Saturday, September 22, 2007

10 Members of the UO Community I Wish Were With Us For The 10th Anniversary

Yeah, I said I would do a blog entry about UO every day leading up to the tenth anniversary date, but I was tired last night. So here's an early morning entry.

Like the band Boston once sang, "So many people have come and gone, their faces fade as the years go by...", Ultima Online has had its share of people from all walks of life and all playstyles come through, leaving their mark on the game and the community. In fact, I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two people right now who should be on this list of ten members of the UO community who I wish were with us to celebrate the tenth anniversary.

10. snakeplissken
A week after I purchased UO in January of 1998, my real-life good friend Chris, haved been dazzled by my tales of the game, went out and got it and joined me on the Atlantic shard. We got fought and ran from PKs, scraping together the money first for a boat, which we had parked in Britain Bay along with half the shard, and after that our first house.

We terrorized the seas together for a year or so, but snake lost interest once Trammel was opened. Can't blame him. I still see him at work a few times a week and have been telling him about how I'm playing again, but like those halcyon glory days before Trammel, I doubt he'll ever return.

9. Hanse
During a dark time when the fishing skill was horribly nerfed, Hanse talked to us publically about it. When resource changes were made to the game, Hanse made sure to include the fishers. His presence on the boards showed his passion for the game and his design skills were legendary.

He might still be playing, for all I know, anonymously. But he left the UO team along with so many other during the Great Developer Exodus of 2005, and was last seen working on EA's Godfather game. The UO team of today could always use his expertise and his style should he ever choose to return.

8. Nieves
Sam Nieves of UO Powergamers fame left a mark on the UO community for a long time with his biting commentary and his take-no-prisoners personality. When he saw bullshit, he called it just that. Right or wrong, you just had to admire his style and colorful language.

I got to meet Nieves in person at the UO Community Day in 2004, at a time when the community coordinator Binky had been fostering the UO community to come together, including Nieves. It was said at the time that Nieves was going to tone down his harsher rhetoric, leaving out personal insults, as a part of being welcomed into that community.

Whatever happened after Binky's promises of a closer UO fansite community did little to impress Nieves, and his farewell to UO less than a year later had some unpleasant things to say about the situation. I'll never really know the true story, of course, but at least I can still read occasional commentary from Nieves over at the Markee Dragon site. Maybe he'll make some comments about UO's 10th anniversary, and hopefully they'll be classic Nieves.

7. Lyria
Joining me in my long fight to get the UO developers to fix boats and add content to the seas of UO was Lyria, another proponent of those changes. Out on the front lines she (I assume here she was a she, but now that I think of it I never knew) was vocal and positive in her efforts to get attention to our favorite part of the game.

Like me she left and came back a few times, sometimes just to post on the Fishing Council's boards and not actually play UO, and her wisdom was always welcomed. Her greatest contribution, in my own mind anyway, was pointing out that the seas are empty of players because there is no development of them, and there is no development of them because there is no player interest, and so forth in a sad moebius loop of neglect, which I later referenced as Lyria's Conundrum.

Maybe she'll post again over at the FCB for the tenth anniverary of UO.

6. Fertbert
Designer Peter Phillips moved quickly up the UO ladder, starting in early 2003 as a programmer and becoming (I think) lead designer by the time I first met him in person at the Indianapolis UO GenCon Meetup in 2004. While a strong proponent of putting ferrets in the game, he also spoke to me often about the Serpent Pillars, broken oceanic gateways that I was crusading at the time for a fix.

He was the one who managed to get the pillars fixed, and a lot of other great things along the way, until his departure during the aforementioned Great Developer Exodus of 2005. He managed to get his ferrets in the game with the Mondain's Legacy expansion before heading out the door and over to Linden Labs to work on the hugely successful Second Life.

Fertbert is another former of the UO development team who I'd personally love to see return, and there is no doubt he could add a lot to the game and the community if he did.

5. ImaNewbie
The first UO comic I remember, ImaNewbie detailed the exploits of a hopeless newbie plodding through the dread lord days of early UO. His misadventures captured the innocence and naivete' of many early players and struck a chord throughout the UO community.

Long since gone, his comic archive is still available for reading here. Check it out for some early UO laughs.

4. Crazy Joe
Thief, Pirate, and Stratics Moderator Crazy Joe wore a number of hats in his time with UO. He took screenshots and wrote about his humorous experiences in the game, playing on Atlantic as one of my pirate contmeporaries and on Lake Austin. He kept a running display of all the boats he had captured and was always glad to embarrass players publically with the stupid things they said or did in the game.

I got to meet Joe at both the Ultima X Odyssey event and the 2004 Community Day, where we talked about the dwindling amount of prey for pirates in UO and other things. He left, like so many others, not long after that, but his crazy works live on, aptly enough, at his asylum.
UO could use more people like Crazy Joe these days.

3. Lum The Mad
Scott Jennings, the man behind the mad, created the Lum The Mad site in the early days of UO and offered perhaps the most hilarious and biting commentary about the game ever seen. Not just the things wrong with the game and its systems, but the thing wrong with the players and community themselves.

In those early days it was refeshing to read such a site. I had no idea how messed up things could be with the game and its players until I had read that site. Lum moved on, securing the dream all fansite operators secretly have, including myself - to get a job in the game business and leave all the bitching behind. According to Wikipedia, in response to criticism by some of his readers, Jennings coined the phrase: "Please direct all complaints about me being a sell-out corporate whore to www.I Don't See You Paying For My Health".

He still offers a great read with his newer Broken Toys blog, though, and one hopes he'll take the time to mention UO for its 10th anniversary.

2. Midas
In 2000, the bard called Midas graced the UO community with hilarious UO parody songs, from "Don't Bank So Close To Me" to "Don't Worry, Be Laggy" and so many more. He captured much of the early spirit in those songs of player killing and looting, ironically at a time when such activities were in decline with the introduction of Trammel.

It seemed that every few weeks that year he was churning out a new song, each one hilarious and well - crafted. Midas even made a song for the doomed UO2 project at one point. His last post on his site shortly after 9/11 hinted of non-related personal tragedies but promised more songs on the way. Sadly he never returned, and the songs stopped coming.

I really wish he had kept going with his songs, and hope that everything worked out okay for him on a personal level. And I wish he was here for the 10th anniversary.

1. Lord British
A land without a king and an empty throne is what we've had for most of the time UO has been live. He made quite a few appearances in those early days, but would disappear for long periods.

When the man behind the king, Richard Garriott, left EA for good he took his character with him, only returning briefly to sort of wrap up his disappearance and leave the land in the care of others. At one point, also, the developers seemed to be prepping a character named Dawn to take over, but that idea was apparently scrapped.

Garriott made a recent appearance at the Austin Town Hall UO meetup, giving us hope that perhaps he'll make an appearance for the anniversary in the game. It's too bad that he and EA couldn't have worked out a deal where he would get to keep playing the game as Lord British and making appearances from time to time. I mean if I created a whole game universe and a MMORPG from it where I was king, I'd want to stay no matter what.

On this tenth anniversary of UO it's a good idea to take a look back at those who have moved on to other lands. With a bit of regret and sadness, of course, but to counter that we can all note that every day, new players join the game and the community, and who can say what mark they'll leave on us all?

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