EA TO VOLUNTEERS: BUH-BYE [Author: Lum the Mad]

From Origin Systems comes this word:

In the coming weeks and months, Ultima Online players will begin to see changes to the UO experience that will affect and impact the game in many ways as we update systems, introduce new content, and continue to grow and expand the world of Britannia.

In addition to systems and design changes, we will address how Origin supports Volunteer programs. Effective today, May 9th, Ultima Online will no longer host Interest, Quality Assurance, and Counselor Volunteer programs in North America and Europe. Though it’s a difficult decision for us, it is based on the reassessment of our online, company-wide business structure as we address growth and changes in the online entertainment industry. As a result, volunteer programs throughout all of Electronic Arts have been affected by this reassessment. This decision does not affect the existing volunteer programs in Japan, nor does it currently affect the Companion program.

Whether answering questions, creating intriguing and amusing events, or aiding their fellow players in any number of ways, these volunteers have enriched their own Ultima Online experience and helped fulfill the Ultima Online experience for so many other members of the UO community. A permanent acknowledgement to these volunteers will be placed on both facets of each affected shard, located near the Britain Counselor Hall.

Over the last several years, players volunteering in Ultima Online have assisted their fellow players with great creativity, aptitude, and grace, and our thanks go out to all who have participated in these programs since their inception. This commitment to UO, as well as the commitment of hundreds of thousands of players worldwide, is the foundation on which we hope to grow and support the game far into the future.

We asked Susan “Leilo” Kath some followup questions about this decision. Her responses:

Your notice mentioned that the volunteer programs had been “reassesed”. What factors specifically drove this decision? In particular, was the ongoing ex-volunteer lawsuit pending against EA a factor in this decision?

As the lawsuit is still in the early phases, and there won’t be a decision on it for a long time, the decision was an independent one made by EA to change the business structure.

So this decision was taken by EA as opposed to Origin Systems?

Yes, the decision is company-wide.

We also asked “Terendil”, the ex-volunteer who is the main litigant in the lawsuit against EA that still is in progress, for her reaction to this news.

I’m not surprised, given the issues that existed in that program. I’m also not surprised, given the current state of AOL’s lawsuit and our own. Also, the fact that EA has been making some extremely poor business decisions such as cancelling UO2, may mean that they may simply no longer have the customer base to maintain a volunteer program. I’m terribly sorry that this affects the wonderfully dedicated volunteers that will no longer be active in the game community.

This does not affect our current lawsuit.

We will have more on this story, including reaction from some of the now ex-volunteers, shortly.