Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ultima Online - Why I'm Back and Having a Blast

I reactivated my Ultima Online account a few months ago to help test their new Kingdom Reborn client, knowing that I could contribute in my old area of expertise, ships and sailing, and I did just that - giving the development team ideas for boat macro icons that they later put into the game.

After that work was essentially done (even though the released-to-the-public Kingdom Reborn client is far, far from done), I decided to stick around for awhile. The tenth anniversary of UO is next month, and I'm sure it will be a special event. Indeed, it is a milestone for all of online gaming, even if the millions of World of Warcraft players have no idea what they owe UO on that day.

I built a few houses, did some wandering around to all my favorite spots. On one of those nights I was wandering I noticed that the plot of land that I had previously owned, and had given up when I quit, was about to become available. It was a site east of the Lycaeum in Moonglow, Felucca facet, Atlantic shard, where my old lighthouse was.

The sign on the house plot indicating its decay state also gave me the name of its owner - a player named Halister Marner. Nearby, the same player had taken possession of a historic plot of land once the site of the Atlantic Mage Tower, and the sign he had on that plot stated his intention to rebuilt that legendary edifice. I watched that plot on and off for a few days until I encountered him there.

When I asked him about his old plot that was about to decay, the one where my old lighhouse was, he said that he was indeed giving it up, but had offered it to a guildmate, with whom he was kind enough to put me in contact. The guildmate took me a few days to reach with ICQ, but replied that he had to check with another person who may have wanted the plot.

Eventually all parties declined the plot and Halister Marner turned it over to me - for free. In Ultima Online such a player and such acts of generosity are extremely rare, and I thanked him and wished him luck and pledged whatever support I could muster for his effort to rebuilt the Atlantic Mage Tower.

Once the plot was mine, I gleefully spent the next few nights rebuilding my lighthouse, complete with its small boat dock. The construction is quite difficult. In UO, player houses can only be four stories. Using some tricky optical illusions, though, that take advantage of the perspective of the three-quarters overhead view of the game, I was able to make it appear as if the lighthouse tower was actually eight stories. The boat dock, too, is an illusion and actually exists on the third story, as it is impossible to build houses over the water.

The icing on the cake, which came on the day I was done with my principal construction, was the 96th month anniversary of my account being active (it's cumulative, so the months it was deactivated do not count, otherwise it would be much more), which meant I was entitled to two veteran rewards. I choose the banner deed, which I needed to contstuct my pirate flag, and the cannon, which fit prefectly into the design.

Here it is:

But getting my amazing lighthouse back with some new veteran rewards was not the only thing driving me back to UO. All the time I was testing KR, I got to listen in to my guild chat. Three of my characters were still guilded to the greatest guild on Atlantic, the Runic Knights and the guild had grown dramatically in my absence. Way to go, Lilyth, you rock and thanks for holding onto some of my possessions during my time away.

All these new people that I did not know from before were talking about their various activities, including a bunch of new dungeons that were included in the Mondain's Legacy expansion back in 2005. I had not yet upgraded to that expansion, but after getting back up and running with my lighthouse I did, through the purchase of the 9th anniversary collection.

Mondain's Legacy, coming less than a year after the Samurai Empire expansion, was a content dump of unprecedented magnitude. So many new items were added to the game, from weapons and armor to furnitire and other oddities, that it will take me a very long time to figure them out. Hell, I still haven't figured out all the Samurai Empire stuff, and am still a bit confused and behind from 2003's Age of Shadows expansion.

In the past few weeks, I've been playing my old characters, getting a feel for them again, hoping to get up to speed so I can join them on those weird new hunts that they do. The world of Ultima Online is so full of content, so rich and varied, that the hard choice each time I log in is deciding what I should try to accomplish that day, from a list of mundane tasks to dangerous monster hunts.

The point is that I've got that Ultima feeling again. It's like the early days, when I can't wait to get home and log in again. I used to get all worked up and bitter about the endless parade of issues that the game has, and how the game's makers, EA, dealt with them so poorly. I used to get very bitter by the decisions made at the top that took the game in directions that most people agreed were very bad.

Now, I have come to a place where I can accept that they do their best, but the overall direction of the game's development is controlled by forces at EA which tragically do not "get it". None of that effects my day-to-day gameplay, nor the whole community of players that continue on with their virtual lives in Sosaria, adventuring, crafting, building communities, and socializing each and every day.

Ultima Online is my home MMORPG. I'll continue to try other ones from time to time, but I suspect that none of them will ever be UO. The fact that it's a virtual world rather than a game, and the long and storied history I have with it, and the fact that I got that awesome lighthouse back, make it very, very hard for me to leave.

See you in Sosaria!


Rion said...

Wow, just... wow!

Welcome back to UO, may it's spirit continue to capture your imagination - atleast long enough for you to design a house for me. :D :D

Styrmir said...

Glad you've found your spark with UO again.

I simply had to make a comment about how amazing your lighthouse looks, I had no idea something like that was possible within the constructs of UO building rules. Simply beautiful work :).

Havardur Vaski the Nord of Europe server.

Arxon said...

I'm right there with ya.. I just returned 2 days ago after quitting for very similar reasons..

When I think about it now it's like.. All the crap that I don't like about UO is in every other game nowadays anyways.. So I may as well play UO and at least have all that I do like as well.

With some luck I've managed to find some nice open land on Napa Valley for housing which I thought would be the hardest thing to accomplish after coming back.

I'm happy! And I'm glad that you are too!