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News & Features Discussion  » Ultima Online: The Making of a Classic Part 2

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 16297

OP  2/15/12 3:20:16 PM#1

Yesterday our readers were treated to the first of a two part history of the grand old Lady of MMOs, Ultima Online. Today we continue our look at how this venerable title came to be in part 2. Read on and then share your memories!

So now that they had the art style, the funding, and the engine - they needed a direction for the game to head in. Again the idea of “simulating fantasy” set out early by Garriott resurfaced, but they had a slightly different take on the traditional Avatar plot lines of preceding Ultima games. Inspired by pen and paper gaming; the project wouldn’t focus on the heroics of the individual, but instead the idea of co-existing in a world with others. You could be a hardened fighter, slaying monsters, or instead you might be a simple blacksmith, forging the armour and weaponry for those more courageous sorts – both play styles were catered for, and both equally important: you need the chain of production to get anything done, even in Britannia.

Read more of Adam Tingle's Ultima Online: The Making of a Classic Part 2.

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom


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Joined: 4/21/05
Posts: 199

2/16/12 9:13:46 AM#2

i love it.. omg :)


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Joined: 2/27/07
Posts: 7209

2/16/12 9:51:16 AM#3

Meridian Online was more of a cult game, it was not generally available to the public, no stores carried it, you only found out about it via word of mouth.  Ultima was really the first MMO available to the masses.  

Ralph Koster was really the genius behind this game.   Considering he was the lead designer of two of the three best sandboxes in the genre, sad he is not involved in MMO's any more.  The so called brilliant designers being hired by the current developer houses are a bunch of clueless clowns compared to him imo.


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Joined: 10/05/03
Posts: 6721

Gaming should be about fun, not gender equality.

2/16/12 10:05:02 AM#4

Together with Asherons Call 1, UO is the best MMORPG ever made.


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Joined: 10/02/06
Posts: 413

2/16/12 10:32:25 AM#5
EA....killing games and Studios for two and a half decades.

Funny how Lord British raged over being PK'd.


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Joined: 3/28/07
Posts: 7989

2/16/12 10:35:32 AM#6

the enemy of mmo isnt ea or any corporation its accountant!never let an accountant close to a mmo cause game will always suffer then what happen player leave and all the ea of the world end up wtf!moral!make a plan before you begin building a mmo then stick to it no mather what the greedy accountant say !and reap the reward(monthly sub)


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Joined: 2/15/12
Posts: 3

2/16/12 10:38:59 AM#7

Good read, Ultima Online will always be the best in my mind.


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Joined: 10/02/06
Posts: 413

2/16/12 10:53:23 AM#8
EA and SOE have many many accountants. Bith companies can DIAF for what they habe done to gaming.

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Joined: 7/30/07
Posts: 388

2/16/12 11:08:48 AM#9

I wish more people realized how good this game is. Today's UO has a ton of content.


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Joined: 4/12/09
Posts: 344

"History is bunk."

2/16/12 11:16:16 AM#10
Originally posted in Adam Tingle's article

Inspired by pen and paper gaming; the project wouldn’t focus on the heroics of the individual, but instead the idea of co-existing in a world with others.


Okay, I know this is a minor point, but it *REALLY* bugs me when people don't cite the importance of MUDs/etc. when discussing the development of UO. I know they could be argued to be very complicated pen and paper style games (more or less), but the importance of MUDs (and advances seen in their conception/implementation when compared to standard tabletop gaming) is a REALLY BIG DEAL if you wanna understand the development of UO.


From Raph Koster's own blog (addressing a set of "oddities, errors, and omissions" found in a series of "History of MMO's" videos found on YT):

  • Saying that the Ultima Online team had never made anything multiplayer before (Ken Demarest, mentioned in the documentary, left very shortly after UO actually had a team put together — and the original core team that was assembled on the programming and design side was all MUD/MUSH/MOO veterans except for one guy).
Honestly, I like Adam's write up and I think he hits some key points (a lot of people don't even know who Raph Koster was/is, which is a shame), but it just irks me when the contributions of MUDs are omitted. By Koster's own admission, *MANY* of the core elements of UO (and even SWG pre-NGE, for that matter) were lifted from the successful and popular MUDs/etc. of the day.
It's a gross oversimplification to attribute the inspiration to pen and paper gaming without discussing how important the earlier experiences of devs and players in MUDs/etc. influenced one of the best sandbox titles ever.
/end pedantic rant

Advanced Member

Joined: 5/25/09
Posts: 199

2/16/12 11:28:47 AM#11
Adam Tingle here - I understand your point and would probably admit I have omitted MUDs somewhat, as Ultima Online, from my research, was more of a continuation of development from the series rather than taken from MUDS entirely such as DikuMUD and Neverwinter - but you are correct, the game does owe a wealth of gratitude to these early games, but the concept wasnt entirely sprung from these games.

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Joined: 5/07/06
Posts: 2279

2/16/12 11:32:45 AM#12
Originally posted by xxpigxx
EA....killing games and Studios for two and a half decades.

Funny how Lord British raged over being PK'd.


EA and Activision...


EA for killing some of the best MMOs on the market (UO, DAoC, Earth and Beyond) and Activision for killing the entire genre with WoW.


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Joined: 6/15/06
Posts: 867

Games Played:Ultima OnlineRappelzLOTROWoWGWGW2SWTOR

2/16/12 11:36:28 AM#13

Ali Shahrooz is awesome. that must have been such a shock to the role players lol.

kryles Xfire Miniprofile

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Joined: 4/12/09
Posts: 344

"History is bunk."

2/16/12 11:39:08 AM#14

Originally posted by shakermaker0

Adam Tingle here - I understand your point and would probably admit I have omitted MUDs somewhat, as Ultima Online, from my research, was more of a continuation of development from the series rather than taken from MUDS entirely such as DikuMUD and Neverwinter - but you are correct, the game does owe a wealth of gratitude to these early games, but the concept wasnt entirely sprung from these games.


Sorry, I didn't mean to target you or your article specifically. This topic is such an expansive one, I've just noticed that MUDs kinda get left out no matter who is trying to tackle it. I realize you actually did mention that gamers had to settle for DnD style tabletop gaming and MUDs in your "Part 1" and that is an improvement over most. The fact that you mention Raph Koster deserves huge kudos (I'm always shocked when I read articles about UO and Richard Garriott is all that is mentioned, not to take anything away from Lord British either).

You did a great job, honestly, especially since you are just giving an overview of a very complex topic. I still cringe to know that Raph is focused exlusively on social gaming now, but maybe he'll be able to work some kind of magic again in that genre (and produce something of exceptional depth and quality where most of us see nothing but shallow/soulless gaming like Farmville). That's a topic for a different discussion, though.


Still, any writer who includes Raph, his wife, Starr Long and acknowledges the entire dev team (because the project was such a group effort) is quality in my book. "You done good", imho. :)


*Edited to include:

"Pretty much the whole MMORPG industry was inspired by text MUDs."

~Raph Koster


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Joined: 10/14/05
Posts: 2811

2/16/12 12:05:11 PM#15

I enjoyed parts 1 and 2 ... first articles I've read here in a long time that really interested me.


Perhaps to me the biggest thing is... despite all the things EA did wrong.. things which would kill an MMO outright today... this game still lives on.


Some personal things I want to relate in general about UO.


When I first saw this game advertised in a magazine I thought oh my god.. Ultima "online".   Here I was remembering picking up the early Ultima's in I believe it was Sears... or a montgomery wards... I lived in rural Vermont when I was young... I mean I had to *solo* to play Dungeons and Dragons... that rural.


So here I was thinking about Dupre and such and having a bunch of people around.   Or even having to be the DM and the players to play Dungeons and Dragons... -> gold box games... and taking all of that and finally being able to play with others.   Of course by then I lived in Florida... but in the middle of a swamp... so still no one around... and dial up because no cable guy was coming through with the "swamp people" fighting gators to install service.


So when I get in there of course its.. mass murder.. thieves.. etc  I was like what the *bleep* and going to quit.   There was no way I was playing past my 30 days.


This guy in an Inn starts talking to me... "thief" is what I am thinking but I have nothing left to take.   Him and his wife (real life) had a guild and I start playing with them.   Of course at that time "guild" is simply what they called it because guild stones didn't exist yet to actually form a guild... no group functions.. no chat beyond visual range of the floaty over someones head...


Anyway they were really fun and I met some really good people in that guild.   A guy I'll just call TonyMo... got me to go hunt "reds" with him and I was hooked.


I got involved with the "smurfs" as most people called them and very shortly after joining that volunteer team heard about the Interest Team.


^^  That goes to the articles comments about GM's interacting with players.  


IGM's otherwise known as Interest Game Masters were paid employees.   They were the conduit between the voluntters and the company.   If you need objects placed... you needed an IGM.  


At first there was really only Seers for volunteers.   Later they added Elders and Troubs.    Seers pretty much picked a player town and did long term content around that town.   If it was an active town with a lot of rp they might "bless it".   Blessing meant pretty much having an item placed in the town by an IGM.   Like say a town square with fountain... things that you couldn't get any other way.


Elders did short term .. content.   If you were in Brit and the criers started going on about an Orc Invasion in the pass west of town... that was an Elder most likely.


Troubs were volunteers that played parts but didn't directly create events.   Sometimes another Seer or Elder would play those roles tho.


When I joined the Interest Team I was assigned to Great Lakes.   When I played.. which honestly my play time went to about zero... after I joined the Interest Team.. I was on Sonoma. (oh and if you are curious these characters were on special accounts provided by EA).


I lost touch over time with the team.   Tho there were a few I kept in touch with longer than others.   I know a few of them work for different MMO developers now.


All of this is why Ultima Online was the absolute best MMO experience I ever had... and I honestly doubt another game will ever come close.


Thanks again for the articles and there is a lot more I could say about my personal experiences in this game.. but at some point the wall of text is just too much.


*edited for various typos*

Moderator's on this site allow certain posters to create endless troll threads. Yet "warn" people for giving recommendations... account *pending* deletion because.. why bother.


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Joined: 4/12/06
Posts: 182

2/16/12 4:02:43 PM#16

good article as I posted in the first part.

Shame that today the games are dumbed down and trivialized. 


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2/16/12 4:37:53 PM#17

I remember I bought Meridian 59 at a gas station for $5 in the summer of -98 :)


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2/16/12 4:56:43 PM#18

Great articles!


UO was and is still the best MMO out there today.

Playing: League of Legends!


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Joined: 9/16/10
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2/16/12 5:40:17 PM#19

Loved these articles too.


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2/16/12 6:33:31 PM#20

Amen brother!

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