Ultima Online Redux : UO Forever

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 | 14

Revisionist history is my strong suit.

Everyone has their first love, and It's pretty obvious to anyone who reads IHM that mine was a whore named Sandy... and Ultima Online. Sadly, like Sandy, the UO I once knew is now riddled with disgusting problems. As beautiful as my memories of late-90's UO were, that game had some glaring problems. Flash forward in time, and people are still grasping to threads of what UO once meant to them. Unlike modern MMORPGs, this could have been hundreds of different things, and thus hundreds of Private Shards were born.

Private UO Shards

Emulation of UO server architecture isn't any new concept. In fact, I recall hosting TUS (the precurser to SphereServer) shards over a decade ago, but I lacked the capacity at that time to really understand how huge emulation could be. Even if I had, I would have created a very narrow and specific shard that only people like me would fully appreciate, and that would result in all 3 of us being very bored. Games are made for an audience, and restraint is extremely important because making changes to a classic formula has infinitely larger potential to cause mass exodus than inaction and apathy do. That being said, it's very hard to gain any traction without some sort of a gimmick. Enter UOForever...

UOForever does a lot, but not too much.

Your typical UO Shard owner is a narcissistic twenty-something nerd with a god-complex, and this is extremely counter-productive when the "UO Community" is full of nay-sayers with very similar qualities. While appeasement isn't a good thing, having the humility to recognize, accept, and correct issues with your vision is as imperative as recognizing and squelching bad ideas. One look at interactions on the UOForever forum paints a clear picture that their development team is dedicated to improving and balancing the UOR era gameplay, without giving in to things that "sound like cool ideas", but in application would cause more harm than good. UO players, as you would imagine, are quite easily brought to blinding rage as they play (and die in) a free 15 year old game.

The Features

UOForever is based roughly on the UO:Renaissance era. For those of you who aren't familiar with the tragic history of Ultima Online, UO:R was the era that then stabbed all 'hardcore' players directly in their scrotal sacks by introducing the PvP-Free Trammel facet. Everything else they patched in to this era was pretty neat, but for many of us the game was completely ruined, never to be salvaged on official servers again.

UOForever Is FFA PVP

No Trammel here. I can not urge enough how important the constant fear of death is to make crafting and PvE exciting. The elegant balance of low-cost equipment tied to massive risk/reward combat hasn't been reproduced since. Why anyone thought removing this from the game was a good idea in the first place is beyond me.

UOForever has an Economy

Many private shards try and give things away so people will stay around, but this, like so many entitlements has the unintended consequence of making the game feel less risky. If you don't value your belongings, or rather, if your belongings have no value then you have no reason to use them wisely and improve. I've got a shop where I fence my ill-gotten gains, and my fellow brigands and I have made a gigantic amount of spending money. This wouldn't matter at all if the GM just handed out checks for free.

Crafting abilities (and stupid stupid taming) is an ultra long-term commitment. This limits the number of individuals that can flood the market with cheap wares, and increases their value. All standard gold-sinks are in place, such as boats, houses, and reagents to remove money from the system. It's like EVE... but not boring and terrible.

Easier Combat Skill-Gain

Because there isn't really a great reason to prevent people from playing the game, it's quite easy to get combat-ready. This is made even easier by skill-gain bonuses in dungeons, creating hot-spots for 'player interaction'. By the way, if you have something you don't want to lose... don't carry it around. You were warned. There are also skill-gain scrolls that drop on higher level mobs. The crafting-boost scrolls are quite valuable as you could imagine, so I urge everyone to walk around with them so I can continue to run my business.

Difficult Spawns

Champion spawns are in, as well as some new dungeon locations, but what makes PVE in UOF interesting to me is the massive difficulty adjustment to typically boring dungeons like Destard, Deceit, and others. There is nothing quite like running into a wall of dragons. Well, I guess having your face melted off by lava would be pretty similar.

Half-Decent Community

I can't urge how important this is enough. Ultima Online in its heyday had an excellent community of which the likes have never been seen since. It is extremely important to Ultima that the community is diverse and active. UOF passes this test. There is a nice balance of Power-Gamers, Carebears, and Roleplayers in equal parts and all of those groups add to the ambiance. If you're unfamiliar with the game, there are guilds that want to teach you.

Stolen Boat + Stolen Message = Booty

My Experiences

I've had an excellent time with my band of merry thieves and murderers. All styles of gameplay can turn a profit in Ultima Online, but stealing house deeds has become a personal favorite of mine. You can stalk people for hours, waiting for the right moment to grab something and bolt off into the shadows... but most of the time people aren't stupid, and they'll cover up their important items.

The PvP scene is VERY healthy, but there are some guys I simply refuse to fight because I haven't devoted the last 10 years to perfecting my abilities at a very old game. By that, I mean I'm jealous that they're so much better than me at murdering pixels.

Come Join Us IF YOU DAAARREEEEE!!!

I'll be playing for a while yet, so if you want to get involved, register on the uoforever.com forums and send a private message to ihatemmorpgs about how rad you think I am. Moral flexibility is required. If you've never played UO before, this is a great place to start, but bring your big boy pants because UOForever ain't foolin' around...

*drops the microphone*

14 comments :

  1. Mig is the community really any good? The last dozen or so free shards I've tried... pure disappointment. I'll give it a try this weekend. Thanks for the heads up. If I'm not tarnished from the "good ol' days" and stick around, I'll help defile Sosaria with ya.

    ReplyDelete
  2. They're not too bad. It's certainly not like Hybrid.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I might try this out. Age of Wushu certainly didn't hold my interest for long. =\

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can't believe you chose to highlight UOForever instead of Second Age. Second Age has been around for around 5 years now and is accurate to old-school UO. I can't stand powerscrolls and abundant neon all over the place. Kills me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. UOSA is unbelievably shallow. Playing a tank mage is fun for a while, but the Second Age era had so many glaring problems (ultratamers, 2 viable skill templates, etc) I had to make the change.

    I had a castle on UOSA, but I didn't enjoy any of it the way i'm enjoying UOF right now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I wouldn't play it personally, just because I've seen so many like-minded shard's populations dwindle and die in the course of a few months.

    FYI, your link is broken. It sends you to http://www.ihatemmorpgs.com/2013/02/www.uoforever.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh sh*t. That's a bad job on my part. Anywho, I'm enjoying it while it lasts because it's better than any alternative...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Stumbled on this site, played UO about 5 years starting in 97 with a few breaks. There isn't much if anything to play these days owing to low difficulty single player games, and boring multi-player ones the only game I play with any remote frequency is league of legends which I usually just grief on as its pretty boring (no idea why 1 map 1 game mode is miraculously accepted by gamers in that particular genre) but I digress. ANYWAYS just wanted to say read quite a bit on the site, really enjoyed it and agreed with virtually all of it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good to hear. I've been playing DOTA2 recently because I got free keys, and those types of games really turn everyone into assholes. Trying to think up fresh stuff to write about is hard when no fresh games are getting made.

    ReplyDelete
  10. yo, fuck DOTA and LoL. Get AirMech. its basically an updated remake of the first ever RTS, an old genesis game Herzog Zwei. Its somewhere in between a DOTA style and a game like Starcraft. so its still a real RTS with a ton of depth. Plus Mechs. twin stick shooter based mechs.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post, I am trying to resist the will to go back to UO, since I still hope something better will come by, but so far nothing feels as good as UO. This shard seems like good news, and I will probably give it a try. Let us know about what you are playing at the moment.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Just got into Bioshock Infinite. Seems promising. Played a little Neverwinter Online, but I think I might actually hate it too much to write about it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey Mig, I wanna give it a shot - and join you in mayhem - tried to send a PM, but they want me to be all sorts of active... you folks use skype, icq or whatever - lemme know.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Been on Hiatus from UO because everyone I know is on a DOTA2 kick.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.