Exclusive Ultima X: Odyssey interview

Not long ago, the latest addition to the Ultima franchise was announced. Ultima X: Odyssey promise to take the series to a whole new level, by offering a more action-oriented massively multiplayer online game. And even though the game is going to turn away from the social elements that made Ultima Online so popular, lead designer Jonathan Hanna tells that there will be many other radical features in Ultima X: Odyssey.

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Side 3 These private realms, or scripted adventures, what can we expect from these? How will they work, what challenges will they present the players and will they be story oriented?

JH: The ability to use private areas is what opens us up to questing possibilities never before seen in an MMOG. In a private area, we don’t have to limit ourselves to simple fetch-and-carry quests (as in, “bring me item X and I’ll give you item Y”). Instead, we’re able to create involved story-driven quests, with multiple steps and big bad boss monsters to fight at the end, just as you’d find in the best single-player RPGs. As for how they’re made and how they work, our adventures are all hand-crafted using our very powerful adventure editor. Players can be challenged through combat, riddles, and puzzles. Also, as mentioned above, the ability to make choices during an adventure really lets the player role-play his character. Are you a valorous knight who never backs down from a fight, or do you prefer to find more peaceful ways of solving a problem? The adventure system will allow you to make those choices while you quest, creating a very strong role-playing environment. What do you think will make Odyssey stand out from other online games on the market? Which mistakes are you trying to avoid, and what innovations are you trying to give the genre?

JH: Ultima X: Odyssey has a lot of concepts that give it the sense of a single-player game while still maintaining the advantages and feel of a massively-multi-player game. This allows us to create a game where each player gets to really feel like a hero. For example, in most MMORPGs, you gain quests by going to designated quest NPCs. In most cases, you have to go to websites to learn where these quest NPCs are. In Odyssey, much like in traditional fantasy novels, the quest comes to the hero. In addition to the adventure system, the attention to detail in systems like our user interface and our stylised graphics will really make UXO stand out. Our user interface takes full advantage of the graphical nature of the game and doesn’t force you to memorize a bunch of slash commands.

Everything you need to do is presented to you in the interface in the form of buttons, drop down menus, etc. While seemingly a minor detail, a well designed interface will actually add to the game-play experience a great deal! Virtue questing is also a unique feature, providing a completely separate advancement system that allows players to customize their characters and items far beyond standard leveling systems, as well as carrying its own substantial reward – ascending to Avatar status! Another stand-out feature is our strategic combat, which is highly interactive and is guaranteed to keep players involved every minute of every battle.

Finally, in terms of mistakes to avoid, we’ve taken a good look at those trivial things in other games that cause players to invest time outside of the most fun aspects of the world, and we’ve worked to eliminate them. Our goal is to keep players entertained and having fun, experiencing all of the challenge with none of the tedium. How will combat be carried out in Odyssey? Are you going for the typical EverQuest type of combat, where you press a button and wait for it to be carried out, or are you trying to implement a more action-oriented and involving system?

JH: Combat in Ultima X: Odyssey is very unique compared to other MMORPGs. We call the type of combat where you press a button and wait for the result “sandwich combat.” Click the monster to make your character auto-attack, go get a sandwich, and then return to see if you won. Ultima X: Odyssey’s combat is nothing like that. In UXO, you are in full control of your character. Every sword swing, every block, and every spell are performed at your command. This makes combat in UXO very interactive, highly strategic, and most importantly, a lot of fun. Combat has a host of strategic elements such as your character’s power, his momentum, his abilities, and many other aspects that when combined together allow you to uncover a tremendous amount of tactics. Is Odyssey nothing more than PlanetSide or Counter-Strike in a fantasy world? What role-playing elements can we expect to see, and what will make us grow attached to the world and its community? Is it all combat and adventure?

JH: While Odyssey’s action-packed combat may seem similar to a first-person-shooter, at its core UXO is very much a role-playing game. In fact, the Odyssey Adventure system will make UXO one of the strongest massively-multiplayer games for role-playing available, since the development of your character’s Virtue abilities will depend on the Virtue choices you make while questing, not how many people or monsters you’ve killed. Adventuring is all about role-playing and helping the people of Alucinor, which will definitely make players feel very attached to the people and places in the world. In addition, we have a very robust guild system (complete with a guild PvP ladder system), a friends list, and very easy ways to find and team up with other players who are interested in grouping. UXO’s community will be very strong.

Thanks to Jonathan Hanna and the entire team behind Ultima X: Odyssey. wish them the best of luck onwards with the game and all their future projects.

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