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Beyond MUDs: Kate Flack on Designing Ultima Forever
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Beyond MUDs: Kate Flack on Designing Ultima Forever

February 8, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

That has deep ramifications in the world, though, because if you've already killed a bunch of things, and then you meet a bunch of NPCs who give you these quests, and you've already done them.

KF: You'd have to factor it into the XP code, yeah.

And also the perception is that the gameplay becomes shorter -- the length of game becomes shorter. Some people feel that is detrimental to the experience. I wouldn't necessarily agree, but…

KF: Sure. But you've got to kill five wolves anyway, right?

Right. So what is your vision for the changes that you have made? You will obviously have to make some changes to the Ultima world.

KF: First of all, obviously, it's a great privilege to get to work on Ultima. It's a huge IP; it's had millions of people play it and some very talented designers work on it. It's a huge pair of shoes to fill. When I came to thinking about the game and I thought about the creative brief that I'd been given to fulfill, I ended up thinking, "Well, I don't want to replace anyone's memories."

We're not here to overwrite the canon; we're not here to change things and say, "Oh, all these memories that you have aren't important." So what we did with Ultima Forever is we set it 21 years after the events of Ultima IV -- so V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX haven't happened yet. We kind of created our own Ultima time stream; we kind of cordoned it off and said, "Okay, this is where we're working, and this is what we're doing."

We did things like -- obviously, the technology is a little bit more sophisticated -- so we can do things like a quest log. We can do things like 3D graphics. We can do maps. All the kinds of things that your modern player expects: more sophisticated UI, not having to remember 27 different function keys, and all those kinds of things.

But from a creative point of view, I think that games reflect the time that they were made, so when you go back and you look at the original interviews with Richard, he talked about it being a reaction to Mothers Against Dungeons & Dragons, a way of saying, "Hey, games can be good."

I think we're at a point now in the game industry where games can be sophisticated, and they can ask sophisticated questions about ethics, because the audience is mature, and is willing to think about more than just killing five wolves.

So I wanted to dig into the interactions between players. You have a multiplayer game, and you have virtues. [With this] you have some really interesting design possibilities that come out. Very often in roleplaying games, when you have the choice to be nice or nasty or whatever, it's about how you treat NPCs, whether you save NPC A or NPC B. Well, we've got that. Our NPCs do ask you for help. You can take quests and make choices; they branch out and all that. But you also have interactions between players.

For example, we have a thing called an honesty box, which is just the Prisoner's Dilemma, where you're adventuring in a dungeon and there's a chest. You open it up, and you have a choice; I can either share this with the group, which means we all have five gold, or I can take it all for myself. Am I willing to steal from my party? My party's not going to know, but what we do is we take away your honesty because you stole. So it's interesting to figure out whether players will on average steal from each other or whether they will on average share. I don't know how it's going to work out, but we will have that metric; we will know.

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