Not quite that long, but since the early 90s. Pre-Netscape, if not pre-internet. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year. I’m a long-time Ultima superfan and the series is the reason I got into game writing. Of my top 10 gaming experiences ever, four of them would probably involve Ultima games. I gave a ton to the kickstarter just to thank Richard Garriott and to help him to just work on something of his own choosing.
And yet I can’t even be bothered to boot up this game. I have a kickstarter house I haven’t bothered to plant anywhere. Maybe I will when the physical rewards are sent out, although that may be never, for all I know, given the dubious state of the company. I still won’t regret that contribution - I owed Garriott for hundreds of hours of rich gaming experiences. He was also incredibly generous with his time when I was starting my gaming website up in the mid-90s - I interviewed him at least 3 times, and the shortest interview was over an hour.
Another anecdote - shortly after this kickstarter I was out for a few drinks with a well known, respected RPG developer who happened to be in my town. When I said that I didn’t think that Garriott could pull off a modern RPG classic, the other developer interrupted and very adamantly said that “he just can’t. It’s just beyond him at this point”, even though the developer was also clearly rooting for him. I just found that incredibly sad, for some reason.
And in that context, maybe Garriott has actually done better than expected - he’s produced something that is still being refined but has quite a bit of old Ultima flavor in it, and fans of the series appreciate at least aspects of the new game. Even new players seem to acknowledge that there are some good ideas in it. And people who like UOs and that sort of community atmosphere seem to enjoy it - it had the contributions of other series fans like Lum and members of the UO development team.
Yet I’d probably still rather play a private install of the original Ultima Online just to walk around and see the original ecosystem work.