Ultima Online's Container System: How It Worked and Why It Matters

I just stumbled across this old story I told somewhere, and thought I’d share more widely. In Ultima Online, the player was a container — one you couldn’t open, but which held your equipped items, your backpack which was the container you could actually see, etc. Because of the freeform “gump”1 style containment system used in the Ultimas, you could position anything to any location in a container, which meant they were basically treated like maps, with coordinate systems in them. When you rode a horse, we simply put the horse inside the player, and spawned a pair of pants that looked like your horse, which you then equipped and wore. When we first did this, however, we forgot to make the horse stop acting like a horse. Pretty soon there was a rash of server crashes because the horse inside the player was wandering around, picking up the stuff it found inside the player, rifling through the player’s backpack and eating things it thought were edible, and eventually, wandering “off the map” because the player’s internal coordinate system was pretty small, and the edges weren’t impassable. (). Continue reading.



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