Ultima Online Goes to Reddit

The downside to writing and promoting a book is this: It’s easy to forget the joyful part of what you were writing about. John and I chased down stories for so many years that even the idea of talking about Richard Garriott, the Ultima series, or computer games in general strained our relationship.

(When you read the Introduction to the Second Edition, you’ll get the whole fun story.)

However, I had the chance to remember the first time I saw Ultima Online when it was under development in 1996 when my Google Alerts sent me this little gem from Reddit today: Would you like to see few hundred screenshots taken by Roleplaying community of Ultima Online? Ok! Also, I assembled a pile of interesting facts* about the game.

When people ask why we chose Richard Garriott and why we focused so much on the Ultima series, I have a hard time explaining the depth of experience Garriott and his team created.

Almost nobody knows anything about Ultima Online anymore. Once in a blue moon somebody mentions the game on Reddit or SomethingAwful or wherenot. When this happens, talk is without exception centered around unofficial free shards. Nobody talks about the official live servers of Ultima Online. With this in mind, I figured I’d provide a small Fun Facts type of a thing about general state of the game! Enjoy! Or don’t!

When it was first released, there was a brief moment when it appeared that Ultima Online might dominate the massively multi-player online (MMO) gaming landscape. Alas, the moment passed quickly and first-person twitch games such as Doom and stripped-down MMOs such as EverQuest attracted much larger (and more profitable) crowds.

Imagine if it had been UO, not Everquest that ended up being the most popular MMO of late 90’s. I guess it ultimately was a very close call. Perhaps then we’d “have to” endure a tiresome UO clone after another. As opposed to tiresome EQ/WoW clone after another. It sounds like an alternate reality with finer time sinks.

The trade-off came as the computer and console game market grew to unfathomable heights, dominating the entertainment landscape in the 21st century and eventually forcing the UO team (long devoid of Garriott’s guiding hand) to adapt to modern expectations.

Ultima Online is the only MMORPG which deserves the name: You could do anything. You could build any item you’ve seen (including Playerhouses, Cities… all of it). You just could open a bar and be a bartender, or you could open a Leatherworksshop… It was the wothy online sequel zu the last true ultima: Ultima VII. It’s a shame it became more and more WoW/Diablo styled the past years.

But there was another time…