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.