Ultima Online received GDC Hall of Fame Award Many know Jeremy Preacher as a former Community Manager at Ultima Online. While her path has taken her on to other projects, we asked if she would contribute her input as she attended the GDC Online Awards as a guest writer for Stratics. Ultima Online has garnered a lot of attention lately with good reason. We'd like to thank Jeremy for giving us a glance at the evening: By Jeremy Preacher Website: Neighborlygames.com The huge auditorium is dim and half-full - it’s party night at GDCO and a lot of folks have gone to fortify themselves against the inevitable free drinks. The people who did show up are suspiciously well-dressed for game developers. I’ve taken care of the queso-and-margarita requirement early, and I’m ready with pen and paper to do this the old-fashioned way - tipsy and in shorthand. The Game Developers Choice Online Awards are a brand-new spinoff of the long-running Game Developers Choice awards. The Hall of Fame award, specifically, is awarded by the Advisory Committee itself - and it’s probably a testament to the justice of the award that four of the eleven members work or worked on UO, and another is an old-school Ultima designer. There are a few awards before the Hall of Fame award presentation. There are no runners-up or anything, which makes sense when I see the logistics involved in the acceptance. First Mythic’s General Manager, Eugene Evans, comes up to start things off. Eugene was my boss for part of the time I worked there - he’s a sweet, sincere guy, and knows his business. He says, "It’s an honor to be the current torchbearer of this bright flame burning for 14 years." He mentions that UO is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Running MMORPG. The man everyone was expecting to see, Richard Garriott, is in... Kuala Lumpur. (Hey, at least it’s not space!) He did record a video congratulating everyone on the award, to be played in his absence. In the video, he’s wearing a very Lord-British-esqe black button-down with embroidered cuffs (what, it’s an awards show! I have to talk about the clothes.) He modestly (and accurately, from what I understand) disclaims credit in favor of Starr Long and Raph Koster. Next up are the aforementioned luminaries as well as Rich Vogel, who was the producer starting about seven months before launch. Starr Long is credited as the director. Raph Koster, of course, was the lead designer. Starr’s wearing a jacket and tie - and plaid pants. He’s dapper, but still a game dev. They line up neatly and take the mic in turn. Rich wants to thank Chris Yates, who was a VP of Technology at EA at launch. He also says what everyone I talked to all week agreed on, that running that first year of UO was "the wild, wild west." Raph: "Wow." He lets that hang there for a minute. He talks about bringing his daughter in a baby carrier to the office - "Now she’s a teenager and doesn’t want to talk to me." He also says, "For me, it’s about the stories people tell. The people who got married." He was at a guild conference, and there were kids there younger than the game. "It’s great to make a game and know that it really touched people’s lives." Starr sounds like he’s seen an awards show or two, and reels off a list of thank-yous - he thanks Richard Garriott, Larry Probst, Rick (doesn’t give a last name - maybe Zinser?) the players, including Rainz, who assassinated Lord British and "showed us the players were in control," all the devs who came after, his parents, his wife, and his baby daughter, who he brought in a baby carrier "to complete the cycle". They then formally recognize all the producers of UO:- Rich Vogel, launch and The Second Age- Bryan Walker, Third Dawn and Renaissance- Rick Hall, Lord Blackthorn’s Revenge- Anthony Castoro, Age of Shadows and Samurai Empire- Jessica Lewis, Mondain’s Legacy- Aaron Cohen, Kingdom Reborn- Calvin Crowner, Stygian Abyss and High Seas. Nearly all of these people are in the audience, but for one or two who couldn’t make it. All of them are still active and influential in the video game world. They ask everyone in the audience who worked on the game to stand up. About a quarter of the crowd does. They ask everyone who played the game to stand up, and it’s closer to three quarters. It’s a quick visual representation of just how much influence UO has had on the industry. These are the people giving awards and winning them in online games, and the vast majority were touched by UO early on in their careers. They close on a video of the really important part - players talking about the game. 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 - stay tuned!