Ultima Online Review – PC Gamer

I’ve not been doing so well at updating the site this last week. You can partly thank Telltale’s Walking Dead games for that as I’ve been hooked from the moment I started playing them. Due to the nature of the story, I wouldn’t say they were exactly fun but they are utterly compelling for all that. I still have one episode left but I’ve pulled myself away long enough to scan this Ultima Online review from the pages of the January 1998 PC Gamer:-

Ultima Online Review - PC Gamer (Page 1) Ultima Online Review - PC Gamer (Page 2)

Ultima Online 15th Anniversary (Belatedly)

I’m slightly late to the party but Ultima Online turned 15 last week which is as good an occasion as any to post a couple of items I picked up from Rhea last year. While I’m more than glad to have them, these probably should be in the hands of a real UO fan as I’ll confess that it’s still not a game I’ve ever played or know very much about. I do intend to put that right one of these days but it’s not going to be for a while yet.

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This first item was Rhea’s award for helping the game reach 200,000 subscribers which I guess would date it to about 1999/2000. According to the manufacturer’s label on the bottom, it was made by Renaissance Glass in Austin. The engraved glass part looks fine and I have no issue with it but I’m less convinced about the fossilized critters base that it sits in. It must be one of the rarest Origin collectibles I own but this still doesn’t make it the most attractive objet d’art to have sat on top of a bookcase which is where it’s been living for the last 9 months. It wasn’t easy to take a decent photo of either, I tried with and without flash and can’t say I was happy with either.

Ultima Online Charter Edition - Box Front

Far more aesthetic if you ask me is this copy of Ultima Online Charter Edition. This version of the game was only available for direct pre-orders and was the same as the regular edition except you got an extra two months subscription, a few added extras in the box and of course the box itself was ludicrously large and signed (in print) by Lord British.

Ultima Online Charter Edition - Signed Box Back

This would be a nice enough collectible to have on the shelf but what makes this one better still is that it has been signed on the back by many of the people behind the game. I won’t go through the whole lot but it’s got Lord British, Raph Koster, Bob White and more than 20 others. I can decipher most of these signatures but a handful have me stumped. I would have thought Blackthorn up in the top left should have been Starr Long for instance but if that’s what it says I’m not seeing it.

Ultima Online 2 – Concept/Advertising Art

Ultima Online 2 was to be the sequel to Ultima Online and was announced by Origin in September 1999. It would have been quite a step forward from UO as it used a full 3D engine but the title was ultimately cancelled on March 21 2001. The excellent novels that were to publicise the game still survived to be published a month later, and many of the elements of UO2 ended up being incorporated into later editions of UO. Ultima Online 2 was allegedly seen as a competitor to the cash cow that was UO by EA who decided to stick with that instead. This decision to stop moving forward was a major contributor to the demise of Origin with many jobs being lost shortly after it was taken.

One of the more photogenic bits of Origin history which I’ve got in my possession is a collection of concept/advertising art for Ultima Online 2 printed onto A4 sheets. The game went through a name change during its 18 months of development from Ultima Online 2 to Ultima Worlds Online:Origin but there were clearly other possibilities considered judging by the array of different titles here:-

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On an unrelated note, I’ve noticed a dramatic drop in traffic on here in the last couple of days and it appears that I’ve been spurned by Google. I tried typing in the name of my website on google.com and I don’t even make the first page any more. My old wordpress blog is in first place, with the even older idnet blog that has been dead and deleted for years in 2nd. Apply this across the more likely search terms where I’m going to be lower in the pecking order and the result is that I haven’t had a single referral from Google search in 3 days! This is particularly strange given that this site has the higher Google ranking than those older blogs (largely thanks to the frequent links from the WC CIC).

While I don’t maintain a blog on Origin to be popular (and it’s just as well), the idea of no one being able to find the site if they are looking is seriously demoralising. I’ve made a handful of tweaks to hopefully improve this but ultimately I’m at the whims of Google here. If anyone reading this fancies helping to bump this site back above a blog that has been dead for 2 or 3 years, please feel free to link, google +1 and generally spread the word.

I’ll spread the word myself for yet another Kickstarter while I’m at it. Jane Jensen of Gabriel Knight and Gray Matter fame has a project to start her own development studio which can be found here. I’m a huge fan of the Gabriel Knight series and Jane’s games in general which would have been enough to get me in but I particularly like the model for this project with half the money being provided from outside Kickstarter, the money going toward a new game rather than a remake, and there is a high degree of donator involvement right down to voting on which game to make.