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MMO: Ultima Online

A LONG time ago, nearly over a decade, MMOs were becomming a genre based on freedom of the player. A time when the idea of playing with thousands of others on the same server/realm/shard was unheard of and most of all, exciting.

One of the first MMOs and my first MMO was Ultima Online. Made by the same man who designed Tabula Rasa (which failed). Unlike Tabula Rasa, UO (ultima online) was revolutionary and innoventive. The amount of freedom for one's self was beyond rewarding. The game was simple, yet complex. Reviewers were harsh due to it's 2D birds-eye-view graphics, yet the game was a major, successful hit for many, many years. Long before that of WoW.

It proved that Gameplay > Graphics and I still believe in this til this day. So if you're a graphic fan over gameplay, this might not be the read for you. But if you can appreciate a game's features, gameplay and all the beautiful perks it comes with, you may appreciate this game as much as I have...

The year was 1997 and an online MMORPG (massive multiplayer online roleplaying game) was introduced to millions, literally. Ultima online, it had no significant story or drive for the player. There was no war to be faught, no quests to be made. Everything was up to you here. You had choices and lots of them.

Richard Garriot (aka Lord British) was the brains of the game. Again, the same man who made Tabula Rasa (which failed and never considered playing). He made only ONE in-game appearence in UO. Then he got assassinated by a player publically. He never logged on since.

Name me one MMO where the lead designer got PK'd in his own creation. 1 point towards UO

Many players came on with different intent. The game wasn't level-based like most MMOs today, it was skill-bsaed. The more you do, the more you progress in that particular skill. Every character had a skill cap of 700 points. You had over 30 skills to chose from. Want to be a warrior? A craftman of some sort? A fisherman? A bastard thief? Or would you like to be a shit-disturbing mage?

The more benifitial the skill you worked on, the harder it was. The reward and time spent aquiring such talent was worth every moment, drop of gold or item required necessary.

Merchants and mules aside, let's talk about combat.

You could be a warrior or a mage. A warrior, being the easiest to train in and max out a 700 skill cap in. you had many types of warrior breeds. Creativity was a plus here. There was no standard for what type of warrior you aim to persue.

Unlike many MMOs out now, this game also had player housing. Sounds spiffy, right? Well, you are right, if you're a good housekeeper. When the game first started off, the amount of freedom was intense. This also meant that if you left your front door unlocked or if I was a sneaky pete, I could break into your house and rob you blind, leaving you with nothing. Sounds harsh? Not to me, or anyone else in the game that had a front door and a key.

For the players who were unfortunate to remember locking their door, or check for stealthy players. You might log on to see this, or you might of been the guy who did rob a house (or many like me).

Since the game had no quests or significant story line, the world is yours. You will meet players you'll form alliances with or join guilds and wars. On the other end, you will make enemies. If you make an enemy, there are no gloves to take off, you are born without them. Murder, rob, grief. Make his life miserable and in return make your time on the game that more pleasurable. Sounds harsh, again? Well, only the weak seemed to feel that way.

Fear not anti-pks (player killers), there was a system in the game just for you. The bounty system, which allowed these victims and whiners to post bounties on murderers, robbers, or anyone they see fit. Posted publically at all town banks, you would set the bounty, players would seek their heads for the reward of gold.

Fortunatly for the blues (innocent players), they were safe in town by the protection of guards. Reds (murderers) were not allowed in towns that had town guard protection.

The color name of players varied from blue - grey - and red. Anyone whose familiar with MMOs will know what each color represents.

Blue Named Player - Innocent, goodie-good-guy.

Grey Named Player - Temporary criminal status. He just stole from another, looted an innocent corpse, flagged himself grey by attacking an innocent player or pet.

Red Named Player - Murderer. He's murdered at least five players and each gave him a murder count. The more murders, the more fame. Leading up to the "Dread Lord" status. So if your in-game name is "Jim Sterling" and you've murdered X amount of innocent players. Your name will promote to Lord Jim Sterling.

You may ask yourself, "wheres the rpg element of this game?" It's up to you. Look at these kids who roleplayed as orcs and spoke their own language. Don't let their swagger fool you, they are as deadly as they are numerous.

They were mostly warriors, all equipped with blunt objects and crossbows. You don't want to mess with them. If you were the unfortunate soul who has been caught in their territory, they will prompt you to "give tribute". Meaning, give us items or gold and we'll let you pass, if not, we'll settle with whats on you, including your boots.

So let's recap what UO did that most MMO's do not execute anymore.

-Player houses ranging from small wooden shacks to castles or keeps. Show off your wealth.
-Sneak in and loot player's homes
-PvP that was skillful, balanced, fun
-Capable of looting everything off a player you've killed, including their boots.
-Dressing up or playing naked, choice was yours. Dye your hair.
-Warrior, mages, or merchants. If you don't like pvp, you can always dungeon crawl for drops/gold.
-Murderers were feared, though banned from towns. They stood tall and in most cases would fight blues, while being outnumbered 5 to 1. Blues always failed, something about red colored names intimidated them.
-Skill-based. The more you do, the more you learn that particular ability.
-Traveling by boats, spells, public gates (stargate?) was less time-consuming unlike WoW's traveling
-Your imagination will take you further than whats on your back. For both player vs player and fooling around in the land.
-RISK vs REWARD. You leave town wearing and carrying what you're willing to lose incase you die to monsters or players. You are either over equiped or ill equiped. Regardless, you're not Master Chief and you're not invincible. Your survival is based on how good YOU are- not the character model you are. The smarter and more resourceful you are, the more likely you'll outlast any foe you encounter.

Now a few pics of me in UO that I got via google, off the In Por Ylem player shard from ages ago. Can't believe I even found them. These are what inspired me to make this blog, to show you how MMO's used to be before pampering came into play. Look how different UO is from this gen's MMOs. This gen has less freedom and practically no risk vs reward.

That is me, I circled myself. To my left is a Game Master, why is she next to me? Because we're all waiting for an event to start, a tournament I think. Little did she know and everyone else in the room is, I had a bag full of explosion potions about to light the room up, taking a half dozen with me. I got put in jail for 6 hours that night, it was worth it.

That's me in a boat in town, polymorphed into a chicken. It was the only way I could go into town as a murderer. People freaked out.

I would be suprised if this read opend the eyes to WoW gamers on how simple their game has evolved due to this. Anything player griefing-related or freedom-based has been removed and put into games like WoW. Honestly, UO was the last of it's kind. Until developers started listening to the wrong people. It's a shame.
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About The Big Bad Wolfone of us since 12:01 PM on 12.11.2008