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Ultima Online: AGDC Interview with Tim Cotton

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

Mythic's Tim Cotton took some time during AGDC to catch us up on what EA is up to with the venerable Ultima Online.

Ultima Online is a shining example in the MMO world. It is the oldest running MMO right now that everyone remembers. Ultima Online just celebrated its twelve year anniversary and has twenty seven active servers around the world. Many MMO companies wish they could have at type of success. We sat down with Tim Cotton and talked about Ultima Online’s rich history, its most recent expansion, and its bright future.

Tim pointed out right away that “Ultima will live on!” Despite many changes including development teams and even publishers, the game itself continues to grow. With Stygian Abyss just being added in the game has seen a resurgence of players. The team is trying to make the game accessible to new and old players alike. Because Ultima’s systems are so open, the developers look more at giving players the tools to enhance the world they have already created.

Read it all here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

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Comments

  • SenanSenan Tuscaloosa, ALPosts: 783Member Uncommon

    Nice article, but I did want to respond to one of your comments. You said, "It is often puzzling why so many MMOs have tried the Everquest model of game design and not the Ultima model, when you look back on MMO history."  There's a simple enough explanation for that and it comes in three letters - WoW. Blizzard proved that the EQ model, if done "correctly", is the most popular and easily accessible model for the mmo genre, with it's appeal expanding to a very large demographic. In the end, most developers seem to care exclusively about the bottom line. They want to go with the path most profitable, regardless at how tired and uninspired it is. 

    Luckily though, for those of us who won't settle for the tired and overly done, we still have games like UO, AC, and even newer titles that aspire to be more like the old in terms of open-endedness and freedom of choice, ala Fallen Earth. And there seems to be quite a few others on the way (Mortal Online, would be one example).

    Anyway, my point is, it's pretty obvious why the EQ model is the most widely used today. It's much simpler for both the consumer (many of which prefer simplicity) and for the developers themselves. In a business sense, it's a win/win; less work, more money. But, despite that, it's nice to see that there are still companies out there that genuinely care about the games themselves and strive to take the road less traveled in an attempt to create something truly special. That's what it's all about as far as I'm concerned.

     

     

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  • AureliusLHAureliusLH WetherbyPosts: 24Member
    Originally posted by Dana


    Mythic's Tim Cotton took......

     

    Ahem. Think you'll find it's Cotten, not Cotton...

  • SgtFrogSgtFrog LondonPosts: 5,001Member

    Most servers are in Japan if I remember correctly, about 60% of them are.

    Anyway it’s always good to see an old mmorpg doing so well.

     

    image
    March on! - Lets Invade Pekopon

  • AureliusLHAureliusLH WetherbyPosts: 24Member
    Originally posted by SgtFrog


    Most servers are in Japan if I remember correctly, about 60% of them are.

    Anyway it’s always good to see an old mmorpg doing so well.

     

     

    Your memory is misleading you slightly... 13 server clusters in the US, 8 Japan, 2 Korea,  2 Europe,  1 Taiwan, 1 Australia.

     

     

  • wartywarty margatePosts: 461Member

    Well this thread took longer than expected to start blaming WoW...

    Playing polished, lag free, feature complete games is carebear. Whining about a game you hate but still play is hardcore man!

  • ThamorisThamoris Tri-Cities, WAPosts: 684Member Uncommon

    Horizons is a lot like UO in many ways. It's still active but just barely with a cult - like following. It's horrible launch followed by the launch of WoW killed the game for the masses...sadly

     

  • nekollxnekollx Glendale, CAPosts: 570Member

    oldest MMO people remember?

     

    What about The Realm?

  • SkuzSkuz WorcesterPosts: 1,034Member Uncommon

    For me the reason I left UO to go to EQ was the greater sense of immersion that EQ's 3d world gave.

     

    Had they ever brought the UO universe to a 3d game I'd have rejoined it, I simply hated UO's forced isometric perspective even though I loved much about the game.

  • UNH0LYEV1LUNH0LYEV1L Summerville, SCPosts: 412Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by nekollx


    oldest MMO people remember?
     
    What about The Realm?

     

    Never heard of the realm but that doesn't mean I shouldn't know about it.  UO is pretty much back as far as my memory goes.


    Spiritsever - AR/Ele - The Secret World
    Ashmaker - Ranger < Prophets > - Age of Conan - #1 in Kills
    Sweety - Sorceress < Infinite Darkeness > - SWTOR - 2.6K PvP Rating
    ??? - Pilot - ??? - EVE
    Symir - Swordmaster - Warhammer - RR100
    Dreadnaught - Rogue - Rift
  • nekollxnekollx Glendale, CAPosts: 570Member
    Originally posted by UNH0LYEV1L

    Originally posted by nekollx


    oldest MMO people remember?
     
    What about The Realm?

     

    Never heard of the realm but that doesn't mean I shouldn't know about it.  UO is pretty much back as far as my memory goes.

     

    http://realmserver.com/

  • markfromindymarkfromindy Indianapolis, INPosts: 35Member

     You guys can split hairs on which was the "first" MMO all day ( I'd also throw Meridian 59 in as a consideration) , but UO was the first one that really had big numbers in terms of players, which came as a shock to not only the guys who made it, but to the publisher as well. I read some time back they thought if they could get 9,000 subscribers they'd be happy.

     

     I still remember all the excitment and hype leading up to the game.Remember that story about the beta tester who was able to kill Lord British ( Richard Garriott's avatar ) then got banned over it?

     Ahh, memories.

  • nekollxnekollx Glendale, CAPosts: 570Member
    Originally posted by markfromindy


     You guys can split hairs on which was the "first" MMO all day ( I'd also throw Meridian 59 in as a consideration) , but UO was the first one that really had big numbers in terms of players, which came as a shock to not only the guys who made it, but to the publisher as well. I read some time back they thought if they could get 9,000 subscribers they'd be happy.
     
     I still remember all the excitment and hype leading up to the game.Remember that story about the beta tester who was able to kill Lord British ( Richard Garriott's avatar ) then got banned over it?
     Ahh, memories.

     

    and i still remember the realm, and the shere "WTF" notion of a game with people who character over level 500, over 1,000. Hell last i heard people were over level Five Thousand.

  • Loke666Loke666 MalmöPosts: 17,962Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by markfromindy


     You guys can split hairs on which was the "first" MMO all day ( I'd also throw Meridian 59 in as a consideration) , but UO was the first one that really had big numbers in terms of players, which came as a shock to not only the guys who made it, but to the publisher as well. I read some time back they thought if they could get 9,000 subscribers they'd be happy.
     
     I still remember all the excitment and hype leading up to the game.Remember that story about the beta tester who was able to kill Lord British ( Richard Garriott's avatar ) then got banned over it?
     Ahh, memories.

    I played Meridian but I think UO was slightly earlier...

    Great idea to actually make the dungeons into dungeons... But for me it is kinda too late, like 10 years or so. I just love 3D games too much.

    But I hope more game devs will follow after that, dungeons should have so much more danger than just mobs.

  • OzrethOzreth Phoenix, AZPosts: 574Member
    Originally posted by nekollx


    oldest MMO people remember?
     
    What about The Realm?

     

    he said oldest MMO that "everybody" remembers. And the vast majority of MMO players know about UO, far more than know about The Realm.

    Originally posted by Scagweed22
    is it the graphics? the repetativenesses? i mean what is the point? you could be so much more productive in real life
    Real life brings repetition and pointlessness too. The only thing real life offers is Great graphics. Its kinda expensive too and way to dependent on the cash shop. Totally pay to win as well. No thank you. Ill stick to my games.

  • nekollxnekollx Glendale, CAPosts: 570Member
    Originally posted by Ozreth

    Originally posted by nekollx


    oldest MMO people remember?
     
    What about The Realm?

     

    he said oldest MMO that "everybody" remembers. And the vast majority of MMO players know about UO, far more than know about The Realm.

     

    for me and my circle of friends The Realm is remembered before UO, YMMV but that's us so it is a legitimate comment.

    i also remember Penumbra....

     

  • Terminus-EstTerminus-Est GlasgowPosts: 352Member

    The first MMO that I ever played was Meridian 59.

  • drbaltazardrbaltazar drummondville, QCPosts: 7,987Member
    Originally posted by Terminus-Est


    The first MMO that I ever played was Meridian 59.

     

    mm if your one of the very few that played that you are a fucking rare breed or you read that lawsut tyhingy that was speaking about that game

    i put my money on the later

    since not a lot played or had the machine to play meridian 59

  • SenanSenan Tuscaloosa, ALPosts: 783Member Uncommon
    Originally posted by warty


    Well this thread took longer than expected to start blaming WoW...

    Well, if you actually read my post entirely, you'd see that I was "blaming" the EQ model in the genre, which WoW strongly follows.

    I'm just stating the obvious. If you have some sort of feasible counter argument, then let's hear it.

     

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  • SignusMSignusM Checkmanistan, MAPosts: 2,225Member

    Too bad the current MMO hardly resembles the original UO at all. What was once special about it has since been patched away while it tries to immitate the EQ and WoW model. So few people try to follow WoW because in the battle between UO and EQ, EQ won. Thankfully we have people like Aventurine that still cater to the original MMORPG gamers.  

  • SauronasSauronas Denver, COPosts: 183Member

    I just hopped on UO to check out the newest beta client and I have to admit I'm impressed.  You can actually set the framerate to 60! If only they would follow through with a UO2.... 

  • nkryptiknkryptik C. Brook, NFPosts: 36Member

    I saw a post with UO2 mentioned and I can still remember when those of us that played were really excited about it BUT!!! there was not a lot of hype built about it from the company it was more the fan base that were hyped.

    This is the difference between today's online games and the games of yesteryear, now these companies go out and build hype over a game that no one has seen trying to make all the sales that they can to show the potential investors projected sales numbers.  If we look at UO for an example it was already past the brunt and the blows of it's launch and had proven it could be a success and if in fact UO2 had of gone into full production it would have sold just on the fact that the players knew the game and loved the game, not some guy wondering on TV if the camera guy is following him, or how big of a performer you could get to showcase your game in an advertisement, it would have sold on a track record with it's players and the word of mouth from person to person of the track record of the game and company.

    What did UO have?

    Ultima Online had it's fair share of bugs, glitches and hackers the same as every other game but the one of the big things that we had in UO that no other game really had was the advantage player trusted brokers.  Yes people who were almost gold farmers but with a twist.  Back in the day we had brokers that players trusted that we knew we could contact and trade our in-game money for everything from a house that was up for sale in the game to time codes. Yes time codes, no credit card no problem, cannot afford the cost this month coming, no problem, all you needed to do was trade so much of your in-game currency to a broker for a time code, so in fat you could actually never pay a cent to play this game and life was good.

    Multiple Factions:  Ultima Online had a very unique PvP system not only did it have 4 factions player could join so you were at the risk of 3 other groups of people that could kill you and LOOT EVERYTHING you had on you at the time, it made this PvP system twisted by also having a good and evil offset so players could as well be members of Order lead by Lord British or Chaos lead by Lord Blackthorn, so when venturing out to do some mining, fishing, lumber jacking you did not know if around the next corner if there was not someone from one of the 3 other factions waiting for you or if you were order was there a chaos member waiting for you around the next corner.

    1 Game Language: Everyone in this game were all of the basic human race and could understand what the other factions were saying and this made for when someone got you in an unfair match and you wanted to tell them where too sit you could do it and it worked the other way around as well if someone was after ticking you off and in a house you could call them out to fight, I can still remember the Role Players that would make those Orc guilds and role play till the cows came home you didin't need to be an Orc you just needed the gear to look like one the rest was your imagination.

    In_Game GMs: This was my favorite especially the days I almost got banned for telling a GM where to stick it but damn it was sure nice to tell them straight out rather than never telling them at all, these players actually policed the game and were not something like a figment of imagination they were seen out and about running around in the game and letting everyone know that they were working.  It also gave a more personal feeling when a GM would *bow* and you could see them  and they would speak to you directly in-game instead of some  MSN wanna be messaging system or some website ticket system.

    In-Game Events: If UO is remembered for nothing else in this industry it should be remembered for it's GM ran in-game events, yes live server events that were started by an actual Game Master not some scripted non-since and not some Customer Service Rep actual live Game Masters that could squelch, kick, ban and make sure these events were ran and done as fair as possible.

    After all my years in the industry as either a player, a game journalist, a SEER for Ultima Online "Player assistants like a assist GM", Alpha / Beta testing If Electronic Arts decided tomorrow to do a Ultima Online 2 that was the full 3D deal with all the features that the original game had even the player housing I would probably camp out to but this and I have never camped out fro anything, but this is a game that to this day that gives every player everything they was from PvE, PvP, Fations, housing system, banks, mounts, taming, crafting and I could go on the only thing it is missing as it is right now is the fact that is is not a full 3D game.

     

    Game companies really need to sit back and learn a lesson from what the long term games did right and what the closed or almost closed games did wrong and start giving us more of the what makes a game work by delivering and a lot less of the old build up all the hype and excitement and not deliver causing a lot of upset and bad feelings towards their companies.

  • AntariousAntarious Greenville, SCPosts: 2,802Member
    Originally posted by alacres


    Nice article, but I did want to respond to one of your comments. You said, "It is often puzzling why so many MMOs have tried the Everquest model of game design and not the Ultima model, when you look back on MMO history."  There's a simple enough explanation for that and it comes in three letters - WoW. Blizzard proved that the EQ model, if done "correctly", is the most popular and easily accessible model for the mmo genre, with it's appeal expanding to a very large demographic.



     

     

    This was probably addressed later and I saw a minor comment about it (didn't read past the first page).

     

    This is just another "silly" comment on these forums.

     

    First off Ultima Online released in September of 1997...

     

    EverQuest went live in I believe it was March of 1999.

     

    WoW went live in 2004 (november) now oddly a LOT of MMO's came out between March of 1999 and Oct of 2004.

     

    Which my perspective on the quote you quoted is.. talking about game design in general and I agree with the quote.  The actual "truth" of the comment is...

     

    UO peaked at around 250,000 subs (last EA press release I remember) and that was oddly after Age of Shadows (hated that xpac).

     

    While EQ peaked around 450,000 subs...

     

    So between those two it was seen as the more successful.  That was in relative terms short term tho...

     

    You hardly ever see anyone mention the fact that (to my knowledge) UO has never closed or merged a server.  EQ has gone through multiple mergers.

     

    EA also signed with NetDragon (I think it was) to release UO into more markets... as a 12 year old MMO.  Most current MMO's are lucky to expand much at all (before mergers) let alone even think about being around for 12 years... and having never merged a server.

     

    WoW only ensured a continuation of the same crap core game design that limits you on every level and has the same fatal flaws to this day (yes that's my opinon of the EQ core design for MMO's).  Which would be an entirely new wall of text.. so I'll stop.

    Moderator's on this site allow certain posters to create endless troll threads. Yet "warn" people for giving recommendations... account *pending* deletion because.. why bother.

  • SuraknarSuraknar Montreal, QCPosts: 824Member

    Nice Article, UO remains to this day my favorite MMORPG Experience, played it for 5 years back in the day and it has been unforgettable.

    That being said, I am surprised that they called EVE the spiritual successor, i guess, it is following the Demise of SWG (pre-NGE of cource)...because SWG was the real Successor to UO in my opinion. many of us called it UO2 back then still.

    Adn EVE, actually contains some EQ elements also in my opinion, but these are well hidden.

    In either case, Sony insured the Iconic Death of SWG so, we may just accept EVE as the spiritual Successor, it has a Sandbox premise nevertheless.

     

    - Duke Suraknar -
    Order of the Silver Star, OSS

    image
    ESKA, Playing MMORPG's since Ultima Online 1997 - Order of the Silver Serpent, Atlantic Shard

  • SauronasSauronas Denver, COPosts: 183Member

    "1 Game Language: Everyone in this game were all of the basic human race and could understand what the other factions were saying and this made for when someone got you in an unfair match and you wanted to tell them where too sit you could do it and it worked the other way around as well if someone was after ticking you off and in a house you could call them out to fight, I can still remember the Role Players that would make those Orc guilds and role play till the cows came home you didin't need to be an Orc you just needed the gear to look like one the rest was your imagination. "

    With the new client you can choose between multiple faces/heads including other races.  Elf, Skeleton, and Orc. :D

     

  • ScotScot UKPosts: 5,758Member Uncommon

    Had WoW chosen to model itself on UO rather than EQ we would now be all complaining how there was not enough theme park MMO’s.

    Some will doubt it could have been as successful as a sandbox game and they would probably be right. But WoW sealed the direction MMO’s would go in till this day.

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