You don’t need to be a brand-new and modern MMORPG to suffer major cheating scandals, something the nearly 20-year-old Ultima Online has reminded us this week.
In its most recent newsletter, UO studio Broadsword explains that an Event Moderator — one of the studio contractors paid to run live events for the game’s production shards — was caught cheating, generating what appears to have been large amounts of rare-dyed cloth and an unknown quantities of unique items, which were then circulated into the already beleaguered player economy. In UO, the so-called “rares market” involves the sale and display and items that exist only in tiny batches thanks to these types of customized events, and a large part of the game (and its bloated gold economy) revolves around trading legitimate rares. It goes without saying that mass-creating those types of items for personal gain is the worst offense for a studio contractor.
“The Event Moderator program has been going strong nearly 8 years now, and we have all worked hard to ensure its success,” Producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong told players in the newsletter. “Please know that this situation has not been taken lightly, nor is this behavior tolerated.”
The fired EGM has apologized to the players and staff on the Stratics forum, suggesting his rares-collecting hobby had become an obsession that led to corruption. He apparently owned many accounts and homes full of rares in-game — on my own current home shard, as a matter of fact — and while Mesanna says all his accounts have been banned, an investigation into other buildings and items is apparently still ongoing.
The rares “will not be displayed like a trophy,” Mesanna says. “I am not going to encourage or put this type of behavior on a pedestal.” The houses will be emptied and raffled among the playerbase in the next few months, but players are torn over whether they want to see the legal rares on the accounts, some of which have historical value in the game, destroyed in this way.
In happier UO news, the team pushed out Publish 97 last month and is currently working on 98, which will release this summer and include 20th anniversary rewards, Halloween events, new collectibles, and a storyline arc “to mark this major milestone in Ultima Online’s history.”