UO between 1997 and 1998 or I Killed Cows for Karma Loss

As I’m working on the article about the The Second Age expansion (Update: UO: The Second Age – finished)in my little quest to look back at UO’s history as we head towards the 14th Anniversary, quite a lot was added to Ultima Online outside of the T2A Expansion, between September of 1997 and October of 1998. The following are some highlights taken from Update.UO.com/OldPatch.

Warning: This can be a long read, but it should be a fascinating read, as you’ll see some of the things we don’t even think about anymore had a lot of time and effort devoted to them. Those not familiar with UO’s early years but who play these days will probably (hopefully) be surprised and amused that some things we take for granted were not always a part of the game.

So we start in October 1997, just after the launch, here are the changes and additions made:
* A new pet command, “transfer,” was added. This completely transfers loyalty fr om one boss to another. This should be used to sell pets to other players, rather than “friend,” which merely adds an additional master.
* Animal trainers now understand the word “stable.” They will charge you 30gp fr om your bank account to stable a pet, and will keep it safely (unless they are killed) and well-fed even while you are logged out. The word “claim” will retrieve all pets y ou have at a given animal trainer.
* When clicking on someone, their name appears red, gray, or blue, depending on the following:
*** if performing a bad action such as theft, attack, or snooping would lower yo ur notoriety, they show in blue
*** if performing such an action on them would improve your notoriety, the name shows in red
*** if it would have no effect on your notoriety, it shows in gray
* The area west of Trinsic that has no bridges over the river will gain them.
* Ships and houses now put a duplicate key in your safety deposit box when they are built. Note that existing houses and ships will not do this for you!
* When you build a house, the key will appear in your backpack instead of in front of the house.
* Safety deposit boxes! All banker functions remain intact as before. But in addition, if you say “bank” to the banker, he will open up your personal chest. Note that there is a limit on how much this chest can hold! Also, gold in your account and gold in the box are the same gold; there’s just two ways of getting at it now.
* Committing a criminal act (an action that results in the loss of notoriety) will flag you for two minutes as a criminal. During this time period, actions against you will not result in any notoriety changes at all. Note that looting is not currently defined as a criminal act! Also note that attacks of any kind are still illegal in guarded areas!
* Herds of deer, flocks of sheep, herds of cows, packs of timber wolves, and small packs of undead will start roaming the land.
* Gypsy camps and brigand camps will appear.
* You will be able to rescue prisoners and escort them back to the location they request, for a reward.

November 1997
* Added a macro called “AllNames” that lets you bring up the names of everyone on screen instantly.
* Mining now has a small animation, a delay, sound effects, and autostacking of ore in your backpack.
Fletching and lumberjacking also now have sound effects, animations, and require “process” time.
* Gate travel is now two-way, so that if someone tries to trap you on a roof you can just walk back.
* There are now four damage types: direct (ignores armor), physical, fire, and energy.
* Newbie items are not stealable.

December is where things really start to pick up. Among the additions: Vendors, tinker traps, pack animals, the bounty system, orc mages and orc lords, circle of transparency.

December 1997
* Vendors (you can now hire NPCs to run your shop)
*** Tavernkeepers now sell “a contract for employment.”
*** Use this contract near a house you own to create a vendor.
*** Vendors must be paid: they cost 100 coins per day, plus 1% of the value of everything they’ve got. This is withdrawn from they gold they hold for their employer.
*** If a vendor runs out of gold, he will destroy the gold he’s holding and kill himself, leaving all the goods he’s got on the corpse.
*** Vendors answer to their name, “vendor” and “shopkeeper”
*** Employers can give items to their vendors, and are prompted for an asking price and a description.

* A tinker can now use his tools on ingots, and get three new choices on the menu.
*** explosion traps require a purple potion
*** dart traps require a crossbow bolt
*** poison traps require a green potion

* Pack horses and pack llamas can now be purchased.
*** They are exactly like any other pet in all respects: they need fed, you can name them, and they obey the same commands.
*** Doubleclicking them when not in combat mode opens their pack. This pack’s capacity depends on the strength of the pack animal and the normal limitations of the pack capacity.

Other additions and changes in December
* Town criers are now going to start appearing in the game.
Various parts of the map have been designated “no player housing” regions.
* “You may want to check in your backpack! Happy holidays! ”
* Dragons and drakes have gotten a lot meaner, and a lot harder to tame and keep tamed.
* Murder quests are going away.
* Serpent’s Hold, Minoc, Magincia, Moonglow, and Ocllo have all gained banks.
* It will no longer be possible to build houses in Wind.
* There’s a new orc mage now. Also an orc lord.
* A circle of transparency will allow you to see yourself behind buildings and other large obscuring objects, and manipulate items that are behind it.
* You can now sit in all four directions by merely walking up to the chair, bench, log, or rock in the appropriate direction.

Headed into the new year in January, archery really starts its journey of being tweaked over and over agin. There were tweaks made prior to January of 1998, but with some of the January changes, you start to see where archery become powerful – the minimum range was removed, damage was increased, fire rate on regular bows was increased, the range on regular bows was increased.

Changes and Additions in January of 1998
* The incognito spell has been removed
* Houses can no longer be built on any solid dirt terrain, such as roads.
* Provocation on shopkeepers is not only illegal, but won’t work anymore, and will call the guards.
* You will no longer be able to recall while overloaded.
* The detect hidden skill will gain the ability to detect trapped items.
* The dungeon populations are being revamped to give each dungeon more of a ‘theme.’ Expect to see hellhounds, skeletal mages, skeletal warriors, new kinds of elementals, elder dragons, and much more.

People forget that containers and weights were undergoing significant transformation as the servers had to deal with the massive numbers of people:

* Container capacity has been reduced by weight, and there is now also a container capacity limit based on number of items. If your container is full, you will just get a message saying you cannot put anything else in it. The maximum number of items in a container is now 400. A stack of items counts as only one item. Everything in nested containers does count! We realize that this change will require a change in the play style of many players, but it is necessary to provide you with better server performance. Our target is to eventually reduce to 100 items over the next few weeks. The weight limit is now 500 stones instead of 1000.

Now we move forward to February, and what seems to be the start of development on The Second Age. It seems that way to me because the amount of fixes seem to drastically slow down around the time that development of T2A probably started. Of course, there were a lot of fixes done in the first 3-4 months after UO launched due to issues that arose with the launch or with the larger server populations, but the development pace does seem to publicly slow down.

One major thing we see in February: GUILDS! in the February 12 update:
“An in-game guild system will allow players to form guilds, recruit members, set guild names and abbreviations (abbreviations to show with their name), and eventually wage war between guilds. ”

Other February changes and additions:
* We’re expanding and extending the creature AI to make the simulated ecology both more visible and more fun.
* All targeted spells now have ranges.
* Banks will become available in Jhelom, Skara Brae, Minoc.
* Dungeons will be becoming darker.
* There is now a limit of 2 vendors per house.
* Gold in the bank will not count towards weight no matter how deeply nested in other containers it is.
* House costs have been drastically increased.
* A server ranking system will go into place. You will be able to choose to display the available servers based on population or connection speed.
* You can no longer create gate travel gates on top of moongates. (I believe I know why ;-))
* You can now say “news” to town criers to get a snippet of news.
* In this update (February 27, 1998), if the stackables changes test out OK, we will be lowering the weight limit for a container to 400 stones, and lowering the item limit to 250 items per container. We anticipate continuing to lower this to a 100 item limit eventually.
* Numerous items have been made stackable, including many kinds of raw materials, spell scrolls, and various other types of items. A partial list includes: food items, cloth, bandages, scrolls, all reagnets, empty potion bottles, lockpicks, and so on.

There were some small patches in March of 1998, but they added up to only one major patch. March had some interesting changes including the 125 items in a container limit that we are now familiar with. Some people also seemed to be trying to make Test Center their home.

Interesting Additions and Changes in March of 1998
* Passwords on a character level have been disabled; we have been getting too many calls from those who have lost their password.
* The server ranking system will always show Test Center last, to avoid confusing it with a regular game server.
* Stablemasters will have a limit on how many creatures they can stable.
* Stabled animals will be destroyed after one real life week of being left in the stables.
* The limit on items in a container will be lowered to 125.
* Learning skills by watching will be limited to one tile distance.

April also saw one major update as well, although I believe some of the changes were spread out and on the server side.
* Speaking while invisible or hidden now reveals the player.
* Snooping will no longer cause the snooper to be flagged criminal.
* We are adding gravity for items. If you remove an item from underneath something else, the above items will fall to the ground.
* Spellbooks will be equippable. This is a purely cosmetic change. It will not change the mechanics of casting at all (except that you will be able to cast with the spellbook in your hands).

Then we saw a few months where patches and fixes were few and far between, leading to June being an active month, before activity declining until things picked up in September.

Major changes and additions in June of 1998
* The new reputation system is in!
* Killing cows lowers karma right now (Known Issue).

Guild warefare was added, along with Order and Chaos Guilds! From the patch notes:
* Guild warfare is in place.
* Guildmasters can now declare war against other guilds. When the war is mutually declared, a state of war exists.
*** Members of guilds you are at war with will appear orange.

* A new free-for-all warfare method exists: order and chaos guilds.
*** Order and Virtue guards as they currently exist go away.
*** Guildmasters can now declare their guild to be either order or chaos, if they meet the requirements.
*** All members of order and chaos guilds will be forced to display their guild abbreviation at all times. In addition, their abbreviation will automatically be followed by “(Order)” or “(Chaos)”.
*** For highlighting purposes, all members of guilds of the opposing alignment will appear orange, and can be freely attacked. All members of guilds of the same alignment will appear green, and can also be freely attacked.

So it’s now September, and the developers have been quietly working hard on T2A. That doesn’t mean they weren’t completely ignoring the live game, and we saw a major change with bank boxes and vendors (performance and number of items in-game was a problem) among some major patches, fixes, and additions as we headed towards T2A.

Some highlights from September’s changes and additions:
* The limit on number of items in a container will apply to bank boxes, including the number of stacks of gold. In other words, having many small stacks of gold in your bank box will take up space, and will fill up your bank box. Excess items may vanish! Be sure you have only the normal amount of items allowable for a container in your bankbox!
* 22k balrons should no longer occur.
* You can now instantly log off in houses if you have the key.
* Hiding now checks line of sight, so you can run to the other side of a wall or building and successfully hide.
* The limit of one vendor per house will be applied retroactively. This means that if you have more than one vendor per house, the older of the two will vanish.
* Karma loss for cows is fixed.
* Ordering a pet or hireling to become friends with inanimate objects is no longer possible.

While the end of October saw the release of T2A, there was a lot of work being done in advance of it. Remember that T2A was not just an upgrade for existing players, it was an actual release of UO into the major retailers, and it was meant to build upon the marketing buzz of the original UO. UO was still the top dog in the young MMORPG industry. I can remember seeing quite a few people picking up their copies at a CompUSA when I went in after something else.

Some of the changes and additions put in place before T2A:
* Learning skills by watching people who are using them will be removed.
* GMs have gained the ability to tell who last changed a house sign; if your house’s sign has been defaced, GMs will be able to determine the identity of the vandal. Special thanks to the rec.games.computer.ultima.online newsgroup for the suggestion of this feature!
* Very tough llamas should no longer occur. (We know a lot of folks asked for them to stay this way as they were being used as house guards. We will see about adding something else to serve as house guards).
* Explosion potions no longer set off other explosion potions. We regret that our earlier post seemed to indicate that the explosion potion was changed only at the request of the City of Oasis, without input from other player sources. Reports from the City of Oasis on Sonoma, which was suffering from terrorist bombs during their periodic Fight Nights, and subsequent support from other player commentary brought this issue to our attention. Please note that the explosion potions were never intended to be instant-kill tools. From now on, explosion potions will only detonate themselves

One major change was the Big Window Feature which was originally in The Second Age, but which Origin wisely decided to add in for all players:
* The Big Window feature from The Second Age will be given to all players in token of our appreciation, and as part of the celebration of Ultima Online’s first year of existence.

While the Big Window could be used in full-screen mode to take the client window anywhere from 640×480 to 1024×768, the actual gameplay window was still 640×480 I believe.

In reading through all of the patch notes, quite a few things jumped out at me: I had forgotten just how unsecure housing could be. I saw many bugs addressed that concerned specific breakins. It’s also clear just how much time they spent wrestling with PvP and PK issues. The bounty system was given a lot of attention when it was added in – these are from the December 9, 1997 patch notes:

When someone is killed by another player, they may choose to report the crime if
* The victim is dishonorable or better notoriety
* The victim is not as bad a murderer as the person who killed them
* The victim is not currently flagged a criminal (two minutes since they committed a criminal act)

At death, a window will pop up giving the choice to report the crime or not. A player can choose to not report a killing if it was accidental, or if they feel it was especially well-roleplayed, or if it was part of a guild war, etc.

If a killer accumulates too many reports:
* All of their goods in the bank will be confiscated on the spot.
* The gold they may have had in the bank is added to the local bounty for their head.
* The killer’s notoriety falls instantly to Dread Lord. (It is not “stuck” there–you can still rise if you can manage it).

A bounty is posted on the closest bulletin board listing the killer’s name, a physical description (hair color, hairstyle, skin color), a tally of kills, and the names of some of their victims.
* Reports “age” out, but once a bounty is set on you, it remains even if you don’t kill anyone else for a long time.
* Every time you get reported after a bounty is set, your bank is cleaned out again, and a local bounty is reissued. This can result in the bounty price continuing to rise. Bounties are local, meaning that different cities may have different rewards and different kill tallies for a given outlaw.

When the outlaw is killed under the above circumstances
* They lose 10% from all stats and skills on the spot, regardless of resurrection methods.
* A head labelled with their name is automatically placed in the backpack of the bounty hunter.

The head must be returned to a guard whose beat is near the bulletin board where the bounty is posted. Since bounties are local, returning the head to the wrong city won’t work. You can also choose to return it to any of the cities where a bounty is posted, choosing the best based on the reward offered. Also, some cities may have multiple “precincts” if they have multiple bulletin boards; find a guard near the board that has the bounty posted.
* Only the bounty hunter can turn in the head.
* The bounty hunter must be of better than neutral notoriety when the head is turned in.
* Fake heads won’t work.
* The gold posted for the local reward will be given to the bounty hunter by the guard.
* Bounties may remain posted in other cities even though the reward has been claimed, but a given bounty can only be claimed once in the world, unless the killer returns to their ways. This will likely result in a killer who has bounties in multiple cities getting killed over and over again by eager reward claimants, for no gain. Our advice is, don’t end up with lots of bounties on your head. :)

There you have it. September of 1997 through October of 1998 was an incredible time of changes and additions to the game.

Comments are closed.