Ebolt anyone?

I considered a lot of different topics for my first blog post. I could talk about something current, like crafting or raiding or PvP. I thought about just doing a standard intro post about who I am, what I’m playing, etc.


Instead, I’m going to compare Ultima Online to World of Warcraft.


Ultima Online was really the first major graphical MMO (I know I know, but lets save that debate for another time, shall we?) and in a lot of ways, it was just an open world with basically no rules. You had no levels, no quests, no instances, just a bunch of forests and mountains with a few towns to explore and make of it what you would. Think about that. Imagine if WoW came out, and you went to the Barrens, and that was it. No quests, no instances, no connecting zone, just wide open with some mobs wandering about. Going out on a limb here, but my guess is people would not take too well to that. Oh and all that end game raiding? Yea none of that. No boss fights, no epic loot…. Actually no hard-coded grouping option at all. Nope, again, just more running around doing…. something.


But you know what? Those that played in 97-99, man did we love it. The whole idea of an open world populated with other live players was so new, so fresh, THAT was our content. Well… that and the random griefing and PK’ing that was so rampant in the early days. And no, I’m not talking about camping a quest mob, or ‘tagging’ a mob before someone else, or stealing a resource node. No no, I mean running up on some random player with three other Dreadlords to give them a little xbow/hally/ebolt combo. Insta-kill. Then you proceed to loot the body clean, lop off the head to put on your vendor, and move on.


Please try to picture that happening in WoW. You and your guild just downed Onyxia, and finally Deathbringer dropped, so you spend your DKP and actually win it. So you walk out of the cave, feeling great, finally you got your shiny new epic item. Out of the corner of the screen, four fireballs hit you. Before you can react, four more shots have been fired, and you die. As a ghost standing above your lifeless character, you watch as the PKs run over, open your corpse as if you are an npc mob, and proceed to loot you. Everything. Your tier 1 set, your fire resist set, your crafting materials, and yes, that nice new Deathbringer. All gone. Hope you have some more gear in the bank, because everything that you had on you is no more.


Somehow, I think that would create a few more forum posts than a slight nerf to skill x. The kids today man, they have it easy. BoE items, private instances, PvP zones. Taking a step back, it’s actually amazing just how ‘friendly’ MMOs are now. They give you clear quests, with rewards that are generally useful. They move you from zone to zone so you are never around anything that one shots you. They give you things like flight paths, conveniently located graveyards, fast respawns. And yet, we bitch more about things now then you ever saw back in UO.


As the saying went “damn carebears…”

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Ebolt anyone?

  1. Alec Bings says:

    Hey, congratulations on the new blog! (I just started a new gaming blog myself.)

    I stumbled on your post from Tobold’s blog, and your evocation of what was good about early Ultima Online really inspired me. Boy, what hopes I had for the game!

    Compared to most other MMOs, UO definitely felt more like a simulation of a fantasy world. And boy would I love it if something like it existed but managed to be fun for everyone.

  2. syncaine says:

    Thanks and welcome. Grats on being the first ever commend too, haha.

    I remember reading about UO before it was released and running all the different possibilities in my head as well. The potential was unlimited, sadly the player base was not responsible enough to handle that potential, and much of it went to waste.

    I think the spirit of what UO stood for, an open ended world to adventure in, is long lost. Now all MMOs are a series of quests leading you from one zone to the next. Its a single player RPG with some group quests thrown in. I still love the genre and my current game, LoTRO, but they have certainly gone in a much different direction than what UO set out to provide.

  3. Alec Bings says:

    Woo. Well, go me!

    Seriously, though . . . do you think any of the potential can be captured by multiplayer RPGs like Neverwinter Nights (which could feature games run by Dungeon Masters and even allowed the creation of some persistent worlds)? I ran a campaign using NWN for a while, but found that the effort to set up an adventure was too time-consuming, and I had to hit my secret “heal this rapidly-dying PC” button too often.

    But if we lose the “massively” part of MMO, is there any hope? Or is that giving up such a key element that it’s not even worth considering?

  4. syncaine says:

    Well I think a truly open ended MMO is not going to happen, at least not on the ‘massive’ scale. I just think the masses are not looking for something like that.

    Like I said on Tobold’s blog comments, I really though Shadowbane would be what UO PvP could have been. Maybe something like a Shadowbane, done right, would work. I would certainly be willing to give it a try should something like that come along.

    Warhammer Online is the next game I have some PvP hope for, but we will see.

  5. Heartless_ says:

    There is no way a game could be launched like UO in todays market. Players are not new to virtual worlds. 99% of the fun of UO was many players discovering a virtual world for the very first time. People didn’t know how to act, and the community had to grow from there.

    Players are very experienced now a days, and the game that UO was at launch would just be massively exploited and turned into trash within a week.

    Sorry to burst bubbles.

  6. syncaine says:

    Exactly. Part of the magic of UO was that it was so new, along with allowing so much freedom. While I think the ‘newness’ magic can’t be brought back, a well implimented version of the freedom certainly can, if done right. I don’t think its set in stone that questing to advance is the ONLY way a MMO can progress…. that might make a good blog entry, haha.

  7. Simaril says:

    Hey, nice to read something about good old UO…

    You should take a look at Darkfall-Online ( http://www.darkfallonline.com + a gallery with every media related to darkfall http://www.darkfallonline.eu/darkfall-bilder/main.php ), if the developers hold what they promise it will be perfect help for all nostalgic feelings…

  8. Heartless_ says:

    The freedom won’t be the same. Most of the people talk about UO focus on the PvP, PKs, and RPKs. What they fail to ever mention is the “sheep”. The whole PK/RPK movement existed BECAUSE there was a wider majority of players that were the victims. These players didn’t know how to avoid it, and ended up accepting it as part of the world.

    Players these days DO NOT ACCEPT getting killed repeatedly just because it is allowed in game. The “sheep” players go off and play games like World of Warcraft because it allows them to avoid such behavior. That is their choice.

    So, go ahead and launch a game full of freedom like UO. And don’t be surprised when the “wolf” players start bitching that there is no “sheep” to pick on.

  9. silsae says:

    When I first got Ultima back in the late 90s I was so unbelievably excited about it. I was telling all my friends whilst I was waiting for the delivery all the things I was going to do and see. Then I got the game…. It took me two WEEKS just to figure out how to really make money and do things. So after about a month of mining and stuff I’d saved enough money to kit my guy out in a horse and some gear. I was killed within about 5 minutes of setting out on my merry adventure and I lost all the armor etc I’d just spent so long working for. Back to square one except that mining skill was slightly higher than before. I just had NO idea about the world outside the town guards. I distinctly remember getting a real adrenaline rush when I was trying to escape my first encounter with the pks.

    Over the course of the next few years I gradually became an avid uoer/pvper. But if it wasn’t for people like me starting out to get owned like that the game wouldn’t be very fun for the people who do stick at it.

    Heartless is spot on with his views.

  10. Sacerdote says:

    Actually there is a game pretty much like UO, which ie Eve Online. That also has unrestrained ganking once you’re out of the safe areas, and the ability to loot your victims. pvp is all about equipment and skill, which comes with character age.

    There is insurance for your belongings (your ship and fittings), but that’s useless if you have rare items. It’s also a skill based system, rather than a level-based system,

    And most people hate it. The people who love it really love it, but the subscription numbers are tiny. Obviously, this is partly because folk prefer fantasy games to space games, but even so it’s obvious that most people don’t enjoy unrestrained pvp. Carebears FTW!

  11. syncaine says:

    Silsae describes most peoples first experience with UO. The fact that the world was so harsh was what made it a challenge and a rush, for those who had the stomach to weather it. Problem is, most people DON’T want that kind of a challenge, and thats why games have evolved as they have to what we see today. Starting zones, limited pvp, bound items, etc.

  12. Paul says:

    Many memories of UO. I once looked around a dread lords house. Stacked chest after stacked chest full of items. It was unreal. I still remember being taken out of a city for the first time to kill some mobs and actually being scared. Not really felt that in WoW sadly. I almost cried when a DL slaughted my horse right infront of me.

    UO was destroyed by the housing. Never seemed to recover from that. :( I did camp for 2 days straight waiting for a large tower to collapse during phase 2 ;)


    Oh and back in the day when hanging about on bank roofs was the IN thing. Oh and camping a hide shop on Christmas day just waiting to buy the 999 hides that I knew were minutes away from spawning to fund a small house.

    Ahhh.. memories. :)

  13. haveyourstuff says:

    Lineage 1 is still around I think. It’s pretty much free-for-all PKing, except with guards that will attack PKers on sight.

  14. Steve says:

    Oh, the joy of being hit with a heavy xbow for half damage then being finished off with an ebolt by a hidden Dread Lord at the Britain crossroads. I remember being one of the first 7x GMs on the Pacific server, good times.

    “You are too encumbered to move”

  15. Dob Dob says:

    Man those were the days, Running the roads were actually dangerous and fun, you die you get looted . I do miss those days

  16. Ceromus says:

    My UO experience started out like silsae’s…well sort of.

    When I first got into UO a bunch of players thought it would be funny to get me to believe going out and killing the bunnies to sell the meat would be the best way to make gold. They told me I should kill bunnies till i save up for a packhorse then pick up mining.

    So..I killed those bunnies over and over and over and over. I didnt start with melee skills..those bunnies were a fairly long fight. Like killing elites in WoW! So anyway I finally save up enough money for my packhorse and I proceed to the nearest mine (I was in minoc). As soon as I entered the mine 2 PKs killed my horse then me. I recognized their names….they were some of the players that told me how to make money by killing bunnies.

    It was the single saddest feeling I have ever experienced in a video game. I was so disappointed. I was also furious! I came into UO with full intention of fighting monsters or working up to be a blacksmith. I decided to get my revenge for killing my horse and taking my stuff. I asked people all over the place for tips, read every piece of information I could find online, also managed to find some players in AOL chat rooms. Learning that killing bunnies was perhaps the WORST way a person could make money only fueled my desire to become better at PvP. Within 48 hours I had already learned a significant amount about powerleveling and pvp. Back then it was ok to use EZ-Macros to work up skills….so I did. By the end of that week I was stat capped and had most of my desired skills in the 80.0 area. (I used lumberjacking/bowyer to make money)

    With full stats and decent magic skills I went back to that mine and sure enough those punks were still there. To my surprise they had absolutely no idea how to fight to top it off their attempts to cast an energy bolt (Corp Por) just lead to fizzles. I killed them over and over and over and over then one day they just disappeared…never saw those characters in-game again.

    So I went in search of other PK’s and so began the path that eventually ended when Age of Shadows (the true death of pvp) was introduced (You know that was tom chilton right? hes one of the lead developers for world of warcraft now).

    Tapion PvP duelist

  17. syncaine says:

    So nice to see so many people with good memories of old school UO. I think anyone who played back then has a “I got my horse killed” story, along with a “I took down this PK and got his reg bag”.

    The main problem I have with MMO’s today is you don’t get those highs and lows you got from UO. Getting PK’ed with a full bag of regs could ruin your week, and finally getting into someones house to pick it dry could leave a smile for days.

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  19. jaxom says:

    I too played very early on the Pacific server. UO will forever remain the “best” MMO experience for anyone that played it in its early form. It’s pretty much like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim. You either fight your way up, struggle, and learn to swim or you drown.

    All of the MMOs now seem to hold your hand into the kiddie pool and use baby steps along the way with no chance at harm whatsoever. You know, most people seemed to love UO because of the rush it gave. There was a certain thrill to it. You had something to lose. In world of warcraft what is there to lose? Your time invested? O noes.

    I also have yet to see any game get player housing done as well as UO had it. Not to mention the thrill (oh look I used that word again) of camping a collapsing house just waiting to snatch up loot/place a new one. It’s pretty funny how everyone that played UO back in 97 share the same memories and joys of the game. I still have yet to play an MMO that matches UO’s fun-factor to any degree whatsoever. It’s really sad, and only getting worse. UO is a prime example of a game where the graphics didn’t make it–the gameplay did.

    If Richard Garriot can come out with anything that is at least 50% as fun as UO was, I’d drop WoW in a heartbeat and jump all over it.

  20. jaxom says:

    Also something else I am not sure of but, the term “Carebear”, did that even exist in UO before Trammel came out?

    I don’t seen to remember ever calling anyone that until the “trammies” came around. Sure, there were the “good guys” and then there were the PKs. There were also the “sheep” of the game, but I don’t think they were necessarily considered carebears until they had the option of hiding in Trammel. Regardless, I think both the “good guys” and PKs were legit roles in oldschool UO.

  21. syncaine says:

    Carebear refered to EQ players, since back then that game was considered the ‘safe’ game. It was then also used for ‘trammies’ as well.

    I still hate the fact that Shadowbane never caught on. The ideas in that game were great, just the execution was not there.

  22. vajuras says:

    This was a good blog man. I’ve written a few over at mmorpg.com and plan on transfering them to my site. I think we will see more FFA open PVP games come out in various forms like EVE which btw enjoys over 170k subs. That’s not WoW numbers but it is good subscriber numbers when compared to other MMOs. Yeah hope to see more sandbox games come out eventually. Been thinking of working on one myself soon just hard to design for guilds owning land and such.

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  24. Kayozz says:

    God UO… what a gem of a game:

    Some of my fondest memories… Wandering around Britannia bank begging for money as a n00b, when some guy comes over to me and tells me I can have his three story tower for absolutely nothing!!! It was full of stuff, rare items, dyes, potions, gold etc etc etc… amazing.

    Other memories include scamming people when the ‘new colours’ came out for the tailoring dye’s… I just basically told people that i had the new colours and charged them a fortune (they looked slightly similar) hahaha…

    Ambushing people on the felucia shard when people came through the portals. Me and my mates would use the hide skill / invisibility skill and then BANG attack them with everything we had and then loot their corpses and then run away hahahaha…

    BUT… the best thing that ever happened to me

  25. Kayozz says:

    God UO… what a gem of a game:

    Some of my fondest memories… Wandering around Britannia bank begging for money as a n00b, when some guy comes over to me and tells me I can have his three story tower for absolutely nothing as he was leaving the server!!! It was full of stuff, rare items, dyes, potions, gold etc etc etc… amazing.

    Other memories include scamming people when the ‘new colours’ came out for the tailoring dye’s… I just basically told people that i had the new colours and charged them a fortune (they looked slightly similar) hahaha…

    Ambushing people on the felucia shard when people came through the portals. Me and my mates would use the hide skill / invisibility skill and then BANG attack them with everything we had and then loot their corpses and then run away…

    BUT… the best thing that ever happened to me was spotting TWO decaying houses right next to each other and then runing (marking?) to that spot every day to check the status of the house decay and then after an agonising wait… voila! Lots and lots and lots and lots of items, gold, chests… everything… for free :)
    I would just keep teleporting back and forth to my own house and empty my bags…

    Oh, nostalgia has taken over, I missed just hanging around Brittania bank and chatting rubbish to my friends and taunting people….

    Compared to UO , World of warcraft is just too ‘clinical, the pvp is frustrating and not in the good way like UO was… Everything is too ordered and there doesn’t seem to be any good chaos like Uo used to bring about… I miss running away from Pk’ers who were intent on my new amrour and swords…

    *sigh* such a good game…

  26. Kayozz says:

    Oh and I had so many legal scams it was unbelievable… such as going invisible next to a vendor, waiting for the owner to stock them up with goodies and then buying the items for the default price as soon as they put them in…. before the owner had chance to set a proper price.

    Happy days :)

  27. Teph says:

    ah UO was the shit, you know they got private servers of it running now, its free i use this one http://fwuo.ru/en/, if you can get over half the people speaking russian, its pretty good

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