How Gamers Killed Ultima Online's Virtual Ecology | War Stories | Ars Technica

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Nose Goblin : as i was watching this i said to myself "Wait a minute... Ecology? i was playing UO back damn near when it LAUNCHED and i don't recall any Ecology??!" then the ending told me why lol

J.I Mendaro : Man, people really put their hearts in their projects back then. MMOs today are pure cashgrabs, done with the minimal effort required.

Z3DS14Y3R : Just take the Dwarf Fortress approach and make every animal an unstoppable killing machine

EpicPaperclip : 5:05 wow, that is one intense crackpipe.

EmperorEthan : This interview was directed by Wes Anderson

Anchor Bait : Mmm fox brains

Squiggs 【Glitches - ROM Hacks - Speedruns】 : I'd watch an entire video about the pipe at 5:04

Jonathan Eilbeck : All hail Lord British

eight216 : I gotta say, knowing nothing about Ultima, i saw that coming. Players don't care, they will straight up murder everything that it's possible to murder and if you punish them for doing so they'll complain about it.

Xorn : Well it probably would have helped if the herbivores didn't increase your skills. I remember locking a Stag in my house to spam Anatomy Skill on and letting them hit me for skill increases. Training Dummies would only get you to 30ish in a skill while animals and monsters had no cap.

Zach W : Didn't it ever occur to you guys to make the herbivores immune to player attacks, or grant them damage reduction that scaled inversely with population density? If ants are eating all your sugar, the solution is not to add more sugar.

Drew Taylor : Rich, I'm pretty damn sure you play D&D for longer than, oh....30 seconds. You really didn't foresee computer nerds in the 90's being murder hobos?

Igor Sandu : If players could kill the grass - they will do it too! :-) But seriosly - if player can kill an animal and get XP, skin and level up some skills - of course they will kill.

thunderborn 32 : they failed because they didnt understand path of least resistance

KuraIthys : It sounds a bit like the population density of humans relative to the things they try and kill is just way, WAY too high. Also, these animals are too easy to kill. Have you ever tried to catch a rabbit? It will run off at high speed and hide in a burrow. Most animals can outrun a person by a substantial margin. Most predators can tear us apart before we have a chance to do anything back to them. Hunting animals requires extreme caution. Anyway, I don't know if you can realistically fix something like this, but it does seem there are a few hurdles here where the animals were just not numerous enough, and not strong enough, to survive the onslaught. Killing them is just... Far too easy and low risk. Even a deer, if you tried to hunt it up close with a melee weapon, it could kick you and that would knock you out for a good few minutes, possibly break bones, and maybe even kill you. So... The animals are just way too weak and vulnerable, and not nearly numerous enough, to maintain a virtual ecology under these conditions...

Dazzy Z : So they did exactly how humans have done since the beginning off times. Enter new lands, consume all. The only thing why we don't do this in real life is laws, peace treaties, and education.

Talas : you need to Aply the 1st Law of the Chicken. Wich is to make it so hard and timeconsuming to kill or catch a chicken that it is no longer worth it. People will still try to do it [mostly just to prove they can] but it helps the balance.

Tera : You should check out wakfu, the virtual ecology works great.

chbrules : I'm a database guy and I didn't know where the term sharding came from. Interesting etymology!

1Raptor85 : I love this video but have to ask, in a video about classic UO why only show video and screenshots of post 2010 UO, the video had absolutely nothing to do with the conversation, lol And not everyone was completely blind to the ecology, many just didn't realize the depth of how far it went or really why it was happening. It was actually pretty well known during that short time that predators, for example, would wander farther from their usual areas as players killed off all the small animals they would normally kill but ignoring them which would sometimes end with some pretty nasty beasts getting hilariously close to town.

Circe : You have to make these animals much harder to fight or find. That's how it is like in the real world anyways. Also, introduce permadeath.

CasualEXE : Did they forget one of the most basic rule of DMing players don't always follow the way you thought it would.

Jason Nunnery : Ya lets spawn like 30 creatures with 50 thousand players playing. It's a video game we kill everything we see till we find the next badass creature to lv up on

KatsPurr : As someone who played UO for years, this virtual ecology was all news to me! Wow! Oh and I wish Ars Technica would have used footage of the classic client instead of the new 3d one.

GrumblingGrognard : My God this type of crap drives me NUTS! I work in Information Tech and have for 3 decades and I seen Big Shot CEOs/VPs and Directors like this my entire career! Anyone, and I mean ANYONE with a decent amount of game master experience would have KNOWN this and would have at least a half dozen of ways to code around it....but nobody with ANY real experience in the field was not his great team....were they?!? No, we hire others "like me"....and it failed. Big surprise. AND DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT IS THE WORST PART?!? Decades later this "great designer" and his supporters still do not see the real reason they Failed!!! No, it was "testing". Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tyler Sevener : That pipe tho!

Fit Pro : These graphics you are seeing is not the original version.

boiledelephant : World of Warcraft had this problem initially and eventually implemented a good fix: small zones had ringfenced population numbers of different mobs, and as soon as players killed them below a certain number, killing another immediately spawned one more in the area, so you could never run out. They also aggressively devalued the mobs in xp and monetary rewards so that the game could not easily become about just mindlessly grinding one pack of mobs, and made quests far more valuable to force players to move around a bit.

The Noob Game Developer : As an ecologist AND an alpha and beta tester for Ultima Online back in the day, I can tell you that UO's virtual ecology had a very simple and fundamental problem: the world was simply way, way, way too small for the number of super predators (players) that existed. As in 100 to 1000 times more super predators than would be workable. Also, UO didn't really operate off of a proper logistical growth model or optimal foraging theories either, so animals didn't really rebound as you would expect them to in the real world. A virtual ecology is very plausible and possible for an MMO. The issue is that you need a big world in relation to the number of players that you have.

Tar Alacrin : Who directed this interview? These cuts are hilarious. Reminds me of "What we do in the shadows"

Raxyz Kaarn : "In a virtual world where you give players swords and weapons to commit mass murder I think that a virtual ecology is gonna prove me very difficult." Monster Hunter World would like a word for a moment. XD

Lindsey Lewis : To be fair, EA killed the entire Ultima franchise long before Ultima Online was even launched. Ultima died with Pagan.


13orrax : If irl animals just slowly walked back and forth all day they'd all be extinct too

promontorium : Humans do this in real life, now more so than ever. 1. You need a massive population base. 2. You need to offer disincentives to excessive killing. Have weapons break , have the character get fat and slow if they eat too much. Have the character get harmed and take damage from fatigue after exerting too much. 3. Need to mitigate incentives. Like if you get health, items, or experience, it should decrease the more you kill until zero and reset each day. 4. Need to offer alternative incentives. Like bonuses for sowing seeds, bonuses for raising your own livestock.

Arioch IV : This is what happens when a team with zero multiplayer experience tries to develop the first MMO. Blaming the players for the failure of the system is absurd.

hidn gaming : Ark survival evolved

The Swartz : TL;DW Players are a bunch of heartless murder hobos.

magaldi : Man...I just love this story. I've read it somewhere back in early 2000's and even today it still blows my mind how they were doing this in 1997. Ultima is such an underappreciated series. People love games like Elder Scrolls and Wicher today, but few knew about how ground breaking Ultima was ever since the very beginning of PC gaming. It's even wierder to think that what killed this franchise was none other than EA. Yep, EA. Killing developers for the last 20 years.

Ryan A : Congratulations, you've discovered unregulated capitalism.

Officer Meow Meow Fuzzyface : I'm still sad that Tabula Rasa was cancelled so early in its life. This is why I'll NEVER fund another game ever again. This is also why I never bothered playing his most recent game, despite being a huge Ultima fan. $1000 for a Keep/house, seems like a nice perk but then your virtual world no longer exists one day. They can't take away my Ultima games, this only happens to Online games.

Salt in the Wound : Of course he is the creator of a D&D game, the guy who wears his thin platted pony tail over his shoulder so it can be seen in the shot. Couldn't be some beef cake who has a girlfriend could it. Why must life be so cliche!

Festivejelly : Also none of the footage they showed was from the original game. When EA took over and closed origin the game tanked.

Yotrymp : Without any explanation, the players just saw the game as... A GAME. No player would ever consider the ecology unless you told them about it, because it's such a weird mechanic and doesn't have an obvious impact on the game. It's like making certain walls destructible with no perceivable sign of being able to be damaged, and no obvious reward, along with making the wall really hard to damage, and wondering why players never try to destroy the walls.

Signal15 : This is the only man on earth that can pull off a rat tail


John Wang : That game on the Apple II+ looked more like Wizardry than Ultima. The original Ultima on the Apple II did not have any internal dungeon scenes, the dungeon on the outdoor map simply blinked while the results of your dungeon diving was randomly generated and displayed. I didn't play a lot of Ultima II as it was about twelve floppies's worth but it was more of a time travel adventure as you traveled from era to era and the continents would shift. Ultima III was the fun one with the lava, the parties and the towns. All of the games were terribly easy to break so I'm not surprised that Ultima Online broke so readily. The herbivores needed to be elusive, skills and experience from creatures needed to be more logarithmic in nature such that they decreased rapidly as you tried to grind on them so that there would be a point where you basically wouldn't get any more points for killing another rabbit and stores would say they already had more than they could sell, the herbivores needed to be very difficult to hit since the main objective of herbivores would be to be elusive to those who would kill them, the herbivores could run away from you within an ever increasing range as your levels progressed etc. Most importantly, outdoor worlds should fork off with very small player counts perhaps even only one player per outdoor world, the only place you really want multiple players to interact would be meeting places such as towns and taverns to form groups to cooperate on a dungeon dive or mission together, once a group was defined then they could perhaps share an outdoor world but group sizes should be limited. The fact that once you were online that the player numbers would far exceed what you could test and would impede enjoyment even if it didn't break anything technically was obvious, even back in the 90's; after all, everyone remembers how difficult the top ten on an arcade machine would be dominated by just a few perhaps one player in the arcades of the 80's and be pissed off about it. Completely open worlds just means someone will spoil your fun. Of course, the fact that many players screw up ecologies is a factor in the real world too. Humanity are locusts to the Earth. Gotta love those old Shugart 5.25" floppy drives but to really be in keeping with the period, you should have a 12 inch Black and White TV connected via an RF modulator on channel 33 for your monitor.

Michael Paliden : The fun of killing the rabbit or black bird is in almost no game can you do this, there are enemies background animals and non attackable PC,s

MisterTipp : Yo Richard, can I get a refund for shroud of the avatar?

KanyeLovesKanye : Fix your collar