Saturday, July 7, 2007

UO Columbus Town Hall Report

I got a T-Shirt. I got a poster. And I got the same answer I've been getting for nine years on ships and sailing in UO - No.

That's not a big deal, though, to me anymore. In fact I just ask it for fun at this point. My experience at today's UO Town Hall right here in Columbus ended about an hour ago, and as always it was fun. The fun part is being among a whole room full of people who "get it" about UO and have the same diverse attitudes about the game that you see in the game and on its community message boards.

In attendance for the standing - room only event at my local Dave and Busters was its producer Darkscribe (Aaron Cohen), Draconi (Tim Cotton), and Jeremy (the community person). There were no big revelations, no invites to San Francisco for bigger events like I had in Indianapolis back in 2004, just players and team members getting together to discuss the game.

When I got there, I encountered about a dozen people already waiting to get in, and introduced myself to a few of them, inlcuding a Stratics staff member. They let us in at 3 PM and right at the door Jeremy was handing out the posters and T-shirts, and the buffet was there ready for us. I grabbed a seat, then a plate, while others did the same.

Darkscribe started out the town hall as he had done previously, with a joke announcement about adding Ultima II's time travel to UO. After that, he went through a brief overview of what we'd be covering today, including some new Kingdom Reborn features. The one they were really pushing was the new female paperdoll, which I took a blurry picture of:

Darkscribe showed us a few things in the new build of the KR client which were cool, including the addition of the boat - command macros that I had suggested over on Stratics a few weeks back. Ironically, he had no idea that I was the one who suggested them. None of those designers knew who I was. I miss the days of Binky and SunSword. Sigh.

The next patch coming for KR, hopefully in a week or so, will be a big one that will require taking down all the shards. In addition to the useful macro keys and commands, he showed off the sticky inventory, which keeps items in place when switching from the KR grid to the classic mode, and said that they want to make inventory items look bigger in classic mode, too.

KR has something he called "legacy mode chat", he said, and he showed off some chat improvements, too. In summation, Darkscribe said that "There's a lot of stuff in the pipeline" for Kingdom Reborn.

Next Draconi joined Darkscribe for some test center shard PvP, which consisted mostly of them fooling around an invulnerable character equipped with some sort of super-butcher cleaver weapon. With the cheering encouragement of the audience, they chased after a real test center player who had no idea what he was up against. That was hilarious.

Draconi next showed off his Dark Knight encounter, which he characterized as the "capstone of the new player experience". Basically, there's a huge new player experience in KR (although I haven't tried it myself), and at the end, once a new player is up to speed on the combat basics of the game, they have a recall rune that they can use to visit the Dark Knight (no, not Batman).

The Dark Knight has some really cool new attacking AI, including something they were calling "bumrush" where he charges the player knocking them back. The whole encounter seems like a nice showcase for not only some new monster AI but the particle effects that they are so proud of with KR. Beating the Dark Knight grants the player one of three random prizes.

Draconi also did a test center fireworks show that looked pretty cool, again showing off their obsession with those particle effects. He made a previous post on Stratics about the event so that there were lots of players in attendance in the game for it. I have to admit, it was pretty fantastic to see that stuff in UO.

Then began the Q&A session, which was the usual stuff players ask about - the combat and PvP balance being foremost in many player's thoughts. The impression I got was that it's a priority for the developers, too, but as an all-encompassing fix rather than patching up smaller problems with it here and there. In spite of all this vision toward it there was no commitment at all on when it could even be seriously considered.

After awhile I asked my usual question about boats and ocean development, getting the usual answer of "Umm, no. It's too big to take on, sorry." Even with that, none of them recognized me as Admiral Ruffie. Oh, if only Leurocian were there, I might have gotten some respect. Alas.

They took notes, and as the session wore on the questions seemed to diminish in importance, and by 6 PM the Dave and Busters people were chasing us out. It was a good time, I guess, but I certainly didn't leave with the same upbeat enthusiasm I had after the 2003 Ultima X Odyssey Event, the 2004 Indianapolis GenCon event, or the 2004 Community Day event.

At the town hall there were none of the community - involved players I had met in the past - no Talanithus, Leif, Fizban, Crazy Joe, Bella Noire, Nieves, Markee Dragon, Lady Malynn, or any of the others. I met a few new people, but it just wasn't the same. As a player who is considering returning full - time to Ultima Online, I had hoped that both Kingdom Reborn and this UO Town Hall would make me feel the way I once did for the game and the community.

Sadly, it did not. However, it's good to see such a huge turnout and to know that the game is still chugging forward and that there are enough fans to pack a meeting hall in Columbus, Ohio, of all places. And I am grateful to Darkscribe, Jeremy, and Draconi and EA for holding the event here.

Here's a few additional pictures. First, the crowd mills about before the event:

Next, a pic of the presentation with (left to right) Darkscribe, Jeremy, and Draconi:

Finally, a picture of Draconi's fireworks show:

There you have it.


Jeremy said...

Admiral, we love you! I wish you'd mentioned that was who you were - I didn't know what you looked like in person, but we totally would have given you credit for making all those macro icons that we ripped off from ya :)

Ruffie said...

Ah, it's okay Jeremy, I don't need credit for those macros - it was just a thrill to see them actually in the game. They will certainly make steering a boat in KR much easier than it's ever been.

Keep up the good work, and feel free to sign me up for any EA - sponsored San Francisco - based fan events that come up. This might be a good year to have another Community Day, you know, with the 10th anniversary and all that *hint hint*.