I didn’t make it to the 20th anniversary celebrations for Ultima Online out in Virginia this past week, but luckily an attendee has posted up video of it! This segment here is the presentation by Richard “Lord British” Garriott and Starr Long on the early history of Origin and of UO.
There seem to be several more videos of the event there, linked from the original.
The early UO team, from Nov 3rd 1995’s issue of the internal Origin newsletter
Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Ultima Online‘s launch day.
Funny enough, I have no particular memories of that day.
I’ve written a fair amount about UO in the past, so I am at a bit of a loss as to what to say, other than “thank you” to the folks who hired me and let me work on it, and “thank you” to the players who played and continue to play it. It has been an honor.
I posted on Twitter and Facebook asking for questions to answer and stuff to write on. One problem is that I can’t remember what stories I have told when… about the wisps? About tillerman stories? About the books system? Sherry the Mouse? The birth of orc roleplay? About burning to death in Ultima 8? About third party tools? About trying to develop 3d terrain? About character customization, which wasn’t really a thing before UO — and the faces system that didn’t quite make it? I just don’t remember. So if you want to hear more about anything from the way early days, let me know here or on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, and I’ll see about doing replies in a fresh post.
In the meantime, these are some of the past posts on UO that I would recommend on the blog:
UO’s resource system parts one, two and three. These describe how the underlying world of UO works — from the “infamous dragon example” that never came to fruition, to how it still underpins crafting and AI.
Is there the possibility of you ever giving a question/answer session in relation to SWG, your views on the game development and direction, aspects of the game you felt worked, worked well, didn’t work at all? Like many, I have so many questions about your involvement with SWG and will likely never get all the answers I would enjoy hearing, but it never hurts to ask. ^_^
Well, honestly, for me it has been fifteen years since I started work on SWG, and twelve since I stopped. So a lot of these questions have either been answered before, or I outright don’t know or remember the answers! So I will give it a try. But the first answer turned out to be so damn long that it’s all I have time for today.
Ten years of World of Warcraft. Well. So many thoughts.
WoW has always been a contradiction of sorts: not the pioneer, but the one that solidified the pattern. Not the experimenter, but the one that reaped the rewards. Not the innovator, but the one that was well-designed, built solidly, and made appealing. It was the MMO that took what has always been there, and delivered it in a package that was truly broadly appealing, enough so to capture the larger gamer audience for the first time.
Don’t get me wrong; that’s not a knock on it. If anything, it’s possibly the biggest game design achievement in all of virtual world history. After all, we’re talking about taking a game skeleton that was at that point already almost a decade and a half old, one which had literally had hundreds of iterations, hundreds of games launched. None of them ever reached that sort of audience, that sort of milestone, that sort of polish level.
I just stumbled across this old story I told somewhere, and thought I’d share more widely.
In Ultima Online, the player was a container — one you couldn’t open, but which held your equipped items, your backpack which was the container you could actually see, etc. Because of the freeform “gump”1 style containment system used in the Ultimas, you could position anything to any location in a container, which meant they were basically treated like maps, with coordinate systems in them.
Then we added mounts.
When you rode a horse, we simply put the horse inside the player, and spawned a pair of pants that looked like your horse, which you then equipped and wore.
When we first did this, however, we forgot to make the horse stop acting like a horse. Pretty soon there was a rash of server crashes because the horse inside the player was wandering around, picking up the stuff it found inside the player, rifling through the player’s backpack and eating things it thought were edible, and eventually, wandering “off the map” because the player’s internal coordinate system was pretty small, and the edges weren’t impassable.
According to UoGuide, “graphical user menu pop-up.” It was the term that was used at Origin back then, long-forgotten now expect maybe among the UO emu community. Basically, any UI window of arbitrary shape floating above the game. In UO, inventory systems did not use slots but free placement on a coordinate system. ↩