The Versions of the Ultima Series to Play and the Reasons Why

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UltimaUltimaWe've been having a bit of a discussion about Ultima in the Gates of Delirium Live - Post 11 blog comments, and I was curious what everyone's thoughts were on the most authentic, interesting and error-free versions of each of the nine main Ultima games, not counting Akalabeth (though we can throw that in there too). This is both for my own selfish reasons of wanting to play these at some point (and to do it only once for each game) and also because I think this would prove to be an interesting discussion as I know everyone is very opinionated about the series. So, assuming you have access to any version - and any version's optimized hardware setup (for instance, you have an Apple II with two Mockingboards or a C-128), which would you pick, and in what order, say up to the top three systems for each version of the game? I'll start with my own only partially informed opinion.

0 - Akalabeth - World of Doom: PC DOS (version on Ultima Collection CD-ROM), Apple II original, dimjon's J2ME version

My reasoning: Since Akalabeth is such a simple and often frustrating game, it's best to play it in the most painless way possible. While the PC DOS version is not an original version, it does work well in Windows and is probably the easiest version to play. The Apple II version is the second choice because it's the original, but it's not readily available in ROM form and impossible to find an original. The Apple II version is also supposed to be rather slow, which is not appealing in an already dated and frustrating game. dimjon's J2ME version is one I've played on my old Nokia cell phone and seems to be a very faithful recreation, so that's why I put it as the third option. Having played quite a bit of Akalabeth, I really have no interest in ever finishing it, so this is one I'd definitely pass on, though again, if I ever did play it, I'd probably go with the PC DOS version.

1 - Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness: C-64 (1986 remake), Apple IIGS (1994 port), Apple II (1986 remake)

My reasoning: I don't think it would make much sense to run the original Apple II version, since it was written in a combination of BASIC and Assembly code as far as I know, making it a bit slow and buggy. The re-release in 1986 was an official remake entirely in assembly language, which also features slightly improved visuals. The idea of a IIGS-specific port intrigues me, though I'm not sure of its availability and how faithful it is considering it's not official (I'd rather not experience unofficial interpretations, even if they're better). I would be less opposed to playing an enhancement of this game as it probably benefits from it and was already done so by Origin themselves (meaning the unofficial IIGS update is not a foreign concept). If I received some assurances as to its worth, I'd definitely consider moving it to the first slot. I'd also rather avoid PC DOS versions whenever possible, since I know I'll be stuck on that platform for the later releases and I'm not a fan of PC speaker sound.

NOTE: Atari 8-bit was removed in combination with the C-64 in favor of solely the C-64

2 - Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress: C-64, Apple II (1989 update), Apple II (original)

My reasoning: It's my understanding the official Apple II 1989 update - the only updated version of the game released - features bug fixes and a very slight tweak to the graphics and interface. Since the C-64 version already had all of this and more with the addition of extra sound in the first place, that would be the original version to go with.

NOTE: Atari 8-bit was removed in combination with the C-64 in favor of solely the C-64. The Atari 8-bit version was deemed graphically inferior to all versions courtesy of a poor port.

3 - Ultima III: Exodus: Apple II (original with Mockingboard support), Atari ST/Amiga, C-64

My reasoning: The most authentic version would be the Apple II release with Mockingboard, giving you originality and good sound. You get similar sound on the Amiga/Atari ST versions, as well as updated graphics. I'm not sure the latter is really necessary, though, and it may be more enjoyable on an older system. The C-64 version would be a good standby since it's very much like the Apple II release and has similar sound to the Mockingboard version.

4 - Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar: Apple II (original with Mockingboard support), Atari ST/Amiga

My reasoning: The Apple II is competitive with all other 8-bit versions in terms of graphics and sound (with Mockingboard), so there's no reason not to play the original in this case (it also helps that I have this version complete in the box). Again, the ST/Amiga versions would offer updated visuals if that were important to me. By the way, this is one where the Sega Master System (SMS) version is rather tempting in that it appears to be a very faithful and visually updated representation of the 8-bit computer version, unlike the bastardized NES versions of the series.

5 - Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny: Apple II (original with Mockingboard), C-128, Atari ST/Amiga

My reasoning: Since this is the last version ever made originally for the Apple II and really pushed that system to its limits, this has to be the preferred version. Also, with two Mockingboards, you have up to 12 sound channels/voices, though I don't believe they were all used (still very, very cool). The C-128 has to be the second choice since it's one of the few games to directly support the C-128 in some manner; on the C-64 you get no music, on the C-128 because of the extra memory, you get full music. The Atari ST/Amiga again, because of the enhanced visuals. I suppose the DOS port would be OK too, but definitely as a fourth choice for the hassles associated with DOS alone.

6 - Ultima VI: The False Prophet: DOS, Amiga/ST, C-64

My reasoning: DOS was the development platform, so that's the version that needs to be played. In addition, it supports pseudo-VGA and sound cards (though sound effects are still PC speaker). The Amiga/ST versions from my understanding were just straight ports of the DOS version and have few enhancements, as well as run slower. The C-64 version is supposed to be pathetic, but it's the only 8-bit version released (shockingly, the Apple II market was supposedly not considered viable enough for a new version of the game by 1990), so that has to count for something.

7 - 9 Ultima VII - IX: DOS/Windows

My reasoning: By this point there were no other ports to speak of, so playing the originals is where it's at. I would however play IX with the various fan-made patches to avoid many of the glitches, one of the few times I would really seek such a thing out. I may be wary of some of the content changes, however.

So does anyone have any thoughts about this? Know something more about any of the versions above? I own all the Ultima's on the PC, Ultima I - III (as part of the Trilogy box) on the C-64, and Ultima IV and V on the Apple II, so that could certainly play factors in my decisions as well. However, I obviously have the ability to pretty much recreate any version on any platform that I so choose, especially since I have all of the original materials and maps and what-not, so I wouldn't lose anything in the experience, making me very open to alternatives.

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yakumo9275
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remakes

"Not so with Ultima I and Ultima II - they are substantially the same now as in the early 80's.

Yes their appearance is different. Ultima I especially got a complete facelift for its release (EGA graphics for the IBM version) while Ultima II remains closer to the original 1982 edition (having CGA level graphics)."

That and an anecdote on the Apple II rewrite for Ultima I is all my Ultima books talk about. In passing it says Ultima II was rewritten in assembly language (which I thought it was to being with...)

I dont doubt an Ultima II rewrite exists... I'm just dont recall see'ing anything different...

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Ultima II - Does the official Apple II remake actually update?
yakumo9275 wrote:

I dont doubt an Ultima II rewrite exists... I'm just dont recall see'ing anything different...

-- Stu --

It's a "citation needed" in Wikipedia, so I wonder if it's true at all?: "The game was re-released with updated graphics and improved screen layout for the Apple II only in 1989, but this re-release version was only sold as part of the Ultima Trilogy collection of the first three games, and Origin discontinued its Apple II product line soon afterwards; thus the re-release is relatively rare.[citation needed]"

I only have the boxed Ultima Trilogy for the C-64, so that's no help. I didn't remember to check my Apple II ROM disc either last night. If it was indeed rewritten in assembly language, it's not a stretch to think that they might have also redid the graphics, even if it was re-using the "improved" visuals from the later games. Still, it's odd that there are no screenshots to back this up as of yet...



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Seb
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Ultima-fever!

Here's a few fun blog about guys trying to finish all the Ultimas...

http://ultimatrip.blogspot.com/
http://bloggingultima.blogspot.com/

Great thread by the way!

Bill Loguidice
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Ultima II - 1989 (definitely released, but no hard data)

I enjoyed Blogging Ultima and made sure to read it before posting this. I didn't see the "trip" one, though, thanks.

By the way, my ROM CD doesn't have the 1989 re-release of Ultima II, so until I see some hard facts otherwise, I'll consider that the same release as 1983:

ultima



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Bill Loguidice
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The Ultima Blogs - What I really didn't like...
Bill Loguidice wrote:

I enjoyed Blogging Ultima and made sure to read it before posting this. I didn't see the "trip" one, though, thanks.

You know, in reading through the "My trip through Ultima" blog and the blog for "Blogging Ultima", what struck me is that both chroniclers resorted to cheats at various points to get through the games. I can understand cheating on something like "Gates of Delirium", where the game design is inherently flawed, but to exploit things like creating characters just to transfer their gold over to your main characters seems rather out of place to me in an RPG. After all, in my opinion, the whole point of an RPG is to play the game, enjoy the experience, discover things on your own, uncover the plot, figure things out, slowly level grind, etc. I can understand wanting to take shortcuts in a blog setting in order to get through all the games, but is that really giving you a proper perspective and experience? Wouldn't you appreciate the game all the more if you had several moment of "aha!" when you figured something out? I can see using cheats, tips or walkthroughs in a purely linear game, like a text adventure or adventure game (GAG), where if you're stuck, you're stuck (and it's often the fault of the designer sticking in an obtuse puzzle or manner of accomplishing something), but in a more or less open-ended RPG, it would seem you're cheating yourself out of the very experience of what the game should be all about.

I'll likely pick up my Wizard's Crown Chronicles (dropping the novelization part for time purposes) sometime soon, but after that I really think I should tackle something like Ultima II from a purist's perspective, coming at it with "virgin" eyes and playing it straight. I want to see what type of difference that makes.

I still have a few more article photos to take care of for two more upcoming Gamasutra features, I want to do my various contributions to the month of CDTV/CD32, take care of a few other miscellaneous things, then I plan on starting back in on the Wizard's Crown Chronicles, since those left off right when I was about to start creating characters and beginning. After that, I'll likely try Ultima II (again on the C-64, since that's the version I have and attempts to locate the supposed 1989 graphical update for the Apple II have thusfar proven fruitless) before moving on to something more obscure again... (likely not "Wizard's Crown II", AKA The Eternal Dagger)



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yakumo9275
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Ultima Collectable says

Ultima Collectable says this;

Quote:

Now this is not a separate commercial version of Ultima II, but it bears mentioning. Around 1985 Origin acquired the rights to Ultima II from Sierra and began remaking the early games. In particular, they removed any references to Sierra (such as the ending text that referred to a Sierra adventure game) and replaced them (in this case, with a reference to Ultima III). But while Origin's Ultima I got rereleased as a separate commercial product, Ultima II didn't; it can only be found in the Ultima collections Origin put out. In fact, if you look at the front of the "first trilogy" collection, you'll find that the artwork representing Ultima II is actually the cover of Akalabeth, not Sierra's Ultima II cover. Origin replaced it, presumably because they don't own the rights to the "moongate" cover shown above. The whole story is an interesting example of how convoluted intellectual property rights can become.

I had the PC trilogy, but its been a while since I saw the ending to remember any sierra references.

-- Stu --

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yakumo9275
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u2-1989

Ultima II 1989Ultima II 1989

Ultima II - 1983-1989

Thats my trilogy Ultima II... so there is def a copyright change you can look for.

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Ultima II
Quote:

Ultima II - 1983-1989

Thats my trilogy Ultima II... so there is def a copyright change you can look for.

-- Stu --

I understand that and I have the Trilogy Ultima II as well for the C-64, but apparently only the Trilogy Apple II Ultima II was the one with the upgraded graphics (or so the so far dubious sources say)...



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yakumo9275
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If you want a game

If you want a game reccomendation Bill, have a crack at Questron II (Amiga has best graphics but I'd pick the PC or C64 version).

I had read the Ultima Trip blog some time ago when he first started but he quickly lost his way I thought. His whole point was to 'win' the game, as in start the game with the best equipment + levels and go straight to the end game fight without anything in between.

This I think is one of the hinderances of it, you know you have to do X and Y to get to Z so you go straight for it, rather than playing in a round about fashion as most people would. Think exotics in Ultima III. They are always there so you can go straight for them, sell them and return 1,000,000 times. I think these old games have to be approached in a 'no prior knowledge' type deal.

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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RPGs and such
yakumo9275 wrote:

If you want a game recommendation Bill, have a crack at Questron II (Amiga has best graphics but I'd pick the PC or C64 version).

I have a boxed Question II for the Amiga. I have a pirate version of the original Questron from when I was a kid, tried to get into it, but couldn't (again, mostly a result of RPG's not being good piracy candidates). I did like Questron I's use of paddles though to play some of the stat-increasing mini-games, mostly for being a rather unique usage of the controllers. Questron I is actually a very pricey acquisition on eBay, which explains why I don't have a boxed copy yet. Regardless, I'll worry about what I'll play next after getting through Wizard's Crown and Ultima II, and definitely take suggestions. I actually have a ton of obscure boxed RPG's for a variety of platforms that are just screaming to be played. These are more or less the ones that I have boxed:

2400 A.D. Apple II Origin Standard
Age of Adventure Apple II EA Album
Baldur's Gate II The Collection PC Windows Bioware Standard
Battletech - The Crescent Hawk's Inception Apple II Infocom Standard
Buck Rogers Countdown to Doomsday Amiga SSI Standard
Buck Rogers Matrix Cubed PC DOS SSI Standard
Castle of Tharoggad CoCo3 Radio Shack Small Clear Plastic Snap
Death Bringer Amiga Cinemaware Standard
Deathlord Apple II EA Album
Demon's Winter Atari ST SSI Standard
Demon's Winter C-64 SSI Standard
Dragon Wars Apple II Interplay Standard
Drakkhen Atari ST Infogrames Standard
Forgotten Realms Classics (Gamefest) - 14 Games PC DOS Interplay Cardboard CD Flip Case
Icewind Dale II PC Windows Black Isle Studios Standard
Knight of Diamonds - Wizardry The Second Scenario Apple II Sir-Tech Small Folder
Legacy of the Ancients C-64 EA Album
Legends of the Lost Realm Macintosh Avalon Hill Standard
Megatraveller 1 - The Zhodani Conspiracy PC DOS Paragon Software Standard
MegaTraveller 2 - Quest for the Ancients Amiga Paragon Software Standard
Might and Magic C-64 New World Computing Standard
Might and Magic Clouds of Xeen PC DOS New World Computing Oversized Standard
Might and Magic Darkside of Xeen PC DOS New World Computing Oversized Standard
Might and Magic III PC DOS New World Computing Standard
Neverwinter Nights PC Windows Atari Standard
Phantasie Apple II SSI Standard
Phantasie Apple II SSI Standard
Phantasie Atari ST SSI Standard
Phantasie II Atari ST SSI Standard
Phantasie III Atari ST SSI Standard
Phantasie III C-64 SSI Standard
Quarterstaff Macintosh Infocom Standard
Questron II Amiga SSI Standard
Realms of Darkness Apple II SSI Standard
Rings of Zilfin Atari ST SSI Standard
Rings of Zilfin C-64 SSI Standard
Roadwar 2000 Apple II SSI Standard
Roadwar Europa Amiga SSI Standard
Sentinal Worlds I Future Magic C-64 EA Standard
Shadows of Undrentide (requires Neverwinter Nights) PC Windows Atari Standard
Shard of Spring C-64 SSI Standard
Sleeping Gods Lie PC DOS Empire Standard
Star Command Atari ST SSI Standard
Stellar Crusade Atari ST SSI Standard
Swords of Twilight Amiga EA Standard
Temple of ROM CoCo Radio Shack Cardboard
The Bard's Tale (Tales of the Unknown Volume I) Apple II EA Album
The Bard's Tale II Apple II EA Standard
The Bard's Tale III: The Thief of Fate Apple II EA Album
The Bard's Tale Volume 1 C-64 EA Oversized Cassette Case
The Bard's Tale Volume 1 - Tales of the Unknown C-64 EA Album
The Dark Heart of Uukrul Apple II Broderbund Oversized Standard
The Eternal Dagger - A Wizard's Crown Adventure C-64 SSI Standard
The Legend of Blacksilver C-64 Epyx Standard
The Lords of Midnight Spectrum ZX Beyond Standard
The Magic Candle C-64 Mindcraft Standard
The Magic Candle II The Four and Forty PC DOS Mindcraft Standard
The Temple of Elemental Evil PC Windows Atari Standard
The Ultimate RPG Archives - 12 Games PC DOS Interplay CD Folder
Tower of Myraglen Apple IIgs PBI Clear Plastic Case
Tunnels of Doom TI-99/4a Texas Instruments Plastic Slide Case
Ultima IV Quest of the Avatar Apple II Origin Standard
Ultima Trilogy I, II, III C-64 Origin Standard
Ultima V Warriors of Destiny Apple II Origin Standard
Ultima VI The False Prophet PC DOS Origin Standard
Wasteland Apple II EA Standard
Wizardry - Legacy of Llylgamyn (and loose others in series) Apple II Sir-Tech Standard
Wizardry - Proving Grounds Apple II Sir-Tech Standard
Wizard's Crown C-64 SSI Standard
Wizard's Dominion TI-99/4a ASD&D Plastic Zip Bag
Xyphus Apple II Penguin Software Standard
Zyll A Text Adventure Game PC DOS IBM Clear Plastic Case
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Treasure of Tarmin Cartridge Aquarius Mattel Standard
Autoduel Atari ST Origin Standard
Autoduel C-64 Origin, Broderbund Standard
Dunjonquest - Hellfire Warrior (plus The Keys of Acheron expansion, loose) TRS-80 I/III, Apple II Automated Simulations, Epyx Standard
Gateway to Apshai C-64 Epyx Standard
Gemstone Warrior C-64 SSI Standard
Moebius - The Orb of Celestial Harmony Amiga Origin Standard
Sorcerian PC DOS Sierra Standard
Space Rogue C-64 Origin Standard
Sword of Kadash Atari ST Penguin Software Standard
Swords & Sorcery Spectrum ZX PSS Plastic Snapcase
Telengard Apple II Avalon Hill Bookshelf
Telengard C-64 Avalon Hill Bookshelf
The Temple of Apshai Trilogy Atari 8-bit, C-64 Epyx Standard
Times of Lore Atari ST Origin Standard
Windwalker Atari ST Origin Standard
Hero's Quest PC DOS Sierra Standard
Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire PC DOS Sierra Standard
The Faery Tale Adventure C-64 Micro-Illusions Album
Star Saga: One - Beyond the Boundary Apple II MasterPlay Oversized
Star Saga: Two - The Clathran Menace PC DOS MasterPlay Oversized
Shadow Sorcerer Atari ST SSI, U.S. Gold Standard

yakumo9275 wrote:

I had read the Ultima Trip blog some time ago when he first started but he quickly lost his way I thought. His whole point was to 'win' the game, as in start the game with the best equipment + levels and go straight to the end game fight without anything in between.

This I think is one of the hindrances of it, you know you have to do X and Y to get to Z so you go straight for it, rather than playing in a round about fashion as most people would. Think exotics in Ultima III. They are always there so you can go straight for them, sell them and return 1,000,000 times. I think these old games have to be approached in a 'no prior knowledge' type deal.

-- Stu --

Calibrator actually made quite a few interesting comments on there as well I noticed. First off, let me say that I give major kudos to anyone who both plays and blogs about these games, as its very time consuming, but I totally agree - you have to absolutely take the chronicler's biases into consideration when reading and realize that that can potentially introduce many limitations. Personally, I don't see the point of using exploits like that. The only time I recall using exploits - and I'd debate it was an exploit that was meant to be used - was in the Phantasie games when I'd revisit certain dungeons with high-level creatures (or a few big baddies) to get large experience point boosts. Winston Wood approached that logically though, by intentionally requiring time to pass before a particular dungeon's "stock" of monsters would get replenished. I think that was even mentioned in the manual, hence not a true exploit. When we talk about exploit, we mean "gaming the system". Obviously there can be a certain amount of pleasure - almost hacking-like - in discovering design deficiencies, but if they're truly unintentional, then I don't see the benefit other than a quicker playthrough of utilizing them.



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