Thoughts on our New Legacy
After a week or so to mull over the New Legacy announcement I wanted to put down some of the thoughts I’ve had about this new experience and the potential I see in it. These are ideas or opportunities that I could see them doing under the auspices of a ‘New Legacy’ and not things I would either expect or demand them to include. Maybe we’ll see something similar to these ideas, maybe we won’t. Either way the promise of this new system is a testament to the genius of the Ultima Online backstory and gameplay systems.
First, the framing device I’m using here is one of change. The announcement video spoke of a ‘classic’ type server but one with new experiences. We must immediately stop thinking of this new server as a 1-to-1 recreation of any specific era in the game’s history. A lot of the early questions I’ve seen our friends in and out of game ask revolve around bringing back or eliminating certain elements. “Will there be a non-consensual PVP free-for-all?” “Will there be elves?” “Will there be power scrolls?” “Will there be Trammel?”
These are not bad questions. However there is a fundamental flaw in approaching New Legacy in this way. These systems and a “classic” era shard rest upon a person’s individual nostalgia for a certain era of the game. I believe approaching the New Legacy announcement in this way is an error. Nostalgia is a problem because it’s hinged on a double fallacy. That the past was ‘better’ and ‘we can return to it.’ I don’t think New Legacy will work for most people if they approach it with the hope of the developers recreating their chosen incarnation of the game. My chosen incarnation is different from yours and from the developers.
If nostalgia isn’t our guide then what is? It could be the promise of remixing our core game formula in new ways.
Different seasons, different feel:
The different seasons models allows the developers to make a ‘theme’ for the year that really leans into the multiverse. The Gem of Immortality is smashed and within each shard is a different version of Britannia in which you are born, live, and die. I would like the developers to really -get weird- with this. Give us a season where the overarching theme is a post-apocalyptic Britannia. One in which all the trees are gone and the land is poisoned so adventurers and crafters have to adapt to the materials available. Where wood is more valued than gold and fire monsters are your biggest threat. Give us a season where Britannia has been flooded and only areas around the Serpent Spine mountains are land. This season emphasizes ship combat, fishing, piracy, and other adventures on the water. Give us a season during one year of the Faction War where from the start your character is created into one of the four groups and all actions are either in support or against the others. Where territory and cities are the ultimate end-game. Whomever captures and holds Britain by the last month assures their legacy.
This is an opportunity for the developers to experiment with different systems for skill gain. Up till now the tried and true skill system has worked well for the kind of MMO that UO is. But on a shard with a temporary lifespan by design there must be a different way for players to skill quickly and get into whatever the theme of the shard may be. I believe there are a few ways to approach this.
First, they could simply give every new character a mythic token upon start no matter when they begin on New Legacy. Day 1 or Day 300 you set five skills up to 90 and that does a pretty good job of getting you to a point on par with everyone else. Especially if there are no powerscrolls to bother with. With this approach what skills you pick and what you choose to do with your character after become the most important choices. If we're limited to one character on this new shard someone is going to have to use their one slot to become a crafter or support character.
Second, they could create a new quest/skill gain mechanic. Do the swords quest line get 10.0 each quest you finish, 10 quests total. This becomes a huge programming task, though, if we have to make quest lines for every skill or every profession. This kind of content would, however, lend itself to the strengths of this new system they keep talking up.
Finally, maybe there is no more skill gain like we think. Maybe we get to pick what class we want and our skills are set accordingly. From there we have to team up or support others to complete objectives on the new shard. In an RPG sense I see this as the option with the most possibility. You pick from one of six classes, your skills are set, and from there on out it’s all about the things you do in-game versus the time you spend getting ready.
Items and color palettes:
There is a great opportunity here to address some of the ways the art direction has gotten away from the kind of fantasy world Ultima is set in. Whatever they end up doing with dye tubs or reward dyes we should, again, understand that those choices should be tied to the theme of the world. If the season is fiery post-apocalyptic Britannia then those color options should match. I’m far more interested in seeing the creative ways we, as players, can work around restrictions as opposed to demanding that this new shard have all the same color palette opportunities the regular shards have.
I believe items could go this route as well. There are a lot of narrative and 4th wall breaking things in the game and I’m very interested to see what things are kept or discarded to streamline the experience of New Legacy. This would extend to the modifications on items. I would much rather see items with, at most, one extra property than a game of numbers where complicated spreadsheets have to be utilized to balance dozens of mods across a full suit. A streamlined New Legacy experience would work best if we keep the experience of making and playing a character within the game itself.
Events, groups, and PVP:
To be blunt, I have no emotional or nostalgic attraction to the era of the game where non-consensual PVP was the norm. Since the announcement I have seen many people suggest that these people are who this shard is for. I disagree with this. I think they should position this shard to those who enjoyed the experience of completing tasks together. Those tasks should not simply be running up upon a miner at the mountain. Group tasks should be taking down a monster, defeating other groups of willing PVPers, or collecting enough materials to establish a guildhouse. There are systems the developers could include in New Legacy that foster this kind of camaraderie. To frame this shard as a return to the dread days is limiting.
The current EM events, flaws and all, are a good model for this. EM shows up, gives the group a task, group accomplishes the task. On a production shard the reward is a special item. On New Legacy perhaps the reward is an item but also an entry into whatever system keeps track of the ‘deeds’ and victories you succeed in.
They mentioned books of lore and statues about your New Legacy character as part of the new shard. I could see a system in which there are three levels of ‘deeds’ on the new server. Perhaps in the paperdoll journal these deeds appear as you fulfill actions. First level, your everyday play. “Caswell ventured deep into Hyloth and slayed a Daemon!” or “Caswell became a grandmaster Swordsfighter!” Just regular play. Level 2 is the group play element. “Caswell and Gabor and Jaanin defeated the ancient Lich!” The system records the people within your party and records your actions with the. Level 3 is the shard wide event. “Caswell joined fifty defenders and beat back the invasion of Skara Brae!” These are the deeds that ‘count the most’ because you took part in a greater, EM led event.
If the developers programmed this correctly there could be a way for people to never get every reward. For every person to have a slightly different record of deeds on New Legacy that nets different accolades on a production shard. It just comes down to how the system is setup and what their goals are. Again, I believe their goals are new experiences with others. Putting the massively multiplayer back into our roleplaying game.
Character or lore transfer:
I would be interested in seeing a system of rewards that allows us to either move our character to a production shard of our choosing OR moves these accolades and rewards as items and titles to our home shards. If I’m playing on Chesapeake and have all 7 slots filled I really don’t wish to move my New Legacy character to Atlantic and have him sit there. Instead, it would be interesting to see an option where you could choose either or, and one option is a book of titles, items, and rewards that speak of your ‘ancestor’ or ‘doppelgangers’ deeds on New Legacy. “You open the mysterious crate and find a book which speaks of the deeds of Caswell, an ancestor of yours who led an incredible life on another shard of the Gem.”
I think there is a ton of promise in New Legacy and I’ve enjoyed reading people’s thoughts on it. What I don’t like seeing, though, is a cynicism about the game’s future. Many of you may say that you’ve been playing so long that you can’t get excited about anything because of all the ‘broken promises’ you’ve witnessed. I can’t fault you for that position but I can challenge you to consider the sheer impossibility of our game. I sometimes see people suggest there is no logical reason it has endured for this long. I disagree. The fundamental system of the game is as solid now as it was at launch. At the core of the game, under all the crazy things they have added since 1997, it’s still a place we can explore a fantasy world together. I think this is what New Legacy is about and what they will emphasize. It’s why you should be excited for it.
I might be taking the NewLetter out of context where they addressed the issue of players joining the shard late (closer to the shard wipe) but they worded it in a way that "everyone will have a chance to forge their legacy".
What I take from that is that skill gain for the people that join day one will be a bit harder than people that join day 100. Whether it be getting skills bumps or increased skill gains or getting an advanced token on day one versus a mythic token day 100 and a legendary token (max skills) day 200.