morrolan

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

562 posts in this topic

 

 

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

 

 

After hearing this, I'll do what Rainz did to Lord British to you.

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Well, they are forced by EA to do so, i can't blame them completely. I leaved the game too after a while but till the evry end i wasn't a pker, o was and i'm still now a neutral player, kill with a purpose, like in sieges and small/large battles against faction enemies (never kille my own faction if someone don't engage me directly).

 

But now is better, Crowfall is entirely made from scratch and without the pressure of a publisher since they publish it themselves, so i think there is no fear that another trammel will happens.

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I never played UO pre-Trammel. I started around LBTR. The last few years in that game I would only be found on Siege Perilous. The community there was simply uncomparable to the traditional servers. It just felt more real.

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Im glad that even more games are getting published by developers.

We don't need publishers anymore in a download/online/digital world.

P.S I still do like to have a physical CE :wub:

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

 

...

 

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

 

It does, and I appreciate the response. It sparked quite the conversation between myself and my old UO crew, who I have been gaming with since the old days. It's funny - of all the MMOs I've tried, I never found myself making any long-lasting friendships from PvE-centered games like World of Warcraft. I could play that game with the same guild for six months and then forget 99% of the people when I move on to the next game.

 

But with UO, a brief moment from years ago was enough to serve as the foundation for 15+ years of friendship with dozens of the people I encountered, both allies and enemies. Isn't that amazing?

 

We had differing opinions about your post. On one hand, you were brought on to grow the game, and you certainly did. On the other hand, my speculation is that Trammel based players were more numerous BUT Felluca based players were more loyal to the game. If every Felluca-based player stuck around for twice as long as a Trammel based player, then doubling the subscription numbers only really breaks even in the long run, doesn't it? And I imagine the numbers curved steadily downward within a year or two, proving that point. But even if I'm right, I doubt you could have convinced the clueless denizens of EA to understand that kind of thinking.

 

 

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!

 

I have mixed feelings about this. I think UO could have still appealed to a mass audience without the existence of Trammel, though I guess we'll never know. Maybe if the difficulty of UO was a "9", and Trammel dropped it to about "2," a better balance could have been struck around "5" (specifically, some solution that didn't separate all of us from each other - I don't think Siege Perilous or other varying rulesets are really the answer to this either.)

 

I would have been 100% on board with the "this game ain't for everyone" way of thinking before I played Darkfall, but I think a lot of us learned quite a bit from that game. It was, as another poster alluded to, a field of all wolves and no sheep, and the resulting community was terrible. It was like playing Call of Duty but in a persistent world. Being a "PK" was meaningless because everyone PK'd. There were no "good guys" and "bad guys," just "team A" and "team B." Of course, the players weren't the only problem - it also had a broken alignment system and really no incentive for being good.

 

But still, I'm cautious about an MMO that caters only to the "intense" playerbase. One of my RL buddies played UO for years without ever experiencing its "intensity." He was a merchant who just sat at Brit Bank all day buying and selling ****, getting rich, and building houses. He couldn't care less about PvP. But his actions still impacted both the PvE and PvP playerbase in significant ways. I hope the modern MMO era has not deluded us into thinking that sort of synergy can't exist.

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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!

It's nice to see a dev get called on his poorly made socks and man up to it.  The ability take criticism goes a long way with the SB community.  Good on you guys.

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Of course, I hope this game offers a lot to appeal to the hardcore PvP crowd. The unfortunate part is that, as the post written by the Evil Trammel Wizard indicates, games with an unforgiving and hardcore PvP atmosphere turn out to be market failures. I don't know the exact numbers, but from being around at that time I'm going to guess that at least half of Shadowbane's original release playerbase was griefed out of the game's existence within the first year. Most players really hate losing their pixels, especially if they've invested a lot of time into acquiring those pixels.

 

The really nice thing about Asheron's Call was that the ruleset determined the items that dropped upon one's death based upon the item's intrinsic value. In many cases, items that had a lot of gold value to NPCs weren't very useful in PvP. Accordingly, on the Darktide (PK) server, players learned to carry these high priced items as a form of insurance to prevent them from losing their more useful but lower valued items. Of course, if you killed the same character repeatedly, you could sometimes loot through all of his "insurance" (typically Greater Mana Stones) and get to those armor pieces that were actually droppable. It was always hilarious to loot a Mattekar Coat from someone, which if I remember correctly only had a value of around 800 gold pieces. Anyway, I always thought that AC's loot drop rules were the best; they weren't as unforgiving as UO's as long as one prepared himself properly, but if you got killed a lot you could be in trouble. Heaven help you if you somehow ended up with 40% vitae loss on top of losing all of your item "insurance."

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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!

 

This.

 

This right here is exactly where I see the market heading over the next 5 or so years.

 

MMORPG's are dying due to the stagnation created by a certain other game and its monetarily focused developer. Bigger is better and biggest is best, the slogan that studios and publishers have lived and (more notably) died by since 2004. WoW was a fluke, it hit at the right moment in time (high speed internet more widely available, computers becoming affordable, the first digital generation hitting their mid/late teens and having disposable income to spend, social networking kicking off, etc) with the right promises and the right demographic and its success will never be able to be duplicated. The industry has spent the last 10 years trying to grab hold of a massive audience like WoW did but with little success and sadly failure after failure in the MMORPG space has soured big investors on the prospect of ever being able to make money. What does this mean? It means that you will never see anything other than a slightly off kilter version of *the* successful formula come from any major studio (although there is one possible exception on the horizon).

 

Small companies are the future of the MMORPG genre. Companies that don't want 10 million subs and aren't spending $50 million dollars on voice acting. Keep the overhead low and keep your project within spec so you can make a good profit on a modest game that's actually fun to play for whatever niche you are aiming at. You can't please everybody, it's impossible; when you try, you end up with something like a corporate logo ... it can't be flashy or fun because that may offend somebody, it has to be bland so it doesn't generate any sort of feeling at all.

 

It's a bit funny although not all that surprising that the people responsible for the MMORPG genre are now the ones trying to fix it. I have played every game your core team has made over the years minus the 101's and I have enjoyed them all in one fashion or another (trammel didn't kill UO for me, so don't worry too much about it). I really truly hope that you guys can put something together in the spirit of the genre that was and help nudge the current MMO genre out of its rut.

 

 

 

*If, when the time comes, I start up this game and immediately get a cf.exe error window pop-up I may die laughing.

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This.

 

This right here is exactly where I see the market heading over the next 5 or so years.

 

MMORPG's are dying due to the stagnation created by a certain other game and its monetarily focused developer. Bigger is better and biggest is best, the slogan that studios and publishers have lived and (more notably) died by since 2004. WoW was a fluke, it hit at the right moment in time (high speed internet more widely available, computers becoming affordable, the first digital generation hitting their mid/late teens and having disposable income to spend, social networking kicking off, etc) with the right promises and the right demographic and its success will never be able to be duplicated. The industry has spent the last 10 years trying to grab hold of a massive audience like WoW did but with little success and sadly failure after failure in the MMORPG space has soured big investors on the prospect of ever being able to make money. What does this mean? It means that you will never see anything other than a slightly off kilter version of *the* successful formula come from any major studio (although there is one possible exception on the horizon).

 

Small companies are the future of the MMORPG genre. Companies that don't want 10 million subs and aren't spending $50 million dollars on voice acting. Keep the overhead low and keep your project within spec so you can make a good profit on a modest game that's actually fun to play for whatever niche you are aiming at. You can't please everybody, it's impossible; when you try, you end up with something like a corporate logo ... it can't be flashy or fun because that may offend somebody, it has to be bland so it doesn't generate any sort of feeling at all.

 

It's a bit funny although not all that surprising that the people responsible for the MMORPG genre are now the ones trying to fix it. I have played every game your core team has made over the years minus the 101's and I have enjoyed them all in one fashion or another (trammel didn't kill UO for me, so don't worry too much about it). I really truly hope that you guys can put something together in the spirit of the genre that was and help nudge the current MMO genre out of its rut.

 

 

 

*If, when the time comes, I start up this game and immediately get a cf.exe error window pop-up I may die laughing.

League of Legends has poo'd all over the demographics for WoW though.  250 Million players a month play LoL worldwide but WoW sits at about 8 mil (with a spike of 14 mil a few years ago).  League did over $640 million last year and thats all in microtransactions.  Calling WoW a fluke is accurate but if thats a fluke what is this moba explosion to be called? 

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The playstyle between MOBA's and MMO's isn't as different as would pretend either, we have been "taught" that instanced PvP is the only viable form of PvP for a genre.  Also how ironic is it that WC3 started the moba's and the very company that made it can't even get a functional moba because of the monster than is LoL and European LoL (other people call it dota 2)?

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But with UO, a brief moment from years ago was enough to serve as the foundation for 15+ years of friendship with dozens of the people I encountered, both allies and enemies. Isn't that amazing?

 

We had differing opinions about your post. On one hand, you were brought on to grow the game, and you certainly did. On the other hand, my speculation is that Trammel based players were more numerous BUT Felluca based players were more loyal to the game. If every Felluca-based player stuck around for twice as long as a Trammel based player, then doubling the subscription numbers only really breaks even in the long run, doesn't it? And I imagine the numbers curved steadily downward within a year or two, proving that point. But even if I'm right, I doubt you could have convinced the clueless denizens of EA to understand that kind of thinking.

 

 

 

The shear intensity of UO (along with it being the first MMO for many people, and there is nothing like a first love of course) forged those human bonds in an extremely hot fire.  My friend Jonathan Baron used to remind me even before I worked on UO that the human heart doesn't know the difference between virtual and real.  Very strong human bonds are often created under adversity and stress, and that was the essence of the UO experience for many.  

 

We actually did data mining which showed us that while the hardest core PvP'ers were sticky to the game they were a minority (very vocal, and very impactful to the game environment, but definitely a minority) to begin with, along with the merchants who were often not as engaged in PvP (more acting as arms merchants in a continuous war), with the majority of sticky players being almost exclusively PvE (i.e. only did PvP in defense or rarely).  The problem was our conversion percentage of PvE players to long term subscribers was very low.  Once Trammel came in the PvE players started converting to long term subscription at much higher rates (and there were way more of them).  Anyone who made it 90 days was likely to last more than a year and often two years.  Housing was the highest correlation with retention of course for all types of players.

 

I do believe there were better options that we could have pursued and I like your difficulty level analogy a lot.  We did crank the intensity down low enough that an essential part of the soul of UO was lost, and I was sad about that even then.  Hopefully we'll recapture some of that spirit in what we're working on now and it will resonate with a subset of MMO players who will find a home with what we offer.

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League of Legends has poo'd all over the demographics for WoW though.  250 Million players a month play LoL worldwide but WoW sits at about 8 mil (with a spike of 14 mil a few years ago).  League did over $640 million last year and thats all in microtransactions.  Calling WoW a fluke is accurate but if thats a fluke what is this moba explosion to be called? 

 

 

LoL is a fluke as well. Look at all of the other MOBAs coming out trying to cash in, are they anywhere close? no. Riot is riding the same wave Blizzard caught in 2004.

 

WoW has a smaller player base than League, it still makes more money annually. WoW takes in $120,000,000.00 per month just on subscriptions alone at 8 million subs. Add in the cost of a new expansion ($50) and any microtransactions such as mounts / pets / sex change / server transfer / etc and.. well... yeah, you probably get the picture. That all adds up to around $1.8 billion this year on subs + the expansion (expansions aren't out every year so you could divide the $400 million from boxes by about 2.5 and get the average). The 1.8 figure doesn't take into account the microtransations mind you so their actual income from WoW this year could be over $2 billion, can't really say.

 

Anyway, enough about the sadness behind us and more about the bright future ahead. 

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I do have to wonder though, in this day and age look at how popular "Survival" games have become, like DayZ, Rust, etc.

 

Those kinds of games (to me) are even more "hardcore" then UI and other games with permadeath and losing all the gear that drastically affects how well you can survive.

 

Yet they are constantly near the top selling games on the steam sales charts.

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I do have to wonder though, in this day and age look at how popular "Survival" games have become, like DayZ, Rust, etc.

 

Those kinds of games (to me) are even more "hardcore" then UI and other games with permadeath and losing all the gear that drastically affects how well you can survive.

 

Yet they are constantly near the top selling games on the steam sales charts.

^this. I would love to see an actual SURVIVAL MMO, persistent universe, not a per server thing.

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Of course, I hope this game offers a lot to appeal to the hardcore PvP crowd. The unfortunate part is that, as the post written by the Evil Trammel Wizard indicates, games with an unforgiving and hardcore PvP atmosphere turn out to be market failures. I don't know the exact numbers, but from being around at that time I'm going to guess that at least half of Shadowbane's original release playerbase was griefed out of the game's existence within the first year. Most players really hate losing their pixels, especially if they've invested a lot of time into acquiring those pixels.

 

I worry about this as well.  I'd be curious to know what the numbers showed for SB.

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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!

 

I like your point about being more accessible, and the reasoning behind the change.

 

I find that the problem with a lot of self-proclaimed PvPers is that a lot of them prey on easier targets,s and don't want a challenge. Without any meaningful alignment system, or punishment for killing new players / weaker players / under-leveled players, new players quit, and obviously they stop playing the game. I feel as though games like MO, and Darkfall (recent full loot PvP games) would have been better, and more popular had the new player experience been better.

 

Players who try the game obviously know that the game is full loot, and they want to PvP, they simply want to PvP on equal footing. Dying to someone because they are a higher level, or have some skill (literally) 10 times higher than yours, is not real skiillful, in my opinion. I believe good PvP needs to take into account how a player reacts, their aim, their quick thinking, the use of their environment, and their coordination (if in a group), not arbitrary numbers on equipment, random critical hits, or having such a large gap in levels between new and old players. This works in "themepark" games, because there is really no penalty for dying, and players don't care as much, that a higher level player may have killed them.

 

I tried helping a lot of new players in Darkfall, and Darkfall UW, stick with the game, but no matter how much loot I gave them to use, or how much I helped them level up, they quit, because (other than Aventurine not being competent), the disparity between new, and old players was too large.

 

Anyways, I hope you possibly read this, and I hope you guys are doing everything you can to ensure that new player retention is a main priority. Just my thoughts! Thanks for reading.

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