Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 30, 2005
Ultima Online Pre-Trammel

6 years after the event people on different MMORPG message boards are still talking about how great Ultima Online was before the introduction of the PvP-free half of Trammel. And for 6 years I had problems understanding this. I only joined UO after Trammel was introduced, and it was blindingly obvious that over 90% of the players were staying in Trammel, with less than 10% staying on Felucca, the PvP side. Today finally somebody on my guild boards explained me what was so great about pre-Trammel UO in words that I could understand: pre-Trammel UO was great, because to protect yourself from player killers, you were forced to band together in guilds. He was talking about him being protected by fear, beat me up and I'll hunt you down with my 100 buddies.

Basically that is the same idea as the Everquest "vision": Introduce harsh and unpleasant aspects in the game, so people band together to overcome them. The joy of playing together makes people love the game. You get far stronger emotions for the game when the consequences of your actions, both good and bad, are stronger. And these stronger emotions are able to overcome the reluctance of people to form friendships with strangers.

This is the reason why EVE Online is steadily growing, albeit from a small base. You can get shot down anytime, and lose a lot of money for your ship and cargo, even with insurance. And you might even be "podded", killed in your escape pod, thereby losing days or weeks of skill development. And the only thing that protects you (besides dumb luck of not running into pirates) is belonging to a powerful corporation which has the ability to punish the pirates. Your game actions, your PvP combat can have big consequences, both positive and negative. There was a lot of buzz recently when some people got hired as virtual assassins, infiltrated a major guild, and managed to kill the guild leader and steal most of the corporations wealth.

If you like things like that, the relative safety of games like World of Warcraft can sure seem boring in comparison. Abalieno calls it a "fake war", and connects the fact that people are exploiting the honor system with the fact that honor rewards are the only consequence of WoW PvP.

Nevertheless I have to observe that boring safety, games in which you can't be griefed, are much more popular in the west than the hardcore games in which you can. It is well known that Trammel was a direct consequence of dwindling subscription numbers of UO, and only the addition of the "safe" version of the game enabled it to survive. Safe WoW is the biggest game in the US MMORPG market, while griefing-enabled Lineage 1 and 2 never took off. But at least I understand the Koreans, and the tiny minority of western players playing by the same principles, better now. There is some positive, community-building consequence to griefing. Not everybody who likes this sort of games is a griefer.

Anyway, I keep opting for boredom. Heart-racing emotions due to colossal consequences of my game actions are not exactly what I am looking for. I'm playing in the evenings after work, and on weekends, to relax, not to pump myself up with more adrenaline. It is good that there are games for both kinds of players.
What we do know... UO was bleeding subscriptions badly... and they linked it to all the "bad" PvP gankers. Hence we got Trammel.

This literally was the first HUGE expansion to UO... and of course brought in numbers. But it did not bring in HUGE numbers... maybe 60,000 is what the educated guess is out there.

Everquest on the side was growing 100,000+ strong without a HUGE expansion.

So UO really didn't gain anything with Trammel... they could of shipped poop in a box and gotten the same subscriber numbers. They had a market being joined by a large group of first time players... and 60,000 was not any sort of success in my book.

I think the developers failed UO. Your guildmate was right... good vs evil caused the good to group together and the bad to group together.

The flawed theory you stated though is that you could bring vengeance upon your foes... but you forget that they can always log out. The question is does that person log out before or after you cause pain back upon them... very often it was unlikely.

Grouping up and forming communities was more about defense. You didn't get messed with if you were part of the right guild or city in UO... you just didn't unless it was by an enemy guild or enemy city. The in game and especcially out of game communication was insane. PKs were known... PK spots were known. Anti-PK guilds came up all over these areas. There was safety in numbers for both PKs and non-PKs. You had a rather controled gameplay experience by who you knew.

There is so much to be said other than just that. All rewards gained were WORTH it... there was substantial risk in doing anything by yourself.

How UO could of been saved?

Simple... fix the EXPLOITS that caused most people to hate a few select PK griefers... add CONTENT to spread out the players.

The UO world was horribly small for the people playing. The housing was owned up. People wanted to build a house and when they found out they couldn't... they quit. Trammel introduced 2x the land mass to build on... and that is more a reason people played it than anything.

UO was destroyed by trammel.
Video killed the radio star. Trammel killed UO. No doubt.
The first time I was able to kill someone in UO, I almost had a heart-attack. Perhaps it was the endless Diet Cokes and Marlboros, but more likely that it took me SIX MONTHS to get to that point. Practicing on punching bags so I could kill a cow, chopping wood so I could buy regents, endless progression before I even set foot in a dungeon. Until finally that fateful explosion, e-bolt, e-bolt. Dead! The fear and total anarchy of early UO made it the single most exciting and addictive game ever. Nothing will ever touch early UO. You had to have thick skin to survive the growing pains. In fact, I did quit Beta after lagging out and dieing for the 50th time. But, a few months later I was back, choppin' wood, carving bow and arrows, avoiding PKs, running back to town, selling them. Repeat. If I'd a time machine, I'd go back and hang out with Lenny Bruce, Nick Drake, and I'd play me some pre-Trammel, house-looting, explode-flamestrike-hally UO.
I couldn't agree more with this article. I remember playing the second age(and I still do on free shards) and I absolutely loved it. I never realized how important having forced pvp was until it was gone. After I took a long break off UO for several reasons, i came back in the blackthorn's revenge to find that you couldn't pk openly. At first, it was kind of nice not having to watch your back all the time.

After literally a week, I quit the game. The players were many many times more immature because there would never be any consequences for one's own actions. Guilds were something border-line worthless. Player interaction all but died. RPing was dead, not that I RPed, but it was nice knowing that players took a game seriously enough to actually put themselves into the character as opposed to just "playing the game".

Ever Quest would have succeeded either way, in my opinion. But i believe that the UO would have continued to go strong Had that not screwed up that one single fundamental aspect of the game.

UO should have stuck to its roots. It didnt have to copy EQ to stay strong. OSI Panicked because everquest stole a few of their developers and was outmarketting and outselling them. Everquest could have been a great thing for ultiam online and could have brought people into UO. Everquest was drawing peopel intot he market. This could have been a great thing for if it still offered soemhting differernt, instead it tried to copy EQ. PLayers coudl start off on everquest and eventually mature as gamers and desire something with better content and gameplay such as UO.
I came to this article to get a better understanding of the difference between "pre-Trammel" and post Trammel UO. Until now, I really didn't know the difference. It's a little more clear to me now, but I just thought I'd throw this out there for all you pre trammel fans.

I promise you will be excited by what you find =) All the comments describing their awesome experiences sound very much familiar to my experiences in MO beta so far =D

Good Luck, and hopefully I can find you Nave one day, and kill you for all your loots! ^^

You could house loot.
You could possibly be pk'd when you were out of town.
You could house loot.
You could Pk people.
You could house loot.
There were no item limits in houses.

Get the point?

I spent 3 weeks mining ingots with a friend to buy a small house outside of Trinsic. From some people I became friends with just stumbling outside their house. I loaded all 3 walls of that house with chests and spent countless hours just attacking my neighbors and killing liches. Trying not to die from the Poison elemental that was constantly being lured around by the awesome thief in the dungeon.

They should have released an expansion like T2A where you could build more houses, since this was the biggest issue.
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