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

Share this video on

What's Hot

What's New

Top Grossing

Top of the Chart

Recommend

Deus Dex : Gamers are basically Tyranids.

Evilsamar : The best thing about multiplayer is other people. The worst thing about multiplayer is other people.

r g : This guy knows how God feels.

AGE 3 : Spend years creating a virtual living ecosystem. Put humans in it, one week later they kill everything.

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

CapnTates : They should have made "poaching" illegal, and multiple offenders would get a bounty on their heads for other players to collect. Let the players solve the problem.

Bronze : Is nobody gonna talk about the taxidermy pipe?

ZuluKasuki : Give a player a crouch button, and they will teabag.

Fredrick Stepp : I actually played the original game. The players weren’t the problem. The issue at hand was the incentives. First, your armor would decay with fights. The easiest and quickest way to replenish was by killing deer for leather. There is a reason part of the map was named hind valley. Second, if you are killing something that levels your skills at the same time as replenishing then that is a huge win. In other games you got basic xp. In UO there were skills you would level by doing them. Lumberjack, tailor, miner, parry, sword were some examples. If I farmed something that accomplished two things or more at once then I was making the best use of my time. Third, the original UO was PVP with corpse looting. You would almost always be better off to wear cheap farmable armor that is easy to replenish. That created a huge market for GM armor. More on GM armor later. People that didn’t farm for resources would shop for gear. The only time people wore the best gear was in town near the bank, so you didn’t need more than one set of rare mined GM valorite armor. Plus, if you were capped on say tailoring, then you could make grandmaster gear with slightly better stats. People would look for that gear vs non grandmaster gear. In order to be a grandmaster, you spent countless hours farming and crafting the same gear until you got enough skill points which at that time was 100. Regarding skills, you could craft armor and see no skill gain. At higher levels, you might need days of working skills to see a single .1 gain. I don’t blame the players for killing everything. I blame the game for creating a system designed to cause that behavior and later complaining about it.

Songs of the Eons : 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.

downphoenix : Basically Ultima Online proved to be a really condensed down microcosm of how humans are on our planet, killing things left and right.

Jiggle Meats : That system sounds good in a single player survival game, not with a game filled with blood fueled rabbit haters

Mike K : My brother and I played UO back when it was first released and early on the game was complete insanity. How so? Well, what MMO lets you kill NPCs, chop them up, harvest their organs (each organ was named and you could pick up each individually) and then EAT the dead NPC? Seriously, early on we could cook and eat NPCs we killed. Technically, you could kill, chop up, cook, and eat real players too, but it was easier and more efficient to kill NPCs because they had the AI of a blueberry muffin. I remember players being really annoyed when Origin (that's the company, not EA's Steam-like digital platform) patched the game and no longer allowed using NPCs as "walking meals." To be fair, Origin's reasoning was that killing and eating NPCs negatively affected the in-game economy as players needed to eat, so cooking food (one of the non-combat professions was cook or chef) for yourself or selling it was considered relatively important. BTW, remember the organs I mentioned earlier? My brother had inventory bags for each organ in his bank. There were bags that contained lungs, hearts, livers, intestines, etc. Why? Hell if I know, my brother was insane. He used to wear yellow robes and walk around proclaiming that the "Cheeseman is our savior" or some such nonsense while pickpocketing people. He wrote an entire book in-game about it. Yes, you could literally write in books, which was neat, but only crazy people actually put the time into writing anything lengthy. My brother spent most of UO as a thief, which meant half the time he was dead (and thus respawned in plain, ugly gray robes after wandering around as a ghost) due to people screaming "BUY THE BANK GUARDS!" This was a macro people created to do everything important in a town while providing the greatest amount of security from people who'd attack or attempt to rob them. He was also rich. He earned his fortune by stealing books from Lord British's library and then selling them to vendors. Yeah, that actually worked and made gold fast. We have a lot of good memories of UO. Of course, we're remembering the fun stuff, not the servers crapping out (and losing sometimes hours of work) or rampant lag or people being complete a-holes just because they could. Regardless, Origin really misunderstood its player base and naively thought the best of people.

DrCreepPasta : *puts killable animals in game* *makes it so killing said animals nets players profit* *gets upset that players kill animals* alright

The cloudBottle : The problem is obvious. The animals were too easy to kill. Imagine trying to chase down a real rabbit or deer with a sword. You will never catch either one and if by some chance you corner them the deer would actually stand a chance of beating you.

Festus Omega : I like the representation of 1995 with a gramophone.

Pedro Henrique Leite felix : "We assumed..." 🙈 If tabletop RPG thaught me anything is that you NEVER assume your player's actions based on logic, NEVER

harmmany214 : From a player perspective, Ultima Online had a virtual ecology however it was not the one the Developers intended.... The ecology system worked- however it was a online Prison Planet ecology, but was player based, not non player based like the developers wanted. Basically it worked like the following: There were natural resources, players would gather them (meat, ore, wood, herbs). New players would gather these, to raise stats, veteran players would be hidden nearby and would rob and or kill you for said resources- in doing so they would be attackable by other players without a karma penalty for a short time. Even more veteran players would be hidden nearby waiting to kill the robbers, because they would incur no morale penalties for doing so, gaining the resources the robbers gained. The even more veteran players were often the worst of the lot, as they were not interested in intervening to stop people from killing or robbing you as they do not gain resources that way, but rather had to wait to kill the karma-penaltyless robber/killer characters. The end result was a new player population performing mostly mundane tasks to level up skills, with a hidden lower population class that would rob and or kill them, and a third even more hidden even more lower population class that would kill the robbers to gain the resources. Ultima Online was a prison ecology.

Çerastes : ... so basically you created an ecosystem which rewarded players for killing everything without any downsides. And you act surprised when players do what is efficient? OK. So why put an incentive to kill herbivores like rabbits in the first place? Most players wouldn't kill them if they wouldn't give you anything.

elf boy : Humans are doing this to the main map of the earth too

Tyler B : Don't blame the players. Blame yourself for making a game that required so much grind to do anything. Stripping all natural resources that you could to get for XP and money was what people had to do to progress, you designed it that way and then you complained that too many players ruined your virtual ecology? You could have kept it as you described in the beginning, just amplify how fast grass came back so the rest of the food chain could come back quicker until you found the right balance for the number of players.

spinocus : The blame lies with Ultima Online's designers, not the gamers. They created a virtual ecosystem in which the apex predators/consumers (players) were not subject to the same restrictions that governed the game's flora & fauna. Players consumed everything in sight because there were no negative consequences to their actions. I recall the game's PvP areas were notorious for griefing and PK'ing. Basically the developers assumed gamers would put aside their human nature and play by unwritten rules because 'people should play nice in the sandbox'. Yeah, right. Reminds me of a certain ideological/political movement of the 19th & 20th century that some delusional folks insist 'was never done right'.

Eko Mojo : Now I guess you know how God feels

Craig Bennett II : Instead of blaming the gamer, it sounds like they screwed up and making the economics and gameplay mechanics. It also sound like they screwed up in letting the player know what's going on. They could have easily added a gameplay mechanic of rules like you see an eco which is a environmental game. Basically they could have a group of players or all the players vote on rules. Where they really screwed up was with the consequence. You go take out all the animals, and what is the actual consequence for you. The consequence is basically you can't take out the animals anymore since they're gone. The environment what you may have to depend on, the economy, and other things appear they didn't change at all. So there was more reward for the player since by taking out the animals they would get more money. It doesn't even sound like there was a consequence of how much you can carry.

Adam Spencer : Ultmia Online exposed the truth of human nature lol

Ivan The Dude : what a glorious rat tail.

Daniel Renard : Players; The reason why we can't have nice things! :C

Danicolasol GamingTV : Welcome to the human race

TheBassAckwards : Of course users killed everything. It's a SKILL BASED GAME. The only way to raise skills was to fight smaller stuff, then loot those creatures to get crafting components. You couldn't take a dragon from day one. You had to get stronger with TONS of weaker creatures. Why the hell is he surprised by this? It's their own game mechanic they designed!!! Garriot, for as smart as he is, is also an idiot at the same time. It's astounding. He's a visionary in many ways, yet 100% blind in others.

PainCausingSamurai : In the book "Never Cry Wolf", author Farley Mowatt describes how he investigated claims that dangerous wolves were threatening humans and negatively impacting the deer population. He discovered thst while the wolves were having virtuslly no impact, hunters, particularly rich American tourists, were vastly underreporting their kills. One hunting method involved firing on herds, from a helicopter, with machine guns, and leaving everything but the antlers behind. Ultima situation comes as no surprise.

The Silencer : So basically like real life?

Assbender666 : this dude is living like a movie star wtf

John Wilkinson : This can easily be overcome. The negative feedback solution: 1. Assume someone will sit there trying to level up by grinding away on forest creatures. This is obvious. 2. Make part of the ecology non-intractable. Likes birds or an invisible statistic measuring the rate that something in the ground will be ready to spawn a rabbit or rabbits spawn a wolf. 3. Half a tree sprite, will-o-wisp, some over-powered creature come down when the forest is "dying". Have it be like the chicken in Zelda.

Talin Peacy : They should have taken more inspiration from real life and made the herbivores run away faster than players could catch them and maybe made some of them more dangerous to corner such as herding and having AOE stun attacks like knocking the player down so close in fighting would be more of a daunting task.

A Meme Conservator : This is a really long way of saying "There were more players than we thought there'd be."

Talented Juli : I thought Lord British was actually British. My whole life is a lie.

Paul Lee : It's like Jurassic Park, except if humans were the ones you had to run away from

Koala Nectar : Note to anyone watching this: The game footage in this is from some weirdo faux-3d engine overhaul that came out like 10 years after the time period Richard is describing here. The game literally looked better in 1997 than in 2007

uperdown0 : There are no true natural systems, only chaos which takes the fleeting form of beauty.

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...

David J. : Human simulator.

OptimusHighMegaBong : Should of did what they did with The Witcher 3 . Kill X amount of innocent creatures spawns in a Super near unkillable beast that targets the player.

LD51 : Best game I ever played, hands down.

omar sameh : the title should better said : how developer killed ultima onlin's BY NOT KNOW how to design game system that make sense or how we are so stupid to not figure out this issue

Mojo : wouldn't the simlest solution be to make the animals harder to kill? I mean, remove the morailty of killing a real living creature for no use, and people still wouldn't do it. Trying to catch and kill a rabbit is hard work.

billyum braskey : It's like they didn't even think... How are you surprised by this? LOL

barti xanti : Humans being humans.

garhent : The rat tail, WTF bud?

b00ger901 : Kill two rabbits, a wolf smells the blood and comes. Kill 5 deer, a pack of wolves tracks the smell of blood on the player. Kill 10 herbavories, a bear is attracted to the player... and so on and so forth. It gives risk to not taking risk and being a living parasite.

W P : Look at eve online, where the Goons are strip mining delve.