Old School UO Nostalgia

Most of us wax nostalgic about our first MMO love. For me, I truly enjoyed the Realm Online immensely, but my first true love in the genre was Ultima Online. It was Dan Rubenfield who reminded me of some of my wonderful times in Britannia. If you played UO in the olden days, and you’re ready to embark upon a journey into the past, continue ahead and be sure to equip your generic plate and viking sword in case we run into any l33t PKs.

I had this really nice trick planned for right after you clicked “more,” but it appears the embed and bgsound tags have taken a nosedive with recent versions of FF and IE. That said, you get to manually induce that sense of nostalgia by clicking here instead. Only read on if you clicked, or this next sentence will be ruined for you. Yes, that is the character selection music from Ultima Online. Music all of us who played are familiar with. That music elicits a yearning for the innocence of the past in the genre that has been gone for me for about 9 years.

“Innocence” in terms of being a genre-virgin still experiencing things for the first time, because UO was far from innocent as a game. It did something for me that no other game has since. None. I’ve played literally dozens of different massively multiplayer games, and none of them have done it for me like UO did.

It was, in part, because it was my first love. Nothing will ever be quite so magical. It’s also, likely, in part because I’ve been on the development side of things for a while now, and all the mystery is gone. But some of it, I believe, is because there were so many interesting things that players could do with (and to) each other in the game. It was pure, untainted by the successive refinements of other games and the establishment of standards and expectations for the genre’s games.

Ah, just thinking about it makes me happy.

I remember getting GM Tinkering, Alchemy, and Carpentry so I could make my own trapped boxes, place them in orc camps, and wait until someone opened my box instead of the treasure chest to meet their untimely doom. Or sneaking into a house and placing my own trapped boxes in spots where their boxes used to be (or simply trapping them on the spot), usually waiting to watch the person explode.

I remember wearing the death robes with platemail underneath to appear as if I’d recently died, only to unleash hell upon those who thought me easy prey. Going so far as to angrily mutter about how PKs totally suck and piss me off, how they are just stupid kids, etc.

I remember selling purple potions as “Permanent Strength” potions, only to laugh in glee as the person ticked down for 5 seconds, exploded (hitting me in the process), and stood in wide-eyed astonishment when I called the guards on them and looted their gullible corpse (thanks go to my buddy Ian, aka Sarymbo, for that trick).

So many stories. So many ways to screw other players, and so many ways to be screwed by other players. I can really go on for hours about my times in Ultima Online, so I’ll go ahead and cut myself off for your sake. More stories to come over the week.

Update: Read the full series of True Sosarian Stories for a taste of misadventure:

There are so many things I look back and remember fondly, and that even includes getting myself completely owned a number of times, especially when I mined. Is it possible to get this feeling back myself, or even to elicit such feelings in others who have played MMOs before? What about those who never have played them? Do we have to go back to the more pure system of letting players do whatever they damn well please–survival of the fittest–to make that happen? Will it even work anymore?

For more yearning about old school UO, check out these other articles:

Also, thanks go out to Mysterious Sosaria for having all of the Ultima music ever. That’s pretty awesome. If you’re looking for UO, it’s called Shattered Legacy in the Bard’s Library.

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