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Feature: Vogel On MMOs,  Ultima Online 's Exploration Of Freedom

Feature: Vogel On MMOs, Ultima Online's Exploration Of Freedom

March 7, 2011 | By Staff

March 7, 2011 | By Staff
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As associate producer at Origin Systems in the late 1990s, industry veteran Rich Vogel was in some ways flying blind, helping do things with online gaming that have never been done before.

Not having a clear MMO blueprint made UO a unique experience -- one that future MMO developers would look to in order to learn from the game's mistakes as well as its successes.

"World of Warcraft set the standard to follow," Vogel told Replay author Tristan Donovan, whose full interview with Vogel is presented on Gamasutra. Currently, Vogel is at BioWare Austin as co-studio director of development.

"[Blizzard] put out a very polished experience, which had never really happened before. They didn't really evolutionize or revolutionize, so to speak, the online world," he claimed.

"What they did was make a very polished experience, taking what they learned from UO and EverQuest and made a great game. It doesn't have as much freedom as UO did, or EQ.

"They also had systems in the game that motivated people to the right behavior instead of the wrong behavior," he said. UO had early issues with "gangs" of griefers and other problems essentially associated with having a bit too much freedom.

He continued, "[Blizzard's] design [for World of Warcraft] was pretty well thought out and, again, their advancement level is far faster than anyone's ever before seen. Their progression was awesome. And because of all that it went to a broader audience and it was an inviting world -- a very pretty world."

"And it could be played on base machines -- you didn't have to have this huge honking PC to play it and to me that was the reason that it just went everywhere," he added. "It's a lot of fun and still is today."

The open-ended nature of UO was something that other MMO companies tried to avoid in order to provide a more predictable gameplay experience for players, Vogel said.

"[There] is a little bit of scariness about [freedom] because frankly when you give people a simulator and the ability to do anything in the world you have to have limits, you have to have constraints that they understand."

For the entire Replay interview with Vogel, read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.


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