Age of Shadows UOHoC - January 8, 2003

Age of Shadows UOHoC - December 11, 2002

AUSTIN, Texas, July 16, 2002 -- Origin Systems™, an Electronic Arts development studio, today announced the development of Ultima Online™ Age of Shadows, the most ambitious expansion in the award-winning Ultima Online™ (UO) series. In Age of Shadows, fans will be introduced to two new professions and an exciting new realm to explore and settle. In addition to the expanded availability of housing, a 'House Design Tool' will also be included in this latest version.

"Housing has been one of the key features of UO since its launch in 1997, "said Ben Noel, vice president and chief operating officer of Origin Systems. "We are continuously looking for ways to improve and expand the fun factor of owning a home in Britannia. Not only will Age of Shadows create more housing availability, but the new custom-design feature will allow all our players much more creativity when building a house."

The immersive nature of Ultima Online's world continues to expand through the introduction of the House Design Tool. This tool, accessible to anyone who owns a house within the game, will allow players to build new houses from scratch or modify existing ones with compelling new structures, spatial elements and textures.

In addition to building homes, players will have two new professions to master: a Paladin and a Necromancer. The chivalrous Paladin is a courageous warrior fortified with awesome new powers and the cunning Necromancer is wielder of the darkest magic and forbidden secrets. As players role-play either of these two opposing forces they will discover a large new landmass to conquer and to settle.

As players explore this new area within the game, they will be able to utilize an enhanced magic system featuring new spells and powerful items. Additionally, new combat techniques and weapons add more depth and challenge to the fighting experience, and will be useful when facing the dozens of new monsters roaming the dark realm.

Age of Shadows will debut in early 2003 and will offer continuing new intrigue through ongoing fictional scenarios in which players often determine the outcome.

Q: What will AoS bring us ?
A: We know of at least the following:
    • New Landmass
    • New House Customization
    • New Paladin Profession
    • Necromancer Profession
    • New Monsters
    • New Items
    • New Fiction
    • Changes to Combat
    • Both 2D and 3D AoS Client

Q: What do we know about the New Landmass ?
A: The new land is called Malas.
- Players can build a house in Malas.
- There's room for some 1000 to 1500 houses in Malas.
- While it doesn't come directly from Ultima fiction, Malas is being specifically designed to support the storyline that will be unfolding over the next 18 months.
- Given that the new land will be accommodating a significant number of new houses, PvP will have to be limited. (Trammel ruleset ?)
- Malas will not allow ships to be placed in areas that have water.
- The map is surrounded by something other than mountains and water.

Q: What do we know about House Customization ?
A: House customization will be available on every facet and not just Malas.
- The actual customization interface will be part of the AoS client only.
- Home owners (new and existing) will be able to design and build their own homes, tile by tile.
- Home builders can select artwork from a predetermined set of walls, floors, stairs, doors, etc. to design and build with.
- New home owners can buy a "dirt lot" and build their house on that.
- Exisiting home owners can choose to convert their existing "old" house into a "dirt lot" and build their new home on that.
- Exchanging a standard house for a customizable one will be done securely, meaning there won't be any chance of losing your house because you have to collapse one and put up another. The house will transform into a custom one in place.
- There is an upper limit on the size of custom house foundations. The footprint of the largest customizable foundation is slightly larger than the base of a large tower, not including the wings.
- You'll have to pay both to place down the original "dirt lot", and pay when you edit your house. In general, the costs are going to be scaled so that a customized house would cost about 2-3x what a similar-sized static house would cost.
- If the house has a rectangular (or square) foundation, is Tower sized or smaller, and is properly placed, you will be guaranteed to be able to replace the house with a customizable foundation of the same size and shape. For L-shaped houses (not rectangular) and keeps and castles (too big), other (but as yet unknown) options will be available.
- The house building interface is more like painting than drag-and-drop. You can do fancy things like drag a targeting cursor to paint an entire wall in one motion.
- All house addons will become deedable.
- House deeds will be going away, replaced by a "house placement tool" that will let you build whichever type of house you want (and automatically looking in a couple of different places for enough gold to build it).

Q: What do we know about the New Professions ?
A: You will still be able to mix and match complementary skills, and decide which "Necromancer" or "Paladin" templates are best for you.
- There will be approximately 15 new spells for the necromancer. These will require five different reagents, some of which you might have seen in UO before. There will also be another type of spell book for Necromancy.
- A new skill "Chivalry" will be added for Paladins.
- No changes are planned for the Alchemy skill.

Q: What do we know about the New Monsters ?
A: Nothing yet.

Q: What do we know about the New Items ?
A: Necromancy will give us different colored spell books.
- As part of AoS, Dragon armor will be revisited.
- When you mouse over an object, you will get a tooltip-like display of the relevant properties of the item, such as durability, damage range for weapons, damage resistances for armor, number of items in a stack, and so on.

Q: What do we know about the New Fiction ?
A: We will definitely see scenarios involving the two new professions. More than likely there will be some fiction leading up to the release, after all when we last saw Blackthorn he was awfully cross and we [OSI] have some details there to take care of.

Q: What do we know about the Development Schedule ?
A: Christmas 2001: Preliminary design started.
January 2002: Top-line concept nearly finished.
February 2002: Full-blown design and implementation started.
December 2002: Planned start of AoS beta phase.
February 11, 2003: Final release of AoS.