Posted in MMORPGs, Ultima Online

Ultima Online: First Week Back

It’s been a week since I’ve retrieved my old Ultima Online account – one that I made back in 1999. I have been playing it fairly consistently when time permits, though it’s been a bit of a learning curve getting back into it. How’s things going? Well…

A Tale of Two Clients

The first thing I had to make heads or tales of (aside from the bank issue that I needed to solve) was the user interface (UI) of the game. This is probably the largest stumbling block for players new to this sort of oldskool game (aside from the absolute lack of handholding it provides).

Even for me, I admit, it was hard to go back to a game where you keyed up macros that you have to remember and use the right mouse button to move. Modern MMOs with their hotbars have spoiled me, and I had to do a good bit of Googling just to figure out how to do rather basic things when I returned to UO.

One of the first questions I was faced with was which client to use: Classic or Enhanced.

At first, I was really leaning towards sticking with Classic. I just like the crisp pixel art style better.

Classic client

But after I spent some time with the Enhanced Client, I leaned that way instead. Mostly due to the easier to use UI – especially hotbars.

Enhanced Client

I just don’t really dig this psudo-3Dish attempt at the art style as much as the oldskool pixel art. It seems more muddy and harder to see — though you can zoom in and out on the Enhanced Client and not so on the Classic.

I do believe there are mods and such for both clients, but I haven’t looked into those yet. One thing at a time.

The Skill Issues

The next thing I had to address and research were my character skills and what to do about them. Since UO was my first MMO and I had no real plan of attack casually playing it 20 years ago, skills on my characters are pretty much all over the place.

I learned that aside from a popular build “Sampire” (life leeching samurai), melee builds on their own aren’t really a good way to go (especially if you intend to solo). I learned Taming builds are all the rage and that Bards can be pretty neat, too.

Between both of my Aywren characters (Yeah, I have two: “Aywren” and “Aywren Sojourner” – I might change that up sometime later), I have a smattering of bard, mage, taming, tailoring, swordsmanship and… it’s just all over the board.

I learned that Stratics is the place fans tend to go for builds and such. It felt good to be back on oldskool forums looking at builds and tactics. I did this for a few days, trying to decide which character I should lean which way.

It seems like Aywren was further along in taming, so I’ve focused on learning that build and magery for her.

While my other character seems to have delved much more into musicanship, so will likely be my bard. I’ve yet to figure out exactly what build I want for this character – she might get a total makeover.

I also learned that being grandfathered into the Endless Journey meant that I actually can roll additional characters! This led me to deleting one of the old ones – she seemed to be leaning towards magery, but didn’t have any items of note in her bags and wasn’t very far into skilling up. So she was pretty redundant and using a name I’d not use now days, too.

I’d like to try out a gargoyle character eventually, but for now, I have enough on my hands!

The Gift of Gear

So after a few days hanging around Moonglow, I learned that the island isn’t as safe as I remembered it. Used to be, as long as you didn’t venture around the graveyard, all you’d ever need to deal with were Mongbats.

My run-in with a skeleton named Edward changed my perspective. He was just wandering up the main road, slaughtering all animals in his wake. I remembered how the skeletons of Moonglow were usually easy for me to take, and this resulted in my first two deaths (death two was trying to get my gear back from my corpse).

I tried to look this guy up, but found nothing about him online. Man, was he nasty and FAST.

After I quickly remembered how to get a rez from Wandering Healers and managed to retrieve my stuff from my corpse, Edward chased me all the way back into Town where I logged off for a bit. I did see him wandering around the west gates of the city later that night. Wish I’d taken a screen, but it all happened so fast.

One day, I will return, Edward. Just you wait.

After doing more research, I determined there is now a new player experience in UO, and this usually starts in a town called New Haven. So, after experimenting with rune books and messing about with moongates, I made my way there.

The bank in New Haven is pretty busy!

Much better! And much more populated, too!

As a new player, this area has a nice sprawling southern area to tame all sorts of animals. There are a few tough fights out there, but nothing my Bear Brigade couldn’t handle (I say that without having tried to fight the ettin).

Syn even rolled a character and we messed around together for a night. This is where we met the very nice fellow from the [kool] guild.

He approached me in town, and I knew he was offering to recruit me to his guild. At that point, Syn had only been in game for 20 mins and I was struggling to answer her questions and teach her what she needed to know to navigate those first-player steps. So neither of us were really able to focus on thinking about a guild that early on.

I’d also forgotten how chatty and friendly people were in older games. I told him that I’d not played UO in 20 years, and I felt a bit bad taking a guild invite when I didn’t know how much I’d be able to contribute. He reassured me that the guild was there to help new and returning players, so I did promise to keep them in mind in the future. But for then, we just needed time to settle in and explore.

He wasn’t pushy and totally understood that. In fact, he offered to give us some gear that would help us start out. At first, I hesitated on taking a gift (modern day MMO mentality), but he explained this was something called LRC gear.

I had no idea what LRC meant, so I asked. He further explained that this gear would completely negate the need to hunt/buy/gather reagents for casting spells.

In UO, every time you cast a spell, it requires a specific type and number of materials that you must keep in your pack – if you don’t have it, you can’t cast it. It was one of the things that kept me from going too deeply into magery.

Once I understood LRC and what it could do for us (since Syn started out in magery, unknowing of the reagents), I quickly agreed to accept his gift. He brought us both back a set of 100% LRC gear (telling us all the while that it wasn’t the best stuff but it would be a help) and gave us both 1 million gold to boot! He also advised us to insure the gear (which I did know how to do), so that it remained with us should we die.

My fancy new LRC gear and the Bear Brigade (There are actually five bears there)

Holy cow! This was further than I’ve been in UO gear and gold wise pretty much ever, and I am so very grateful and exited!

Thank you Mr. from the [kool] guild! I wish I’d taken a screen to remember your name, but I was helping Syn figure out how to put her new gear on at the time. XD

Skilling Up

So, now I’m at the point of skilling up. I’m dropping skills I don’t need and leveling skills I want as a tamer and mage. The quests in New Haven pointed us to an area right near called Old Haven. It’s fantastic for no-aggro enemies and skilling magery.

I even ran across this guy who spawned out of nowhere: Drelgor the Impaler! He took about 5 mins to kill by kiting all over the place while chucking fireballs on low mana, but I took him down!

First “Big” Kill

Right now, I’m hanging around New Haven, skilling my Taming to the south and my casting to the west. I’ve moved up from bears to things like grey wolves and panthers in my taming skills, but bears still seem to be the tankiest pets to tote around at this point. They make short work of Bog things and Greater Mongbats.

I find UO to be a pretty chill solo experience, which is a nice contrast to FFXIV where everything is high energy and mostly group-based stuff. It balances out well, and I’m enjoying the feeling of a world that I’m slowly rediscovering — I know it’s huge and there’s so much for me yet to learn and remember!

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs, Ultima Online

A Return to… Ultima Online

AKA: How I got my original 1999-2000 Ultima Online account back.

Yep, you read that right! Back in the golden days of the Internet, UO was one of my first MMOs. My sister and I shared an account (since there was only one computer in the house at the time), and this game formed the definition of what a MMO world was for me.

I’ve known about the Endless Journey (Free to Play) offerings for a while. Every now and then, I humored the thought of trying the game again. But never did I actually consider that my original account could be out there and playable. Turns out, it was!

The Rabbit Hole

So what got me to thinking about my old UO account? Strangely enough, it was an article that Kotaku posted about the WoW level squish and how fast leveling feels. The comments started to discuss Ultima Online, of all games.

Another commenter said they’d love to return to UO if they could reactivate their old account, but hadn’t been successful in doing so. To which another commenter said, lots of people have actually reactivated old accounts for the F2P option.

And that got me thinking.

So I searched around and found this on Reddit:

Well, now. I’m a packrat. So the one thing I knew I still had was my original UO CD with the key on it. I went to the closet and sure enough…

I have a feeling this was the major item for proof of ownership for my account when all was said and done.

Restoring the Account

So, Monday night, I sent UO support an email with all the information I could remember about my account:

The next day, I got an email back requesting pretty much all this information in a different format, and a little bit more in terms of bits and bobs.

So I complied and sent them all the information I knew once more. There was a LOT that I didn’t – such as my credit card, phone number of that time, and actual account dates. But much to my surprise, I got an email back in a few hours:

At this point, I was starting to get pretty excited! It seemed like the information I provided had been enough! So, I sent them my current email, which is also the one linked to my Broadsword account (I have an old DAoC account too).

Not long after, I got yet another reply:

They assigned my old account a new password and sent me all the info on how to link my original UO account with the existing Broadsword account. And also how to change the password for the UO account to something I’d remember.

I did all this, gave it about 45-50 mins and sure enough, I found myself back in Moonglow for the first time in 20 years.

Returning to UO

I was shocked to find all my characters (there are 4) just as I left them – I was correct that they were on the Atlantic shard, too! This included my sister’s character that I’d forgotten had been associated with this account.

It took some time to readjust to the small client screen and some of the game’s quirks – such as remembering that you had to log out in a safe location (such as inside an Inn) if you wanted to switch characters quickly.

I poked through all of the character bank slots and curiously looked at the skills that were leveled for each. Neither of us were very hardcore players. We had a lot of cloth and wool and crafting stuff in our inventory. My sister actually had cooler things than I did, such as deer masks, a dye pot, some nice katanas and such.

The first issue I ran across was that what appeared to be my main character was using a last name that I not only would never use anymore, but is too closely associated with my password. In fact, it was a downright security issue. So, that was right out!

I didn’t want to delete any of these historical characters, especially my main. Plus, you can only have 2 characters normally on an Endless Journey account, so I was lucky to have an extra 2 grandfathered in. But I really needed to do something about that name.

So I did some research about what options I had, and learned there was a name change token for about $10. I plunked down the money, and now my main from 1999 sports my current day name: Aywren Sojourner.

Bank Troubles

The second issue I ran across is a bit more troubling. An EJ character is only allowed 20 bank slots, which isn’t a lot given that you lose stuff you’re carrying when you die (if it’s not insured – this is something new).

But the real issue is, having an old account, my bank already had more than 20 items in it upon logging in – naturally, since there were no restrictions back in the day. Mostly, it was a bunch of junk that I could have done without, too.

Don’t laugh. I don’t remember why I was hoarding bone armor in 1999.

I was puzzled when I went to try to take something out of the bank, and could not. So, it was back to doing research.

Come to find out, a veteran player who returns as F2P cannot access anything in the bank, not even to lower the bank slot numbers to 20, if they have more than 20 items in the bank already. That’s just… really bad design.

I don’t care about the 20 slot limit in general. But at least let me pull stuff out and not put anything in the bank again until I’m under 20 slots. That makes too much sense, right?

So my options here were…

  • Remain F2P without access to a bank ever
  • Reinstate my subscription just so I can clean out my bank, then drop the sub and have to wait for 120 days until I’m F2P again…

Neither of which I want to do.

I might pay for a sub eventually. But right now, I just wanted to check out my old accounts and see what the game was like again. If I can stay F2P, that’s really key to keeping me logging back in while I’m casually exploring my options. Especially if I have to drop my sub and wait for 3 months before I could play as a EJ account again… that’s just bleh.

I discovered there was a third route that I could go that would not push me to re-sub, but would cost me about $3.

The Vault Token

So, there’s a thing called a vault token. It provides 125 slots of shared storage between all characters on your account for 30 days. Plus it allows you to unbank an overstuffed bank.

I cringed to have to put more money towards it, but I had two characters on this account that would have locked banks if I didn’t. Not to mention, my sister’s character had some pretty nice fishing poles, extra packs and tons of cloth that could benefit other characters.

I went the vault token route, and it worked for my needs perfectly. In fact, I’m actually pretty happy that I did this because it allowed me to shuffle items to two of the characters who were basically running around in their skivvies, not even a robe to their names.

I was able to throw them some supplies, distribute the fishing rods, clean out the banks to a point where they will be usable again come the expiration of the vault. I don’t like that there is an expiration… but that was the best option I could see to remain F2P overall for the moment.

So, with those two things squared away, I now have my fully restored 1999 Ultima Online account converted to the Endless Journey and open for me to explore again. I’m pretty stoked that this could have happened at all – who would have thought that this would be possible – that a game I played all those years ago, this account and these characters would still exist?

The immensity of it!

Ah well, time to go fishing with my trusty steed by my side. He only waited for me to return for 20 years…

I’m back, Ben. I’m back.