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

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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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

Eko Mojo : Now I guess you know how God feels

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

Ali Supreme : As a human, I do human things, that includes ruining balance, as humans do.

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.

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

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

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

Anchor Bait : Mmm fox brains

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.

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

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'.

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

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.

Ivan The Dude : what a glorious rat tail.

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.

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

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

BeavisSaves : 5:05 That is the craziest bong I have ever seen.

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.

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

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...

barti xanti : Humans being humans.

I C : Sounds a lot like humans IRL.

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.

Patali : Without a player needs system, and making animals hard to kill, this would obviously happen.

PratzStrike : welp. As someone who played Ultima Online when it first launched, I have to say that once again, Richard Garriott is wrong. See, the players knew about the virtual ecology because he and the other Ultima Online developers told us about it, right as the game launched. The mechanic that he forgets about, however, is that we had to find and fight weak enemies to begin leveling up our skills, and brother, there were a LOT of new players trying to level up our skills from 20 or 30 to 100, and the best way to start that was to go through and Tyrannid-style exterminate every animal you saw. Not to mention that if you wanted to improve your leatherworking you needed hides from the animals, and one hide was exactly the same as the next, whether it was rabbit or bear, so it didn't matter what you were killing. And all the meats were the same in the animals if you wanted to practice cooking. And all the spellcasting reagents were out in the wilderness so if you wanted to be a mage you had to be out there, and if you wanted to practice magic, hey, there's a rabbit, blow it away. But the developers told us actively about this ecology, and we knew about it at the beginning. What they DIDN'T tell us about was how they turned it off. As far as I know, very few people noticed when it left, because we were still trying to reach a point where we could deal with the bigger fights we wanted to handle, dragons, beholders, zombies, whatever. (My personal hunting grounds were the lichyards south of Yew.) In the end, it feels like this interview is just Richard, perhaps bragging about how awesome his game was and misremembering what really happened. Oh well.

nawawi I : virtual ecology needs a single player game to success

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.

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.

David J. : Human simulator.

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

Danicolasol GamingTV : Welcome to the human race

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.

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

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

Christopher Wells : Probably how the dinosaurs went extinct 🙈🙉🙊