[The video game industry is young, but heritage is forming through developer and player passion. The producer of the game at EA discusses the Ultima Universe and Ultima Online's impact on the world of video games.]
My grandfather played minor league baseball before World War II. At that time, Blacks were not allowed to be on the same field as Whites. So he joined a Negro baseball team. I had no idea my grandfather even played baseball until I saw the worn black and white photo that stood in a small frame next to his 80th birthday cake. Twenty or so young men stood or sat in wool uniforms and well –worn baseball caps.
I can’t tell if it was before a game or after, though their uniforms don’t look dusty, and their faces don’t look tired. They simply look like they would rather be playing baseball than sitting for a photograph. I don’t know if anyone in this day and age, with the exception of the military, who shows that same look of focus and determination I see in that photo.
I often ponder what it must have been like for my grandfather to simply have enough passion to want to play baseball back then, in the literal heat of summer and figurative hell of that racially-divided period. For the simple love of a game; salt of your own sweat on your lips; and the sound of your friends and family as fans cheering in the stands was all that mattered. Baseball has evolved and changed from that time... a time where how the game was played and how the players looked fit one mold. It took one man with one bat named Jackie Robinson to set different standard and different expectations for how millions would view one little game.
Amazing what a little passion and dedication can do.
Some see a baseball diamond and see decades of sacrifice, and the simple love of the game. Some see that same shape and think about glamour, lights, and million dollar paychecks.
Many view video games as another pastime like baseball. However, unlike baseball some think video games have no true heritage. It’s all business, triple AAA titles and flashy marketing campaigns. But seek out those who make games and play them, you’ll find the same passion my grandfather had... although game developers rarely wear wool uniforms in the summer.
For some time, there was one standard and one expectation for video games. It took one game and one vision to change the course of what a game could be to the rest of the world. Now I won’t go as far as to say the game had the far-reaching social and cultural impact as Jackie Robinson, but in contemporary terms the longevity and memories of tales and long-lasting relationships between developers and community – Ultima Online stands apart from others in the genre.
Ultima and the Ultima Universe were created with the singular passion of creating a world to explore and escape from the boundaries of our modern day... into Britannia. That same notion and passion led to Ultima Online. At some point the game industry diverged into two paths... the simple diamond that was filled with simple rules and countless ways to play... to glamour, lights, and a paycheck.
Ultima is the place where you play without boundaries. It is the source from which all current day MMOs have ventured, and somehow have lost their way... giving the player the experience and freedom... without the virtual shackles of levels and status.
In modern day games, there is a sense of accomplishment associated with a numbers: levels, attributes on items in your backpack, and achievements. There is nothing wrong with the modern day games or other MMOs... if you like your hand held, and told where to go, and what to do.
UO offers an experience that is a bit more daunting… because it offers freedom to a culture that hasn’t tasted it since the genre’s inception. UO offers players a bit more respect -- creating a world to make your own rules, set your own goals, and follow your own path. Once players get a taste of it, they find that it suits them. This is the reason UO is the longest continually running MMO in history.
I got some advice from a wise man once: “If you hit a home run... you can walk the bases.”
UO hit a home run years ago, and while not walking the bases, is doing a healthy trot around the infield.
While every rookie attempts to swing and miss, UO will thrive on its understanding of how to truly play the game: with patience, passion, and overall respect for the true roots of the experience.
For every subscriber who has played UO, every game site reporter with memories of their first journey into Britannia , for granddaughter and grandmother duo crafting and playing music together, or “rares collector” who “Remembers when..." UO remains as the one constant that refuses to follow the path of the common and contemporary.
Though our industry is only a little more than a quarter century old, there is a heritage being formed in gaming, and UO is a defining moment in that heritage. When you’re ready or not, you are more than welcome to play in UO’s sandlot... the way the game was meant to be played. Of course, you may need to sew your own uniform.