The previous online game in the Ultima series, Ultima Online, is today hosting around 250.000 active subscribers, which makes it one of the most popular online games in the western world. In this virtual fantasy world, players get to roam the land of Britannia, build houses, construct items and interact in a social environment. A sequal has previously been in development, but Ultima Online 2 was later dropped because publisher Electronic Arts suggested it would compete directly with their other, already established online game, even though Ultima Online 2 was well into production.
Perhaps that is why Ultima X: Odyssey was announced, a game which seemingly turns away from the typical Ultima Online gameplay, thus making sure the two games will not compete with eachother directly. Odyssey is going to be a far more action-oriented game, and the developers are making sure they are adding new elements to the genre - such as a more interactive combat system. We had the oppertunity to ask lead designer Jonathan Hanna a few questions, and he had no problems telling us about what is going to be so special about Odyssey, what innovations they are presenting and how it is going to relate to the Ultima franchise.
Gamer.no: Please tell us something about yourself, your role on the team and your background with online games - especially the Ultima franchise.
JH: My name is Jonathan Hanna. I started at Origin over 4.5 years ago as the Community Liaison for Ultima Online and eventually became a designer on UO. I am now the Lead Designer for Ultima X: Odyssey. Recently, my role has shifted from designing the actual systems to managing the design team, helping to keep us on track and on schedule, and coordinating with our art, programming, and world building teams.
Gamer.no: Odyssey will obviously be more action-oriented than Ultima Online. Does this imply that there will be no house building or trade skills involved? How then will the social element be kept intact?
JH: I don’t think an action oriented game and a social game are mutually exclusive. While it’s true we don’t plan on having housing or crafting (at least not traditional crafting) at launch, that decision had nothing to do with the action-oriented game-play in UXO. We want to create systems that introduce a new level of fun and have a lot of depth, rather than creating a bunch of shallow systems. The goal is to focus on core elements such as combat and adventuring, making sure those systems are designed far and above what is currently being offered by other games. There is nothing stopping us from adding housing and crafting to UXO at a later date, though - and when we do, those systems will be implemented with just as much depth as our combat and adventuring.