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An Open Letter from Lord British

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Hannes Erich, Nov 18, 2008.

  1. Hannes Erich

    Hannes Erich Seasoned Veteran
    Stratics Veteran

    Nov 13, 2008
    Likes Received:
    An Open Letter from Lord British to the Present and Future Citizens of Britannia
    Posted on the ol' Town Cryer, Monday, November 17, 1998
    Found via Archive.org

    Greetings friends,

    I come before you today to speak about the amazing new world of Britannia that is Ultima Online. For many years the team and I have dreamt of a world where people from all over the earth could join together at one time. Now we have created it. Ultima Online is the fastest selling PC game in the history of Origin and Electronic Arts. It is clear that we have created a new type of play experience that people want. For those of you currently playing, we thank you for helping us make gaming history. Without you, there would be no Britannia.

    Imagine the technical and creative barriers this game has had to identify and resolve. We have connected, in one virtual universe, tens of thousands people from every time zone on earth. We have created an entire virtual world for you to play in, in a massive variety of new ways -- for when so many people are in a virtual world together, everyone wants an individual persona and life to live.

    As amazing as this new universe is, just like in the real world, it is not without imperfections. I would like to tell you that we've heard your concerns and we are responding. We have been carefully listening to your direct feedback and monitoring various fan sites and news groups. Any player or interested party can find, directly on our web page (www.ultimaonline.com), an incredible amount of detail about the changes we have made to the game week to week since we launched. There is even a "Coming Soon" section describing the things we are going to be doing in the near future. We also work closely with numerous fan sites like UO Vault, La Wizard's Chat Zone, Crossroads of Britannia, and The Ultima Error Line to be sure we understand and respond to player concerns.

    So what, citizens of Britannia have asked, have we been doing? As you might suspect, the unveiling of an endeavor of this magnitude has not gone on without a hitch. We have had our share of bugs, hardware issues, Internet issues and player relations problems. However, the team here at Origin has worked long hours to insure that everyone's play experience has been as good as possible. We know that the vast majority of the 65,000 citizens of Britannia are having a great time. Over 50% of the registered users play every day. On average people are playing for 3-4 hours every day. These figures are far in excess of our original projections and far more than any other online game before Ultima Online. Clearly, people love this game.

    Some issues that some of you have identified, such as stability, the economy and the notoriety system has been largely resolved. Others, such as player killing, are more difficult and will take longer. One of the reasons is that, unlike anything has gone before, this huge graphical world never stops changing. This change comes from Origin and it comes from players. Many of the concerns raised would be easier to remedy in a solo player game, but they become far more complex in a massively multiplayer universe. Finally, some of the issues, such as Internet lag, are not totally under our control but we are providing tools for tracing the problem and a mechanism for the ISP vendors to be contacted.

    I've listed some of the most common concerns voiced by citizens in Britannia. I wanted you to know what we are doing to make our world a better place.

    Server Capacity

    We originally planned on building one Britannia, on one server set here in Austin. Even during the Beta test it became clear that we would need at least three. (An event that we fortunately planned for in the fiction of the shattered Britannia universe.) In the first two weeks of sales, UO became the fastest selling online game in history, so we have continued to build the Ultima Online universe with seven worlds - with more to come. We have been very careful to only build as many products to ship as we have worlds to support. We have never yet peaked all our servers and will always endeavor to have more space available in Britannia than we have demand for access.

    Game Masters: Too Few?

    Ultima Online has an unprecedented level of support for any game of this scope. Never before have I seen a major release that allowed a player at any time to call for help within the game with a button available on the main screen. The Call GM button sends a request for assistance to our live game masters and counselors requesting assistance. We have live GMs in the game 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Already this group of people is larger than any other department of Origin, and we are dedicated to a high level of customer service. Though some people do have to wait quite a while for help, the average wait time is only about 15 minutes. Our game masters respond to calls in the perceived order of importance. Their job is to help players overcome obstacles in the game, like being stuck for instance, and to deal with problem players who are violating the user agreement and ruining the experience for others. It is not their job to answer calls involving complaints. (They are also not only sanctioned, but encouraged to ignore people who are either verbally abusive or just flooding the queue, which does nothing but interfere with everyone's access to service.) Many people originally used this call button to ask questions that are answered in the documentation of the game. So instead of having to wait to get this easy answer, we now have the Call GM button first ask you a few questions about your problem and automatically refer you to the correct information, when possible. This also shortens the queue for others and allows the GMs to address critical player issues.

    Bug Extermination

    Some players have been aggravated by bugs that interfere with consistent operation of the game. Ultima Online is a living, breathing world, which we intend to add to in the future. Unfortunately, this also means there is a potential for new bugs. When we make modifications to the game we first test them here with Origin Quality Assurance and publicly on our Testing Center, a world devoted only to testing new code, where players can preview features to come and we can see how or if they work. In addition we actively work with the team that runs the Ultima Error Line page to test these issues (we also use them to help us in other ways like tracking down major bugs, finding ways to reproduce bugs, etc.) However, this testing can go only so far.

    In a world this large and complex many potential problems only appear in subtle interactions with thousands of simultaneous players. Sometimes, even with the best of planning and intentions, we only discover a problem post release. To minimize this, we have initiated a practice of only posting new code to one server at a time so we can watch what happens and respond quickly. Clearly, we work hard to minimize this issue and are working hard to further improve our test process.

    System Exploiters and Rogue Players

    As with the laws of the real world, over time people will find clever ways to exploit new features in ways we did not expect. So, just as in the United States, where we have passed laws to prevent things like monopolies, so too must we slowly improve the "laws" of Britannia, to keep play fair and equitable. Again, it is our intention to add new features and new laws to Britannia in the future.

    We are creating a living, breathing world. We have always intended to modify the rules and continue to add features. This means as the "laws" change, some people will like the new laws, some won't. That's just as it is in the real world. That's just as we expected it to be. That's just as Virtual Britannia will always be. We think this changing evolving world is an essential element of the Ultima Online experience. I believe the vast majority of players know and appreciate this. It is our intent to ensure that Britannia will be a very fun place for us all.

    Britannia is an incredibly diverse world. Some players love to stay in the safety of towns and participate in commerce and the social society, some prefer to journey to the deep dark deadly dungeons and seek adventure there, and some live the life of outlaws, ambushing unwary players who venture from the safety of the towns alone. This too is a new aspect of gaming, heretofore never experienced by most. Some players have been upset that they have been the targets of these rogue players. Indeed, we could prevent this by just not allowing players to be aggressive towards one another, but that is not the world we are trying to create. We are continually changing the laws of Britannia, to make the life of these rogues more "realistic," in that they must live the complete life of an outlaw, banished from the company of good citizens. We have also recently made changes, such that killing beginner players has no value to these rogues. We believe this will solve much of this debate. However, we will continue to monitor this and make adjustments in the future should problems continue to affect the quality of your life in Britannia.

    Server Stability

    In the first week post release, we had some significant problems with server stability. At this time, however, we are pleased to say that even including regularly scheduled weekly down times, the Ultima Online servers are now up more than 95% of the time. We do understand that it is frustrating to build up your character and lose your hard-won possessions with a server crash, and we are working on both the software and with our hardware suppliers to continue to improve up time.


    Another often mentioned item is referred to as "lag." This is when players notice a dramatic drop in the frame rate of the game. Ultima Online is a very "latency tolerant" game. It can handle up to about a 6-second round trip communication time between the players and the servers. This is enough for people from all over the world to connect to UO without notable performance problems. However, we are aware that this is a major issue with some of you. Lag can be caused by one of two things: either overloading of a server or dramatic delays in the Internet itself. Prior to public release, our servers were commonly lagged; in fact we created "events" for people to attend explicitly to overload the servers, which was the only way we could identify the problems. (It is interesting to note that some Beta testers complained even then about this issue, though they were brought onboard to help us find and fix it.)

    During Beta we addressed these issues and optimized the servers. Now in full release, we only run the servers with a number of players they can easily handle. Lag is now only rarely caused by our servers. Instead, those players who experience lag are far more often seeing extensive lag that is part of the Internet itself - or by the choice of internet service provider. As we've all experienced when trying to connect to various web sites, on the Internet there are no guarantees of communication speed. Occasionally the Internet itself gets very slow and can interfere with game quality. This has been especially true on the East Coast of the United States. Since often this problem is caused by a player's choice of Internet service provider, we provide a tool called "UOtrace" on our web site so that people can test their connections to our game. UOtrace not only tests your connection, but if there is a weak link, it will actually give you contact names, telephone numbers and addresses where you can go to address this connectivity problem.

    Interestingly even with these controversial topics for players to debate the right solutions to, Ultima Online's popularity could not be stronger. Not only is it our fastest selling PC game ever, but the number of players online at any time compared with the total number of subscribers is more than double our highest projections and more than quadruple what most other online services see. Beyond that ,even with all the debate as to how we are managing the world, players tell us this is one of the best game experiences they have ever had.

    Playing in Britannia in Ultima Online is an experience unlike any other. Ultima Online is a compelling new world with a new evolving society. Citizens of Britannia make life choices that will follow them for the life of their character. There are "laws" that favor working in teams of individuals that trust each other and have synergistic skill sets. Though this world will never be perfect, you have our promise to continue to make it better and better.

    Come live with us in Britannia,
    Lord British

    Monday, Nov 17
    Jirel of Joiry likes this.
  2. I moved this to UHall OT from Players Corner but I do want the poster and others to know why ...

    While this does pertain to UO, it is a post from 10 years ago, has been posted on Stratics more than once entirely or parts ... but it does not pertain to the game as it is today. I believe that Players Corner is intended to address some gameplay issues and answers for todays game.

    This serves nothing in that regard, although it's a good read from Garriott's standpoint. I was around just after this was released. Lag existed then in much worse levels than today - regardless of source.

    Shard reverts were daily in many instances ... you'd lose as much as 1 or 2 days progress. GMs were more frequently seen, as were Seers, EMs, Counselors. but a lot didn't exist then ... scrolls; custom housing; soulstones; insurance (for good or ill); skill and stats locks; 1000 starting gold (it was 100); Paladin, Ninja, Necro, Samurai templates; Ilshenar, Malas, Tokuno; Trammel ruleset; Doom, Khaldun, Painted Caves and more.

    But things evolve and change - in business, gaming development, hardware, personal life and more ... Essentially, what was pertinent in 1998 is historical today ... I moved it here.
  3. Hannes Erich

    Hannes Erich Seasoned Veteran
    Stratics Veteran

    Nov 13, 2008
    Likes Received:
    T_Amon_from_work, you have my apologies for the off-topic post; and thank you for giving an explanation.

    Now that I find myself in the Off-topic Hall, I'm going to allow myself to ramble at the walls and shadows for a few minutes. It is, after all, a very special occasion. Ten years only comes around once every decade, you know! And this puts Ultima Online in its very own Hall of Fame.

    Lord British's open letter reappears here exactly ten years to the day after it appeared on Ultima Online's website. So for returning players, this is an especially relevant piece of UO history, but not only because of the timing of this appearance.

    When Mythic said that they intend to return UO to its original ideals, they were referring to the tenets present in Lord British's letter, not to the rule-sets of bygone eras. Like T_Amon_from_work says, things evolve and change; but some things in Lord British's letter haven't changed, which is what makes the letter prescient, even a decade after its first appearance.

    In this era -- with Mythic holding the reins, with Kingdom Reborn breathing new life into the world and facets, and Stygian Abyss returning the game to its mythical roots -- a surprising number of New Haven's freshest faces are returning players from way back. So if you're someone who left UO because the dawn of some new era didn't sit well with you, it may be interesting to think about all the people who would have just been coming into the game at that point, forever-after associating some of their fondest memories with that era's expansion.

    But for those who can adapt to the future, more fond memories are always possible.

    You ought to know, by now, to be ready for Britannia to undergo drastic changes every once in a while. But a changing world has frequently been the reason for departures from the game, as well as new arrivals (worth noting). In the late 1990s, maybe for the first time in gaming history, Ultima Online's developers seemed more adaptable than many players. But perhaps this was because a great deal of UO's inaugural player-base did not see themselves as "gamers". This is one thing that has changed, to be sure.

    Lord British, someone who has seen Britannia change more times than many UO subscribers, gives a justifiable explanation for the changes that were yet to come-- and for the changes that are still yet to come. This paragraph might have been moved to the beginning of the letter, as fair warning to the weak of spirit:

    We are creating a living, breathing world. We have always intended to modify the rules and continue to add features. This means as the "laws" change, some people will like the new laws, some won't. That's just as it is in the real world. That's just as we expected it to be. That's just as Virtual Britannia will always be. We think this changing evolving world is an essential element of the Ultima Online experience. I believe the vast majority of players know and appreciate this. It is our intent to ensure that Britannia will be a very fun place for us all.

    It's important to acknowledge that an unchanging world, say, stuck in the Second Age or the Renaissance, would garner several hundred players, maybe several thousand at best. A special shard or two might be a good idea for EA/Mythic, but this alone would not have been adequate to provide for the resources currently needed by any large-scale undertaking in the MMORPG genre. This doesn't mean it's about the money-- it means it's about the players: with few exceptions, players demand change, either to stay or to return; even when it presents them with difficult new challenges to adapt to.

    This open letter was not written only for UO's dawning era. It was written for all eras. It's more believable now, certainly. And I have a feeling that many of its first readers, like me, would have been better prepared for forthcoming expansions, had they taken Lord British at his word.
    Jirel of Joiry and Kirthag like this.