Exclusive: Broadsword on the state of Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot

Today we’re hanging out with Broadsword Online Games, the indie studio that emerged from the implosion of Mythic Entertainment a while back. Broadsword is now steward of the Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot franchises and is actively developing both of these veteran MMORPG titles.

We’ve got three members of Broadsword with us today: President Rob Denton, UO Producer Bonnie Armstrong, and DAoC Producer John Thornhill. Check out what they have to say about expansions, developing for classic MMOs in a modern era, and the future of Broadsword.

Massively OP: So let’s talk about Ultima Online first. Why the decision to create an expansion for the game after all of these years? What is this expansion’s focus and what will it add to the game?

Bonnie Armstrong: UO has had several expansions, boosters, and theme packs over the years such as Stygian Abyss, High Seas, The King’s Collection, and the Rustic and Gothic packs. Now we are doing Time of Legends because we want players to know Broadsword is committed to continuing UO’s legacy.

We have never stopped adding new content and making improvements to the game. Ultima Online is coming up on its 18-year anniversary, and our gift to the players this year will be new land to adventure, Eodon. Eodon will feature unique mobs not seen in the game before, new masteries for players to specialize their characters, new clothing, new champ spawns, and a currency conversion that allows us to clear up space in banks and houses for players.

How many people do you have working at Broadsword? Are they divided between the games, or are there “double duty” responsibilities from various positions?

Bonnie Armstrong: Some have specific games they work on, while others are shared resources between all of our products. Many of us wear many different hats, as it were, but all share the same passion to make our games the very best they can be and do whatever it takes to achieve that success.

Why do you think that players stick with Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot in a much more modern era of gaming? What are they getting in those games that they can’t elsewhere?

Bonnie Armstrong: We are dedicated to our players and have a close relationship with them. Our motto is “Every Player, Every Day.” UO is not just a game; it is a world that people grew up in, where families still play together, and friendships nearing 20 years have been forged. Ultima Online is one of the few sandbox games on the market that allows so much freedom that nearly anything is possible. Any way you want to win, that’s how you win.

John Thornhill: Dark Age of Camelot is coming up on its 14th Anniversary this October. That’s a testament to our fantastic community and our commitment to making improvements that center around them. DAoC still provides the premier Realm vs. Realm system available with a depth of gameplay that doesn’t exist elsewhere: three iconic, lore-driven realms, 45 playable classes, distinct melee and magic-based combat, and a huge, perpetual war that never resets.

Are there plans for a Dark Age of Camelot expansion as well? [This question was asked before Otherworlds was announced, obviously!]

John Thornhill: This past December our 1.116 patch launched a major revamp of the popular RvR dungeon Darkness Falls with brand new encounters and items. It also introduced hundreds of new Champion-Level abilities and allowed players to advance from Champion Level 10 to 15.

This past week we’ve just announced the Otherworlds campaign that will take players to new zones, through a story-focused quest line, reward new powerful items, and introduce improved crafted legendary weapons and rare crafted potions — including one that gives fully capped buffs! The campaign will be released in 2-3 week chunks over the course of the summer and through the fall, starting with the release of our 1.118 patch in early July.

So while not exactly expansions, the amount of already released and announced content (there’s more to come with Otherworlds still!) in both of these patches has greatly exceeded some of our previous expansion packs.

Is your primary focus on current customer retention or are you also making efforts to bring in new and returning players?

Bonnie Armstrong: The UO team is constantly adding new content that will keep our current players engaged and entice our old players to return. We also have the event moderator program that helps keep the players engaged with live in game events. We have also recently added advisors to the game to help with any questions the players may have. The dev team does meet-and-greets in game on each shard to make sure we hear our players feedback and gives up the opportunity to talk and hear our players and what they want.

John Thornhill: The DAoC team is currently in the midst of a major modernization to the user interface and various user experience features. These UI and UX features are aimed at improving the game experience of our current players, bringing former players back, and at enticing brand-new players that maybe have heard of DAoC before but just haven’t given it a try yet.

In addition to that, we’ve already added loads of improvements to player progression in the form of storyline quests, dungeon revamps, and high-risk/high-reward quests in the battlegrounds that enable new and returning players to get into the game and experience top-level RvR faster than ever.

Finally, our focus on community events, tournaments, and huge, new content pieces like the Otherworlds campaign keep the game fresh and engaging for our existing players.

Where do you see the studio and its games five years from now?

[No response was given for this question.]

Is there any interest in picking up additional game properties or perhaps creating a new title from scratch?

Rob Denton: We are currently very focused on creating great content to grow and improve Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot.

Thanks for your time, and good luck with your upcoming releases!

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sibble
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sibble

Lots of negativity in the comments so I’m going to keep this short and sweet…    No response given means – Who can predict the future?

Here’s a quote from Bonnie 3 years ago:

“There will be some fun things going on to celebrate our 15th anniversary! You can expect to see the UO dev team be as passionate and as dedicated as our players, we love the game as much as they do! We will be working hard to keep our players entertained and hopefully around for another 15 years.”

Does that mean UO is good to go for another 15 years?  No, because no one can predict the future!

Rob Dentin
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Rob Dentin

The game has been driven into the ground due to horrific management. Replace the lead developer and start providing some services.

DavidSojkowski
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DavidSojkowski

i want KR back!

breetoplay
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breetoplay

dorn2 Sargon. Truthfully, UO’s tried “modernizing” many times, and it usually alienates the existing playerbase. This is probably the right call. It will make existing players happy, and the new player tutorial being prepped for Steam will help with new players. (I don’t know why they didn’t brag about that more. They should’ve.)

Jack Pipsam
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Jack Pipsam

A modern UI for DAoC sounds promising, but hopefully it won’t be bad either.

Jack Pipsam
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Jack Pipsam

eLdritchMD Technically speaking the games aren’t indie because they’re published (and owned) by EA, but the studio itself would be classified as indie because nobody owns them.

Kililin
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Kililin

ogged451 Tamanous and they are 1/3rd worse than bot buffs. Which matters at the high end, even more as you will fight against fully templated (also in BG) and in case of New Frontiers High RR opponents. Dont get me wrong i love this game, and i think it aged really well and is great fun to play. 
But Newcomers should come in with the right expectations, and everyone still uses Bots, Shamans, Healers and at the extreme end even speed classes with croc tear ring. Maybe if they make supreme pots craftable this could change.
That said guilds are always recruiting, and one of their BB’s will probably throw you a round. After all there are like 100 standing around in porter keeps prime time.

Zarkov
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Zarkov

UO needs UO2.

ogged451
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ogged451

Tamanous  you don’t need a buffbot anymore, there are NPC buffers at the frontier borders, in the battlegrounds and some the of towns that will provide you with buffs for a token amount of gold (i.e. 32 gold for a full set of buffs in Cathal Valley, the 45-49 battleground).
These buffs persists after zoning, so you can venture everywhere with them.

Nate Woodard
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Nate Woodard

No response given means their hanging on by a thread.  Still dedicated completely to the player base of these two titles, but hanging on by a thread.