Gamasutra had the chance to sit down with Ultima Online producer Calvin Crowner and the game's original senior producer Rich Vogel for a Q&A about the game's legacy, strengths, and vast differences from World of Warcraft. An excerpt:
I'm sensing some frustration with where WoW is leading, you know, the industry. I'm now thinking about my inflammatory, hit-grabbing headline about "UO devs hating WoW."
CC: [laughs] No, that's fine. The point is, though, everyone should cater to their strengths. They did it, and they knocked it out of the park. UO did what it did, and if you looked at what WoW did, they took a lot of things that worked really well, and also they built on all their past experiences and did it just amazingly.
UO was the first, so it didn't have any predecessors, right, and it also knocked it out of the park. So, what is the greater achievement? To build on the success of what other folks did or to take something that's from sand, alright, and build castles? So, that's the difference.
RV: Basically, Blizzard looked around and took the best of UO, the best of [EverQuest], and the best of other games out there, mixed it all together, and made their own design on top of that and those systems, and built something that was incredible, that appealed to a large base audience that's never been seen in an MMO. I felt it was really about the quality of the experience they developed. And the design philosophies that they had were so different at that time they launched from what was out there.
The thing that they did was believe in their philosophies and stick to them, so it was a clean game in a sense that Blizzard didn't have to change drastically the mechanic of the game after it launched, which wasn't the case of other MMOs that launched before. And the other thing they launched was they refined the ding -- the ability to get the reward very quickly was fast in WoW. That helped immediately because everyone likes to achieve.
A lot of the things you are talking about just relate to different ways to present progress to the player.
RV: Yes. It is. [UO] is a different way. One, UO is a skill-based system open world, where you have things in the world that help you advance, but you also can take it and built it yourself and do your own things. And in WoW and in other games, it's a very directed experience where you go through an experience, and you do what you need to do to advance. That's directed by the design of the game.
CC: Right. I would say that the difference between the two also is WoW is like, I always wanted [to have] what I saw on somebody else.
RV: Yes, yes.
CC: Where in UO, it's like I want to get better so I can survive. [laughs]