The Game Archaeologist: Ultima Online was a legacy

Last week in Game Archaeologist we explored the game’s history of the universe, its origin, development and testing, but this will only be a pesky example of what the main figure of a player is an assassination. Developing a game is only part of the story. The second half is how it works.

After receiving indelible praise at media events and finding a strong response to alpha and beta testing, Origin felt Ultima Online was enough to live on even though the developers knew it wasn’t complete. The team cut a wide range of content, including three continents. This wide-open graphical MMORPG went live in September 1997 after two years and the other two, two million dollars invested in the project.

Welcome to skunkworks.

[Ultima Online] was a skunkworks project, which continued from start to finish, Koster recalls in his book Postmortems. I’m pretty sure if we hadn’t been caught in the closet on the floor this wouldn’t have happened. I want to point out that this means we were lucky that it worked and was maintained with chewing gum.

Much like most mMOs that would follow, Ultima Online had a complex launch full of server instability, lag, numerous bugs, and many players trying to get in the door at once. A fun first bug allowed players to grab environmental objects like ponds and throw them into their backpacks. The team went from anger to embracing the spirit of those rare collectibles that had been used to sell and sell.

The team had to get involved in other player-created issues from day one. Giving players more freedom meant opening the doors to grief and exploits. The team tried to find the best way to deal with them a long time ago. And due to the number of people arriving, land for housing and the need for resources was quickly overperforming.

After ending it, a frustrated player even filed a lawsuit against Origin for telling the player that the game would still be available.

The giant, mid-sized MMO is a huge mummy.

Critics didn’t scoff at Ultima Online; as Koster noted in his book Postmortems, the criticism seemed appalling. Six out of 10. That’s pretty common. He noted that the team had received several letters of commendation from other members of the industry.

Even so, CNN would later call this launch a breakthrough event in the industry, the first that could be called a breakaway success. Origin knew it would see the tens of thousands of players – and was overwhelmed when 87,000 copies were sold by the end of the year and over 100,000 players were replaced before Ultima Online had six month.

These numbers were substantial as they stood at the time of day, marking UO as the first digitized population. And that doesn’t count, around half a million Chinese gamers who broke into Ultima Onlines’ reverse-engineered emulators and rogue servers in 1999.

In the video game industry, the popularity and profitability of Ultima Online increased, so many more studios began to become the first to develop. In 2003, the number of Ultima Onlines jumped to a quarter of a million paying subscribers who fill studio coffers every month, a high point for the titles’ lifetime.

The world cut in two.

Ultima Online had no time to rest after its launch. Even though most of the developers left or moved on to another project, EA demanded a new project. We hired a few new people in the Postmortems book. They were Chris Mayer, Runesabre, Koster. I think it was six members, so those who stopped working on contracts, and we did the second year in three months.

The new MMO expansion, The Second Age, debuted in October 1998 with a much-needed in-game chat system. In 1999, EA expanded it to other global markets and reached Japan, Korea and Europe, where Australia joined the game.

But around the turn of the century, two significant events would send shock waves through the UO community and shape the game. Richard Garriott, director of the Ultima franchise for two decades, retired from Origin (or was fired depending on different versions of the story) and resigned from the original. This effectively killed several other follow-up projects he had been involved in, including Ultima Online 2.

Eventually Renaissance was born with the games second expansion and then split the community in two. So far, non-consensual PvP has been reported to define the landscape of Ultima Online. This pack of wolves hunting defenseless sheep. Per Renaissance, Origin created for each server a version of the game world called Trammel that included PvP and only consensus PvP. Unsurprisingly, much of the population, ranging up to 90% from those old people to those who were tired of being indifferent, fled to Trammel, leaving behind a vocal minority who complained about the change.

This marked the beginning of OU’s decline, said Dr. Richard Bartle in his book MMOs from the Inside Out. It lost the exhilarating Wild West atmosphere that was central to its design and still is at its heart.

Even Koster, who wasn’t working on this project, noted that while the attempt to save the game from heartbreak may have tainted the verisimilitude of the simulations, there’s no doubt that the user base doubled once that was done. Between. This sentiment was echoed by Gordon Walton, who oversaw the implementation of Trammels. Hes wrote that the PK environment pushed new players to the games to 70% and that Origin requested a shutdown plan due to the bleeding.

After the change that transformed the game space into PvP and PvE worlds, the player base and income almost doubled (from 125 to 245 hours) he specifies. So in terms of financial responsibility, it was a perfect win-win decision. Cons: Hard core PvPers are disenfranchised and the company can’t rebrand fast enough to take back old players who left in disgust. But we retained more new players who arrived in large numbers, far more than the players we lost.

Expansion after expansion.

Even though Ultima Online did well in the 2000s, it continued to lose ground to newer titles with more sophisticated 3D graphics such as EverQuest, Star Wars Galaxies, and World of Warcraft. It also lost the studio’s name, with Origin Systems going bankrupt in 2004 and the game being brought into the EA portfolio. EA would eventually create Mythic Entertainment in 2006 and build a Mark Jacobs studio under Ultima Online’s oversight.

Eight more expansions and boosters would follow. Third Dawn introduced 3D models in 2001 to compete with EverQuest, Lord Blackthorns Revenge (2002) added a storyline created by Todd McFarlane, Age of Shadows (2003) had the new Paladin and Necromancer classes and the Empire Samurai (2004) was focused on oriental folklore with the Ninja and the Samurai.

The good times continued through the decade. The Elfen came with the Mondains Legacy 2005, followed by the Gargoyles with the Stygian Abyss 2009. The centerpiece of High Seas (2010) is pirates and a nautical accent.

Even though it was the first time in the life of Ultima Onlines, one of the biggest changes was the changes to the client itself. In 2007, players had the option to upgrade from a classic launch client or the Third Dawn 3-D client of the same name to a new 2.5-D Kingdom Reborn. It turned out to be a very short run, then Stygian Abyss replaced it with a so-called enhanced client, with tweaked graphics, which would have increased by 50% from the current population.

A struggle for control is an exercise.

The old developers who formed the new studio called Broadsword had, despite dissolving mythical cynicism. The studio has developed and operated both Ultima Online and Mythics old Dark Age of Camelot.

Since then, Broadsword has faithfully allowed Ultima Online to grow into a modest expansion called Time of Legends in 2015, the free-to-play option Endless Journey in 2018, and the ruleset New Legacy (which is supposed to arrive this year, although which we have yet to see an update on his progress).

Throughout the lifespan of Ultima Online, players’ stories were sustained by a world they could truly shape into the game’s greatest legacy. From fairy tales to virtual prostitution rings to a guild where his skills were to get the village of Trinsic off the ground and erect a siege, Ultima Onlines players were more creative and outlandish than game developers ever imagined.

In 2012, Time honored Ultima Online as one of the most famous video games ever made, saying that subsequent MMOs owed an ounce of lesson that the lessons learned from this game recalled.

In his book Postmortems, Koster noted the Ultima Online project. Our wisdom was not to invent a cool collection feature. He took a hand out of control with the amazing power of emergent behavior.

And that’s what made Ultima Online unique: Basically, an MMO that deliberately ceded a lot of control to the players so that the community took over the game and helped it, rather than the developers.

Messy? Imperfect? Little cart? Yes.

But good too? Certainly.

Believe it or not, before World of Warcraft – MMOs existed! Every two weeks, the Game Archaeologist examines classic online games and their history to learn a little more about their origin.

Comments are closed.