As I write this, ten years have passed since that fateful day when I first set my foot on Sosarian soil. The day that Elina - my closest friend - had finally succeeded in luring me into Ultima Online. It was at a time when we were still young mothers, living typical domestic lives and bringing up babies at home. I don't think either of us were quite sure what we would "grow up to be". Who would have believed that Ultima Online would alter our lives so dramatically, inspiring Elina to later become a researcher of online games and frequent speaker at conferences such as GDC and Siggraph and inspiring me to become a pixel artist, creating video games for a living. Eventually the passion we had for Ultima, would expand into a broader passion for MMOs, leaving us thirsting for more of the magic we experienced in UO. These online games became a permanent element of our lives.
So what is it about Ultima Online which is so special?
This is a virtual space and everything you see and hear are merely ones and zeros, yet the emotions you go through are completely genuine. When being chased down by a PK (player killer), your hands will tremble and your cheeks will flush. When you successfully escape by boat, leaving the murderer cursing at shore, you will be grinning from ear to ear and your heart will be thumping. And yes, even when that sea serpent attacks you, leaving your corpse to rot out at sea, you'll frown with disappointment from having lost your treasures. You will go through emotions of all kinds, but for the most part, you will be left feeling inspired and invigorated from your game experience.
Ultima Online has all the ingredients of a virtual world
and a damn good game all rolled into one. Not only can you build you own house, furnish it with furniture you made
yourself, have a profession, but you can also hunt treasures, defeat horrible monsters, solve puzzles and partake
in quests - just to name a few.
I think that perhaps the greatest thing about UO in addition to the pre-designed challenges, is the possibility to create your own goals and challenges with the vast assortment of tools, game mechanisms and objects UO provides. Do you want to set up a virtual tavern? Hunt out a free plot, build your tavern, buy your booze, hire staff (either real or NPC) and off you go! Always dreamt of owning a flower shop? Gather seeds, dirt and pots, plant the seeds and watch your plants grow, even cross breed them, and sell them at your very own, self built little flower shop. Want to defend the innocent? Become a mercenary! Train up your skills, craft your own weapons and hunt down the bad guys, gaining fame, fortune and appreciation from your fellow players. There are so many ways to entertain yourself in UO that you will never find yourself wondering what to do next. The broad range of playing styles it supports can be appreciated by all.
Ultima Online is not really a game, it's a world. It cannot be saved, paused or deleted. It lives and breathes every passing minute. Towns are alive
with the hustle and bustle of any real town, with merchants selling their wares and others purchasing goods. The forests are speckled with adventurers searching for treasure, hunting for food, gathering herbs, being killed by bears or stalked by murderers. Fishermen are out at sea pulling up fish, treasure and SOS bottles. Some are venturing into the darkest of caverns to tame dragons or slithery serpents. Right now. As you read this. And it's all happening to people like you and I.
While all of this is going on, the world is changing and evolving. The herbs that were there an hour ago have been freshly picked, the patch of grass which was bare yesterday - now has the beginnings of a house, the marketplace which was barren a moment ago is now inhabited by someone setting up a stall. Every time you log on something has changed - the world is never quite the same. You meet someone new and experience the unexpected. You never know what will happen when you log on and that's what keeps you coming back.
The world of Ultima was not new to me when I started playing, for I'd been a big fan of the Ultima series already. But it took two years after the release of UO until I would start playing it due to fears of becoming too addicted. Eventually, resistance was futile once my two close friends started playing in the summer of 1999 and after a couple of months of coaxing, finally lured me in. I logged on for the first time on the 27th
of August 1999 and there has been no turning back. This game has provided me with countless thrills, joys, frights and surprises and even after ten years, I still have not seen everything this game has to offer. The amount of content and the size of the land mass is mind boggling! Discoveries are
neverending due to the periodic expansions added to the game.
So how can you join in on the fun? Visit www.uo.com and click on "New Player" to learn about the current ways of getting into the game. At the time of writing this, one can download the client for free and purchase an account online. Since it is an online game and virtual world, it cannot be played offline. It also has a monthly fee after the first free month. A monthly fee is one of the things that turns new people off, but think about it: What can you get with 15 dollars which will provide you with hours of daily entertainment over the coarse of a whole month? Not much!