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?


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