With Ultima Online’s Anniversary fast approaching, I was debating on a way to celebrate it. It’s been an interesting 14 years and a rocky road at times but the future is looking much brighter these days, in more ways than one.
For some reason, I looked across at my book shelf and it hit me. As we are looking forward towards UO’s future, why not revisit the past? That’s mostly what anniversaries are for. While I’ve seen photos of some of the materials on many websites, I rarely see any large scans, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Every day for the rest of the month I will scan in or post photos of UO’s retail releases along with interesting UO-related memorabilia I’ve picked up over the years. I will include high-resolution images, mostly cleaned up where I can do so. Warning, there maybe stray dust and creases and other wear and tear ahead. Do not cringe over the condition of my boxes, manuals, CDs, etc., for they have served their purpose well. As an example, while trying to get the CD insert out this morning, I even accidentally sacrificed the CD case. It was worth it.
Click any of the images for larger versions and for the full set of photos/scans, see the Ultima Online: Charter Edition flickr set
Who can forget the tagline “Are you with us?”
The advertising was effective, drawing many people in, even people who had never touched an Ultima game, and it’s clear where Richard Garriott got his inspiration for his interest in social gaming 14 years later, with with descriptions such as:
Experience real-time social interaction with thousands of people in the same exciting game world. Meet new friends and foes, engage in group combat, venture off to uncharted lands, or visit a tavern and chat with players from around the world. It’s an ongoing, ever-changing world of adventure.
“What happens when thousands of people are unleashed on a never-ending ever-changing fantasy world?
You tell us.”
“The time has come to enter Ultima Online. You and thousands of people from around the world will live, quest, fight, love or hate in a persistent world, where every action you take affects the lives of others.
It’s more than a fantasy, because it really exists. It’s more than a game because it never ends. And it’s a quantum leap beyond anything you’ve ever seen before.
Go betyond life as you know it to an adventure more incredible than you can imagine. Are you with us?”
The features listed by Origin in advertising and on the boxes included:
* Mass player engine allows thousands of real people to play simultaneously
* Day and night effects, 3-D terrain and 16-bit color SVGA graphics.
* Customize your onscreens characters, including gender, skin tone, clothing and hairstyle
* Detailed character-defining systems and fully simulated virtual ecology
* Real-time combat, adventuring and social interaction
* Fully-simulated ecology and economy
* Visible dialog above speaking characters
* 3D terrain and dynamic lighting in 16-bit color
What did it Include:
* Comes in a Large, Flat Box, with an imprint of Lord British’s signature
* Large Hildebrandt poster/print
* Cloth Map
* Charter Membership Gift Certificate
* Pewter Ultima Online pin
* CD-ROM in a case without a cover
* Ultima Online Install Guide
* Guide to UltimaOnline.com (the website)
* Guide to playing Ultima Online
* 90 Days Gametime
* Ad insert for Dungeon Keeper
* 1997 Catalog of Electronic Arts, Origin, Jane’s Combat Simulations, Bullfrog
Did I say a large box? Yes, I did, here it is compared to the Dragon Edition of Ultima IX
* Retail version: Same as the Charter Edition, only without the large Hildebrandt print, Charter Membership certificate, or the 90 days gametime
Highlights of Ultima Online in 1997
* UO officially launched!
* Good: There were lots of people playing
* Bad: There were lots of people playing
* Surprisingly, people on dial-up modems could be competitive. Don’t laugh.
Note that I’m not passing judgement on the PvP/PKing, the crashes, or anything else. It’s 14 years ago, put on your rose-tinted glasses. If you didn’t get your glasses, hurry and up head off Ter Mur and look for the Gargoyle NPC vendor selling them.
A lot of Ultima fans were dragged kicking and screaming into the realm of the internet and Windows 95. Some even made the leap to broadband within a few short years. It’s not a surprise that the internet has been on a gradual decline since 1997.
* Pentium 133 (MHz, woohoo!)
* 16 MB RAM
* Windows 95
* 1 MB PCI Video Card (DirectX, 16-bit color)
* 16-bit sound card
* 261 MB Hard Drive Space
* 4x CD-ROM
* Microsoft Compatible Mouse
* Slip/PPP or direct connect 28.8k bps or better with 32-bit TCP/IP Stack
Recommended (in addition to the above)
* Pentium 166
* 32 MB RAM
* 2MB PCI Video Card
* 8x CD-ROM Drive
Ultima Online was undeniably the single, most expensive game I have ever played. Not because I bought the Charter Edition, which was more expensive than the retail edition. Nope. It was because I had to upgrade my computer hardware, had to purchase Windows 95, had to buy more memory (you kids have it easy these days), and I felt the need to get on the list for broadband. In the past, it was not uncommon for people to time their computer upgrade cycles to Origin software releases. This time around, throw OS and internet connections into the mix and you start racking up the bills, especially the monthly bills.
Was there advertising?
You bet, in addition to the image from the included catalog below, here is one example at the Codex of Ultima Wisdom. Here is another, also at the Codex of Ultima Wisdom. I have some old computer gaming magazines from the late 1990s that I will dig through at some point and try to scan in some ads as well.
Let us not forget that Origin did other games…
More Images (Always click for larger versions):
Quick note: I’ll be including the gameplay guide that came with the original UO in another posting, as it’s large and I may assemble into a PDF file.
There were actual instructions on how to use the UltimaOnline.com website:
I had two pins by accident, so left one in the bag:
Continue on with UO’s 14th Anniversary: The Second Age?
I hope you enjoy looking at this collection of images as much as I am enjoying assembling it. If for some reason the images aren’t here in the future, I will be uploading them to UOGuide.com in the future. If somebody wants to do that before I do, please do so! As for usage, all I ask is for a link back to UOJournal.com. While some images are watermarked, some that I think people might like to use for a desktop won’t be. If you’d like special sizes for your desktop, iPad, iPhone, etc., contact me
Disclaimer: I will do my best to ensure that what I post each day is relevant to the retail edition or memorabilia that is being posted, and I am verifying as much as possible against the Ultima Collector’s Guide, The Collectible Ultima and other resources, which I will include links for. HOWEVER, there will probably be things from other editions that slip in – we are talking 14 years of UO editions, 25+ years of Ultima games and boxes, 4 moves between apartments and houses, and stuff spending years in closets or cabinets. There will be dust, creases, and that age-old “shelf wear” that accumulates over time. Some of these items are difficult to photograph or scan due to their size or materials used.