All started with Ultima Online

All started with Ultima Online

Raffaella Beaumont

If today we talk and we know almost all of Second Life we have to take a look at what was yesterday to understand the past of virtual worlds. It all started more or less with Ultima Online (UO), a fantasy style MMORPG set in the online world of Sosaria. Ultima Online was (in my opinion) the best role-playing game (RPG), not only because it was the first but also because it has left an indelible mark in all those who really knew the matter. Now has been overtaken by other more complex games, but not more beautiful and fascinating, as W3 or NWN.

Ultima OnlineUnlike Second Life, which revolves on a platform accessible simultaneously from all over the globe, OU (note that there are still shards operating with an average of 200 players, or pg, related timetable for the tip) was and is played mostly on a shard Unofficial and free, implemented locally by the fans themselves. You have to think that the spread of internet, even talking about broadband, was in no way comparable with those of today: in 1997-1998 there were no ADSL connections, and those who had a 56kb modem at home was considered lucky. Children cultivate their passion for virtual gathered steadily over the internet point to do the “quest” and pass a level “all togheter”. It seems a century ago but think it is a bit more than a decade. There were some who lingered even after the closing time of shops to wait for the start of battles at the bridge of Britain (memorable)! Technological change was fast and even at the level of multiplayer games has changed a lot.

If I think about how it was structured a shard and the world of UO, I realize that it was really small in comparison to other current games or Second Life; often the shard was closed for updates, for increasing the maps, for scripting physical world or “furnishing” it. Yes, because like in Second Life, OU had standard users (players) and GM (Game Master), those who over assist players in case they ran into some traps of the world or of the scripters (how many times I called “GM save me, I was trapped in Bucca“), organized the quest and ensured that the rules of the game were fulfilled by users. But unlike Second Life, the GMs were and are visible to all and known by the inhabitants of Sosaria, a kind of divinity.

The communication used was a simple chat to talk about with the classic method of direct messages or “whisper“, or the public chat (or that of your clan) using a standardized method of writing known by all players. Usually, apart from the classics whisper commands or pvt some commands were used exclusively in the shard that was played and it wasn’t strange to change shard and have different commands. In addition to the game “in world ” as in the metaverse of Linden Lab, the OU continued in the forum created specifically for the shard, the first true example and not really archaic of “cross-mediality“. Users played (and still play) and spoke in world through text chat, since it was never activated a voice channel that would make the game easier, especially during the fighting. You had to leave the game and report the problems of the game, mostly fights between people which didn’t let go easily on the public forum, especially after losing a booty in the wake of an ambush. There are still lots of game communities that over the space of the machine for the insertion of the shard offers web space for the forums and the site of the shard for free (of course if you pay the connection to the provider that supports the community itself granting a number an of concurrent users).

Ultima OnlineFrom there you started with flames on the forum pages and pages of endless speeches and questions and answers almost in real time between the parties. The sense of “suspension of disbelief” sometimes was so intense that you didn’t realized that the hours of play were so many that you hadn’t eat nor drink or even sleep. In addition to the in world chat the use of ICQ made it easy contacts with members of your guild or friends to play both offline and online. It was not possible to teleport directly from one place to another in the world to meet a character as it happens in Second Life just by sending a request to teleport. Access points and teleports to different areas of the world were mostly paid and you could not move flying like in SL, so that in times of difficulty using the external channel made the game easier, especially for the newbies.

Strategic intelligence of the player to always find the simplest means to facilitate their passion for the game led to the use of an external system to the game that could contain a number of “teamspeak” users. There was even those who spoke on the phone with huge and horrendous cuffs for not having to take the phone and have free hands to perform the maneuvers of the classic game. MSN did not have a voice system via web and phone calls, VoIP and the like were still a dream. Also to continue the contact points between Second Life and OU, users were (and are) used to organize themed events in various places in Italy, just as happens today with Facebook.

It must be said that Second Life can not be defined as a game in itself, is a virtual world that has not only recreational and specific purposes like OU, W3 and NWN. Second Life is like a large container that also contains three-dimensional virtual MMORPGs and RPGs, so if I need my avatar to play I can go in a land to do an RPG, if I want to learn I can follow Spanish, English, scripting or building lessons, if I still want to dance in a disco I can do the same. Is the virtual representation of the real world: here, between many points of contact between, lies the big difference with MMORPGs and OU in the first place, in Second Life you can come in and do whatever you want without following pre-game schemes to enrich or to level your character. This is why Second Life can not be called a game, since to be such under the classic definition of LUDUS should contain rules predefined and shared by all participants. In Second Life the only rule is do what you want (of course after accepting the TOS of Linden Lab when you register yourself), according to your conscience, will and avatarian individuality.

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