Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn Preview

Ten years ago, no one could have guessed that the MMOG genre would explode like a star going nova. There was little in the way of choices at the time, and in the early days,

Ten years ago, no one could have guessed that the MMOG genre would
explode like a star going nova. There was little in the way of choices
at the time, and in the early days, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/154"
and href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/62002" target="_blank">EverQuest
were the big dogs of the yard. Before his involvement in href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/61775" target="_blank">Tabula
garnered such hard feelings from the online community, Richard
“Lord British” Garriott was hailed as a visionary
for creating the original Ultima series of games, an incredibly
detailed world that would unfold over the course of nineteen years. He
was also deeply involved in the early creation and evolution of Ultima
Online, so much so that he would often be present for live events
within the game. In the end, Ultima Online may not have won the MMOG
war, but no one can argue that it was fundamental to the genre's

In target="_blank">last
week's Forever Fantasy column
, I talked about going back to
some of the most influential MMOG games. Ultima Online had never really
been my particular cup of tea, but last week I realized things had
changed a lot over the course of ten years, and I decided to take a
deeper look. I'm happy to report that so far, I haven't been
disappointed by that decision.

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style="font-style: italic;">The bank may be messy, but it's
a great place to leave loot for new players!

When Ultima Online originally hit store shelves, Garriott’s
world was a complete free for all and although the concept of griefing
wasn't new to those familiar with other online games (Diablo, anyone?),
this is where it truly began to hit its stride. The hopes and dreams of
a completely open world in which your players are free to do whatever
they can imagine is a noble one, but there was one crucial part of the
equation that the developers had forgotten about in its creation
– human nature.

There will always be someone in the world that gets their rocks off by
killing new players with reckless abandon, even if they do get
“murder points” in the process. Heck, for a lot of
people, this only adds to the thrill. This is nothing surprising in
today's online world, but it's important to note because the very first
thing I noticed after creating my current 2009 character is the new
built-in safety net. Unless you type “I renounce my young
player status” and hit enter, you will be completely safe
from other players for the first 40 hours of gameplay or the first 450
skill points accrued. To me, this is the most important and fundamental
change in the game's history.

Others may argue, but the number one reason most players never gave
Ultima Online a  fair shake (myself included) is because they
never had a chance to actually learn anything about the game before the
shard's local tool patrol ganked them within minutes of stepping
outside of town. There are plenty of players that put up with this and
simply trudged on, slowly gaining skill until they could fend for
themselves, but I, along with many others, could not be counted among

Since I haven't had to worry about other players killing me right off
the bat in my recent return, I've finally been able to discover the
real reason why Ultima Online has continued to release expansions and
attract new players over the years, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/62007" target="_blank">despite
its age.
The game has an indescribable depth and inherent beauty in the design
of its mechanics. For years now, the games I've played (along with most
of you, I imagine) have gotten far easier and arguably more shallow.
This isn't necessarily a complaint since the games I play now are
generally a better fit with the time constraints of my life, but there
are days where the newer games don't have the same sense of
satisfaction that the older games provided. It could just be me, but I
doubt I'm alone in this feeling.

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Don't let
the old school graphics fool you.

When compared to other games, Ultima Online doesn't possess a fraction
of the classes and/or races available in the majority of today's
titles. Rather than viewing that in a less than favorable light (as I'm
normally wont to do), I think in this instance, it lends to the game's
strengths. By limiting the number of choices, it has allowed the
development team to focus more on the fundamental aspects of the game
and its classes.

Ultima Online is not a game of levels. Initially, this was the
strangest thing to get used to for me. I'm a level kind of guy, as it's
a quick and easy way to have a general idea of a character’s
strength. Not necessarily for PvP purposes, but as a tool for creating
a mental image of the character when thinking of what to do or where to
go. In Ultima Online, skills are the name of the game and unless you've
played the game before, you wouldn't believe how many of them are
available to you. No longer do you have to be a tree hugging hippie of
a ranger to have an animal companion or pet. No longer are you
restricted to one or two weapon types dependent on your class. Want to
have a timber wolf for a companion? Start training your animal taming
skill. Want to learn how to use a new weapon? Pick one up and start
using it. It's as simple as that. Every skill is increased in the most
organic method available – you learn by doing, and it's

Ultima Online may be far from perfect, and it's certainly no where
close to being the top dog in the yard anymore, but so far, it's proven
itself to be far more fun than I've ever href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/showthread.php?t=40174"
it credit for in the past I'm happy to report that I'm
looking forward to exploring the game further and bringing you a review
in the near future. There's a reason Ultima Online has endured longer
than almost any other MMOG on the market and I'm glad to finally be
discovering why. Better late than never, right?

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