As I write this, ten years have passed since I first set foot on Sosarian soil. It was the day that Elina - my closest friend - had managed to lure me into Ultima Online. It was at a time when we were still young mothers at home, living typical domestic lives and bringing up babies. I don't think either of us were quite sure what we would want to do after our kids were bigger, but I do know that meeting up in Ultima Online was a godsend, a break away from our motherly roles and a chance to get "out of the house". Who would have guessed that Ultima Online would have a play in shaping our future, later inspiring Elina to 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. Online games would become a permanent fixture 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'll go through emotions of all kinds, but for the most part, you'll 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 your own house, furnish it with furniture you made
yourself, have a profession, but you can also hunt treasure, battle dangerous 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 it, stock up on your booze, hire staff (either real players or NPCs) and off you go! Always dreamt of owning a flower shop?
Gather seeds, harvest dirt and buy some flower pots, plant the seeds and watch your plants grow, even cross breed them! 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 citizens shopping goods. The forests are speckled with adventurers digging for treasure,
hunting for food, gathering herbs and killing prey (or being prey). There are fishermen out at sea pulling up their catch, happening upon treasure maps and SOS bottles once in a while.
Some are venturing into the darkest of caverns to tame dragons or slithery serpents. It's happening right now, as you read this.
While all of this is going on, the world is changing and evolving. The flower pot which had only dirt yesterday, has a sprout today,
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. Every day is a chance to meet someone new and experience the unexpected. After you type in that password, anything is bound to happen
and that's what keeps you coming back.
The world of Ultima was not new to me when I started playing UO, for I'd been a big fan of the Ultima series for years. But it took two years after the release of UO until I would start playing due to fears of
becoming 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. At the most, I've had six accounts open at the same time, and one of my accounts I've had open non stop since day one.
These days my sons also play actively and
although we play other MMOs such as WoW, they still prefer UO due to it's diversity and freedoms. 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.