By Wilki, Ultima Online Community Representative
After our sleep deprivation experiment in Seattle, we decided to give ourselves lots of extra time for our journey to Washington, D.C. I’m very glad that we did, as I seem to have a knack at running into (or outright creating) problems that take the exact amount of extra time allotted in order to fix. So, you must be wondering, what did Wilki do this time?
Well, luckily, there weren’t any fire trucks blocking my path to the airport this time, but after I had checked my schwag bag and was boarding the plane, I realized I had forgotten the backup laptop for the UOML presentation on my living room floor. After the initial, “Oh no!” flush of embarrassment, and the rapid thoughts of Lady Lu and Binky using some obscure method of slow torture on me in D.C., I franticly started making calls from my airplane seat to arrange the laptop’s timely delivery the next morning at our hotel.
That hopefully taken care of, I sat back, and tried to enjoy the flight to D.C. Unfortunately, at 6’4”, the phrase “flight to D.C.” really doesn’t associate itself well with the word “enjoy”. I’m not sure what efficiency expert decided that sacrificing even the most basic level of comfort was worth squeezing in that one last row of seats, but I’d sorely like to have a few words with them. No, I can’t repeat those words here, so you’ll just have to imagine how that conversation would go.
After landing in D.C., we collected our bags and headed to the hotel where the Town Hall meeting was to take place the next day. The hotel was actually quite nice, and we took the time to poke around the conference room we’d be using for the event. One of the first things I noticed were the strangely familiar lamps sitting in opposite corners of the room. They kept distracting me, and I couldn’t quite figure out exactly why that was, until all of a sudden I noticed the label floating next to them in midair.
That mystery solved, the UO Team, consisting of Lead Designer Maria “Cerdith" Hamilton, Live Team Lead Peter "Fertbert" Phillips, Producer Jessica “Lady Lu" Lewis, Product Manager Aaron “Darkscribe" Cohen, Lead Game Master Mike "Hugo" Green, and the Community team of John “Wilki" Wilkinson and Chris “Binky" Launius headed out to dinner, and then went our separate ways for the evening. I ended up relaxing in my room for a little while, and then promptly fell asleep for the night.
Waking up bright and early to a phone call from the front desk alerting me to the fact that I had a package waiting for me, I finally was able to relax about the missing laptop. *whew*
Fast forward to 3pm, and the team has met in the conference room to begin setting up for the big UOML announcement later that evening. By this time, the hotel staff has gotten the chairs in place; let me tell you, standing in front of that many empty seats - row after row staring back at you - and imagining them filled with people was a bit daunting. Good thing I didn’t have any lines for the presentation! I can’t imagine what was going through Binky’s mind right then.
Running some cables here, learning how to control the lighting system there, and lots of practice delivering the presentation, we were ready to take a little break and grab a bite to eat before the evening’s activities. The UO Radio crew, Arcus and Lucid, were busy setting up in their corner of the room, and I noticed they were paying particular attention to our presentation on the projection screen, while trying not to look like they were. Ok, I’m kidding… they weren’t really even trying to hide their curiosity, and who could blame them? There were a lot of cool, new things being talked about that night, and they were getting the first sneak peek!
Stepping out the door, I noticed that there were more than a handful of UO players already milling about the hotel lobby, including one dressed up in costume. Since there were still almost 3 hours until the event started, I had a feeling this was going to be the biggest and baddest UO Town Hall Meeting yet.
I was not disappointed!
An hour before the event, I set up outside to start signing everyone in. I needed the players to sign a photo release, and give me their name so I could check it off the master RSVP list; then I could hand them a button and a raffle ticket for later on. Within no time, a line had formed off to my left, and a gaggle of players hanging around all over the place waiting for us to open the doors to the conference room. GM Hugo was helping me with the process, so it went pretty smoothly, with no one having to wait more than a couple of minutes in line. There was much discussion going on about this point, as the hallway started to get very crowded, and I could hear people talking about PvP battles, what they thought was going to be announced, their latest guild news, etc.
At this point, Joe Garrity, Curator of the Origin Museum, was done setting up his fantastic display of Origin related artifacts. No, not the kind you can steal from Doom, but the real kind. Included were a GM Robe complete with "I cannot help thee with that..." sign, Iolo's crossbow - crafted by David "Iolo" Watson himself, a reagent display, some original Ultima boxes still in mint condition, and many, many other wonderful displays. As a long time Ultima and Origin fan, I was very excited to meet Joe a bit later in the evening and have the chance to check out what he had brought with him.
By the time the last stragglers had shown up and gotten signed in, the presentation was beginning, so I rushed into the back door for the start of the show. Except for a few dim lights in the back of the room, it was hard to see… yet I heard a booming voice emanating from the darkness ahead of me. It sounded like an apprentice of Mondain, and he was announcing the next chapter in the history of Sosaria - Ultima Online: Mondain's Legacy!
Who was this powerful sounding wizard? Well, of course, we all knew it was really Binky underneath the hooded robe, but he really did a fantastic job as an apprentice of Mondain. With everyone warmed up and ready to go, Lady Lu welcomed the eager crowd to the Ultima Online Washington, D.C. Town Hall Meeting. After a few opening words and a summary of the new content being introduced with Mondain's Legacy, Lady Lu handed the reigns to Cerdith, who began the presentation in earnest.
With Fertbert driving the demo, Cerdith launched into a rapid-fire list of UOML features, “Mondain’s Legacy has … new runic kits, a new quest engine, artifact quality craftable items, crafting recipe scrolls, champion style spawns outside Fel, playable elves, armor sets, talismans, more housing storage, spellweaving, an elven tree city, nine dungeons/adventuring areas with entrances distributed throughout all facets, peerless boss fights, parrot and ferrets, elven weapons with cool special moves, stylish elven clothing and armor, aquariums, much smarter monsters with improved AI, delivery quests, nature themed housing customizations, elven furniture and doodads, several dungeons mirrored for both Fel and Tram, a zoo you can support and help build, escort quests, satyrs and dryads who want to party with you in their own special style, elves to kill and ears to collect, Minax up to no good – as usual, quests to gather stuff, a museum, racial abilities for both elves and humans, minotaurs and hydras, a library you can befriend, quests to kill things, rewards for community collections, quivers, container labeling, giant dogs with healing spit, repeatable quests … Doh out of time!”
Wow! What an opening! I’ve heard rumors that Cerdith actually underwent an underwater training regimen just to get that entire list out in one breath. I think that might be an exaggeration, but one never knows…
Cerdith explained that the elves have been in exile in The Heartwood for quite a long time, but now contact has been reestablished. Showing off the new elven paperdoll art, wearables and weapons, she walked around The Heartwood, demonstrating just how many quests were being added with UOML. Meeting up with Leurocian, Niobe and pseudoneoretro, the four teamed up to cast an Arcane Circle, which of course is one of the new Spellweaving spells.
With the nice and (mostly) friendly elves located mostly in The Heartwood, the less amicable elves have hidden themselves away in Sanctuary, where Cerdith traveled next. The elves here are still quite unhappy at the human race, which they still blame for the death of their elders so very long ago. In fact, it is rumored that there is an elf here that will reward you for bringing him human ears…
Moving along to a few of the new dungeons, we saw Twisted Weald, where a Cu’Sidhe was tamed and ridden. The Cu’Sidhe is a huge, barrel-chested dog with a long graceful snout and intelligent eyes, and is only rideable by elves. Next we visited the hydra boss Abscess in the Blighted Grove, and then we visited Paroxysmus, who is not a pretty sight even on its best hair day. What a nasty, oozing pustule of a creature!
Heading on to the Labyrinth, we patted our Cu’Sidhe on the head, threw him (a very large) bone, and got ourselves some new “wheels”; a reptalon. Reptalons are about 5 feet tall at the shoulder, nearly twice that in length, and weighs a couple tons. A reptalon possesses the body of a lion, dragon-like wings, reptilian scaled neck and tail, and a lion-goat head. Both the Cu’Sidhe and the Reptalon make for a powerful ally in combat situations. With our short dungeon tour at an end, we went home for a bit of rest and relaxation.
Whoah! What was that? It seems there is a parrot waiting for us at home. He’ll hang around even while you’re gone, and greet you with some (un)friendly phrases when you decide to come home. Over in the corner, we noticed an aquarium, full of fish and shells and things. No more stacking blue colored cloth and faking it!
With this, Cerdith and Fertbert wrapped up the demo to much applause, and Lady Lu took the stage to make a few comments on the state of Ultima Online. She reiterated EA's commitment to the franchise, and explained that while we're going to miss the developers who have recently departed, we respect their decision and wish them well. She also mentioned that we're currently hiring to replace those who have left. With that clarified, the floor was opened for a Q and A session, first focused on UOML, but then open to all topics of discussion.
Many questions were asked and answered, ranging from how one might become an elf to a request for the begging skill timer to be shortened. Both Binky and I stayed quite busy passing the two wireless microphones around; however, even with so many players in attendance, the majority of the crowd got to ask at least one question of the UO Team. Answering one of the most important questions of the evening, Darkscribe took a moment to explain that our most important source of advertising is you, the UO player; our players are the exact reason why we're traveling around the world. We want to meet with as many of you as we can, because we know the players are, by far, the most important part of Ultima Online.
As the evening drew to a close, it was time to start pulling raffle tickets from the bag, and handing out da schwag! From UO T-shirts to pewter dragons, UO earings and necklaces... we gave it all away. Though we couldn't stuff our suitcases with enough t-shirts to hand out to everyone, everyone who attended did receive a cool Mondain's Legacy poster. With the official event over, many players mingled in and around the conference room, talking to the UO Team, to their fellow players, signing up for the upcoming Beta test and getting their posters signed.
All in all, the Washington, DC Town Hall Meeting was a smashing success! We'd like to extend a hearty Thank You to the many UO Players who attended in person, and also to the many more who listened to the live broadcast via UORadio.com. It is you who makes this game so great, and we can't wait to meet more of you during our upcoming UO Town Hall Meetings. We'd like to thank Dragons and The Syndicate for helping to arrange this townhall. It was our largest and most successful, to date.
Finally, if there is one thing that we learned from this particular
Town Hall Meeting, it’s that Binky isn’t the only one who gets a bit
loud after a few beers…