Playing to Bake Bread

I mostly offer this one up as a bit of historical knowledge about the early days of UO, and the whole “baking bread” controversy. The “infamous dragon example” was a statement of how the AI hooks into the resource system were supposed to work.
Each creature in the game was defined in terms of its needs. For example, dragons required huge amounts of meat to survive, and sought out gold (and if they found it, were supposed to carry it back to their lairs). The use case which was described in the design documents was that a dragon would have a lair, and seek in widening circles for food. Should a player hunt out all the deer in the environs of the lair, the dragon might end up finding its meat at the local village. Then you could solve the issue by either feeding the dragon (herding deer to its cave, for example) so that it didn’t need to hunt so far, or by slaying it. An example of how simulationist design can result in a more dynamic environment.
In practice, the search radius ended up being a screen or so, pathfinding couldn’t even solve a straight line at that distance, and it was too darn slow anyway. No dragons ever raided villages, and the UO creatures turned into AIs stupider than your mobs in a run of the mill text mud.
I still remember how we felt that first day when we walked in and asked what game would be like, and got our own dragon example from our resumes recited back to us by Mike McShaffry…

Playing to Bake Bread

Bread making made it into U9 in large part to thumb noses at the public who slammed UO over it. Shadowbane’s press campaign started out with “We don’t play games to bake bread, we play to crush”–that was a reference to those days. There were many critiques that it wasn’t heroic enough. 🙂 Legends of Kesmai ran a banner ad which spoofed bread making and carpentry too. There was precedent in the Ultima series, particularly Ultima 7, but not to any large scale. Maybe that web archiving site has some of the old articles that were written–we were, literally, ridiculed for it by press, fans, and competitors.

When Origin asked me and my wife for a design sample when we applied for jobs, we sent them the design for the resource system, which was basically a system for attaching abstract qualities to game objects, so that generalized systems could act upon the qualities rather than hardcoding to any object. For example, any object with the “wood” quality could burn when an object with the “fire” quality came into contact with it.

Crafting was the act of moving qualities from one object to another. This is still in UO to an extent; the ore you mine in UO is METAL resource that spawns in every map chunk (8×8 tile blocks) based on the amount of particular terrain tiles in that chunk. Most of the crafting trees however were changed to be hardcoded to particular pieces of art long ago, which lost a ton of flexibility and gained nothing. 😛

The biggest potential value of an abstract quality system, of course, was to hook AI off of it. That’s where the infamous dragon example came from.

When we were hired, we were informed on the first day that the system we had sent in with our resumes was the core of the game. During alpha, it actually worked. You saw wolves taking down rabbits and deer and eating them, etc. Eventually, creatures were supposed to pick lairs, hoard their earnings there to be discovered, do area searches for things they desired, and whatever agent lost something it desired was supposed to tell you who had it and what they’d want to get it back.

Taken from Usenet posts in early 2002.