While Fishing in Free Realms went through many incarnations, ultimately SOE settled on a simplified activity where players cast into the water, and are then presented with a small timing window to catch a fish. The challenge in making Fishing came down to integrating our gameplay and code into the MMO environment, and using the player's actual character to drive mechanics. This meant a lot of collaboration with SOE.
I worked closely with the Free Realms designers, including those in charge of progression, item balance, and content creation. As the sole data designer on BBE's end, I was in charge of distributing fish rarity in each environment and controlling how leveling up affects the player's ability to catch different things. In addition, I hooked up the item IDs, strings, and inventory objects for every fish in the game.
On BBE's side, we also had choices to make based around the player experience, such as how to handle multiple users fishing simultaneously. This involved setting up an "underwater section" of the level. When a character cast, we moved the camera to the underwater section and showed them only their own hook. This allowed players to follow their personal action easily, instead of having to spot their bobber amongst many in the water.
Even though the user's camera was nowhere near them, we still animated the character in the overworld reeling in the fish. Once the fish was caught we moved the camera back and popped a model of the fish out of the water. This allowed every player in the instance to see when others were fishing, as well as what they caught. To get the final system working, I also collaborated with artists to match different textures to the correct models and sizes of the fish.