In preparing tomorrow’s birthday piece for Ultima Online, I confidently wrote that Ultima Online was not going free-to-play because that’s what the devs always say, so stop asking. Turns out that’s not quite accurate, as during the game’s real-life 20th anniversary celebration yesterday, the Broadsword team announced that Ultima Online is getting a free-to-play mode.
The mode is called The Endless Journey, and according to players in attendance, players who take advantage of it will find it’s somewhat similar to the existing trial for the game, only it’s usable on existing accounts. You’ll have a (extremely) limited trial-only banking inventory with no access to your “real” bank, no access to housing placement, and several other limitations, including not being able to use ghosts to spy in certain high-PvP areas and being forbidden to multi-box. It is not clear how vendor purchases will affect freebie players.
It does seem players who decide to upgrade their accounts will still be expected to subscribe (and presumably purchase future expansions), just as the game is played right now, which makes it F2P only in the limited style of EVE Online. As one UOSS moderator put it, it looks like “the equivalent of a very limited F2P, but probably wouldn’t meet the standard definition of a ‘real’ F2P+purchases game,” chiefly because you can’t do much in the game without both a home and full bank access. (I tend to agree – it’s actually worse than the existing free trial accounts, only it also works on existing accounts.)
One strange quirk? If you sub up, drop a house, and then unsub, you won’t be able to log into that account until your house falls or you pay again. So if you take part in the popular method of subscribing for a month and letting your account lapse for three months before returning in order to keep your house, you can still do that, but you won’t be able to play on that account in the interim.
Ahead of the conversion, all accounts will be upgraded to the current latest expansion, 2015’s Stygian Abyss, and Mesanna apparently advised attendees not to pay to upgrade themselves since that is happening soon — suggesting the conversion is happening soon too.
The team is also apparently working on a virtue vs. vice update, a second go at ocean-going content, improved community collections, a player-generated quest system, and official forums (at least the third attempt at this too).