Gaming historians have long documented that Ultima Online was something of a communal wild west when it created its open FFA PvP sandbox – a scenario that seems obvious now but only for the benefit of shared hindsight. That same hindsight was discussed by Richard Vogel, the senior producer of UO, in a panel at this year’s GDC, who recounts some of the unruly behavior of players in the early days.
“We learned about player behavior like no one else learned before us. We learned how toxic players can be when you have no boundaries […] no consequences. We had the ugly side of human behavior come out big time in this game. We said ‘no boundaries’ when we launched. There were systems in the game that were designed actually to cause griefing. There were assistants, like pets. You could kill someone’s pet, skin it and give it to them. Why would you do that?”
Vogel also spilled some tea regarding working conditions for the game, namely how a team of 64 was reduced to eight – for an MMORPG that was generating around $30M in revenue. He also noted the time it took for someone to write “penis” in chat was one minute and 23 seconds.
Ultimately, Vogel appears to discuss player behavior and how the team brought the rule of law to UO as a nod in the direction of devs working on other open worlds. “What we learned is the more power you give players, the harder they are to control,” said Vogel. “If you’re doing a Metaverse pay attention to that. Because that’s real. Because this is the ugly side of humans that come out in these virtual worlds. I don’t care if it’s back then. And I think even today, it’s more amplified.”