Ultima Worlds go offline
Planned Ultima Online sequel cancelled
Ultima Worlds Online : Origin, as well as being an obvious nominee for the stupidest game title of the year award, was also shaping up to be one of the biggest of the next generation of massively multiplayer role-playing games. It was the sequel to the insanely popular Ultima Online, featured characters designed by Todd McFarlane and friends, and was based around a rather impressive looking new 3D engine, replacing the creaky low resolution sprites of the original. We say "was", because work on the sequel has apparently now been cancelled.
Third Dawn adds a number of new features to Ultima Online, including 3D character models, enhanced lighting effects, and a range of new monsters and locations. At its heart though, it is still the same four year old isometric game, and it's hard to see how adding some goofy looking new 3D models into the primitive 2D engine is going to attract players away from more recent games such as Asheron's Call and Everquest, let alone true next generation games such as Anarchy Online, which is due to launch later this year.
Electronic Arts seem to be shooting themselves in the foot with this decision, as it effectively marks the end of the highly profitable Ultima franchise. However much they "grow and improve" Ultima Online, the fanbase is more likely to leak away than to expand as more advanced games are released. EA may be pinning their hopes on the release of Earth & Beyond, the massively multiplayer space-faring game from Westwood, but one would have thought there was enough of a market for a fantasy offering from EA as well.
The cancellation of the project is also contributing to the lay-offs which EA announced earlier this week, with an unknown number of staff at their Origin division being shown the door. This follows earlier redundancies at their Redwood City studio and the cancellation of the PC version of The World Is Not Enough. Heavy losses from the company's disastrous EA.com gaming portal are thought by many to be to blame for the string of sackings and project cancellations currently afflicting Electronic Arts.