Ultima Online: Time of Legends = Savage Empire, Ultima II

Time of Legends

Time of Legends (No, this is not official artwork)

The Ultima Online team has put together a video diary of what they have planned for Ultima Online in 2015, including bringing in some of Savage Empire and Ultima II.

It’s quite a bit of information for an 8-minute video, covering topics ranging from UO moving to Steam to a new expansion, so let’s get started.

Note: I have tried to convey the information below as accurately as possible based on my own viewings of the video, and if I have misinterpreted anything (or projected), please leave a comment below.

If you’d like to watch the video, here’s the link, or watch it above.

The video starts off with Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong, producer of UO, discussing preparations for Steam (they were already Greenlit for Steam). She mentions that they need a New Player Experience, as well as several other things that are not named, but that are needed in order for UO to work on Steam. Preparations for Steam will not happen until the latter part of this year.

Next up, we have Greg “Kyronix” Havlusch, UO designer, discussing vice and virtue, and how they built a good foundation for it, and will expand upon it. It will appeal to “casual PvPers” who don’t have a lot of time for things like “faction-esque sieges“, but they still want to include those features.

Account Management/Billing Issues
Back to Mesanna, discussing how they want to make the account management system more friendly. She states very bluntly that it’s not friendly right now. She wants to simplify changing credit cards and passwords, as well as locating accounts (for those who return to UO). The target date is mid-May. She also discussed the new call-back phone service and how you need to follow all of the steps before you use it. There will be a list on UO.com of what will be covered under the call-back features.

Jim “Onifrk” Crawley, UO artist, stated that his personal goal was to improve upon the art that’s already there, and to add new pieces of art to really push the game engine. They have already found ways to improve the existing system. Their long-term focus is to maintain the “look and feel that is UO without going beyond that” and that the draw of UO is that it has that “classic look.”

UO.com Re-design
The UO.com website is being re-designed, and Mesanna is very pleased with it. The hope is that it will be finished in March. She stated “We have done what we promised” and mentioned that it translates into many different languages, and that it’s easy to navigate and find what you need, and that the information will be clear.

Ultima Online: Time of Legends
Ultima Online: Time of Legends is a new expansion, and draws upon some of the lore from previous games in the single-player Ultima series. They want to draw from the whole of the Ultima series, but for now we are getting two very interesting areas from two different games. The expansion will include new areas to explore, new creatures to encounter, new loot, new champ spawns (two of them, most likely one for each). There will be “different mechanics” so that it’ll feel like a “fresh new flavor of champ spawns“.

UltimaCodex.com Notes:

  • Time of Legends is described in Ultima II thusly: “One period, reported vaguely by at least two independent travelers, appears to have no place in prior philosophic thought at all. Ironically, if it is what it appears to be, it is the period about which the most has been written. Until recently, such writings were believed to be speculation at best, pure fancy at worst. It is a time we know only through mythology – the time of Legends.

    The time before time, peopled by creatures of myth and lore. Whether the time of Legends is ruled by good or evil affects all other times and places. It is believed that the power of the enchantress Minax, the authoress of our worst troubles, is greatest at this time.

  • Shadowguard is from Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress. “Shadowguard is the stronghold of Minax the Enchantress in Ultima II, which resides in the mythical Time of Legends…..The palace of Minax was located in a land seemingly beyond time, wherein the balance of good and evil affected the temper of all history. The impressive citadel was home to terrifying monstrosities. It also housed torture chambers, a cathedral dedicated to black masses, a museum of Minax’s conquests, a thieves’ guild, a morgue, a garden filled with time doors and two chambers which Minax was capable of dimensionally transposing herself between.
  • Valley of Eodon from Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire: Eodon is a jungle-like, enclosed valley, where dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures live beside humans. It was visited by the Avatar in Savage Empire. This strange mixture of worlds was created by a huge, corrupted moonstone. The valley of Eodon was actually on Earth, but the moonstone somehow put it out of phase, making it inaccessible and unmappable….Only the Orb of the Moons allowed travel into the valley. The tribes of the valley of Eodon were magically drawn from varying periods and locations in history, such as the aboriginal nations of Mesoamerica and tropical Africa. However, the enslaved people gained freedom, when their slavers were (mostly) destroyed by their own creation, the Myrmidex. The valley was threatened to be destroyed by the corrupted moonstone in the hands of the Myrmidex Queen, but thankfully the Avatar was able to prevent this disaster and destroy the threat of the Myrmidex as well.

Currency Conversion
Moving away from the expansion, Stephen “Bleak” Brown, UO Engineer, discussed currency conversion:

  • It will be shard-based.
  • It will not be account-based.
  • Money on one character on shard will be accessible to any other character on that shard (UltimaCodex’s note: most likely within the same account)
  • They want to improve and make it easier for players to engage in transactions with money when they are not online.
  • A player will be able to transfer gold to another player on another shard.
  • A player will be able to send money to other players who are not online.

There will be new clothing/wearables. They will be working to differentiate male from female in the new wearables. They are influenced by what players have sent in/requested. More flowing dresses for the women. Potentially more beards for men.

Virtue System
Spirituality and Humility will be fleshed out to “round out the Virtue System”. There will be a bonus when you complete all of the virtues.

Players who do not have customizable houses (i.e. the classic or pre-built houses) will have a way to add in certain walls and items that you normally wouldn’t be able to use in a regular (classic) house.

Part of building the Valley of Eodon and Shadowguard will include new environment art. A big part will be building materials, which will be added into the House Customization system. Players will have access to that new art and materials to customize their existing houses and plots.

Skillmasteries or Masteries
The team doesn’t want to take the skill cap to 800 or the powerscroll cap to 130. They are going in a new direction, to provide a “different flavor of character development” while providing a level of customization that “you could really go wild with” with some “really exciting templates” with different abilities.

Michael “Misk” Armstrong, UO Quality Assurance discussed the mastery items, and how they plan on using various existing encounters (champ spawns, etc.) to divvy out the items necessary for that system

Everything from here to the end of this article is purely commentary/speculation.

New Player Experience/Steam/UO.com
It’s good to see they plan on a new player experience for UO as they enter Steam. As they mentioned a few years ago, and as many people who have played a variety of MMORPGs knows, usually the first hour or two will determine just how involved a player will or will not be with an MMORPG. Steam is going to provide a lot of exposure, more than they’ve probably had since the 15th and possibly even the 10th anniversaries, but if players new to UO come in and are confused and then leave, all of the efforts the team are putting in will be for nothing.

We need the high-resolution artwork upgrade that has been worked on for the past several years. Yes, UO has a classic/iconic look, but I’m not saying change it, I’m saying make it high-resolution/scalable to take advantage of modern computers. If you want new players and more revenue, you will have to meet them half-way – you can keep the styling/isometric view of UO, but bump the resolution up. They’ve done a lot of work on improving the EC client to better fit what many new players are used to with modern MMORPGs, so hopefully they are taking it to the logical conclusion.

UO.com needs an official player community area. Facebook doesn’t cut it. Fansites, as much as they’ve done to keep UO going, a new player is not going to say “where are the forums/social media areas, oh wait, it’s Ultima Online, I need to go to this or that fan site”, they are going to say “Hmm, appears the place is dead or the game is no longer supported.”

New players who have played other MMORPGs expect there to be an official community. That is where they expect to go to find most of the answers they need for common issues, and that is where they expect official communication.

As things stand, there will be a new UO community spring up on Steam, as it’s normal for every game up on Steam to have a forum (see http://steamcommunity.com/discussions/#games) for players to talk about the game and any Steam-specific issues. Inevitably, people will go back to UO.com looking for an official community.

Currency Conversion
I’m very pleased this is finally being added in. It should take care of a lot of problems that people had, it might even help out some problematic areas of the game, and hopefully we will get a full messaging system out of it (one has been talked about for years, and we have an in-game system in place already, albeit a very simple/rough system).

All in all, should be a very good year for UO.

4 Responses

  1. Corv Corv says:

    Can’t believe I say this, but this actually sounds good. A step in the right direction. And with steam there might be some fresh blood in the game. Right now it feels a bit like a retirement home full of people who everything BUT change (even if its change for the better). It’s insane how good suggestions ra being killed off by the main player base .
    I might even register again to see how this plays out. And yes I am also one of the people who think UO could benefit a lot from a good new 3D (still iso of course) client.

  2. Deckard says:

    There are a lot of good things mentioned in here. I’ve talked to a few people about it, and yes, some of these things seem like they are there to appease current players, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since they improve the game in general.

    Normally I’m opposed to new land masses – I feel they will just spread out an already too-small population even more, and normally I’d say the resources would be better off elsewhere, but these are intriguing since they are supposed to bring with them new gameplay mechanics for those areas, and those gameplay mechanics maybe something that helps with new players. They could lay the foundation for bringing in more Ultima lore, and that’s not a bad thing.

    My view is that most things need to be weighed in regards to whether or they do one of the following:
    1) Bring in new players
    2) Help new players acclimate to UO’s unique world
    3) Keep new players

    If I was grading the things mentioned in the video in regards to whether they met the above criteria, it would look something like this:

    Move to Steam = Yes
    Finishing the Virtues system = Yes (uncompleted systems are confusing/look bad)
    Improving account management/billing support = Yes
    UO.com redesign = Yes
    Currency system = Yes

    UO Expansion (or rather the areas) = Maybe yes, maybe no. We will have to wait and see. I think it will get some interest from older Ultima fans. If the gameplay mechanics provide something that non-UO players might want, then definitely.

    Artwork = Maybe yes, maybe no. Are we getting the high-resolution update? If yes, then it helps immensely (would be the single-biggest boost). If things remain the same, then it’s not helping.

    Clothing/Wearables = Divided. They aren’t a bad thing, will make current players happy, and aren’t taking resources from critical areas (I hope).

    Stonecrafting/Housing Changes. Not a bad thing, will make current players happy, and probably aren’t taking resources from critical areas.

    Skillmasteries/Masteries = I agree that going up to 800 on the skill cap or 130 on powerscrolls is not the way to go, since it just scales everything up, and scaling things up loses its luster fairly quickly. I don’t know enough yet to decide if they help new players.

  3. The main problem with up is its nearly impossible to join a guild,