Way back in the latter half of ‘aught zero, after Y2K failed to end the world, I was writing database software in Phoenix for a living and playing a whole lot of Ultima Online for fun. Then, a very rare and special opportunity presented itself to me: the chance to turn UO from a hobby into a profession. Taking advantage of that was a no-brainer, so I moved to Austin and become the designer called Vex. During my years working on UO I made many contributions to the game, got promoted, and eventually moved to the San Francisco area when EA closed down the Origin studio. Over time, many faces came and went. One new face was that of Leurocian, who not only proved to be a talented and creative designer but also became a good personal friend to me. At the time he joined the team, I and several other UO folks had begun preproduction on an unannounced project. Unfortunately, that project was killed in early preproduction. For many reasons personal and professional, I decided at that time to move on. This kind of fluidity is the norm for game development, and to me it has a big upside and a big downside as well. I wound up moving back to Austin to take a job as Lead Systems Designer at NCsoft on Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa. It was my honor to contribute to that project through its full production cycle, and I stayed with it on its Live team right up until it was cancelled one year after launch. During my time on TR I worked closely with my former UO boss Lead Designer Paul Sage, and I had the treasured pleasure of working with Richard Garriott and Starr Long, along with a few other former Origin folks, and got to know and work with many new talented and motivated people. After the cancellation of TR, I was out of work and looking. During those months, prospects were pretty bleak across the industry, because it was the height of our country’s recent financial crisis. Few new projects were getting funded and those who were hiring were not hiring very many. I picked up some contract programming work for a company in the Phoenix area, a connection I had from before entering the game business, and seriously considered a permanent exit back into mundane software development. I found another golden opportunity when Leurocian told me there was a Sr. Designer spot opening up on the UO team. As it turned out, the folks here at Mythic were very interested in seeing if I would fit. They moved with remarkable alacrity to bring me up here for interviews. When I got here, it really felt like coming home, even though most of the faces are new. Even though nearly everyone I worked with on UO before has moved on, the spirit of UO’s development team remains the same. This team has built an amazing expansion in Stygian Abyss, and it’s clear to me that everyone here is dedicated heart and soul to continuing to grow and improve Ultima Online. As one of the premier MMORPGs it continues to bring something unique and special to online entertainment, and it just keeps getting better. Long Live Britannia! So, here I am. Everything old is new again, and I couldn’t be happier to be back contributing to UO, working with this truly talented and dedicated group. In the weeks since my re-hire, I have rapidly gotten back up to speed, helping fix bugs from the Stygian Abyss launch. Soon it will be time to start on future feature development; at the moment the team is working out the details of where we want to go next. The time to start talking about those plans will arrive in coming weeks. To commemorate my resurrection as a Ultima Online designer, I’ve decided to re-register with a new nick. Henceforth, Vex is no more. Now, I am Phoenix. And I'll see you at the HoC Chat tonight!