February 22, 2009 | Filed in: Articles, MMO's
Funny thing, nostalgia. It makes you remember even BAD things as good things. Well, sometimes.
In the case of Ultima Online, there is some bad and some good. Either way, when I play it now (I just re-activated my old account after 7 years away!) I find it more charming than anything.
There's my character on his old horse, Poopy 2.
Charm can only get you so far, but if I force myself to push forward through the realization that games have evolved WAY past games like UO (in many ways, but not in some,) I can easily remember why I liked it.
I even remember going to the game store and seeing it on the shelf. I still get a thrill finding some new PC game box on the shelf at the local game store, and even today I can’t resist picking up a 5-20 dollar copy of anything MMO. It’s that feeling of opening a new box, seeing the manual (and not reading it) and loading the game. I love that feeling.
UO lured me in with it’s white box, it’s art and it’s promise of playing with hundreds of people, for real. Real people. Online. Like a little virtual world. Ever since I was a kid I was fascinated with worlds in miniature. I once built a X-mas tree out of popsicle sticks and placed it under our front porch (it was a huge wooden thing) for the bug society that lived under there. I’ve always loved miniature railroading, playing “mini men” table-top games.
And here was this game promising a life in a mini world, where pixels had a birth date, and interaction took on real meaning.
Leala took to it right away. I came home from work, and there she was, killing things and building up a fortune. In hindsight, our gaming styles were shaping up right then: Leala and her ability to do anything from grinding for hours to sitting in front of the bank for hours, me and my OCD version of exploring/role-playing/experimenting.
I decided to go back to the game and play it for a month (off and on) to see how it fares now. Easy enough, I thought.
Getting the old account information was easier than I thought, I checked old emails and reset the password. I charged the account for one month and I was done.
Downloading of the old 2-D client took less that 20 minutes or so? Loading it and patching it took much less time than the last time we did (on a dial up modem.)
There are many issues with the website, however.
The “MyUO” section never worked. Once.
I tried to email the customer service but when you go to “contact” you are lead to a community section only. I was only able to finally email the webmaster.
When you go to any of the choices, you always get lead to a community section. Not very helpful, at all.
As soon as I saw the old log in screen, I started to remember the music, the feelings about the game, everything. I remember when the first “better quality” version of the game came out and how we hated it. Luckily I had just opted to play the old 2-D client.
In game, I immediately tried to get familiar with the controls. Luckily, I had my old original cheat sheet that came with the game. I really like how many of the controls are so simple, and how the screen can be left with almost nothing on it. Simple and to the point. I clop-clop-clopped my horse until I found a road sign that said “Britain” so I zoomed my way into town.
Leala told me that she remembered everything like where the bank was and how to get to the newbie graveyard. I had a harder time, but eventually found the bank. Here’s where it got interesting. I opened my bank box (by saying “bank”) and was shocked to find a couple stacks of gold. I went to move one to look at any objects that might’ve been buried underneath, and then the stack of gold suddenly dropped to the ground. I snatched it up, tried to put it back in and it fell again, saying “That container is full.”
Turns out that somehow there were too many items in my bank, and when I removed the gold stack it wouldn’t let me put it back in. How did too many items get in there in the first place? So there I am, standing with a wad of cash in my hand, searching online for any bugs list or any mention of a bank bug. Of course, the website was no help at all, and I couldn’t contact a single person, but I finally found a list showing me that my bank was indeed over the limit by one.
Here I am, standing with a stack of gold in my hand. The bank was full, but it wasn't when I found it.
So, I had to drop the gold, quickly pulling out one item from my bank, then grabbed the gold and threw it back in. It was nice to see players around, but I didn’t want them snagging my cash!
Then I moved on to trying to figure out if the “boat key” in my backpack meant that I still had my boat. I remember that boat with such love. I could sail and sail forever, and I think I remember dolphins or fish swimming next to the boat? To this day I still have a fascination with boats in MMO’s.
A friendly player helping me figure out the boat situation.
I couldn’t get it to work, so I think that the boat was left out to rot. I was so disappointed.
Overall, the game runs great (you could probably run it on the iPhone..imagine THAT!) and still has many fun hours left in it. Me and Leala have been talking about what we remember, about combat and housing. She went much further than I did (as usual) and had a house and more gold. Her characters were basically void of anything when we logged them in, though.
I love seeing the old skill list, basically just a list of skills that you can choose to ignore or to work on. I think that this was the beginning of my love for ranged combat. (You can see my little crossbow in the pictures.) I have just downloaded it onto my older PC so I am going to spend my off-hours getting familar with the game again and seeing where it takes me.
It’s so charming to hear the old sounds and to see the old animations. We would spend hours playing, fighting over who gets to play next. Leala would sit all night in front of the bank, talking to her friends after a long adventure session. I would spend hours sailing and exploring, trying to avoid too much trouble.
The game still has players around it seems, and is still doing ok. That’s great to see. The advantage of having a game with such dated graphics is that you no longer have anything to prove. A game like UO has passed beyond the point of being on the forefront, but seems to be enjoying status as “Living Legend.” And rightfully so. There are things in UO that should be in every modern MMO: Open housing, skill based systems, mounts that you can name and that can die. I wonder why more games didn’t build on top of the great example of UO and just keep going?
Who knows. Many games took cues from the game, and many didn’t. But UO is still there, and is still charming as ever.
Now to work on getting a boat again. If I am lucky, I will be sailing before this subscription expires.