1999-11-08: The Dark Truth About Toads and Necromancy

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The Dark Truth About Toads and Necromancy

Nov 8 1999 4:54PM

This was originally posted to Development at uo.com. [1]

Well, this is my first comments from the team, so I guess as SunSword did in his first message, I’ll take this time to introduce myself. I am the one called tOAD. Many of you have wondered, asked, insinuated, or outright screamed that since I have a mish-mash of upper and lower case characters in my name I must be a Kewl-Dood. This however, is as far from the truth as it could be. Some of you may have been in the UO-HOC (Ultima Online House of Commons) chat recently when I gave away the secret of how my name really came about, but for those of you who missed it I’ll repeat it for you.

My real name is Todd Bailey. When I first came to work for Origin Systems in 1994, I found that several other people in the company and at least one other person in my department shared my first name. For the first couple of weeks it was occasionally confusing, and often annoying that people would say my name, but not really want to talk to me. Those of you named John can probably relate. Those of you named Ziegfried probably have no idea what I’m talking about. It occurred to me that I needed a nickname. I’d always wanted a nickname, but never found the time to invest in a good one, and none of the nicknames I’d had in high school were very flattering. I racked my brain trying to think of something good, something cool, something with verve. Alas, my decision was made for me by a stroke of the keyboard and a mistyped word.

In response to an email that went to my entire department, I managed to 1.) misspell my own name, and 2.) have the capslock key held down when I typed it in. Thus, holding down shift for the first letter and typing the rest of my name normally produced tOAD. I hit send before spell checking. I never lost the nick.

The reason I spent the first three paragraphs on my name, how it came to be, and the misgivings it has given some of the players about my attitudes and outlook on the game is to point out that things are very often not what they seem. What I really would like to talk about in my first Comments from the Dev Team message is something else that is not what it seems: Necromancy.

I chose Necromancy specifically because it was originally tasked to me many moons ago to get a working design for a new magic system into the game. This was long before I knew the joy of being a Lead Designer, back when I thought meetings were things that happened to other people. But Necromancy is just an example of something that was promised and not delivered, and I want to talk about both that, and the perceptions and reality of situations like this, specifically relating to Necromancy.

The fact of the matter is, I worked for a very long time on a necromancy system, I was fairly happy with it, although I didn’t think it was all that it could have been, and several spells were prepared and ready to go onto Test Center as a first wave of the new magic system in UO. There were spells to raise the dead as zombies, raise piles of bones as skeletons, summon swarms of locusts on your enemies, turn yourself into a shadow, and a host of others that I don’t have the space to mention. I was actually quite proud of the system.

But then the development team realized two things simultaneously. First, it would take a very long time for Necromancy to be balanced to the current style of game play. It quite frankly would have been overbalancing in many cases. You could kill a player and then raise his corpse and command it to follow you, which meant that neither the victim nor his friends could regain the possessions he lost, an ability that no other class of character really has in the game. Second, the system of casting spells itself was not up to snuff.

We didn’t really want to do the same magic system as before, we wanted to improve on it. But improving on it was a little more difficult than anticipated. Looking deeper into the system uncovered issues with casting, dilemmas with reagent usage, difficulties with mana, etc. All this contributed to the realization that it could be done better. Our priorities changed soon after we came to these conclusions and we haven’t yet gotten the chance to revisit necromancy. Between fixing exploits, making the game more accessible, fixing other legacy problems, and trying to work on things that benefited the entire player base (like Skill Management) instead of the smaller subset of players that Necromancy would have benefited, we just haven’t had time to make Necromancy into what we want it to be.

And so, just like my name, it’s a situation that just hasn’t gone away. This is not to say that we are never going to do necromancy. This is just pointing out that before we do it there are some other priorities to take care of. Necromancy is something that I’m very much attached to, but as the game matures we find ourselves in a position to do things that are so much more beneficial to the overall service.

If you’d like to comment, compliment me, complain, send me suggestions (even about necromancy), compliment me, say strange things, yell at a dev team member, or compliment me, you may do so by sending me an email at [email protected] I won’t promise that I’ll answer every message, but I do promise that if I do answer your message, and if I sign my name at the bottom of it, it will be, as always, tOAD.


  1. http://uob.zarum.de/wiki/Publish_1999_(The_Dark_Truth_About_Toads_and_Necromancy)