Ultima Online is not only one of the longest-running MMORPGs, but they also have one of the craziest stories in regards to how they handled item duplication in their game during its launch in 1997. The programmer and game designer Tim Cotton first witnessed this duping when two in-game players dropped chests in a particular area of the map and managed to create an extra chest with all its contents inside.
Cotton immediately began to try and solve this issue, and first decided to create a global hash registry on Ultima Online’s rarest items, this ‘invisible dye’ would stain the duped items in a way that only the developers could see. While Cotton wanted to eradicate the situation, management was worried about the players, for example, those who paid for the duped items without realizing how they were created.
So, they waited, and instead, Cotton and his team came up with a way to identify the individuals who were going to be banned and decided to make an event out of it. "We identified the dupers themselves and their storage depots: they had homes full of their duped items and NPC vendors selling them to the players," explains Cotton. "The 'duping ring' stretched across multiple servers, comprised of distinct groups not necessarily working together. They had all evolved the same behaviors though: making tons of UO gold from selling dupes and then selling the UO gold on secondary markets for hard cash."
After the players were identified, Cotton and the community manager, Adida, wrote a script that, when ‘attached’ to a house, would delete the house instantly, spawn ‘housing rubble' that looked as if it was covered in soot, spawn a bunch of ‘fire fields’, and create a straw dummy labeled ‘An Effigy of a Traitor’ that would be placed in the middle of the burning rubble.
The devs picked a day and executed the attack flawlessly. "Dozens of homes had been destroyed across the entire multiverse of Ultima Online, and the flames licking the sooty rubble were a visible testimony to our team’s determination to deal with cheaters," said Cotton.
However, such a large-scale attack “just barely skated by with upper-upper-upper management." Such an event most likely could never happen again. Still, this story is one that will keep Ultima Online in the books for years to come.
About the Author
Aspen is an avid gamer and Twitch streamer currently residing in Japan. She is most attracted to games narrative design and is a huge fan of player choice in games. If Aspen is not playing games, she is most certainly writing about them.
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