There are a lot of misconceptions about what old UO was like, and what/why people thought was so great and good about it. It's true; there were a lot of great things. The skill based system, very low dependence on gear, housing, the easiest and fastest travel ever, etc. But a lot of really bad stuff too.
There is nothing honorable or competitive about ganking. It doesn't "teach" you anything; it's not an experience that you learn from... it's you being killed and having no chance to defend yourself.
Pre-Trammel UO, you had to grind your skills on training dummies until they were maxed from that, I think you could only get to 25 out of 100 or so... and grind your attributes like strength on mining random rocks on the very outskirts of town, so you could still run back into town if you saw a red and spam your "Guards!" macro...
Nearly everyone who "knew" the game would start out with 50 points in Anatomy and 50 points in Magic Resist. Or 50 in Resist and 50 in Magery if they wanted to be casters. Why? Magic resist was one of the hardest skills to gain, and Anatomy was the slowest of the combat skills. So you'd grind training dummies up to 25 or so as soon as you started out, unless you started w/ Magery.
And then you'd wait for the monster attacks on the city, so you could build your skills on mobs without leaving town. Then, once you did all of that for a long while, brought your skills up to the 60-80 range, you might have been able to survive going out of Brittania and fighting the red gank squads who had been around since Beta, because they didn't reset Beta characters...
But if you went solo you were toast anyway, so you had to find companions. Which wasn't always easy; remember this was the "old days" there were maybe a few hundred people at most online at once during "peak hours" per server.
Trammel was the best thing to happen to UO, and anyone who says otherwise is probably an @$$hat ganker d-bag. Factions PvP was the second best thing, because it brought people back into Felucca and gave them meaningful PvP.
People seem to forget the UO was one of the most "carebear" games ever. They allowed macroing, or didn't have the tech to stop it. You could grind your combat skills to maximum in a day. Because the game was 2D, and most of the pathing the AI did was so horrible, there were a few spots in dungeons where you could just sit and kill mobs over and over and over without any real risk to yourself.
Many remember that the only real way to grind your Magic Resist was to summon Blade... what were they called... Blade Storm maybe? in your house and just let them attack you while a friend bandaged you until they despawned.
Travel was a joke in comparison to modern MMORPGs. Anyone could carry and use a Rune book to mark your own instant teleportation spots. Every dungeon, towns, your personal house, etc. Instant teleportation, for just a few Reagents. If you didn't have the 25 Magery skill necessary, you could easily buy a spell Scroll that would cast the spell for you. It was cheap. Also, no restrictions on mounts, and you could pick up a horse for the WoW equivalent of 80 copper.
Or, train your Taming ability up to about 25 (took 5 minutes) and get yourself a Llama to ride.
There were no instances, but there also weren't thousands of people on the server at the same time. You'd go to one of the "premium" grinding spots in a dungeon, and at worst I think there were maybe 10-15 people already there. I swear 90% of the time people just hung out at the bank in Brittania.
You could become a bard/musician/tamer combo and clean out an entire dungeon by yourself. Tame a big dragon or two, then use your music to have all the monsters in the dungeon attack each other and your dragons. You didn't have to do any work but run around and pick up all the gold.
There were SO many things that were 100000000% more "carebear" then any modern MMORPG like WoW has.
When they added the Factions PvP, it was amazing. People were going back to Felucca and the PvP was awesome. Territorial control of every city and town in the game... 5 waring factions. It was awesome. We fought for pride, for honor, for our Faction. There was no uber loot or real ranking system (they kind of hide a ranking system in place... kind of) it was all about being able to own people and say "my Faction controls all the major towns. I am awesome."
I played mostly on the Atlantic server, but I also played a lot on Siege Perilous. Skill gains were much slower, and there was no Trammel. Also, you'd be capped at how many skill gains you could get in a day, so it was painfully slow advancement, no grinding/power leveling.
I RP'd as an orc of the Shadow Clan, a red murderer.... We took over a NPC orc fort and made it our home, put up a few houses buy it, but the Fort was our base. Other guilds would come try and take the Fort, but we'd spend time practicing and honing our strategies. Because there was collision detection and the game was 2D lol we could easily do what we called "krimping."
Because of the 2D nature of the game, four players could surround another player, north south east and west, and the trapped player couldn't move. So we'd surround an enemy player and beat him/her to death, then "krimp" the next target.
We wouldn't just attack random players. We weren't gankers. We'd hide along the major roads and jump unsuspecting players. We'd demand they pay "tribute" and only attack if they didn't pay up. We didn't ask for much, we didn't need it, it was more of just a RP thing... I spend 90% of my time on that server in and around our fort, training my skills on the random NPC orcs that would spawn, and defending our base from attack. We were allied with a Vampire guild to fight the humans.
By the way, you could only be human in UO, so we'd wear Orc helmets or masks and RP the part of an orc because we couldn't actually "be" an orc. Same with the vampires.
We had a code of honor, we were murderous orcs, yes, but we wouldn't just gank people randomly. I have NEVER seen any PKers in any game, ever besides us that could say that.
So yeah, UO had it's great moments, but was also a very flawed and simplistic game. Obviously, I miss certain aspects of it, but it wasn't the "perfect model" for a MMORPG.
I'm glad the genre has moved away from games like UO, though I miss a lot of the freedom that the first (and really only) great sandbox game had.
It was a simpler time. It'd never work again.
Anywho... That's all I got.