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Ultima Online (You Read Right!)

Phillip WillisPhillip Willis Certified PolygameistRPGamer Staff
edited October 2013 in Staff Review Blogs
As I mentioned on another thread, I wanted to go all out for episode 100 of RPGBacktrack. We're going to be talking about a really great series for our main event, we'll have a new intro song, I'll name my number 1 RPG of all time, and more. One of the special things I want to do it dig into an old game for this special show, because we don't only cover the best RPGs of the past (which we will be doing pertty well) but also some of the more obscure. So, I'm digging into a game I know very few people would play today. A game that's not only old, but very deep and very, very unapproachable. I can only be talking about UO! :)

Summary: UO Online is the longest running MMO...but it's not only's one of the deepest. It has a huge skill system, player housing, and an economy that is very, very player driven. It's got a crafting system with dependencies on dependencies. In a world of streamlining MMOs (See WoW), UO stands as a bastion of complexity. While its no longer the popular choice, its still getting updated on a regular basis...and outside of WoW, it's one of the few MMO's still charging a monthly fee. What is it about this world of UO that keeps a strong enough crowd paying to make it worth the time and effort for Bioware/Mythic to not just keep the servers running, but actually adding content to is nearly 16 years after release? I being a multi-month journey to find out for myself.

Day 1: With my wife's help, I made my first character. It's interesting...there are 50 some skills to choose from and really no restrictions. Not knowing anything about the game, though, some clearly look more useful than others. Begging? LOL. Eventually any skill can be raised to 100 pts through practice, or 120 with a special item. No character can have more than 700 pts total. So, it becomes pretty apparent that if one wants to engage in making stuff, gathering stuff AND killing stuff, one is going to need alts...and lots of them!

The tutorial area takes less than 20 minutes to get through. I'm using the enhanced client, which gives me prettier 2.5D graphics than the original client from 15+ years ago (which many ppl still use). There's no short cuts here. To pick up a sort, you have to talk over to it first...your character won't auto walk and then pick it up. If you want to equip a new shield, you have to unequip the old one first...the game won't do that for ya either.

After dispatching some skeletons, I'm unceremoniously thrust into New Haven with 1,000 gold and some very basic gear from the tutorial. 1,000 gold sounds like a lot, but my wife informs me that's like a $1 bill here.

There are trainers that can raise skills up to 40%. It's relatively cheap and super fast. From what I understand, the next 60% takes a LOT longer. Again, there are no pay the guy, I have to open my inventory, click on my gold, type in the amount and move it over to him.

With basic training complete in swordsmanship, tactics, bushido and something else I can't remember, I go out to slaughter creatures, wanting to give the combat more of a try. There are no level indicators on the monsters outside of town. The only way to tell if I'm stronger than something is good ol' trial and error. Thankfully, there are no dragons right outside of newbie town. I kill some goats. With some help from a friend, I find out that I can skin the goat (open inventory, click on knife, click on monster corpse, pick up leather chunks, put in my inventory, click on scissors, click on leather chunks...they become leather strips). The monsters also have some gold. I work my way slowly up to 2,000gp

I go back in town with all this leather looking for place to sell it. The vendors here are MUCH pickier than WoW or other games. They only buy those things they generally sell. So the weapon master doesn't want my leather or the shield I found. How rude!!! It's clear that the game is super deep, with systems within systems. I

A guild leader, who is also the governor of this town, stands on the pier near the water. Certainly, the way to learn how this archaic, deep and very complicated way is to join a guild, right? I even saw a survey on the UO Stratics website saying that 70% of current UO players would love to see new players over things like new content and upgrades to the client. Certainly this man will welcome me to his posse with open arms!!

Not so much.

I'm basically told that I need to hunt with them over a period of time so they can get to know me....whatever that means. Unfortunately, I have no clue what I'm doing, so I don't feel like hunting with these experts is a great use of my time. I'm nearly encumbered to the point of not being able to move and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with all this leet lewt I got from killing goats, pigs and the occasional bear.

It's late...tomorrow is another day.... I have no doubt that I've only take the first step in a cross country trip. I better have good shoes on.
Co-Host on RPGBacktrack. Follow me on Twitter and sub to my blog if you would like!


  • Phillip WillisPhillip Willis Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited June 2013
    Day 5 There are no define classes, par se. There are something like 50 skills from archery to necromancy and everything in between. You build your own class, in a manner of speaking, by choosing some of these skills and leveling them (ala Saga frontier...through practice). Want a paladin? Level swordsmanship, parrying (which helps you use a shield better) and healing. Want a magus? Level your Magery, Evalutate Intelligence and Fencing. The possibilities are endless.

    Or, are they?

    Just like any game with a lot of choices, there are some that work out a lot better than others. And, as with most MMOs, these variances in effectiveness between the numberless options are even more pronounced. WoW struggled with this in their talent system. Players left because they were kicked off of teams if they didn't have the most effective build chosen. Other players would yell at them that they should have done their research online to know what the best choice(s) is/are . When the talents were taken away and replaced with the current system, many of those players bemoaned that design choice, claiming that Blizzard was 'dumbing down' their experience.

    These people really, REALLY need to come to UO. You can spend hours looking for websites that give you the best build ideas, or you can spend HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of hours trying them all yourself. And, in UO, there's no quick respec options. Oh no! No...if you want to try a different skill, and you've already hit your skill cap, you have to tell the game you want to unlearn one skill while learning the new one. Then, as you practice the new one and it slowly goes up, the old one will slowly go down. It's a bit more realistic (and adds a LOT of gravity to your choices given the time investment) than simply paying someone a bit of gold and making a new choice that you can see almost right away.

    So, I created 4 characters. A martial fighter, a bowlady, a wizard and a mule. "Mule" is the term UO players use for any variety of characters they create to do gathering and creation professions. Since you can only max out 6 skills (and many of the skills seem to work best in pairs), you're really forced to create highly specialized characters.

    Just wrapping your head around all 50+ skills to begin making a decision on what approach you want to take can be maddening. The best advice I can give you is to ask around in game and see if you a nice experienced player cannot help give you some early pointers. One, for example, told me to make a "Dexxer," a term for a melee fighter specialized in light, dexterity driven weapons.

    I have to run...but one thing I found out a few days ago. Dying suxz. Seriously. You have to spiritwalk/find a healer (there are plenty wondering outside), have him raise you (at which point you are naked), and run back to your corpse to recover your items. In the mean time ,the bad guys are picking your corpse clean. I suddenly found myself without a shield or armor. Glad they didn't take my sword. I could try to kill them to win my stuff back, but without armor, I'm kinda vulnerable. EVIL. The game does help to address this though. You can 'insure' your armor, depositing some gold for each piece you have. If you die, that amount is forfeit and another lump sum is taken from your bank account. For those of you who feel death doesn't matter enough in modern MMO's, I'm tellin' ya, you are SOOO missing out here :)
    Co-Host on RPGBacktrack. Follow me on Twitter and sub to my blog if you would like!
  • Phillip WillisPhillip Willis Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited September 2013
    Day 10
    I know it's been a lot more than 5 days since I posted a blog entry, but the truth is I've probably only played the game five times since the last time I wrote. My job has been SUPER busy.

    We just uploaded the 100th episode of the RPGBacktrack, where I finally got to talk about Ultima. The problem was that by that time, it was past 11pm and I was already half asleep, hahahaha. I kinda rambled, and missed some major bullet points.

    As I mentioned before, this game is deep. Very, very deep. Those who want open world gaming with deep subsystems, really, you need to just hook up with this game. On the RPGBacktrack, I spoke about how Ultima has a strong "Sims" like quality to it. Similar to any of the Sims games, it has expansions. Each of those expansions added a lot of items and activities that, in turn, interact with each other. So, if you pick up a Sims game today, with all the expansions, you can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of things you can do. It's like that here.

    One small example I learned today.... There are several sheep pens and cotton fields. You can go to them and sheer the sheep or whatnot to get cotton. You then take the cotton to a Elven Spinning wheel to turn it into thread. Take that thread to a Loom to make bolts of cloth. You use a sewing kit and tailoring skill to make clothing. Use your clothing with a vat to color the clothing. Phew! And that's just ONE thing! There's more. A LOT more.

    It's mind blowing. SOOooOooo many more possibilities than you'll ever see out of most MMOs today. Below is just the first floor of my wife's house. Half of the things in the house, she made herself. She decorated and arranged it herself ala Sims. See below.


    Seriously...for those looking for deep and open world​ gaming, you need look no further.
    Co-Host on RPGBacktrack. Follow me on Twitter and sub to my blog if you would like!
  • DrizzlDrizzl Member Full Members
    edited October 2013
    I really wish i could get into my old account :( can't remember the password or email address lol
  • Phillip WillisPhillip Willis Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited October 2013
    Och! I hear ya. And password resets and the such is such a pain. I know. From personal experience.

    I got TWO, count them TWO fountains that make me blessed bandages. My dragon, Toothless, and I go on excursions and clear caves of their goodies :)
    Co-Host on RPGBacktrack. Follow me on Twitter and sub to my blog if you would like!
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