Welcome to the classic section of Metavas


As illustrated, Origin realized it needed better “gold sinks” to combat inflation by pulling gold out of the U.O. economy. Taxing accumulated wealth will cause subscriber revolt. Selling rich characters would have fetched enough gold to solve inflation, but would have created a class of invincible terminators and a broken game balance.

The solution was subtle: just cosmetic status symptoms. For the price of a small palace, Britain’s elite could buy neon hair dye and dazzle commoners with a vibrant green mohawk. But these measures only provided a Band-Aid – in 2010 gold was worth 500,000 per dollar.

At this point, competitors like World of Warcraft have overtaken most UO players. But while most of its peers have closed, Ultima Online has remained stable and maintains a strong core of users—perhaps around 20,000—even a quarter-century after its debut. What kept them?

Current subscribers say the sense of identity and UO offerings are unmatched. Thanks in part to gold sinks and expansion content, the options for customizing costumes and homes far exceed even modern titles. As a result, the game’s original renaissance-fair aesthetic has devolved into something strange. As you travel the land today, you see gargoyle-men in sunglasses, and ninjas riding giant spiders on fluorescent shields. Medieval villages have given way to tracts of garish McMansions. But while this mayhem shatters players’ stereotypes, it’s all there. theirs.

Designers cannot foresee all the ways users will break a system.

But the biggest thing that keeps the community alive is the relationships and memories they build together. Yes, other games have better graphics and flashier features. But where else in the offline world would a friend who lives continents away drop a fishcake for a harvester and admire a rare picture you made together during the Clinton administration?

Often, these attachments are very personal—quite a few players have built virtual homes with dead parents or friends in real life, and keeping them is a way to connect with those they’ve lost. Some started visiting their real-life spouses in prison at night. In sum, Britain has become a real place, and people stay for all the reasons we love real-world places.

The nostalgia is so strong that some Ultima diehards have copied the source code and set up free bootleg servers to offer a “pure” experience that brings back the spirit of the game’s early days. Thousands of former players have flocked to them. A fan-made service allows people to play through web browsers. Another project aims to incorporate UO into virtual reality.

As Metaverse technologies make such worlds more accessible, it’s easy to imagine Britain one day becoming a place of pilgrimage – a place where the ideals of simulated worlds first bloom and their worst problems are overcome. Those building the next generation of worlds would do well to attend Ultima Online.


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