Ultima Online

Aside from a couple of MUDs I played in college and beta testing The Realm Ultima Online was the first online game I spent much time with. I purchased the game the day it was released (September 1997) and was very excited to start playing. I had loved the single player Ultima Series and expected great things from Ultima Online. The graphics were the same as the other games being a top down isometric view identical to what was presented in Ultima 7.

The excitement didn't last long however. My clearest memories of the game are all bad ones. First was how tedious the gameplay was standing at a trainer for hours at a time swinging a sword at a practice dummy in order to level up my sword skill. Then it was spending hours clicking on rocks to collect enough metal to raise my smithing skill so I could equip myself with decent gear. Finally having done those things I dared to leave town and look for some adventure only to be killed over and over by other players who robbed me and took all that I had worked for.

Ultima Online was launched with unrestricted pvp which allowed any player to attack, kill and loot any other player and was one of the worst ideas ever conceived for an MMO. There were no penalties at all for crimes committed outside of the reach of the guards and griefing ran rampant. Some time after I quit the game due to the overly hostile environment they realized their mistake and instituted a change which limited the player killing to a specific region of the game but it was not nearly enough to draw me back in.

Another of UO's great follies was an attempt to create a functional ecosystem where creatures interacted with each other. Wolves ate deer for instance and if an area had an abundance of wolves there would be fewer deer until the wolves died out and the deer returned. Unfortunately at no point did Mr. Koster consider what would happen when a horde of players was released on the world like a swarm of insatiable locusts and the ecology rapidly collapsed.

Despite it's shortcomings UO was the first MMO that most would consider a commercial success and after several expansions it continues to cling to a small but dwindling community of roughly 50,000 players.

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