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(from this thread: http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/310978/page/4)
I just tried the Trial of UO for a few days, just to have a look. Last time I logged in was in 2002.
It is horrible now. It is heavily itemized, and they took out every single thing, that smells of effort. Today you can get armor that gives you bonuses, that allows you to cast spells without using regs. No item will actually break. It will go to 0 endurance and still sit on your body (and I believe that it will still give you the bonuses). Items can be insured, so there is no risk, not even when dying in PvE. The armor I got from some advanced player, that wanted to help me out, even made sure, that I never had to cast light or use torches.
In Trammel I could run through all monsters, whereas in the early days I would have to "shove through", which was only possible with full stamina, and thus alot of monsters could box you in, forcing you to react fast with stamina potions or a well placed teleport.
All tension is gone from the game. It is not dangerous to go to dungeons. The monsters can not really surprise you, as you can just run as you like (you cannot be boxed in). Even if you unfortunately die, you are insured, meaning you will have a small trip back, and thats it. No regs, means that you can level up your casting abilities for free. Since the casting was free, you spent no money on reagents, which was quite a big sink early on - so big, that it was very hard to start out your first character as a caster.
Earlier UO was so rough, that it was a battle to wring out skill points from it. You had to be careful when gearing up, you would have to be careful how many regs you brought - too little and you would run out, often in a critical situation, too many and you would be at risk if you died to monsters or to PKs. All the time in a dungeon would be nervously watching the edge of the screen, so you could react fast in case of incoming PK's. You had to at all times have your pouches trapped, to avoid PK Paralyze spell (and also some monsters used Paralyze), if they got in one, before you could recall. If you were well prepared, you were as good as un-PK-able.
Old UO was so damn exciting, that I could not log out, and only did so begrudgingly if duties called, and I would be eager to get back home to get back in. That feeling is completely gone now. Everything is safe, and there is no pressure anywhere, not even financially. I had tens of thousands of gold on a two day old character with 55 in Provoking and little else.
When my armor finally got worn down (that means endurance go to 0, it will not break), I went looking for other players or shops to get it repaired. I managed to run around half of the mainland Trammel world (Britain and north) without encountering a single player. Around half of the houses were empty, unbuilt lots (you see the foundation only). The few vendors on houses I encountered, were empty. I never met another player, and this was in late afternoon (4-6 PM), which would have been a very active time back in the days, after the kids came back from school. Britain bank I met two guys ever. The first was the one who gave me the armor, the other was AFK, and I never got in contact with him. I then went to Fellucca, because that used to be my home before I quit (I dispised Trammel), and also here it was completely empty. I had to go to a moongate to some new shard (I don't remember the name), that seems to exist only to hold player housing. It was a giant shopping mall, and here I saw some players, although not many.
UO has not failed because of aging graphics. The graphics are quite nice, and 2D has something that 3D doesn't.
UO has failed because it has no tension anymore. And with a very meager population, there is no interactions with other people. Add to that an enormous landmass (Trammel, Fellucca, 2nd age (or what it was called) and 3 other shards), and you have effectively a singleplayer game, when you enter as a new player.
IMO the biggest mistake they made, was to put in Trammel. With the harsh death penalties to reds (statloss), they had already curbed the worst PK'ing. By taking out the last risk, they took out alot of the tension, that is needed to make games exciting. Other mistakes were to one by one remove all cumbersomeness/negativities, such as blocking players/monsters, regs to cast spells, need for lights, loss of items (with insurance) and probably others, that I would have discovered, had I played longer than 2 days.
I don't know what lessons EA has taken from the failure of UO, but I am certain they are taking the wrong ones. If this game was good, it would still be able to compete to this day. The technology behind it is as good as other MMO's. Aging is not the problem.