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1997-09-23: Ultima Online Public Beta Testers

Ultima Online Public Beta Testers

Dear Beta testers, fellow Origin development team members, and fellow citizens of the first ever true virtual world, Britannia:

Tomorrow, the world as you know it comes to an end. We are closing the public beta test after the event planned for tomorrow.

You have just been part of something wondrous. Imagine now what you will be a part of in the future.

Consider what Ultima Online has been thus far. It has been over two years in the making: by far the largest, grandest, most complete virtual world there has ever been. Since the pre-alpha test that many of you participated in over a year ago, we have come so very far. At that time we tested a concept with some early art and some UNIX code running on a couple of servers to see if the virtual world concept could work at all. Now here we are, many months of hard work later, and the future looks bright indeed.

We have three worlds, three "shards of reality," running on server farms scattered across the United States. Each is a testament to the future of online gaming. Each shard holds thousands of Earth-based players, many times more thousands of creatures, and tens of thousands of adventures.

"But is it fun?" you ask.

Oh yes, it is. Over the past few days I have spent many, many hours traveling Britannia, sometimes openly in your company, and sometimes discreetly following and observing. What I have seen amazes me.

I have witnessed brave adventurers delve deep into deadly dungeons in search of danger. I have watched businesses and whole industries spring up to supply the needs of these adventurers. I have seen the blacksmiths auctioning off their wares in crowded squares, hiring miners with guard escorts to bring them metal to forge, hiring bards to calm the inevitable arguments and fights that break out in the fever of competition. I have seen intrepid crews take to the open ocean to seek new islands, only to be surprised by other crews on pirate ships armed with magic, ready to steal the contents of their cargo holds. I have seen people master the arcane and difficult arts of magic, and become powerful mages capable of transforming their shape and walking down city streets, terrifying the populace.

I have seen a group of artists hold auditions for their play. I have seen a wrestling pit marked off in the dirt, and crowds calling out bets from the sidelines. I have watched as scholars walked into moongates over and over, building tables of destinations, to try to unlock the patterns behind them. I have read the research into unknown magic, and waited for players to discover the hints left for them. Newspapers have sprung up, and great libraries have been founded to gather the books of the world in one place.

I have seen people build lives here. Build houses and businesses. Tame animals, and cry when they die. Bring old friends with them. Make new ones.

Found cities--shiny new ones like Mystery City, which organized its own town militia, and shanty-towns made of crates and abandoned furniture. Use whatever words you choose: people have made HOMES here. They have settled a new frontier, with all that implies--the joy of breaking new ground, and the lack of conveniences it offers. The frustration of meeting new, unknown obstacles, and the thrill of conquering them.

This game--no, this WORLD--has already become much more than any of us could have envisioned. Yet it is only now about to really begin.

We--all of us, game makers and game players alike--are walking down a new road together. What is this that we have made together? Is it an Ultima, with a finite plot? Is it like other multiplayer games, with a clear goal to reach for? Is it just a huge medieval theme chat zone?

No, Ultima Online is far more than any one of these, it is more than all of these put together. It is an Ultima, with an epic plot as yet largely unrevealed. It is a world. It is now our second home. A living, breathing, changing place, that will provide constantly varying experiences.

Just like the real world, the virtual economy and ecology will change--even fail in places--as players either exploit or care for it. As developers, we will be challenged by keeping up with the "holes" in the "laws" of economy that players discover, just as a government must continue to pass laws to keep the economy and ecology of the real world on an even keel.

There is so much in the world of Britannia that you have seen... and you are about to see much more. Many of the updates that we have made have not been part of the public beta test process. You have yet to see Britannia swept by rain and thunderstorms, or snow falling gently during the winter. You have not seen a crystal blink to let you know your friend is calling you with his own attuned crystal from across the world. You have not seen other things yet to come--the gatherings of necromancers building dread towers in clearings in the wilderness, the wonder of a magic carpet soaring high over the mountains, or the pride of being accorded the title "Dragonslayer" by all who meet you, your deeds known and published to bulletin boards in the local taverns across the land. It will not be long before we see the first wedding, the first day that a couple who met in Britannia send news to us of their child born somewhere here in our world, perhaps in Illinois, or Alaska, or Germany. These and many other things will be adding to the world of Britannia for months and even years to come, providing you with excitement and challenges. We have not "finished" Ultima Online. Finishing implies reaching an end. How does a world reach an end? It grows over time. It lives, it changes. It evolves. It becomes a community.

Come, join the development team, the gamemasters, Lord Blackthorn, and I, as we discover together where that evolution will lead. The world where the future of role-playing resides. The place where we have all found another home...

Come live with us in the world of Britannia in Ultima Online!

-Lord British

Tuesday, Sept 23