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Video: Ultima Online's creators reflect on its pioneering days

Three chief members behind Ultima Online -- Raph Koster, Rich Vogel, and Starr M. Long -- discuss the challenges of making and maintaining one of the first MMORPGs.

Game Developer, Staff

January 4, 2013

3 Min Read

Courtesy of the GDC Vault is another free lecture video, this time from Game Developers Conference Online 2012. Released before even 56k modems were commonplace, Ultima Online helped set the standard for MMORPGs within very challenging constraints. The team recalls here taking the game from concept and beta to post-release, dealing with emerging concepts such as player vs player combat and sandbox gaming online. In this postmortem, Raph Koster even asserts why Ultima Online "may be to blame" for the free-to-play business model. Session Name: Classic Game Postmortem: Ultima Online Speaker(s): Raph Koster, Rich Vogel, Starr M. Long Company Name(s): Playdom, San Diego; Independent; The Walt Disney Company Track / Format: Design Overview: At first, it was mostly a team of newbies. For a while, the office space was a few rooms on a floor that was gutted for construction -- you could literally walk off the 5th floor of building and plunge to your death if you weren't careful. The artists sat in the hallway. And the team was out to change everything. Ultima Online was not only one of the first graphical MMORPGs, it also set the standard for player vs player combat and sandbox/emergent gameplay in online titles for many years to come. Three of the team's chief members -- Raph Koster, Rich Vogel, and Starr Long (all of whom went on to shape the online gaming landscape) -- will deliver a postmortem on the landmark title, reflecting on the challenges they faced from early development to maintaining the game well after its launch. Come learn how a combination of insane ambition and idealistic cluelessness can sometimes result in creating something that changes people's lives and the course of an industry.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent GDC events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers. Those who purchased All Access passes to events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC China already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscriptions via a GDC Vault inquiry form. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can find out more here. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins. Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more new content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from other events like GDC China and GDC 2013. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

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