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Ultima Online spent years developing a system that was destroyed by players (gametyrant.com)
249 points by foggyToads 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 189 comments

MMOs as virtual worlds are really hard. Red Dead Redemption online has all the great graphics, but play is mostly people randomly killing other people. No plot. This is a big problem with MMOs - big working worlds can be built, but mostly people just kill each other. Look at the success of Fortnite - 8 million peak concurrent players.

Second Life has a functional economy, but no NPC ecosystem. The economy is driven by land ownership and fashion. Second Life has landlords, who pay money to Linden Labs for land and get a bulk discount, then rent it out. They have most of the problems of real landlords - collecting rent, handling evictions, dealing with tenant complaints and tenant disputes. Most of the administration of Second Life is handled by landlords. The biggest operations make US$ 6-7 figures this way.

Fashion is a big deal in Second Life. There are designers with followings. Fashion shows. Women are in the majority. This is entirely player based - players are buying from other players. LL takes a cut when converting from Linden dollars to US dollars, but it's under 10%.

Objects in SL have privileges, but not quite like files. The privileges are Copy, Mod, and Transfer. This is key to making the economy work. Owning an item with Copy privilege lets you make more copies, but you can't give them other people. With Transfer privilege alone, you can give or sell the item to others, but can't make more copies. Items like furniture and vehicles are usually Copy, no Transfer, so you can buy one chair and set up a room, but not set up a car dealership. Clothing is usually Transfer, no Copy, so only the owning avatar can wear it, but you can sell it at a rummage sale. Anything which is both Copy and Transfer can be duplicated and sold. All this is server side, so it's hard to break the protection.

SL now has a NPC system, "animesh", but, as is typical for Linden Labs, they just implemented it and gave out a few demo objects. Everything else is up to the users.

SL runs about 40,000 concurrent users, which would place it at about #12 on Steam if it were on there, around where GTA V is on Steam.

> This is a big problem with MMOs - big working worlds can be built, but mostly people just kill each other.

This isn't a problem with these games. It's intentional. Everyone knows how to mitigate it, you introduce a factor of significant loss aversion into attacking or being attacked, e.g. what EVE Online has where you might lose significant resources as a result.

Players by an large don't like that, and just want to join multiplayer and shoot and be shot.

The general public multiplayer mode in games like RDR or GTAV is always utter chaos like that, but you can just join private groups where it isn't like that.

I think that's the best of both worlds, you can still die (e.g. accidentally) and respawn quickly, and if you're being a dick the moderator of that session can kick you.

Something that a was part of for a long time which I thought had a good mix of this was Civcraft a Minecraft sever/collection of mods.

It made pretty much all resources scarcer and plants and animals harder to grow (biomdepenedent). Then mods allowed users to reinforce blocks meaning it would take repeated breaks for them to actually disappear. (cooked stone meant 25, iron 255 I think and diamond 1255 or similar). Reinforced doors and similar also had permissions associated with them.

Kill other users with a pearl in your hand would trap the player in the end till the pearl de-spawned, you released them, or logged out with it in your inventory. On top of that there were a few other mods, but in my mind it did a remarkably good job of keeping a server with anarchist rules from imploding. I think a lot of it was that Minecraft is a game you can do something other than kill people in.

My solution was to play modpacks that no sane person would be bothered grinding in order to grief. Svens and Test Pack Please Ignore are what our servers were based on. If you wanted to grief you would uabe to grind for hours before being capable enough to bother anyone.

So in your case and mine it seems the solution was giving serious players tools to defend themselves that were resource or time intensive to defeat, so the griefer wouldn't be bothered.

Getting sort of off subject, but one of the things I liked about this set of mods was that they were entirely server side. It got a bit awkward in that it required text commands in the place of interfaces in a lot of places, but it meant that the difficulty of getting people to join was a lot smaller. I think at the peak it was still fairly small but a healthy 100+ on most days.

My first big bit of software development was a mod that ended up getting used on the server and that's still updated by some of the copycat servers that got created after.

Do you happen to know any active copycat servers?

Haven't played personally, but https://www.reddit.com/r/civclassics/ seems to stil be kicking.

Civcraft was one of the few games where the economy felt really real, and the gameplay truly emergent.

I haven't had that much trouble in GTAV. It definitely happens, but it's normally hackers rather than people abiding by the rules.

I think the fact that people have such a grind to get anywhere, and there is so much to do other than grief. Perhaps people sympathize because they are trying to do the same thing. Even though you get rewarded for it, most people don't try and ruin your missions.

It's possible I get matchmade into more polite servers because I never cause trouble. I don't know if they keep track of that. They definitely track it during each individual session.

Essentially MMOs aren't just one hard problem, they are a collection of hard problems.

There are some excellent game theoretic problems in there, the ecology is just one of them. One of the more interesting experiments in the StarWars universe game was the market economics of things like furs.

What I noticed during my years of WoW playing was that the market functioned very much like the 'in app purchase' market of more casual games. For example you could sell magic reagents which an enchanter could use to level up their skill, this was a quick way for someone to exchange gold for skill points. It created an economic stream for players who could "farm" the correct materials to disenchant to get the most in demand reagents (as I recall Greater Eternal Essence was a big seller).

Success in an MMO is in part a balance of these opportunities where a character can trade time for value.

In the Ultima online case the skins were just worth essentially vendor cash, but without that market force in the middle, the economy tanked. Now if vendors paid less and less for hides as the rate of hides redeemed for cash increased, it would provide a natural limiter on the value of that activity.

A truly successful MMO would provide a way for the MMO owner to tax the activity of the players in a way that generated actual cash for them to pay for servers and developers. Then the game becomes self sustaining.

A truly successful MMO would provide a way for the MMO owner to tax the activity of the players in a way that generated actual cash for them to pay for servers and developers. Then the game becomes self sustaining.

Which is what Second Life does. Land payments support Linden Labs.

There is a new generation of virtual worlds - VRchat, Sansar, Sinespace, and High Fidelity. The last three have numbers of concurrent users well below 100. VRchat had around 10,000 at peak, and is now down to around 5,000. There's also Facebook Spaces, which is a VR interface to Facebook that didn't catch on, and Decentraland, which was an excuse for an initial coin offering and whose blog is down. Those are all holdovers from the VR boom that didn't happen.

The next new technology is Spatial OS, a back-end game engine for really big MMOs and virtual worlds. A few games are just starting to use this. The company behind it is valued at $500M, which means they have to charge so much to use it that big game developers are staying away. You have to run it on Google servers, and they don't publicly disclose the price schedule. It's generally said to be high, though.

Based on this and my own investigation of the tech, I predict Spatial OS is going to tank. Hard.

The resource quality and crafting system in SWG was an absolute masterpiece; I’ve yearned for a game with that amount of depth ever since the combat upgrade patch made it irrelevant.

I led the design on both games, and SWG was of course the application of a lot of lessons learned from UO.

I was going to mention you by name when I was posting that, thank you sincerely for your hand in UO and SWG!

Cool to see you on here. UO fan since beta and I still log in from time to time. SWG was also great.

> In the Ultima online case the skins were just worth essentially vendor cash, but without that market force in the middle, the economy tanked. Now if vendors paid less and less for hides as the rate of hides redeemed for cash increased, it would provide a natural limiter on the value of that activity.

I don't think players were killing the animals for the skins, I think they just indiscriminately mowed over everything for skill gain or just to kill stuff.

> The biggest operations make US$ 6-7 figures this way.

In 2018? And here I thought SL died a decade ago...

I tried to build a business on SL back in 2007. Secundavita was a replica of St.Francis’ church in Assisi. Big success, except for the money part.

I ended up finding a job at AWS through second life. Not a bad outcome.


You mention RDR as if it was an MMO (which it obviously is not), and omit Eve?

How is RDR:Online not an mmo?

A Red Dead Online instance is limited to 30 players and 2 spectators. It's far from massive.

The same way any other session-based multiplayer game, like any Counter-Strike or DOTA or Fortnite are not an MMO. MMO has "massive" in the name, as in "massive amount of players that you can interact with in one game session", and usually implies public spaces that are persistent and can be visited by any player freely.

Although, I must admit, the distinction is much less clear now than it was, say, 10 years ago.

This is why I always thought that big penalties in MMOs would be interesting. In Minecraft you have "survival" servers, if you die you can't re-join the server for seven days.

That's hardcore mode, but I get your point

How are objects created in the first place? If I like your object, can I just make another one that looks exactly the same?

By using the simple in-game 3D modeller, or by using an external 3D modeller and importing meshes. Plus time writing or adapting scripts in SL's scripting language, if there's any interactivity needed.

It is a similar amount of effort to what goes into making the equivalent object in a 3D game, and if you have the skills and the time, sure, clone other people's stuff, or make your own riffs on them!

Wouldn't it be possible to rip the mesh of the existing object directly out of the game client's memory? And then import it again as a new (copyable) object.

In the SL world, this is called copybotting.

That would be because of a tool called CopyBot which came out in 2006.


Yes, but if you try to sell it, that gets noticed, and the copier has DMCA problems.

Also, scripting is entirely server side, so that's not copyable.

Yes, but then you just trade time for gold again. The whole point was to get something without paying the "time" cost.

I owe my career to this game.

I was totally obsessed with UO from the moment I logged in for the first time and created my character, a crafter who was primarily a miner/blacksmith.

That’s the thing about UO... nobody was the hero, everyone was just trying to survive and thrive in their own way; whether that meant crawling the dungeons as a warrior, bard, tamed, or caster; terrorizing those same dungeons as a player-killer out to strip the dungeon crawlers of all their loot and gear; or, spending your days baking bread or running your own player shopping mall, your only limitation was your effort and imagination. The idea that you could stake out your own small part of this vibrant world, right down to building a house in the limited land space available; or making your name as an accomplished crafter who people sought out for their superior crafted equipment, it was so fascinating to me.

After a few years I found out about a project called the Ultima Offline eXperiment, they were working on a server emulator that would let you run your own worlds, with your own rules! (Their scripting engine was JavaScript, running on the server... 19 years ago) As a teenager with no prior software experience, this was incredible to me. I scoured the internet for anything I could find to learn C++ and JavaScript and started screwing around with the emulator. It was slow going at first, given the somewhat limited resources available on the internet at the time, but I stuck with it and from that point on I knew exactly what I wanted to spend my life doing. After that I moved to would become the de-facto emulator for nearly 2 decades, RunUO. Through that community I found contract work on projects that were unrelated to UO, and from that experience transitioned to a full-time career in software about 10 years ago.

This game was hugely important to me and who I became because of it, and it makes me so happy that stories about UO pop up every few years as a reminder of that.

Same! Never used UOX but ran a few small private servers back in the day using SphereServer and eventually RunUO. While it didn't lead to any professional connections in my case, it was my first foray into programming.

Ultima Online in its early iterations was truly a magical game and helped to define a lot of the core design patterns of MMORPGs. The lead designer of UO, Raph Koster, has a lot of great insight when it comes to game design. I recommend his 2014 GDC talk, "Practical Creativity" [1], even to developers who are not interested in game development.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyVTxGpEO30

>That’s the thing about UO... nobody was the hero, everyone was just trying to survive and thrive in their own way; whether that meant crawling the dungeons as a warrior, bard, tamed, or caster; terrorizing those same dungeons as a player-killer out to strip the dungeon crawlers of all their loot and gear; or, spending your days baking bread or running your own player shopping mall, your only limitation was your effort and imagination. The idea that you could stake out your own small part of this vibrant world, right down to building a house in the limited land space available; or making your name as an accomplished crafter who people sought out for their superior crafted equipment, it was so fascinating to me.

This is absolute magic to me. Wow. It sounds like an absolute dream. It is my opinion that the possibilities of a shared, persistent, virtual world were never fully realised. The description you make: of a fantasy world, persistent, vast, "real" (as in, internally consistent and fair), a world you can live in... modern MMOs offer absolutely none of that. It's a shame.

It speaks volumes that probably the best realisations of the MMO were... Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies, maybe Everquest? Maybe even some primitive MUDs and, oddly enough, a couple Minecraft servers. Instead we're stuck with WoW (and its clones), which was an excellent game in its own right, but it wasn't a true MMO in the sense above described.

> we're stuck with WoW (and its clones), which was an excellent game in its own right, but it wasn't a true MMO

because most companies didn't realize what they were copying when they copied WoW.

True MMO - aka, a sandbox game. See this very indepth critique, if you want more about this topic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvK8fua6O64

Let me tell you this, but.. WoW was the clone, it tried to copy already existings MMOs, the only reason WoW was sucessfull was because all the advertising it got

Asia (KR/JP) had already huge mmo games before WoW

That’s not completely fair... WoW was successful because it was outstandingly polished (no other game was even close at the time) and fun to play.

It also got a massive amount of early hype by being a Blizzard/Warcraft IP and not generic fantasy.

All of the buzz surrounding it prior to launch was about being able to play as characters from the Warcraft universe, not that it was a polished MMO.

The IP got people to sign up, the polish made them stick around.

I knew which video you were talking about after reading your first sentence hehe :)

It's interesting that you mention EQ in that statement. EQ was viewed as a direct rejection of the virtual world concept of UO. I only played it for 5-6 months so perhaps it changed over time.

> ... a fantasy world, persistent, vast, "real" (as in, internally consistent and fair), a world you can live in...

Incidentally, are you aware of the LitRPG genre in fantasy? It's pretty much that, in literary form.

I think a fair number of us owe our careers to UO; I'm in a similar boat to you, dabbled with UOX, POL, spent a good deal of time with Sphere (my first foray into 'large' C++ projects and, also my first real Linux exposure sshing into the servers to run `sphere &` when it inevitably crashed), and later with RunUO. It also is what made me learn data structures, in working with tools and programs to read/write (and distribute) changes to UO data files to create your server's own maps, art assets, etc.

(Or, as I used it for, replacing the tree art assets to be smaller, making it easier to see through the 2D isometric trees.)

My favorite tidbit about UO is around the technical term 'shard'. It comes from lore from Ultima I, where the wizard fractures the gem that contains the world into shards, and each shard contains a copy of the world. Ultima Online needed a word to describe multiple servers, they picked a term from the lore.. and now 20 years onward, we talk about database sharding.

Heh, this is funny... I worked on an emulator for Dark Age of Camelot _and_ an emulator for World of Warcraft (WCell) and attribute experience from both projects to getting my first software gig.

I also remember (fondly) going through RunUO with .NET Reflector to pick up tips and tricks. :)

I worked with runuo quite a lot and while I too have lots of fond memories, it's actually a huge mess of a codebase.

It's object-oriented except when it's not. It's modular except where it isn't. It "optimizes" for $number_of_cores_on_your_box but doesn't actually use them for anything but world saves. Almost none of it is commented or documented (doxygen doesn't count as documentation).

I think runuo excelled not because it was significantly better but because it was less shitty than POL and Sphere that came before it.

I generally agree (object serialization was rough, and stop-the-word saves have been a constant issue for the entire life of the project) but the things it did well were done outstandingly better than POL, Sphere, UOX, Wolfpack, etc.

I think the killer feature of RunUO was that it compiled the C# “script” files and linked them at runtime, eliminating the need to attach a scripting language that provides some limited API. It led to some extremely messy code, but it allowed you to achieve anything you wanted with minimum fuss, using the base .NET APIs that were well-documented. And the community was huge and active by UO emu standards.

It doesn’t fall over with 5000+ clients connected to a single server, which is pretty astounding considering it’s TCP based and players tended to clump up pretty majorly during in-game events and such.

It actually falls over around 1000 clients if they're actually playing and encountering one another at any regularity. I have been contributing to a new RunUO based shard (http://www.uooutlands.com) that has become extremely popular and hit 2k clients online. The lag was pretty extreme at first, but after a few weeks of studying CPU profiles I rewrote a lot of the map search algorithms, plus a few other things, and it's scaling easily now. I plan to push the rewrites upstream soon. The emulator still has legs!

My experience is from ~3000 online peak in the mid 2000s, with a more pure T2A ruleset.

Outlands has a breathtaking number of additional systems and enhancements that I’m sure are exposing weak points in the architecture (timers, pathfinding, and distance checking stuff especially).

Amazing shard btw, I logged some hours the week of launch before I got busy over the holidays.

Congratulations on the launch! I’ve heard great things about Outlands and have been meaning to log in and check it out.

It’s been a long time since I was involved in the RunUO community, but as I recall, one of the biggest limiting factors on scalability was activated NPC/AI. Range queries and movement were the two big pieces, so I’m sure your improvements would have a big impact there.

We ran load tests on Hybrid with over 10k clients (not just idle, mind you, but moving and talking and whatever else we were able to throw in to the load generators), and the server was able to keep up just fine. That was on mid-2000 era hardware too, but then again, RunUO wasn’t built to really take full advantage of multiple cores.

There are a lot of things I’d do differently if I had the opportunity to go back and redesign it from the ground up, but the simple single-threaded concurrency model is not something I’d want to change without great care. For all the scalability problems RunUO had, I think the concurrency model contributed significantly to its approachability, and I’d be very cautious of making any changes which would complect game logic with concurrency control.

I’ve heard quite a few stories (and now I’m hearing a few more) of folks whose path into software development started by tinkering around with RunUO. In fact, a few of my closest friends (and some now colleagues) took that same path. I am filled with a weird mix of pride and abject humility whenever I have the opportunity to see how the project has touched people all over the world, often in ways I could never have anticipated.

Please do share your changes back. I’d love to take a look at them, even after so many years.


I'll get those patches out soon. Outlands generally is running much more complex AI with much faster response targets, so in conjunction with the far more detailed map it is stressing RunUO much harder than previous shards. But as noted the primary CPU consumer is definitely the map searching. My changes don't entirely change the algorithm (I've adjusted the sector size), but rather take advantage of more recent C# features that are much friendlier to the JIT and shift several allocations to the stack.

I'd also like to move away from timers for mobiles and simply call a function on a subset of them (sector by sector) each tick. This is advantageous because it groups all of the processing for a set of nearby mobiles in game space together in time, so it should greatly improve the CPU cache hit rate during the map searches. That would also require moving RunUO to a constant tick rate, which I also have patches for.

If anything, my changes have made RunUO more single threaded (and eliminated some locks in doing so). This has proven to be faster than some of the previously highly parallel code because the contention was so bad. That's not to say that it couldn't be done in a way that did scale well, but I agree with you that it would put the code out of reach of hobbyists entirely. I think the code today strikes the right balance of approachability and performance. Thanks for all of your effort on this project!

Surprisingly similar for me, I even released my first piece of software on the runuo forms (maraks script creator haha).

Never translated to working in software (couldn't afford college lol), but it did leave me with a hobbie I still do today, and love.

College isn't a requirement for a career in software... at least not in North America. Although I'm sure you know that by now.

I didn’t go to college either, never too late to make the transition if you want it.

I wish I never went to college. Giant waste of time and money.

FYI there has actually been several attempts to also rewrite the client from scratch. One is still active. See https://github.com/andreakarasho/classicuo. Pretty cool stuff.

I have a very similar story. I spent many many evenings in my teens learning to “script” with Taran’s Sphere Scripting For Dummies website and .chm file for the Sphere Server UO emulator.

Best part is I didn’t even realise I was programming. In my mind I was just making the game do what I wanted.

Me too! I bought a book about C# and read each chapter over and over until I understood what was going on, because I wanted to join work on a RunUO project. Which I did and it was my first experience with working on a team, using source control etc.

That’s cool. I think Minecraft mods did this for a younger gen as well.

The promise of alpha/beta era UO really died quickly. Even more rapidly not long after that once EQ showed up and redefined the genre.

There were other cool ideas beyond the ecology that got the axe pretty quickly. For instance originally NPC shopkeepers kept hours so you had to show up when they were around. Player didn't like this as it was inconvenient so they made them permanently stationed.

Similarly there was a live economy, shopkeepers would only buy things that they needed/wanted, and prices were tied to supply/demand. However players demanded the ability to dump all of their junk to shopkeepers as a way to generate money. A common pattern was that players would have mountains of skullcaps due to building their tailoring skill, but were then upset when no shop would buy 3000 skullcaps from them.

Ultimately it became clear that more would be players preferred "a CRPG where other people happen to be playing" than "a virtual world", so be it.

> A common pattern was that players would have mountains of skullcaps due to building their tailoring skill, but were then upset when no shop would buy 3000 skullcaps from them.

That's not really a problem with the shopkeepers. It's a gross mismatch in how difficult they made it to progress in skill versus the artificial aggregate demand for those products. If your game design requires that your players craft 3,000 of something, it's probably a good idea to think about what they're going to do with 3,000 of that especially if your players are going to expect to make a profit or if they have limited inventory.

Well, the big problem is that most craft skills weren't difficulty-based.

That is, you had a fixed chance to craft anything based on your skill, each attempt made the same exact progress towards improving your skill, and skullcaps used up the least amount of cloth. I think some items may have been gated based on your skill, in that you couldn't attempt them until you passed a certain skill level, but that was it. With Tailoring, regardless of whether you suceeded or failed, an attempt would use up however much cloth it took to make the item you were trying to make, so if the item costs less cloth to make, you could make more skill checks on the same bolt of cloth (IIRC, a skullcap cost 2 yards to make, and a bolt was 50 yards).

Tinkering was even worse. I remember with Tinkering, you'd double click your tinker tools, then select your pile of ingots. At that point, it would check your skill, and if you failed your check, it would say "Tinkering failed" and maybe use up an ingot or two (my memory is hazy on whether or not anything was consumed). If you succeeded, it would bring up the menu where you could pick any tinkerable item in the game, and if you got to the menu, you could make anything you picked as long as you had the requisite raw materials.

IIRC, Blacksmithing was the only craft skill that was difficulty-based from the start.

People really exploited this during character creation when making blacksmiths. You could create your character with up to 100 total points in up to three skills, with a maximum of 50 points in any one skill. The optimal starting layout for a smith was 50 Blacksmithing, 49 Mining, 1 Tinkering. You'd want the some Tinkering because your mining and blacksmithing equipment would often wear out and the replacements were all tinkerable. If you put in any Tinkering at all, you'd start with a free set of tinker tools, and since the skill wasn't difficulty-based, if you needed to replace your shovel or tongs, you'd just repeatedly attempt tinkering on your ingots until you finally succeeded your skill check, no matter how many tries it took, and once you made it to the menu (this leads me to think that failing didn't use up any ingots, but I could be wrong, and my memory on this is hazy), you could make your new shovel or tongs.

They eventually made all the craft skills difficulty-based, but it took several years to implement.

That sounds a bit off - mining was next to worthless to start with as you gained it very fast. Probably 50 smith, 50 tinker would be better.

Yeah, this is not to say that there weren't other problems.

I just wish they'd have solved them via fixing these sorts of root causes instead of just dumbing down the virtual world.

You can't fix people.

I've seen this happen in a lot of MMO's principally WOW and Runescape - as the game ages players increasingly value convenience and you see the more "grinding" elements of the game relax. The more successful games are able to walk the line between respecting what players have "earned" and keeping pace with modern convenience features such as instant teleports and configurable UIs and macros.

Stories like these are tremendously valuable to entrepreneurs. MMORPG ecosystems are some of the most complex pieces of software ever made with ravenous (and lucrative) userbases if you handle it properly. There are plenty of stories of innovative success and massive incompetence to learn from.

Part of the issue is that it was a half-complete migration. Eg you were still gaining skill by generating 3k skullcaps, which leads to the problem of them existing. In order to have a proper economy, you need degredation of supplies (else everything inflates indefinitely, as supply is unconstrained). 3k skullcaps should be unwieldy (and players will naturally trash what they can’t hold), or naturally degrades, in which case they have to sell in much smaller batches, or be heavily used in other processes.

Otherwise they’re really just worthless sludge you get as a side-effect from normal play, and suddenly the dump for them vanished (the always accepting, infinite cash merchants).., and you’ve just got a massive pile of shit to deal with

Also there were things like the "Clean Up Britannia" event, where players were encouraged to cull their item collection in exchange for neon hair dye and other goodies: http://www.uoguide.com/Clean_Up_Britannia_(1999)

> once EQ showed up and redefined the genre.

I don't think I would frame it that way; more like it reverted the genre back to the Diku mold. See

1. https://www.raphkoster.com/2009/01/09/what-is-a-diku/

2. https://www.engadget.com/2015/01/03/the-game-archaeologist-h...

Fair point. I'd say that by genre I meant MMO and not MU*, but it was so nascent that I don't think it'd be accurate anyways. I was mainly channeling one of the key designers, Brad I think, throwing hand grenades into online discussions.

>players preferred "a CRPG where other people happen to be playing" than "a virtual world"

I'm absolutely stealing this. It summarises how I feel about modern MMOs vs the endless possibilities of a shared, persistent, virtual world that I think were never truly realised. (see my other post)

I've seen a game that fixed the 3000 skulls problem.

All items could be destroyed to create runes, that can be applied to another item to improve it. Let's say that a skull giving +10 force would give a few runes to add +1 and +3, the later being more valuable.

Everything was recyclable and there was a complete economy about recycling to provide for the one hundred different characteristics.

This still causes runaway inflation of item power, which results in mudflation.

The earlier economy you describe sounds a bit like Dartmud. I think they gave in eventually too and started supplying the shopkeepers with new money every so often, however some of them still retain in-game "opening hours".

Raph Koster cites MUDs (including Dartmud) as inspiration for Ultima Online [1]. UO as it existed around the T2A / Renaissance era was, in many ways, a lot closer in design to MUDs than it was to modern MMORPGs.

[1] https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/10/31/emmerts-serious-games-...

I've seen plenty of articles along this line, but the author always seems to blame the players for the system failing.

To me it looks like their ecological model failed because it was deeply flawed.

Real ecologies aren't really closed systems. There's generally constant energy coming in from the sun, and that energy is the limiting factor. Humans, at a simple level, build wealth by preserving the products of this energy.

But in original UO, a player having 10000 shirts would cause the amount of wool produced in the world to decline. That doesn't make any sense so it's not surprising that it didn't work.

This is correct. The closed system was a massive design flaw. But it was there in order to prevent mudflation, which is a classic issue with virtual worlds of all stripes, and has severely harmed the economy and game balance of pretty much every single faucet-drain virtual world ever made. So it was a try a fixing a Hard Problem, one that failed.

It doesn't seem that unrealistic to me, given how much of the real ecosystem humans have destroyed so far, and continue to destroy. In fact, I'd say the developers could have predicted this outcome with a quick glance at the real world.

You have a good point that the natural world renews itself from incoming energy, but that doesn't save it when it's destroyed at a faster rate than it can renew.

>Real ecologies aren't really closed systems.

Neither was theirs — things spawned! It was just overexploited, much like our own ecosystem.

>Humans, at a simple level, build wealth by preserving the products of this energy.

A rose-colored summary.

We also frequently engage in futile activities that seem profitable, but in fact destroy wealth by failing to appropriately manage the biogeophysical life-support system of Spaceship Earth. See our current ecological collapse - climate change, soil erosion, wilderness destruction, higher rates of species extinction, aquifer pollution/depletion, overfishing, ocean acidification, ocean plastics, etc.

What is ecologically optimal should also be what's economically optimal, because ultimately they're part of the same overall system. The imaginary economy/ecology divide (like the imaginary human/environment divide) is itself a source of inefficiency, because it incentivizes ignoring problems by pretending to push them "outside the system."

If we can't make economy and ecology align our species is SOL & JWF — shit out of luck and jolly well fucked.

In my opinion, this is the biggest and most intractable of the possible Fermi Great Filters. Not destroying ourselves with nuclear weapons or nano-goo, but restraining our own species from self-annihilating global ecocide via perverse economic incentives (aka "Capitalism, the Bad Parts™").

The free market is an incredibly powerful decentralized decision-making tool, but it should be used to enhance humanity's long-term survival rather than undermine it.

I think you're on to something wrt to the Fermi Paradox and the Great Filter.

I sometimes wonder if it's possible at all for any species that evolved to compete for resources to survive the stage where humans are now.

Just to add: best analogy I've heard is that humanity is collectively acting like a crazed astronaut who's taken a hammer to the oxygen recycler.

UO was such a cool and open experience. I enjoyed it over the next generation “turn in quest” rinse repeat MMOs. In UO I played a blacksmith and a beggar. My friend played a miner and a fanatical priest. We never set foot in a dungeon and saved up enough virtual money to buy our own house.

These are some of my favorite tales from the early UO days. I also had a blacksmith friend. He never went adventuring, he spent his time in the town square doing blacksmithing jobs for folks. I had another friend who was an interior decorator who would decorate your home for a fee. So much more room to explore than your typical CRPG style game.

I was the original lead designer on Ultima Online and the key designer of this system. A few notes, because this article has MANY inaccuracies.

1. Ultima Online wasn't even in development for three years total. An early prototype was February to September 1995, done by Rick Delashmit. Starting late August and early September 1995, the core team showed up. We showed the game at E3 in spring of 1996 in alpha form. We showed it in beta form at E3 in the spring of 1997. And we launched on Sept 26th, 1997. The ecology was in the alpha test, and was removed during the beta after being rewritten by an engineer who didn't really like or understand it.

2. "Not many players know about" this is false. The strategy guide published simultaneously with the game even lists all the resource values for how much meat, hide, feathers, whatever, each creature represented. All of those statistics remained in the game and still are there to this day twenty years later. What was disabled was the AI. The values are still used by crafting, harvesting, and lots of other systems in the game.

3. Said AI is exhaustively documented on my website here: https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/06/03/uos-resource-system/ (first article, there is a sidebar with links to the follow-ons) and also collected in my recent book POSTMORTEMS, which has a huge pile of historical info on Ultima Online as well as Star Wars Galaxies and other games I've worked on.

4. The reason the AI was disabled had nothing to do with why the ecology collapsed. The AI was disabled because of the cost of doing radial searches followed by pathfinding. "The way players fit into this equation was that the they would embark on quests to kill the carnivorous animals and the pelts that they gained from those quests would be worth more than those gained from the herbivores" doesn't make any sense. :)

5. The ecology collapsed for a different reason: we had a closed economy loop at first, where everything was spawned from a fixed resource pool. It fell victim to player hoarding: when players killed sheep, they then made zillions of shirts from the wool to grind crafting advancement. Then they hoarded them or sold them very slowly. The result was the central bank ran out of wool, and then couldn't spawn more sheep. This is documented in one of the earliest detailed analyses of MMO economies, Zach Simpson's "In-Game Economics of Ultima Online," a very influential piece which led to the widespread use of the term "faucet-drain economy" in online game design. See https://web.archive.org/web/20020730225856/https://www.mine-...

6. "This problem is also what spawned multiple instances of servers (or as they called them, “shards”) that people know and recognize from most MMOs today." This is not why we ended up with shards, either. UO was originally designed for a concurrency around 250, much like Meridian 59 and other MUD heirs of the day. Its original lifetime forecast was only 30000 or so units, but we knew from early on we'd need multiple servers, even at that population count. Meridian 59 launched with a whole bunch of them, for example. After we got 50000 tester sign-ups, we were asked to hugely increase server size, which led to Rick inventing a server boundary mirroring technology we called "multiserver," which allowed the map load to be shared across clusters of machines. The entire game was then rearchitected for that in between 1996 and 1997. The term shards came from the fiction of earlier Ultimas, see https://www.raphkoster.com/2009/01/08/database-sharding-came...

7. "At the time when 3D graphics cards were new" -- they were nonexistent when we started.

8. The source for the article is a more accurate video at Ars Technica, which has war stories from Richard Garriott. But Richard's memory is, alas, faulty on some of these finer details.

9. There are some great Quora answers on the tech stack for the game and whatnot which have been on HN before, but if you're interested, you may want to check them out.

I will say, it's awesome and flattering and super cool that so many people still harbor so much affection and so many memories from this game. I was around 25 when I was leading design on it, and the early days when we were doing the impossible are still some of the fondest memories of my career. For lots more war stories, do check out either the book, my site, or this postmortem presented at GDC for the game's 20th anniversary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnnsDi7Sxq0

Hi Raph, I don't normally do the fanboy thing, but you are an idol to me. 12-year old me grew up reading your UO patch updates regularly. When I found your personal blog a few years ago I think I spent a week straight reading through it.

UO remains the only MMORPG that I have ever played that felt like a truly immersive virtual world. It ruined all MMO's that came after it for me. I played the WoW beta for about two weeks before the grind became apparent and I lost interest. Who the hell cares about only completing pre-made quests? In ultima, you defined your own adventure, and if you succeeded in it your fame could actually be known among players on your shard and not just a mechanic of the game's code. To me, this sets the benchmark to what an MMO is supposed to be.

There's also a slightly darker/mischievous part to my experience with UO: Macroing (the act of automating your character via third party programs) really introduced me to the world of programming. At first it was using point and click step-by-step UI recording software, but after a few years I had a fully fledged ore mining bot that could even do things like respond to a red name appearing on the screen by recalling to a safe house programmed in an actual turing complete language. Although I'm sure that had to be a pretty big pain point for you, I'm not sure I'd have a career as a software engineer if that hadn't happen.

You're welcome, I guess. Assuming you like your career.

Thank you for everything Raph! You are a truly a pioneer. A few questions which I’d love to get your response on, although no pressure:

1. How much of an influence were past Ultima games on UO? The game engine itself resembles Ultima VIII, was any of the code from that game reused?

2. Whatever happened to Ultima Online 2?

1. Lots of lore and whatnot. More than people give credit for, actually.

1a. The prototype was actually based on U6's rendering engine, not U8.

2. Far too long a story. UO2 was a bit of a mess technologically, IMHO. EA disliked Origin in general. UO continued to do well and the question of why have a sequel came up. And more. But I left OSI before it was killed so can't say for sure.

Thank you for building this wonderful game! Helped me through a very hard time in my life when it came out. It also helped suck me into what I do today (started a web dev company that now has 130 FT team members).

Just want to say a huge THANK YOU for your work on UO!!!

You're welcome!

This was very cool idea and is one of the things that made me start playing. In the Official Guide book to UO you could find for each creature what it desired. From what I understand that was lifted from the database guiding the ecology system.

A great source for more information on the design of UO (including some bits on the ecology system if you dig deep enough) is Raph Koster's blog: https://www.raphkoster.com/tag/ultima-online/

Direct link to actual source (includes transcript if you prefer reading): https://video.arstechnica.com/watch/war-stories-ultima-onlin...

The headline seems a bit dramatic and even incorrect. The system wasn’t destroyed, but fictional digital wildlife that they stocked their server with was hunted to near extinction, along with their notion that their system had a maintainable ‘ecological balance’.

My headline would be ‘Ultima Online developers created unsuccessful virtual ecological system’. I’d think they could have fixed this by increasing any penalty and reducing any gains had by killing “friendly” animals, but the article doesn’t go into detail about what they changed before removing it. If the only penalty for obtaining resources from the ‘wrong’ animal is that your character is immoral in a fictional world, I could see why they’d have these results.

The article also makes it sound like, or even states, that the problem was overpopulation on the servers.

It had to be balanced around the main carnivore species ruling the online world, the players. Which apparently wasn't done, and then simple respawn with some simple dynamic rules based on population and rate of death, would have done it much better.

My understanding was that part of the problem was that they expected more of the RPing MUD crowd to show up, not the typical gamer crowd. Whether or not their calculations would have been similarly incorrect even if their userbase predictions were spot on is another question altogether

The Catskills server was the roleplay server and it had actual die-hard roleplayers, the Origin storytellers (counselors? I forget) did a lot of work to help them with events, etc. For instance an entire clan (Shadowclan Orcs) took over the NPC owned Yew Orc Fort. There were big Pirate groups too in Buc's Den. I remember the Paladins of Trinsic, Yew Militia and the Undead (they may have been called something else? They had the Necropolis).

It was some of the most fun I've had in a game ever.

The servers really had different cultures. I really loved Siege Perilous while it was doing the Color Wars. The map was 4 castles with 4 different teams, you'd spawn inside your team castle surrounded by chests full of GM weapons/armor that made you immediately become a GM of that item (say Grandmaster Halbredier) then run out and fight the other teams. It was almost like a Battlefield game. Then they changed it to some boring mode for beta testing.

I was 11-12 when I got into UO in 1996. I could talk about it all day. I miss it.

The 2nd Age I think is when I quit. Whenever they added riding cockroaches and neon colors and all that other stuff.


I remember it well. I played on Lake Superior which had a smaller but also prominent RP scene at the time, albeit more villain oriented. For instance one of our more well known RPing PK guilds was featured in Wired: https://www.wired.com/1998/05/ultima/.

The two groups had a bit of a rivalry on the then main message board, Crossroads of Britannia. LS called the Catskills group "Care Bears" and they called us "The Biker Gang". To my knowledge that was the first usage of care bears in that manner, but I'm sure it predates us. I remember one time when they all came over to our server with "care bear" characters and "invaded" the main player run tavern, Silk's Tavern.

My roommate at the time was a prominent RPing PK on Catskills, I was a prominent RPing anti-PK on LS. Folks from both groups made road trips for a house party/gathering at Catskills own Elawyn of Yew's RL house.

On the LS side it often was the case that both sides of the RPing PvP world would concoct RP reasons to band together to combat general asshattery regardless of if they were red/blue.

Siege Perilous & T2A was right around the time I was getting out of the game. I was still playing, but much less as college was over and real job had begun. Combined with the game rapidly becoming less fun for me and I just found myself playing less and less

Aurics Moongates.com is still around if you want a trip down memory lane. During Alpha/Beta it was a place where a lot of us went to chat while we waited for discs to arrive.

Unfortunately most of the music doesn't load any longer. I always loved the Ultima soundtracks.


edit: https://soundcloud.com/mmomusic/sets/ultima-online

edit2: This sounds terrible not as a midi

Realized I meant Chesapeake. I was thinking that the Orcs were on a different server and sure enough I was the wrong one.

Cockroaches and neon colors are definitely after Second Age. I led the design of that first expansion, and the only new ridables were ostards. :)

That was Abyss, not Siege, right?

They were so ahead of their time with pretty much everything. Abyss was cool and all, but do you remember Santa's Slay?

I recommend Raph Koster's latest book "Postmortems" for a digest of his experience developing Ultima Online, including some background on the ecology that never shipped. https://www.raphkoster.com/games/books/

UO was an amazing experiment in self-organization and survival in the world with little protection. At least for a while.

The initial pre-facet gameplay basically split between the protected town space and free-for-all wilderness. As soon as one wondered outside town guard area, anything could happen - you could attack anyone and anyone could attack you, costing you all you carried. Or nothing could happen. That was the genius of the game play - just like in the real world, once you went out into the wild, it was you against all.

In this vacuum of law, guilds emerged that controlled and protected parts of the wilderness. You joined one of them and helped build society from scratch. Patrols were organized, crime was fought. Turf was defended. Crafters were protected.

A pseudo medieval society emerged with their own casts and hierarchies. All shards were different.

At the time, I played Pacific shard for the MOD guild. Then the rule change came that ended all of this - they split pvp and non-pvp realms. This is when the wipeout happened.

Without the pvp players, the non-pvp realm became overrun. You could sit and wait in the most dangerous dungeon for hours to get a chance to slay a dragon. Previously, this was prevented by pvp players attacking the dragon hunters, now people could just kemp out in the most valuable armor and carrying most valuable weapons. Things you wouldn’t think of using before for fear of losing them to another player were now fair game.

Many of the veteran players retereated to the Seige Perilous shard with extremely punitive rules and hard game play, but many left. Siege lasted for 3-4 years for me before I finally gave up.

In the end, the lawless, ruleless gameplay that required society to emerge was such an amazing experience that I’ll be forever thankful to the devs for allowing us to experience it. Such things help one understand and believe in humanity, despite all our flaws and the few bad apples that emerge.

Trammel completely ruined UO because of exactly what you describe. It was so sad and totally avoidable. I left not long after too.

PVP is player vs player, where you can kill or be killed by other players.

UO has a complex reputation and title system to help with this. Murders actually counted and had a price in game play.

I'm surprised to see this here, I actually just stumbled on this video a little earlier on YouTube. It's actually a series with multiple entries. Here's the playlist [0] if anyone is interested in checking out the others videos.

Getting an inside look at game development is always fascinating. I wish more developers would talk about their experiences. You can usually take away incredibly valuable lessons from videos like these. For example, from this Ultima Online thing you'd learn about the importance of user-testing.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKBPwuu3eCYkScmqpD9xE...

In this case players had the ability to move around and attack things. If trapping live animals or training pets were options then players might have tried that instead. Pets in particular trigger protective impulses in people. The issue is not the players but a simulation focused on violence and extraction.

Oh, you could tame animals to make them your pets.

One Halloween I logged into UO, and my character had been transformed into a deer, as some kind of a sick joke! All my inventory was gone, and all I could do was deer stuff.

Then some bastard came along and TAMED ME. That totally sucked! I had to follow him around obediently all day. I guess I'm lucky he didn't skin me and make me into leather armor.

I played it only for a few days because they had high level players going around killing newbies for fun. My first step out of town some guy kills me in one shot. I went back to continue and he does it a second time and third time. Eventually gave up in frustration.

This was honestly part of the fun for me. I played a miner/smith often. To be as light weight as possible so I could carry more ore I had to run around naked. I carried nothing but my pick, a llama and sometimes a smiths apron. The way the screen works I don't think there's really any possible way for someone to see you but you can't see them (not including hiding). I'd basically stand around mining for hours and spamming All-Names (this shows the names of everything on the screen) and as soon as I saw a guy with a red name, or really any name walk into my screen, I'd stop and get ready to bolt and hide.

It was far more dangerous to go get high value ore outside of the cities than it was to get low value ore. To get Valorite I had to actually pay people to guard me or kill monsters for me. Usually I'd give them discounts on armor or just free armor for doing so.

We all had that "walk out of the city and get mowed down" experience. It taught us to run through the woods and constantly hide and be ready to bolt. If you saw a dead body you knew to turn around and run.

Every city has different routes and the forks outside of most major cities were the dangerous parts. You had to go around them and dodge the animals that might be in the woods.

Sounds like the spawn system in most games.

It's exactly why later MMOs had PvP rules. Even WoW's PvP servers didn't allow PvP in the starting areas.

lol owned

Think you mean oOooOO OooOoOOo

Oh man, what was it, Ghostspeak? Then you could ask a ghost who had killed them and if they were near you..

spirit speak

don't forget to stand over the corpse and spam your bow hotkey to keep the animation on that one particular frame where it looks hunched over the corpse...

Or use bandages to resurrect the person so you can kill them again with lightening.

Or use a sword / dagger on the corpse and collect the body parts. IIRC the head would carry the name of the player that died (although this feature may have been a byproduct of free shards).


Economies are hard, as are game economies: https://www.raphkoster.com/games/snippets/the-evolution-of-u...

This is one of the things that impresses me so much with EVE Online - that the economy has stayed as stable as it has. (Sure, there has been some inflation, and some interesting swings at times, but it still fundamentally works.)

Part of that is there is no vendor trash in EVE. Everything is valuable to someone. Items aren't leveled or quality ranked, they have upsides and downsides that you can balance, there are practically no "strictly better" item relationships, even the noobie ships and guns are useful in the late game for low risk travel ships. This item structure, plus PLEX and insurance for money sinks, lets them control inflation and keep the economy healthy.

Trivia: Eve was originally conceived as "UO in space." :) And Runescape was "UO on the web." Even Neopets was originally inspired by UO.

I think it helps that CCP has an economist on staff to manage it.

Related: A collection of slides on in game economics by the former (in 2000) director of technology at Origin (not a UO team member): https://web.archive.org/web/20020730225318/https://www.mine-...

The model economy (related to Muds) in Imaginary Realties by Dan Hastings, preserved by Richard Bartle : http://mud.co.uk/dvw/themodeleconomy.html

The basics of these economies is that there is a faucet of some resource and a drain drain on that resource (it goes somewhere and is ultimately destroyed... some how). The economics aspect has a very hard problem with balancing those faucets and drains.

I love any UO-related post!

Speaking of killing everything in UO, in what would be considered the "T2A" era of this game (I'm estimating something like 1998-1999), I remember manipulating the line-of-sight bug that let you attack NPCs inside town in such a way that the town guards wouldn't come (There were many "criminal acts" you could commit, like attacking or stealing from a player, and if you did them in town the guards would instantly kill you).

I would town kill NPCs to get colors of cloth that were not achievable using the dye tubs available to you. They would spawn with colors that were less garish than the ones you would end up with if you dyed them. I would chop their clothes up, sort them by colors, and use the raw cloth to create clothes on my tailor. It was a great money maker, because killing NPCs was quick and easy, and in the end it's just clothing items, but the product was not available anywhere else. If someone killed you in the process, you were naked except for a weapon anyway, and people generally did not understand what I wanted with the cloth in the first place so it didn't get looted.

From the housing system to the criminal system, UO was just the best MMO. You could do anything, but you had to suffer the consequences. I love the totally free-market economy it gives rise to. I feel like MMORPGs got a lot softer and less "libertarian" (if I can use that word without all the political baggage), for better or worse. Probably for better, because WoW was popular in a way that UO never would be.

I always heard Anarchy Online was great, but I never got around to playing it.

I played anarchy a bit. It was ok but mostly just pvp and bugs. Shadowbane was where the hardcore pvpers went as well as call of asheron I think?

Edit: Asheron’s Call and Dark age of Camelot.

Oh gosh. Kids these days have no clue! Or maybe they do.

Dark Age of Camelot was amazing. I remember many times standing in the frontier as part of a friendly army facing the enemy both armies equaling 100 to 200 people. Someone would give the order to charge and all hell broke loose. Defending keeps was also fun, throwing things off the battlements. Good times.

I'm loving this UO talk, I just found this Postmortem by GDC published in Sep 2018 (so I think it's new? I've never seen it)


This is a much watch if MMOs fascinate you. They're very transparent. Absolutely great video.

edit: Oh my god they bring up FlyGuys prostitution ring..

The price of pelts should have dropped to zero from the oversupply.

That sort of thing did happen but also quickly was removed.

Players hated making things that had no value. They knew full well there was no market, but they were conditioned to expect a reward for doing it anyway. I suspect players would be much more tolerant of it today.

Why? Isn't ecology indivisible from economy in almost any system that includes humans?

I need to read this but as a beta and long term player of UO, the bugs made the game even better.

Yeah! Like when the servers were going down we knew the last 15 Minutes weren’t saved and the whole world was going crazy and everyone was using his best weapons and turning red.

My favorite was stacking flour on the shore and teleporting through locked doors from the plank of a ship.

Also there was a massive subculture of collectors who grabbed the rare items not locked down after a server reboot. The game shipped with a lot of bugs that they fixed by adding tiles after the fact and some weren’t locked down so people grabbed them up. My speciality was fruit bowls :P

Once we broke into a GMs house and stole an all red sword.

Also using circle of transparency to mark a rune inside a house.

Teleporting demons and dragons into peoples towers. Gosh the fun never ended.

I remember asking a mage for a gate to another city, he opened one and I stepped through. I found myself on a tiny little desert island whose only inhabitant was an extremely large dragon lol. I wasn't even mad, I laughed out loud as I died.

Memories. What did we call this? "Server wars" if I remember correctly.

I never played UO and I've never spent a great deal of time playing any MMO. I know it would take a lot of effort but I think a neat solution would be that if all the animals were killed then people would start starving to death.

I wonder if social pressures could somehow be codified into a game. If someone goes around killing all the players then maybe none of the vendors will want to do business with that person or something? Though I'm sure there are ways players could still explain that and I'm sure people who have spent a lot more time thinking about MMOs than me could explain why that wouldn't work

This and many other experiments were tried in the MUDs and early days of MMOs. The idea of denying services to those who killed a lot worked pretty well on many UO player-run shards.

All video games are crippled by player's wish fulfilment trumping any attempt to make genuine mechanics. Everything must be fun in the end.

Interesting complaint, but didn't ultima also have a system where you could only raise skills by killing things over and over? It's successor - Everquest was even more hostile to having fun. Wow softened up this horrible trend

Sounds like they just left it to pure ecology to somehow balance? Did they think of making depopulated species harder to kill, or make them mate faster?

We actually wanted the scarcity, so it would affect prices and desirability. We just didn't expect everything to be scarce.

23 comments so far and few if any seemed to be troubled by the fact the game players we're so willing to kill __everything__. Untethered?

Not uncommon among real people when they enter a new world. Take for instance, bison being nearly eradicated within a century of significant settlement west of the Appalachians.

Not to mention, new players were probably practicing combat. It's not like anyone would normally have concern for killing virtual goats and rabbits.

Or the extinction of the California grizzly within 75 years of gold being discovered. It’s a common pattern — maybe the issue isn’t with the game…

I would be far more likely to hunt a species to extinction in a fictional video game where it doesn’t remotely matter at all than in real life.

So being wired to find that entertaining is a good thing?

Regardless, given what we're seeing in real life I'm not so sure the appeal is limited to video game activity.

I have friends with hunting ranches where I could go shoot anything I want, like Axis deer, Ostriches, etc. I don't hunt. When I played UO I killed thousands of rabbits to get pelts to raise my tailoring skill. I don't see how these correlate whatsoever. I've also mowed down people in Grand Theft Auto but am very cautious around pedestrians in real life.

Humans have hunted for nearly the entirety of their existence. Mammals' forms of play simulate predation and evasion. Whether or not it's a good thing is subjective, but that humans innately find some forms of violence entertaining is pretty clear.

No? I don’t see how that’s a conclusion from what I said. And yes, it’s rather apparent that people enjoy hunting.

That was the point I was trying to make.

I'd like to add, there's a current advert for an Xbox game, the backing track is the Beach Boys "Wouldn't it Be Nice." In any case shooting galore...as a Xmas gift? We're on the cusp of legit virtual reality and our goto is still kill kill kill?

This is why we can't have nice things.

I'm not sure why relegating destructive tendencies to virtual worlds is a bad thing. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that humans have innate proclivity to violence. The percentage of men who die violently (as in, at the hands of other humans) is around 25%. This is compared to ~2% in the 20th century, and even less today. Many mammals' forms of play function as preparation for violence (either capturing play, or evading from it). There's strong reason to suggest that humans innately find violence entertaining and compelling - at least some forms of violence.

The fact that we've managed to relegate this behavior to the virtual world, rather than the real one, seems to be a good thing to me.

"The percentage of men who die violently (as in, at the hands of other humans) is around 25%."

Did you mean to qualify this? You meant at some particular point in time?

Oh yeah, that figure was the rate in pre agricultural societies.

I was actually part of the player population at the time. My friends and I would wait for mountain goats to spawn so that we could kill them and take their hides -- goat hide was the easiest way to acquire leather to make armor and sell for an outsize amount of cash for the effort and skill. I think it also improved a couple important stats. We were not the only players employing this strategy.

So from what I recollect as a player the killing was economically motivated rather than motivated by ultraviolence. Not sure if that's any better...

You're looking at it as a parallel of real life, which it really isn't.

With a few minor exceptions (there was a tame skill you could learn) killing animals was the only way to interact with them.

Players looking to be entertained are obviously going to try killing everything.

I think that’s an overly serious interpretation that also doesn’t account for a different game mechanics.

For instance, take a very early RPG, Miracle Warriors. We played this for weeks before we understood that you weren’t supposed to kill certain creatures, and that it lowered your reputation score. Even after we understood that, it’s not like we were really trying to role-play ethically – we were just trying to gather experience and money. Or what if your character is evil? It’s just a character. Eventually, there were parts of the game that you couldn’t access unless you had a high positive reputation.

They should have given Bambi a BFG3000 to defend herself.

Early on, creatures learned skills just like players did. In the alpha, this led to wolves who hunted bunnies, and some bunnies the bunnies escaped and learned a little, and eventually there were both dire wolves (their name actually changed to "wise elder wolf" or something) and vorpal bunnies. These latter ones killed many unsuspecting players in the alpha, and we had to remove the creature learning because it was bad UX> We left in a vorpal bunny template in the launch game, however, as an Easter Egg.

I remember the vorpal bunnies. I seem to remember a bug where they would sometimes appear as an energy vortex sprite...

Can you elaborate on why the creature learning was bad UX? Did people get irritated when the wolves were killing their rabbits?

It was bad UX because people couldn't easily tell the difference between a vorpal bunny and a weak one. The name wasn't enough. UO had a "consider" style skill but no one used it (I forget the name, "evaluate" or something). Eventually, "consider" was streamlined in MMOs into color coding mobiles, a la WoW. But in UO, people relied on the creature's sprite to assess difficulty.

The energy vortex sprite was a different Easter Egg iirc. And sometimes, you could get energy vortices that were llama-shaped...

Yeah! The purple llama.

The skill was probably Animal Lore.

Best MMO ever! Thanks for giving insight into it.

That would explain the killer rabbits in FF Online.

Or at least magic-resistant, human-transmittable chronic wasting disease. Or deer ticks.

The two things I loved most about UO:

* no opt-in required PVP with full looting

* the bugs / exploits

I had a very high bounty. :D

The chance that you could actually lose months worth of work always made the game heart pounding exciting when you were running for your life.

Favorite bugs:

* mage/carpenter could build tables, stack them, teleport to the top, and jump through people’s roofs to loot houses

* stealing weapons and armor off people and killing them with it

* mouse tip hover + overloaded treasure chest trap

* dying bags in a trading window

I LOVED this game.

Edit: what awesome bugs, exploits, and rares do you remember?

Keep in mind that players like yourself are precisely the reason games like this don't really exist anymore.

Except for the bugs, a lot of this sounds great to me. I haven’t played an MMO style pvp game since Interplay (yes, dial-up modem banks) and this is the first tine an MMO game description has sounded fun to me.

It was a lot of fun. The problem was more of a culture clash. You had a mix of RPers, CRPGers, and more standard gamers excited for PVP possibilities.

There were plenty of people in the first two camps who were into PVP, that wasn't a problem for most folks. It was the constant griefing, dealing with bug exploiting goons, being teabagged by people named things like AzZBlaSTA which really wore people down.

I ran with a very PVP oriented crowd. My experience was that 100% of them who describe the game in the specific ways the GP did were what caused the average player to throw up their hands and look for a much more controlled world. It's not that these were bad people per se, they were just playing a very different game than the rest of us and the two sides were never really going to get along.

If a game offers a play mode but nobody does it, does it really exist?

Games like what?

Buggy games? Yes the do.

Games with real risk? It requires an aggressive player to make that risk real otherwise there is no point to making a game with risk if everyone is just smithing horse shoes for each other.

I’d argue that games like UO don’t exist anymore because most people don’t want to play a game where you can lose everything.

When I was maybe 13 or 14 I scammed someone out of a house deed using a bug related to having an item selected on your cursor while the trade window was open.

It was a really shitty thing to do, and I felt terrible and ended up giving him it back a few hours later.

Apropos of nothing, I've always found the behavior of the players of MMOs and online games one of the clearest telltales that sociopathy is a lot more prevalent that most people think it is.

Says the person using a throwaway account to offer a medical diagnosis from their armchair office to someone they’ve never met, solely based on a comment about a video game they played 20 years ago.

It's not really a throwaway, take a look at the account profile-- it's been around a few years, and has a decent bit of karma. It's about as much of a throwaway as yours, or mine for that matter-- not throwaway, but no reference to our real world identity either

This is a good time to drop a mention of the psychological analysis of the four types of MUD gamers[1]

[1] http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm

The term I used at the time was "virtual sociopath" -- you'd think sociopathy is more common if you glance at forums today, too... but there's a huge element of disinhibition brought about by non-personal contact. It doesn't mean the person is like that in person at all.

> It doesn't mean the person is like that in person at all.

While I defer to your expertise, I have to say I find it a bit difficult to believe. Being in an online game just changes the form of interaction between people, not the fact that they're interacting. (We couldn't, for example, say "Oh, X is a jerk over the telephone but s/he's not like that in person at all".) These players know full well that there was another human being at the other end of their misbehavior.

Whatever the online analogue of "in vino, veritas" might be, I would be willing to bet that it's true and that these players are actually revealing a significant aspect of their true nature.

Actually, we do in fact say that X is a jerk over the telephone but less so in person. It's pretty well studied. The generic term is "psychological disinhibition" and it used to come up all the time around the issue of email and tone.

Role playing.

via hanging around magical bubba, xavori and that gang I also came across many, well, less refined types who fit this mold. Meet them in RL and they were perfectly normal.

They just saw UO as a different kind of game as other folks did, something more akin to Quake where it was no holds barred PvP. There were multiple folks I knew who couldn't understand that someone wouldn't view the game that way.

Of course, even those two were quite different; Xavori roleplayed a lot whereas IIRC Bubba didn't bother.

I think the key difference is that one was a RPer who PKd and the other a PK who RPd. Most of the folks who hung around that Silk's Tavern group, both villains and good guys & myself included had a thinner veneer of RP than folks like Xavori. It's a big reason why it was never hard to concoct an IC reason why we were all banding together against a troupe of jerks, red or blue.

The article Hearths, Clubs Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit Muds ( https://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm ) looks at that aspect. The types of players the designers design for and the types of players that the game creates aren't always in alignment.

One of the games that I've played over the years that specifically embraces this is Kingdom of Loathing.

In fairness (though I agree sociopathy is probably more prevalent than we know) this could also just be the same dynamic as seen in the Stanford prison experiments.[0] Let someone take on a role, such as villain, and they live up (or down as the case may be) to that label.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment

I certainly indulged in a lot of the behaviors that you'd probably describe as sociopathic in UO. What hormonal teenager would pass up the chance to create anarchy with no real world consequences?

It doesn't mean you grow up to be a bad person, though.

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