Second Stratics Chat with Ultima IX Dev Team

Log of Ultima:IX Ascension Open House (01-11-2000, #ascension on

Red - Ultima 9 Dev Team Member
Blue - Chat Moderator
Green - Question asker

Jerrith - Greetings and thank you for attending tonight's U9HoC.
Jerrith - Jerrith will be our moderator for this evening. In order to submit questions, please /msg or /query Jazar, Niobe, or Fripp.
Jerrith - Please /msg different question-takers at different times, in order to balance the load, and speed this process up. Do not msg anyone from Origin or myself--these questions will be ignored.
Jerrith - Remember they may not have the opportunity to answer all of your questions. In addition, some questions may not be answered if they feel that it is not appropriate or that it has been better answered through some other question.
Jerrith - In addition, please do not submit any questions that have already been answered during past conferences.
Jerrith - We encourage you to read the log of the previous U9HoC, which is available at
Jerrith - Thanks for coming, everyone. We will now begin accepting questions.

Cynthe - First, a quick introduction. I'm Cynthe, designer and community coordinator. :)
* Audball <--- Programmer *
CapnBill - I'm Lead Programmer
Spectra - I'm the 3D programmer
Yavn - Greetings, I'm the lead designer
Trellek - And I'm another programmer.

Jerrith - *Airhed* What was the most difficult aspect of Ultima9's gameplay for you to decide on? Why did you decide what you did?
Yavn - One of the bigest issues was combat. We knew we wanted to have more interaction then just clicking, but, not as complex as streetfighter. In the end we came up with a system that was easy as clicking, but gave the player a lot of choices

Jerrith - *drbob* Hi, Would it be possible to include a special 'unstick' key in the next patch (eg which moves the avatar a couple of centimeteres) to free the avatar when he is caught on invisible objects?
CapnBill - We've considered that...
CapnBill - We added a key to kill some lingering spells, in a previous patch...
CapnBill - But, the "right" thing to do is fix the fact that the AVatar gets stuck in the first place,
CapnBill - So that's what we're working on.

Jerrith - *Crom* First off I want to say thanks for a awesome game: My question is , Are there any plans on a expanstion or addon to the game itself?
Yavn - Thanks!! We have talked about expansions, at this time we have all of our resources on UO2, and our next project...X We may look into this in the future

Jerrith - *Torham* Do you feel all the bugs will be worked out in the 3rd patch?
CapnBill - They have to be. We won't get another chance to fix problems; we're testing this one until we're comfortable with it, both in terms of stability and performance!

Jerrith - *Darksharp* Question for the team: Regarding D3d and some textures (espcially masked textures such as trees) looking incredibly pixellated and non-anti-aliased (is that a word?...heh). this is in 800x600, mip-mapping medium, 16-bit txtures. I did not notice this problem using my glide V2 setup. Will Patch 3 address this D3d texture issue?
Spectra - This has been addressed in patch 3. For most Direct3D cards, these textures will now be filtered like the other textures in the game.
Spectra - Unfortunately, there will be some cards that do not support this mode, most notably off hand is the Matrox G200.
Spectra - People with cards that don't support the feature will still have to deal with the pixelly textures, I'm afraid.
Cynthe - just a sec
Cynthe - oops.. wrong box. :)

Jerrith - *Shimfizzal* Will the third patch be available as download or will it be the promised disk sent to registered users?
CapnBill - Patch 3 will be available for download, AND will be mailed out to registered users in the form of a NEW replacement CD1.
CapnBill - It's also going to be the version that ships in Europe.

Jerrith - *Honest_Dragon* Will there be additional patching after patch 3?
CapnBill - There better not be! ;)
CapnBill - Actually, we're planning for NO patching after patch 3; we're testing it sufficiently to give us confidence that we've fixed the problems.
CapnBill - (And that we didn't introduce new problems.)

Jerrith - *_Galron_* Can you give us a defintive time frame for a message or response from Richard Garriot?
Cynthe - I spoke with Richard at length today on many issues from the boards, so there I should be able to provide some thoughts from him very shortly... within a few days. :)

Jerrith - *Belor* question for capnbill: what crashes were addressed in patch3, specifically anything about valoria crash?
CapnBill - A lot of crashers....we're thinking, to try to remember 'em all...
CapnBill - Today, we fixed one related to EAX...
CapnBill - Various spell crashers...
Audball - pretty much any savegame we've been sent that has a crasher has been fixed.
CapnBill - I don't recall a specific crash in Valoria.
CapnBill - Your crash may have been caused by any number of problems we've fixed.
CapnBill - Crashes aren't always geography-specific, but they feel that way when you're playing.
CapnBill - We'll alert our QA guys to exercise Valoria a lot, though.

Jerrith - *Warfrat* Will the Phase 3 patch coming on Cd support A3D? My sound card doesnt support EAX?
Audball - Unfortunately, no, we will not be adding support for EAX. Our intentions with the patch is to *fix* all technical problems, and not to *add* new features.
Audball - You might try sending some email to Aureal bugging them about when their drivers will support EAX (I think they've alluded to the fact that there will be EAX support in future drivers, but I'm not positive on that one.)
Audball - whoopsie.
Audball - Change my first sentence: "not be adding support for EAX" should read "not be adding support for A3D". My bad. Bad Audball.

Jerrith - *Terilem* Has the infamous "Invulnerable Valorian Demons" bug been fixed?
CapnBill - Yep!
CapnBill - So has the Shamino bug.

Jerrith - *Starless* what was the targeted audience of the Ultima IX design? RPG fans or even wider?
Cynthe - As Yavn said in an earlier post on the boards, we wanted to appeal to as many players as we could. Old Ultima fans, new Ultima fans... there was no reason to exclude anyone. :)

Jerrith - *drbob* I'm in the uk and I registered my US dragon edition electronically (via internet) - can I expect the new cd?
CapnBill - Honestly, we don't know for sure....
CapnBill - I think EA support would be able to answer that, but not until the mail-out actually starts...sorry!
Cynthe - All registered users will receive the CD, but those not in North America may need to register by regular mail.
Cynthe - Those who live in countries that aren't listed can register by simply writing in their correct information and sending it in.

Jerrith - *KolathDragon* Why was the 3D engine deemed important enough to sacrifice NPC scheduling, the original plot, and other important items that most people feel made Ultimas Ultima-ish?
Cynthe - Richard has always wanted to present a seamless virtual world that you can actually feel like you're living in.
CapnBill - Well, the 3D engine is a free-form engine, unlike a lot of our competitors.
CapnBill - A huge amount of dev time was spent just getting it to perform acceptably
CapnBill - (and we're still working on tuning that in the patches)
CapnBill - This meant there wasn't as much dev time for NPC schedules as we needed
CapnBill - We made feature-vs-time-vs-performance trade-offs every day, tough decisions
Cynthe - The immersiveness was his absolute first priority, and that sometimes meant that other things had to be sacrificed.
CapnBill - NPC schedules were part of the design from the beginning; but to actually get the debugged would have taken a few more months.
CapnBill - As for the plot, that element wasn't affected by the engine decisions..
CapnBill - That was a separate decision. RG felt the current plot is superior to the original one.

Jerrith - *Terilem* Is it at all possible to convince RG to let you guys put in some form of explanation of what happened to the companions after SI?
Cynthe - Richard is satisfied with the plot that was presented in Ascension, and there won't be any additional backstory added.

Jerrith - *Fireball* Are we going to have to restart the game to enjoy most of the fixes of Patch 3?
CapnBill - No, wherever possible, we've made changes only in the code; this means that they apply as soon as you run the new EXE.
CapnBill - Some changes required map changes; for example, we made a change to a lift in Yew that made it more reliable, and you'd have to restart the game to get that change. But that change isn't required to finish the game.
CapnBill - Very few changes were made to the map, mostly just the code.

Jerrith - *Honest_Dragon* A favorite question for Yavn: Why is Gwenno such a wuss?
Yavn - Everyone was effected differently by the columns, in the case of Gwenno, she bacame a wuss!

Jerrith - *Darksharp* Another question: Why does the Avatar continually whistle and clear his throat....he seems to do this in the heat of battle quite often which really brings down the immersiveness. Is there a fix for this in Patch3? Or does this work as intended?
CapnBill - No, this is a bug.
Audball - What? *cough* You don't like the Avatar *sneeze* doing those things? *scratch* Heh, we'll look into it.
CapnBill - We're actually looking at that more--we hate it too.

Jerrith - *Pyro* will there be improvements in the way that the game engine loads the world? I have heard it runs faster on dual hard drive systems than on single hard drive systems.
CapnBill - Ascension's continuous world environment is its blessing & its curse.
CapnBill - We've made some caching changes that improved performance, but didn't make any major architectural changes
CapnBill - Yes, it's true, the game runs better on a two-drive system. Disk I/O is not our friend.

Jerrith - *drbob* Will there be a fix for the (all too tempting) potions bug (as in they work indefinately if you drink one save then reload before the potion has run out)?
CapnBill - Hmm, we didn't find that one....we'll fix it now though! Thanks!
Cynthe - There goes another exploit... *hehe*

Jerrith - *Raz* do you drink out of pint glasses that have an origin logo on them with 'we create worlds' ?
Cynthe - As often as possible. :)
Yavn - I do, and the EA ones also!
CapnBill - Hey, I use a two-pint glass!
Bassanio - yup I love mine :)
Spectra - I have a whole set!
Yavn - Bill has one for each hand!
Trellek - I drink tea by the cup. What would I do with a pint glass?

Jerrith - *Airhed* Are there any plans to either a)Implement U9's (tweaked) innovative engine in future Origin games (AKA UO2) or b)Sell the engine to third-party developers for use in 3-d RPGs?
CapnBill - Nope, no plans to re-use the engine in-house. But, we've had some nybbles on possibly external use of it.
CapnBill - Also, the dev team is rolling over onto "X", and we'll no doubt use our U9 experience & knowledge, if not the actualy code.

Jerrith - *VolatiosDragon* Will problems in enemy AI be fixed? Ie, will I be able to shoot a bandit before his dialogue takes place, or will my arrows still bounce harmlessly off his plot-armor, keeping me from saving the damsel in distress?
Audball - We found it quite desireable to exclude the Avatar from combat while in conversations (it's not fun to die while your talking... it's just rude, ya know?). The way the code was written, it affects any combatant in conversation. We'll ponder whether it's actually beneficial to exclude other NPCs from the this feature, but I don't personally think it's a big enough issue to worry about.

Jerrith - *Starless* What is happening with the possible Ultima IV remake with the Ascension engine Richard was talking about not that long ago?
Yavn - It's something that would be nice to do, in house, or out. For now we have no emediate plans to do so.

Jerrith - *daWraith* Why the massive re-org of the continent? Wrong is in the "wrong" spot, as well as Empath Abbey... What are the ruins NE of Yew?
Nimrond - Most of these decisions came from the need to spread things out nicely in the smaller world space. I know there were some game-flow and plot issues as well, but there were just as many changes made for the sake of beauty. The ruins you are referring to were simply points of visual interest.
Cynthe - By the way, I'd like to introduce Nimrond, our lead artis :)
Cynthe - er artist

Jerrith - *Batfink* What was the lowest point in UIX's development? The "arrgh how are we going to carry on" point?
CapnBill - Several come to mind, actually; the worst was in November of 98...
CapnBill - We'd undertaken the rewrite of most of the engine, starting in June.
CapnBill - I underestimated the required time, by at least 4 months.
CapnBill - So, when RIchard & our other executives had to give a formal presentation on U9 to EA, in California,....
CapnBill - they had a very broken version of the game to take with them.
CapnBill - We slaved for many long hours, many weekends, and many all-nighters to make it...not suck...
CapnBill - and we just barely DIDN'T pull it together.
Yavn - Yes, we all spent 40+ hours straight working before that meeting....
CapnBill - The presentation was...not well received. The programming team had let every one down, we felt.
CapnBill - We felt really bad, really bad.
Trellek - I'd have to concur, that was probably the lowest moment in the project.
CapnBill - SO, the pressure was cranked up after that; and soon after, things did fall into place, and the engine came together.
CapnBill - The result is something we're really proud of (minus bugs!)
CapnBill - But, the pressure was extreme, and did not let up after that.

Jerrith - *Airhed* Nimrond: What part of U9 do find the most visually appealing? Did you put together the sunrise and sunset sequences?
Nimrond - I sure did! Cap'n Bill, myself and the other artists were quite proud of the day, night, sunrise cycle. We worked very hard together to pull that off with the right lighting, painted sky and other special effects. That is one of my most favorite pastimes,... just watching the sun rise or set in Britannia!

Jerrith - *PolarisDragon1* The TNT vs TNT2 numbers CapnBill posted seem odd, TNT is very close to TNT2 performance. Could that be a Nvidia driver issue or is the P350 test system the bottleneck?
Spectra - Much of that speed is determined by the system itself, as the game does not usually push most modern cards to their limits.
Spectra - One of the biggest speed factors for the cards is how they handle their textures.
Spectra - Since the TNT and TNT2 have very similar architectures, there isn't that much of a difference.
Spectra - You will notice a big difference based on the amount of memory on the card for textures.
Spectra - You will also see an improvement at higher resolutions with the TNT2 because of its higher fill rate.
Spectra - And, as always, the drivers have a lot to do with that.
Spectra - Under directx7, we had nearly a 20% speed improvement on the TNT2 by switching from the Detonator 2.08 drivers to the Detonator 3.53 drivers. Fairly noticeable.
CapnBill - Hey, all, I have to go--it's been a lot of fun--thanks for showing up! Bye!

Jerrith - *VolatiosDragon* Massive applause to Nimrond on the artwork - the game is visually specatacular and I'm playing mostly to explore right now. One question: With New Magincia spontaneously having crystal towers, were there any other times where you considered an interesting new look for, say, Britain, but withdrew it?
Nimrond - We played around with alot of new looks,... and pretty much ended up using them all. I was carefull to stick with alot of tradition , but was also given alot of free reign. Nothing really ended up on the cutting floor.

Jerrith - *Crom* This question goes to the Artists, This may sound like a stupid question but I am wondering. Is the art in the game drawn directly on the computer or is done on canvas or paper then scanned in? Either way I am so impressed with the beautiful artwork I think some of it is museum quality!
Nimrond - We created most of the art in LightWave and Photoshop. We scanned alot of stuff in , altering it for our needs, but a great deal was hand-drawn. Thanks for the compliments !

Jerrith - *pdragon79* Lets say there is an Add-on, will issues such as how the companions returned... old items (shade blade for example) return? I really do miss the mage bane. and how bout more side quests? Is this a possiblility?
Bassanio - there are no plans currently for addons, but you never know what the future will hold :)
Jerrith - *Asmo|Work* "I LOVE the movie quality in Ascension, was it produced by the same team that did the Ultima Online Intro movie, and will they be asked again to do more movies in the future?" Thanks.
Nimrond - The flics were a combination of in-house artists and several out-of-house sources, pretty common for this type of stuff.. but , yeah, we intend to use most of thos guys for future work..

Jerrith - *Starless* What was the definitive point that made you decide to choose slot-based inventory over the weight-based inventory system?
Yavn - After playing previous Ultima games, we felt that it was easier to find objects in slots. As for the weight, we had a lot of debates on that, and we voted to simplfy the system, and remove weight.
Yavn - We had a lot of debates on this issue.

Jerrith - *Airhed* What specific food is used most at the office on those long nights? :)
Audball - Spectra likes lunchables ;-)
Trellek - Peanuts. Raisins. Popcorn. Stuff like that.
Bassanio - shiner (beer)
Yavn - Pizza mostly, although we ate anything that was delivered!
Trellek - (The gerbils love raisins too!)
Spectra - Hey, they're the only thing around at 3:00 am, and they go well with beer. Kinda.
Audball - Caffeine was the all-important ingredient for us programmers though.
supra - And anything that comes out of a vending machine.
Nimrond - and my flying squirrel loves people's fingers !
* Audball would have gladly used a caffeine I.V. setup if available * Bassanio - barbeque was a favorite :)
Spectra - Chocolate covered espresso beans were a real savior towards the end.
Cynthe - Rice crispy treats. :)
Nimrond - Chinese take-out !
Audball - yeah, and Trellek's wonderfull candy/chocolate bowl!

Jerrith - The Ultima Ascension DevTeam and the Stratics staff would like to thank you for attending this special House of Commons session. The log will be posted somewhere either tonight or tommorow. Cynthe - Thank you all for coming!!
Nimrond - It was nice talking to everybody ! See ya later ! Have fun !
* Audball echoes Minrond's sentiments *
Trellek - It was lots of fun. See you again some time!
Yavn - Thanks everyone!
Audball - g'nite all
Bassanio - Thanks everyone!!
Bassanio - nite!!
Prescient_Dragon - Thanx for coming OSI guys! :)
Spectra - Good Night!

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