GameSpy has dished up a four-page article that discusses the past and future of Richard Garriot, creator of the legendary Ultima RPGs. In it, Lord British even offers some feedback about some of the earlier games and the obstacles that were encountered to create a game like Ultima Online. An excerpt:
"Ultima Online was kind of a red-headed stepchild during its development." Garriott admits. "Everyone at EA was focused on Ultima IX which was seen as more of a sure thing. Nobody at EA really understood what Ultima Online was all about." In fact, the same can be said about the team. The history of UO's development is filled with mistakes that seem obvious only in retrospect. "We honestly never expected to sell more than 50,000 boxes." He said. Garriott also cited some of the earliest plans for the title that called for only one server for the entire game. That plan went up in smoke during the initial beta test when 50,000 players tried to jump on the game in the first weekend, almost causing the entire project to crash. Still, the initial debacle of the game's beta test had a silver lining - the realization that maybe there was a market for a shared world in cyberspace.
"Launching an online game is generally a catastrophe." Garriott said. "The opportunities for things to go wrong are just phenomenal." In fact, as the MMO genre has grown, a disastrous launch is now considered par for the course. Latter days MMOs like Anarchy Online and World War II Online and even Star Wars: Galaxies launched with issues that make the ones faced by Ultima Online pale by comparison. Fortunately, according to Garriott, Origin was staffed with what he calls "Some of the most talented people in the business." Eventually the game became a success, although it was an uphill battle during which the team faced a tremendous amount of skepticism from EA headquarters, internal problems with the game and even a class action lawsuit regarding the circumstances of the product's release.