An Interview With Regine ‘Sakkarah’ Abel Lining up a few questions with Sakkarah for the UO community is always a treat when it comes to “what’s next?” because one never knows what the team has up their sleeve. I think many would agree when we look at the last few holiday events that there tends to be something for everyone and adjustments have been made when necessary. With a strong background in UO, we need that sense of history now more than ever after suffering the loss of some great team members with EA layoffs. That said we have a few questions and a thank you to Sakkarah for taking the time to give us an update. While many in the community are already familiar with you, can you give us a quick run down of your history with UO and your transition to the development team? I've been playing UO since beta. I started out as a crafter (Blacksmith), did a bit of RP, then got hooked on treasure maps. That led me to start my treasure maps website which grew over time to training guides and what not. I dabbled in Factions, mainly with my thief. Then came champ spawns which drew me permanently back to Felucca. I ran a fairly large guild for many years until I joined the team. In between that, I had been running a lot of events as a player and ran the QuestMasters guild for a while. That got me noticed and I was invited to join the EM program. During that time, I was obtaining a degree in Game Design and started working in a Montreal game studio. Two years ago, I was approached by Mythic regarding an opening on the UO design team and the rest is history How is it different running an event as a player vs. as a developer? Extremely different, both good and bad. As a player, you are limited by existing game mechanics. I was lucky on Atlantic to have had a great network of friends and helpers (Tazar definitely being at the top of that list!) so it made things easier. After a while, I had established a reputation too, so players usually behaved. But providing enticing rewards was challenging at times and always very costly. As a Dev, it's challenging differently. Players are a lot less forgiving towards us. So you have to account for every possible situation, every playstyle, real life schedules, exploits, lag, casual/hardcore players, rares market, balancing issues, etc. But it’s great because you have a lot more power to do crazy things. The only real limitations here are your own creativity and scripting skills. I’ve come a long way on that front since joining the team. That has enabled me to be more daring in the type of things I do. So I’m excited about what we will be able to deliver in the future. Personally, I try to make events that encourage people to work together and help them rediscover part of the game they may have forgotten about or never had a chance to experiment before. With the readjustment of the UO team, can you give us an idea of how this will impact the community moving forward with events? We intend for the impact to be minimal if at all noticeable. There may be the occasional apparent downtime while we’re frantically working on the next big thing but we’ll do our best to keep it minimal. I think we’ve done pretty good delivering some fun content in the past few months and we already have quite a few events lined up for the not too distant future. The EMs are also doing an amazing job keeping things hopping on their respective shards. So overall, I think our players will be happy. Realizing you just wrapped up SA in a pretty nice package for the players, are there any plans for future expansions along the lines of ML and SA? There certainly are. We've done quite a bit of brainstorming and some pretty solid designs have been laid out already. In fact, our engineers are doing a first pass in investigating some of the things we want to accomplish. We are not looking at as big an expansion as SA was but it should be just as exciting! I know I’m definitely looking forward to both develop it and play it! Do you have a 'dream project' you'd like to do, if time and resources permitted? My dream project would revolve around RP Towns and RP tools. Frankly, I pretty much have it all laid out in my head. But it would require a lot of engineering, art and design time to make it happen. I would love to give players the real ability of building their own towns with a RTS side to it, where certain buildings and upgrades become available as the town grows in size. Each town would be encouraged (though not obligated) to specialize itself to unlock specific upgrades (i.e. crafter town vs. military vs. maritime). It would have a proper election, taxes, war systems integrated. Instead of everyone camping Luna, I would like to see people congregate to specific player towns when they want specific specialty goods or activities. With that, I would also like to give players a lot more tools to create and run their own events, from oracles to customizable clues and rewards that can be scattered out in the world, even in the depths of a dungeon. With the Felucca vs. Trammel debate standing the test of time, how do you address the different play styles when implementing new items and events in UO? We try to give items that can be used by the greater number of people, and not so much focus on a specific class or play style. The simplest route is decorative items. But not everyone is into decorating. So we try to get useful items that aren't overpowering, such as the costumes and harvester's blade. In the case of weapons and armor type, we just try to limit the number and type of the properties we give them. HCI, DCI, SDI, MR and LRC are usually properties that can be beneficial and appealing to both PvMers and PvPers. So we will often use them. Because of PvP, we try to be careful which item slot will be used to prevent people putting together insane gear, and now with the gargoyles, we also need to make sure it's something all races will be able to use. Other MMO’s seem to undercut the importance of player “ownership” in their games. Do you feel this has affected the longevity of Ultima Online with housing and crafting and how do you feel the community itself affects UO’s history? I think the strong sense of ownership and community is one of the main reason UO has stood the test of time. In UO, you literally own a piece of world. This is your house. This is your town. This is your legacy. Not the Dev’s, not the EMs’ but yours. As a character, you make your own destiny, which in turn will impact those around you. How significant this impact will be is up to you. I have yet to experience another MMO where individuals, guilds, towns can truly make their mark on their world (hate them or love them) and be commemorated in History as is the case with UO, be it on their home shard or globally. In most other MMOs, you’re just another DPS, another Tank, another Healer or some dude in an auction house. In UO, if you’re looking for a good PvPer, they will be referred to by name. If you want some potion kegs, you’ll be sent to John’s shop, he’s always well stocked. You want armor? Go check Sarah near Moonglow gate. A good guild for a new player? Go talk to (insert guild name). House deco ideas? Talk to so and so or go check out Linda’s houses near this town or that town. No one cares if another DPS quits, but the Johns and Sarahs and Lindas do matter. And the people who rely on them give them a reason to stick around. What does this week consist of for you? What are you focusing on for UO? Right now, the focus is on the next event arc. A lot of back story writing, quite a bit of coding mainly for feasibility testing and assets requests. The destruction of Magincia was no doubt one of the most impressive events ever put together. The rebuilding by no means pretends to be as spectacular but it will certainly try to do it some justice. Since this involves the reconstruction of a city, crafters will definitely be involved. The tricky part is to make it as enticing for PvMers as well as PvPers and to also come up with ways to reward shard participation. Thank you Sakarrah for taking the time to address the community of players as we head into another wonderful year of Ultima Online!