Many thanks to Cathat for taking the time out to answer our users questions and many thanks to Jeremy for co ordinating the interview.
Here's our interview with Cathat.
1) Any chance you could put together some ready made house designs? I'm not talking about "classic" houses. I'm talking about perhaps a house design a person could use and then modify to suit your own needs.Editable Customized Housing would be a big feature that would probably be planned out with full design documents and go through a full design process like any new feature. If you were to do something like that, you’d definitely want to do it right.2) Any chance that homes the size of 18x18 could have a standard basement? You could have the basement always in the same spot of the 18x18 plots. Just have a ladder down. And, then the basement wouldn't be customizable.
Another option would be to have a teleporter take you to a seperate "basement" place. It would be cool for the basement to add extra storage. And, it would be cool to have a "secret" hidaway underground. It would add a lot to roleplaying.Those are ideas I’ve talked to the other Dev about. Pros and Cons to each idea – Much of the difficulty being engineering tasks or engine requirements. However – we are fascinated by the same ideas and haven’t stopped looking at them yet.3) Where do you get a lot of your ideas?
It depends on the task. Various ideas spur from various things. Certainly everything I see and read and do, sort of goes to my collective memory. When it comes time for ideas I talk to others who are doing the same creative process. We bounce ideas around in our heads – then off of each other.4) Do you just play UO, or is it all work and no play for you?Oh I play UO – but often it turns to ‘work’ in one form or another as everything about the game is of concern to me. I usually start out playing – but wind up taking notes back to the office to improve this or that, or to speak to someone (nag them incessantly) about whatever we’re currently working on.5) Just curious about the types of software tools that are used in developing UO and UO:KR artwork, both tiles and mobs.On the Art side of things we’ve got the common tools for our main development – 3d apps like Mudbox, Zbrush and Studio Max. 2d Programs like Photoshop, Debabelizer and ACDsee are used frequently as well as other lesser known tool sets for icon building and documentation creation. We have a whole suite of various project tracking, archiving and publishing tools that are pretty standard issue items. A handful of internal toolsets are used too – various UO Editors, apps, max scripts and executables that we update frequently. We even use simple text editors like Wordpad to write XML, Java or alter simple scripts. Of course I usually do my best to avoid having to do Python or Wombat code related tasks. I’d rather let the designers do that while I dig in and do art related tasks for them.6) How you find time to be a 'regular' guy and take such an active part in the Community?
Clearly Engineering and Design use completely different tools for their day to day tasks. However, much of what we use as our main development are the common tools most devs use in this industry. Most Devs use a common suite of tools and have their own ‘in house’ toolsets these days.
UO is a game that has an established culture, and an outspoken community. It’s my belief that in order to be as effective as I can be, I must research and participate in as much of it I can. Guess you could say I’m a believer in total immersion. The more I see as a fellow player, and the more I talk and listen to people, the better insight I have in serving the community.7) What is your favourite 'project ' that you have created for the game?
Most good Devs dedicate a HUGE % of their waking hours to “making the game” – in or out of the studio. I’m no exception to that rule.
I dunno. I put a lot of myself into so many parts and disciplines in the game, and it often blends with decisions, input and changes from others. So I don’t think I really have ANY SINGLE favorite thing really.8) Which Art are you most 'proud' of?Hmm – Well I really enjoyed the freedom of creating nearly all of UOKR’s library of effects.9) I am a deco addict. I noticed in many of the screen shots from UO:KR that objects still have a tendency to "hang" of the edge of tables and such. Is there any way / intent to correct this? When I set a table, i want the place settings to actually BE on the table!
I created unique particle effects for the individual spells, special moves, weather and quite a few monsters. Many special moves and effects were things that never existed before or were recycled effects in the older clients. It’s a kick to see folks blasting each other, or Draconi firing up the Dark Knight quest or doing fireworks using my effects. For everything I see on the screen I immediately recognize it as I would any of my art. That’s something to be proud of.Get my attention on the boards and tell me about it in a clear and short post – preferably with screenshots. I might not reply but odds are I’ll see it and if don’t someone will bring it to my attention. We test and do a lot of fixes to things – polishing and tweaking endlessly – but nothing beats the thousands and thousands of players out here who spot small but important details – and can alert me or another dev to it. There’s a lot we’re already doing to things – but the more we’re reminded the more we can attend to the little things.10) From your job description, I see that you helped with roofing in the new client. Will roofing be any easier now?Roofing is currently using the same system we had before; however the individual KR roof tiles typically have more detail and fit together better than many of the tiles did previously. Just look at old Tokuno and new Tokuno roof tiles sometime as an example. Look at how the copper and Bronze, unpainted and Black ceramic sets look and work. Sharper with more little details I worked into them. I enjoyed adding decorative Wolf and Cat heads in some of the pieces and adding interesting textures to them. Things like Shadow and Crystal roofs – I tried to use our new resolution size to fit more interesting details into them.11) In Yew (on LA shard), we suffer from horrible weather patterns. Beseeching the gods, I wonder if it would be possible to have more regular weather patterns? I got from snow to rain to snow in a matter of minutes. And I have yet to find a poncho or snow suit item to keep me warm.
Back to the heart of your question - I do have some very good and very practical ideas of what to do to make the housing system more user friendly. I’ve know I’ve spent more time than any other dev has with roofs in housing. So yeah, I’m still hatching ideas – but like most systems these things take time, and bad things happen if you rush stuff.Now be nice, or you’ll get Draconi in a foaming at the mouth fit. Heh – no – but a realistic weather systems that’s large and complex and one of the many things we’re working to improve. It’s just that there are many things we’re working on that have a lot more importance at the moment. = ^..^ =12) We were given a "we'll see" promise by Wilki a LONG time ago, back when customizable housing was first delivered. That promise was the possiblity of adding limited custom content to legacy house styles. We never heard a yes or a no after that. Can you finally answer this for me?I can’t answer it for you because those sorts of decisions are really tasks that are dictated by our ever changing work loads and how the leads, producers and executives balance schedules. It’s also their prerogative to exclusively promise those things or not – though circumstances can alter their plans as well. Well all know that plans change and move, and even if we do start something at some point – there’s not much a Dev can do if you’re set to work on a different task, and then another, and then another. And just to stick up for Wilki a little here, cause he’s my bud. “We’ll See” – sounds pretty noncommittal to me, and not much of a promise. ; )13) My question regarding houses would be, will there be a way to customize some of the pre-set housings? (mainly the tower/keep/castle in regards to access to the roof)What the future will bring – who can say. That idea would be a group decision and there would have to be no exploits or big programming snags and things of that nature in its implementation. We are aware that players would really like it. If there is a major housing system function overhaul – I wouldn’t be surprised to find that as a new feature. However, I can promise nothing (other than I’ll be working as hard as I can on things) as I’ve previously stated.14) I love the new furniture we received with SE, however, some of the chests will not go against East Walls and some "disapear" into the walls, what causes this?
could be any number of things – without ripping it apart here right this second – I would guess it’s either an art or engineering issue where the engine is getting confused by the wall and the chests position.. *Takes notes and bug report down.. K – thanks.15) Have you been working on any new housing tiles?Darkscribe announced in an SA release that there will be new housing tiles. I’ve also personally re-worked some of KR’s lesser seen housing tiles in the hopes more folks will find them interesting. Waterfalls, roofs and things can be tricky to whip into shape – but hopefully most folks will find them enjoyable.16) With your work on particle effects, has any thought been given to adding an effect for peaced and provocation statues on targets?
Well I’ve added Provocation, Peace and Discord spell effects to the game. (Many thanks to Draconi and Wilki for assistance in that)17) What is a day like for you at EA? Sometimes I imagine you guys playing with USB Rockets and the such. Is it all work and no play or a happy medium?That changes day to day – week to week - Month to Month.18) If you could change/improve/make one thing better in UO what would it be and why?
Lately it’s a lot months of rolling into work at 7ish in the morning – getting my espresso fix as my computer updates with all the other dev’s latest work. While my computer chugs with new info pouring into it from the previous night and the latest toolsets, I check my messages, Emails, PMs, new board posts, bug reports, Sticky notes on monitors, smokes signals or things written in pen or blood on my white board.
Then it’s all about attending to the most urgent issues – sporadic talks with folks about issues and occasional discussions about stuff in the kitchen over more coffee and tea. Grab a bite to eat and run back up the stairs with my food. Eat and read more input, take notes, test stuff, take more notes, fix things, make new things. Write new proposals and fix more things. Meetings – the sound of passing flurries of folks cursing tricky stuff as they walk by – working on things in game in my Avatar Deity. Avoiding other Devs lest they change my name or rain cats on me or jail me or something as I’m working. (I can be a real sour puss about that sorta stuff.) Resist the temptation to smite others while I work if things are going rough. Finish testing my own fixes – archive changes, document and forward fixes to multiple people, and push things out to begin their verification and publication process. Usually its late afternoon by this time.
At some point in the day I have to take a short break – crack my back blink and squint like a hamster that’s seeing the sun for the first time. Move about and see what others are up to. Check for latest posts and take notes or drop a few posts of my own to let others know, Yup, I’m there. Get back to things, checking off my own list of little additional fixes I’ve made that are important things the community hold in high regard. Work on – see if I have to work through dinner or not.
Eventually I go home – spend time with the family – and later that evening log on at home – say hi to friends and community folk, check more message boards, look for feedback and how folks are doing. Usually wind up taking more notes to take back to the office or sending emails of high importance if it’s a ‘holy crap! How did that happen’ moment. Sometimes spend a few more hours doing additional art or conceptual work for future improvements. Go get a few hours of sleep – wake up – do it all over again. Hope I don’t have to work that Saturday. Though I know I’ll be doing a few hours of my own time each and every night regardless.
There are a couple of major systems in KR I want to improve. I’m fairly vocal internally about these issues and most are based on user experiences and feedback. However I’m going to decline to say how and what they are since I don’t want to get anyone outside the studio too excited one way or another what might or might be. Having folks misconstrue ideas for the future as ‘promises’ as something what will happen ‘soon’ is always a concern. Everybody here has ideas and desire to make UO better.Phew! I believe that's all of them
Thanks a lot for allowing us to interview the great kittycat!
You’re most welcome.- I always enjoy talking to the community.