For those of you that have not read it, I suggest you visit http://update.owo.com/devcomm.shtml
and read the two articles, 'What Rough Beast?' and 'Who Are These People Anyway?', written by Designer Dragon of OSI's Dev Team.
To begin, let me just say that this is only my opinion. To me, Ultima Online is NOT a MP-RPG compared to others I have played. I want to compare UO to Diablo.
Diablo vs UO - In Diablo, you create a character from 3 profession choices: Warrior, Rogue, Sorcerer. The basic plot is to travel to the deepest levels of Hell and destroy the Dark Lord of Terror, Diablo. Now, as a MP-RPG, Diablo is pretty straightforward. You create or join a game of 4 players, and can either band together to clear out the dungeons and kill Diablo, or can have a PK hunt where some or all the players are hunting each other. Now, surprisingly, to a majority of Diablo players I know on Battle.Net, PKing is not that horrible a problem. Blizzard recognized that there would be PKing, and that certain players would not want to be involved in the battle. Thus, they programmed a little switch that gives 2 options, Player Friendly or Player Hostile. Now, using this control, the player can decide whether or not they want to join in the battles. Now, this control does not affect archery or ranged spells, and as such players can still be killed. Blizzard's decision? Take 50% of the killed player's gold and an ear. That's it. This is stated in the Diablo manuals and in the Diablo Official Strategy Guide. More on this in a moment.
While comparing Diablo to UO, it's interesting to note the depth of documentation in both games. Diablo comes with a fairly hefty book detailing the controls, commands, and background history of the game. If the player buys the Official Guide to Diablo, they get more detailed information about items, spells, monsters, and the dungeons. Now, in UO, the player gets a 4 sheet fold-out Reference Guide which gives very little information on game dynamics, and even the game controls. There is no mention of the game's background history with the exception of the opening movie. The Official Player's Guide offers a little more information about the game's economic structure and information on character statistics, but again little mention is made of the background. A new player to UO is best served by visiting UO's Electronic Documentation found on their website, or by visiting a UO website, in mention http://uoss.stratics.com/ maintained by Den Dragon. Now, a vast number of books about UO can be found within the game itself, but have to be looked for by the player.
So, then why compare Diablo to UO? Well, when I play Diablo and create a character, I immediately know I will be fighting and training my character to survive within the dungeons, be it from monsters or PKs. Yet, when Ultima Online was first released in an Alpha format, Richard Garriott himself wrote a compelling invitation to come and 'join the virtual community' that was to be UO. 'You can be a baker!', Lord British was often quoted, and in fact, UO offers the largest character creation engine I've ever seen, with a player being able to cross-train professions quite easily.
Then why is it that so many players have thrown up their hands and have
quit the game? DD and the Dev Team wants PlayerKilling in UO, and through
their actions, have forced players to enter the realm of PK combat. I want
to be a baker, but to OSI, I cannot be a peaceful baker travelling the
lands. No, I must be a Tank Mage/Baker capable of either defending myself
from the terror and evil that sweeps the lands, or should never leave the
towns. Ultima(?) Online does not import a large amount of background history,
because to me, it is not an Ultima at all. In truth, after reading the
postings of the Dev Team, I realize why it was I finally cancelled my account.
Not due to lag, or thieves, or really even PKs, but because I bought UO
to play Ultima, and to have that sense that I was in Britannia. The premise
that 'hey, it's just a game' and 'we should all be thankful to the PKs'
is truly insulting to someone like myself who has played and followed the
Ultima games. Why then can you create an Animal Tamer, Bard, Baker, Carpenter,
Blacksmith, Miner, Scholar, or any other non-violent profession class?
Why then does OSI not offer a PvP key, or Player Friendly/Player Hostile
option to its players?
If we are all to take up arms simply for the right to exist in this virtual world, then do not drag mud onto the name of Ultima. In a way, I am saddened for OSI and for Richard Garriott. I'm not sure if the buyout by EA had anything to do with it, but for me, Origin has lost my respect as a gaming company. When Lord British can allow his creation to be sullied and soiled by the actions of his employees or lack thereof, then it means that the ideal of Virtue and of Ultima is dead.
So, play UO, or don't. But understand, that when you do create a character, you are creating either a Warrior, Rogue, or Mage, and you get to pay Origin $9.95 a month for the priviledge of doing so. For me, I'll play Diablo and use Battle.Net for free when I want to get PKd.