Reviving a Legend

Tobold has an interesting post up about the eventual decline of all MMO games. His argument is that with time players grow bored of the game, and as the game ages, the players depart for greener pastures. I touched on that idea a few days ago when I asked why game developers don’t upgrade their games.

However, I’m not going to post about that. I’m on a different track here. Tobold made the following comment:

EA certainly regrets earlier decisions to have canceled UO2 twice, because now the Ultima brand is dying.

I think Tobold is correct here. There would have to be at least some amount of regret in the EA camp about the cancellation of the sequel to Ultima Online simply because that game is now fading into obscurity.

I find it quite ironic really. The reason given for the cancellation of Ultima Online 2 was that EA believed UO2 would hurt UO by dividing its subscriber base. Instead, by not having a successor to Ultima Online, subscribers ended up drifting off to other companies products. Business rule numero uno — When you manage to get a customer, do everything you can to keep him.

So. Is it game over for Ultima Online?

Not yet. Ultima Online is still operating. It still has subscribers, a loyal bunch who won’t go quietly into that virtual night. But Ultima Online’s days are numbered. Eventually EA will consider the cost of running the game outweighs the benefits of keeping it going, and will switch off the servers. Then Ultima Online will exist only in our memories and on the countless unofficial servers running it.

The only hope of keeping the Ultima Online legend alive is for EA to, as soon as possible, revive the development of Ultima Online 2.

It’s important that a new version of UO isn’t WoWified. It also shouldn’t simply be a modernization of the original game. Here are a few ideas.

  • Keep it as a skill based game. Don’t use classes for character development.
  • Make it unique. Don’t try and emulate World of Warcraft or any other games. Perhaps try and develop a unique art style.
  • Keep as many of the game systems of the original Ultima Online. There’s a reason the game has lasted this long.
  • Implement modern game systems as makes sense to the UO style. Players like new MMO systems like quest icons, and instances.

Do you think that it’s even worth saving Ultima Online?

What sort of features do you think the successor should have?

I’d like to hear your opinions.  Leave a comment below, or continue the discussion in the forums.

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  1. Jakob

    The issue of successor games is an interesting one. I cannot speak to the value of UO because I have never played it. But I am an avid Guild Wars fan, and they have decided to slowly put Guild Wars 1 into mothballs and develop Guild Wars 2. The GW fan forums are awash with angst over this transition. Players spend SO MUCH TIME developing a character that now cannot be “transferred” to the newer game. The newer game will feature a more WoW-like, persistent world environment, so players are angst-ridden over whether it will even still be the same game they once knew and loved.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens — whether ArenaNet will be able to hang onto their Guild Wars player base.

    There are really only two ways to keep players: (1) keep adding new features, upgrades, and expansions to an existing game or (ii) offer a sequel or newer, but similar game(s) to them. MMO companies are doing both. Look at City of Heroes, still adding new content after all these years! But it’s the “reinvent-the-game” companies that have the brightest future, I think, and will hold onto their players the longest.

  2. Stropp (Post author)

    That’s an interesting point. No matter wether a dev upgrades their game or offers a completely new sequel, they have to be careful not to alienate their existing players. Since players put so much time into developing their PCs, it would be nice to offer some sort of transition over to the new game. That could be as simple as having some sort of family inheritance, where the new character inherits some of his ancestors old gear, or perhaps as complex as weaving some of the old game characters into the new games lore.

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