Ultima, Ultima

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Matt Barton's picture

Hail, brave adventurer! That's right--it's time for me to start drafting the chapter on Ultima for Vintage Gaming, the forthcoming book by your very own Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton. Thankfully, I've already done much of the necessary research for this title for Dungeons & Desktops, but I'd still like to hear your stories about the Ultima series. What is the best Ultima? What is the worst? What do you consider the most important innovations introduced by the series? I can think of several right off the top, such as the focus on ethical decisions and the more personality-driven character creation system of later games. The series is also known for introducing really memorable characters and stories, years ahead of the more character and plot-driven JRPGs. Other factors worth considering are the heavy attention given to the interactive world in Black Gate, and the radical changes made to the engine from game to game.

Garriott seems to have been directly influenced by popular games of the era, and he was willing to change the engine to match the current fad. Thus, we get the Mario-like jumping in Pagan or the party-based gameplay of Exodus (Garriott said that he wanted this setup because Wizardry had it). The interplay between first and third-person was interesting in the early games as well.

Anyway, I know we have some Ultima fans here, so please let me know what facts and stories you consider essential for a definitive chapter on the subject.

I must admit to never having played an Ultima game all the way through. The problem is that by the time I finally got hold of one, I had already gotten into the Gold Box and Bard's Tale games. I never saw the later PC-based Ultima games until much later. That said, I have played most of them, including the Ultima Underworld games that made such innovative use of first-person, 3D graphics. Sadly, I've tried to get interested in The Black Gate and so on, but I don't think these games have aged very well. Did you just have to grow up playing these to really get it? I'm not sure why anyone would want to slog through the older games except out of nostalgic or historic interest, but I'd be happily proven wrong. I guess I'd wonder that if I were going to sit down and actually play all the way through an Ultima game, which one would be the one to pick? Which has best stood the test of time?

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adamantyr
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Serpent Isle moments

For me, Serpent Isle really stood out as a fantastic experience... partly because I'd never heard of it before I played it. By the time I had Ultima 7, I had a hint book and was fairly familiar with the plot and events, so there wasn't a great deal of surprises. Serpent Isle, though, was totally different. It was the first time in a long time I was actually EXPLORING and finding out things.

The music really helped too. When you first enter the hidden cave at the start, and start reading the ancient scroll of the Ophidians, a particular recurrent music piece kicks in, an ominous one punctuated with drums. Sent a shiver down my spine, like the Avatar was truly somewhere different and alien from his experiences. I ended up watching the dawn the first day I played, because I became so engrossed in the characters and stories that I lost track of time.

steve (not verified)
Ultima IV

I just wanted to make sure to add an obligatory "hey yeah" for Ultima IV, my all-time favorite RPG. None of the other Ultima games ever "did it" for me, but IV was brilliant. I wish I had more to say, but my brain is in low-gear this morning.

yakumo9275
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I remember standing behind

I remember standing behind someone in my local library as they battled in Ultima III. They were fighting pirates and it was a land / sea battle and I remember thinking WOW! I then had to go pirate it for the c64... since I didnt own an apple.. those were the days. cabinets full of 5.25" disks.

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Ultima piracy
yakumo9275 wrote:

I remember standing behind someone in my local library as they battled in Ultima III. They were fighting pirates and it was a land / sea battle and I remember thinking WOW! I then had to go pirate it for the c64... since I didnt own an apple.. those were the days. cabinets full of 5.25" disks.

-- Stu --

I did that too naturally, and I must say I never got into the pirate versions because they really begged for the manuals. I at least got to play them a little, but never as seriously as I would have liked.



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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Man, I'm having a brain

Man, I'm having a brain lapse here. I remember reading SOMEWHERE, I'll be damned where, that Garriott had traveled to Japan to discuss the licensing of one the Ultima series. Someone there had shown him a game that was an obvious clone of Ultima, and he told them right away to take it down or he'd sue. Does anyone remember that incident? If so, please let me know.

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adamantyr
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Garriot's Japan visit
Matt Barton wrote:

Man, I'm having a brain lapse here. I remember reading SOMEWHERE, I'll be damned where, that Garriott had traveled to Japan to discuss the licensing of one the Ultima series. Someone there had shown him a game that was an obvious clone of Ultima, and he told them right away to take it down or he'd sue. Does anyone remember that incident? If so, please let me know.

The event is described in Shay Addam's Book of Ultima.

I believe it was Xanadu or something like that he was seeing. Garriot didn't think the tile engine, while similar, was a copyright infringement. The stopping point in the demo was when Denis Loubert's artwork (scanned from the Ultima 3 manuals) showed up on screen. The Japanese company was forced to replace the artwork in game and pay a minor fine of some kind on threat of legal action.

crcasey
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Joined: 11/17/2006
RPG's at that time.

Strategy
Role Playing
Story
Stat. Build

All were one.

They were RPG's at that time, but they split up and headed different directions.

Now we have...
CIV
Gold box
Kings Quest
Myst

One game spawned the latter mems...

My guess.
-Cecil

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Matt Barton
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Ultima IX on Vista

Wow, I finally got Ultima IX to run on Vista! The trick was to install the fan patch, 1.19F.

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adamantyr
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Ultima IX
Matt Barton wrote:

Wow, I finally got Ultima IX to run on Vista! The trick was to install the fan patch, 1.19F.

Yeah, I had to do the same. Congrats!

Word of warning though, it still crashes a lot. And you'll probably see a fair share of glitches, like bright fuchsia bubbles on lava and whatnot.

Anonymous (not verified)
Ultima IX on Vista

No, you didn't get it to run on Vista, at least not Vista 64-bit.

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