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The List: Five Ultima Online Legacies That Hold True Today

Columns By Garrett Fuller on February 15, 2016

Five Ultima Online Legacies That Hold True Today

With survival on the rise in the MMO genre we are seeing a lot of games go back to mechanics from a bygone era. In 1997 a very core group of game developers launched Ultima Online. This team has gone on to be some of the most influential people in MMOs today. They work everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The big thing is this, we have seen the decline in massive theme park MMOs. Granted the ones that still exist do very well like: WoW, SW:TOR, and ESO. But new games are looking for a spark. Players are getting back to their old hardcore roots and a new generation has learned to deal with loss in a whole new way. Here are a list of the top five Ultima Online Legacy Mechanics that still hold true today.

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5. If you die, you lose all your stuff.

Sounds simple right? In Ultima if you stepped out into the world beyond Britannia or any city that had guards protecting it you took a huge risk. You could die. The result of that was being turned into a ghost and running back to town to resurrect, or luckily finding a wandering healer. Here is the killer though, your body, items, weapons, and reagents stayed there on the ground. Not only could monsters come and loot through your stuff, but other players would make off like bandits. It was brutal to say the least.

Somewhere in theme park MMOs this idea went away. Players died, and they would go resurrect somewhere and that was it. All of their items were magically bound to them. It was a very ho-hum experience. It created a full group of players who cannot actually accept a death penalty in any game. Until now. Minecraft has given us something that changed all of that for future generations. Survival mode in the game is also brutal. If you mine at night, you run the risk of being killed by creepers and enderman etc. However, you also may get the largest rewards. You may not have players coming after you, or maybe you do depending on the server. Regardless as one of the top games among kids age 5 to 12, this reality stands. They are once again learning risk vs. reward tactics and how to deal with the loss of your gear.

4. Having more than just combat in an MMO.

Crafting has always been a big deal in games. Ultima made sure that armor and weapons took damage the more you used them. Even the top tier Indestructible Bardiche of Vanquishing got damaged. You had to repair them no matter what. If you got a top suit of armor, it eventually got beat up. This led to blacksmithing as a huge part of the game. You also had fletchers, leatherers (who worked on leather armor), and carpenters. Now the last one may not be a big deal, however, when housing is a strong element, carpenters suddenly become huge, especially when you need a place to put your stuff as the bank is now full. This crafting system supported purpose among the player base. Many of these systems still hold true today especially in games like RUST and ARK.

3. Skill Based Progression

You have skill trees and classes and unlocks and … okay it gets tiring. Ultima Online had a basic system. You had a set of skills, you could train them up and build a character, that was it. No holy trinity, no endless tweaking trees, just a set of skills. The argument can be made that all players will pick the best skills to survive and only level those up. This holds true in Ultima as well. Hally Mages became the norm as the PK gods of death. However, if each skill has a specific purpose in the game, then it can never go overlooked. Hiding, snooping, and pick-pocketing would be used to devastating effect as players would rob you at the bank. So even if you trained as a thief, you could grab that magic weapon the warrior had worked so hard to get. He adventures for it, you patiently waited in the shadows for it. I go back and forth between classes and skill systems. Each one has its merits. However, in a skill based world, you can always go back and relearn something new. That process took a long time in Ultima, but it was well with it sometimes.

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