"Reminiscing with Old Friends" Everyone loves to tell stories of the good old days even when those stories involve "being mugged in-game!" Over the next couple of days, we’ll bring you some of those stories from ex-UO players and developers who are still active in the industry. We would like to thank Jeremy for sharing her "Reminiscing with Old Friends". By Jeremy Preacher Website: Neighborlygames.com I love the Austin game developers conference, no matter what it’s called. Seeing all of my friends, ex-coworkers, and colleagues, swapping war stories, and making new contacts is something I look forward to all year. This year it was even better – I had a perfect excuse to rustle up all of the folks who used to play or work on UO and get them to talk about the Good Old Days. There were a lot of them. My first interviewee was Troy Hewitt, currently the Community Lead at Carbine Studios. Troy had plenty to say about UO. He was a player on Atlantic named Aleph Aeirs, who started a roleplaying guild and eventually had every roleplayer’s dream come true – Origin contacted him and invited him to become a seer. “I remember feeling like I won UO,” he says. He was Seer Asher on Chesapeake, wrote for Stratics, and still keeps his account open and maintains the friendships that started in UO. “How did UO affect your career and/or personal life?” I asked. “Well, it introduced the concept of online obligation,” he begins, a fascinating tangent that I need to remember to pursue with him some day. He goes on to say that he saw the kind of writing and events he was doing for games and decided to work in the industry. He went on to be a community manager on The Matrix Online, then Community Envoy (and envy of the CM field for his awesome title) and later Director of Community for Flying Labs, and now working on Carbine’s super-secret project. “What’s your favorite UO story or memory?” I ask. “It’s so dorky…” he trails off. “Well, there was that time my player character got kidnapped by a Seer. But my real favorite… it’s so dorky.” He goes on to recount the huge, elaborate wedding of one of his characters to one of his real-life friend’s. It wasn’t a real-life romance, just something they did for roleplaying purposes, but it remains one of his favorite memories. He goes on to say that the early days of UO were a time when talented people would do things for free – now everyone’s looking to make money off of what they do in MMOs, but in those days it was just for love. The next person I ambushed was Will Leverett - GM Ironwill, from the very early days of UO. He answered an ad in the paper and got hired on in October of ’97 as a GM. They told him he would be “running events 50% of the time, testing 25% of the time, answering emails 25% of the time.” It didn’t quite work out as planned. He ended up the account administration lead – “I was in charge of banning all the players!” He pauses. “Well, hopefully not all of them.” “Death threats and the bomb threat aside,” Will says UO taught him about business, management, what to do and what not to do online. “Wouldn’t be where I am today without UO,” he says. It turned into a successful career overseeing customer service, community management, and quality assurance all supporting online games. I met him when he was the NCSoft game support manager – he went on to be the director of CS for Real Time Worlds. I asked him for his favorite story – “Something printable,” I clarify. That’s always harder for GMs. “Well, there was the time I deleted everything on Sonoma.” I can’t very well repeat the command that he accidentally used to nuke the shard, but suffice it to say that Armageddon spell from the single player Ultimas? The one that destroys the world? Well, it works fine in UO as well, if you’re a fat-fingered GM. The other story also sounded just like the good old days. Some folks asked him to conduct their wedding, and he agreed. 200+ people showed up in Lord Blackthorn’s chapel – it was terribly laggy. Then a naked guy – here’s where all the old-schoolers wince – runs in carrying nothing but an Earthquake scroll. He triggers it – this was during a period when Earthquake was ridiculously overpowered - and kills everyone. The last fellow from today’s batch was John Erskine – GM Rock. He was a beta player who became a GM at launch, and managed the GM team for 2 years. Like most of the folks I talked to, MMOs became his career. Before working at Origin, John was the general manager of a chain of retail stores. When Origin hired him, they had no real concept of GMs or community managers. The idea was that they’d be more like a dungeon master, running events. EA’s initial sales projections were for 100k boxes total – lifetime, that is – and the game would last 6-9 months. When the game launched, there was no way to contact support in-game. As soon as they added that ability, the queue was in the thousands. That didn’t leave the GMs much time for creating events. John’s favorite story is a classic as well. A blacksmith named John Henry figured out that every time you crafted an exceptional item, it added +1 damage to the blacksmith hammer. He’d build up a stock of +50 hammers with one durability point apiece and run around dungeons one-shotting people and yelling “I’m a steel-drivin’ man!” There’s plenty more of these stories to come – hope you enjoy them!