Ultima Online Celebrates 15-Year Anniversary

Ultima Online turned fifteen on September 24th, and that's prompted Electronic Arts to issue an official press release that suggests that Lord British may be dethroned as part of the anniversary festivities. There aren't a whole lot of details about what "crown a new king" will entail, so I'll just leave you with the announcement:

Mythic to Crown a New King To Mark The 15-Year Anniversary Of The Longest Running MMO Of All-Time

Electronic Arts and Mythic are proud to announce the 15th anniversary of the massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) Ultimaâ„¢ Online. Originally released on September 24, 1997, Ultima Online is a fantasy MMORPG set in the legendary Ultimaâ„¢ universe and was the first game of its kind to gain a dedicated widespread audience. To celebrate this occasion, the development team at Mythic has crafted a long running seven month story arc that will usher in a new king in an upcoming in-game event.

With 15 years under its belt, Ultima Online is a sandbox RPG that has truly evolved into a creature of its own. Players have 58 skills they can build in any way they want to become whatever kind of character they want, such as a warrior, mage, miner, lumberjack, among others. The player choice within the game is endless - players can engage in Player vs. Player combat, fight against the game's many types of monsters or even just sit at a bank and talk to people. The only element that holds players back is their own creativity and imagination. To learn more about Ultima Online, the 15th Anniversary celebration and how players can become a part of this still vibrant community, visit http://www.uo.com.

(I personally have worked on Ultima Online for more than 13 years and I'm still inspired by our players and actually learn something new from them every day. We truly have any amazing community who have been responsible for keeping the game alive for 15 years,) said Producer, Bonnie Armstrong.

Spanning over three decades, the fantasy world of Ultima has entertained millions of players from around the world with dozens of award-winning titles. The passionate and loyal fans of Ultima have braved perilous dungeons, faced off against fearsome enemies and creatures, conquered expansive lands and seas, and saved worlds. It's time to revisit this enchanting universe and step into the shoes of your very own Avatar to find out where your choices will take you.

Additionally, original lead designer Raph Koster has editorialized about the important event, with lots of historical pictures to back up his article:
I used to actually draw isometric versions of structures, and even whole cities (I did for Serpent's Hold) in order to plan out exactly where everything would go.

Eventually, of course, the game launched. And with it came a lot of press. I would be given faxed-in copies of articles from all over the world by the PR folks. Almost all of the reviews were middling to bad. 6 out of 10 was a pretty common score. (We did also get a pile of awards, including a couple for special achievement. We never got to see any of the trophies. They all went to EA HQ. I hear they are now all at Mythic).

In one of these pics you can see the faxed-in cover of Computer Games magazine. I had been slaving for weeks over a very cool and much more elaborately built environment called Teratha. It was a spider-worshipping culture that built its city around a volcano. It became the cover image for the magazine article and was cut from the game a little while later. I was devastated. but we had to make a lot of cuts. I mean, three whole continents were the first to go.! I remember sketching stuff out for the cultures of the Lands of the Dark Unknown I think some of this eventually became stuff used in the Lost Lands and in Elikki and some other locales in Britannia. So if you ever wondered where these extra islands and whatnot came from. like Ocllo. well, now you know.

I also got a dozen or so emails and letters from fellow developers across the game industry from Meridian 59, from Blizzard, from LucasArts and Bioware, full of praise. I printed them out and tacked them up on my office door. Marketing folks then asked me if they could use them in press materials and I told them no, they were never meant for the public. I still have those print-outs and I am still not sharing them with you.