UO Producer Calvin Crowner Has Left Ultima Online

Just to give you a small idea of what happened to UO during Cal’s tenure:
* Stygian Abyss expansion
* High Seas
* Around 20 or so publishes
* Revival of the EM program

I’ve actually been working on this for almost an hour, trying to decide what to say, because I’ve seen this happen so many times in the past, and I liked Cal, but here goes. According to Mesanna, UO’s Associate Producer, Calvin “Uriah” Crowner, has moved on from the UO team. The message was very lacking in details and I’m not happy with the fact that it’s not up on UOHerald.com, but maybe it will eventually be. Then again, it’s EA and they are showing a reluctance to communicate about big issues with the players these days. This is a Very Big Deal, given everything that has happened in August and given that UO is reaching a crossroads of sorts in my view and in the view of others.

Here is the message from Stratics

The UO team would like to let our players know that Calvin has moved on to another adventure in his life. He is no longer the Producer of UO, but rest assured that things are going on as they always have. For those that have been with UO for a while you know that many have come and gone over the 14 years, but UO always continues!

The UO Team!

My thoughts on Cal:
One thing I regret, is not interacting with him more than I did, because he answered my questions when he could, and would go out of his way to respond privately, even on weekends or what would normally be considered after work hours. The last personal response I received from him was the day after the account management system went live. I don’t think he got much sleep the following week based on the activity I saw and that he was reading Stratics at very odd times of the night and morning.

From several private messages I exchanged with him, he was very excited and very passionate about UO. This seemed to grow as things changed above him this year, and he made it clear that he was excited about growing UO’s playerbase rather than trying to just keep the existing players around. When the news of an artwork update, new quest system, revamped new player experience, and other things became public, it became clear why he was excited about UO this year. A lot of us who watched last year play out were getting the sinking feeling that UO was going into some kind of maintenance mode and that EA was focusing the UO team on retaining players rather than adding new or returning players. That was changing. One thing that didn’t change was the lack of public support from EA and from BioWare.

In retrospect, I was rough on him a few times with my April Fool’s producer’s letter, and more recently in privately asking him to communicate more clearly about the account management system. The things I asked for were clearly out of his hands. It was not my intention to be rough on him, publicly or privately. If it was taken that way, I deeply apologize. This became even more obvious during the account migration disaster when a few simple links on the BioWare Mythic accounts website could have gone a long ways towards alleviating a lot of the player frustration and stress, and Cal indicated an interest in spreading that information around, but it was clearly not his decsision to make. UO, and I would imagine to a lesser extent DAoC and WAR, have lost long-time players over this account management migration, and none of that was Cal’s fault.

If you told me that all of the stress from the past year got to him and he had enough, I would not only believe it, but be impressed that he was able to hold out for as long as he did. EA is known for being a meat grinder to work for, and UO has a lot of very bitter players who don’t see much of a future for it. These players were looking to take out their anger on the nearest target they could find, and all too often that was Cal.

That’s because Cal was pulling double or even triple duty – he was having to produce UO while putting out wildfires that were not of his or the UO team’s doing, and as a friend put it, dealing with a mob of players who cared only about the short term or about themselves at times, even as he and the team were working on things that would benefit them in the long run. In past years, UO had its own community relations team. In recent years, there is a very small community relations team within BioWare Mythic that ostensibly includes UO, but they seem to be more focused on the Warhammer games than UO or DAoC. That left it up to Cal and the UO devs (and artists) to add community relations to their already numerous responsibilities. I truly hope that this was Cal’s decision and that EA or BioWare was not trying to pin anything on him – EA really botched the account migration system not just for UO, but also for DAoC and WAR, and for Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I think he and the UO team were left out on their own more than they should have been, and should have received a lot more public support from EA and more importantly, BioWare. I had hoped that things would change with the Ultima Forever project, DAoC’s new website and rebranding from Mythic to BioWare, the new Warhammer game, and with BioWare becoming its own label, but sadly that was not the case. The Ultima Forever project would have been a prime opportunity to see actual public support for UO from BioWare beyond a simple banner and a paragraph of text on the Ultima Forever website. BioWare still had ample opportunity to step up and publicly support UO, as well as DAoC, and they still have yet to do so. It’s a damn shame they wouldn’t do so while Cal was producer, because he certainly deserved their public backing.

Earlier this year, it became clear that UOJournal.com would be a solo effort for a time, and I questioned whether I had the time or commitment. It was the positive things about UO that Cal and other members of the UO team said both publicly on other websites as well as privately in emails, that kept me interested in keeping the site going.

I want to say this: When you see some of the big things finally come into play for UO later this year and into next year, including the new artwork, you really need to thank Cal for some of that.

And I want to also mention this: Many of the UO developers and artists probably could have left UO for Star Wars: The Old Republic, as they have hired a lot of people over the last several years, and they chose to stay with UO.

Cal, if you read this, I hope that you have found a much less stressful place to work. If you ever get down to Texas, I’ll be happy to buy you dinner.

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