Ultima Online says it has ‘no plans to introduce legacy rulesets’

Seems as if everyone wants to talk legacy servers lately, what with RIFT and World of Warcraft getting on board the vanilla train. Even the 20-year-old Ultima Online has apparently been fielding questions about a potential legacy server, but as Broadsword Producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong explains in the classic MMO’s latest newsletter, the team currently has no plans for such a ruleset. Why? Three big reasons.

For starters, Ultima Online is freakin’ ancient, and getting everyone to agree on which version of the game from the last 20 years constitutes “legacy” would likely be as hard as it’s going to be for the WoW team. I sure wouldn’t want to go back to one of the 1997 builds, when houses didn’t have keys, guilds didn’t exist, and recalling consumed runes. No thanks! (Armstrong doesn’t mention it, but there are already hundreds of UO emulators on the internet proving this reality; all of them have their own version of what “legacy” means. It’s not just a hypothesis she’s floating here!)

The second reason will also sound familiar to WoW players: Armstrong says builds of the game have simply been lost as the game as been physically moved around the country between studios. “It is simply not possible to ‘simply revert’ to any specific period in UO’s history that would satisfy even the most recent idea of a legacy ruleset,” she explains.

And that leads to the third reason: Rebuilding a legacy version that isn’t just a pile of spaghetti code would take a lot of time, money, and people that Broadsword doesn’t have to spare, at least not if it wants to continue supporting the real game.

“Even to return to a pre-[Age of Shadows] ruleset, prior to the expanded itemization that expansion brought, would be an enormous undertaking requiring all loot generation, crafting, skill functionality, core combat functionality, creature attributes, and interaction rules to be evaluated and rebuilt from the ground up. To accomplish this it would take us close to, if not over, a year to accomplish this.”

(She may have read my mind here: My only wish for such a server would be that it be pre-Age of Shadows! That’d be close enough for me.)

Ultimately, she notes, she understands the “desire to bring back the past,” but “there is no guarantee a legacy shard would be worth the enormous development requirement at the cost to supporting our current playerbase.” And that’s that.

MMOers will recall that Ultima Online does maintain Siege Perilous, which is basically a hardcore alternate server, with fairly free-for-all PvP and looting, slowed skill progression and resource acquisition, nerfed fast travel, and a player-centered economy, but Siege is no spring chicken, having launched in 1999, two years after the original game. (Mugen was originally the Japanese version of this alt server.) We’re positive that the community there would love some fresh meat new blood!

Broadsword is also currently working on a free-to-play transition for the game that is still expected this spring.

Source: Newsletter
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10 Comments on "Ultima Online says it has ‘no plans to introduce legacy rulesets’"

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Laephis

I find their reasons to be shallow, especially since hobbyists are able to do this for free and in their spare time. But maybe they are really strapped for resources and this F2P change is a last attempt to keep the doors open.

While I would prefer a legacy server, what would really get me to come back to official servers would be a “clean slate” shard where everyone started on the same playing field again. I haven’t seen any indication that they are planning to do that, though.

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Bryan Gregory

Sadly, I just don’t think UO is going to last much longer anyway. Retail UO servers are such ghost towns you can’t really call the game an MMO anymore. If you want to enjoy UO and actually play with other players, you pretty much have to play on player run servers. But the UO community is plagued with hacks, cheats, and terrible human beings, not to mention the gameplay just plain hasn’t aged well at all. Macro/bot leveling your skills while you sleep/AFK is not a game, IMO – so you can get to the “real” game which is hardly anything at all. On top of all of this, there are so many newer games that are much more enjoyable and feel like true UO successors, like ARK for example. You’re better off getting your UO fix by not playing UO. :\

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squid

…but what’s stopping them from simply using the RunUO code base or that of any of the other classic-era player-run servers?

Sounds mostly like an issue of a lack of manpower and honestly I doubt there’s enough demand to support the effort. People already have plenty of options on player-run servers like Legacy UO and as nice as official servers are, I’m not sure I’d pay a sub to play UO again (or that oldschool UO can be effectively monetized any other way)

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TotalCowage .

In my time, they were already running on a shoe-string, yes. But even if they had WoW levels of staffing, it’s probably the legal issues that would stop it… you’d basically be seen as officially recognizing the right of people to steal your copyrights and trademarks, to the point you had to negotiate to get them back again. And as you lose your copyright if you don’t defend it, no company in the world is going to risk that appearance.

As it currently is, it’s been left a grey area… probably because the private shards are serving a population core UO can’t reach. And arguing where stolen legacy code ended and custom individual code began would be a legal nightmare that current Broadsword probably don’t have the money or time to fight. Meanwhile the private shards act as a form of advertising for the core game, so…

And my personal view is, I’m glad they’re out there so that, unlike something like poor old City of Heroes, UO will survive in some shape or form long after the official servers shut down. Like you, I’m not sure there’s enough interest for UO to go F2P for very long… but I’ll be sad to see the old girl go when she does.

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TotalCowage .

For starters, Ultima Online is freakin’ ancient, and getting everyone to agree on which version of the game from the last 20 years constitutes “legacy” would likely be as hard as it’s going to be for the WoW team.

They’ve actually tried in the past to appeal to “classic” nostalgia, with predictable results. Mesanna in particular has a soft spot for the old villainy, but they’re absolutely impossible to please.

The problem is that the PvP/PK crowd are so determined to rules-lawyer each other to prove who is the most hardcore, they’ll smash their own content rather than compromise on even the smallest thing; I had the same issue as an EM trying to set up events in Felucca; I spent weeks in open discussion trying to get an acceptable set of rules made for the players for a PvP competition, whilst they tried to ensure the fights were stacked in their favor (No pets, no bolas, no spells, no being allowed to hit them back…) or used the discussion as an excuse to trash talk each other… In the end I had to just stop and decide a rule set myself, but on the day, no one would fight because one of the most infamously toxic guilds wanted to take part, and everyone expected them to cheat.

Later, same guild would try and manipulate the EM after me, to say they’d not only fought everyone, but won and should get public credit for it. It didn’t matter what damage that would do to the entire structure and faith in the game; they wanted to be told they’d won no matter what.

Meanwhile… Felucca still exists for anyone who wants it. And remains as largely dead as ever, because as soon as the alternatives were there, the majority of players fled the old lands and went where the PKs couldn’t touch them. And the player shards, as the article notes, have hundreds of different interpretations on what “Classic” even means.

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squid

The problem is that the PvP/PK crowd are so determined to rules-lawyer each other to prove who is the most hardcore, they’ll smash their own content rather than compromise on even the smallest thing

Modern-day UO PvPers, at least on player-run servers, are some of the shittiest 30–40 year-olds you’ll ever meet. Throw in Razor, Steam client, EasyUO and all the other cheats and hacks…yeah, it just can’t be done.

Honestly, a Trammel-only server might do alright, but the aforementioned PvP man-babies would burn down the [UO-affiliated corner of the] internet if it were ever suggested.

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TotalCowage .

Yup. #notallpvps and all that, some of my Fel players were lovely even…

But Ultima in particular has a hardcore of people who came of age in 1997, and haven’t grown up since, or done anything that made them feel more important than being a |3o|\|3 |)e\/\/|) killing newbies in Brit Graveyard, and have meta-sized that attitude into all round self defeating toxicity since.

Indeed, much of the horrendous community experiences coming out of Shroud of the Avatar is from the exact same people and attitudes, because Portalarium have tried to claim they could be all things to all people, and that “Old School” PvPers would find a home there… In reality, despite visits to UOForever this week (see recent Massively article) and with final, we mean it this time, launch in 2 months, they’re still trying to design a PvP/Loot system any one likes, because they’ve not grasped that’s an impossible circle to square. The only thing that would please the man-babies would drive away the PvE and RMT core user base they’ve designed for.

So they end up with endless rage threads there about how if they can’t take everything someone is carrying after killing them, they’ve been lied too etc…

Then again, Shroud hasn’t even finalised standard PvE combat yet, because they’re desperately spinning to find an excuse why the vast majority don’t enjoy playing the game, but please don’t quit yet, it’s getting better we swear…!

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squid

I was originally planning to try SotA when it was “done,” but after following it for a couple years here on MOP, I’m not going to waste my money or time. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything good about the game from someone who wasn’t psychologically trapped by the money they’d already sunk into it.

Watching the whole process unfold has just been really sad. It seems like poor management and an inability to stick to a specific development plan—complicated by unsurprising funding issues—doomed what could have been a neat spiritual successor to UO.

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TotalCowage .

It’s permanently free to play now, so you’ll only waste time for trying it.

Soooo much time. Loading times are still abysmal on HDD. Use an SSD if you have one.

You will need to do it via their homepage, as the F2P client isn’t on Steam (I suspect so they can avoid the ability to track player retention, or for people to leave more negative reviews) but you can decide for yourself how it plays… just don’t call it F2P on the forums. They prefer “Freemium”.

You should consider checking for yourself though, because I’m personally eternally biased against the game, not just because of my disappointment with a childhood hero who taught the virtues sullying the legacy of Ultima with a game built around real world financial greed; but because criticizing it has led to over a year now of psychopathic harassment that Portalarium have been told about, and even given one of my crime reference numbers, and refuse to act because the community mod is apparently covering for the person doing it.

I went from working on UO as an EM, and from the wages of that investing nearly £300 in Shroud, to selling it all off and never trusting Lord British, or crowd funding ever again.

But you might have a different experience. Give it a go, and be sure to tell people what it was like for you.

thrash_hermit
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thrash_hermit

Volunteers and hobbyists lapped the official game long ago. If you want a great experience playing legacy UO, pick a free shard and use the Orion client. It’s as good as it can get.