Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Released on September 30, 1997, by Origin Systems, Ultima Online (UO) is often considered the first popular massively multiplayer computer game. The game is played online, in a fantasy setting similar to that of the other Ultima games that preceded it.
Ultima Online's success opened the door for the creation of many exciting new massively multiplayer games that have or are about to hit the market. UO is a third-person/isometric fantasy role-playing game set in the Ultima universe. It is online-only and played by thousands of simultaneous users (who pay a monthly fee) on various game servers, also known as "shards". It is also known for its extensive timing-based player versus player combat system. There have been hundreds of thousands of subscribers. To maintain order in the online community, there are gamemasters who resolve player disputes, police the shard for terms of service violations, and correct glitches in the game. Several expansions have been released, but its aging game engine and graphics make it fairly outdated compared to competitive, new massively multiplayer games. The original Ultima Online sequel, Ultima Worlds Online: Origin was to be set in a world where the Past, Present and Future of Sosaria were merged together by a mistake made by Lord British while attempting to merge together the shards of the Gem of Immortality, it was described by some as the first attempt at a Steampunk massively multiplayer online game. Todd McFarlane was hired to design original monsters and regions for the game, as well as help shape the story. Unfortunately it was canceled before its release citing the competitive nature of the massively multiplayer online gaming market, Electronic Arts feared that the sequel would harm UO's subscription numbers and vice versa. Some of the monsters and art made for UWO:O were later used in the Ultima Online expansion Lord Blackthorn's Revenge. A new sequel entered development called Ultima X: Odyssey, which was to bring together the stories from Ultima IX and Ultima Online, it was cancelled as well in order to focus more on other Ultima titles being made.
Since the release of Ultima Online: Age of Shadows expansion, many veteran players have all but removed themselves from the game to either try new mmrpgs, free shards (listed below), or quit entirely altogether. Since Ultima's prime in the early 2000's, overall subscriber turnout is dramatically dropping. The number of subscribers achieved by UO was surpassed by EverQuest in 1999.
- The Second Age (October 1, 1998) Featured a new area of land called the Lost Lands, along with an in-game chat system and new creatures. Also known as T2A.
- Renaissance (April 3, 2000) The world was doubled in size, as there were literally two copies of it. The worlds were called Felucca and Trammel, after the two moons in Ultima's Britannia world. The Trammel world did not allow player killing, while the Felucca world did. Felucca also adopted a darker, more foreboding look.
- Third Dawn (March 7, 2001) The major change was that this expansion included a 3D client, no doubt to compete with 3D MMORPGs like EverQuest. Also, a special Third Dawn only land was created, called Ilshenar. It was accessible only to 3D clients until the release of Lord Blackthorn's Revenge.
- Lord Blackthorn's Revenge (February 24, 2002) Brought "a dark new world based on new characters from Todd McFarlane" to Ultima with improved game AI, in-game help, and improved character creation.
- Age of Shadows (February 28, 2003) Brought the landmass of Malas with lots of space for new housing, two new character classes (Paladin and Necromancer) and the possibility to customize house designs.
- Samurai Empire (November 2, 2004) Brought ancient Asian mythology and folklore to the game, two new classes (Ninja and Samurai) and a new area to explore, the Tokuno Islands.
Bartonism refers to the philosophical system currently flourishing in Ultima Online. It is possibly one of the greatest examples of flash mob psychology known to the gaming community; even those who aren't adherent to Bartonistic beliefs often invoke his name in crowds when they hear another speak it.
Bartonism supposedly originated on the Atlantic server where it was started by a player named Stuffa. According to Stuffa, Barton is the name of one of his former teachers.
Because of its popularity, Bartonism is viewed as approaching religious proportions while maintaining a light-heartedness unique among the other belief systems Ultima Online offers.
Unlike organized religion, Bartonism lacks definitive scripture or a code of conduct, making it more similar to naturalist systems of belief. Joy and laughter are virtues celebrated by its members while above all the promotion of good feelings with one's fellows takes precedence over anything else.
It is not uncommon to see members gather at Castle British for no other reason than to enjoy each others' company and perhaps give homage to the statue of Barton the Conqueror found on the Atlantic shard. At events and other times when several members are assembled cries of "BARTON!!!" can often be heard echoing among them. The significance of invoking the name of Barton is a mystery at present, but some feel that as the philosophy ages more will be revealed.
Regardless, enough notice has been given to Bartonism that specific items have been created in-game to either promote or debase it by the Support Team. Given that Bartonism originated on the Atlantic shard support for it there is found more easily than anywhere else.
Technically-inclined fans of Ultima Online have reverse-engineered the game to produce emulators of the original game servers. This emulation is legal, and Origin is aware of its existence, although in certain countries the authors of these emulators are considered to have violated their software license by reverse-engineering the game, and may be banned from the official UO servers as a result (other countries don't allow restrictions on reverse engineering). To stay legal, emulation servers do not distribute the client files, and must not charge to be able to play on the shard.
With emulators, coders and players alike can enjoy a much larger variety of playstyles and UO time periods. From the Pre-T2A era, to the era of Samurai Empire, to fully customized shards which don't even seem like UO anymore. A few shards encourage or enforce their players to roleplay and remain in-character, while far more encourage PvP combat.
A list of notable UO shard emulators:
- Hybrid - C++, closed source
- Lonewolf Emu - C/C++, open source (GPL)
- NOX-Wizard - C++, open source (GPL)
- Penultima Online (POL) - closed source
- RunUO - C#/.NET, open source
- SphereServer - closed source
- SteamEngine - C#/.NET, open source (GPL)
- UOX3 (Ultima Offline eXperiment 3) - C/C++, open source (GPL)
- UOX3 (Unofficial) - C/C++, open source (GPL)
- Wolfpack Emu - C/C++, open source (GPL)
Many of these player run shards use the Ultima Online Top 200 for free advertising by their playerbase. The players of a server or shard merely have to vote to raise that server's ranking on a list of 200 different shards.
Ultima Online emulation has become quite a phenomenon, no other MMORPG had as many different emulators over the years, and none have achieved the quality of emulation provided by the likes of RunUO.
While a lot of players choose to play on emulated servers to avoid the monthly fee of the official servers, a good part of them migrated away from the official servers because of disagreements in the changes the developers made to the original gameplay over the years.
Nowadays, some servers rival the official ones in size and quality. It's possible to find complete and well-populated servers emulating the world as it was in the days before the Renaissance expansion pack as well as servers which provide support for all expansion packs to date.
Part of the reason why emulation in Ultima Online has been so successful is the relatively open format of the game's software, it is possible to change the server the game client connects to by merely editing an ASCII text document.
Although the legality of Ultima Online emulators is often disputed, Electronic Arts has never interfered with development of them, which is also a factor for their success.
Ultima Iris (in development) is an open source client able to work with emulated servers. Using mostly the graphics of the official client, it is able to work with higher resolutions and on multiple platforms. It also allows for the addition of custom art, making it highly desirable to custom shard makers. This client allows for 2D or 3D Ultima Online-like game-play requiring only a copy of the original client. The most notable feature of Ultima Iris is its real 3D engine.
- UO.com, official Ultima Online site
- UO on Stratics
- Ianstorm - Ultima Online
- UORares.com - Lists of rare UO items.
- Ultima Online Flashback
Ultima Online emulation
- ShardWire - MMORPG emulation news, information, resources, and more.
- UOGateway - Connect to hundreds of Free Shards.
- Ultima Online Top 200
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