I've never played it.i
I've read about it, mostly because people who take a keen if humble interest in my welfare insisted. So let's go together through a very pompous piece, "The In-game Economics of Ultima Online" by one Zachary Booth Simpson (Origin Research Fellow).
To get this out of the way, I'll point out that I would not accept a text of that caliber as anything other than a highschooler's "report", in lieu of actual CS homework at a vocational school. It is, as far as scientific papers go, terribad. And yet it seems to count, somehow, in "the field" as legitimate work on the topic of game economy - which perhaps brings us closer to understanding the root cause of the absolutely horrifying state of gaming economies generally.
I am not going to discuss it in detail, nor highlight its errors, ridiculous assumptions and so onii, other than to laugh at the following quote :
In the real world, we associate hyperinflation with the almost total devastation of a country and its population. In UO this really did not happen because there was little that players wanted that was purchasable with gold. The one major exception was reagents which were also cloneable! The hyperinflation, while annoying, did not preclude players from having fun and, in the end, this is all that matters. This should perhaps introduce a bit of humility into the over-design of the economy – for all its complications, it is not required to make the game fun.
Right ? Riiiight.
Instead, I'm going to extract and underline three factual, unfortunate, actual events. They are instructive.
One. Garriott & co took the time to actually create an ecology for the game. This means, not merely draw and animate monster models and plop them on the map, but also construct a graph in which these monsters are mere nodes, and relationships between them exist, which work out. They eat each other, they spawn each other, on it goes.
This failed to work in practice, much to the developers' expressed chagrin, because the players simply wiped out everything that moved and so the ellaborately designed simulation never even got a chance to start. Talk about sad.
Two. They had put the thought into creating an actual economy, with simulated NPC behaviours and whatnot. Except they also had a gold duping bug, which completely flooded the economy, or to quote
We really have no idea how well the original simulation worked because counterfeiting destroyed the ‘experiment’.
Three. What, you thought two's tragic enough ? Apparently not. So : NPC traders were originally intended to work very much like Eulora works, which is to say always maintain a positive cash flow, and not buy junk nobody wants. This ran into the misguided tomfoolery of the players, who would make junk in order to level their crafting skills and then expected this to bring them a profit. Seriously, apparently the sort of schmucks that played UO would report as a bug the fact that a NPC sitting on ten thousand shirts it couldn't sell would refuse to buy their hundred extra shirts nobody wanted at a profit! Because "they were led to" what consumers have come to expect and "it just ain't fair!" and "the people themselves".
And the designers actually gave in on this score. Fancy that.
It's a sad state of affairs, but other than the first item, which is obviously up in the air as Eulora's not yet had Tier 2 introduced and consequently there's no fighting, hunting or looting, the other two are put to rest. We've had no gold duping in the first month, and the merit for this one rests squarely with Minigame's Chief Engineer. Yes, that woman is better than anything Garriott and Origin could assemble two decades ago. Props. We've also not had, nor are we ever going to have, a situation where the delusional expectations of self importance put forth by players wrecks the economy. It will not happen over my dead body - I want a game that I can enjoy playing and yes this is an "abstract principle" that comes way, way, way before any consideration given to "the people themselves". Fuck those people, themselves.
Honestly, I know of no sadder fate than that of the dev team of Ultima Online. If my first year looked anything like their first year, reflected through the retarded lens of an article like the source linked, I'd be a very, very sad panda indeed.
Fortunately, Lord British was here first, and apparently mopped all the sads up for me. Thanks, Lord British. Long live Eulora.———
- I suppose most people never did, on account of being wee tykes at the time and not being able to make that sort of decision for themselves / not having access to the resources required etc. I never played it because at the time I was doing other things, and didn't care to. In the end, what difference does the why make ? Here we are, we who've never played it. [↩]
- Because I actually own a competing product, and I have no intention to give away the sauce that makes it great, that's why. [↩]