With the game having reached its fifteenth anniversary this week, the Ultima Online development team is celebrating the occasion by doing some "Memorable Moments" blog updates. Today's entry is penned by Richard Garriott himself, and in it he reflects back on two early encounters that made him realize the far-reaching effects the game had already had on players around the world:
One day, early in the life of UO, I was participating as a GM and going to the aid of people who requested it. A note flashed across my screen from a woman, who said something like “Today is my first day trying to play UO, and every time I try to leave town a thief steals all my stuff, so I have to restart, and he does the same. If this continues I will quit and never come back to this game.” So I arrived in her presence as Lord British, not that she cared, she did not know or care who I was, and only wanted her problem fixed. I felt I was up to the seemingly simple task. I told her to come with me, and I would escort her out of town. As we left town, suddenly *ZIP* a thief flew across the screen at speeds I could hardly understand, and stole her gear and disappeared! I told her to wait here, as I teleported to try and get in advance of the speedy ruffian. When I finally froze him with a GM command, I revealed myself as Lord British, and told him to leave this poor woman alone, that this would drive away potential new players which we could not allow. Stop or else I would ban him from the game! He begged for forgiveness, and pledged to never do it to her again.
Satisfied, I returned the stolen items to the woman and told her, she should be safe now for at least a while, when *ZIP* the same thief came by again and stole all her items and disappeared. So, I chased him down a second time, and told him, hey, you had been warned, now I am going to ban you. He pleaded and pleaded and exclaimed how exuberance had overtaken him, and that he swore this time he would never do it again! Reluctantly, I believed him, and took the belongings back to the woman, again.
But then, for a third time, the same thief *ZIPPED* by… I froze him to the ground and told him, I was about to ban him! Then for the first time… he broke character, and refered to me out of character as well… “Look Richard Garriott”, he said, “You guys made the rules to this game, the rules include the role of thief, I am playing just as the role would be intended to be played. If the King tells a thief not to steal, of course he will beg for mercy and swear he won’t again. But what do you expect of me… I am a thief!”
After some thought… I agreed with him. So instead of banning him, I teleported him to the far side of the world. Then I gave the items back to the woman who could finally go about her business. After that, I began to think more carefully about the rules we ourselves put in the game, and the inevitable play styles that would come of it.