Think of a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game today, and you'll likely think of a 3D adventure in the vein of World of Warcraft of Final Fantasy XIV. But MMOs weren't always this way. Ultima Online, still alive and kickin' despite first appearing in the ancient days of 1997, once dominated the genre with flat, top-down views in the isometric style of popular 90s RPGs
And now, two decades later, Ubisoft artist Andrea Fryer is out to show us what the landmark MMO would like if Ultima Online's Britannia had been designed in 3D world in the first place. She calls the pet project "Ultima Nostalgia," and she's using the rich custom server tools available in the "unlimited" version of the sandbox MMO Wurm Online to make the vision a reality. As the video shows, she's quite far along, and she has every intention of finishing the project.
"I know there have been some previous Ultima-related projects out there, and as far as I can tell, they have died off and are offline," she said in a lengthy post on the Wurm Online forums describing the project. "But I just want to reassure those people that my project is not in competition even if y'all decided to restart up your servers. Again, the reason being because my server will not be a community, just a tourist attraction."
Players will eventually be able to visit and explore, and she plans to make it easy for those players to catch horses to ride or sail around in boats she's planning on leaving on the shores. Fryer still has a long way to go before that stage arrives, but even in this early phase, her work already won some high praise from former Ultima Online lead designer (and poet!) Raph Koster:
Fryer states in the YouTube video above that she'd considered recreating Tamriel from the Elder Scrolls series or Azeroth from World of Warcraft. But Ultima Online's Britannia, she realized, was a much better fit for Wurm and a one-person project.
"Both games are tile-based and don't support organic, diagonal, or rounded houses shapes which would be dearly needed for recreating any of the 3D worlds," she said. "Another similarity is the height of buildings—both very low and squashed—versus, say, the high structures found in Elder Scrolls. In addition, the map size of Britannia is much more manageable compared to Tamriel or Azeroth."