Origin Systems, an Electronic Arts (Nasdaq:ERTS - news) development studio, today announced that it has signed an agreement with Grammy and Emmy-winning producer/director Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, McFarlane Toys and Spawn.com, to create characters exclusively for Ultima Online(TM): Lord Blackthorn's Revenge, the latest version in the award-winning Ultima Online (UO) series. The company is also partnering with McFarlane and McFarlane Toys to develop both a line of six action figures based on the new UO creatures and two comic books based on Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn's Revenge.
``Ultima Online redefined the massively multiplayer online game genre in 1997 and it continues to raise the bar in terms of innovation to this day,'' said Ben Noel, vice president and chief operating officer of Origin Systems. ``Collaborating on the creation of new characters with Todd McFarlane and bringing them to life in the world of Britannia is going to be extremely exciting for the thousands of UO players who are always seeking new content and challenging adventures to discover in the game.''
``I am looking forward to working with the Ultima Online team on the new character and creature art which can come to life in 3D animated form in the next version of the game,'' said McFarlane. ``The UO community has come to expect great things from this evolving online world and there is no doubt that these new characters will significantly enhance the game while delivering a whole new level of excitement.''
Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn's Revenge will bring players into a dark world under siege where they will discover more than 30 new and exotic characters created by McFarlane. Players will face evil forces that have aligned their powers in an attempt to destroy the virtuous and take control of Britannia. Integrated into the fiction as the evil tyrant who controls most of the new, fantastical monsters is Blackthorn, a character present throughout UO's history but who has now undergone a transformation which has left him half human and all evil. Blackthorn's forces, comprised of many of McFarlane's creatures, lend a dark, edgy twist to the game. Players will encounter and can elect to interact with other McFarlane characters as they wind their way through Britannia.
McFarlane's creatures will be challenging to beat. Their AI will be oriented toward strategic combat tactics as opposed to simple skill gain. For example, players will have to discover which combat or magic tactical combination works on a given species of monster. As players immerse themselves in the game, they will discover a new strain of fiction unfolding, where their actions will determine the outcome of in-game events. For instance, if a group of monsters is trying to overpower a town, the players can band together and push the monsters back. However, without a strong player response, the town can be lost to the monster. A new Virtue System will be woven into UO, adding depth to the dynamic storyline. The system allows players to be rewarded or denied virtues based on their choices and behavior during the game.
New UO players will quickly become engrossed in the latest version of the game with the assistance of an intuitive help feature and stronger starting character templates, which allow new players greater opportunity to strengthen their skills and abilities early in the game. Players will discover more than 30 new items to craft, collect and trade in the world of Ilshenar -- the backdrop for Lord Blackthorn's Revenge and location of Blackthorn's castle.
Origin(TM) is also extending the UO world via two upcoming limited edition comic books based on the UO game's prequel fiction and an action figure line, all being created by McFarlane. The first comic book is an eight-page mini book that will have a limited release prior to the game's launch in February. It includes a cliffhanger ending that players can solve only by playing the game. The second, a full 24-page comic book, will be exclusively available inside the game package, shipping in February. The six action figures will be based on the characters McFarlane designs for Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn's Revenge.
McFarlane, renown for creating Amazing Spider Man for Marvel Comics, began drawing comic book heroes in high school. In 1984, upon graduation from college, he landed at Marvel/Epic Comics. His credits include Scorpio Rose, The Incredible Hulk, the Batman book, two issues of Batman: Year Two, and Detective. He started McFarlane Entertainment in 1992, which produced Spawn, the best-selling independent comic book of all time.
Ultima Online has 225,000 subscribers and is played in more than 50 countries located in every time zone.