Hi everybody! I did a post like this a few years ago, but it was incomplete and I was an obnoxious teenager at the time, so I'm going to do another one. There's been lots of negativity on the boards lately, and some of it has been founded. This post is not meant to invalidate anybody else's opinions. However. Let it be said now that I love UO. I've been playing since 2004 and I'm not quitting any time soon. I love the gameplay more than any other, I love the world more than any other, and I get better RP here than anywhere else on the internet. UO is amazing. It was a groundbreaking game back in 1997, and it remains unmatched in many ways. There's a lot of stuff around about what's wrong with the game. Here are my thoughts on what's right with it. Because, you know what? It's a damn good game. Here are some examples of why I love UO. 1) The sheer goddamn size of the world. It is seriously huge. Run around it some day. When I first started playing, I was thirteen, I had never played a multiplayer game before, and I was totally dazzled by the size of it; I used to spend hours looping the Britannian continent and sailing all over to the dozens of little islands. And then there's Ilshenar, Malas, Tokuno, and now Ter Mur. Never make the world smaller, devs. Don't you dare do it. It is amazing just as it is. I've been playing for eight years, and exploring constantly is what I do. Sometimes, even now, I'll take a wrong turn and end up somewhere that I've never, ever been to. I'll discover little corners and weird mysteries that will make me stop and stare. Eight years, and I'm still discovering places. I still feel like the world has so much to show me. There is something magical about that. Here's the type of thing that I like. This is a little brick box in Terort Skitas, a dungeon that we'll be visiting later in the essay. It has no entry, there's no mobiles inside, and you could just run past it a thousand times without ever even noticing it. Then you happen to turn your circle of transparency on, and suddenly you see this. Never underestimate the little things like that. 2) Custom housing. This one's a double-edged sword. On one hand, the dreaded Malas Box. On the other hand, player-built castles, manors and cottages. If anybody drops by Baja any time soon, please take a moment and visit the village of Kraggen-Cor near Wind. It's a masterpiece of player-made housing. If not, please remember: try to avoid an equilateral box shape; don't mix and match wall styles unless you really know what you're doing; if you learn how to make an arched roof, you'll feel like a better person; and finally, lava floor tiles are not your friend. Also: If in doubt, go classic. 3) The variety of skills. This one's probably going to spark a derail in the comments. However, I love the sheer variety of skills available. Some, I've still never tried - I still need to train up a cook, or a fisherman, or a thief. But I love that I can RP a singing blacksmith with an army of bears, or a shepherd that brews explosive potions in his secret laboratory, or a gentle wandering healer who can break a troll's skull with her quarter staff. Templates are taking over nowadays and I agree that it's a problem, but the room for variety is there, and it makes roleplaying so much richer when you can back it up with in-game mechanics. 3b) The Stealth Skill. I played UO for the first few years from Australia, on a connection of 16kps dial-up. At the time, I was playing on the obsolete 3D client. Being a ghost in this client didn't put the world in greyscale like it does in 2D, so I spent literally all of my time dead so that I could explore dungeons in peace. When I finally had the connection to play a stealth explorer, it was like the heavens had opened. It is my favourite skill. Combine with herding for maximum hilarity and zerg bunnies. 4) Ilshenar dungeons. Ilshenar is actually a really creepy place. It's huge and empty, with - at the risk of bringing my own personal lore into the discussion - a real post-apocalyptic feel to it. Notice how there are no living humans at all, save for the wandering travellers (and why do they move around so much? What are they running from?) Notice how, with the exception of Montor and Mistas (both destroyed), the cities (also destroyed) have all been built deep underground, as if trying to escape something on the surface. Notice how, despite the reassurances that the people of Montor foresaw its destruction and all escaped, absolutely no records by survivors exist. That's not even getting into the plotline timeskip lunacy. Consequently, the Ilshenar dungeons are the creepiest dungeons by far for me. I think the difference between them and the Britannian dungeons is that they're all obviously man-made. Most of them are huge underground fortresses, but they have furniture and bookshelves and creature comforts. (Even the wisp dungeon has chairs. Why does the wisp dungeon have chairs?! Wisps don't have butts!) Obviously somebody lived here at some point, but they're sure as hell not living here anymore. The lowest level of Covetous has the same effect on me, but Ilshenar is a whole facet of this madness. I think Terort Skitas has to be my favourite dungeon of all time. (Technically Terort Skitas is the temple and the dungeon below it has no name, but I insist.) It represents everything I love about the Ilshenar dungeons. The top level is a rather cute underground castle, obviously built for comfortable living. It even has a classroom! There are monsters, but not many. It's a nice place. I could almost live here myself. I wonder why it's deserted? As you go down, it gets worse. And worse. And worse. And OH DEAR GOD What the hell happened here? Nobody knows. Whatever it was, it was obviously horrible, much like what happened to the rest of Ilshenar. And that's why it is the creepiest facet with the best dungeons. 5) Item variety. This sounds mysterious, so let me explain. It's not about having a million different possible qualities on a random longsword. That part of the game, I don't pay much attention to. It's about needing a chair for your loungeroom and being able to choose between Trinsic style, Vesper style, stone, plain wooden, stool, bench, footstool, throne, covered chair, broken chair, and so on and so on. It's about your character being hungry, and being able to feed them roast chicken, legs of lamb, cake, cookies, lettuce, gourds, lemons, sushi, wrapped candy, cheese pizza, plain bread, French bread, pixie legs, apples, pears, unicorn ribs, suckling pigs, lava fish pies and so on and so on. In most games, a chair is a chair. In most games, food is food. It's "food." It looks like a loaf of bread, you click on it, you regain health. But in UO, every single possible category of item has a thousand variants, all with their own name and graphic, all interactive, all adding to the incredible richness of the world and its environments. When UO was first created, there were no other MMORPGs. It had nobody to compete with. Back then, single-player games, for the most part, had no item variety to speak of, and very little environmental richness. The devs could have easily just created a generic fantasy world where all chairs used the same plain wood graphic and all "food" was just an apple; it would have saved them a lot of time and a lot of money and back then, people would have been so wowed by the multiplayer experience that they wouldn't even have noticed or cared. And yet, they didn't. They went one step beyond. 6) Stories Left Untold I don't mean dangling plot threads left unresolved. Those annoy me. I'd like to know what happened to Melissa and Andrew after the Warriors of Destiny storyline, for example; I'd like to know what the hell was up with that alternate Moonglow that the blackrock detector opened, and if there are any others like it; I'd like to know what sort of temporal madness created New Haven and turned the old one into a pit of undead (I know the answer to both these questions is "Blackrock breaks the universe," but a canonical explanation and exploration would be great); and I want to know just what was in Trammel before British replicated Britannia into it. That's the official storyline, however. One thing I love about the actual world is just how much of it is left unexplained. This is something that UO does better than any other MMORPG. WoW's roleplayers, just to pick an example, are corralled (and strangled, in my opinion) by excessive, restrictive lore. They have some freedom, but for the most part they're bound to worldbuilding and story-telling that's been done by somebody else. Sosaria, on the other hand, is an amazingly rich and detailed world, beautifully designed, lovingly laid out, and - given its size and the age of the game - almost totally unbound by official fiction. What little we're given is just enough to provide a solid framework. I can't express what an amazing environment this is for roleplayers. Ask seven different communities about the history of, say, Britain, and you'll get seven fundamentally similar but wildly individual answers. My personal favourite example of this is the Dungeon [of the] Khaldun. This criminally under-visited dungeon is only found in the Felucca Lost Lands, near Papua. (A mirror of it was created in Trammel in 2008 for the Hallowe'en event, but is no longer accessible.) It's very hard for a stealther to manage, on account of the auto-detecting shadow fiends. (These goddamn things) : Khaldun has quite a bit of lore compared to some other places, centred around a team of archeologists who discovered the dungeon, dug up its treasures, and came to a sticky end. The whole story can be found on Stratics. However, there's much more to the dungeon that is left unspecified. It's obvious that it's very old, that it's very evil, and that it was either built by or used by the cult of a figure called Khal Ankur. Found inside it are the aforementioned shadow fiends (almost unique to the game, save for a single room in Ilshenar that I've never been able to explore because of them), the tentacles of the Harrower, and the five ancient liches. It's littered with wall carvings like this. And that's all we get. We know the place is ancient, we know it's cursed, we know there's something to do with a cult. And that's all. Who or what is Khal Ankur? We don't know. Who were these arcane demon-worshippers who once lived above ground in the Lost Lands? We don't know. The ancient liches, who are presumably the hooded quintet from the wall carvings, have names - Kaltivel, Baratoz, Almonjin, Maliel and Anshu - and weird titles (what sort of title for an unspeakably evil undead monster is "The Breath of Life?"), but who were they, and what do the titles mean? We don't know. We get the framework of some untold, probably horrifying and Lovecraftian story, and we can build on it if we wish. That's AWESOME. Seriously, I love Khaldun. ETA: I sat down to write a short list and I ended up with a thesis. Sorry! It will be split up into two parts for your convenience. Coming up next, in a few days: "Things I'd Like More Of"!