Saturday, 4 June 2011

The good old days of yore: Ultima Online

UO was the first MMORPG I got into and for eight years it provided the platform for many fantastic adventures and meeting both frustrating and friendly players alike from all across the globe.

Released in 1997 its eagle-eye perspective on the world and graphics are considered subpar against its more modern competitors these days, but in terms of content it had everything. Want to build a house? Ride a horse? Sail a boat and explore the seas? Tame a dragon? Be a humble farmer content at planting crop and shearing sheep? A brigand hiding on the outskirts of civilization? A carpenter who enjoys building tables while in the deepest pits of the earth surrounded by large and dangerous monsters? Sure! You can do all of that and much more!

The interface is also quite easy to use, and combat is not much more difficult. Text appears above the character who spoke it which makes it easy to stay in the action and not have to look down at a chat log that just holds all the conversations happening around you (though that function is available too). As an example, my grandfather who is over 90 years of age still plays it and enjoys his hunting trips into Destard to keep the dragon population in check. Origin was also pretty good at removing various bugs throughout the years, like the silly one below:


Furthermore, the rise of thousands of unofficial "free" shards made the game accessible to even the most peniless of school kids (like me at that time). Some of them added their own twists to the world while others tried to emulate the already numerous official servers. Being a bit of a internet cheapskate scallywag urchin I stayed on the free shards with my brothers and our guild "Dragonarm".

We ventured through lands teeming with people, some mostly filled with scum bags, others filled mostly with noble folk. Other worlds seemed to have been overrun by monsters with rarely another player to be seen. Some worlds used the many large standard maps that come with the game, others restrict it to just one or two sections, while others still do away with it all together and have their own unique landscapes. I found that generally the worlds that enforce RP (roleplaying) have less player scumbags than those that don't, and pretty much across the board death in game is a hassle as you could potentially lose all your stuff (either to looters, monsters, or decay) and ressurection is only available in select places if you don't have team mates with the appropriate skills nearby to aid you.

On one shard with strict RP, death also had the chance of being final. The more you died the more that chance increased where you would never again be among the living and would need to start a new character. That one was a bit too hard core even for my guild! :P

My grandpa, perhaps the oldest UO player at over 90 years of age!

With the client available online for those who look hard enough, there is something in it for everyone and many new friends and maybe some new foes to be met online as well. If you think this is something you'd like to try, here are the free shards that I've visited that are still standing and are good places to start:

Shadowcove - custom map, friendly folk, no PvP, no custom housing but you can buy houses in towns.

Age of Avatars - standard maps (large), lots of custom baddies, rare to run into people though so you need to know what you're doing.

DarkAge 2 - strict RP, custom map, potential for Final Death. Hardcore roleplayers only! :P

18 comments:

  1. Alas.. Shadowcove is no more.. -- Geoff

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    1. Yeah, tis a pity. Actually only DarkAge2 remains active on that list above with Age of Avatars shutting down a number of months ahead of Shadowcove.

      Guess you'll need to get on more on Guildwars 2, Mabinogi or try out Wizardry Online with me? I'm on the Bareaux Bareaux (EU) server. :P

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    2. Hate to kind of hijack, but does anyone know when and why Shadowcove shut down? Just curious.

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    3. Hi Anon! It shut down around about the 13th of Feb 2013 due to a very low player base (it had been dwindling for awhile) & lack of interest from the admins to continue the server I think.

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  2. After much searching around the net, I just found this sad news about UO Shadowcove. I guess I don't have any right to complain if I'm just now finding out about this. And if the owners felt it was time to close the shard and move on, that is their right. But I will always miss Shadowcove. Over the years I have always returned there. Its design, from maps to decoration to crafting and vendors and housing and advancement, all of it to me represented directions that Ultima Online could have and should have gone in. This is very sad news. Thank you to everyone who maintained and played on this great shard over the years.

    Shadowcove UO Ultima Online Shadowcove: Prophecy Player-realms

    ^^ Just helping out with the Google searches. :)

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    1. Thanks E! Hopefully the admins get to read this someday. :)

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  3. If I remember correctly user base started going down when they changed the "crafting" thingy. You can't purchase the ingredients/materials from the vendors you must grind/farm/buy from other players. Some players don't play that way(vendoring) and just want to travel and kill mobs.

    It was a bad move imho changing the crafting method unless you have a large user base.

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    1. Actually what did it in for my guild was the change that made gold incredibly difficult and slow to get, tied into the "jobbing" system while unique was a really bad thing to introduce.

      Given that gold was the only way to train up each skill this made character progression go really slow and for those who only played occasionally it was the straw that broke the camel's back as they rightly felt they were not progressing / could progress faster in other games.

      It's a common pitfall in games, they design stuff thinking they are the only option around - which is never the case.

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  4. I was Slayer, house of Midori, (and Xanthos)! I was a member from the very beginning. Way, way back, when Marilla and Morgaine first started Shadowcove. I remember the old days when nowhere was safe. I miss playing and bow my head at their demise. I slowly lost contact due to life (Work, family, etc...). I wish I had kept in contact......

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    1. Thanks for the comment Jay! Yeah Shadowcove was pretty good for the most part while it lasted. :)

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  5. Is your grandfather still playing?
    I just came back to Pacific shard after 7 yrs..! :)

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    1. Sadly no, he passed away in late 2014. :(

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  6. Sometimes i miss them days a lot. Arianna passed away sadly after we broke up. -maki

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    1. Ack... poor Ari! I'm sorry to hear that Maki. :( What are you up to these days? Are you still in contact with any other Shadowcovians?

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  7. Bannor Warmark11 June 2016 at 00:18

    Amon is in prison. http://www.thenewscenter.tv/home/headlines/Belpre-Sentencing.html

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    1. Whoa, thanks for the update! That's... awkward? Lol.

      Hope you are doing well Bannor! Are you adventuring in other lands now?

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    2. Hey Joseph and other old Shdowcovians. I was Arthur Thorne on Shadowcove and Ran with a bear named Morko and my wife Faith. I'm on SWTOR now. Playing on Shadowlands and The Red Eclipse. I can be found on Twitter @Kurtulmak

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    3. Hi Arthur! I remember you and Faith (though usually I'd just slink by)! :)

      Is SWTOR any good? More importantly, is it F2P? :P

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