In Massively's "The Game Archeologist" column, Justin Olivetti wonders whether we have any chance to see an Ultima Online 2 in the future, especially considering two attempts already failed in the past, and also chimes in on Richard Garriott's Ultimate RPG. Here's an excerpt:
Personally, I don't think there's much hope at all for a proper Ultima Online 2 to be made as the type of MMO it deserves to be, at least not without a lot of things going EA Mythic's way. As of this past half-decade, that hasn't been the case.
The problem is that the fanbase of Ultima Online -- and Ultima in general -- is dwindling. I know there are passionate fans out there, and perhaps you are one, but if you take a moment to be objective, I'd think you'd agree with this read. Ultima certainly was a hot franchise in the '80s and '90s. It is not today. Heck, the last single-player Ultima came out in 1999! And while I have no doubt that the faithful who enjoy UO today carry the torch for it, I can't imagine that their numbers are enough to swamp EA's lobby, let alone convince the company to greenlight a sequel.
But we have to possible avenues for redemption, right? Let's say that EA's Ultima Forever makes a lot of money and rekindles interest in the franchise, prompting Mythic's parent company to reconsider a UO2 (or possibly Pinocchio Ultima Forever into a real MMO). From what I've seen of Ultima Forever, it's definitely paying more tribute to the series' roots with the Avatar and virtues (yay) but certainly isn't touching sandbox elements with a 10-foot pole (um... boo?). If this path is pursued, then the end result certainly won't make UO purists happy. However, it might be the only way to see the franchise continue.
Richard Garriott... I don't know. That's a real crapshoot right there. I pick on the guy, but I love him too, and while I admire his gamer spirit and return to his indie roots, I'm not going to stay up nights wishing on stars that he'll bring back the greatness of his past efforts either.
It is encouraging that he still has some affection for the series and vocal aspirations to revive it, even as a so-called "spiritual successor." It is less encouraging that we've heard no solid details to suggest that his "Ultimate RPG" is anything more than an idea at present.