The year was 2001. I was thirteen years old. Young, shy, and utterly ignorant of what I was about to get myself into. It happened in a flash. I went from being just an average kid to being an online gaming addict. On the day that I bought Ultima Online, my entire gaming life changed.
I began my first MMO adventurer as a wizard named Goltana (I got the name off of a Final Fantasy Tactics poster that I had in my bedroom at the time.) The game was definitely overwhelming at first, even with the tutorial and special young status (which designated you as being too new to the game for the more advanced mechanics like dungeons and open PvP) that I believed was created with the Renaissance expansion. I had never experienced anything like it. I went around doing the classic rookie MMO player mistake: I tried to befriend NPCs. When no one responded, I went exploring.
Exploring really was the best part of Ultima Online. The game didn’t have content like we know it today. There were no quests or cut scenes, no grandiose stories or epic boss encounters. Instead, it was an early attempt at creating a living, breathing, open fantasy world. It was a good attempt too. My characters often got lost in large forests, often teeming with the ever annoying mongbat (think cliffracers if you are a Morrowind fan). Sometimes I would adventure out on my ship in search of islands to explore. However, my favorite part of the game was exploring the cities, meeting other players that hung out in them, and seeing the homes of players who had set themselves up as great merchants or museum curators.
My first memory of Ultima Online happened very early on. I began the game (after the tutorial) in the capital city of Britain, but I quickly became bored with it. I had read in the manual that magic users would appreciate the city of Moonglow, so I decided to find my way there. Moonglow is on a fairly large island, but thankfully there was a special moongate that would take me there.
When I arrived, the island was blanketed in night. It hadn’t even occurred to me that the game had a day and night cycle. It took me a while, but I finally found the city. It wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped, well, until I got near the bank and found a few huddled wizards (they had the hats to prove it) discussing the discovery of yet another eighth circle spell scroll. You see, in Ultima Online, spells were never given to you through some sort of Trainer or as a result of leveling up. Instead, you had to find a spell scroll and inscribe it into your spellbook. A tradeskill called Inscription allowed the copying of these scrolls to sell or to create more complete spellbooks. At the time I had arrived on AOL Legends, the final and most powerful circle of spells had not been completely discovered yet (as the scrolls were random drops).
One of the wizards in particular noticed me. I had noticed him first; after all, he was wearing only the wizard hat on his and nothing else. He was also the only person riding a horse. His name was Cyn and he was my first MMO friend. He was an inscriptionist, and he happened to have a spellbook with every known spell in the land and the most recent discoveries. He handed it to me without batting an eye. We never became close friends, but I never wasted an opportunity to say hello to him if I saw him in town. He lived right outside the Moonglow gates in a prime location, so I would usually see him on my way into town. Cyn eventually went on to become a server reporter on Stratics for quite a while, which made him even more famous in my eyes.
I eventually created a second Goltana, Goltana II, to better reflect what I had learned from the first character. After that, I created Furnon because I had heard there was a great deal of money to be made in the tailoring trade. Eventually I settled on a true main, Arges, who was a great hammer-wielding, warrior bad ass.
I had adventurers and stories with all of these characters. The first time I summoned a blade spirit and ended a guild meeting prematurely. My first experience being murdered by a person named Dead President. All of the friends I met in the graveyard whenever a lich would loot gold off a dead adventurer’s body. Witnessing the birth of the island nation of Whitestone or seeing Robin of Wood’s wonderful museum of rarities (including a set of ranger armor I always coveted).
The stories and adventures I had are uniquely my own. They set me on a lifelong path to explore and enjoy new worlds, make new friends, and have lots of new adventurers. Eventually, the server lost its requirement that players be subscribing AOL members, and now it is isn’t even called AOL Legends – it is just Legends. However, it will always be special to me. Despite all of those friendships being lost to time, stuck in a fantasy world that has long since moved on, I hold and cherish each and every one of those memories still to this day.
I love and miss you, AOL Legends.