How I Would Resurrect Ultima Online

This is part of a series of articles on how I would update Ultima Online to be a game new people would want to play in 2010 and bring old players back.

If you go to any UO forum, you will find topic after topic of how someone would improve the game. Some ideas seem to be common sense, others are shot down for being too like another game. Stratics used to have a forum called the Ideas Den in which players would vote on what people came up with. Some of those ideas translated into real additions to UO, the most notable being house customization.

When I am playing a game, I will often think of how the experience could be improved or added to. This is likely why I took up programming. On the websites I manage, I carefully consider each addition and constantly look for ways to improve what already exists. This is why I have a major issue with how the current UO website is constructed. But we can go into that later.

Since I have been playing UO the longest, it is no wonder I have had so many ideas. One of my most cohesive and extensive idea was for a faction overhaul (I will try and find a link later). Just a day ago I had a new idea how to fix the vendor system and make it not a tedious click fest. About 10 years ago I even had an idea which World of Warcraft eventually implemented, the talent system. I don’t believe I had ever posted this anywhere. Basically, once you reached 100 skill you could opt to spend skill points in a variety of abilities/spells. For example a Mage could spend 5 skill points to learn a new spell. Maybe I could go into more detail later.

When am I going to get to the fixing UO part? It is coming up. This is meant to be a series of several articles broken up into sections. There is a lot needing to be done and I don’t want to write an entire book in one sitting. Here are some of the topics I am thinking of:

  • Introduction – You are reading this now
  • Problematic Game Additions – Changes added to the game which are bringing the game down or drove people away
  • A New Client – Yes, another brand new client is needed unfortunately
  • Core Game Changes – What needs to be done on the server side
  • Reaching a New Audience – New features which will draw people to the game
  • Don’t Forget Current Players – Making sure not to cause another wave of people to leave
  • Conclusion – Pulling everything together

These are just a rough outline. Articles may be combined, added or removed depending on what I write about. I think it is time to start getting to the fun stuff, fantasizing about UO.

Since I am just tossing ideas out there, I could assume there is an unlimited amount of money available to make this happen. But that would not be fun in my opinion. The idea that this could actually happen is why I want to write this. So this is not going to be an off the walls illusion where there is a 100 million dollar World of Warcraft budget.

In my opinion, I estimate it would cost 10 million dollars of investment to bring UO to look and act like a game put out in 2010. Over UO’s lifetime, EA has easily made over 100 million dollars on this game. Lets assume an average of 100,000 subscribers (UO peaked at 250,000 and it is estimated there are currently 50,000) paying $10 per month for 14 years. That comes out to $168,000,000. Of course you need to add in development costs and server upkeep. But then there is other revenue such as character transfer and everything they are selling in their store. It is safe to say EA has made a lot of money which is why UO is still around.

So I think a 10 million dollar investment is a bargain considering the money to be made in a MMO. The next question is where does that money go? Well the bulk is to paying developers. Estimating a $50,000 salary per developer, you could hire 20 for one year at $1,000,000. This means a team of 100 could be added for 5 million. I think 100-150 people would be the team size, so there goes 1/2 to 3/4 of the budget!

Most of the team would consist of artists. The new client will be by far the most labor intensive part of the revitalization process. There are thousands of pieces of art which need to be redone. Lets assume there are 2,000 item graphics that need to be created (I will try to get a more accurate count later when we discuss the new client). Lets assume, on average, 1 artist takes 1 day to recreate one item. How many artists will be needed to to make all those items in one year? WikiAnswers says there are 260 work days in a year. So it will take 8 people making about 250 pieces each to redo all that art.

Isn’t math fun? If you are making something brand new, we couldn’t have such exact numbers. Since UO already has a set number of systems, items, creatures, etc. it is a lot easier to get numbers on how much it will cost in a certain time period. Of course these are my own estimates, only EA could figure out the exact costs.

I think that is about it for the introduction. Next article will be identifying the additions which drove people from the game and why people leave in general.

If you wish to submit feedback about this or any other blog post, my email is available in the right column of this page.

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