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Events: Ultima X: Odyssey

On Aug 21st EA Games unveiled their newest entry into the MMORPG market, Ultima X: Odyssey. The announcement of UXO was made at an event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts in the heart of San Francisco.

With all the flash of a Hollywood movie premier, the proud UXO Dev Team at Origin showed off the game that they had labored on in secret for 18 months. World press, Internet fan sites, and select player guilds were invited to attend.

Ultima X: Odyssey - Karma Storm (08-25-03)

A grrl in camp.
While GameRifts was not invited, our sister guild site "The Shadow Alliance," had selected members invited. The Shadow Alliance, a long standing MMO based guild which traces it's founding back to 1992 in the original NeverWinter Nights hosted on America Online was pleased to accept the invitation to this first view of UXO. Our ability to be able to field 100 experienced testers and work on special projects with a dev team, as we did in "Shadowbane" most recently, may have played a roll in the invitation (Thanks Div and GameRifts, you guys are always working!).

Participants in the EA-X event, as the organizers called it, were flown to San Francisco and put up in the W hotel in the heart of the city. Picture dim colored hallway lighting, a staff all dressed in black, haughty bellboys with phony Euro trash accents, high-tech toys in the room with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and you will realize that Electronic Arts was sparing no expense to make this unveiling special.

The initial reception held in the lobby of the Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts was highlighted by the appearance of a troop of players dressed in Elizabethan garb, men armed with various types of swords and daggers, and women with ample assets constrained by their bodices. These role-players not only had the accents and mannerisms down to a "T" but also were quite knowledgeable about weapon specifics and tactics used in melee combat. Attendees quickly got into the mood of the show with the help of the open bar.

Fortress of Alrin.
The Dev team then presented the attendees with a rune stone inscribed with an X, which allowed entry into the world of UXO. Passing through a tunnel of silk brought us into the main hall that was enclosed by four thirty-foot projection screens. Total immersion in a new world continued as each screen had a view of the world of Aluncinor as seen from the same point looking in a different direction. Fog drifted down from above and the sound track from the game shook our bones. Let me tell you, the music for this game is awesome. Composer Chris Field wrote some of the music for Lord of the Rings and it is hoped that a music CD will be included with the game.

A film of in game footage was then shown on all screens. It has now been posted on the official website which can be found at http://www.uxo.ea.com/

Andy Hollis, studio head for Origin made the introduction to the Dev team and turned the proceedings over to Rick Hall the senior producer. Rick wanted to make clear at the start that this was not an expansion, upgrade or replacement for their very popular "Ultima Online" game. UXO is a sister game, which will be more of a continuation of their single player Ultima IX game.

The eight-foot skirts underneath the projection screens rolled up to reveal 15-networked PC's running the game. Attendees were able to get hands on experience with the game while being coached by a member of the Dev team.

Yeti's in the Glacier Pass!
My initial impression of the graphics was, "Hey, what gives here the characters look blocky." I had expected rendering akin to the movie "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within." Rick Hall laid out that the team wanted to move away from the concept of photo-realistic graphics and opt for a more stylistic and artistic look to the game. The closest that I could peg the feel of the game was as being similar to the PS2 game "Drakan: The Ancient Gates," or "Diablo2." As I paid closer attention to the art I could see that the characters were quite detailed. The cartoon aspect of the characters was explained as, “This is a game you are playing, not reality.” This is a bold move on the part of the designers and should help to set a fun mood for the game. Game play will be what makes or breaks this or any other game.

UXO has been designed to reduce the many drags on game play found in many MMORPG's. The tyranny of an economy will not exist. You will not have to double click on a mountain for two days to get enough material to make a suit of armor. Macro programs are a thing of the past. Reagents for spell casting? Nope, not in this game. The focus of game play is on combat and questing.

Quests tailored to your level and group size will come to your location and allow you to accept or decline through dialogue with an NPC. If you accept the quest a private zone, which would mirror the public area, will spawn and allow your group to proceed without interference from other players or waiting your turn in line to kill the boss mob. There will be alternate paths during the quest that will determine your reward. Do you follow the path of compassion and let the bread-stealing thief take his booty to his starving family or will you strike him down for his crimes. If when you log in, you find that your friends are on the other side of the world, you will be able to teleport to that location.

By the Virtues!
The true test of a players combat ability is PvP. The default mode for a character is PvP off. A player can elect to engage in a duel in public, spawn a private PvP area, or engage in Guild PvP in a private war zone. The private areas insure that no one will interfere with or be inconvenienced by this combat. Combat will require the player to take an active role in the battle by timing his special moves according to visual motion of the char. If you want to block you must time it right. Small gems appear as a visual graph indicating percent efficiency of your attack and defense. The more you swing at the proper time the faster you swing and the more damage you will deal out. It was said that this will work with different connection speeds and it won't be a case of the fastest PC with the lowest ping time wins.

An interesting new feature is the ability of wagering on the battle. If you bet your second best sword and 10K that you will win, then these items are placed in a trade type window and held on the server which prevents the cretin that you just killed from reneging on the deal. I regret that I wasn't one of the limited numbers that made it to the signup sheet for the PvP tournament held on day 2 of the event. I guess I can lay it off on the party held in the private area in the hotel nightclub the night before.

Items such as special swords will be able to level up as your character does. You can choose to spend points to increase the power of your weapon. Using the same always improving sword in combat would be like always having a good friend to adventure with.

Battle in the Ruined Mines!
The present stage of game development is described as pre-alpha. The game uses the "Unreal" game engine. By using one of the best prefab engines out there, Origin has been able to concentrate on world building instead of game mechanics. The drag and drop capabilities of the engine will give the developers the capability of updating content on the fly and not have to rely on shutting down servers and patching to make major changes. Once beta opens late this year it should be able to focus on balance and features and not be the usual bug hunt.

First look at UXO is quite favorable and has the potential to be a wonderful game. I was impressed that the developers actually loved gaming and this shows in the quality of their product. If the live team shows as much dedication and talent in running the game then UXO will have a long and successful life.

Karmastorm
Shadow Alliance

[Gallery]
Discuss: UX:O or can we just say UO:2?

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