Ultima Online
Preview by Al Giovetti, 09/15/96
Price: TBA
Genre: adventure (multi-player internet computer fantasy role playing)
Release: December 1996
Developer: Origin
Music:
Art:
Programming
Associate Producer: Star Long
Producer: Richard Garriott
Publisher: Origin
Phone: 800-245-4525
Website: http://www.owo.com/info/lizards.html, http://www.ea.com/origin.html, www.owo.com
To find out more about Ultima One, email origin at: suport@owo.com. Requirements:

Beta test two phase started August 1, 1997.

History: For almost 15 years, many of the role playing adventure gamers have dreamt of a land where they could go to play classic games, like Ultima and Wizardry. These were the games that caused many to purchase their computers, many years ago. These were the quests that launched their own quests into the worlds of mystery in the cyber domain. How fitting that Lord Brittish and the Ultima series of games, which are loved by most all of the original gamers starting back in the late 70ís and early 80ís, should be the company that goes to the web with this great idea.

Plot: You take the role as a newcomer to this land of Ultima, unfettered by earlier quests and eager to continue. Your proficiencies are skill based and every citizen is limited to ten skills. You only take up additional skills at the expense of loosing old skills, by this device even old and new human players are on the same footing. The goal of players is to spend time online, prosper in the society, and build an empire to defend against thieves and evil doers.

Game play: The game keeps track of the fame and fortune of all members of the game. Billboards and not email will allow for the transmission of messages. Citizens of Ultima Online can build houses, castles, businesses, and perhaps even run for office. Talking with non player characters (NPCs, computer controlled non-characters) and human characters can get confusing since the algorithms that control the NPCs are quite complex and can even fool the game designers. Steve tells us that we can tell the difference by certain misspellings and the preoccupation with sex that humans have an NPCs do not.

Everything in the land has a purpose and an effect. If you eliminate or cull a population of one thing, another population will grow or suffer due to the effect. All parts, grass, grain, honey, goblins, deer, rabbits, trees, air, water, fish, and other things have a purpose and when the ecology gets out of balance there are consequences.

Players can make a living by collecting grain, baking bread, selling the bread, mining iron ore, smelting it, and again selling it. A myriad of professions and businesses can be started and fortunes made. NPCs can be hired to do the work for you and a profit can be made from the business, even with absentee owners.

Scripted quests and subquests will abound that will charge characters with exploration, killing of monsters, and other events both economic and political. Computer controlled monsters and characters will have intelligence and be sufficiently complex to give them social structure. Monsters will not just attack to be mean, but for reasons of hunger, economic need, something like a Maslow chart of needs and desires.

Rules about unprovoked attack or attacking another player within a city prohibit senseless random mayhem. Attacks are punishable by incarceration or worse, fines. There will be an involved judicial system which will meet out swift justice. There must be a balance between the guilds of the dark arts and the rights of citizens to live unmolested under the protection of the city guards.

Graphics: Graphics resemble those of Ultima VI where the NPCs have a life of their own and continue on a daily schedule of human like activities. The high detailed high-resolution graphics

Animation: Most of the animations will center around the activities of fighting and conducting lives. Baking bread, drawing water, making dough, making pastries, and other events that will be familiar to those who played Ultima 6.

Voice actors:

Music score: The normal high quality orchestral Ultima music that is constantly changing in ebbs and flows of melody.

Sound effects: Normal.

Multi-player: This is an internet game, currently for 200 simultaneous internet characters. More will be accommodated given time and once the game is out of beta.

Letters
Date: Sat, 12 Jul 1997 08:48:50 -0500
From: ultima_online_news_@origin.ea.com
To: ultima-online-news@origin.ea.com

Dear Ultima Online Beta Tester, As we promised , the second phase of the Ultima Online public Beta test is about to begin. CDs are being pressed and shipped even as you read this. As always, we thank those of you who have waited so patiently for so long.

The CDs will be mailed in lots of several thousand at a time, and we expect all of them to be in the mail by the end of this week. This does include all international testers' CDs. If you were in the Phase 1 Beta, you will be included in Phase 2 as well (but your Phase 1 CD will no longer work - your Phase 1 and Phase 2 CDs look EXACTLY alike, so mark your Phase 1 CD now so you'll know the difference). This phase of the test will officially start on July 9, meaning that with a bit of luck, the servers should be up and ready when testers begin to receive their Phase 2 CDs.

There are no plans to send out any further CDs (other than the Phase 2 CDs) for testing - updates and changes will be downloaded from our servers automatically upon connection. Your Phase 2 test CD's installation program will take you through the registration and logon processes. Your CDs will come with a unique serial number stickered to the CD sleeve - do NOT lose this number, you'll need it for registration, and probably several other times throughout the test. If you have any trouble, please use the customer support mail link on the Ultima Online web site (www.owo.com). Remember, ORIGIN Customer Support will not be able to offer phone support for this test. The duration of the test is undetermined at this time, but we anticipate ample playing time for all testers.

Those of you who participated in or followed Phase 1 will find this version dramatically improved, with new character art and animation and new option screens, some experiments with starting equipment that you should find intriguing, and of course improved play balance. There remain, however, many important balance issues that can only be addressed by the test itself, and we ask your patience and cooperation as we resolve them together.

Some realities of the testing environment for which we apologize in advance: we will have to take the servers down at unpredictable intervals for updates and adjustments. You should also expect to have all current characters erased at certain times, without warning, so that all testers will have to create new characters every so often. Also, it may be necessary at certain times during the test to limit server capacity (in order to insure that nobody ever receives a "server busy" message in the final game, such limits may be necessary during Beta). Please be assured that when such events occur, it is our priority to make them last as short a time as possible, and that they are for the good of the final game.

On the other hand, there will also be certain times when our goal will be to get everybody possible online all at once, to test the servers to their limits. Please plan to attend such events if at all possible. There will certainly be something interesting going on.

All of us here at ORIGIN have been immensely gratified at your keen interest in Ultima Online thus far, and we trust that with this phase of the public test, and with the approaching final release, we can show you that your faith and patience have been justified.

Your Obedient Servant, Lord British

P.S. On a personal note, my dear fellow citizens of the glorious lands of Britannia, a great challenge lies before us. The true nature of this world will only become clear to those who seek it. Those who follow the path of Virtue will surely know, as do I, what we must do to solve the problems of our world and others like it. Seek you to understand the truth of shattered Britannia!

Hints:
Ultima Online Hints
The Ultima Online Gathering
Mental's Ultima Online Page
Maps of UO

Letters:

  1. Subject: How do I get the Test version
    Date: Sat, 2 Aug 1997 22:24:35 -0500
    From: "Lord RaveN" lordraven@rcsinet.com
    How do I get the test version of Ultima Online
    Ans: Email them at support@owo.com or go to their web page directly at http://www.owo.com/
  2. Subject: Bravo! From: Lou Capuano
    Having played UO during the Beta Test, and then in the first 6 months of its start, I was greatly refreshed to read your article on the internet. I could not agree with you more, in fact, although it truly broke my heart, I canceled my UO account shortly after they changed the recall spell so you could not recall in or out of dungeons. I think UO is the best role-playing game on the internet, but I simply could not take the player killing anymore. I too wrote an article about the player killing, and included what I thought to be an acceptable solution. Unfortunately, UO never implicated a NON-PKING Server. Not even one. Anyway, if you would like to read my article, it is at: www.mpogd.com/editorials/ed59.htmlBest of luck to you, and again... BRAVO!! Lou Capuano

References
Trent Ward, http://www.gamespot.com/previews/ultimao/index.html
Steve Bauman, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 22.
Jason Cross, Online Gaming ReviewUltima Online:The Great Experiment

Please send us your comments and suggestions.