At 20 years old, Ultima Online is finally doing what its EA-backed handlers at Broadsword once said it would never do: It’s going free-to-play.
Game update 99, Endless Journey, should be live right now if all goes well with this morning’s patch, meaning new and returning players can jump right in without paying that monthly $13 subscription. They’ll have the same number skills, the same access to dungeon content, the same access to Felucca (PvP), and the same access to chat. On the other hand, they may eventually want to give that sub a go, since without it, they won’t accrue vet rewards, can’t place or co-own houses, can’t place vendors, can’t place auction safes, can’t farm champ spawns, and can’t participate fully in live GM events. They’re also limited to just two characters.
If you’re planning on coming back on an ancient account rather than a brand-new one, do note that your account may not be ready yet. “The transition for closed accounts to Endless Journey accounts has begun and will continue over the next 24 hours,” Broadsword said in its server-up message a few minutes ago. “We appreciate your patience as we work through this process. You will not be able to login until the account has been processed.”
If you didn’t already know that Ultima Online is planning to go free-to-play, you probably still wouldn’t be able to tell without reading between the lines of the latest dev update. But yep, this is happening – on Thursday.
“We anticipate Publish 99 will be going World Wide on April 5, 2018,” Broadsword says. “This update will be done manually, and not during regularly scheduled maintenance. […] Shards will be brought down at 10:30am ET. We anticipate the downtime will last approximately 3 hours.”
As we’ve previously covered, new and returning players will be able to jump in as part of the “Endless Journey” mode, sans subscription. They’ll have the same number skills, the same access to dungeon content, the same access to PvP Felucca, and the same access to chat. But they won’t accrue vet rewards, can’t place or co-own houses, can’t place vendors, can’t place auction safes, can’t farm champ spawns, and can’t participate fully in live GM events. They’re also limited to just two characters.
Just about 20 years ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering through Media Play (heh) when he picked up this box for some new online subscription video game with a cheesy Hildebrandt cover. I was skeptical. He bought it anyway. The next morning, after I’d played all night and totally bogarted his new game, we figured we should probably get a second account. And so we did, in spite of being clueless teenagers who could barely afford one sub, let alone two.
That game was Ultima Online, and it’s the game that birthed the term MMORPG and quite literally dragged me into the realm of virtual worlds. Without it, I wouldn’t be right here where I am talking to you today, having married that dude in the interim. And as of yesterday, that game is 20 years old.
Last autumn, when the game was turning 19, I did a fairly in-depth video on the coolest parts of UO, the parts you can still play today, as I do frequently dive back in and am playing this month too! It’s Massively OP’s best-performing video to date, proving that the game is very much not dead and done. Pretty much everything in the video is still accurate, except for the part on the business model (spoiler: UO is kinda going free-to-play), so I’m going to include it below, but then I’ll recap some of the important bits from the last year and answer a few questions anybody reading is sure to have.
Shroud of the Avatar has the honor of being one of the first MMORPGs to tease Halloween content this year, meaning it’s only about two months behind all the damn retail stores. Why am I even bitter? Halloween is awesome! SOTA’s latest newsletter highlights ghost pets, burned down homes, dead foilage assets (your very own Felucca, perhaps?), Halloweeny emotes, and a creepy spider leg cloak, all en route to the game — and that’s in addition to the city of Estgard, which is also on the way and gets a deep-dive and a slew of images in the piece.
The devs continue to plug SOTA Con, what it’s calling “the first ever community organized convention for Shroud of the Avatar.” The Baltimore-based event will be attended by both Richard Garriott and Starr Long and runs November 4th to 6th.
The newsletter also highlights a certain MOP streamer’s brave forays into the current build of the game. Check that out, plus the newest screenshots, below. Arachnophobes should probably stay away!