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UOForums Interviews Draconi, UO Lead Designer (March 6th, 2009)


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Draconi took some time out to answer questions sent in by our users, so here's our interview with Draconi.

 

Are there already plans being made for UO after Stygian Abyss is released, aside from continued bug fixes and general gameplay improvements, that can be vaguely hinted at?

 

Absolutely! Calvin pokes and prods us regularly, and we already have at least two publishes worth of plans just for Live. As for the hints, I can give some vague, and one specific.

 

We’re definitely interested in providing something new. Also, we’d like to look back at the past, and say “Hey, we miss that. Maybe we should…” I realize those are opposite statements, but hey, sometimes I mix up the order of my chaotic sentences.

 

On the specific side, the SA expansion will feature new content released regularly after the initial launch. We have tons of stuff we want to do, but some of it only makes sense in a Live context as part of ongoing events. New areas, new challenges, and new stories will make SA one of the liveliest additions in UO’s history.

What was the reasoning behind the crafting system in KR stopping everytime you fail to craft an item? If I say “25 items” it should continue doing so until my tool wears out, or I run out of ingredients. Isn’t that the way it works IRL as well? When I screw up something, I toss it aside and do the next one. I don’t have to run around the table twice and jump 5 times before I can start the next item…

 

Sadly, there isn’t any reasoning: it’s broken. We plan to make this crafting system available in both SA and 2D when we launch the expansion, and will fix the problem at that time.

Are there any plans in the works to opening up all that open space in Malas for housing?

 

To an extent, yes! Stay tuned.

Would it be possible when defeating the Dark Knight in the KR newbie quest to be able to choose the gift you would like to receive?

 

Certainly! This is an excellent suggestion, but it may be a little while before you see the change.

Any plans on making customized housing a little more user friendly, maybe add the ability to place a prefabricated house, as in already existing old house designs, on a dirt plot, hopefully this would ward off the ugly borg cubes.

 

It’s a great idea, and one I’ve heard pitched often, but it’s not in the plans. Too many resources would have to be dedicated to it for too long, versus the things we need to deliver in the here and now.

Could you describe how your role on the UO team has changed since the move to Mythic?

Heh, sure!

 

 

  • Pre-move: Lead Content for SA
  • Post-move: Lead Live
  • Current: Split between the two

 

What is your favorite aspect of the upcoming Stygian Abyss that you are looking forward to as a player?

 

I think I’m most looking forward to the Abyss itself – the overall atmosphere is shaping up to be one of the most creative dungeons we’ve ever built. A close second is the Gargoyle homeland of Ter Mur, where a lot of time is being spent bringing it to the feel of a living world.

Any chance that you and Cal will do Paul Barnett style videos on YouTube?

 

Oh wow, now I want to. Maybe we can run upstairs and borrow some equipment…

Are there any proper Mexican food restaurants in Fairfax?!

 

You bet!

 

I highly recommend Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Café, and Anita’s. The former is great for large groups, and the latter perfect for private get-togethers. Rio’s Sonora Platter is awesome.

Another one: Would it be possible to allow someone to go in to design mode and create a “blueprint” deed, so you can easily use the same design when designing a new house? Double clicking it when not in design mode would show a picture of the design. That saves a lot of time when you want to move your house, and would also allow a new breed of player vendor: Architects!

 

Well, honestly? Yes, almost anything is possible in UO, given enough time and resources. Realistically, though, this isn’t something we could easily tackle compared to the high priority issues we need to address.

We’ve had an event involving the Candle of Love and one involving the Book of Truth. Will we get a Bell of Courage event?

 

Actually, yes. It will be the capstone of the current event arc, ending it and setting the stage for Stygian Abyss.

What do you plan to do with the area under the Lycaeum? Why can’t players hear each other speak down there?

 

It may be used for future events. Also, it was built using GM powers on live shards, and isn’t an actual part of the map file. The map file contains the dark space tiles in those locations, which normally can’t be walked/talked through. If we integrate the Lycaeum basement area into the map, those problems will go away.

There are rumors that player written books can eventually spawn as the static books on bookshelves throughout the realm. I’ve noticed a few rare copies of books that I had never seen before and sound very much like they were written by players. Do you have any information on this?

 

I’m afraid I don’t. I did a cursory review of the book code, but didn’t see anything… There are quite a few “built-in” books though, many of them very odd, many very cool (that’d be Raph Koster’s doing). I hear they’re based on developer experiences at Origin back in the day, like the Star Room.

 

Let me know if you run into any conclusive evidence to the contrary though!

I’ve seen several threads regarding pirates either spawning in vicinity of Buc’s Den or a sea based Champ Spawn. I saw one post from you mentioning that it was a cool idea. Is this something that is actually getting put to the drawing board, or is it still in concept? How long would it take to get this to fruition? I’d be quite excited about any response. I just feel the UO maritime environment has gone next to dead, and this bring some much needed life.

 

This dev team loves maritime stuff! One of the reasons the sea-based champ spawn is so interesting is that it’s something we can turn around relatively quickly. It’s purely a designer task, not requiring engineering time or much art. That said, we’re right in the middle of an expansion, coupled with an aggressive Live schedule and the EM program, so it’s not something we would see soon.

Wondering if you’d be throwing in more story plots that amore involving with the characters in the old Ultima games? I think a lot of us were happy to see Sherry about but we’d like to see more of the old faces instead of new ones that don’t really have any heritage in the Ultima we all love!

 

100% behind this. In fact, Sherry was developed purely as a test for adding such future NPCs back into UO. At least we know we’re getting some familiar Gargoyle faces in the near future!

I was just wondering if there will be any additions into the crafting systems of Factions with Stygian Abyss. Or ever if there would be another faction introduced. Also I was wondering if there would ever be a faction chat. You have guild and alliance. But why no faction?

 

There aren’t any special plans for Faction crafting for Stygian Abyss at the moment. Right now we’re concentrating on Imbuing, and the normal crafting system. What kind of things would you be interested in seeing?

 

As far as an extra faction, no, no plans. Faction chat though, is something we can leave as a suggestion for the engineers.

After the “11 year items” were said not to be actual “Anniversary” items what are on the drawing boards for 11th Anny rewards?

 

A few things that carry on the spirit of Ultima and UO, that you haven’t seen before.

Are there any plans to update or add to boats/fishing in UO?

 

Fishing is definitely getting love in Stygian Abyss, both in location and rewards.

 

While the boat animations/piloting won’t be updated, I’d imagine there’s a tale or two the tillerman would love to tell.

What do you find to be the biggest hurdles as a Lead designer?

 

Balancing the work.

 

This comes from two perspectives: as a designer, and then as a manager. Let’s start with how the Design pipeline works on UO.

 

From *any* UO designer’s standpoint, UO gives us just a little too much power. We have a scripting language called Wombat that resembles a specialized version of C. It responds to events that happen on the client or server, and allow us to interact with any dynamic object. It has a very easy to learn syntax, easy to use (but normally complex) variables like lists and dictionaries, and hooks into every imaginable nook and cranny of the actual server code.

 

These Wombat scripts contain a majority of the game’s functionality, and define what makes UO, well, UO, and not just a cool tile-based MMO engine. These days, the engineering team is mostly responsible for the server and client engines, and designers mostly handle the Wombat.

 

Remember what they say about power and corruption? Mwahaha. This is why I can set things on fire.

 

Keep in mind, however, that there’s plenty for designers to do besides writing code. There are numerous other areas that are purely data driven – like creature definitions, spawn regions, or quests. On top of this, we write fiction and actual, *gasp* design documents.

 

So the first great hurdle for any designer on UO is learning how to balance tasks that demand one or more of these skill areas. For a new designer, this also means figuring out how to balance learning each of these areas. What generally happens is that someone finds a niche of knowledge, and becomes the resident expert in it.

 

You don’t have to become a programmer to work on UO, but everyone from scripters to worldbuilders must have an understanding of how the design pipeline works. This is one of the reasons we try to attract veterans – UO design actually makes sense if you know UO.

 

From a manager’s standpoint, this gets a little complex. It’s like having a whole little development team, even though we’re all designers. Everyone tends to bring something unique to the table. Luckily, some tasks can be specially tailored to a certain developer, but on the flip side, some can’t – and worse, there’s always the temptation to step in and “help” (a polite word for interfering) when it isn’t really needed.

 

Ultimately, finding balance is the biggest hurdle in my experience, especially on an ambitious project like Stygian Abyss, where we’re still dedicated to regular content publishes for Live. Good thing we hired a bunch of veterans!

With the shard populations decreasing on some shards, will you close shards? Combine shards (like Mythic did with DAOC)? Or leave the shards intact the way they are?

 

Shard populations are far too strong to even begin considering mergers.

And finally as a tamer “When . . . oh When will I ever be able to RIDE my dragons?”

 

Mmm. We strongly believe that dragons in UO are supposed to be amongst the greatest, most intelligent, and most dangerous of all species. People, on the other hand, make convenient snacks. Do you really want to be the equivalent of an easy to reach cheese puff?

 

If you still want to be, hopefully the advent of Crimson and Platinum dragons will soon change your mind.

 

Thanks to Draconi for a fantastic interview and for completing it so quickly!

Thanks to all our users who submitted their questions

And of course, thanks to the fansites who share this interview with their respective communities.

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Guest athos_uo

I used to ask, formerly, Adam to allow me to translate interviews of devs by UOForums on my website.

 

But I'd like to post my translations on UOForums and encourage Japanese players to visit UOForums and read my translations.

 

I think it would be better for our cultural exchange.

 

Here is my translation of the interview of Draconi by UOForums.

 

Thanks to Draconi and UOForums!

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Draconi made sure the interview was posted on Stratics also.

 

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Brought to you by UOForums

 

Sorry, this got buried at the bottom of the FoF

 

Tim "Draconi" Cotten -

Lead Designer - Ultima Online -

EA Mythic

 

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It received a very good response.

DevilsOwn

 

lots of good news ~ thanks Draconi!

 

really hoping that you meant once again giving the npc's their voices in this bit....

 

"We’re definitely interested in providing something new. Also, we’d like to look back at the past, and say “Hey, we miss that. Maybe we should…” I realize those are opposite statements, but hey, sometimes I mix up the order of my chaotic sentences."

 

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Adam_UOForums

 

Thanks again for doing the interview....and for how quickly it was completed and sent back,

 

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Always a pleasure

 

Draconi_EA

 

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Phaen Grey

 

Thank you both for setting this up and responding, lots of good news!

 

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Storm

 

Love it didnt see a single bad thing in there!!

 

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