MEETING MALEKI - PLAYER RELATIONS MANAGER

UO STRATICS INTERVIEW - AUGUST 25, 2003
UO Stratics was recently able to touch bases with Maleki, the Player Relations Manager for Ultima Online, on a number of issues regarding the new Event Coordinator Program, upcoming Events, and even about his personal background. The following are the highlights of that discussion:
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Such as your background, education, where you're from, etc.?
Let's see… I came to work for EA/OSI around December of '99 as a Game Master for UO. I had previously spent some time as a Counselor, Seer, and a Senior Companion. Over the past two years, I have spent time as both the Player Relations Manager and UO Product Manager. Prior to working for EA, I attended the University of Central Florida, out in Orlando, FL. I am originally from Tampa, FL.

What made you decide to come to OSI to work on Ultima Online?
I had played UO since beta, and decided I wanted to try to give the gaming industry a shot. I had spent the greater part of a year in the Counselor program, so I had a good working relationship with the staff and decided to move out to Austin, Texas and take a job as a GM.

Why has OSI decided to establish events again? We love the idea, but we've been without Seer and Elders for a long time. We are curious about why the change, and why now.
Well, I think you have seen a commitment from the Dev/Marketing teams here at OSI to try to give back to the community in some way. I am a firm believer that many players enjoy the game because of the ongoing community efforts, and what better way to add to these efforts than with more events and fiction. I really think SunSword and the team are committed to getting back to some of the things that got UO to where it is today, and those things involve community.

What type of events will we be seeing?
We plan on doing some larger scale fiction in the upcoming months.

How often will each Shard see events?
Right now, all I can say on this is that we are targeting to do a few events per shard a week, on 15 shards.

The last event we saw (the defeat of Lord Blackthorn) was hugely attended, with lots of lag attending as well. Any plans on changing how events are conducted to control the crowd and lag?
Lag is the number one complaint when you deal with higher level fiction and larger events, so we are looking at ways to spread the load out instead of keeping it in one area. Also, I think the Blackthorn event was the first event run in quite some time, so it generated even more people than a normal event would.

Why did we kill off Lord Blackthorn?
This will fit into the ongoing fiction. That's all I can really say about that right now. :)

What are your other duties as Player Relations Manager beyond just watching over the Event Coordinators?
I am still acting in the UO Product Manager role for the Customer Relations group, which means I am still in charge of the majority of the day-to-day functions of UO. I have been really committed to bringing back fiction into UO, so I went out and got a good team of people to help facilitate this. They will be the ones bringing to life the story.

Are you directly involved in writing the stories behind the events? If so, any hints as to what we may be seeing in the coming months?
Yes, I am working with the Development team and Sannio on writing the back story for the event.

Can you give us any hints about the future of UO? Come on, any more "BIG" changes in the works?
That would be best left to SunSword and the Development team to discuss. The future of UO is a bright one. :)

How many Event Coordinators are there, and what made you decide on that number?
There are fifteen Event Moderators. We based that number on the number of shards we are supporting with this new project. While they will be seen on multiple shards, they each have been assigned a primary one, so that they may become familiar with the roleplaying communities on that shard. We didn't want to just throw content out there; we want to try to tie it as closely to the 15 different shards as we can, because they all have different people and stories.

How important is the original Ultima Prime lore to you? For instance, is it your goal to emphasize the Virtues and the original enemies of the gameworld (such as the Shadowlords), or are you looking to create all new fiction?
A little of both. The old history is important to the team. At the same time, we need to move forward and give some explanation as to where the old characters of the world have been, and what they have been up to.

Give an example of what you would consider a good event for the Event Coordinators to create for the players.
A good event would be a well thought out story line, with well developed characters the players actually care for. Around this we would like to impact a large number of people, but at the same time work on ways to balance lag to make the event enjoyable for all.

Will unique items ever be given out as a result of these Events, such as what used to be handed out by Seers? For instance, a named sword such as "Daniel's Sword of the Titans".
We shall see. :)

Will events repeat (on the same shard) to try to divide up the number of participants into more manageable levels?
Yes, the general event will repeat on multiple shards, so that everyone can participate. However, although there will be one overall plot, the details will vary with each specific event.

The main plot will be created & directed by OSI, but each shard's Event Moderator will also be given the opportunity to express a bit of creative freedom in the smaller events within that larger storyline. In this way, each shard will have degrees of variation in a single, unified story. We'll be using these variations to help distribute players during events as well as keep them guessing as to "what's coming next."

Where should people look to see announcements (if any) of upcoming events?
We will try to keep people posted on when the events are going on by utilizing town criers and other, more standard forms of communication (such as the FYI section of UO.com).