Curse.com sat down to a recent interview with Cal Crowner and Josh Drescher about the upcoming release of Stygian Abyss for Ultima Online! This is the 8th expansion for the game and will coincide with their 12th anniversary. UO's known as the "game that started it all" and we asked several questions about the new expansion and what more we'll be seeing from UO in the future. Ultima Online; Stygian Abyss will be UO's eighth expansion. It launches on September 8, 2009 at an upgrade cost of $29.99. A new player pack will sell for $39.99, which includes 30 days of gametime.
Here's a look at our candid interview with Cal Crowner, UO development mananger, and Josh Drescher, Producer at EA Mythic, we hope you enjoy:
Curse: UO is going into it's 12th anniversary this fall and is launching it's 8th expansion. What are some of the things in this latest expansion that might entice previous players back to the game that started it all?
Josh: This is a great time to return to the product, as it's an opportunity to experience the game in 3D, and we've been very careful to make sure that we have complete support for everything in Stygian Abyss for players who play the 2D version of the game. If you're a plan of the old single player games like Ultima VI this expansion will tie into some of the content that was going on there with Gargoyles and some of the experiences in that game, and brings that legacy forward into Ultima Online. Stygian Abyss will also add the first playable race added to the game in some time, Gargoyles.The enhanced client isn't true 3D client, it's more like 2.5D, what the enhanced client does is take the Kingdom Reborn Engine and then allows players to play with more of the Legacy art with a slightly higher resolution. In addition to the client overhaul there will be several new skills, a massive new dungeon, and smaller systems that players have really responded well to, like snake-charming, chicken-coops, and smaller enhancements that players will really enjoy.
Cal: The classic client is the 2D client that everyone knows and loves, the new client is an enhancement and is a re-vamp of the Kingdom Reborn engine and we've increased the stability of the client.
Josh: As Cal said, it's not a typical first person-shooter style of 3D, but it fits the look and play style of Ultima, and you keep that classic feel but increase the look significantly.
Cal: Stability is key, and we've also made it possible for players to move over their macros from the 2D client and added some features that were previously worked with UOAssist. You can also play across two screens, so when you're in the Abyss you really get a feel that you're enveloped in the scene.
Cal: The Abyss. If you've seen the trailers you'll know that the Abyss is MASSIVE. The idea is the Abyss is out of time, it's in a void, and the areas don't make sense. There's one area called the "Silver Sapling" and there's this massive glowing tree in this area next to lava pits and you'll notice in different areas you'll have a different experience. If you enter the Abyss form Britannia you'll have a very different experience than if you enter it from the Gargoyle side. Everything comes together in the Chamber of Virtue where the Slasher of Veils is and there's a chasm in between that divides the area. Within the Abyss there's between 7-10 smaller encounter areas and will really give the players a unique experience.
Cal: You're huge, and you can fly!
Josh: The other piece is that with Elves and Humans you have a capacity to do certain things, if you're a Gargoyle you have a higher capacity to do certain things. By that we mean there are three different weapon types: Light, Medium, and Heavy. The Gargoyle will have the capacity to throw these new weapons and a higher capacity for Mysticism. They also can of course fly and this has been balanced by making flying still drain stamina, but the ability to just get up and fly is something we think players are really going to enjoy.
Curse: By capacity for Mysticism do you mean a higher skill cap or something else?
Cal: No it's not a skill cap, they'll just be better at doing it, it's roughly a 15% better chance to imbue, and for mysticism they have a higher rate of success than their human and elven counterparts.
Josh: It's not actually a hard cap adjustment. It's an improvement to percentage chance of success for certain abilities.
Cal: Throwing is specific to Gargoyles, and there's three unique moves they can do with throwing, the third of which is "Mystic Arc" and should be a nice surprise for PvPers once they learn how to use it. Mysticism is similar to spell weaving which already exists in the game, this will give players the ability to cast up to16 new spells, there's also a new summonable creature, the Rising Colossus, that's also going to be useful to players who choose to master this new skill. Imbuing will allow players to take things they already own or have, unravel them, and potentially make their own unique weapons and armor.
Josh: It's intended to be complimentary instead of replacement. This will not be a stand in for other dye colors. They're slightly different and you'll be able to understand the distinct value of an existing dye set compared to these new staining sets.
Curse: Can you give us an overview of the new Champion Spawn areas accessible from Felucca?
Curse: What will the spawn be, what kind of Champions are we looking at?
Cal: The Prime Evil Lich and the Abyssal Inferno are the Champs, the boss mobs for peerless encounters are the Stygian Dragon, the Medusa, and the Slasher of Veils. The other part that's interesting about Champ spawns is that the battles change as the spawn continues, so as the encounter escalates there are things that will come into the spawn area that will assist. For The Abyssal the environment will change and become more hostile as the spawn progresses. You'll get very different experiences in these Champ spawns.
Josh: The easiest way to explain it is that the Abyss is the largest dungeon content release in UO, it represents the largest dungeon content expansion in the history of the game, so if you really like significant challenges, and major new avenues of adventures, it won't get any better than this. This expansion is an enormous, content rich, addition that ties back into the 30 year history of Ultima, and re-connects players to everything that made this game a distinct property. This is an excellent way to experience all the best parts of UO.
Curse: It's been a long time since we've seen UO on a store shelf. Will Stygian Abyss be something we can pickup in stores?
Josh: The idea of the preeminence and importance of boxed products is on the decline in the industry and is going to continue to diminish over the next 5 years or so. Ultima Online has such an international reach, and such along history, literally millions of people have played this game, and giving those players the ability to download the game on a moments notice really enhances the sense of immediacy that people have come to expect with online products. With services like Steam setting the foundation for the expectations of quality and ease of delivery we think we'll see a lot less boxes on the shelves and a lot more easy distribution methods. We're committed to that as a studio (Mythic) with several of our products moving forward and we really want to look heavily at the potential for digital distribution both in place of and in consort with boxed products as is appropriate.
Curse: What type of resources will you dedicate to getting this game out there, and getting it in front of gamers?
Josh: Cal and I just got back from L.A. yesterday, and we were working on some press events, tv spots, we were on G4, and this will be the biggest marketing push that UO's seen in years. We remain very committed as a studio to the franchise and will be championing this product wherever we go.
Thanks so much for the sit down guys!
Stygian Abyss launches on September 8, 2009 at an upgrade cost of $29.99. A new player pack will sell for $39.99, which includes 30 days of gametime.