Draconi took some time out to answer some of our questions from UOForums users.
Here's our interview with Draconi..
1) Connor: It seems like the current team is trying to reconcile past plotlines and arcs, or at least trying to weave some kind of coherent back-story together using past elements.
Is this the case or am I reading into the currInu scenario too much?You know how they say that too many cooks spoil the broth? Well no worries - it seems like we have just the right mix of cooks here on the team! The ingredients have been added up, diced, sliced, and we’ve been taking turns stirring with great care.
Our goal is to create a coherent and compelling back-story that weaves together past events, current plotlines, and the myriad of subplots that have been sliding in and out of our attentions. UO offers a very rich tapestry to work from, as does Ultima itself, and we’re more than excited to be working on these events.
So to answer your question: there are quite a few things that need to be resolved even with the current events, let alone the older plotlines, but soon you’ll see where this is all heading. Through it, we hope you’ll be able to impact the world in a way you never imagined.
2) Digital: Thiefs.. will we see a return to them being more than just a Artifact stealer? / Pop Lancermane:Are there plans to add new stealables?
There aren’t any plans right now, but let me mention that we do recognize how valuable thief gameplay is to UO. Weighed against everything else, however, we don’t want to do anything until we have the time to give that Thievery truly deserves.3) Tukaram: Any plans on adding the buff/debuff icons or target reticule to 3D?
I don’t believe there are any such plans.
4) General question: How did you go from player to EA Designer?
Well, it all started back in college, when I was studying Computer Science. I’d recently joined the Stratics volunteer staff to be an Atlantic forum moderator. One of the cool things about Stratics is that they were going to go to E3, and I managed to swing a media pass in exchange for reporting on the MMOs there.5) General question: If you could add in one RP only sort of deal to this game, what would it be?
So there I was: at E3 2005, walking around and exploring everything to be had. Well, my assignment was Imperator, a sci-fi MMO that Mythic was developing. I remember walking over and chitchatting with some of the developers before my interview, and it was already shaping up to be a cool game. [Insert “This would be a cool job” *ding* here.]
I sat down with Steve Marvin, designer, and he launched into a rather passionate explanation of what it was all about. I was very impressed – it was still all very tentative (and would be suspended indefinitely later), but I liked the concept and thought they had a good, well, UO-ish direction to it all.
I ended up writing up my notes, and set off exploring again. I ran into Starr Long (UO’s original Director) who was showing off Tabula Rasa. There was a short moment of fanboi-ish reminiscence, and then I set out on my way again. [Insert “I wish I were a game developer” *ding* here.]
A very odd coincidence then occurred. I’d wanted to see the Video Game Pianist, Martin Leung, since Brady Games was sponsoring him and had him set up in the entrance area of the main hall. He did his genius piano thing to wild applause and a nice crowd, because hey, we all love hearing the Mario themes played at high speed. I was recording the whole thing on my digital camera, and sure enough after the show, one of the BradyGames guys asked me if I’d be willing to trade footage for books.
Interesting fact: Apparently their parent company is the same that does a whole lot of game development books. Two weeks later, I had a couple of boxes of some of the best reading I could’ve imagined. So, to the pages of “Designing Virtual Worlds” and “Core Techniques and Algorithms in Game Programming,” I returned to my normal college life.
But now my outlook was totally different. I wanted to be a game developer. I kept working at programming, but now wanted to branch out more towards design. I also knew I wanted to work on MMOs, and especially UO, since I’d been playing since beta.
Then the fateful day came when EA put up a posting on Stratics looking for a game designer. I submitted my resume, a demo, sample code, writing samples, etc., and waited, and waited, and waited. At one point Wilki had to basically print out my application and give it to Lady Lu when the online submission system was having issues. He has my undying gratitude! Well, a phone interview, a real interview, and a relocation later I was starting my new job as a UO designer. J
Hmm, people who know me probably know my biggest RP wish for UO is to bring it up to at least an “Ultima” level for interactivity. If I could only choose one, it’d be to make the NPCs at least as complex as Ultima 6 or 7 with daily schedules, homes, stories, and character specific speech.
6) General question: With your experience of playing UO since beta, what do you think is the main reason that UO has survived?
Community, certainly!7) Kettlewhistle78: How much of your view of UOs battle system has changed going from player to designer?
First, there’s our actual community. This is a group of people, both fans of Ultima and newcomers who only know UO, who leave very real impressions on one another and the shards they play on. They’re amazingly strong, dedicated, and passionate. It’s not all hugs and roses all of the time, yet the very real way in which people interact and draw out their conflicts, and their resolutions, form bonds that very few other MMOs can boast.
Then there’s UO itself: a game basically built to foster community. I have a profound respect for both the Ultima series and Ultima Online. Ultima was always about how you impacted the world, and UO took many of the things that made the old games great and incorporated it into a place hundreds of thousands could call home. UO still thrives because at the core it’s a well designed world, and inspires the kind of community that can keep it strong.
Quite a bit. I mean, I’d always kept up with the calculators and after a while a lot of stuff is just intuitive. Yet actually walking through how the systems work: timing, conditions, randomness, it’s all much clearer now.
I’d have to say my view has changed from “interested” to “appreciative.” I realize some may cringe thinking that Draconi is “happy” with the way things are (I’m not), but to be honest, UO has an excellent underlying combat system that suffers most from unbalanced changes, rather than inherent flaws.
8) Gwenyth: What type of characters do you play in UO; ie: PvPer, PvMer, crafter, pirate...?
After all this time I have, well, one of everything, but I actively play my PvP and PvM chars, as well as a Ghost (not for lack of skill in the former two – it’s just fun). After I joined the UO team I retired my merchant characters and accepted the fact that I couldn’t spend an hour a day in front of WBB banksitting. J
For the curious: I’m not that crazy about moongate fights – I find myself on the not-so-virtuous side of champ spawns, mostly.
9) Minotaur2K: If you could add in any system into the game what would it be?
Could I choose to revise/repair? If so, I’d work on balancing the combat system to make *both* PvM and PvP challenging, rewarding, and fun.Many thanks to Draconi for a great interview!