Choose My Adventure: Getting started in Ultima Online

The interesting thing about this installment of Choose My Adventure is that it’s probably the only time I could ever do this particular title. Not because it’s going away anytime soon, by all indications, but because there’s little to no way that you can actually talk about Ultima Online in the present.

If you don’t know anything about Ultima Online, it behooves you to do some research. This is really the origin point of MMOs as a whole, the game upon which all other graphical MMOs were based in no small part. You can quibble as much as you want about whether or not something else might have been a little bit further along or deserves a bigger nod, but at the end of the day it’s not an argument that actually matters. This is the starting point.

Which means discussing it at all can, at times, feel rather silly.

I don’t mean that as an insult, to be clear. It’s simply that UO cannot be critiqued like any more normal game because it’s where the whole rigamarole started. It’s also the longest-running MMO out there by an absolute non-coincidence, having almost reached the point that it could legally drink. The game is the progenitor of everything, and whatever missteps it made can easily be explained away by the fact that it had literally nothing else to work from.

Really, I can remember younger me reading through gaming magazines of the time, reading the strange sidebars about this game in development and wondering at how in the world something like this would even work. I didn’t have a computer that could run it or an internet connection at home, so the idea of playing it at age 14 was a completely foreign notion, but the idea of what it might be delighted me.

Of course, as mentioned, I didn’t have a computer to run it or a stable internet connection at home, so I was never really going to play it; I skipped that altogether. By the time I had both of those things, we were knee-deep in a game with lots of big advertisements that thoroughly turned me off from the genre altogether. UO is not part of my history, it’s just part of the genre’s history.

And the reality is that it’s fine right there. It doesn’t need to impress me or anyone else. It could shut down tomorrow and it would still have its place in history, and thus it’s not a game I would usually even consider for CMA simply because, well, there’s nothing to say.

What could I possibly find? Even if my impressions were “nah, the game isn’t really all that fun,” it has the deference afforded to it by launching the whole genre. There’s not much more to say than that.

Fun is sometimes relative.

But now, things are a little bit different because the game has launched its free-to-play service. Now is the time that everyone can jump in, play the game, and possibly swarm the servers looking for whatever treasures might remain to be uncovered within this venerable title. You can satisfy your curiosity about this genre-wide origin point without needing to put down a single dollar.

Well, unless you consider buying your computer and such as part of the expense, but I think that’s kind of a normal household item these days.

Thus, this CMA is going to be a little bit different. There’s no way for me to evaluate the game as a whole or offer my impressions of the whole thing; even if I had the time to spend a month doing the deepest possible dive, it simply wouldn’t be the same. Like anything else, there’s no way for me to recapture the community that has passed through the game for two decades, and I certainly can’t recreate the experience of connecting with the title as a whole and the people contained therein. It’s not possible and I don’t really want to try.

What I can evaluate it on is the basis of right now. Leaving aside any questions of the game and its place in history, is it worth it right now to pick up this game and play it? Will you derive joy and satisfaction from picking this game up if you have never played it before now?

Because that is something that I can answer. I can’t tell you if the Endless Journey option is a good one for you if you used to play and might want to hop back in (although that answer is available too). Leaving aside that I still have games I subscribe to just to support the title even though my play schedule is something less than active, this game has been running for two decades. There’s no effective critique to be offered of the game as a whole, and saying things like “open PvP was a mistake” might be accurate but are also years and years out of date. That ship has sailed.

But right now, you could download UO alongside countless other titles competing for the same time and at the exact same price point of “free, but please like us enough to pay for this.” So is the game something worth downloading and playing right now for someone who is not necessarily heavily invested in the game as it has been?

This is what we’re going to find out. We’ll just have to wait and confer.

If you were alive during a certain period of gaming, there's familiarity here.

Of course, before we get into the meat of this particular event, we need to start by nailing down some ground rules. First and foremost is the question of whether or not I should use an Endless Journey account or just bite the bullet and subscribe normally. My personal feeling is the former because that’s sort of the point here, but I can see both cases being made.

In short, while the Endless Journey option is what we’re talking about as a whole, I do have a policy of spending money on the titles I play. And one might argue that I’m not getting the “full” experience otherwise. So, as I usually do when there are two options which can both have reasonable cases made, I’m going to put this to a poll.

CMA: Should I subscribe to UO?

  • No, go for the Endless Journey option (67%, 114 Votes)
  • Yes, do the classic option (33%, 56 Votes)

Total Voters: 170

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The other point to consider is the “deluxe” starter pack, which we made some noise about; it’s obviously a pretty significant starting advantage for a new player to have all of this stuff. Again, buying that would not leave me factory fresh by any stretch of the imagination, but it would certainly make life easier. Of course, the flip side is that it would certainly make life easier. (You can decide for yourself which repetition of that line is meant as positive.) Once more to the polls!

CMA: Should I pick up the deluxe starter pack?

  • No, that's kind of paying to win (77%, 123 Votes)
  • Yes, that's kind of paying to win (23%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 159

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Both polls will run until Friday at 6:00 p.m. EDT, so you’ve got some time to get in your answers. Leave your feedback down below or mail it along to eliot@massivelyop.com; I’ll be back next week with the first recounting of my experiences.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. He is far less hopeful than you may be about this particular adventure, but perhaps that was the point.
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Aelzen
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Aelzen

I’ve voted alongside my current experience. I’m giving UO another go (having left it for almost 2 decades now) purely on the free to play premise. If I can make something of an account without paying a dime, I’ll probably end up subscribing for the extra perks. If I can’t, and the restrictions just piss me off, I’ll put it down and walk away again.

How a company handles it’s f2p option shows a lot about how they value their players. Heavy restrictions that make you feel less than second class are not inspiring. It feels like something has been done begrudgingly, not out of a passion for their product and to make others passionate about it too. WOW’s level 20 f2p (read:trial) comes to mind. You can’t really get a taste of the game in any real depth. Counter to that is Eve’s offering to let you make a basic pilot that can be valued in almost any part of its game; it’s still restricted, but only the more complex and specialist skill paths. All about how and what is presented.

Not all games offer f2p as an option, and that’s ok too. It’s a statement of confidence in their product that they think you’ll like it enough to pay right away. I won’t object to it if I really like a game, but I will do my research before fronting that cash to make sure I won’t regret it. I would not, for example be buying uo at all if it didn’t have it’s f2p option. I’ve played that a while ago, and it may have changed or improved, but I’m not about to slap down money just to find out.

Rant aside, I’ll be following this CMA closely to see what I may miss during the similar adventure I’m about to embark on.

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Kickstarter Donor
Sevenwinds

I would like a Bree and Eliot podcast on UO, sidebar.

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Bruno Brito

Go full F2P and report back on the fun factor of it.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

i’m excited about this CMA, i wanted to see more UO content on this website.