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Why Electronic Arts' Ultima Online Sucks?

sempiternalsempiternal DC, DCPosts: 1,081Member


The original producer and director of Ultima Online, Richard Garriott aka Lord British and Starr Long aka Lord Blackthorn:

Richard Garriott Lord British Starr Long Lord Blackthorn

 

If Ultima Online is ever going to be recognized as more than the grandfather of MMOs and the MMO with the greatest reversal of potential ever, there are two major points that need serious attention;

 

Believable World

When Lord British and Lord Blackthorn were in charge of Ultima Online, the integrity of the medieval virtual world was strong and healthy.  Ultima Online was at its finest, it was a believable medieval fantasy virtual world and was therefore highly immersive; more than any game previous.  This immersion is the 'magic' that current UO and many newer MMOs lack.  There were very few limits on the freedoms of players and almost all aspects of the game world were interactive and dependent upon the actions of players.  The game focused on and revolved around the players themselves, not the content.  It was the community and people that were important to the game experience, not the programmed NPC content.

 

Under the supervision of British and Blackthorn, UO did not have giant cartoon-like snowmen and snowflakes, rainbow colored armor, purple spikey-haired elves,  flip-flop wearing ninjas, or neon swords with statistics plastered all over them.  All aspects of the game fit the medieval theme.  Building a reasonably believable world must have originally been one of the main goals and visions for Ultima Online.

 

In addition, Ultima Online was a quality product and the gameplay was highly balanced; it's likely that the developers, including Lord British and Blackthorn, were experienced players of the game and used their first-hand gameplay experience to further develop UO.  Lord British and Lord Blackthorn were probably the filters that kept poor, imbalancing development ideas out of their virtual world. Because, after they left UO, the floodgates opened with all sorts of foolish game development occurring, such as mirrored attached worlds with two different sets of rules.  The original game balance and virtual world that Garriott and Long had created was quickly destroyed by the Electronic Arts Inc. employees that were appointed to take over.

 

The Electronic Arts replacements, Rick Hall aka Stellerex and Anthony Castoro aka SunSword:

 

After over seven years of poor development from Electronic Arts, Ultima Online is limping along as a hodge-podge MMO.  UO has become nothing more than a conglomeration of ideas stolen from other successful MMOs and therefore no longer offers players a unique experience.  There's very little reason left to play UO since the same PvM game designs that UO is now copying are found in newer MMOs offering better graphics and technology.  The integrity of the world is also ruined with player forcefields, connected worlds with conflicting rules, the ability to carry items in death through buying insurance, infinite NPC supplies, giant insect mounts, ridable pastel colored dogs, and even sunglasses; EA might as well add laser cannons at this point - it would not hurt the game that much more.

 

Clearly the goals and visions of creating a reasonably believable medieval virtual world were lost when the talent left UO and EA took over.  The virtual world began to suffer as it was torn apart and morphed into a mere online PvM content game by the sophomoric MMO developers that followed. Origin Inc., will always be known as the first company that created a truly massive online world and Electronic Arts Inc. will always be known as the first company to destroy an online world.

 

Heroes & Villains

 "Without villains, there can be no heroes.” A game, or any entertainment medium, is flat, predictable, and utterly lacking in conflict, tension, and suspense without a worthy intelligent villain, see The Worthy Villain .  “The villain is the main source of conflict and tension and suspense -- those necessary qualities in all of literature. Without a worthy villain, there cannot be a worthy hero. Whether the hero wants to win back the love of a woman, escape from prison, rescue a child, nail a serial killer, or save the world, his quest must be difficult and its outcome uncertain if we are to keep turning the pages. That’s the job of the antagonist. As Christopher Vogel writes in his essential book THE WRITER’S JOURNEY, “The function of the Shadow [villain] in drama is to challenge the hero and give her a worthy opponent in the struggle.”

 

An online world is no different, if there are no worthy villains, then there are no worthy heroes; the game lacks conflict, tension and suspense and our interest in participating in such a game is much more easily lost. When Ultima Online was a virtual world full of villain players there was always a large portion of the player base actively playing the game, even into the wee hours of the night.  It was the conflict that drove the game. The game was exciting enough to play that it was always highly populated with active players. Even though there may still be 100,000 Ultima Online subscriptions left today, it's painfully obvious that most do not spend very much time playing Ultima Online anymore.

 

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Comments

  • richard22182richard22182 vienna, VAPosts: 31Member

     being a uo veteran myself i agree completely with the need for a better storyline, however  i believe that ea needs to atleast attempt to revamp the gameplay and the game itself before in game content. It also appears that however badly they are attempting to once again make a good storyline. Onen thing that i noticed has turned off more players than anything is the imbalance in templates. There is always one orn two gimp templates, which will eventually get nerfed and be replaced by others. and some parts of the game have literally been abandoned by ea such as fishing and several other skills. It seems to me as if ea is simply trying to make as much money as possible off of uo  before it dies which they seem to believe is soon. They utilize  the game almost as a testing program for their programmers and designers. I do disagree with your statement claiming that uo currently sucks. It had definitely gone ionto a great decline, however even with the several stupid ideas by the devs including trammel, and loss of content for reds Ultima online is still dwarfs every other mmorpg that i have played, and i am optimistic  yet cautious about the upcoming expansion

  • ObeeObee Somewhere, MIPosts: 1,550Member


    Elves, ninja, artifacts, and the fact that they refuse to open a single server that is set up with the pre-Renaissance ruleset (Siege isn't the same thing) would be my answer.  I'm also not sure how much credit you can give to Richard Garriott for UO.  He was pretty much involved in remaking Ultima IX several times while UO was being developed.  The last good game I think Garriott was truely involved in making was either Ultima V or Ultima VI.
  • OhaanOhaan Great White North, BCPosts: 566Member
    Kudos Sempiternal

    While I have been away from UO for a long time I still hold the original game and Garriot's work in high regard. Your posts reflect the sentiments of many a UO vet.



    Some people may say that UO is not great but it doesnt suck when you factor in its age and the competition. However compared to the original game, following the Origin philosophy modern UO DOES suck... hard. EA changed the game from being a progressive gaming concept into a simple cash cow.



    Most will agree that Trammel was the first nail in the coffin, for me the last was the ninjas (c'mon wtf?!). Since then there have been so many more nails (elves, insurance, relics, etc) that this coffin is permanently sealed.



    I have read several interviews with Richard Garriott and if you read between the lines it appears that the departure was not all that pleasant. Can't imagine what it was like to have a bunch of bean counter knuckleheads move in and tell you that despite your game being a success, that they know better...



    Garriott quote from Gamespy interview:



    But even today, I wish that things had worked out better with Electronic Arts. It's ironic that the top selling online product at EA, even today, is Ultima Online. We constantly tried to tell them that we understood the online game business and give advice, but the company had a very different agenda. Even the four or five other massively multiplayer games they've launched have flopped compared to Ultima Online.



    On the one hand, I feel vindicated that we were giving good advice, but unfortunately there was a substantial disagreement as to the future of online gaming there, and it just wasn't possible to sustain the relationship.


  • MachoMMachoM Newbury Park, CAPosts: 89Member
    UO is the laughing stock of MMOs now?  It seems to have just been blended into the rest of the MMO market
  • kishekishe aitooPosts: 1,978Member Uncommon
    sad thing is...no matter how much ea tries to ruin uo...no other mmo still has even quarter of its depth
  • MacroPlanetMacroPlanet Posts: 1,068Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by kishe

    sad thing is...no matter how much ea tries to ruin uo...no other mmo still has even quarter of its depth
    Which is really sad, honestly.  Think about it, UO was way ahead of it's time.  Richard and Long were geneius when they developed this game.  UO was a masterpeice, simple as that.  It was a game that, of course had it's flaws, but the freedom and depth outweight the flaws in the game.  This was the first time you could actually log in a game, be someone else and interact with people just like you.  It's sad to see interview about UO these days with Richard in them.  You can really sense the love that he had for that game.  I will never doubt Richard for what he has done, he has made a game that will forever live in my memories.  I miss Ultima Online, I miss seeing Lord British and Blackthorn in the game.  I miss reading the player submited stories posted on UO.com and I just miss old time UO, period.
  • outthislifeoutthislife san, TXPosts: 115Member
    UO laughing stock? And here I thought, people WORSHIP this game because of what it is and what it has done.
  • richard22182richard22182 vienna, VAPosts: 31Member
    most of those who have played it and given it a chance worship it and lament over its shortcomings. However, many gamers who have not played it think it a relic and a joke. They comment especially on its dated graphics system which isnt actually that bad in game, b/c thats all they bother too look at before returning to wow and eq 2.
  • OhaanOhaan Great White North, BCPosts: 566Member
    Originally posted by outthislife

    UO laughing stock? And here I thought, people WORSHIP this game because of what it is and what it has done.
    Not quite.



    Think of what sort of reaction the band U2 would get if they started writing songs like 'Hit me baby one more time' or 'Dontcha wish your boyfriend was hot like me?'
  • KyleranKyleran Tampa, FLPosts: 19,980Member Uncommon

    I never played UO, so I can't comment much about it.  However, one thing I know, when it was first released, it received "Coaster of the Year" award from Computer Gaming World, so It obviously had a few flaws in it.  Even in a review a year or so later, it had only moved up the scale a few notches....

    Meanwhile, along came AC and EQ1, (DAOC and many others) .... and their subscription numbers exceeded UO's....which of course resulted in UO developers thinking....how can we obtain numbers like them?  Answer, copy what makes the other games successful.  Hence they started modifying the game.  EQ particularly proved that the market of people who enjoy FFA PVP is dwarfed by a 100-fold by the number of people who don't.... hence most games today focus on controlled PVP, (or sometimes not at all)

    UO isn't the only game to fall into this Trap.  DAOC looked at EQ's raiding system and decided to add it in during the infamous TOA expansion, which most folks agree, was one of the two big killers of the game (along with buff-botting)

    and SWG and what SOE did to it....well...no reason to even get into it.

    I really wish developers would identify their target market (casual gamers, Pvp-lovers, Pve raiders etc.) and stay true to them.  Attempting to be everything to everyone is a formula for disaster.  Even in WOW, their attempts to cater to the hard-core PvE gamer with their upper level raids backfired, alienating many of their casual player base. (which is why they changed this a bit in BC)

    I'm hoping at some point game companies will quit adopting features from other games that substantially change the games overall experience.... (unless its truely for the better)

     

    In my day MMORPG's were so hard we fought our way through dungeons in the snow, uphill both ways.
    "I don't have one life, I have many lives" - Grunty
    Still currently "subscribed" to EVE, and only EVE!!!
    "This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon

  • OhaanOhaan Great White North, BCPosts: 566Member
    Originally posted by Kyleran



    I really wish developers would identify their target market (casual gamers, Pvp-lovers, Pve raiders etc.) and stay true to them.  Attempting to be everything to everyone is a formula for disaster.  Even in WOW, their attempts to cater to the hard-core PvE gamer with their upper level raids backfired, alienating many of their casual player base. (which is why they changed this a bit in BC)


  • GungaDinGungaDin Philadelphia, PAPosts: 514Member Uncommon
    I'm sick of this semp guy.  He has zero clue.  Roma Victor lol, what a joke.
  • richard22182richard22182 vienna, VAPosts: 31Member
    honestly seems to me as if many game devs and companies are all making same mistakes as ea and soe. Look at the games. Nearly every one in these forums has several people claiming that theyr dieing along with the popuLlation and quality. Im just thankfull that ea has atleast done a slightly better job than soe at preserving its titles. think matrix online and swg compared to Daoc and UO. Although both of the Ea games were arguably far better than the soe ones...
  • AznAndyAznAndy Natick, MAPosts: 17Member
    Stellerex and Sunsword don't work on UO anymore. They have been gone since 2004. UO is in better hands than them, but I do agree that the hands of Richard Garriott and Starr Long would be the best.



    These two, however, are now working on Tabula Rasa.
  • MacroPlanetMacroPlanet Posts: 1,068Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by AznAndy

    Stellerex and Sunsword don't work on UO anymore. They have been gone since 2004. UO is in better hands than them, but I do agree that the hands of Richard Garriott and Starr Long would be the best.



    These two, however, are now working on Tabula Rasa.
     

    Which I really am looking forward to.  Not mainly because of the game itself, but because of Richard and Starr, because of what I know they can do.  The FPS aspect really grabs me though.  I really hope this will be like Ultima Online: Future Wars or something.  Long live the King!
  • BunglermooseBunglermoose Vacherie, LAPosts: 63Member
    Originally posted by Ohaan

    Originally posted by outthislife

    UO laughing stock? And here I thought, people WORSHIP this game because of what it is and what it has done.
    Not quite.



    Think of what sort of reaction the band U2 would get if they started writing songs like 'Hit me baby one more time' or 'Dontcha wish your boyfriend was hot like me?'

     

    You mean like the crapola they've been writing for the last ten years? I haven't purchased a U2 album since "Achtung Baby." 

    But I get your point.

    As someone mentioned before... I think it's a fine game, given its age and the shiny-sparkly nature of its younger competition. I might be biased, though... I grew up on the original Ultima games in the 80's (Commodore 64 anyone?) and I always thought they were tits.

  • sempiternalsempiternal DC, DCPosts: 1,081Member
    Originally posted by AznAndy

    Stellerex and Sunsword don't work on UO anymore. They have been gone since 2004. UO is in better hands than them, but I do agree that the hands of Richard Garriott and Starr Long would be the best.



    These two, however, are now working on Tabula Rasa.

    Yes, but so far their damage to the original UO virtual world has been everlasting.

    These two EA developers, Stellerex and Sunsword, are responsible for two of the most ill-conceived expansions;

    UO: Renaissance aka the consensual Trammel mirror

    UO: Age of Shadows aka as the Item-Based gameplay expansion

    Both of these expansions were drastic changes to the existing Ultima Online game and rules.

    Only someone in a position of power, can abuse that power; such as a producer getting away with changing the rules in the middle of a game.

  • sempiternalsempiternal DC, DCPosts: 1,081Member
    Originally posted by Bunglermoose

    Originally posted by Ohaan

    Originally posted by outthislife

    UO laughing stock? And here I thought, people WORSHIP this game because of what it is and what it has done.
    Not quite.



    Think of what sort of reaction the band U2 would get if they started writing songs like 'Hit me baby one more time' or 'Dontcha wish your boyfriend was hot like me?'

     

    You mean like the crapola they've been writing for the last ten years? I haven't purchased a U2 album since "Achtung Baby." 

    But I get your point.

    As someone mentioned before... I think it's a fine game, given its age and the shiny-sparkly nature of its younger competition. I might be biased, though... I grew up on the original Ultima games in the 80's (Commodore 64 anyone?) and I always thought they were tits.

    Ultima III & IV here!  Atari 800.

  • RyldRyld Monterey, CAPosts: 99Member
    I'd take Raph over any of the "big" four mentioned.

    R
  • ConsequenceConsequence Lake Worth, FLPosts: 358Member

    i stopped reading at "laughing stalk" which I assume you meant "laughing stock", but either way  your extremely misinformed and misled.

    UO has been around for 10 YEARS and still has a strong, albeit not as strong as it once was, base of players. As proof, i offer to you the fact that the game is soon to be undergoing its largest expansion ever, one which will be primarily free of charge(unlike other large title games who charge a lot for content  that often times should be free).  If they didnt have funding provided by ten years of stability, this would not be the case.

    I guarantee if i offered the companies with soon-to-be-released big title mmos a ten year lifespan, they would jump at the opportunity. But UO isnt stopping at ten, its expanding more than ever.

     

  • sempiternalsempiternal DC, DCPosts: 1,081Member

    Thanks for the correction, it's actually, "laughingstock."

    But the rest of your post is a joke!  EA would keep UO even if it was losing money, because it's their foot in the door of MMOGs.

    EA's new investment into UO is too little too late and does not make right on all the wrongs.

    Gameplay is paramount, a small graphics upgrade will do very little.

  • sempiternalsempiternal DC, DCPosts: 1,081Member
    Originally posted by Ryld

    I'd take Raph over any of the "big" four mentioned. R
    Definately a great designer,  If I had three pictures in there his would be one.
  • sempiternalsempiternal DC, DCPosts: 1,081Member
    Originally posted by Ohaan

    Kudos Sempiternal

    While I have been away from UO for a long time I still hold the original game and Garriot's work in high regard. Your posts reflect the sentiments of many a UO vet.



    Some people may say that UO is not great but it doesnt suck when you factor in its age and the competition. However compared to the original game, following the Origin philosophy modern UO DOES suck... hard. EA changed the game from being a progressive gaming concept into a simple cash cow.



    Most will agree that Trammel was the first nail in the coffin, for me the last was the ninjas (c'mon wtf?!). Since then there have been so many more nails (elves, insurance, relics, etc) that this coffin is permanently sealed.



    I have read several interviews with Richard Garriott and if you read between the lines it appears that the departure was not all that pleasant. Can't imagine what it was like to have a bunch of bean counter knuckleheads move in and tell you that despite your game being a success, that they know better...



    Garriott quote from Gamespy interview:



    But even today, I wish that things had worked out better with Electronic Arts. It's ironic that the top selling online product at EA, even today, is Ultima Online. We constantly tried to tell them that we understood the online game business and give advice, but the company had a very different agenda. Even the four or five other massively multiplayer games they've launched have flopped compared to
    Ultima Online.



    On the one hand, I feel vindicated that we were giving good advice, but unfortunately there was a substantial disagreement as to the future of online gaming there, and it just wasn't possible to sustain the relationship.

     

    Thank you very much!  And thanks for the excellent quote from Richard Garriott - perfectly in context.

  • sempiternalsempiternal DC, DCPosts: 1,081Member
    Originally posted by outthislife

    UO laughing stock? And here I thought, people WORSHIP this game because of what it is and what it has done.



    It's a laughingstock not for what it has done, but for what it has become.

    The Ultima Online design that won over 90% of the game's professional recognition and awards, over 75% of it's peak subscription numbers and which was entirely responsible for the game's success...

    ...is no more.

  • CiredricCiredric Columbus, OHPosts: 723Member

    Well I have a different point of view on UO.  I started about 9 months after release, I understand the first 9 months were pretty bad.

    I really think the addition of trammel was not the backbreaker you feel it was.  I always lived in Felucca, my girlfriend too who never pvps.  We did just fine.  Had the house looted a few times, no big deal, part of the game.  Trammel was necessary, because not everyone wants to pvp.  I think it worked well, if you wanted to pvp, you adventured in Felucca, if not trammel.

    What really broke the camels back was "Age of Shadows".  There was the expansion that really deviated from Richard's Ultima.

    First off you could rarely play the first two months after the release of the expansion, there were so many bugs.  Then they had the gaul to raise subscription fees. 

    Age of shadows introduced overpowered items into the game.  They were trying to keep up with EQ or one better them and instead it backfired.  You used to be able to pvp with just hand crafted items, so big deal if some looted your corpse, you still were very competitive.  Age of shadows changed all that, weapons and the new skills seriously skewed pvp fights.  Now you had special skill extensions that you could only get in certain Felucca dungeons, nothing like narrowing down where the griefers could interrupt your play. 

    Just horrible design, completely missed their target audience.  My entire guild, almost 100 strong just left. 

    Oh btw Consequence, nice fanboy, but meaningless post, my gf still has an active account and the lake superior server she is on is practically empty,  There is hardly anyone playing.  So much for the game going strong.....

     

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