Ultima Online’s second expansion, and its new continent Trammel, has been debated nonstop since its introduction way back in the year 2000. Gordon Walton, currently working on the upcoming MMO Crowfall, is responsible for Trammel and posted a lengthy piece explaining why the update came to be.
In his post, Walton explains that Ultima Online was losing 70+% of its new players within 60 days of subscribing due to the intense nature of the game’s PvP. Trammel was introduced in a time when Electronic Arts had planned on shutting down Ultima Online to push players towards the then in-development Ultima Online 2, noting that the executives at the time didn’t fully understand the idea of an MMO (supporting a game long after release as opposed to launching a new title). The good news is that Trammel doubled the subscriber base, the bad news?
The bad: Without the “sheep to shear” the hard core PvP’ers were disenfranchised. They didn’t like preying on each other (hard targets versus soft targets), and they became a smaller minority in the overall game. The real bad though was that the intensity and “realness” of the game for all players was diminished. This was the major unintended consequence.
Walton admits that Trammel was unsuccessful in bringing back the disenfranchised players, only 5% of whom returned of which few stayed. As for Crowfall, that game is being developed with the mistakes of Ultima Online in mind.
We are specifically making our game for players who will like the kind of experience we will create, not trying to cast a wide net to get a mass market audience. We want the folks who will appreciate an intense gaming experience with real risk, winning and losing. While we want as many players who are engaged in our game as possible, we won’t need millions of players to make our game work.