Posted by Kai Schober | 2012 Oct 03 14:46 -0400 GMT
Another former producer of Ultima Online took the chance to share his memorable moments. Starr Long who was our special guest at the 15th anniversary party used the speech after the coronation of Lord Blackthorn to answer several questions including some of his fondest memories. Here are some more:
My fondest recollections are always about the unexpected ways our incredible players were able to create their own experiences. Each one of them illustrated how we had moved from makers of this world to the caretakers. The players were as much the makers as we were now, if not more. One of my favorite examples was the mass protest against lag in Castle Britannia where everyone stripped down to their skivvies, got drunk, danced, and threw up all over the courtyard. Believe it or not it really made us pay attention and love our players even more. I also loved the power of our housing system which was so popular it even began to have real world value. I remember distinctly when someone came up to me and said “You’ve heard of eBay right?” Remember this was late 1997 and eBay had only launched 2 years earlier and had coincidentally changed their name to eBay the same month we launched Ultima Online. “Yes,” I replied “but what does it have to do with us?” “You won’t believe this but someone just sold their castle for over $1000!” they answered incredulously. I was floored and proud that a bunch of 1s and Os could inspire someone to pay real money for it. Now of course with gold farming and micro transactions this seems pedestrian but fifteen years ago it was entirely new. Another wonderful expression of player power were the orc clans. Ultima Online only supported human characters but we had orc masks, armor, and weapons. Several groups of players began to wear orc gear and to role play orcs. Some of them even chose to speak orcish to each other! They would build player towns for “orcs only” or sometimes occupy NPC orc locations (a real challenge since they had to constantly keep the “real” orcs at bay).
My last recollection is about a letter we received shortly after launch from a player who wrote to us about how much they enjoyed playing. They then began listing all the things they loved like fighting orcs, defending innocents from Player Killers, owning a house, and being leader of a guild. For them however one of their favorite features was the simple act of running through the world, because they were confined to a wheel chair in the real world. That letter along with other social examples like weddings and people maintaining long distance relationships through the game showed me that these virtual worlds have powers to be more than entertainment.