Micael Priest

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Sep 122018

Portrait of Micael Priest by Sam Yeates

Really broken up over the news that Micael Priest has passed away. Such a sweet man, so ridiculously talented and totally a symbol of an Austin that has faded away.

He did the early art — like, most of it in the early days before we had an art team — for Ultima Online. He was a famed poster artist for Armadillo World Headquarters, rendering inked versions of Zappa and Willie Nelson and countless others in a detailed, hatched and stippled, bold cartoon style.

He was colorblind — I still remember when he thanked us for letting him know that he had made green people for UO by accident. I remember when he defended us during the run up to alpha, when Richard came to complain about the artwork in the game that Kristen and I had put in as placeholders until we got the real work, and Micael said “it’s not programmer art… it’s designer art! So it’s better!” I also remember walking into his office one day and being surprised by the presence of Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame); I fled in the presence of one of my heroes, and he told me after, “you should have stayed, I’d have introduced you!”

I thought of him often, but we had lost touch, because I am lousy at staying in touch with people. He wasn’t active online, and these days notifications are what passes for friendships. During UO crunch we all lived in each other’s pockets for months on end, and then… distance, and time.

It’s hard to imagine such a vital presence gone, but he leaves behind so much work, such a stamp on Austin culture. There was even a Micael Priest Day declared by the mayor, long ago.

Today also comes the news that Threadgill’s World Headquarters is closing; Micael’s art hangs all over the walls. Everything becomes ephemera, I suppose, to be auctioned off. We are left with the memories of smiles and warmth, of talent, and the unmistakable twinkle in his eyes.

May 312018

POSTMORTEMS book coverMy new book Postmortems is now available at various booksellers. The print edition ships on the 26th. Various sites may have the ebook already, some may not just yet.

This is the first volume of a projected three that gather together many of the essays and writings that I have been sharing on this blog over the last several decades. This book focuses specifically on games I have worked on, from LegendMUD up through social games, and is a book of design history, lessons learned, and anecdotes. Richard Garriott was kind enough to write a foreword for the book.

It’s not a memoir or tell-all; the focus is on game design and game history. There’s still nowhere near enough material out there in print covering things like the history and evolution of online worlds (MUDs especially), in-depth dives into decisions made in games by the people who made them, and detailed breakdowns of how they worked. So I hope that this will be useful to scholars and designers, and that players might find it a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes. Just don’t expect salacious stories and secrets.

Those of you who have been reading the blog for a while will find much in there that is familiar; if you have ever wanted the SWG postmortem series in book form, here it is in expanded form. If you have ever wished that the various articles on the UO design were gathered together, here they are, along with new chapters covering things like all the things we tried doing to curb excessive playerkilling. If you ever wondered what happened with Metaplace, this is how you find out, as there’s a new and extensive postmortem. Many blog commenters make cameos in footnotes.

The contents: Continue reading »

UOForever livestream

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Apr 302018

I spent a lovely few hours on UOForever yesterday, wandering around and seeing what UO looks like for the first time in fifteen years. Much of that time was spent doing a livestream where I told tales of UO’s development, and showed off pictures out of my design sketchbook from back then, many of them things that no one has seen publicly before.

It was a real trip to wander around Trinsic and point out art of mine that is still in the game, the rippled terrain that I still remember painstankingly making, and seeing objects that still act the way I coded them two decades ago (though of course, UOForever actually reimplemented everything themselves).

Here’s the video:

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GDC18 videos

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Mar 312018

The GDCVault has posted videos of sessions from this year’s GDC already! That was fast!

I’ve linked videos for the three sessions of mine that were filmed (a fourth was for a private event and wasn’t; a fifth was on the Expo floor and wasn’t). You can find them each on the page with the slides:

I want it all. I want to have the tools, the machine learning, the AI, the rich data environment, to be able to make a single, probably online, connected universe that we are in fact simulating down to the point of the little pink alien gophers on the thirteenth planet around that particular green sun (which was entirely procedurally generated) actually have a history and care about one another, and I want it to have all of that stuff and have all of it be alive. Specifically because I want to drop a player into that world and have them realize, as they play, that they are touching lives, messing with things that are alive, they are trampling grass that struggled to grow, “goddamnit, you’re stepping on me again,” to realize that when they build their virtual cities, when they conquer their virtual enemies that they are being colonialist about, you know — all of those things, I want them to realize that in their daily lives, they do the same thing in the real world. Because I want the AI and the machine learning and the code and the systems out there to hold a mirror back up to us as humans. I want them to use that space as practice for being better here. So give me all of it so that people can wake up and realize what they do day to day.

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UO postmortem from GDC2018

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Mar 282018

I have posted up a page with the slides from the UO postmortem panel that Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Rich Vogel, and I gave at GDC 2018. We ended up doing the hour long talk, followed by an additional hour and a half (!) of Q&A afterwards. No video is available yet, but I’ll post here once it is — likely not for a few weeks.

One thing that the static images of the slides don’t capture is that the opening had “Stones” playing (the version from the opening screen of UO) and the chest actually animated opening when the crowd shouted that yes, we should log in.

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