UO Stratics is proud to present a terrific interview with SunSword, Producer of Ultima Online. Put together by our team of reporters at this year's E3 event in Los Angeles, it covers several topics of interest. Read on for all the details:
Please note, that this interview is not word for word…

The first question asked of SunSword was about the current expected, target date for the launch of the new expansion and its distribution...
The current target is before Christmas; this, of course, is not final. As this is an Asian centered expansion, it may well be a simultaneous distribution within the North American and Asian markets. Currently, North America is the largest market for Ultima Online followed by Japan and surrounding Asian countries. The usual method of launch is North America followed by the Asian market, to allow time for any translation fixes.

We'd like to translate into German, French and maybe other European languages, but we need our European marketing and sales organization to support the work. If you'd like to make sure your demands for UO in a foreign language are met, make sure you communicate that online and to your local retailers!

The next question asked... Are there any plans to expand the Event Moderator program, thus expanding the events and related capabilities? More Event Moderators? More Game Masters?
Yes, there are plans to expand the Event Moderator program. The intention had been to do so earlier, but the move to Redwood Shores delayed this. Currently, the priority of Customer Service is employing more Game Masters and getting them up to speed. The Event Moderators are currently running events, 1 per week. These are of their own makeup, allowing for different storylines across the shards. In a month or so, more event moderators should be brought on board. The plan is for the program to be bigger than the pilot, which took place late last year, to have the events that are being run tie into the fiction for the upcoming expansion. As to more Game Master support for the Event Moderators, this is being considered. One idea is to have EA interns work with the EM's. There are many factors that go into the mix, such as EM availability (they do have families and jobs too), bandwidth available to the EM's etc.

The next question asked related to how everyone is settling into life at Redwood Shores...
Quite well! EA has remarked that it is the best transition they have ever seen. The UO Development team is bigger than it has ever been in the past, with more on the team than there was even for the Age of Shadows expansion.

Are there any plans to open the beach up in Malas?
No current plans.

Are there are any plans to open up the additional housing areas in Malas?
Housing areas being opened depends on the market and demand; they have no wish to flood a market that is already brimming with available areas. With the new expansion, people will be more comfortable in Felucca, allowing for them to spread out further.

Dungeons? Update?
Not currently a focus.

What are your thoughts on EBay?
Cannot support or control eBay, although in the Terms of Service, there are clear statements about all UO in-game items being the property of Electronic Arts. However, the team is currently investigating ways for a more secure in-game trading system.

Are there any plans to bring back volunteers in some form?
This is in the hands of the EA legal team, but it appears that the situation isn't as clear-cut anymore.

What in Publish 25 relates to PvP?
There are PvP changes. Publish 25 contains tweaks to weapons, abilities and artifacts that all relate to PvP.

Will there be any housing tiles with the new expansion?
Direct quote: "Yes! You Bet!"

Art is always a pull for players, particularly relating to housing customization. The new expansion is based upon feudal Japan, and around Ultima 1 and the feudal lords.

They are aware that people wish to have the ability to place roofs on their homes. The team is investigating whether it is viable or not. The EA Japan team released a book on housing customization, including how to make pianos and the like. They will look into reproducing if possible.

When are the stores over at coming back?
This is being worked on; there is a web group onsite at EA HQ.

Will the virtue system be changed in the near future?
No current plans, as they are tied up with the new expansion. If they ever did, they would like to see a more holistic approach taken towards the Virtues.

Any plans to revamp potions?
SunSword noted that these were good candidates for an overhaul, but at the current time with so much going on, it was a long-term thing.

A few other points that SunSword touched on were...

  • That the crash bug for archers has been fixed. They are experimenting and working on the other issues.
  • A new retail package is on the way, to repopulate the shelves; this will include a 6th character slot. In his words, it's "The best box ever done," reliving classic Ultima.
  • The majority of UO players use the 2D client, despite having computers capable of using 3d.
  • The resumes that Fertbert received were all of a high standard, a surprising number with qualifications relevant to the gaming industry as well.
  • The EM program is successful and will only get bigger and better!
  • Changing the UO chat interface is a mid-term goal; it makes community harder in its current form.