Wednesday, January 16, 2008

10 Years Ago Today

It was this night, ten years ago, that I first logged onto Ultima Online. I had no idea what I was doing - no clue what shards were, no idea that there were playerkillers about - nothing, except that it was an online Ultima.

I created my first character, Ruffie, on the Great Lakes shard in Vesper. I decided to follow the road, as indicated on the cloth map, to Britain. About the spot where the road turns north of Cove, I saw a player named Falcirn in his house and walked up to the door to talk to him.

From my garb, he could tell I was a newbie, and told me how dangerous it was for me to be walking out there all alone. He was kind enough to escort me the rest of the way to Britain, telling me about the game all the way.

When we got to the city, I was amazed by the hustle and bustle of it all. Scores of players doing all sorts of things. We passed the blacksmith shop first, and I listened to the conversations that were taking place, about the pros and cons of certain weapons.

The we got to the bank. I stood in awe as I realized that each of the many people I saw going about their business was a real person, at their computers, all over the country. It was simply a mind-boggling feeling at the time, that such a thing was possible.

Falcirn showed me to the warrior's guild, where there were training dummies, and showed me how to work my swordsmanship skills. I thanked him as he left for all his help, and promised to look for him back at his house again. I hung around there for awhile, taking turns on the dummies. At one point, I was so overcome with the amazement of being in an online virtual world that I sang the Thermos Song from the Steve Martin movie "The Jerk":

I'm picking out a thermos for you,
Not an ordinary thermos for you,
But the extra best thermos you can buy
With vinyl, and stripes, and a cup built right in

I'm picking out a thermos for you,
And maybe a barometer, too
And what else can I buy so on me you'll rely?
A rear-end thermometer, too

And sure enough, several other players joined in as I sang. Here we were, all strangers in a strange land, but we had at some point in our seperate lives all seen that movie, and remembered that silly ass song.

I never saw Falcirn again, though, as the next day I logged onto the Atlantic shard, because I didn't know what shards were and just picked the one off the top of the list. I re-created my character, Ruffie, and started over. By the time I learned about shards, the Atlantic Ruffie was better developed than the Great Lakes one, so I made Atlantic my home, and I never saw Falcirn again.

Tonight I logged onto the Great Lakes Ruffie, still there, just as I left him, back in Vesper. I had checked him out once or twice over the last decade, probably to do some cross-shard trading around a holiday. I again walked Ruffie from Vesper to Britain and sang the Thermos Song at the warrior's guild. Falcirn's house was long gone, and the only players I saw were a few factioneers near the entrance to Castle British, and a red sitting on the roof of the bank.

You can't go back, but 10 years later I cannot deny the impact that Ultima Online has had on my life. Why do I still play? Partly out of nostalgia for how things were, partly out of hope that someone will bring some vision to the game that will turn everything around, and partly because whatever happens, watching the game's development has been an absolutely fascinating spectacle that, after ten years, shows no signs of letting up.

I hope that, in ten years's time, I'm writing a blog entry about my twentieth year in Ultima Online. I will sing the Thermos Song again.


Joshua said...

Nice writeup. I love nostalgia posts about UO.

I wonder if your new format broke your RSS feeds somehow. My Firefox subscriptions (and the subscription link at the bottom of your page) aren't working for your site, but they are for other blogspot sites. Google Reader hasn't had any trouble though ?:-/

-- Ex-UO Dev speedman

Jason said...

I had similar feelings watching the the same thing occurring from the other side of the game. It amazed me and made me feel good for playing a part in creating it. Thanks for the memories.

- Stormwind