Monday, April 4, 2011

Ultima Online: The MO Experience

I keep telling people that the first mmo I played was WAR. This is not entirely accurate. WAR was the only one that I played actively for more than a few months and paid substantially to do so. But before it, there were others.

The issue came about as Mike and I, when we weren't yet sharing a dwelling, were looking for something to play together on those long winter nights. Or perhaps it was the summer or the middle of spring. Regardless of the season, we spent our nights alone and, for avid gamers such as ourselves, regular chat facilitators just weren't cutting it. So we delved in the realm of F2P mmos. We spent a lot of time playing on a Ragnarok Online server but, after a while, we got bored of that too. So the three of us (for yes, there was a third person to our party) decided to try something different.

Mike had been an avid UO player in his younger years and we heard numerous stories of great times had by him and his crew. So we decided to give it a go.

Since that time, however, every computer I had used to play it has met an unfortunate demise, envolving heat, beeping (supposedly from the motherboard who did not appreciate said heat) and, in some extreme cases, an axe. Meaning that all screenshots I might have taken during that time went with them. Luckily not all computers met with equally gruesome fates and some shots of screens were saved allowing us to reminisce about the good times we had.

Me being returned half my shit after I died

One of the few things I remember about UO is the backpack. I remember my inventory was much like my own bag in real life. There weren't (as there aren't) any defined spaces for you to put things. As long as you're physically able to lift it up and carry it about you can go crazy. I'm sad that this concept was lost. No matter how inconvenienced I may be, I would like to be restricted from carrying around 42 halberds as easily as I would 42 trinkets. It just makes more sense. And sense adds to immersion. And immersion adds to... hours flying by while you play.

One other thing that I remember the game doing right was the option of taming your own horse. In recent games (read WAR and Rift, dunno about all the others) everybody is "born" with the ability to ride a horse and I get that. All these characters were probably born in a stable anyway, given the setting they're spawned into. But if riding an equine/bear/insect/turtle is such a basic skill, couldn't we also be given the chance of taming the beasts ourselves? I mean, that's more content to entertain us right there, right? I'm not saying remove mount vendors completely but at least give us the option to bypass them. And crafting! You could actually gain muscle mass by mining. I didn't get much for my time spent crafting in Rift except a bag full of burlap shoes I was never going to wear. After all that sewing I could've at least earned some dexterity points, no?
Horse taming amidst corpses of some sort.

In time we retreated back to Ragnarok. I think we all missed the first M (the one that stands for Massive) since there were only three of us playing at the same time in that particular server. But I'll never forget a few things we did there.

One day, I was so in character that I suggested we "go talk over there, so we can sit down on those benches." Only once or twice did I feel like moving my doll around to a more comfortable position during my two years of playing WAR and I never even sat down in Rift. It says a lot that, after only about a week in the game I was so lost in it that I was looking for agreeable places to have a chat in.

UO wasn't and isn't perfect but a lot of people loved it for very good reasons. If I understand this sandbox concept well (which, I'm afraid, Is still a bit alien to me) this was a good example of it and one that captivated and entranced many. It was a good game and many people miss something remotely like it. Most likely, recent games like it exist but just aren't public enough for lil' old me to know of them.

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