Here is an edited chat (Q&A only) transcript for the developers chat held on 2/4/04. Thanks to the staff at UXOVault as well as the developers of UXO for taking the time to answer our questions. It was an interesting chat and was a pleasure to be able to attend. Lots of great questions were asked. Anyways, here are the Q&A's:
Introduction to developers
<Morgaine_UXO> Hey there! I'm Morgaine. This is the fourth Ultima title I've worked on since I came to OSI 5 1/2 years ago, and it's my favorite so far.
<Morgaine_UXO> My job title is designer, but currently my duties are split between writing content for the weekly UXO website updates and writing in-game help and ability description text.
<Stellerex> Hi. I'm Stellerex, a.k.a. the Producer on UXO. I was the UO Live Producer for a couple of years, and before that I was working for a competitor (not to be named) for 9 years
<Calandryll> I'm Calandryll, the Lead Designer for UXO. I was a designer and a community representative for UO before moving to UXO. I've been with OSI for almost 5 years.
Q: Sheyla> <Egg> How many people will GvG support at a time and how many different zones can we have it be?
A: <Calandryll> Right now we haven't settled on a maximum number for guild vs. guild battles. Basically it'll support as many as the serves can handle. We'll know that number as we get closer to beta.
<Calandryll> Each guild battle takes place on one map and you can select from over 20 maps.
Q: <Toshi> Question: Will the "classic" classes such as Rangers, Tinkers, Bards, etc. function in a similar manner in regards to skills, weapons and armor as they have in other games - Tinkers being 85% fighter, 15% magic users, bards being magic favored, rangers being a hybrid? Also, will the classes still relate to their classic virtue in some way?
A: <Morgaine_UXO> Our abilities are really different from what you've seen in other games. You won't find a Discipline that focuses only on various ways to swing a sword, or one that has twenty different kinds of fireballs.
<Morgaine_UXO> Sure, there are some, like the Ranger, that are what you'd expect - they have many moves that involve ranged weapons, like a bow, and yes, a Sorcerer may often use illusion and trickery in his spells.
<Morgaine_UXO> And yes, Druids focus on nature, and Mages focus on magic, etc. But seriously, you haven't seen any other game - ever - with the kind of abilities we have.
<Morgaine_UXO> Very varied, very unique, and none copies of other abilities or other classes.
<Morgaine_UXO> As for the Virtues, the Disciplines are not necessarily tied to the Virtues - we have the Virtue system that allows players to make their own choices and roleplay their own way...
<Morgaine_UXO> ...without tying each Discipline into a specific Virtue
Q: <Sheyla> <xero> How does the experience system in dueling work? Will I be able to gain xp as I fight or will it be assigned after the duel?
A: <Calandryll> You don't gain XP from dueling, but your ranking adjusts based on whether you win or lose.
<Calandryll> Your dueling ranking adjustment is based on the rank of your opponent. So even casual gamers can have a high rank if they duel other highly ranked players. You don't have to fight 24/7 to be one of the top rated duelists.
Q: <Mayseth> <Oyjord> Any word yet on some system reqs to run UXO?
A: <Stellerex> One of our primary goals is to make sure the game can run on a variety of different kinds of systems. The last thing we want is to force the players to have to go out and buy a liquid oxygen cooled super-computer to get it running. It's true that UXO will have higher specs than UO, but it will definitely scale itself to take advantage of the hardware you have. We haven't nailed down the final specs yet, but at present, we're leaning towards...
<Stellerex> something in the range of a 1GHz Pentium or better, with a GeForce 2 (though GeForece 3 or higher is better because it has a shader built in), and 512MB of RAM)
<Stellerex> We'll come out on 3 or 4 CDs, so assume hard drive space accordingly
<Stellerex> 9by the way, we do suport other video cards besides, GeForce. Just wanted to mention the level of card you'll need)
Q: <Mayseth> <UdinthriK> please ask them how the combat system will cope in lag
A: <Stellerex> There are a number of things we're doing to combat lag. Some of it we don't want to give away, because it's proprietary, but...
<Stellerex> the combat system actually does movement smoothing and predictive code. Additionally...
<Stellerex> The system will run on a "heartbeat" so unless your lag is really terrible, it will equalize you against someone running with really low ping times
<Stellerex> On top of that, the design itself actually contains built in wind up times for most of the special moves, which will also help against lag
Q: Mayseth> <Zoidy> You've said that intelligent and virtue imbuable items will only spawn on monsters and will be rare, but since monster dropped items do not decay, is there any concern that there will come a time when said items are no longer rare?
A: Calandryll> Not really. First, when we say rare...we mean "rare"! Items that are BOTH imbueable and levelable are going to be extremely difficult to get.
<Calandryll> And even if you do get one, you also have to consider the chance that it will be of the type you want (sword, bow, staff, etc.) and have the magical properties (fire resist buff, life leech, etc.) you are interested in.
<Calandryll> Another thing to consider is that there won't be a "best" weapon in the game. So while you might find an imbueable/levelable sword with great fire damage...you'll still want a sword that can do cold damage.
Q: <Mayseth> <Bozzz> How far along is the new monster AI? What features would you like to add to it that you haven't already?
A: <Stellerex> Monster AI is something we're spending a lot of time on. While we're rearchitecting it, the basic infrastructure has been in the code for nearly a year now. As for specific features, you're actually going to be able to observe the monsters as they communicate with each other. They'll be able to call for reinforcements, select targets intelligently (based on role, level, virtue, etc), they have different ways of perceiving you, such as...
<Stellerex> vision cones and how much noise you make, they'll even adjust some of their own capabilities based on the level of you and/or your party. We're also building in capabilities for them to maneuver, smart pursuit, and even jump over obstacles to get to you
Q: <Mayseth> <Jade_Falcon> Alot of online games after the first 3 months of release tend too show a "cookie cutter" best class charachter type appear en masse.What are your thoughts on how this will effect UX:O and how are you planning to avoid it?
A: <Morgaine_UXO> In a pure skill tree system, it's easy to end up with "cookie cutter" characters, because if there's any one skill that's especially desirable, folks will learn every skill up the one one they want, which means you end up with the exact same list of skills that another character has, all because you wanted one particular desirable skill.
<Morgaine_UXO> Our system is different in that even if there are certain Disciplines or abilities that end up being more desireable than others - which we're obviously working to avoid, but it can happen - there is still a lot of choice left
<Morgaine_UXO> to the player
<Morgaine_UXO> he can take any number of routes to get to that ability
<Morgaine_UXO> I think in a nutshell the lack of specific pre-requisites to learn specific abilities will help us greatly int hat regard
Q: <Mayseth> <Dastuun> Q: Several other MMORPGs have attempted to simplify and innovate in ways similar to those that OSI is attempting with UXO, yet the current reigning champion in the US is still EQ - a complex and unforgiving gaming system. Many people have left EQ to try these new games, only to return to EQ's grind. Can the developers talk about some key lessons learned from the likes of AC2, et. al?
A: <Calandryll> Without mentioning other games in particular, I think the main difference between us and other attempts is that while we are simplifying things, we aren't doing so at the expense of depth.
<Calandryll> I think the problem you have seen is that the wrong systems were simplified. While we are working to make the interface easier to use (no need for slash commands), to make grouping easier (teleporting to friends), etc. our combat and aventuring systems are both very deep.
<Calandryll> The number of options available to you in combat is almost staggering. Between changing attack speed, defensive stance, abilities, powering up abilities, combos, and all of the options they provide in groups, combat will not be something you master in a week.
<Calandryll> You'll be able to figure out how it works right away, but you'll always be finding new ways to fight better.
<Calandryll> The best way to sum this is up is that saying "a minute to learn and a lifetime to master". That's pretty much what we are going for.
Q: <Mayseth> <Zohar_mmorpg> On average or in general, do you have any anticipation for the length of time that it will take to reach avatar status?
A: <Stellerex> Of course, it will depend on your play style. It'll also depend on how many ways you find to outsmart us and figure out sneaky shortcuts. And of course, it also depends on how many hours per week that you play. With all of that said, I think the average MMOGer will be able to ascend to Avatar status in 6-8 months
Q: <Mayseth> <Dimi-> How many people per server will the game support?
A: <Stellerex> Of course, we're still finalizing the hardware now, as we approach beta, so I don't have an exact number for you. However, I can say that it will be in the same ballpark as UO. Think in terms of 2,500-3,000 simultaneous players per server
Q: <Mayseth> <Zoidy> hey Cal, when you gonna give us some pics or a vid of the Phoda running?
A: <Binky_OSI> Beginning next week we will be posting what we are calling "Quick Clips", which are in-game video captures showing off the game in all its stunning 3D glory. One of the first Quick Clips we will be posting is a clip of the Phoda running through the Forest of Echoes into combat.
<Calandryll> Phoda rule!
Q: <Mayseth> <Nuo> Will there be a "repeat attack" or similar option availabe? Repeated left mouse clicking may become tedious after awhile. Or atleast an option to remap the attack key?
A: <Stellerex> Actually, yes. During our tests and feedback from the players, that's one of the things we realized after our August event. We've since added in an option to simply hold down the left mouse button to swing at maximum speed
Q: <Mayseth> <Vogar> Since you get to play and we don't (yet) what mob in the game do you fear the most as of now?
A: <Morgaine_UXO> I haven't actually run up against most of the toughest creatures in game just yet, but I think the one I anticipate being a real shock to the players will be the succubus. She's tremendously cool looking, but I really can't wait to see how vicious she looks in game when that mask comes off.
<Stellerex> Actually, I fear Jalek more than any mere MOB. But assuming you mean game monsters then I'd say the Kraken
<Calandryll> Gotta fear the mongbats. One day they will rise up! Just wait, it'll happen.
Q: <Mayseth> <Aby> Will monsters have special abilities (and even combos), like players do?
A: <Calandryll> Monsters will have special abilities although they won't perform combos. Just about every monster has at least one ability, and most have at least two. Some monster abilities are very similar to player abilities, but some monsters have learned skills on their own too.
Q: <Mayseth> <GGOEnarate> What is your guys plans on preventing (or allowing?) "e-baying", I know in EverQuest the largest supplier has 80+ employee's in Hong Kong and it is a huge business. What will be put in U:X to prevent this?
A: <Stellerex> In short, nothing. We'll make no guarantees about the security of any transactions, and technically, as with all MMOGs, we do ultimately own all the assets. That said, caveat emptor. We don't encourage, but we're not going to go out of our way to try to prevent it. From our perspective, it's a non-issue.
Q: <Mayseth> <Everone> What sort of high end game/content can we expect to see?
A: <Calandryll> Well first, just getting an ascended character is certainly high level content. As you build your Hero towards ascension, you'll go on special ascension quests. These quests can't even be attempted below level 100. After that, aside from the community stuff like running a guild, you'll still be able to match wits in PvP (and gain ratings), you'll always want to get better items or imbue items to sell, and of course we'll be adding more
Q: <Mayseth> <Razial20> Will Monsters chase you until you reach the next zone or do they back off over a certain distance?
A: <Stellerex> Monsters will not attempt to follow you into other zones. However, they will make decisions regarding when to break off pursuit based on your level, how much damage they've taken, and how much of a desire they have to guard their original spawn point
Q: <Mayseth> <gljvd> Pvp seems to be a huge subject. There is a portion of people who believe there is not enough pvp in this game. Do you feel any pressure for adding more pvp into the game. Is there any more pvp that has been added do to this ?
A: <Calandryll> Not really. We feel the game has the appropriate amount of PvP for the type of game we are creating. The game is focused on adventuring through the world, learning about the virtues, and ultimately ascending.
<Calandryll> We know PvP can be a lot of fun, so we've included PvP systems. But we really have no desire to put in more PvP when the game really isn't about hardcore PvP. It would be kinda like adding in A10 Tank Killers to appease those that like flight sims. We only put in systems that we feel will add to the overall focus of the game.
Q: <Mayseth> <UXO> Can you talk about any of the systems that you will have in place to wash items and coin completely out of the economy, or will the economic model rely on a static model?
A: <Calandryll> The main ways that gold is removed from the economy are rom purchasing items from shopkeepers, purchasing quests from the gypsy, and when you die you can pay gold to remove the stat/ability loss penalty.
<Calandryll> Because players will always want to go on quests (to virtue points to imbue items and raise their skills) and death is always a factor, the gold should be removed at a good rate.
Q: <Mayseth> <styles> Why do you feel UXO will have a fun factor past a year? What sort of replyability do you feel UXO has ?
A: <Stellerex> That's basically a function of what elder content one puts into the game. There will be quests for ascended characters to take, there are monsters that only a group of ascended characters can defeat. Of course, most games have different kinds of communities for max-ed out characters. Additionally, expect future expansions and live patches to continue to enhance this
Q: <Mayseth> <Dastuun> Given the large focus on the adventuring system... is it possible for a character to max entirely by doing quests and missions?
A: <Morgaine_UXO> Quests and adventures will yield you Virtue points, but they won't give you combat experience, which is what you'll need to earn ability and stat points. Quests will scale somewhat to your level, so that wouldn't be a hge issue in the beginning, but quests do have ranges of creatures it can throw at you.
<Morgaine_UXO> Basically, if you're not also advancing through combat experience, you won't be able to make it through all the quests.
Q: <Mayseth> <Vogar> Will the best items (weapons/armor) drop in dungeons? Or is there equal chance of getting rare drops off regular difficult mobs in the world?
A: <Stellerex> Well, first let's remember that dungeons can be either public or private, so that's not a factor. However, I think what you're asking is whether the best items will only drop on quests. The answer is, the best MOBS drop the best items, regardless of whether they're in public areas or private quest dungeons
Q: <Mayseth> <YayVariety> I have a question about deuling: Will there be specific rules that you can set in a duel? EG: You cannot use this spell, or this type of spell, etc
A: <Calandryll> Not at the moment. Setting rules like that would be difficult with over 200 abilities and almost limitless item combinations. Players can set their own rules of course, but they're on the honor system in that case.
Q: <Mayseth> <TidusDragon> Will you implement the abilities to find party members? Rather than spamming to find other adventurers?
A: <Calandryll> Absolultely! Finding a party in UXO is easy. First, any party can set themselves as looking for members. Then other players can use the party interface to search for parties. The party leader can set things like what level and what path they are looking for. That way you don't waste time with a party that doesn't want your skill set.
<Calandryll> Also, the party leader can set the party to "open", which means that any player who meets the party's "looking for" criteria can send a request. If the party leader accepts, the player is in the party. This takes some of the stress off the party leader.
<Calandryll> Once you get a list of parties, you can also look at some details like what map they are and who is in the party. That allows you to avoid people you don't want to group with and/or look for groups in the area you want to adventure in.
Q: <Mayseth> <HDT-Huy> Due to the nature of compassion, will compassion players fall behind in exp versus a justice player who sees lots of combat during his/her quests? Since the quests do not seem to compensate any exp (based on the choices chosen) and only award virtue points.
A: <Morgaine_UXO> Combat will not actually have any effect on the amount of Virtue points you get - those are set by the quest designers. Granted, choosing the Justice branch of dialogue would likely land you in combat a whole lot sooner than choosing the Compassion branch, but either way, as long as you complete the quest, you'll get the full amount of Virtue points at the end.
<Morgaine_UXO> and remember, you don't gain combat experience during quests, so engaging in more fights in quests won't get you ahead in that dept.
<Morgaine_UXO> you'll just gain more Justice and less COmpassion.
Q: <Mayseth> <Dimi-> When not in a fighting stance, will characters sheet their weapons or will the run around with a sword in their hand 24/7 ?
A: <Calandryll> Characters keep their weapons out. This way you can show off your cool weapons to other players. Characters do sheath their weapons when swimming or performing an emote though. That way you don't stab yourself in the eye with a two-handed sword just to scratch your beard.