Name: Jason Spangler
Role: Former Software Engineer at Origin Systems
Growing up an ardent fan of Wing Commander, Jason Spangler may have been the ultimate Origin Systems fanboy. He was elated to be hired at the company in 1996 and set to work on something called an MMO. But there was one thing cut from Ultima Online’s production that Spangler was desperate to include in the game’s release, knowing it would be the key to building an emotional connection between Britannia and its inhabitants: player housing.
Ultima Online was close to shipping and the development team at Origin Systems was deep in the throes of crunch. As the devs worked diligently to quash bugs, ensure all the game’s planned features were working, and add in last-minute bells and whistles from their wish lists, deep within the Austin, Texas-based studio, software engineer Jason “Stormwind” Spangler was working late one night.
Entranced by the soft glow of his computer monitor, Spangler almost didn’t notice when his office door opened and Richard Garriott poked his head in.
“What are you working on?” Garriott asked, trying to keep up with the latest to-do lists.
“Umm,” Spangler started nervously. “Ships.”
Looking over Spangler’s shoulder to the computer screen, Garriott’s eyebrow raised slightly.
“The ship on my screen was on land and had a door and a sign on it,” Spangler laughed. “I think I was busted.”
The feature for player-owned housing had been cut from the schedule weeks before, but Spangler had been working on it in secret with whatever free time he could chisel out for himself. In this case, that free time consisted of hiding out in his office and losing out on precious quality time with his wife, Lisa. While not an ideal situation, Spangler was determined to get the rumored housing system working, especially since from a programming perspective, houses wouldn’t be much different than the boats and ships that had been successfully implemented.
“I had a gut feeling and an intelligent guess that player housing could be a killer feature,” Spangler said. “And with UO being a virtual world, I thought it would be important for players to feel some ownership in the world by having their own home there.”
We all owe a big thanks to Spangler for burning that midnight oil.
Read more of Jason Spangler’s story in Braving Britannia: Tales of Melancholy, Malice, and Peril in Ultima Online!