morrolan

Gordon Walton - are you the one who brought us Trammel?

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I was there for Meridian 59, AC: Darktide, Shadowbane, Darkfall, and I loved them all, but none of them ever had the same effect as Ultima Online. That game took everyone - good, bad, neutral - crafter, killer, explorer, builder - young, old, newb, veteran - put us all in one box, and gave us the tools we needed to make something unforgettable. I remember reading Origin's slogan - "We Create Worlds" - and wow, back then, they really did. 

 

Then Trammel came along, and someone decided to rip those tools out of our hands and force us to play separately. Our emergent, impossibly complex worlds were bulldozed and covered up with half-assed cookie-cutter theme parks. 

 

So when you caught my attention with the line "Gordon Walton was the Executive Producer for Ultima Online," I looked you up on Wikipedia. Your UO credits are listed as:

 

Fifteen years later I can't help but continue to wonder: what the hell happened?

 

Whose call was it? Did you fight against the release of Trammel? Or did you think it was the right idea at the time?

 

What was your role? How do you feel about it now?

 

I would love to finally hear some of those answers, and I would love to know why I should let down my (increasingly skeptical) guard down enough to get caught up in the hype for whatever you are working on now.

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Hmm, for me Trammel was the downfall of Ultima Online :(.

 

I was not a pker, actually was an anti-pker along with my guild.

 

Trammel just completely took the wind out of the sails for player-interaction when it came to UO.

 

I understand some people didn't want to pvp, didn't want to lose items, but by having that able to happen all of the individual parts worked together.

 

A player lost his items? A crafter helped him get new ones.

 

A player sees some reds camping the crossroads? Anti-pkers come in and wipe the floor with them and protect the new players/blues (I loved doing this).

 

Trammel cmae along and the world just felt so dead after that, players that didn't wnat to pvp left that side, interaction dropped out in many facets (Even those non-pvp releated that pvp interacted with down the line).

 

The non-pvpers left, the Anit-pkers had no one to "protect" or a need for anymore, crafters in trammel didn't really have a source of players to sell their wares to, it just took the wind out of the sails even for non-pvpers.

drakiis, Tyrant, caffynated and 4 others like this

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I never played UO, but I heard about how it changed with Trammel, and always shed a digital tear for my fellow gamers who were so affected. I'm curious about this as well, however given the "people" Mr. Walton's hanging around with now, I'd be surprised if that's the philosophy he's jiving with. 

 

Btw, please tell me you folks dragged Meridian with you!

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It's pretty refreshing to see that kind of in-depth and honest answer, hopefully it'll be of some comfort to all the UO players. Thanks a lot for sharing that with us. That latter bit about the goals of this game is extremely encouraging, as well.

 

 

Now, were you also behind the NGE for SWG?  :lol:

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I personally had no issue with Trammel, and I even agree with most of the reasoning of what Gordon posted. I played UO for many years following it's release. I did PvP pre-Trammel (Tried to anyway), went to Trammel, and came back. I died, but I always got back up.

It's a safe bet that Crowfall will have some serious PvP. If not full loot, than multiple factions, and perhaps maybe full loot, or full on FFA.

The one thing I hope Crowfall addresses that UO never did: Symbiosis.

 

It's absolutely imperative for the long-term sustainability of the product that the diversity of playstyles you choose to attract (no matter what an individual's personal proclivities gravitate towards) serves a purpose that is not only meaningful to those who prefer it, but who's role is plainly obvious to the ecosystem of the world, and vital in the support and life-cycle of the others even if only through transitive properties. 

 

As was pointed out, no one what's to be the sheep, and everyone thinks they're the wolf. The game, by design, must instill a sense in the would-be wolves that those who they prey upon serve a purpose that they themselves cannot fill. Checks and balances, so to speak. What care did the wolves of UO have if they killed a sheep? There was only gain to be had, never a loss. At least, not until they met another wolf.

I of course, have my own thoughts and opinions of how this might be done, but it's not my place. I do look forward to seeing how and if Crowfall can manage to accomplish such a feat.
 

dawgs4ever, armegeddon and nick like this

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Another interesting thing to note is that the push for bigger audiences leads directly to more "accessible" experiences.  (that's code for directed experiences, that are more forgiving, less intense games which cater a broader group of players).  There are plenty of big companies out there making those types of games (and plenty of  players who want them).

 

We are specifically making our game for players who will like the kind of experience we will create, not trying to cast a wide net to get a mass market audience.  We want the folks who will appreciate an intense gaming experience with real risk, winning *and* losing.  While we want as many players who are engaged in our game as possible, we won't need millions of players to make our game work.

 

So our game won't be for everyone, and we certainly don't want people playing who aren't enjoying the experience.  This is supposed to be an activity we experience as fun after all!

 

omg omg omg, great to hear.

psychedelics and buc0727 like this

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@morrolan  Great question from ancient (but highly emotional history)!

 

Yes, I'm the person who is responsible for bringing you Trammel and the dilution the original UO.

 

And I regret some (but not all) of the outcome.  My charter as the VP of Online at Origin Systems (and Executive Producer of UO), was to grow the game.  The unforgiving play environment that made UO so intense was clearly driving away between 70+% of all the new players that tried the game within 60 days.  The changes we came up with to address this problem were a compromise, mostly driven by fiscal, technological and time reasons.

 

The good:  After the change which broke the game space into PvP and PvE worlds, the player base and income nearly doubled (we went from 125k to 245k subs).  So from a fiscal responsibility standpoint it was a totally winning move.

 

The bad:  Without the "sheep to shear" the hard core PvP'ers were disenfranchised.  They didn't like preying on each other (hard targets versus soft targets), and they became a smaller minority in the overall game.  The real bad though was that the intensity and "realness" of the game for all players was diminished.  This was the major unintended consequence.

 

Part of the context during that time was that UO2 was under development, and the plan that was being pushed on us was to shut down UO when UO2 launched (even though it was a completely different game).  In fact, my second week at Origin I was asked for a shutdown plan for the game.  (My answer:  if you are serious I'm quitting today, because some of the players are going to kill (IRL) the people responsible for such a decision.  They really didn't understand the emotional attachment UO players had for the game).  This continued to be something talked about though continuously, but less after we grew the game.  Remember that EA at that time was a packaged game company and they culturally only understood launching new products, not running live ones.  Our Live team needed to keep UO vibrant and growing to offset those forces, so we were continuously scrambling for how to do that.  I'm proud that UO survives to this day based partially on the momentum the team (and our loyal customers) created.

 

I also learned from my UO experience that it's really hard to change a brand.  Inherent in the UO brand was the fact it was a gritty, hard core world of danger.  We were not successful in bringing back the (literally)100's of thousands of players who had quit due to the unbridled PvP in the world (~5% of former customers came back to try the new UO, but very few of them stayed).  We discovered that people didn't just quit UO, they divorced it in a very emotional way.  But we did keep more of the new players that came in by a large margin, significantly more than than the PvP players we lost.

 

If I had the chance to do it again, (and we had different fiscal and time constraints), we would have done something more like keeping the current current worlds with the original ruleset (like we later did with the Seige Perilous shard, which was too late in my view), and make new shards with a more PvE ruleset.

 

One of the benefits of experience is the mistakes you've made along the way, and the pattern matching to avoid old mistakes.  Of course this means that you get to make new and even more spectacular (but different) mistakes in the present!   :)

 

I hope this gives you more insight into what happened the UO that you (and I) loved.

 

 

P.S. Please do remain skeptical, we don't expect anything on faith, but wait until we unveil our entire vision before passing final judgement!

 

The 16yr old in me that loved UO at the time would really want to have some words with you, a few expletives here and there would be shouted I'm sure.

 

However the 31 year old that I now am can understand the reasoning, wanting to grow it (It is a business after all), plus IIRC EQ had taken a bit away too and made a splash.

 

I just wish it was grown in a way that didn't have the unforseen consequences that took away (to me at least) a lot of what made it special.

 

Do hope Crowfall is a fun game, regardless what it actually is lol.

ShadoPandauin, bigcat and Bionics like this

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