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Ultima Online

Working As Intended: Lessons from the history of MMO housing

World of Warcraft, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Bugs, Game Mechanics, Launches, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Vanguard, RIFT, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge, WildStar, Housing, Player-Generated Content, Working As Intended, Landmark

Hustis House - Daniel Case
Once upon a time, a subscription MMORPG sandbox had open-world housing, only there wasn't quite enough for everyone. Well, there was, but there wasn't enough of it in safe lands, so a lot of the people who wanted a place to live had to live in dangerous places they didn't like, places where they could be killed on their doorstep by other players. Even most of the plots in the safe lands were so remote or allowed for such small homes that they were undesirable. In fact, there were only a few housing plots on every server that afforded a strategic advantage in PvP or trade or storage, and if you didn't own one of those, you were at a distinct disadvantage. And when new lands opened up, scripters and gold farmers were first in line to grab the best plots and sell them on Ebay for hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of dollars. And legit players were pissed.

I speak, of course, not of ArcheAge but of Ultima Online.

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Vice vs Virtue PvP system arrives on Ultima Online's test center

Fantasy, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Patches, PvP, News Items, Ultima Online, Sandbox, Dungeons, Subscription

In testing now on Ultima Online's test server is publish 86.3, better known as the Vice vs Virtue patch. You remember the virtues, those iconic and ambiguous philosophical principles guiding the Avatar? OK, now forget all that because peeveepee, guys.

Yes, Vice vs Virtue is a a new system designed to bring a fresh version of Order and Chaos consensual PvP -- any PvP, really -- to landmasses that are currently PvE, including Trammel and most of the expansion territories launched in the last forever. The opt-in faction-based system brings the battle to the core cities of the game and rewards participants with a special currency that can be traded for everything from mounts and artifacts (gear) to murder pardons and hair dye. Look, UO players take their hair dye very seriously.

The patch also introduces new trader quests to the game and revamps dungeon loot spawns to encourage ventures to the open-PvP Felucca facet. The devs have invited players to help stress test the systems this afternoon.

Ultima Online overhauls factional PvP in publish 86

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Guilds, Patches, Previews, PvP, News Items, Ultima Online, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

Broadsword Online has announced that Ultima Online's publish 86 will arrive on the test server this evening. Notably, the patch includes the first phase of the game's new Vice vs Virtue system, a massive ground-up rework of the existing faction PvP system intended to bring rewarding, objective-based PvP back to the cities. The update also features a new trading-based quest system, new property generation mechanics for spawned loot, and a refreshed Cleanup Britannia vendor.

Check out the complete patch notes on the official site. If you're a former player thinking of dropping by your old haunt to see how it's doing, recall that last month, the developers hinted at a return-to-UO promotion coming in August.

Ultima Online patch delayed because of Mythic shutdown

Fantasy, Game Mechanics, Patches, News Items, Ultima Online, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

While last month the Broadsword Online team reassured players of its games that they would not be affected by the shutdown of Mythic Entertainment, Ultima Online Producer Bonnie "Mesanna" Armstrong has admitted today that update 86, originally slated for July, has been delayed until at least mid-August. "The shutdown of the Mythic Studio [...] has caused us to move the rest of our build machines from that office to the office in Herndon before we were expecting," she wrote in her producer's letter today. "So that has caused a delay in our publish time."

But there's also some good news for players of the veteran MMO. Here's some of what Armstrong says the team is currently working on:
  • a new trade quest to acquaint players with the world,
  • new Clean-up-Britannia rewards,
  • a new interface for the enhanced client (helped along by a well-known player modder),
  • a revamp of the Advisor program (what used to be called the Counselor program),
  • revisions to the global loot system,
  • anniversary rewards for the game's 18th birthday in September,
  • and a return-to-UO promotion for former players in August.
Armstrong also notes that the UO team is looking to hire an engineer and site designer.

The Daily Grind: Have you ever volunteered for an MMO?

Fantasy, EverQuest, Business Models, Culture, Events (In-Game), MMO Industry, Opinion, Ultima Online, The Daily Grind, Roleplaying, Miscellaneous, Player-Generated Content

A few weeks ago in my Working As Intended column, I brought up the role gamemasters and officially appointed player helpers had in fostering communities, directing roleplaying, and aiding newbies and event organizers in early MMOs. We're not talking about just floating a HELPER tag over your head (though most modern MMOs lack even that); old-school games literally ran programs that traded game time (or just a hearty thanks!) to players who would log into special accounts or robed characters and lend a hand, officiate a wedding, or help a clueless nooblet find the bank.

While I was focusing primarily on Ultima Online in that article, just a few days later, SOE tweeted a post about the EverQuest franchise's alive-and-kicking volunteer Guide program. Participating player Guides are now expected to run dynamic events and quests rather than interact in chat, but the concept is the same, even in 2014, however strange it must seem to newcomers to the genre.

Today I'm wondering how many of our readers have ever volunteered in a semi-official or official capacity within their MMO of choice. How did it treat you, and do you want to see programs like these become more widespread?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Perfect Ten: MMOs from the '90s

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, EverQuest, Lineage, Meridian 59, Opinion, Ultima Online, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

saved by the bell
The course of MMO history and the developer pioneers who forged a path to online gaming have long fascinated me (so much so that I write an occasional column about it). While we often think of MMOs as modern entertainment barely out of its infancy, the truth is that you can trace the industry back decades to see a fringe group of devs and players striving to make these games a reality.

While the number of MMOs in existence exploded in the early- and mid-2000s (and hasn't stopped growing since), the 1990s are often an overlooked decade that featured more than the one or two games that are usually mentioned in brief history overviews. There were actually far more titles than most assume, even if you dismiss text-based MUDs and the like. Today we're going to run down 10 MMOs that were born during the era of the dot-com revolution, dial-up modems, and the peak of the Simpsons (third through seventh seasons).

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Working As Intended: The forgotten fields of Green Acres

Fantasy, Bugs, Business Models, Events (In-Game), Game Mechanics, Guilds, MMO Industry, Opinion, Ultima Online, Humor, Sandbox, Housing, Crowdfunding, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG, Working As Intended

Paolo Neo
My first trip to Ultima Online's Green Acres was in 1998. The first guild I'd ever joined had just split up into a bunch of... let's call them "philosophically incompatible" groups, and I was still hanging out with some of the shadier types because I was a clueless teenager in my first MMO and wanted desperately to fit in and hadn't yet figured out where I belonged.

"Hit this rune," my new guild leader commanded. His favorite murderin' weapon was a poisoned warfork. He was not a nice man. "I'm being evicted from my safehouse in Green Acres. Help me move my crap."

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Mythic closes, 'end of an era' for former MMO studio

Fantasy, Dark Age of Camelot, MMO Industry, Warhammer Online, Ultima Online, Sunsets

We saw this coming, but it doesn't make it any less regrettable: Long-time MMO studio Mythic Entertainment has been shut down by EA.

"We are closing the EA Mythic location in Fairfax, Virginia, as we concentrate mobile development in our other studio locations. We are working with all impacted employees to provide assistance in finding new opportunities, either within EA or with other companies via an upcoming job fair," EA told Kotaku.

Former Mythic lead Josh Drescher tweeted his reaction to the news: "Condolences to everyone at Mythic today. It's the end of an era, but you were all part of something amazing."

Mythic shuttered Warhammer Online last December, while Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, and many Mythic developers moved over to Broadsword Online Games this past February.

The Daily Grind: What's the nastiest player behavior you've ever seen in an MMO?

Fantasy, Culture, MMO Industry, Ultima Online, Massively Meta, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous

It was early 1998, and I had been playing Ultima Online only a few short months. A male character with an offensive name approached me and began harassing my toon, using a quick succession of emotes to simulate something that I suppose to him looked like pelvic thrusts as he informed everyone at Serpent's Hold bank, including my not-at-all-amused guildies, that he was "raping" me. I think I was too astonished to be upset, and my guildies immediately called a GM, who arrived swiftly, renamed the miscreant "George," and whisked him off to prison. It didn't scar me for life or anything; I was already accustomed to rampant murder and thievery and espionage. But it was a brutal introduction to online behavior (and probably a brutal introduction to online justice for the character suddenly known as George).

Curiously, that lame attempt at faux "rape" paled in comparison to the extreme psychological warfare and character defamation that I saw presumably much more mature roleplayers employ in later games. That, I found far more emotionally disturbing.

How about you guys -- do you have a memory of a really nasty display of online behavior in an MMO? What's the worst you've ever seen?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot embark on Steam Greenlight campaign

Fantasy, Dark Age of Camelot, Business Models, MMO Industry, News Items, Ultima Online, Promotions, Sandbox, Subscription, MMORPG

Since its acquisition of Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot in February, Broadsword Online Games has not been content to let the titles sit around merely getting older. Earlier this month, the team hosted a large state-of-the-game chat about the future of UO's design, and now the developers have posted their latest ambitions: a spot on Steam bathed in green light for the venerable old MMORPGs.

"We are in the process of getting UO on Steam but need your help. Please go here and vote for UO! Thank you for all your support!" wrote UO Producer Bonnie Armstrong on the official site today. DAOC's Steam Greenlight campaign is likewise now live.

You heard the lady. Chop, chop.

Ultima Online's April state of the game address

Fantasy, Bugs, Events (Real-World), Game Mechanics, News Items, Ultima Online, Community Q&A, Sandbox, Subscription

On Friday, Ultima Online Producer Bonnie Armstrong and the Broadsword Online Games crew took to Google Hangouts for an informal state of the game address and player question-and-answer session. The event marked one of the first times we've heard from the Broadsword team about its plans for the game since its pseudo-acquisition a few months ago. The highlights?
  • The artwork update is still on the way, as are new housing tiles.
  • A resurrection of the old MyUO.com website is planned, along with a revamp of the new and returning player experience.
  • The team hopes to resume putting out one expansion or booster every year.
On the downside, the team isn't currently working on new housing areas, new items for the cash shop, or storage expansions, and there's no ETA for the bug-free return of vendor search, which was implemented and promptly went kaput just a few weeks ago.

An interesting factoid pointed out by Stratics poster Nails Warstein: The player split between the old classic client and the newest enhanced client is now 50-50.

Ultima Online patches in searchable player vendors

Fantasy, Economy, Patches, News Items, Ultima Online, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, Subscription, MMORPG

Ultima Online's new developer Broadsword announced earlier today that the latest patch for the legendary sandbox has arrived. Chief among the new additions is the long-awaited vendor search feature, which allows players to search existing player-owned shop vendors across the shard for specific items and then pay to teleport directly to that vendor to make the purchase.

The patch also kicked off the game's Easter gift period because nothing says Britannia like Easter bunnies and marshmallow ducklings. In six different colors, mind you.

Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #10-1

World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, EverQuest II, Lineage 2, Lord of the Rings Online, Opinion, Star Trek Online, Ultima Online, LEGO Universe, Runes of Magic, Miscellaneous, Firefall, Jukebox Heroes, Music

We're finally here: my top 10 MMO theme tracks. I anticipate that out of all of the weeks, this will be the most controversial, since not only am I proclaiming the 10 best, but you'll realize which of your favorite games I've left out of the top 40 entirely.

A final reminder as to my self-imposed rules for this list: I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So there were no points added or subtracted based on my love of the game. I'm counting down the best music, period.

If you missed earlier parts of this series, check out themes #40-31, #30-21, and #20-11. Otherwise, hit that continue button and get listening already!

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The Daily Grind: Do you keep MMO accounts on for veteran rewards?

Fantasy, Super-hero, City of Heroes, Business Models, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Ultima Online, The Daily Grind, Miscellaneous, Anniversaries, Subscription

I've got a guildie who's a bit insane. He is notorious for staying subscribed to MMOs he's not playing, sinking tons and tons of money into these games but not logging in. Is he doing it to support developers? Nope. He does it for the veteran rewards. Seriously. He once told me he stayed subbed to City of Heroes because he really, really wanted a veteran minipet. When I consider what that minipet must have cost him in subscription fees, all I can do is think how many brand-new games he could have picked up on Steam for all that dough!

And yet here I am looking at my Ultima Online account the same way. The account is 16.5 years old with nine years of vet rewards on it. I left it on a few extra months last year to get to the ridable ethereal polar bear mount reward because hello, ridable ethereal polar bear mount, right?

What about you -- do you leave your subscription MMO accounts on to collect vet rewards?

Every morning, the Massively bloggers probe the minds of their readers with deep, thought-provoking questions about that most serious of topics: massively online gaming. We crave your opinions, so grab your caffeinated beverage of choice and chime in on today's Daily Grind!

The Game Archaeologist: Ultima Online field report

Fantasy, Interviews, Opinion, Ultima Online, The Game Archaeologist, Subscription

A recent Daily Grind here on Massively asked about what games readers think deserve more coverage on the site. That's a loaded question, of course, but the answers were still very interesting to me, especially the desire from some of you to read more about older games.

Even though I've looked at the history and development of classic MMOs, I don't often know what's going on inside of them right now. With insular communities and a dearth of news being put forth by the studio, the only way that I can think of to find out the real skinny is to ask those who do still love and play these games regularly.

So that's when the idea for a "field report" series on Game Archaeologist came forth. Every so often I'm going to track down players of classic MMOs and see what's happening in them and their communities from these first-hand perspectives. Today we've got Dimitri and Common Sense from Ultima Online, who graciously took the time to answer my questions.

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