event, are easily over-looked. Running this schedule of events allows us to not only create some fun and exciting things for players to do outside of their usual gaming experience, but at the same time, keeps things simple so we can gather the information we need to run even better events in the future. It’s much easier to gather information from single events, (looking at what worked and what didn’t work, how events affect those not involved and/or not expecting it, etc.) than it would be if the events were all tied together in one over-arching story. Of course, some of the events we are running now do have stories behind them.

So what’s next? Well a lot of that depends on how these events go and what we (and you) learn. Hopefully in the coming months I’ll write more event related comments from the team as we move towards the next evolution of events. In the meantime, I hope all of you get a chance to participate in these events and look forward to your feedback on the message board we have set up.

-Calandryll
Manager of Community Services

Posted by Nobody at 5:41 PM

OSI: Battle Vortex Interviews Designer Evocare

The following was added to FYI on the Ultima Online Web site:

Battle Vortex Interviews Designer Evocare

Want to hear the word on the Faction system straight from a UO designer? Join Fear of Battle Vortex as he interviews Designer Evocare about the past, present, and future of factions. Listen in at Ultima Online Factions!

Don’t forget, you can listen to the Battle Vortex Audio Shows with your RealAudio™ player. Don’t have one? Battle Vortex will help you get started on their RealAudio help page.

Posted by Nobody at 5:38 PM

A Moment in History

Today marks the one year anniversary of the fall of Trinsic on the Baja Shard (Pre-Trammel). Here is a painting made by an onlooker that commemorates the battle fought by the stalwart defenders well past midnight and into the morning.

Posted by Thellaren at 12:25 AM

February 10, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Enquirer!

We were sent the following from Tryon of ImaNewbie does Britannia:

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Enquirer!

Hail and Well Met!

This week there is tons new to see. First off a new edition of the Britannia Enquirer. This week's Enquirer proposes a solution to the neverending housing issue. Two New Features: The ImaNewbie does UO3D section is designed to bring you news and screenshots of the 3D expansion to Ultima Online that is currently shipping in beta to thousands of eager UO fanatics. Next is ImaNewbie's Dictionary of UO/ICQspeak, a glossary of all the terms, slang and abbreviations that can confuse the hell out of anyone new to communicating online. There is also an Update on the ImaTown Citizen's Guild which has been growing like crazy on Pacific Shard. We are up to Seventy Members and counting. I have also spent a whole lot of time tweaking and improving some of the graphics and updating menus, etc. to make your stay at ImaNewbie a pleasant one :)

ImaNewbie does Britannia

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 1:47 PM

February 4, 2001

OSI: Seeking Ultima Online Love Stories

The following was just posted to FYI on the UO.com website:

Seeking Ultima Online Love Stories

Love has a way of blossoming in the strangest places and at the strangest times, and we'd like to hear your stories of love in the world of Britannia. Did you meet your beloved on a warm Britannian evening? Perhaps your stealthy rogue slipped out of the shadows to find love with an upstanding warrior. Or perhaps you found a love that transcended the fiction of Ultima Online.

Send us your stories of love and romance within Ultima Online. Tell us how you met your love, what drew you to them, or perhaps what you wish the future to hold. Whether your love stays within the confines and characters of Britannia, or if it moved to the 'real' world beyond, we'd like to hear about it.

Send an e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, February 9th , and tell us a love story from UO. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words. Be sure to put "Love Story" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story.

Submissions to "uo-profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 8:24 PM

January 29, 2001

The Corporation Accosts Lum the Mad (Part 2 of 2)

The Corporation has posted part 2 (or 2) of their interview with Lum the Mad, formerly of the site of same name. The introduction to Part 2 is below, with it's entirety found here and Part 1 found here.

Editor's Note: Welcome back! We now return you to the Lum Interview. Today's section is entitled The Revenge of the Wombat, and What Lum Wants. Here too, you will finally understand why we said to hell with posting an interview, and just posted the chat log. No one, not even Shakespeare, could have made this coherent. Never ever put lots of game writers into one small room.

Posted by Nobody at 5:33 PM

January 28, 2001

Ahh the king has spoken

[A recent Freeborn Press article concerned Lagesek's response over his experience in the war of Dawn, and referred you, our readers, to his entire post on an outside message board. More recently, a recent news submission contained a fuller response by Hellrazor to points not mentioned in the Lagesek's article, but rather to the original post, and so may be out of context for some readers. Although we'll be posting the following rebuttal, it is my opinion that related "articles" are better suited as a more direct conversation between the related parties, and so this "thread" on the front page of the Freeborn Press ends here. -Nobody]

As a followup to HR's post.

I do not see you speak once of any sort of apology for the actions of one of your guildmembers. Even he had the decency to make sure I was aware he regretted his words and actions. I will assume that your anger over my flogging of your town clouds your judgement in this and ignore this added insult.

My reasons for not approaching Dawn on the night of the event were simple. I felt it would be best if I did not do so in anger. I was led away quickly and quietly as to not further inflame the situation. On the next day I spoke with most involved and cleared it all up.Or so I thought!

I wanted to mention that the things you point to were not what made me angry. I have died ingame more times than I can count in the last week let alone the 3 years I have been a part of this world. I did not either regret the loss of some 30 regs. I did however feel it worthy of note that a group that proposes to hold such high ideals would just as easily sink to such lows.

I am open to discuss this with anyone from Dawn if you still feel it necessary.

Good luck

Lagesek

[After Lagesek's original submission, above, he asked that this next part be added. -Ed.]

Addendum

I have just noticed in HRs post that I am referred to as Lagesek of Avalon.

I do not currently hold any affiliation with Avalon besides friendship. I am a member of the guild NX if you need to qualify this.

Additionally I would like to note that I have spoken with Lady Hayloh of Dawn and I am satisfied with her apology and explanation. I asked for the posts on Avalon messageboard to be deleted and they have. I consider this matter with Dawn closed.

Posted by Nobody at 2:02 AM

Rebuttal

I'm very disappointed that the Baja Freeborn Press allowed Lagesek of Avalon to use your news page as an editorial page. Since you granted him space to express his views, I hope you will provide me space to express mine.

It was made very clear in the rules that participants should not bring anything they couldn't afford to lose. We had a "no looting" rule for the event, but common sense dictates that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to 100% enforce a "no looting" rule, especially not in Felucca. We had 6 guilds and dozens of people involved in last night's event. Additionally, we had a few people who weren't even part of the event trying to take advantage of the battle to loot people. We always knew this might happen; thus the disclaimers to not bring anything you couldn't afford to lose. Given the scale of the battle, the number of people involved, and all the many factors, I think that any looting was kept pretty minimal considering we had dozens of people there and only 2 reported cases of looting (including Lagesek's).

Secondly, it was made very clear in the rules that you shouldn't participate if you were concerned about fame, karma, or dying. I would think that if you come to an event that is clearly labeled as a war that you should expect that you might be killed by someone.

I'm sorry if Lagesek had a run-in with someone who accused him of cheating, but hey, that's life. Unless one of us acquires mind control powers, we'll just have to be satisfied that every person playing UO is operating under their own free will and expressing their own opinion. Of course, this didn't stop Lagesek from calling all of Dawn and the Dark Tower "petty and childish".

The event was 100% voluntary for all the participants. No one HAD to come. Nor did we HAVE to open up this event for other guilds and communities to take part in. Reactions like Lagesek's are the exact reason why more people don't hold events open to other communities. No matter what you do or how hard you work to make a good event, there is always one or two people who want to focus entirely on the negatives and not give credit for all the many things that went well. Most of the feedback I have received about the event has been pretty positive.

Lagesek never brought any of these concerns to Dawn, either last night or today; instead he went over to the Avalon public board and slandered us and the Dark Tower there. I propose that people who don't seek solutions to problems usually have no interest in a solution, they just want to spread bad blood around.

Lastly, Lagesek accuses us of being childish and petty. Personally, I feel its childish and petty to go slandering an entire town of over over 100 people because he had one bad incident during a PvP event he didn't even have to come to.

Groups like Dawn and the Dark Tower work very hard to create events that other people from outside their guildstone can participate in. It makes me sad that no matter what you do, there are always one or two people that feel a need to slander you. I read stuff like this and wonder why we bother.

Posted by Brenstar at 12:36 AM

January 27, 2001

New Improvements to CoM SH

Durham Stargazer from the UO Journal sent us this Council of Mages Factions news:

New Improvements to CoM SH

Using a bit Magic I traveled to view the Improvements on the Pacific Shard to the CoM Stronghold. Eager to see these improvements I ran from Vesper to the Moongate. Arriving in Magincia I raced up to the Stronghold. The first thing I did was check out the farthest bridge. I ran down right into a brick wall closing off the entrance. I said this is great I explored around the corner to the south and found the windows. I wondered to myself if one could teleport inside. I then ran around to the other bridge and was stopped right on the entrance to the northern bridge. I could not enter the Stronghold. Being "Young" I figured I could not join but being the curious type I tried. I was able to join as a "Young" person.

I went inside as I approached the entrance I noticed new railing blocking off the little breach area. I went inside and found things pretty normal. Meeting a CoM member I introduced myself and asked if could test the new Stronghold. He agreed so we went around to the south bridge and around the corner to the south side by the ocean. I then asked him if he could teleport thought the window into the rear of the Stronghold. He sadly was able to do this on the first try. I was very dishearten by this revelation it seems there are still two ways to enter the Stronghold. What are the High Wizards and Guardians thinking?

Durham Stargazer

Posted by Nobody at 12:15 AM

January 26, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!*** - Gone Hollywood!

Tryon from ImaNewbie does Britannia sent us the following announcement:

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!*** - Gone Hollywood!

Greetings :)

In this week's new 'toon episode we deal with the contentious issue of whether or not all the fame ImaNewbie has received over the years is beginning to go to his head. Will Ima's "Star Status" cause him to become just another celebrity snob ... a "Legend in his Own Mind?" Check it out.

Also I added an update on the new ImaTown Citizen's Stone on Pacific. If you have an "Ima" character on Pac, he no longer has to be a lonely outcast. Now he has friends! The stone is up and running now so what are you waiting for?

Added Jan. 26th. 2001
Episode #134 - "Gone Hollywood" or "Will Success Spoil ImaNewbie?"


ImaNewbie does Britannia
http://www.imanewbie.com/

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 7:03 PM

January 25, 2001

OSI: If I'd Known Then...

The following was recently posted to the Online Community Relations page on the Ultima Online Web site:

“If I’d known then what I know now...”

Now there’s a phrase that gets plenty of use. If I’d known in high school what I know now, I’d have gotten away with a lot more. If I’d known in college what I know now, I’d have Tyrant’s job. And to be quite honest, if I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been beaten senseless by a rabbit the first time I played Ultima Online.

But that’s the thing about UO. Once you’ve been around the block a few times, you know all the tricks. You know better than to take on a rabbit with your ‘practice’ sword. You know that the minute you head off to the Lost Lands, your armor will break and you’ll have to trudge all the way back if you haven’t brought a spare. You know never to try to run past the Britain bank in a hurry. You know how, when, and where to best raise your skills and stats.

Unfortunately, most new players in Britannia don’t know these things unless they’ve got a veteran player sitting next to them. And seating a veteran player next to every new UO player just isn’t in my budget. (Not to mention it might be a bit disconcerting to open the front door and see “Veteran Bob” appearing to help you play UO.) So the question is, what can we do about it? What can we do to help new players get through those first few days in Britannia without hurting, maiming, or embarrassing themselves?

One of the projects I’m working on right now will focus on all those things that we should have known when we first set foot in Britannia, but didn’t. And that’s where I need your help. If you’re interested, drop me an email and tell me the one, single thing you wish you’d known the first time you played UO. Be honest. Be brutal if you want. I won’t hold it against you.

After all, I’m the one who was whomped by a rabbit.

Leilo
UO Web Project Supervisor

Posted by Nobody at 9:23 PM

January 24, 2001

The Corporation Accosts Lum the Mad

The Corporation recently had the opportunity to interview Lum the Mad, formerly of his site of the same name. Below is the introduction for part one, and that entire part can be found here. (Part two is not yet available.)

The Corporation Accosts Lum the Mad

Upon hearing that Lum the Mad, notorious website ranter of all things Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming, was looking to become a tool of the Man, we took it upon ourselves to get one last interview out of him. This was rather difficult at first, since he tends to be a little shy at times. At first we tried kidnapping his wife, but apparently she comes with genital-seeking knife attached, so we gave that up pretty quick. Finally after threatening to go into the future and kill his yet-unborn firstborn child, he relented. Or maybe he just got tired of us asking him. Tweety provided her Robin Quivers-esque commentary to my Howard Stern. Galt was there for shits and giggles. Presented for you now: a down and dirty heart-to-heart with Scott 'Lum The Mad' Jennings about MMOGs, archenemies, and all things Mongbat...

Posted by Nobody at 12:23 AM

January 19, 2001

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon! New Guild!

Tryon over at Imanewbie.com sent us this announcement:

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon! New Guild!

Hail! This week there's a new 'toon and a major announcement. First off the latest ImaNewbie 'toon. This episode ImaNewbie is strolling down a path in Felucca when he spies a coin on the ground. Finding a coin is supposed to bring good luck, right?

Next is a major announcement of something brand new in ImaTown on Pacific. The formation of the ImaTown Citizens guild. So many people have asked to join in with ImaNewbie and the L.O.S.E.R.S. that we have created a special citizens guildstone. Now anyone who wants to join can get their "Ima" character added to the stone. All the details are over at my site.

Added Jan. 19th. 2001: Episode #133 - Find a Penny, Pick it Up...

ImaNewbie does Britannia
http://www.imanewbie.com/

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 7:09 PM

OSI: Seeking Stories of the Shadowlords Faction

The following was just added to FYI on the Ultima Online Web site:

Seeking Stories of the Shadowlords Faction

Darkness hangs at the ancient crypt in the woods east a Yew. Strange figures merge with the darkness, and the air is thick with the stench of evil. Those who follow the Shadowlords are gaining numbers and spreading across Britannia, brought together by a power dreadful and dangerous, brought from beyond the familiar lands.

Are you a follower of the Shadowlords? Whether you dabble in black magics, raise sword or mace, or aid in battle from the sidelines, we want to hear your tale. Send us a story about your time spent in the Shadowlord faction.

Send your story as e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, January 26th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include "Shadowlords Faction" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to "uo-profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 6:53 PM

January 17, 2001

Lum the Mad resigns

Lum the Mad — famous online multiplayer game critique or infamous ranter, depending on your perspective — posted the following resignation at his web site of the same name:

CODA

I'll keep this one short. Effective today, lumthemad.net is no longer run by Lum the Mad. I haven't decided yet whether I'll continue to write for the site - and for reasons that will become obvious, it's not really my decision to make.

You see, in the past month or so my real life job (you know, the one I do for a living) has taken a nose-dive from "Dilbert" straight into "Office Space". People who hang out in #lummies and hear my occasional profanity-laden diatribe have probably already figured out that I'm looking for a new job.

Well, I am. And for a few weeks now I've been in contact with a few of the gaming companies that we cover, trying to find out what my options are.

While no firm offer has been made by anyone at this point, I don't feel that ethically, I can continue to seek employment from the same people that we cover. In short, I have to choose what I want to do when I grow up.

This site has always been a hobby - a labor of love, and no one who "works" here has any pretention of it ever becoming a career. Recent events in the exciting world of gaming networks certainly prove this, if nothing else. Since I'm going to get another job anyway, it might as well be something besides making spam go faster.

Yet I've also tried, believe it or not, to hold to a basic ethical standard of conduct in what we write. I don't feel comfortable deciding what stories to follow up on at the same time as I seek employment from the same people.

So it's time to step back and let other voices be heard. I hope you allow them to challenge, infuriate, and occasionally amuse you in the same manner as you did I.

It's been a blast.
The original article can be read here.

Posted by Nobody at 6:13 PM

January 12, 2001

OSI: Seeking Stories of the Council of Mages

The following was just posted to FYI on the UO.com website:

Seeking Stories of the Council of Mages

Behind the polished sandstone walls of Magincia, the men and women of the Council of Mages meet to plan and plot the future of the Felucca facet. At odds with court mage Nystul over the creation of the Trammel facet, they maintain their fortress in Felucca while battling to control the facet's besieged cities.

Are you a member of the Council of Mages faction? Not all who follow the Council are masters of the magical arts. How do you contribute to this faction? Send us a story about a battle you've joined, or a tale of life within the Council of Mages faction.

Send your story as e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, January 19th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include "Council of Mages Faction" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to "uo-profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification."

Posted by Nobody at 6:19 PM

***ImaNewbie does Britannia!***New Toon! [#132 - New Year's Resolutions]

This was sent to us by Tryon of ImaNewbie:

Hi everyone! Yes, I am back. The rumors of my death I fear were somewhat exaggerated. I just decided to take some holiday downtime and recharge my batteries. Anyway, ImaNewbie is ready to begin a whole new year of adventure in the wonderful world of Britannia starting with the new 'toon waiting for you at my site. So head on over and check out Episode #132. Enjoy!

Added Jan. 12th. 2001
Episode #132 - New Year's Resolutions

ImaNewbie does Britannia
http://www.imanewbie.com/

later...Tryon

Posted by Nobody at 6:17 PM

January 11, 2001

Men Are From Quake, Women Are From Ultima

The following article recently appeared in the New York Times, available on the web here (after a free site registration).


Top, Don Preisler; Marty Katz, both for The New York Times
A genre of role-playing Internet game with an emphasis on community is attracting many women, including from top, Heather Crouch of Austin, Tex., and Jeanni Hall of Odenton, Md.


Men Are From Quake, Women Are From Ultima
By EMILY LABER

EVERY month or so Heather Crouch's husband, Si, used to bring home a new computer game, and she considered it one of her "wifely duties" to watch as he set it up and started killing monsters. After 15 minutes or so, she would walk away. But one day Si Crouch brought home a game called Ultima Online, and from the first moment Heather saw it, she was hooked.

That was three years ago. Since then, a new genre of multiplayer Internet game has been born, one that is drawing female players in surprising numbers to a pastime that had been dominated by men. The games are set in medieval towns with a knights-in- armor flavor, but characters are not limited to fighting, as in more traditional computer games. They can also chat, buy and sell items like food and weapons, run businesses or make friends and go exploring.

"What women are finding so interesting about these games is that they provide a sense of community and social structure that you don't see in other games," said Patricia Pizer, a lead designer at Turbine Entertainment Software, which developed and regularly updates the Microsoft game Asheron's Call.

In real life Heather Crouch is a 30-year- old stay-at-home mother of two in Austin, Tex. In Ultima Online, she is the leader of a merchants' association in which about 100 other players participate. "I've never been into hack and slash," she said. "It's the relationships that've kept me in."

Officials at the companies that make the three most popular games — Ultima Online, from Origin Systems; Asheron's Call; and EverQuest, from Sony — said they did not design the games with women in mind and have been surprised at the response. The game companies do not officially monitor sex ratios, and since male players can create female characters and vice versa, there is no accurate way to judge how many women and girls are playing. But based on the number of women who participate at fan sites, volunteer to become official guides within the games and attend real-life player gatherings, officials at the three game companies informally estimate that at least 20 to 30 percent of players are women.

A survey conducted last month by PC Data Online showed that slightly more women than men play online games and that women tend to prefer less violent games like gambling, card games and puzzles. Sean Wargo, a senior analyst at PC Data, said that 20 percent of the players of shoot-'em-up games are women, while 23 percent of the players of role-playing games are women. But Mr. Wargo said that the survey categories were broad and that he believed that the number of women playing the subset of role-playing games that includes Ultima Online, EverQuest and Asheron's Call may be larger.

Among the signs is a blossoming of women's fan sites. And in response to requests from female players, Asheron's Call endowed its characters with two new abilities: curtsying and wearing dresses, according to Dave Namerow, the online community manager at Turbine Entertainment. Female players enjoy hunting and fighting in the games, though many say they tire of those activities faster than men do. "There's only so many times you can kill the beast," remarked Kim Gonzalez, 30, an Asheron's Call player from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Although the games are booming, with more than 600,000 people worldwide paying $10 a month to play, their appeal to women may be the most important aspect of their success. Computer gaming is a $7 billion annual business, but industry leaders have been keenly aware that half their potential market — women and girls — has been only partially tapped. "The gateway for getting women into gaming is going to be through these role-playing games," said Gordon Wrinn of Sony Online Entertainment, which produces EverQuest.

The games are alternate realities, available 24 hours a day, and the average player is logging on for at least 20 hours a week. Players each create a screen character, choosing its sex and profession and giving it a name, and they experience the game through those alter egos, which they control from their keyboards. Their characters can communicate with one another through typed messages.

While the characters in traditional computer games tend to be fighters, here players choose from a variety of professions — tailor, chef, blacksmith, carpenter — and then devote hours to building their skills and strengths. Characters can steal from and even kill one another, but they can also be law-abiding artisans or shop owners.

The rulebooks are sketchy, so experienced players often act as mentors to newcomers. "You're not competing necessarily against other people," said Carly Staehlin of Origin Systems. "You're all engaged in an experience together."

That sense of community can extend beyond the game into real life (in gamer lingo, RL). Romances and friendships born in the game sometimes cross over to the real world, and the formation of other meaningful relationships is common. Nancy Boone, 51, an EverQuest player from Corsicana, Tex., said she knew a lonely 13-year-old Canadian girl in the game who received long-distance help with her homework from adult players. And when an experienced EverQuest player recently died, a memorial service held within the game was "attended" by hundreds of people. "It takes your breath away," said Sharon Morris, 31, an EverQuest player from Bedford, England. "It really is a real community."

Women and men both hold leadership roles in the games, heading local governments, military alliances and other groups. What most distinguishes women players, game developers say, is that they use their imaginations to push the limits of the games, pioneering ingenious new kinds of player contacts. "There have been emergent behaviors from women that are really kind of fascinating," said Ms. Pizer, at Turbine. "Women are seeing openings for social interactions that the game designers didn't necessarily plan on."

Some characters played by women band together as informal "fashion police," taunting characters who are badly dressed. Other women team up to help new players by handing out gold pieces, weapons and advice.

Women have also started innovative businesses. Laurence Valette, 35, of Versailles, France, operates an interior design firm within Ultima Online. Like any real-life decorator, Ms. Valette's character tries to accommodate her clients' wishes, however odd they may be. When an evil character told her he wanted his tower to be "frightening, though not vulgar," she adopted a black-and-red palette and made judicious use of skulls as decorative elements.

Another female player founded a theater company in Ultima Online that has staged several full-length performances, including "A Christmas Carol" and "The Wizard of Oz," that are acted out by players' screen aliases. To move the performances along briskly, players don't type their lines in real time but rather paste them in advance into text boxes. Costumes and props are improvised from the limited items available in the game; Scrooge's tombstone, for example, was a stack of ingots. The plays have been successful, with up to 50 players logging on to watch. "It's virtual, but at the same time it's the real thing," said the director, Jeanni Hall, 32, of Odenton, Md. "The energy I commit to this is equal or more than I would commit to a real play."

Douglas Rushkoff, the author of several books on Internet culture, said that because women tend to be excluded from positions of power in real life, they are drawn to cybercommunities where they can make an impact. "These are games where women can be included and can sense that the world itself is conforming to their vision of it," he said.

It's a two-way equation. Not only do women alter the games; the experience of playing can change women's lives. Erinn Duce, 20, of Sacramento, Calif., works for a small nonprofit agency that helps disabled homeless people, but in EverQuest she plays the notorious Mistress Ezra, who is prone to looting and killing. Ms. Duce said she is shy by nature but that the freedom she feels in the game has changed her. "I've become more vocal, more outgoing," she said. "There's less stress in my life."

For Val Massey, the transformation was even more pronounced. Not long ago, Ms. Massey, who is 36 and lives in Austin, Tex., was in an abusive marriage and had no job, few skills and an ailing grandmother to care for. But, in Ultima Online, Ms. Massey played a successful businesswoman, a character she named Martha Stewart, who got rich selling box dinners and catering parties. Other players knew her by reputation and respected her. "It gave me a sense of self-worth," she said, "and the confidence to try to better my situation." Ms. Massey befriended a male player, first in the game, then in real life, and ultimately left her husband to marry him.

Experiences like those come as no surprise to Mark Pesce, creator of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language, or VRML, and author of "The Playful World." "We call them games," he said, "but it's actually a rehearsal for reality."
Raph Koster, formerly of OSI and UO, responded to the comment, "...the three most popular games - Ultima Online, from Origin Systems; Asheron's Call; and EverQuest, from Sony - said they did not design the games with women in mind and have been surprised at the response," in the Ultima Online eGroups mailing list, below.
Untrue! :P UO was most definitely designed with women in mind, by my wife, who was a designer on the team (one of the original three). In fact, we were disappointed to get as FEW as we did.

-Raph

Posted by Nobody at 10:16 PM

January 8, 2001

OSI: Seeking Tales of True Britannians

The following was just posted to FYI on the UO.com website:

Seeking Tales of True Britannians

Deep in the throne room of Castle Britannia, behind sturdy strong walls and surrounded by the history of Britannia itself, is the fortress heart of the True Britannians. While those who charge forth under the banner of the purple and gold join the faction for individual reasons, upholding the virtues and promoting the 'true' Britannia is the goal of all.

Are you a member of the True Britannians? We want to hear tales of your adventures and battles with your faction brethren. Send us a story about a battle you've participated in, watched, or perhaps just tell us what your life is like as a member of the True Britannians.

Send your story as e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Monday, January 15th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include "True Britannian Faction" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to "uo-profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 6:31 PM

Companion's of the Hawk

This weekend, Hawkwind of the Swords of Sacrifice announced the publication of his novel, "Companion's of the Hawk". The original announcement from here is reprinted below, and the book's description & purchasing information at iUniverse.com can be found here.

Happy New Year! - and the book is ready!

Happy New Year Everyone! Hope your new year is full of good.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

I received this today, January 5, 2001 from my publisher :
This is your official notice that your book "Companion's of the Hawk" by Granvil A. Pennington is now "live" to order exclusively from the iUniverse.com Web site. It will most likely be 6-8 weeks before your book is available through Ingram and from places like Amazon.com, but in the meantime copies of your book may be ordered directly from us.

The price of your book is $18.95. You may place orders for your book by contacting our Customer Service Dept. at 877-823-9235 or custservice@iuniverse.com.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
For those interested in those kinds of things my final page count was 392. (I was amazed how much I wrote in the first one) Currently, I am winding up the last two chapters of Book 4 and already started on Chapter One of Book 5 since Girion was so kind as to give me a good couple of paragraphs to introduce him. *Chuckles*. If you liked the AD&D world and played the game you will enjoy this novel since it is similiar in approach.

So if you like this novel you can look forward to more exciting reading!

Posted by Nobody at 1:56 PM

January 7, 2001

Gamespy's 20 Questions with Richard Garriott

Gamespy was recently able to interview Richard Garriott, creator of the Ultima games. The complete interview is here, and the introduction to it is below:

20 Questions with Richard Garriott
The legendary Lord British speaks about Ultima, freaky fans, and the future of gaming.
By - Tina "Cassandra" Haumersen

In his first interview since his departure from Origin, Richard Garriott (Lord British), chats about a variety of topics. However, he promises that once his non-compete agreement expires, he'll be able to talk more about his departure from Origin and what his plans are. So for now, Garriott fans can chew on these tasty morsels...
What's he been doing in his "down time"?
GameSpy: When you're not working, how do you spend your time?

Richard Garriott: Adventure travel! Been doing allot this summer/fall. Recently went to Africa on Safari, Russia for the 3rd time doing cosmonaut training, white water rafting, etc. In the past, I've visited all 7 continents, been down the Amazon, to the South Pole, down to the Titanic, and to deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Next year , I'm submarining to the bottom of the sea at the North Pole.

Posted by Nobody at 1:08 PM

January 5, 2001

OSI: Seeking Tales from Minax Faction Members

The following was just posted to FYI on the UO.com website:

Seeking Tales from Minax Faction Members

If you asked her, she'd tell you that despite what they say, living well is not the best revenge — destruction is. And then, she'd quite likely have you fed to the orc hordes. And yet, among those that follow her lead, Minax instills — nay, demands — the deepest devotion, the utmost respect, and unwavering loyalty.

Are you a follower of Minax? Do you charge forth into battle proudly bearing the faction colors of blood red and black? If so, we want to hear from you! Tell us a tale of your adventures within the Minax faction, or perhaps just describe a day in the life of a follower of Minax.

Send your story as e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, January 12th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include "Minax Faction" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to "uo-profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 11:45 PM

January 1, 2001

Happy New Year!

Last night quite a few of us gathered at the Golden Brew to celebrate the crossing over into the New Year. Ursula counted down to midnight, after which a toast was made and well-wishing passed all around. More and more people had joined the party in the last few minutes before midnight, and afterward they moved outside for dancing and general merriment. Soon enough, Ursula became inspired and conscripted Pat Factor X into Gating a group of party-goers from city to city. We travelled from Skara Brae to Jhelom to Britain and beyond.

Many people joined in with the spreading of good will, but one man in Papua tried to confound the festivities. Seemingly not one to join in with those of good cheer, he argued that it was just another day, like any holiday, and not a very exciting one at that. I felt the need to pause the travellers for a moment or two, pointing out to this man that celebrating the New Year, and in fact any holiday, is important for it's symbolism, if nothing else. It is a day not only to mark in our calendars, but in our hearts, as a time when we can make the conscious decisions to inspire ourselves and those surrounding us to help the world become a better place.

Let us take the time to consider that every New Year's transition is an opportunity for us to reflect: upon the wonderful friends we've made, our personal accomplishments, and our mutual achievements. Let us look forward into this New Year to renew hope in ourselves, and inspire ourselves for future success. We may all create better lives, starting today, right from the countdown to midnight and continuing forever forward.

Happy New Year, everyone. Happy New Millenium. Happy New Future.

Nathan Harper
Emissary of the Freeborn


I painted this picture to help commemorate the occasion.

Posted by Ursula at 7:06 PM

December 30, 2000

UO: 3D Alpha - The Guided Tour

Xena Dragon over at UOSS posted some more opinions about Ultima Online: Third Dawn, here. Below is the introductory paragraph.

UO: 3D Alpha - The Guided Tour

In the past days I've seen so many different things in the new land Ilshenar that it's hard to determine where to start. Let me take you by the hand, across the new lands, as we visit each of the eight shrine moongates and their surroundings. Note: not all dungeon, cave and passage entrances and exits that teleport you to another area of the map are working in this Alpha test. Therefor you may not be able to enter certain areas that are described below from all sides, sometimes only one of many ways to get into an area actually works. Ilshenar is roughly doughnut shaped, with a large hole in the middle and various forms of terrain scattered around.

Posted by Nobody at 11:09 AM

December 25, 2000

Happy Holidays!

Gajan Kristnaskon! (What this means)

The Freeborn Pressmen hope that all of you are having a happy and safe holiday season, and wish everyone well during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Boxing Day, Winter Solstice, the Emperor's Birthday, and all those other December celebrations that we hold so dear.

Special holiday season tidbit: December 26, curiously, seems to actually be an obscure National Holiday in the USA known as "National Whiners Day"! Beware! :D

Posted by Nobody at 10:38 PM

December 24, 2000

UO: Third Dawn - Alpha Test First Looks

Xena Dragon, over at UOSS, received a CD for Ultima Online: Third Dawn, and shared some first impressions with us. Below is a snippet, and the whole article is here:

UO: Third Dawn - Alpha Test First Looks

Since the Alpha Test Server was not on-line yet, I logged in on a regular shard to at least see what Britannia looks like now. The first thing you notice is that the 'old' and the 'new' art go along rather well. Objects in my house for instance all used the 'old' art, where my Avatar itself was presented with a 3D model. The grass and trees outside are made of new art too. One thing I immediately noticed is that spoken text appears over your body instead of over your head. Like I already noticed during the login sequence, all text and gumps fade in onto the screen, instead of just appearing, which looks rather nice. I ran back and forth a bit and even though the graphics card I tested on was below specs, the performance was good.

Posted by Nobody at 1:44 PM

Paul Sage Interview

RPGVault was recently able to interview Paul "Sage" Sage, Lead Designer for Ultima Online. The entire interview can be read here. Below is their introduction to the interview.

Paul Sage Interview

Although other titles can claim the distinction of having reached the market earlier, there is no denying the fact that the release of Ultima Online in 1997 represents a very significant landmark in the history of computer gaming. Until that time, subscription-based persistent online worlds were regarded as a niche category, and a small one at that. As a result, the initial projections for UO were in the range of a few thousand players. It became clear during development that the level of interest was much greater than originally anticipated, and its ultimate success set the stage for the games that have followed, and for the explosive growth that is expected during the next few years.

Despite the subsequent release of other major titles and the impending arrival of quite a few more including a second online world set in an offshoot of the Ultima mythos, Ultima Online remains tremendously popular among online gamers around the world. A very important factor in this has been the game's ongoing development by the UO Live team, development that has produced a continuing stream of improvements and fixes as well as major expansions and updates. As we return to our occasional series of online world interviews, we're very happy to welcome Paul Sage, current Lead Designer on the UO Live team, who shares some very interesting thoughts with us.

Posted by Nobody at 1:31 PM

December 23, 2000

Imanewbie: New Special Christmas Toon! (Part 2)

The following announcement was posted at Imanewbie:

New Special Christmas Toon! (Part 2): Santa's Revenge!

Last week Santa Claus suffered a serious setback to his plan to distribute presents to all the citizens of Britannia, due to the unwanted attention he received from the diabolical GM Grinch. Now as you all know, ImaNewbie is kind of a champion of the underdog so I just could not let it end there. This week ImaNewbie meets up with Santa and tries to help him replace his lost items. (hrmmm ... something familiar about that phrase ... Oh Yeah! GM standard reply #116 "Sorry but we cannot replace lost items." Anyway, you will find the latest in the 'toons section of ImaNewbie does Britannia. Enjoy!

Posted by Nobody at 11:33 AM

December 21, 2000

Interview with Gordon “Tyrant” Walton

This was posted recently to UOVault, sent in by Balberith:

Hail,

UO Deutschland (UOD) is proud to present an interview taken at the UO:TD press event on December 18th with Executive Producer and Vice President for Online Services, Gordon "Tyrant" Walton about "Ultima Online: The Third Dawn".

The interview is available in English and German as well. Additionally there are two MPEG movies covering parts of the interview (the third part was broken after recording and we didn't want to repeat the whole thing - Tyrant looked quite beat *g*).

Point your browser to:
www.uod.de (that's the main site)
www.uod.de/spieltips/thirddawn/interview_tyrant.html (German text of the interview)
www.uod.de/spieltips/thirddawn/interview_tyrant_eng.html (English text of the interview)

You will find the links to the MPEG on the interview sites.

Viele Gruesse,
Best Regards,

Balberith
Michael Werner
Webmaster UO Deutschland

http://www.uod.de
http://www.ultima-worlds.de
http://www.uo-deutschland.de

One thing that stood out to me, having met Lord British within UO, was this tidbit from the interview:
UOD: Here’s one that’s a little bit away from UO:TD: Will Lord British ever show up again since Richard Garriot is no longer working for Origin?

Tyrant: I don’t know what you mean by show up… will someone play Lord British? No.
Looks like more chances of me running into LB at the Golden Brew. :(

Posted by Hazard [EiC] at 6:58 PM

December 15, 2000

Faction News from UO Journal

The following new pieces were available today on UO Journal::

Gorechild Elected Leader of Minaxians

Gorechild has been elected the very first leader of the most powerful faction on the shard. No surprise as he is one the best warriors on the shard with a long history of victories. He was at one point one of the most feared killers in most parts of Britannia. He is a longstanding member of LoD. I attempted to get an interview from him but I was dead before I even got a word out.

Longshot Elected Leader of the CoM

Longshot has been elected leader of the second largest guild on the shard. The CoM is one of the only guilds to have taken and held town sigils for even a few hours. With recent attacks on Magincia it has been very hard for the faction get together. Can he over come the communication problems in the faction?

Durham Stargazer

Posted by Thellaren at 11:14 AM

December 14, 2000

Faction Observations

Tonight while updating sigil runes in my faction runebook, I noticed Minaxians firmly entrenched at almost every sigil and townstone location across Felucca, save Magincia. Recalling back and forth between sigils, I spied Finance Ministers as well as Sheriffs devoted to towns such as Skara Brae, Moonglow, and Yew. Beserkers and Dragoons (Minax's guards) were also being stationed in Trinsic, Yew, and Britain with several being enlisted and trained as I looked on. In Britain several vendors were also evident around the sigil, selling bottles, faction horses, lumber, regeants, and ore.

From this citizen's glance, it seems like the Minaxians are slowly gaining a firm foothold on the various cities across the land, a huge step since Trinsic was invaded by Juo'nar and Marabelle at the beginning of the year.

Posted by Hazard [EiC] at 2:02 AM

December 11, 2000

Friends Without Faces

Ursula pointed out this charming poem which Dischordia posted on the Swords of Sacrifice Message Forum:

Friends Without Faces

We sit here and we type, and we stare at our screens
We all have to wonder, what this possibly means.

With our mouses we roam, through rooms in a maze
Looking for something or someone, as we sit in a daze.

We chat with each other, we all type our woes
Small groups we do form, and gang up on our foes.

We wait for somebody, to type out our name
We want recognition, but its always the same.

We give kisses and hugs, and sometimes we flirt
In ICQ we chat deeply, and reveal why we hurt.

We do form friendships - but - why we dont know
Sometimes these friendships, will flourish and grow.

Why is it we share, the thoughts in our mind
With those we can't see, as tho we were blind.

The answer is simple, its as clear as a bell
We all have our problems, and need someone to tell.

We can't tell real people, but tell someone we must
So we turn to the 'puter, and to those we can trust.

Even though it is crazy, the truth still remains
We are friends with out faces, with odd little names.

( author unknown )

Posted by Nobody at 9:08 PM

December 7, 2000

Adventures of a Cookie Salesman

I read a half-mention of something on Lum the Mad that lead me to "Adventures of a Cookie Salesman". This is a 10 page Ultima Online cartoon, starring a parent roaming Britannia while trying to sell cookies for the Vesper Girls School. Here's the opening paragraph:

Like any good husband and father, I do as I'm told.  My wife and eldest daughter told they needed to sell cookies as a school fundraiser.  They said other fathers sold them at the office and I was expected to try as well.
You can read about these amusing adventures here: http://www.pusateri.org/blood/pictures/cookie1.html.

Posted by Thellaren at 11:25 AM

December 6, 2000

New Freeborn Press Poll

A new poll has been created: "What type of connection do you use to access the internet?" The Poll was suggested by Shard. It can be found by going to the drop-down menu at the top left of this site labeled "Welcome to Freeborn", dragging down to "COMMUNITY" then releasing at "-Polls" (or click here.

Feel free to take part in our poll...or even submit a poll of your own!

(Note: our Polls page currently takes some time to load, but we're working on a method to make it more efficient. Thanks for your patience as the Freeborn Press continues to grow.)

Posted by Brenstar at 12:06 AM

November 24, 2000

Log of UOCC Chat with Tyrant posted

I read the following announcement on the UO House of Commons site:

Log of UOCC Chat with Tyrant posted

The complete log of the Twenty-first UO Celebrity chat with Tyrant has been posted, and is available from the right-hand menu.
Gordon Walton, a.k.a. "Tyrant", is Vice President of Online Services for OSI. Some general questions were asked about the future of UO, including some snippets about Factions and the new UO:3D client. Here's his quick summary of the upcoming goals of his team:
OSI_Tyrant - I'd like to close by talking about what we are up to in the near future.
OSI_Tyrant - We are getting Factions out to all servers, then Rewards.
OSI_Tyrant - Then the work to integrate UO:Third Dawn into the production servers.
OSI_Tyrant - Since you will be beta testing on your home shards (those of you that get the beta client).
OSI_Tyrant - We have all the feedback from the UO Faire to digest, decide on and prioritize.
OSI_Tyrant - While we continue to work on fixing a lot of the problems that the game has always had.
OSI_Tyrant - Along with the balancing of risk/reward and PvP you often ask for.
OSI_Tyrant - And the fixing of the economy and improvements to crafting.
Here's a quick snippet about the UO:3D beta test:
Soth - *C_JonSnow_Pac* How will we go about getting beta clients?
OSI_Tyrant - We will announce this in December. Watch your favorite web page (Stratics) and your email box
OSI_Tyrant - as we will be announcing this far and wide and emailing the players also.
OSI_Tyrant - You will be able to order it on the web for shipping and handling costs only ($4.95 in the USA).
OSI_Tyrant - And it will be patchable to the final version, so you don't need to get the final version.
OSI_Tyrant - So that is it, thanks folks.

Posted by Nobody at 3:33 PM

November 23, 2000

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at the Freeborn Press, to all of you, your friends, and your families (even if, for whatever reason, you don't celebrate Thanksgiving). Remember: eat wisely! Don't eat so much that you fall asleep or can't stand up to walk over to your computer when you should be playing Ultima Online! :]

One thing that we'll give thanks for is all of you, helping us achieve the level of success we're at today. Thank you all.

Posted by Nobody at 10:55 AM

November 16, 2000

Runesabre Interviewed on Variety of Topics Including UO:3D and SP

UOSS posted an interview with Runesabre, Lead Programmer of UO:

Runesabre Interviewed on Variety of Topics Including UO:3D and SP

Last evening, after nearly two years in the planning, Joshua Rowan and myself finally got a chance to sit down with Runesabre (UO: Third Dawn Dev. Team) and discuss several subjects. Discussion ranged from Runesabre and his arrival at OSI through the development and changes to Siege Perilous up to the most recently announced UO: Third Dawn addition we're all looking forward to. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as Joshua and I had conducting it!
The entire interview can be read here.

Posted by Nobody at 6:54 PM

November 6, 2000

OSI: Seeking Stories of Real Life Meetings

The following was posted to the FYI section of the Ultima Online web site:

Seeking Stories of Real Life Meetings

As the World Faire approaches, many of us will get a chance to meet, for the first time, people with whom we have devloped friendships inside the world of Britannia. Have you ever made a friend in the real world through Ultima Online? If so, we want to hear your story. Send an e-mail to uo-profiles@uo.com by Friday, November 14th. Please be sure your story falls between 500-1000 words, and include "Meeting a Friend Online" in your subject line. Please provide a name and phone number for verification of the story. Submissions to "uo-profiles" become the property of OSI and may be used for special events, promotions, and/or advertising. All submissions must be made by the original author and are subject to verification.

Posted by Nobody at 5:44 PM

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