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This Page Updated:
Sat Jan 24, 1998

Stat Box
Title: Ultima Online
Developers: Origin
Genre: Role Playing Game
Release Date: Finished

Ultima Online
Page 1: Massively Multiplayer Role Playing
By: Evan Jones

From the Ultima Online Web Site:

It's more than a fantasy, because it really exists. It's more than a game, because it never ends. And it's a quantum leap beyond anything you have seen before. An online world of intrigue - living and breathing, feeding on your fantasy. Go beyond life as you know it to an adventure more fantastic than you can imagine.

Origin's newest addition to the Ultima world is Ultima Online, a computer RPG modeled after Internet multi user dungeons (MUDs) and the classic Ultima computer role playing game series. In the final public beta test there was as many as 3000 online, on one server at one time and even the programmers aren't sure exactly how many people the servers can support. Imagine the possibilities of an entire town playing a game together at the same time.

Sometime in the fall of 1996 Origin announced that they would be holding a final public beta test just before the release. Over 50 000 people signed up and were mailed beta test CDs for the price of US $2. The beta test begun in the middle of July, 1997, and ended near the end of August. It was a test and not a public preview so there were frequent down times, patches and problems. It was a time to give Origin time to get some of the problems worked out and to give players a chance to try the game.

Ultima Online has been completed and is now being sold in computer stores. The retail package gives you a CD, a cloth map, an Ultima Online pin and one month of playing time. Every month after that will cost US $10.

When you load Ultima Online the UO Autopatch program is run before anything else. This program logs into Origin's version server, verifying that your version of Ultima Online is as up to date as possible. If it is not, the required patch(es) will be downloaded and automatically applied with no user input required, making your version up to date. This means that Ultima Online is easy for Origin to improve. The programmers create the patch and everything else is done automatically, without having to worry if some users will not understand the upgrade process. Ultima Online is not a "finished product". There is still a team improving the game and new patches are released quite frequently, but not quite at the frantic pace of the beta test. New features are implemented and old ones are tweaked to get the game where Origin feels it should be.

Ultima Online's interface is simple. One click will tell you what an object is and double clicking performs an action on the object, such as drinking from a cup. To move an object you simply drag it to its new location. If you double right click on a spot your character will find their way there automatically, while holding down the right mouse button moves you towards the mouse. The game is viewed through an overhead view, rendered in high resolution 16-bit color. If you need to know details about how to perform a specific action, check out Help and Guidance section of the UO site, there is a full walkthrough to familiarize yourself with the controls.

Ultima Online is engrossing. What Origin has created is nothing short of revolutionary. They have created a game which gives a player amazing freedom with a few of the constraints of real life. All they have done is give the players that freedom and the world has been created by the players themselves. People become the thieves, bards, blacksmiths, traders, pirates and mercenaries that inhabit the world, because they want to. People make new friends and even form powerful alliances or guilds. The problem is that if you do not want to have fun, you will not. If you go out and talk to players, travel around with people, take risks and explore a new world, you will enjoy yourself. Ultima Online is a game that you have to make the most of.

To get a feel for the environment that you will be able to interact with, visit the Ultima Online site. It is continually updated and is an amazingly thorough source of information on the UO world. It has descriptions and pictures of monsters, animals, equipment, and plants that will populate Britannia, plus a newspaper which reflects the happenings in the game. The site has an adventurous feel that reflects UO well, with graphics taken from the game.

There are still problems with the final release, and there always will be. This type of game is too complex for it to be completely bug free. However, the final release is many times more stable then the beta test, and there are more servers so the lag is less as well. The largest problem is that it is still very hard and a very long process to make money. It takes a long time to get a decent character, mostly because the economy is out of whack and items don't sell for very much. The game bugs and problems are being worked on by the UO team, with frequent updates posted on the Update Center. If you look at their Patch Info you will notice that the patches are released every few weeks.

Ultima Online is still in development. Even though it is being sold in stores the Ultima Online crew continues to work hard to make it even better. The best source of information on game itself is the large Ultima Online site. With the freedom of the new environment combined with the experience of exploring a fantastic new world that is populated with real people make Ultima Online the first virtual world. Even with all the problems, it was obvious that Ultima Online is the most cutting edge and trend setting game I have played all year. Everyone in the industry is watching to see if Ultima Online will work, and the only people who can see if it is a financial success is Origin. Even if fails, expect to see more of these types of games in the future.

Screenshots

The powerful yet beautiful dragons attack a group of players

The struggle against the undead is joined
Our worthy heros battle the evil Lizard Men near a ruined building
Further Info

Origin Systems
The producers of Ultima and Ultima Online

Ultima Online
The Ultima Online site, the best source of information

Ultima Online at Scorched
An excellent site that posts the latest Ultima Online news



The Future of Gaming is created by Evan Jones