During one of the Dev Hangouts, Richard Garriott (Lord British) made an interesting comment about the Two Schools of Ultima. It was a comment about players who are familiar with the open world of Ultima Online versus players that were familiar with the single-player, quest-based Ultima series.

I fall into the camp of single-player, quest-based Ultima. I’ve never seen or played Ultima Online. The only thing I know is the box cover. For me, it has always been about the story and the quests. You started off in a city and worked your way around talking to characters, solving puzzles, finding runes, praying at shrines and battling monsters who stand in your way. You interacted with shop keepers and other NPCs through their limited vocabulary to uncover pieces of the story. From one town you moved on to the next looking for more clues, and in later games, more players to join your party.

For me, Ultima was never online and the social interaction was comparing notes with my friends about our progress or playing the game together in a Coca Cola and potato chip fueled weekend frenzy.

This sort of play carried over into my enjoyment of the next big RPG, Diablo and Diablo II, which had the same game elements of talking to the NPCs, going on quests to find the magical items and working with a group to defeat the evil that stood in our way. This kept me entertained for years. Again, the interaction was comparing notes over massive victories or epic defeats and occasionally playing with friends in a Corona and chicken wing fueled frenzy. Many times the phrase was heard, “As soon as we get my stuff back we’re done!!”

Even the repetitive “magic find” levels were still fun as we hoped for the best with finding bigger and better loot. Working together to recover a body was still amusing. And running like a coward/distraction had it moments of hilarity as well.

That is my gaming experience.

I really hope Shroud of the Avatar keeps with the original spirit of Ultima. I prefer the gaming style where you search the landscape and go on quests. I want to try my hand at defeating the monsters and interacting with the NPCs. To me, the social aspect is putting a party together and taking on the bigger monsters you can’t defeat alone or learning some trick to clearing an area of finding some special location. I really have no interest in all this PvP action. To me, that’s not what Ultima is about.

Maybe I’ve never had the benefit of seeing it in action to understand the fun or thrill of PvP, but that really isn’t the game I want to play. I want to go back to those days where I traveled for town to town, looking for just the right person to give me the next clue. That was the fun part to me – wondering where the story would take me and who I would meet up with.

I like the idea of crafting, but where do the other elements fit into the game? Finding reagents and making spells sounds good to me, sort of like Runes in Diablo that you could combine in a socketed item and get magical properties. The thrill is in the hunt. Some of the other “social” aspects seem a little, well, mundane.

Perhaps a fan of Ultima Online could give me some insight on how all that works together. I know there are a lot of people who really enjoy that game so I would like to be enlightened on how it works and how you play. My scope of play is fairly limited so I would like to understand the online elements. To put it simply, what am I getting myself into? What can I expect?

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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