Wednesday, September 18, 2013

iOS 7 Review

I've been using an iPhone5 for almost a year to the day and I've been more than happy with iOS6 up to this point. It's snappy and responsive and everything works as it should, for the most part. This will be a direct comparison review of iOS 6/7 and it's goal is to sway you to upgrade without a second thought.

The update process was pretty straightforward, update iTunes 11 to 11.1 and restart for changes to take effect. After plugging in my iPhone, it immediately prompted me to download and update to iOS 7. The download took a little while, about 45 minutes, which I suspect is because EVERYONE and their dogs are trying to download it at the moment. The whole process took about an hour, I didn't lose any data, contacts, music, apps, etc...(As an aside, you COULD download iOS 7 OTA but it requires 3gb of space to do it, screw that!)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Introducing the Panasonic GX7 (or as I like to call it, my dream m4/3 cam)

On August 1st Panasonic dropped a bomb on the m4/3 world and announced the Panasonic GX7, the spiritual successor to the Panasonic GX1. In many ways this is the camera that m4/3 shooters have been screaming for since the release of the Olympus Pen E-P1, a rangefinder style camera with ALL the perks. Do I sound like I've already been won over by Panasonic's grand marketing and even bolder claims? You bet your bottom dollar I have. First I will explain my current m4/3 situation and why this new camera is not like the others.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Summary of March 30th Chat with RG and CS

Thanks again to AndiZ27582!

Ok, what have we heard in todays chats (LB stands for Lord British, CS for Chris Spears):
But first a disclaimer: Since SotA is Pre-Alpha, many things can change. Also I‘m summarizing the chat-log, so missinterpretations from myself are always possible. So please don‘t use this as amunition for attacks against the developers. And don't forget to voice your opinions and concerns in the Forum:
- Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott are working on the story (LB); the „foundation“ is set
something is coming this week about the story, but they still consider, what they can tell without spoilering too much (LB)
- Story will be „a great „homage“ to the past, and a dark introduction to that lies before you!“ (LB)
- about the „darker side“ (players, that act not so much according to the virtues): that‘s one of the things, that exites LB at most: what to do with players, that fail to meet the high standarts (LB)
- Intro and Cut Szenes: there will probably a intro cinematic; and the cut scenes are done probably in the game engine (LB)
- The world has been renamed several times and the final name will be up to LB (CS)
Cities/Villages/Towns and housing:
- each city is unique and different (LB)
- Cities have a „protective wall“ and roads, so they look like a tic-tac-toe board (LB)
- center square of cities has the „central services“: shops, banks, etc.: so lots of foot traffic in the core of the town (LB)
- Cities Cont: approximately 8 outer areas: for player ownership only (mostly): could be houses and shops; shops especially valuable in cities, because of most traffic; (LB)
- Villages: have one major reason to visit: one unique shop or a major NPC activity of some kind; rest is up to players (LB)
- villages are generally larger than cities (more spread out), so they have more room for housing; they are also somewhat cheaper at first (LB)
- players can build many „amazing things“ in a town or village: so they can create traffic of their home (LB hopes, that for example people of „Pax Lair“ come to build a city of their own in the new world); (LB)
- „dimensions“ of villages/towns are still settled: likely the total demands of a house will be similar if not exactly the same, so you can pack your house and deploy it in a new lot; but: internal volume and things like gardens will vary greatly by house type (LB)
Character Development:
- LB was very proud in UO about the many Non combatant players; he hopes that players can follow the story without the demand to be a fighter or wizard; But even Frodo wore a swort to Mordor (LB)
- since Chris wasn‘t happy with the crafting video, he wants to do it again (CS)
- there are currently 5 planned ressource collection skills: fishing, hunting, mining, forager and lumberjack
each skill is plit in a gathering and refining tree with at least 4 skill groups in each currently
those then feed into the crafting skills (CS)
- Cooking is one of the five major crafting categories (CS)
- Chris doesn‘t like hunger in the game; he doesn‘t want to punish people(CS)
- one idea is to go a bit old school, but give „more a carrot thant the stick“; so food will probably give buffs, faster healing, etc. and doesn‘t penalize; but LB hasn‘t weighted on that idea yet and he likes the stick
Accounts and Characters:
- Transferring of Characters and power level/difficulty balance across expansions: power curve isn‘t as steep and there is more skill in combat => they don‘t have to give too much to players, that missed game 1; players starting with episode 2 will be sufficiently equipped (CS)
- not steep = in most games you stand no chance against enemies 10 levels over you; not here: broadth of options increases greatly, but power ramps up more slowly (CS)
- same goes for single player: main quest line will give all you need to survive the episode (CS)
- do you have to import your character after each episode or may you retain it? current plan is, to retain the character between episodes, but that‘s a decision of Richard and Tracy (CS)
- main server is responsible for match making and transaction verifications; but most logic will be simulated locally and verified remotely
Coming Updates:
- next week will be crazy business; a 24/7 web cam will broadcast through the end of KS (CS)
- a crafting video is done, but he doesn‘t really like it and wants to redo it (CS)
- Chris wants to capture at least one more ingame scene for a video next week, but they are a bit starved for character modelers (CS)
Thanks again to Umbrae for the transcript and off course to the team of Portalarium for the infos.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Summary of March 22nd SotA chat log with RG and CS

Thanks to AndiZ27582 for the leg work in summarizing. 

Chris Spears' comments:
- So yes, PVP is not completely open BUT yes, you will be able to enable PVP at will though turning it off will take some time 
- AND there will be quests that require you to go PVP to take
-Those PVP quests will give you a reward if you survive and complete them and others, even those not on a quest, a reward for killing you
- Because we are going to have significant itemization, we do not plan on having full looting
- We have our own ideas for PVP stuff but I think how "carebear" we make it will be somewhat based on feedback. Because we're letting people just play with friends, we can't enforce full open PVP
- PVP will be meaningful and PVP is honestly the cheapest content known to developers! Trust me when I say we are spending time on it
- Yes, and how to make PVP both enjoyable for "grey shard" types but also not let it ruin the game for the much larger "carebear" types
- Lordy, I'll have a 3 page house update posted within the hour!
- Also, for those who are hard core PK'ers, we are discussing making some guilds flaggable as full PVP, all the time
- So PK'ers only need to join a PK guild and battle other PK guilds
- What we can't allow is for PK'ers to grief and slaughter new players as they enter the game, especially if they are really more interested in the story line aspects
- We'll either have a full post or a video chat session on PVP before the end of the campaign. We have LOTS of ideas that are all implementable but it is such a divisive issue, we're scared to talk about it much until we get more player feedback
- Richard and Tracy have been hammering on the story and details and new fiction all week. Been pretty inspiring seeing them work together so well on stuff
- I recorded a video on our classless system, brief overview of skills, and how our system allows players to take on multiple roles on the fly
- I've mentioned that it has a bit of a card game feeling element to it that adds a lot of strategy both in planning before entering combat and also during combat. Also, don't think Magic or other CCG when I say card mechanics, think Dominion
- a large pledge backed out because we still have not released house details. :/
- 18 months till the final game but we'll have stuff in people's hands before the end of 2013
- I have a video of Richard talking about how he came up with the Gypsy questions. Very powerful and interesting. I'm going to try and get that up this weekend. Also will require user feedback on the video! and no, I'm no Richard in the videos
- And by "Chris gets right to the details" what you really means is Chris blabs about stuff that is supposed to be secret! =p
- I think we decided we just didn't have the staff to cover PAX East during the KS. =(
- We should have more to show later this year and will attend more shows. Right now we have playable prototype stuff but it mostly has programmer quality art in it and, as we saw from our early feedback, fans don't like my art.
- Richard and others will be at GDC in a few weeks
- (about the prototype graphics): Which is why we switched back to what all KS seem to do and threw up some pretty concept art
- Should have said "Prototype with programmer art!"
- BTW, some of my levels are still on the front page!… is mine =)
- It was really just a test to see how curved sewer walls, moving water, fire based lights in dark scenes, and some other stuff worked
- our artists would disagree on my art not being that bad. =p
- (on Population in Cities): we've already started investigating several solutions to get more visible in key areas, like cities through hosted microinstances on Amazon.
- It will definitely be enough to make the city feel full
- More just worried about stuff like, "HEY, Lord British is coming to town, join us for a party!"
- and then half the people can't get to him
- Vendors at houses yes. There will also be a bazaar for those without a house but it will take a % cut
- KS houses will have no % rake on the vendors, post KS they will probably take a small rake, maybe 10% vs 30% for bazaar.
- Bazaars will also only sell goods added in that town/city/village
- Intentionally done that way so people can create their own profits by going to towns with low prices, buying and reselling locally
- So the document will explain it all but what you are actually buying that is super rare is a property deed, the right to build a house somewhere. Houses will be expensive but the value is in the property deed.
- Deeds allow you to claim an open lot. House comes free with the deed but once you claim a lot it is yours till you give it up
- Once you claim the lot, you can sell the house to build something different if you choose for your own personal tastes
- the reason for the deed system is so you can move your house to another town if you choose. So if we open up a cool new area, you will be able to go there and move your house there. It will take a bit to transfer
- No, KS deeds and the vendor that comes with them are free for life
- All pretty simple really. We put the value in the deed because we realize people like to swap houses!
- The KS property deed will always be rent free even if you move it to another town or trade it to another player!
- to move your house you go to the empty lot you want and move the deed. You claim the new one before the old one is released. No fear of getting stuck out int he cold. Also, only selling as many property deeds as we have open spots
- we'll have a PVP/PK update before the end. I think most people will have options to play in the style they want
- we'll open a store post kickstarter and will have some way to get most of the stuff on KS but no guarantee we'll have everything and KS will be your cheapest option
- before the end of the KS we should have any and all this type information I occasionally spill represented in some official update.
- Deeds will come with a choice of probably 3 starter homes which vary based on the level of the property deed
- part of my reason for chatting with people here is it is a little more loose and I can get feedback from people before we put it in bold letters for everyone to see
- we'll get more stuff answered officially. Our plan was to roll out stuff over the month and build some suspense but I think people are so pumped that they are rage quitting over not getting answers. We'll keep pushing updates
- I'll try to get in here at least an hour a day for the rest of the campaign and also make it a scheduled time each day.
- final game not till late 2014 but we expect to have early versions of the game in people's hands by the end of 2013 for feedback and testing
- known and we have plans so PK's and non-PK's will be happy
- we have an economy expert who will be focusing on making sure it is all balanced. Designer who was responsible for Wizard101 and a number of noteworthy social games
- Guys, I'm also going to have go shortly but I'm having Firelotus schedule a few 1 hour chat sessions that we will publicize in advance so you can know when to stop in and harrass me
- Also, we'll get this Housing update out now and try to get yet another FUN update out tonight
- Todays video will be from Rick and B, two of our designers

Lord British's comments:
- We are working hard to craft a POWERFUL solo player story...
- Yes, we will soon launch THIS site, which will go on after KS, and have new options on it, that KS does not allow, details TBD. (about Paypal and another pledging site aside Kickstarter)
- Story: While we/I already had a strong "base" story, I desperately needed help from a story crafter like Tracy Hickman... we have been working most every afternoon detailing the 1st game.
- Story: I feel the best Ultima stories I wrote when working with Warren Spector, as he is also a better story teller than me. While then, and now the story is still under my clear leadership, Warren and now Tracy are invaluable!
- Andi - good idea! (to my question, if Tracy Hickman can do some videos, explaining the world and story, too =) )
- Belief System: yes, we will have virtues... the exact words I use, for virtues you all know is still in debate. Clearly I do not want to cross any legal lines, but the virtues words are also clearly public domain... so... let me figure out how to do it... but fear not, you will know it!
- Radar, arrows etc. You make a good point, we all added radar and arrows to mitigate the pain of early games.... but I still think it has gone to far to the simple side. We will all work togtehr to craft the right level of player aids and not destroy the sense of exploration and discovery.
- A housing video is going up this afternoon. basically yes, to what you asked: you can upgrade your house, and you can move it to another city. Also in single player.
- Smack - A system of "clues" when you need them, perhaps at a cost or recharge, is fine, if we need it, just don't destroy the sense of exploration.
- Honestly, its too early to see all the polishing details we have yet to implement, much less refine, but we have done this many times. We know the target pretty clearly, we know how to get there pretty confidently. The biggest new ideas, like our blended multiplayer - solo gameplay is what we need to prove to ourselves and you. I believe it will work, but we can always split them if needed.
- PVP is obviously an important AND contentious area. We think we have a plan that keeps beginners from being ganked, but encourages PVP in a way that feels risky and rewarding to both sides. We want neither extreme of gank the noob, nor opt in PVP flags which are no fun either.
- What do you think about LB being immortal? Should i purposefully always be open to attack?
- My team is advising me not to take the bait on chatting about killing children... =)
- I would love to see a town called Skara Brae!
- We have PVP threads on the forums, we will continue to collect data there. I know it will be tricky, but I think we have the basis of a plan, and will present it when we think its at least one level of bullet proof.
- Andi - I agree. (about my statement, that killing Lord British should never be a quest, but stay an easteregg =) )
- Crafting - there are the basics, which I can describe, then the "advanced" we are still working on....
- Crafting: start with a "recipe" that has a list of needs such as: a craftying station (forge), tools (tongs and gloves), skills (level 3 sword making), consumed ingredients (ore, coal, ash, silver). Then a "process" to make it...
- Crafting "Process": we are sill working this out... but we would like there to be more of a process, the process will be either simple to begin with and expand in the live game, or we will add it in our stretch goals. But '"eventually" we would like to get to at least a minecraft level of process, and perhaps mini game like actions, but we are still discussing short and long term plans for this.
- Magic: Not much has been said about magic! Like crafting this system is in early planning. But, it will likely have: Consumed Reagents, words of power or Logos "Vas Flam", etc. the details of execution, TBD
- Friends! I have another video interview I must run off too, but Fire Lotus is going to schedule me some known visit times. See you again soon. THANKS for your support. We do really work for YOU! We are listening, we will make you proud!
- Bye!

Chris came back a little later on and also stated:
- Back, but only for a minute! 
- Lordy, we will probably not have schematics for houses before the end of kickstarter. We have a fair number of house types already but I don't think they are well balanced. We will also keep rolling out new houses, just like we roll out new instances 
- @IpkeeZ, if we end up going with the "PVP guild" option for PK'ers, we will likely also add some type of house break in option as well. Likely not a ship thing but it has already come up in discussions for the "Grey Shard" types. 
- Instanced house options have been discussed but it was lower priority since you'll have access to a bank 
- @Lordy, we have a mostly finished village that we put together just to try and get a solid grasp of how much space is enough but not too much. Might have a screen shot of it but it is intentionally kind of boring 
- Walls will not stop local chat so you can run a house of ill repute but the neighbors might complain... 
- We'll release something on crafting and farming at some point. Still a point of contention but I'm hoping farming will not be a skill but just something you do. So you can find an elderberry that restores mana when eaten. Using it leaves you an elderberry seed. You can take that and plant it and get another set of elderberries the next day. I'm still fighting for that idea. Wish me luck 
- @Rune_74, Story is the one topic I don't touch. I'm in on the conversations but not even daring to think about revealing anything until Richard and Tracy say more! 
- @Vyrinor, current design has 5 major gathering categories and 5 major crafting areas. Farming was one that kind of didn't match with the others in terms of how it worked so I was proposing doing something fun with it that gets people coming back daily. I curse you for comparing it to Farmville but yes, same psychology 
- @Fifty, current expectation is that advancement in adventure skills will not interfere with advancement in craft skills. Richard is a big fan of one player, one character. The combat system allows people to solo or pick a party role so we haven't quite found a reason to allow multiple character yet. 
- And current expectation is you get 1 online character and as many offline characters as you want 
- @Tekkamansoul, traveling is pretty quick and safe with the dual scale map if you stick to the roads and don't travel at night! The "faster travel" thing has come up but will likely wait till we expand our world even more 
- and as you probably saw from some of the sketches, there is a "Lunar Rift" type thing that will allow you to move quickly between some key areas 
- Ok, you guys are sucking me in! I'll get Firelotus to schedule some official chat time with people. 
- Need to get back to work making a game and cleaning up some more updates!

Shroud of the Avatar Public Chat with Chris and Richard

Hey Guys,

Here's the FULL chat log from this morning's chat with Chris, Richard and Gina on


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shroud of the Avatar Ustream #3 Transcript (so far)

Shroud of the Avatar Ustream transcript 2013-03-09 (66:31)

Richard Garriot: RG
Chris Spears: CS

RG: How's everybody out there? Let's see here, alright, we've already got people piling in with questions. Glad to see you all this morning. Oh by the way, thank you all so so much we're greatly indebted to the support you guys you've already given us...CHEATER...Aftermarketgirl did you put in your guilt pledge? I hope so.

CS: Any questions? Try and get up a house pledge...In the siege will there be player owned towns and player sieges?  It's likely going to be one of our stretch goals, maybe not player sieges but we're talking about player owned towns. It's extremely good for the in-game economy to have player run towns. Will the Avatar's child make an appearance in game? And its mother by Raven? 

RG: That's a very good suggestion/idea. Yesterday somebody asked if Lord British will be married in game and it had literally never crossed my mind but I know that the obvious answer to that question has to be yes. My wife would not allow it to be otherwise, I'm sure you'll see Lord and Lady...Hmm not sure if she would be called Lady British because she's French...We'll have to decide exactly what she wants to be.  I did see people ask if they could break bread and I'd say yes, Ultima 7 is our target for the interactive world. We're going to start with as much of that as we can put in within the year and a half or so that we have, but we'll just keep adding and adding and adding and yes Ultima 7 is what we'll be targeting for interactivity. We're going to start at the beginning with that in mind, all items that will be created for the game must be interactive in that same way. We'll just keep adding for the life of the game. 

CS: Someone did say you look incredibly young for an old guy.

RG: Oh that's very near and dear to my heart. Maybe if I didn't have this wisp of hair sticking up over here. Get down there. I thought I would provide you guys some entertainment this morning. The entertainment I have to offer today comes in the form of this famous letter file that contains something we've had since the Ultima days, it's called the Glinkie Letters. I don't know if any of you have ever received mail from the users of whatever you've created in life. I at least have found that when people write to you about your creations, no matter how much they might have liked something, a piece of feedback, the thing that compels someone to write to you, a sentence or at most a paragraph that says they appreciate the work you've done and the rest of however long they write after that is describing what you did wrong. In the history of receiving letters that have usually started as compliment but ended in criticism, nothing has been as entertaining as the letters we've seen from Mr. Donald K. Glinkie. I'd like to read to you what Donald wrote about Ultima 3, the first game we published as Origin and I'm sure that Mr. Glinkie had written to us about earlier games but this was the first one I encountered. You'll probably understand this after I read what he had to say. 

His first letter to us about Ultima 3 reads on January 20th 1984: Ultima 3, you've got the dumbest damn game here, Ultima 2 was such a good game, how you ever let some freak half-wit come up with this crap as a follow up will forever be a mystery. Anyway he complains on about the rest of the letter and his final paragraph says, this game stinks and when you write to me saying it's sold 1,000s I don't believe it. I can tell from your statement that you're full of crap just like this game, you haven't sold 1000s and you wouldn't be permitted to sell anymore if I had my way. You don't have any satisfied customers or players either except the freak that wrote it. Signed Donald Glinkie, Pompano Beach, Florida. That wasn't enough for Mr. Glinkie he ended up writing to us again about Ultima 3. This game stinks, I've been to level 21 and I still get killed by an excess of monsters and have to start all over again. I'm going to file a complaint to the attorney general of your state and the attorney general of the United States, you've got some half-baked freak to come up with this game that shouldn't even have been put on the market and at 65 dollars yet! The little pissy hints you provide with the original disc are nowhere near enough to get ahead. I've been playing this for 6 months, I've never had a gem or key or anything of a higher level, all I do is run into gang after gang of stupid monsters and it is not possible to travel the country side as you suggested. He goes on for 2 pages, I'll skip to the end, I can not continue to spend money on phone calls to the West coast as I have not ripped off people, I am not as affluent as you are. I've got almost $100 into a real dud, a smeller, a stinker and I'm going to do something about it. Disgusted, Donald K. Glinkie. One thing about Mr. Glinkie is he liked to play all our games and write to us about them. He played Knights of Legend, he wrote, bad bad bad, terrible, I'll skip to end, I'm pissed, not going to buy this junk, we're the ones that make the wax float around here. Donald Glinkie would always write us hate mail while playing games but after finishing the games, his letters would be very different, like after Ultima 4. Great game, sign me up for the newest game, paid in full...he was a bit bi-polar. Trip Hawkins visited us and we told him about Glinkie Letters...he went back to EA and read a letter from Glinkie as well, he replied to this letter. Trip told Mr. Glinkie that he was honoured to receive his letter, he spoke about the letters to Origin and that he was happy to be in good company. Glinkie letters ended after that, Robert Garriott called Mr. Glinkie and he was very polite on the phone but never wrote another letter.

CS: I've called out Donald Glinkie as the First Internet Troll before his time.

RG: Basically true. Alright so I thought you'd enjoy that history. 

CS: Let's see, why the decision to zoom out for travel?

RG: For a couple reasons, both technical and play value. The fictional purist in me sort of still likes the mono-scale map, it is fraught with pain of building out largely empty space, you spend a lot of time adding detail to empty space. You spend a lot of time simply walking through empty space, exploring if you will, not that I'm against that, if you can have that space detailed I'm not against it. By going to a two scale map, it allows us to focus on the developing of scenarios, and that's how we want the story to unfold, through scenarios. These scenarios allow us to make the game playable in bite size pieces. You can put the game aside for a moment, come back to it, see where you are on the outdoor map, you can be strategic with what you need to do now and you're leaving that city and I know that I need to get to that city. Then you can move around and find a point of interest by choice or stumble across a random encounter and be presented with that scenario. We're planning to have 5-30 minute scenarios, you can complete that scenario and then you have time to relax, we think it has good pace between tension and release, if you need to you can put the game away or dive into another scenario, it's a good rhymn of gameplay, a good pace of unfolding the story. 

CS: Everytime you die, do you have to restart?

RG: Well we haven't even discussed death yet but if you're asking my opinion, when you die you certainly don't have to restart, no perma-death. Will you have to run back to your corpse or will you resurrect at a shrine or something of that nature, we will want to make sure that you have an aversion to dying, as opposed to resurrecting on the spot but we're not sure how severe just yet.

CS: AH PERMA DEATH PERMA DEATH! Just kidding! I've been told to stop putting my hand on my mouth when thinking...I'll try to avoid that. Any Brazilian servers? 

RG: Well let's talk about servers for a second, that question is something we can clarify. Which is when we were building UO, we were planning on only having one version of reality, one server, THE server. The sale's projections for Ultima Online lifetime were 30,000 units, and when we put up the Beta and asked people to pay $5 we got 50,000 people and that was our first clue that we were going to sell record numbers of this game. That's when we decided to create several "shards" of reality and each shard existed  as shattered remnants of Mondain's gem of immortality. Each shard of reality could become re-unified again so each shard was not separate completely, they were part of the same metafiction, if you catch my drift. I would still much prefer a single reality, my tech lead here assures me that we can go back to a single reality and whether you're playing in US or Europe or Asia, the way we're designing these ad-hoc multiplayer activities, that the amount of lag or traffic will be manageable. That also makes me want to keep reiterating, this game is fundamentally made up of 2 parts, the solo experience, it really can be played single player  and the persistent online world where you'll see the contributions made by your friends. Those two parts we're hoping will be very complete experiences. I know that we have two schools of thought, the people who NEVER want to log on and the other faction that is exciting about UO in the future. We're positive about both styles of game play. The persistent world will be available to you if you choose to play online either temporarily or constantly.

CS: People have questions about how other players will appear to you. We've mentioned that it's not an MMO, it's more of a social relevance ranking system, as people flag themselves for PvP they'll become more relevant to you for example. It'll be a simple relevance scoring system based on how important that person is to you. Friends will be high, guild members will be high, we're not doing 10,000 people here, it's not an MMO. Other factors will work as tie-breakers so to speak, people around your same power level will be shown around you, people you're likely to adventure with. 

RG: Sorry someone was asking who's sitting next to me that isn't Richard. 

CS: The relevance system is what will determine who you see, we're not going to have a full open world, where we see 1000s and 1000s of people, oh Richard is trying to give up his seat...

RG: I'm not going far, I just want to make sure you get some facetime with the whole team. 

*Lauren Hoffman Enters*

CS: Alright Lauren and I should start off by saying it's SXSW here in Austin and we've just returned from the bar.

RG: What and you didn't bring me anything?

LH: No, but it was amazing.

RG: Did you have your 5 shots?

CS: No, 2 beers.

RG: Well you're probably still behind.

CS: Let's see.

LH: Guards!

CS: Rainz!


CS: What's the deal with Rainz? Is that the...

RG: That's the guy that killed me in Beta of UO. My nemesis!

CS: I thought it was that Japanese (actually Korean) music superstar.

RG: No that guy's different, that's the guy that Colbert goes after. Different Rain.

CS: How will we be given access to the Developer's Chat Forum? Right now we're aiming to open up a private forum and continue to do these talks on a bi-weekly basis. It'll be more of a private talk instead of the 100s of people in here right now. Instead of over 300, it'll be just the people who have pledged at that level so we can have more private conversations, more direct regarding problems and concerns. That'll go live as soon as the Kickstarter ends. That's when we'll open the private forum and have more private talks so it's not just people typing in all caps and cutting and pasting their answers in. Will there be a party in single player? We'll likely have some form of companion in single player just because it helps with balancing and stuff, but in terms of party, I guess you mean companions. 


RG: That's literally something we were just talking about in the other room so we'll try this out on you guys. Not only can you hire henchman if you go down to the local pub or something like that but it might also be particularly fun if those henchman were people you actually know even if they were offline, you can hire your friend's character to go out adventuring. We think something like that would be a lot of fun.  This is also how we can actually get companions from older games because they were based on real people and they'll be playing this game so you might be able to encounter some of your old friends.  

CS: It seems that a lot of people have noticed we've been joined by epic moustache guy, hello Luigi.

MG: We all got nicknames.

RG: Is Luigi your name now? I thought it was pornstar man or pornstache. 

MG: Still need to get Prince British back. 

CS: He's not actually a Mario Brother, we'll keep his name hidden for anonymity, he's actually from Germany.

RG: Yep, he's already been keeping tabs on our European and especially German websites, we have a lot of European fans of games we've produced in the past. Our market is exactly split in 3: Americas, Europe and Asia. In fact, I got a ping yesterday from the UO team who still noted that 30% of their player base still comes from Japan. We haven't started our Japanese outreach yet but we'll have more on that next week too. 

CS: People are talking to him in German, apparently there are a few Germans here. There's a question there about itemization and I think I mentioned this in chat a while back, most likely stats will not be as important as in other RPGs today. Itemization is still important because it adds to your options.

RG: We're really trying to make this game not based on the level grind. Of course there will be a difference between a low level player and a high level player with lots of experience and a diversity of abilities. The game is not about leveling up and it allowing you to suddenly defeat bigger monsters, we're really trying to create a story-driven game and one that you can play a variety of different ways outside of combat. 
CS: What's the biggest difference between SotA and the Ultima series?

RG: I think the biggest difference is going to be the technological capabilities that we have now, most notably this new hybrid way that we're trying to introduce multiplayer. Whether you're playing solo player or multiplayer, the game is still very story-driven just like Ultimas 1-9 but if you are playing multiplayer it's not an MMO, it's a persistent evolving multiplayer, that's the technical differentiation. From a creative story telling stance, we're drawing a line that goes back to the first Ultimas where you'd talk to characters by typing phrases and you drew a map yourself and you had to keep copious amounts of notes, if you contrast it to RPGs today you click on menu options of conversation and follow the path to go where you're told to go which I find to be completely uninteresting. Instead we're going right in the middle, we won't force you to take a bunch of notes, the game will instead have note-taking assistants so to speak but we're not going to give you quest logs, no arrows on a map, no exclamation marks on NPCs we're instead going to let you go through and explore the game. You might be asked to find a woman in a red dress in the next city but you will actually need to find the woman in the red dress not some exclamation mark and when you find her you have to remember what you have to ask her so you'll find a way to remember how to think about quests instead of having it spelled out for you. 

CS: There's one on there I have to call out. Some people were concerned about first day numbers because a certain kickstarter project had a little bit of a headstart because it came from an already successful kickstarter that they still haven't shipped but they pulled from their audience and did really well so far but our first 2 days have us in the top3 of games on kickstarter right now.

RG: We're really excited so far but please keep going, we're right on track we what we had hoped we could do. We had the pleasure of helping Chris Roberts with his kickstarter project last month so we got a good post-mortem with him where he told us that doing this at this time worked really well and to make sure that we are working with, talking with and being with you, the players through the entire project. Once the kickstarter ends don't worry we're not going anywhere. This is a permanent relationship we're building through this game.

LH: We have looked at Dragon's Dogma and it is an excellent title for what they did with their multiplayer to allow you to play with your friends when they're not online.

RG: Are you volunteering to take on that system? Seriously though, who will get that system, partying, npc system? 

RC: It'll be a little round robin but probably Justin.
RG: That'll be a good system when we get Justin in since he is likely the one to inherent the party character system, we'll try to get him in here to talk about that.  

LH: Who is Pachi? That is what they're recommending as my nickname...

CS: Or Patsu?


Friday, March 15, 2013

Shroud of the Avatar Video Transcript #2 (Part 3 of 3)

(1:01:15 - 1:28:52)

*Start of Part 3 (1:01:15)*

CS: Have you talked about the story at all? Anything you’re willing to talk about?

RG: Oh yes, so I’m not going to talk about the story but I will tell you a little bit. The bit of the story that I will tell, well I’ve already given a little bit of it so I’ll see if I can recast it slightly, you know the first mystery of the first episode, the forsaken virtues piece of the shroud of the avatar is to see how and why this new malevolence has risen in the world. You arrive in the world and the first things you discover is that you’re in a medieval world and there’s a little bit of technology developing, the mechanical age has begun but only in the wealthier pockets and there is a new evil that has risen. It’s not a mindless evil, it’s not just in the dark that monsters rise and cause trouble, there is a very specific plan that they are executing. Your first job is to figure out who they are, what their ultimate goal is and what they’re trying to execute right now as they lay siege to one town after another, after another. Once you’ve discovered the nature of this new evil and the goal of their plan, that’s when you move on to the second episode. Ha! Chuckles revenge, I was just talking about Chuckles the other day when I booted up my old AppleII before I brought it to the RoosterTeeth interview. I found Caverns of Callisto that Chuckles wrote and I filmed it on the AppleII and I sent it to Chuck and I said hey what’s this? He couldn’t recognize his own game, admittedly it was running in black and white and pretty old school, not too surprising he couldn’t remember it. Killing children, you may not have known but that’s such a great question for me, I don’t know if you all know the story of killing children but if you don’t you might enjoy this. When I was writing Ultima 4, which was the first time I was trying to create a game that monitored your behavior in accordance with your virtues, I was also setting up scenes to trap you into behaving against the virtues and after I made dungeon room after dungeon room, at the very end I made a room that had children in cages in the four corners of the room, there was a lever in the center of the room and if you flipped that lever, thinking you were going to free all the children, the children would turn into monsters all around you and either you’d have to kill the monsters or get killed by them. I thought this was great because it made people think they were going to lose some virtue points and I knew in fact that there was no test in there but I knew the players wouldn’t know there wasn’t a test in there and I suspected it would cause a moral dilemma.

Well my brother came into my office one day with a letter written to him from someone in our QA department that said “Mr. Garriott I refuse to work for a company that so clearly supports child abuse.” And my brother goes “What in the world did you put in this game that is promoting child abuse?” I had no idea, so we had to track down this guy and ask him what he was on about and he was talking about that room, and he said that he went into that room and he flipped that lever and was forced to slaughter children and I don’t think that’s appropriate. My brother said “Richard you gotta take that room out of the game” but I disagreed “no you guys don’t get it, first I invoked a strong emotional reaction, that’s a good thing in a game, second you don’t have to kill the children, don’t throw the lever, simple.” If you have to throw the lever you can actually charm the children and walk away or the third thing you can do is put the children to sleep and then they couldn’t hurt you. You could even drop your sword, punch them once and they’d run away. There are actually lots of ways you can get through the room; you don’t have to kill children and it became a family battle. My brother kept telling me I had to remove the room from the game, my parents who my brother lobbied to said you should take it out Good Housekeeping is going to be against the game because of this killing children thing, I said no way the room stays. The game was released and it wasn’t an issue, nobody got mad, there were no comments negative or positive about the children. Ever since then I’ve put a shrine to killing children in every Ultima and not just every Ultima but every game I’ve ever developed, I’ve tried to put the honorific room for killing children except for one, the last game we did and it was Susan Cath, a friend of ours who worked with us in the past and failed to put in the room of killing children to our last game. Now in this game not only do we have a room for killing children, Susan will be in that room too. We started it already and you’ll see a character named Susan in the prototype who’s being hunted down by wolves and she is one of the first people to die in the game for her failure to put in a room of killing children in our last game. Will you be able to drive a boat?

CS: Don’t answer him, don’t answer him, he’s trolling, don’t answer the troll!

RG: Oh look there’s some good Russian *speaks Russian* Graphics you’ve seen in the prototypes, so the Unity engine that we’re developing in is actually a very powerful engine and our team is very programmer heavy and REALLY artist light, and that’s just where we found ourselves when we were putting all this together, so most of the art you’ve seen in the game honestly has been begged, borrowed or steal’d or hacked together with spit and bailing wire. By no means do we think that the art is up to our final target we were just trying to communicate the direction and intention with this prototype, so well we have high confidence in our tools and vision, we have a really great concept artist but we haven’t really had a change to make much of our original art.

CS: Did we come to a final decision on Paypal, I know we were going to open a store using paypal after the Kickstarter has finished.

RG: We don’t have a final decision but this is our thinking, we’ve talked to a lot of people who have been through this Kickstarter path ahead of us and a lot of people are reticent above putting their money through Amazon and that’s one of the reasons why we put up our sister-site, the SotA site, it can’t at the moment but in the future it could be set up to accept payment. We certainly don’t want to do that at this point, we want to make sure we put enough money through the kickstarter site to close out our goal, so we definitely won’t do it before then. We could start doing this as soon as the Kickstarter reaches its goal, but we’re still managing things in realtime so we’ll decide when the best time to open up that other site for commerce is. We’re going to put other things on that commerce site by the way, I don’t know if we’ve put up Iolo’s video yet.

CS: I just mentioned that.

RG: David Watson, who’s the real character behind Iolo, the bard who plays the lute and crafts crossbows in Ultima, is in real life Austin, Texas, he is known as Iolo, he plays the lute and he sells crossbows. He was here playing a little bit of lute for us and showing off some of his crossbows, it might not help us too much but we thought it would be great for the community, we might on our own site sell some other things other than the things in our Kickstarter pledges. We might introduce you all to Iolo and allow you to build a relationship with him and perhaps acquire one of his fine arms and we’re discussing this live but we might make it so if you buy one of Iolo’s crossbows from our site, it might map into having a special crossbow in the game, for example. When you get to see his video he’s a cool guy, he’s a little bit crazy, a little kooky and wonderful. You’ll get to meet him at least by video shortly.

CS: Give my 5 minutes and I’ll have it up on Youtube.

RG: Denis Loubet question, yes Denis not only did all those great Ultima covers but he also helped us with those concept sketches of the mechanical equipment that is being introduced into the game. He is still a close friend and does contract work for us and may join us in time, we’ll see. Show everyone your phone case. I waited 50 years to live the bachelor life, I built myself a crazy house with secret passages, I flew myself into outer space, I did all this wacky stuff and enjoyed very much my misspent youth but after 50 years I actually found a woman with whom I just decided I had to become married we’ve settled down and we have a baby daughter, here is baby Kinga, who is now 8 months old. We’ll have to figure out how to sneak her into the game somehow. Thank you for asking, by all means I’m a proud poppa, in the second half of my first 100 years. 

Will Lord British be married in game, that’s a good question, as Lord British is married in real life, the presumptive answer would be yes, as you know one of my big fictional pieces in my virtual worlds is I like to create the new world as a unique world to the Earth, you and I are people from Earth who find a way to get there. I like the metaphoric methods they use in The Chronicles of Narnia, where people from Earth go to that virtual world, and when they return from that virtual world, not much time has passed back on Earth, no matter how much time they spent in the other world. I also like that because it means that you age as you would in this other world but you’ve just found this portal in which you can travel between these worlds and have your adventures and then return to Earth. What that allows us to do for example is between games 100 years or 1000 years has past, well it hasn’t past for you on Earth so it makes sense that you can travel to this world 1000 years later when in actuality only 10 or 15 years has past by for you back on Earth. This is why Lord British can still be around even Eons after the dark lords have come and gone because I live here with you, we age at the same rate, we don’t age the way Britannia did in the original Ultima, or perhaps we might call it New Britannia ages here in the new world. So yes we are from Earth, you are from Earth and I am from Earth and just as I have always liked to do, we find a portal that takes us to that new world. David would you like to come over and say hi to people?

*David Swofford Enters*

DS: Yes, I have an errand for you to run.

RG: An errand eh?

DS: Yes I need Rick to come and sit in for you while I get a picture it’ll take about 5 minutes.

RG: Alright so send somebody in and we’ll let them take over. In fact it’s 4:48 here central so we’ll wrap this up in about 5 minutes. For those of you who don’t know, I don’t know how many of you are in Austin right now but it’s SXSW here and this evening at 8pm I’m going to help open up the SXSW games expo and give a little demo of the game there, we’ll shut this down in the next 5 minutes. So get Rick in here. Thank you guys VERY much! We’ll get Rick and Bee in here and I’ll go with David and I’ll say my good byes now, I told them already they’ll have 10 more minutes to talk with y’all. I’ll be out of the room so you can bad mouth me all you want, if you feel it’s necessary. So thank you thank you thank you, tell your friends, see ya.

*Rick and Bee Enter*

RH: Hi there guys you remember me I’m Rick and this is Bee, let’s answer some questions. What ya got there?

Bee: I’m not sure, let’s see, I see some people talking about the graphics so yea this isn’t even alpha, it’s a prototype at this point so everything is going to look better as time goes on. I wouldn’t even look at the visuals you see as anything that will resemble the final game. Pretty much everything you see will be different in our final game, right now just think of it as a prototype trying to explore different systems and some of the things that we’ve spec’d out we’re looking for your input in the forums, what you want from an Ultima, what things define an Ultima, the things you’re really looking for. We need you to get to the forums and tell us what you want,  a lot of these detailed questions we don’t really have answers for you yet, because it’s a kickstarter game we’re looking to see what you want before we make it that way.

RH: And there’s been a ton of good stuff on the website we’ve set up and through this video right now, the comments on the kickstarter forum, the questions aer things I like the most, there are some very straight up suggestions, as a designer I like to take to Richard and see what he thinks. I want to facilitate him first and foremost and the players secondly. In a single player Ultima, people enjoy different things and in UO people enjoy different things. So today has been really exciting, not just for the kickstarter but all to kick off the dialogue to see what’s most important to everybody and to bounce that off Richard. That’s really going to define a lot of the direction we take and right up until now a lot of the stuff has been prototyped and we were just talking earlier about how much is too much work to finalize on graphics for a scene that really is nothing more than a prototype of what we’re thinking of and I’m really excited to move past this to really start making the game you want.

Bee: Yea and I think I saw someone ask the question about the forums and I think they’re on our website is where the community site is and where our forums are, and I saw someone talking about the Mac and we’re using Unity which is of course PC-first, it allows us to compile for Mac.

RH: I won’t spend a great deal of time on it but someone asked how’s life working at Portalarium and this is one of my favourite places to work over the course of my life and working with Richard as well. It’s been tons of fun and it seems the creativity is a lot more wide-open here as we’ve tooled ourselves to a much smaller tribe than what we’d usually be working with in a large corporate environment. I mean just being able to sit down and do this; I really miss this interaction of throwing things out there and getting that feedback to make what we’ll really decide to do. I think you have better eye sight then me, oh wow news that the First-Responder pledge just sold out, that’s great news. A question about the single player style…I have a tendency to really love answering questions…we certainly have a plan for that stuff…that is first and foremost…how do you share that experience with your friends…I have a few brothers…I have a few people close to me that I want to share this with…I have played numerous MMOs in the last 10 years…we’re lucky that we have that knowledge of what worked well and what didn’t…its at the top of Richard’s list to do that right.

Bee: Someone asked if we’ll do this talk again…definitely something we’ll do…people give us feedback…we respond…we have other forms of communication as well…forums…facebook…chat…we plan on adding other ways to keep track of the project…dev blogs…people asked about mod tool…realistically not going to happen because of budget…we want your input on creating new content…we will create it you can come up with ideas…

RH: Questions about the balance of single and multiplayer…splitting single and multiplayer world isn’t what we want to do…doing something in the single player world will have effects on your multiplayer world…how that works comes down to us…that seems to be the basis on a lot of questions today…will there be a split…you feel like you have two personas…nice guy and bad guy…we want to avoid that…

Bee: People keep asking how to avoid cheating in online play…we’ll figure it out…technical thing…too detailed to answer at this point…we’ll see how it goes…encourage you guys to help us…

RH: A couple people asking about whether we’ll support Turkish…not just Turkish but other languages…time will tell…tech side of things will allow us to do other languages…in our best interest…our job will be to support as many languages as we can.

Bee: A lot of people talking about NPC schedules…living breathing world…meteor strikes …

RH: I’m a carebear…NPC schedules were always my favorite things…woman who swept the streets…knew where she lived…made the world come alive…definitely something important in this world…distinct possibility of doing this better than ever before

Bee: I see people talking about PvP…look at the wide spectrum of gamers…solo players to themselves…PKers wanting to hunt down other players…we want to encourage players to play the way they want…friend elements but not an MMO…connected and social…as social as you want to be.

RH: Our time is running out…we’ve had a great time, thanks!

*End of Video*

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Shroud of the Avatar Video Transcript #2 (Part 2 of 3)

(31:00 - 1:01:15)

RG: Character dialogue I see in there. Character dialogue is something we’re working on too. You’ll see some samples in our screenshots and video clips that we’ve put out. It’s very simple menu based at the moment, but what I’m trying to simulate is fairly old school Ultima. We still working a little bit on it and here’s one of the guys working on some of those conversations right now.

*Rick Holtrop enters*

RH: Hello!

RG: Rick is also the dragon tamer guy that we were talking about earlier although this is something that you’ve done recently on the side.

RH: Yea at a moment to have some fun and that just kind of organically fell out. It was a lot of fun.

RG: Why don’t you tell these folks what you do. One of the only designers on the team but also is one of the, as you may know I am very critical of designers in this industry because I think that becoming a designer in the gaming industry is kind of a subtractive process, most designers become designers because they are not artists and because they are not programmers and they think that games are cool, so they become a designer. This doesn’t mean that they are a good designer; it just means that they aren’t good programmers or artists. One of the great credits to Rick is that, didn’t we start working in QA?

RH: Yes that’s how we got started was QA ’96. It was on Ultima Online and U9 we were together in QA.

RG: One of the other amazing things that Rick did even early in Rick’s career is he went master programming and he is a fantastic programmer and we have even moved him into the programming task. He’s not a bad artist, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you paint from scratch but you are certainly an excellent decorator and to me the best designers are the ones that are multi-talented. You’ve got to be able to be a really good designer you really need to code at at least reasonably well and this guy can definitely outcode me at this point, not that that’s a great thing to say because I don’t really code anymore…it’s been a while, but the point is he is a very confident programmer and a quality visualist and an outstanding designer.

RH: Well thanks.

RG: So tell us what you’ve designed, tell us about the scenes in the game you’ve put together and what are the tasks you’ve taken on.

RH: The 2 main scenes I’ve had the opportunity to work on in the last month are the Gypsy Camp scene, which is a highly social scene, there’s a little bit of combat that goes on there but it’s mostly to prototype our conversations and stuff, that’s where you got most of the conversations in. The other scene is the town siege scene, which is very combat oriented and although it’s not social there are still conversations going on in there and what we see as quests going on in there. We don’t have a quest log, there’s no thing above her head that says I need help. You can easily see she needs help, she’s quick to let you know that her sister is in town and she can’t get back in to town so she needs your help. Quickly you see that the town is under siege and it’s being bombarded by catapults and flame and that particular part was not something that I worked on, it was a quick tech demo that somebody put together and said hey look we’ve got catapults going and I was handed that scene. It was a lot of fun to have that blank slate that was this town and some fire and have a look at it and begin to visualize what could happen here.

RG: And that scene became the inspiration for telling the part of the story that I have said publicly, and maybe you haven’t heard this but I’ve told this publically that the malevolence that has risen in the world isn’t just waiting for you to come defeat them. They are active in the world, they have a plan that they are enacting which involves them laying siege to town after town and not just killing people because they’re evil but they’re actually looking for something very specific. So for you as a player you need to discover both the pattern of their activity and the goal of their activity but if the city was your city, if you lived in that city that was under siege and you were going back to your house, for example when you came in all the shops were boarded up and closed, all the NPCs that might give you information are removed and even your house might not be accessible, with a lock on the door and the roof on fire or something. If you’re going to drop off some loot or pick up some equipment, sorry it’s off limits right now and only if you deal with that siege will the fires diminish and the workers go back to work and you regain access to your house. So we’re trying to make the world alive in that sense.

RH: And that’s one of my favourite parts of this approach is the round robin approach and I wish I could take full credit for the siege scene but it started off as a tech demo from a programmer who came over to me and Richard got to take a look at it half way through and his mind exploded with ideas that really shaped the conversations and the flow of the gameplay and even then we aren’t done with that scene sitting here right now I wish I had my notebook to take down notes as we talk about it. It’s been a lot of fun to work on that.

RG: Ok so what’s next? Obviously you didn’t mean to tackle pets but now you’re the pet guy…

RH: A lot of interesting ideas have flowed out of that and we’ve been talking all about that over the last couple days that came to mind with that to throw past Richard to see what comes of that. I think there are some really interesting things that will come from that. Things that people don’t really expect.

RG: And of course that’s one of the things that people will really enjoy. Back on our SotA website we’ll probably open up a dialogue specific to non-combat professions that you guys can help us sort out.

RH: And that would be my favourite kind of stuff, I’m not much of a you know, back at the beginning in the hay day of UO, sure I tried being a PKer or a griefer for a little bit but I soon became the carebear and more interested in housing and the non-combat role kind of stuff so I look forward to discussing the story stuff with Richard some more and figuring out what that means not just for the scenario but for the grand build up of it, from the macro to the micro. So that’s next.

RG: Well thank you sir.

*Rick Holtrop Leaves*

RG: Let’s see here, NPC schedules, yes so we don’t have a specific plan on that, it’s definitely something we’re thinking of and I agree oh right I was talking about the sky and astronomy before Rick walked in, which is there is a day/night cycle, there is weather and astronomical changes. I think that gives it a lot of opportunity for change.

* Brandon Cotton Enters*

RG: Bee the Conceiver! Please describe a little bit about yourself and your history.

BC: Sure! I’m Brandon Cotton. Everyone just calls me Bee, I’ve been at Portalarium since the start, previously I was at NCSoft and Dungeon Runners, I didn’t directly work with Richard there but I certainly encountered him so at the end of NCSoft that was when Portalarium started up, which is how I kind of got on here and my primary background is more of a technical designer and world builder and just generally take the view that in design you kind of have to do a little of everything and so I just changed my skill set to match with what was needed, if we needed more world building I’ll do that, if we need programming I can do that. So like most designers I try to be as flexible as possible and to be the glue that fits everything together.

RG: I would also say that you are particularly strong at systems, game systems and earlier when I was talking to Rick, I was discussing how I think the best designers are people who are not just designers they have to be at least technical and a little artistic. You are capable of being a front line programmer, your technical skill is as good any other programmer but then the fact that you’re willing to jump into the design side so strongly is a real asset to, systems design especially, on this project.

BC: Yea and as a designer you have to do everything you can and so from my perspective I’d rather be a good designer that can program ok, than having to focus on programming all the time. As a programmer and an artist you get to see one aspect of the game, you get to work on that, tweak that and make it perfect but as a designer you get to bounce around and I love being in this role because I get to be applied to anything on a needed basis and also it changes every day you just kind of move to whatever the project needs.

RG: He’s also been tackling one of the harder problems recently, when we started to design this map, it was easy to make a mountain pop up everywhere we went, there’s a mountain, there’s a mountain, there’s a mountain, there’s a tree, there’s a tree but you don’t want it to look like a mountain, and a mountain, and a mountain, you want it to look like a mountain range. He’s been working a lot on these bridges you might say that bring these mountains together at the top to make the ranges seem more continuous. You and Lauren and I’m not sure who else is working on coast lines and the edges of all these things to put them all together, which is actually a very complex problem to make a map that we can just re-edit oh change that to water, change that to land, and then have everything refit itself back together without requiring a ton of hand massaging (to fix it).

BC: Yea Lauren’s done a great job of putting together the technical side of putting it together and then I take over and create the assets, create the height maps, tweak it, get the textures from our artist, and put that stuff in so from my perspective it’s just a really fun awesome thing being able to piece together the overworld of Ultima, I mean I’ve played those while I was a kid too, so it’s nice to have that realization that you’re crafting the overworld that all the players will play in. Moving forward I’ll get applied to other stuff but I’m really enjoying working on that overworld where you’re setting up encounters, setting up scenes, sort of tying together the work that a lot of people are doing and making that big world exciting. That’s a great thing to, I get to work with Lauren who does great stuff and has a programming background and a technical background I kind of off load some of the stuff from him. Let’s just get it to a point where it works and then I can take it from there so moving forward I’m excited about the overworld, being able to bring Richard’s map, the cloth map and all these things to life.

RG: That brings up something, I saw a question go by says are we going to have ships, is there going to be a sense of exploration and cartography, so let me talk about that for a minute first, this two piece map is actually map number 1 of the outdoor world and we actually built that and implemented it, it was actually running in the engine or an earlier version of the engine and this was 16x16 hexes. When we looked at it we thought that it did not give you that sense of exploration, the points of interest were so close together and you could see on one screen maybe a quarter of the whole world and it did fine as a travel map but it did terribly as a place to explore and so we moved up and we doubled it to 16x16 (I think he meant 32x32) of the world and we still felt it wasn’t big enough. So then we went up to 96x96 and you can see that the resolution is getting very small there, and that is the world that we’re playing on right now and we think that it makes it sufficiently large and it gives you that sense of true exploration, you can at least see as far as the next point of interest and not more than one and with the introduction of the fog of war, you really do feel like you’re exploring. There are plenty of places to go and get lost on the way and to as well find your way.

BC: And one of the things I don’t think we’ve really gotten into yet is having it be dynamic, more changing and evolutionary overtime, that’s always a fun thing that NPC schedules and creating a living world is creating these things that change over time so we’re still designing exactly what that means and we definitely know we want this overworld map to be something that is dynamic, not just where are my friends and where are the enemies, just this fact that this meteor is here now as much as we can get in these big events that are representative of this big world.

RG: And getting back to the maps again, if you pledge enough to get you one of the cloth maps that will be a cloth map in its original state. Not only will the world change, we might destroy cities, we might bring in new islands, we could have a flood that gauges a new river through the continent but if you pledge a level that gets you a cloth map, we will actually make that many cloth maps but no more. Then when we get around to episode 2 that will release a whole new land mass, each episode we think will double the total lands and even between episodes we will expand the land space, so each new episode we’ll print a map out that includes the totality of the reality, it’ll be a snapshot of the reality at that time. And when we get to episode 3 it’ll be a snapshot of the reality of that time. And so these first episode maps really should become a good collector’s item because they represent a clean start, a blank slate, the tabula rasa of the new world. The only way to get one is to be with us from the very beginning.
BC: Thanks!

*Brandon Cotton Leaves*

RG: Will there be teleporters to get around the world? Yes if you look at our kickstarter or the SotA website you’ll see some of those gateways, we’ll call them lunar rifts, they can take you from place to place they actually change, their pattern changes based on the phases of the moon and we even have a technologically way where in some cities they can actually change the patterns of those connections, but I think the question really was will there be teleport stones or runes where you can magically decide to teleport somewhere and the answer is probably, we haven’t actually crossed that bridge but it’s a reasonable suggestion and there are good odds we’ll have it. Let’s see what else we have here going, is there an end to the single player game? Yes there is absolutely a linear story that comes to a conclusion and then it has an epilogue which is where you can reasonably stay involved in the game beyond that or at least hang out after that and not feel strange about it. The story is absolutely a singular story, written for you, the player. So it will feel like, if you follow the story it will feel like a traditional solo player role playing game. Again that being said, we do have a persistent world that is changing based on everyone’s contributions and you do have the ability to commonly and often purposefully play alongside friends and sometimes strangers within the world.

*Mary Rose Monkowski Enters*

RG: Come in, come in, tell us a little bit about yourself and your history.

MRM: Hi I’m Mary Rose Monkowski and I’m the UI artist here and doing design work as well. For this project I’ve also done a lot of the website stuff primarily so kind of on the peripheries of doing stuff. Hopefully I’ll get back into the game stuff soon. Before I was here I worked at another company working on an MMO doing UI work and before that I was an exhibit designer.

RG: Oh wow so you came to us from a whole other industry!

MRM: Yes, using the same tools but this is way more fun.

RG: Good to hear and it’s good to see that UI is one of those areas that only in the last 5 years or so have companies really realized how important UI is, I don’t care how good your game thinks it is, if you don’t get a good person to work on your UI, the game will suck to play. It’s been great to see your contributions to our games over the last year or so now but in these last few weeks where you’ve been getting all these sites up online, boy we’ve thrown a lot of work your way.

MRM: That’s very true!

RG: Trust me it was well noticed the crunch you had to go through to get all the proper pieces and all the proper formatting and all the proper ways that you go things up and in any case, thank you very much, especially for these last few weeks but for the rest of the time as well.

MRM: Thank you!

*Mary-Rose Mikowski Leaves*

RG: How about the rocket from Ultima 2? It’s funny you should ask I was just thinking about how I asked Chris Roberts if I could borrow some ship models from his game and make a little link that I don’t know if you remember but in Ultima 7 (*SPOILER ALERT*) I think it was we put a crashed Kilrathi ship outside a major town (Britain) to the North East (More like just East). And we had the Hoe of Destruction which was the only way to kill off the Kilrathi warrior that came out of it but that’s a little side story there. (*SPOILER ALERT ENDS*) When are the developer forums going to open? Good question, I’m not sure exactly, they’ll open before the end of the month to be sure but I don’t know if they’ll open before that. I know the site is up but based on the comments I’m seeing the forums themselves are not open, I should have asked Geena, she would have known exactly when those forums go live. Please come on in.

*Ryan Caltabiano Enters*

RG: Come in, tell us a little about yourself, what you’re responsible for?

RC: Hi I’m Ryan Caltabiano, I’m a game programmer, one of the engineers, programmers whatever you want to call us, the code monkeys, this is year number 5 now in the game industry for me, programming for most of it, worked on several MMOs now as well as some other projects, started off as an intern on Shadowbane, worked on Faxion Online and a couple others from there.

RG: So what from the demo can you say that that work was mine, my initials are on it.

RC: So all of the monsters and characters that are hooked up have been rigged up on my computer and running around the world, the combat, the health bars, a lot of the initial UI coding was hooked up by me. The previous person you had in here Mary-Rose, did all the artwork, let’s see hooking up the powers, getting that stuff working.

RG: How good are the powers? That’s something we only showed a tiny little bit of because sadly your work was some of the cutting edge pieces that we decided not to expose at the time of the kickstarter. It’s going back to some of those combat things we’ve described theoretically that you already have running on your machine, but we just didn’t think it was quite ready to expose but he’s been doing those more sophisticated combat powers. You can see one of the powers, we’ve hooked up a short cut to it, that roundhouse sword attack.

RC: Yes that was the powered whirlwind.

RG: Yea we just hooked up a number key that we used to invoke that one since it already has some nice animations in it and we needed an area of attack an area of effect combat maneuver so we hacked one in, but yea I’m looking forward to showing off more of that stuff, hopefully during this kickstarter phase.

RC: Yea it’s been a lot of fun hooking that up, it was a fun challenge. It’s really tweakable for the future so we can do a lot of fun stuff with it so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what we can pull off with that. Thanks!

*Ryan Caltabiano Leaves*

RG: Let’s see here, will teleport runes be available? I already answered that question! Europe is waiting, well we just did some press stops in Europe and hope to support Europe heavily. In fact, England, France and Germany represent 1/3 or maybe even ½ of the total market, well with Japan, without Japan I suppose it’s a 1/3, so fear not Europe we will be there with you. What do I think of JRPG? It’s interesting because there have been a lot of not just Japanese but Asian MMOs that have come out across that have been free to play and to be honest I’m somewhat critical of them in that they look really beautiful but all the ones I’ve seen follow the Everquest or what I call the World of Warcraft model. Even if they are beautiful, if they are just another MMO that you get dropped into you know follow the arrow on the map until you get to your destination, it doesn’t really inspire me much and so this is actually been one of our motivations is seeing some of what has NOT been coming out and really wanting to make a difference again so to speak.

*Chris Spears Enters*

RG: Player community events. Yes absolutely why not? I mean in fact if you look at one of our higher levels of contribution you’ll see that we already have planned, we go to a lot of the game shows, game developers conferences and to do some player events along side whether it’s a comic-con or a dragon-con, it’s really something we want to do with players and especially since we’re skipping past the publisher relationships and going straight to a relationship with you. You are our bosses, we are putting this game together for you, you are putting money into this game, we owe you answers to your demands on what you want out of your game. It used to be that we’d have to listen to our sales department at our publisher’s who would say look if you’re using our money to make this game we demand that you ship it before it is done for example. And now if you tell us to ship it before it’s done, if it’s really what you want, we’ll do it but I suspect you’ll want it to have the features that you want in it at the time we ship it and so we’ll let you into the betas early, we’ll call it ready to go when you all help us to decide it’s ready to go. Are their regional server limitations? And again don’t forget we’re not doing this as client-server, so there is not MMO-style centralized server to which everyone is connected in that same way, rather it match-makes on the fly to decide who are your friends but your question is still interesting, which is how far globally do we think that friend can be? Chris might be a good person to ask that question. Do you foresee we might have any limitations to geographic location?

CS: It’s not the traditional massive server, in that everyone still connects to the main server, there are servers obviously, there is matchmaking and elements of transactional stuff but anyways, it’s not the traditional server. Not an MMO server so to speak. It should not be any different than if you’re playing unreal tournament or whatever you can play with those people across seas. We should be more lag-friendly because of the more strategic, less frantic combat style that we use.

RG: Let’s see, can you describe how a primary craftsman’ lifestyle will play out? Absolutely, one of my greatest points of pride about UO was that in contrast to EQ or WoW style of alternate activities, I’d say that if you play WoW, you are first and foremost a combatant and you don’t go anywhere without being a combatant. You don’t go on in the game without combat, but in UO while I’d still say 2/3 of the population were combatants, there were another 25-35% of people who never engaged in combat. If you were a Blacksmith in UO, you really were a Blacksmith, you weren’t concerned with combat you were concerned about your skill in Blacksmithing and you’d forge things out of the materials that people would bring back in to town like a real Blacksmith. You’d make things for people who could then go back out and fight. That is our target interest, our target desire, that people who devote themselves to those alternative professions outside of combat can have a completely rich experience that does not involve going forward with combat. I’ll talk a little bit more about crafting, at this point a lot of this is just written down and it’ll still need to survive contact and execution and therefore could change but we want to make crafting into a system like we’ve done in the past which I call recipe oriented crafting and that contains the tools or ingredients that might be consumed, an object you might craft or enhance and the result, it might also contain a certain skill level on yourself, some tests of your own attributes. That being said there is another form of crafting that I really like, I’ll broadly call it the crafting out of minecraft, which is a very simple user interface oriented crafting. I wouldn’t push so far the minigame crafting, although I like the idea of making bacon by flipping it on a little skillet before you throw it in a bowl, before you do, before you do, before you do…Those are just very labour intensive, we’re trying to find a middle ground where you still have to fulfill the recipe for crafting and then potentially do some geometric or task oriented thing but that task can still be universal enough that it can be reskinned for all the different forms of crafting and we haven’t found that yet, that’s what we’re in search of. I’m guessing it’ll take a few months to figure that out. That might be another good thread for our forums but I’m guessing we won’t really tackle that, at least not very significantly for a couple months here still.

*End of Part 2 (1:01:15)*

Stay tuned for part 3 of 3.