The Future of Ultima Online

Update: March 2012 – this is all a year old, a lot has changed, I’ll be writing an update for this elsewhere….

Update: Summary of March 1st Video of UO House of Commons Much was said during the House of Commons and it will be processed and posted here at a later date.

Looking at 2011 and beyond, what does the crystal ball hold for Ultima Online? The following is not idle speculation, it’s directly from the mouths of the developers and producers from the short video released by the devs at the end of February.

New Players
A lot is being invested into the new player experience, especially from an engineering point of view. As you can see from the 2011 Ultima Online Developer Video diary that was released on the 24th of February, they are re-engineering at least one of the clients so that new players have a small download of 200MB or less, out of a full 1GB. They are being given a new starting area that they can explore and learn in that is only for them, and while they are doing so, the other 800MB plus will be downloading in the background. Having a background in software, I know that this is not something that is done lightly – this requires a lot of resources.

New Artwork
As stated in the video linked above, UO is getting higher resolution artwork. Whether it’s based on the same artwork we had in Kingdom Reborn, we will not know until they discuss it. Whether or not users of the classic client will also have higher resolution artwork remains to be seen.

Classic Shard
I actually think Cal and some of the others are interested in it. With the extensive new player experience that is being developed, with the artwork changes, and with a redesign of the quest system, the resources just aren’t available. I hope the topic is revisited next year as we close in on the 15th Anniversary of UO.

Booster Packs
Nothing was said about them in the video diary that was linked above. I believe they are probably on hold, as re-engineering a client plus new artwork will take up much of their time over the next several months. If they want to keep adding them, I’m not sure how they could work two in this year.

The following is idle speculation!

Is 2011 the year of a single, enhanced client?
There is no way they are going to commit the resources to have both the Enhanced Client (EC) and Classic Client (CC) available for the new user experience. Just re-designing one client to allow for new players will require a lot of resources. Between the new player experience, and high resolution artwork, they could use those to convince more people to voluntarily switch to the EC. Whether it will completely happen or not remains to be seen – there are reasons for sticking with the CC for as long as possible.

15th Anniversary
Obviously they have not addressed anything specific about the 15th Anniversary. This is not surprising, since we aren’t even close to the 14th Anniversary. With that said, the changes being made are definitely being made with an eye on the future. If they wanted to keep “milking” UO as some would put it, they would not be making an effort to completely overhaul the new player experience, as well as re-engineering things on the client side for new players. I think it is fitting that new players are getting a lot of attention as we move towards the 15th year of Ultima Online.

Ultima Online Journal’s View on the Future of UO
We both think it’s strong, especially going into the 15th year of UO, as long as they follow through on the artwork and the new player experience. UO has had a very bumpy road in recent years. The commitments being made, as laid out above, are strong commitments made with an eye on the future.