Ultima Online wasn’t the first “massively multiplayer online roleplaying game,” but its creator — Ultima series founder and sometimes space tourist, Richard Garriott — reportedly coined the phrase.
Ultima Online was his attempt to catapult the fledgling “persistently online” genre forward by combining state-of-the-art visuals with advanced social and economic mechanics, all housed within his elaborate Ultima fantasy mythos.
He succeeded, quickly luring over 100,000 players (eventually a quarter million) at a point when alternatives like 3DO’s Meridian 59 were lucky to command thousands. Games that owe a debt to Ultima Online‘s “lessons learned,” in terms of player psychology and behavior (socially, economically) include EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot and World of Warcraft.
Ultima Online also holds the record for the longest running MMORPG: It launched in September 1997, and it’s still kicking today.