Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shroud of the Avatar Video Transcript #2 (Part 1 of 3)

Shroud of the Avatar Ustream transcript 2013-03-08 (88:52) (00:01 - 31:00)

Richard Garriot: RG
Chris Spears: CS
Lauren Hoffman: LH
Gina: G
Moustache Guy: MG

RG: Throw us some more questions and we’ll do our best to answer them…ok so questions about eating and drinking and the details of interaction and the answer is yes, my constant request to the team is if something looks like it should be interactive, it should be interactive and we’ll do this as much as we can but a big part of that is how well this kickstarter campaign goes. It really isn’t cheap, it takes programmer time to make a can drinkable, to make a computer turn on and off, to make a toilet flush, so we’ll do as much as we can. So if we reach our goal we’ll of course deliver you a great ultima-like experience but the farther we manage past that goal, we use that money to deepen and deepen the reality of the world itself. I’m already confident that the campaign is going well enough that we’ll be able to really deepen and penetrate the level of interaction in this world.

RG: Will there be taming? Over time pets have been one of my favorite parts in my mind of a game, and I liked the profession of taming going back to UO and games since that have allowed you to tame pets so it’s definitely on the professions list, we haven’t placed a priority on that just yet, we’ve been focusing on core game components first, the fundamental fighter and magic user aspects of the combat skills. We haven’t yet placed priority on anything after that but pets and taming we know are on the short list of skills we’d like to have and in fact Rick Holtrop who’s in the other room and has done a lot of work already just in the last couple weeks leading up to this kickstarter campaign, has designed a quest where you try to save a baby dragon and the parent dragon was very thankful for you and this showed the beginnings of a simulated pet system.

This might be a good time to bring in a few of the members of the team in to talk, and I’ll introduce Chris because a lot of people have been saying please introduce us to members of the team. So Chris and I have already worked together for a number of years that I’ll call previous lives and previous games, the dark years so to speak…Kickstarter hits 300k…several members of the team enter frame…cheers to all members of the team…drinking ensues…Rick Holtrop reflects on dragon taming in UO…dirty dozen as they call themselves, started about 6 months ago, the last month has been a looong time coming…RG thanks all team members for their hard work…team members leave, only RG and CS remain…dried flowers please…

RG: So let’s get back to Chris, the heartbeat of the team, as I have been travelling around at press stops Chris has been back here trying to keep the team going, he’s also been writing code, so other than team management what parts of the game will have your code signature on them?

CS: I try to do it all, I think I’m the worst artist up here but I do level building, design stuff, code stuff, team management, scheduling, walking around making sure people are doing the right stuff, I don’t know, Jack of all trades.

RG: That’s interesting, I think creating a good play space is a surprisingly difficult task so having someone who can tackle that to both code really well, and it’d be great if they were a good artist, but also has a good eye for assembly. Even though he’s not an official designer on the project, he is one of the stronger contributor to the design aspects of the game.

CS: And also as a senior tech guy, my job is also to say no to Richard as well.

RG: Although by the way, since he is a shockingly highly opinionated design person and at least as big a bully as I am, we have already had the traditional locking of horns over several design cases, for example, an interesting case, a design area that we want to bring you guys in on, and to be honest this is an aspect I was extremely resist to but as we got into further and further I have always kept telling him that I’m holding veto privileges on this particular direction but the more I think of it the more I’m not only warming up to it but becoming almost commited to it is…

CS: Which part?

RG: The new framing for combat, now there’s two forms of combat that I like but I knew we didn’t want to do, one is the diablo style of hack and slash, it’s visceral and exciting for a player but in a full role-playing game it didn’t seem to me to be deep enough, then there is the usual MMO-style which is you fill your shortcut bar with your buffs before battle and then you have all your attacks lined up with the appropriate cooldown times where you can literally hand calculate the maximum damage over time to min/max your way through encounters. I look at that as the worst examples of DnD when it went bad after my younger days when it went from being all about the story to all about spreadsheet management. We’ve been looking for something more sophisticated while still simple enough that you didn’t make the game harder to play but it meant you really had to think about combat more.  Chris and some other people were pushing a form of combat that was more like a deck builder process where you would take the skills that you had learned in combat and by using the equipment that you had to preset before entering combat, this are the moves or tactics, tools that I would like to use in this combat and these skills would become available to you not because they are on a shortcut bar but because they are in your bag of tricks so to speak, you have brought them up as you’re going. As a fictional purist I didn’t want to use the term “card combat”

CS: Don’t use that term!

RG: I had carefully avoided using that term until just then when I said it, but then I sat back and I thought about the military and before we go to war with Iraq we do desert warfare maneuvers and that brings to the front of your mind the maneuvers that are appropriate for the desert. Soldiers are trained in swamp warfare, forest warfare, all the different types of warfare, so preparing in advance for the combat I can see myself going into the desert and preparing to fight monsters these are the skills I can preset and that makes sense to me strategically. I can reflect on this because I used to be a competitive fencer in college and even though we would practice all the parries and reposts it was very different in a real tournament you don’t think about everything you’ve learned you just react in the moment. There is a fictional reality or metaphor for what happens in combat where you have let’s call them rune stones or skill stones where you have two fighters that still have two different styles of fighting and each experience is different as they happen. That’s our current thinking but that’s one of the areas that we almost put screenshots up for and we have the basic principles of this system running in the prototype. Maybe through this kickstarter we’ll reveal some of those screenshots or in one of our posts on our website as time goes on and that’s a scenario we really want your feedback on. How do we make sure that combat does not become brain dead, how to make sure it remains compelling and interesting, skill-based actual personal skill-based as you go in to it.

CS: And not just skill based in terms of realtime I can click the right button , at the right time type arcade game. There is a strategy to it, there’s a building up of logic of what skills combine well together and there’s also an offline skill that you’ll be building, what abilities, powers, spells, reagents or components work well together. And also that fits into a classless system where we don’t have to force you to be a fighter but you can organize those in order to take on a more tank role, or crowd control role or healer role in combat in that kind of MMO way where you can build up your skills in an offline role but then go online and take on a role that you can use with friends.

RG: I completely concur, we never have to decide that my character is a fighter and not a mage, it’s something you can explore slowly over time. I say a question about whether there will be stealing or less virtuous roles? And I think they are completely fair game, we want a diverse reality that includes even shadier tactics, I just want to make sure that we create them in a context of good and evil like in my previous games. You have to live with the consequence of your actions, if we develop a thievery skill perhaps they’ll be ways to use those skills for good or maybe you’ll use them for evil, you can do both but you have to be ready to live with the results, the happiness or discord you cause for your allies or characters in the game…

RG: Let’s go back to the stream…we want classic UO…well don’t worry because if you look back at the first 3 ultimas, they were basically me teaching myself to program…I took ideas from time bandits, star wars and anything that inspired me at the time. It was U4 when we started to create our own unique world…before that we had Balrogs from LotR, lightsabers and speeders from star wars, the moon gates were actually time travel portals from time bandits. With U4 I had to say no more of that. There have been no elves or dwarves in Ultima since U4 and as long as I was a part of UO, it didn’t have them either. A few years after I left I got a call from EA saying we noticed there were no elves or dwarves in UO, are there any reasons that’s true? I said yes that’s because the first 3 ultimas were plagiarized from other peoples work and in Ultima 4 we developed our own reality and it’s not the reality of middle earth, star wars or time bandits, it’s our own created reality from scratch. EA said thank you very much but we’re putting Elves and Dwarves back into UO…That was the day where Ultima was no longer mine…That was the day Ultima became a property of EA and the creation of EA and not the creation of RG or Lord British and since it has gone even further than what I would do, it has Ninjas now and while I don’t have a problem with Ninjas, they just aren’t a part of Britannian history. So if you’re saying you’re looking for a classic UO experience then yes I will deliver a classic in many ways and in many interpretations of the word I hope.

CS: I’ll go get another member of the team while you discuss beards in game, some people really want to know if you’ll be able to have beards in the game.

RG: Of course I’m going to want to make my avatar in game but oh wait…beards on females…well that’s different, I don’t see why not but I think I’ll put up a poll on this and we’ll figure it out. Technologically it’s not a problem but if you really, really want it, we’ll figure something out…NPC schedules, that’s a really good question. This is one of the things we’re working on right now, the day/night cycle and the sky, there’s no screenshot up with the new sky but I’m sure in the next couple of weeks you’ll see the new sky released and we’ll tell you a little bit about the astronomy, astrology and day/night stuff. *new guy enters* Welcome, welcome, tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to this project and about the wonderful work you’re doing on the outdoor map

LH: Hi I’m Lauren Hoffman, I joined Portalarium  last August. I have a history in doing rendering… computational geometry stuff…working on overworld terrain streaming…terrain generation and fog of war…rapid customizability of overworld…*RG shows cloth map*…interaction of systems within overworld

RG: What are you working on right now?

LH: I’ve been working making it so we can expand the world faster and rivers, it seems mondane but…

RG: Oh right, on the cloth map you see this river that runs through these towns but in gameplay they don’t so that’s the next problem.

LH: Yep. Getting all the water flow on the map and making sure that it flows correctly towards the ocean, it sounds boring but it’s actually a big deal.

RG: Oh yea it’s huge.

LH: Alright well thanks guys. *leaves*

RG: Well let’s see here, will it be possible to have boxed copies? That’s something that’s come up a little bit even when we were doing our rooster teeth initial interview. Some people noted that it would be great to have an $150 collector’s edition that comes with cloth map and other stuff and that was an interesting comment because it’s something we clearly can do. We have to put the game in something to ship it so why not a nice box, we’ll put it to a survey and see what you guys think.

*Gina* Enters

RG: Welcome Gina you are our social media guru and she is someone we’ve worked with a number of time with various games and companies, she joined us just before the kickstarter when we knew that we would have a live community. Her job is to not only to keep you happy with answering your questions and such but also when the rest of us get back to work typing on computers, it’ll be Gina’s job to harass us.

G: Yes and to make sure there’s enough Scotch to go around.

RG: Yes Scotch. So tell us a little bit about yourself, how do you think things are going, can you give these guys some insight as to how we’re going to keep the community engaged.
G: The community has been excellent so far, they are very excited and very enthusiastic. They have some great ideas.

RG: I see a lot of people have requested a box?

G: Oh yes definitely they want a box and swag and something to put on their desk or show their friends, it’s very important to the community.

RG: I’m going to ask this and I won’t take any answers now because you guys don’t know the story yet but the trinket that applies to the story we want you guys to come up with something unique because we’ve done Ankhs and Moonstones, head bands, tool kits, etc…As we expose the story to you later this month we want you guys to brainstorm what that trinket should be.

G: We also have a section on the forums just for SWAG where we want you guys to come up with ideas of what we can do for physical items and such. We’re working on that too, get on the forums and speak up.

RG: Thanks Gina.

*Gina Leaves*

*Moustache Guy Enters*

RG: And now the person you’ve all been waiting for…it’s moustache guy! You are in charge of main server side techie guru, website guy, but give the people some details as to what else you do.

MG: Principally I’m in charge of the server side of things…playing online and playing together…nothing to do with graphics, just playing with your friends and the online website stuff…

RG: He’s also the one responsible for the little memory leak we had a few days ago which we were able to squash quite quickly. We also have a very different relationship that goes outside of work, I had the great honour of performing his wedding 8 months ago and I hope you’re both very happy. I performed the ceremony as Lord British. So what do you think of the problem of unusual extension to solo player where we’re not going to the client server but rather a solo game that downloads a persistent world to you where you can play with your real friends, so what do you think, have you started coding for this type of experience?

MG: Well I’ve never work for a traditional MMO so I can’t 100% answer that question, I think that what we want to do is put a story line into the game where you can play alone or with your friends but grouping them up in those sections or rooms basically on the overland map it gives a good balance between everyone’s needs to make sure everyone is happy. We started writing the back end which has been used in our previous games and thus tested and we know that it works together to make a much more immersive game rather than the social games we’ve done in the past. I’m confident in this method as it is tested and running already in current products but I realize that there is a lot more to this game because of how immersive it is.
RG: Great, let’s see how many people can be online at a time? I’ve been saying small numbers, about a dozen, the amount of people you could invite over for a dinner party, do you think that’s a good target?

MG: I think we can stretch it to more than that. Obviously connection and everything plays a part in that but I think the standard party will not be more than that based on how big a group is generally for games like this. The technology side can definitely do more than that.

RG: Alright, well thank you very much!

*Moustache Guy Leaves*

Part 1 of 3 ends at (31:00)
Stay tuned for part 2 hopefully tomorrow.

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