Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ultima IV, Part 2: What Happend in Between

I sometimes don't like parodies, but this one wasn't half bad.

Reader Eugene Hung told me recently about Ultima IV, Part II: Dude, Where's My Avatar? and I admit to approaching it with some trepidation. Let it not be said that the CRPG Addict doesn't have a sense of humor, but I sometimes don't like parodies. I have never been much of a Monty Python fan, for instance, and I loathe The Holy Grail. Parodies only work for me when the creator clearly knows and loves the original.

I downloaded it and played it without really reading much about it first. It was made with a designing tool called the Adventure Creation Kit, which I originally took to be an early or mid-1990s tool, much like the Adventure Construction Set that I blogged about last year. In fact, to be honest, I originally thought that UIVPII was created with the Adventure Construction Set, and I was prepared to praise it's original and detailed use--I couldn't even get Bourbon Street finished.

But it turns out, I now see, that developer Chris Hopkins only released the latest version of the Adventure Creation Kit in 2008, and Ultima IV, Part II--its only full game so far--came out in 2009. He purposely designed the Kit to mimic the look of two-dimensional, old-school, tile-based games. In the case of this game, it copies Ultima V textures and icons to tell a story that happens between Ultima IV and Ultima V.

My reaction to the story itself, and its humor, is pretty positive--there is no question that Mr. Hopkins knows the Ultima series inside and out--but my reaction to the Adventure Creation Kit is even better. I'd like to see many, many more games using this construction set. It makes attractive maps, supports excellent dialogue and inventory systems, and is very intuitive. Aside from the joke parts of the game, I had a lot of fun exploring the dungeons, fighting monsters, and collecting loot and treasure. Mr. Hopkins really has something here.

Note: Since this is a fairly new game, I should note that major spoilers follow!

I won the game, and spent enough time doing so for three postings, but I don't want to take that much time for a diversion, so I'll try to describe it all here. My Avatar begins sitting around his house, contemplating Britannia while staring at an odd poster of a pole-dancing centaur.

Turning on the television, I find my answer: Mondain, Minax, and Exodus are all on Jerry Springer, complaining about their family problems. The show descends into a brawl, and the three of them end up escaping back to Britannia.

You might not see it, but Minax is "played" by Tammy Faye Bakker.

Shortly after, I get a phone call from the old gypsy, who walks me through the Ultima IV questions--or, at least, a variant thereof (one of the responses is "whatever lets me use a sword")--before shipping me to Britannia.


I find Lord British hiding within his throne room, having blocked the entrance with a chair. He explains that Mondain, Minax, and Exodus have taken over the Lycaeum, Empath Abbey, and Serpent's Hold, and they have corrupted the virtues. He also seems to share some of my disbelief at Ultima II.

After getting him to return me to Level 8--which he never does in any other game--and give me his "Orb of Cheating," which despite its name isn't so much different from the Orb of Moons you get in Ultima VI, I head out to solve the quest.

From visiting the towns, it soon transpires that the evil trio have replaced the principles of truth, love, and courage with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. The "virtues" are now derivatives of these principles: intoxication, promiscuity, rhythm, virility, dancing, heavy metal, and partying. "Rehab" replaces humility as standing outside the virtues.

Mariah is now running a pizza parlor.

Here, it's easier to see on a chart:

To combat the problem and win the game, I had to:

  • Gather the eight "sigils" of each new virtue and deliver them to Hawkwind at Lord British's castle.
  • Learn the mantras of each virtue (promiscuity is HO, partying is WOO, and rehab is, of course, NO) and mediate on them at the shrines, getting from them the location to which to send the...Dukes of Hazzard...look, you had to be there.
  • Raise the Codex from the Abyss and learn how to defeat Mondain, Minax, and Exodus.
  • Do a few errands for people who had the items I needed
  • Travel to each of the keeps and defeat the triumvirate.

Of course, there was plenty of humor along the way. And loads and loads of 1980s pop culture references. I'm sure I missed a lot, but I caught references to Impossible Mission, Knight Rider, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, King's Quest, Magnum P.I., Night Court, People's Court, E.T., Tunnels of Doom, Deliverance, the Beastie Boys, The Bard's Tale, Pac-Man, the Artist Formerly and Apparently Again Known as Prince, The Dukes of Hazzard, Adventure (the old Atari game), Akalabeth, Rogue, Questron, Wheel of Fortune, Father Knows Best, whatever game sparked the "all your base are belong to us" meme, Pirates!, and Army of Darkness.

Some of them were simply ingenious. When I visited Buccaneer's Den to buy some maps from the bartender, instead of taking me into a typical Ultima V town, the game brought up the town screen from Pirates!

I still didn't get anywhere with the governor's daughter.

I also got a flashback to a game that I hadn't thought about in years: The Impossible Mission. I had it for my C64 and never won it--I couldn't figure out how to put the maps together. Anyway, a character who looked like the PC icon in IM gave me a quest to get a computer code (it turned out to be "123456") from Professor Atombender, who had set up shop in the Dungeon Destard. As soon as I walked into the room with his robots, I was hit with the familiar recording from the beginning of that game: "Ah! Another visitor! Stay a while. Stay FOREVER!"

Here's a whole mess of other references that had me laughing and show the creator's encyclopedic knowledge of the era:

The quests to get the sigils were generally creative and funny. Perhaps the most memorable was the Toga of Partying. Shamino was wearing it (all of my Ultima IV companions had been thoroughly corrupted) and refused to take it off until I gave him several bottles of ale, at which point he doffed it and went streaking.

Yes, that is Shamino's penis. I am no longer sorry about what happened to him in Ultima V.

The longest quest to solve was Julia's. She had become a pole dancer in Minoc to pay her way through college. I had to drum up 1,500 gold pieces to pay her tuition so she could give me the pole--the Sigil of Dancing--which required a lot of dungeon-delving. The dungeons were mostly non-parodies and actually very interesting to explore, with lots of pressure plates, triggers, and secret doors. I got a real thrill when I solved a series of them and found a magic axe.

A dungeon room at least as interesting as anything in Ultima V.

The Sigil of Virility turned out to be a bottle of Viagra, which Jaana immediately wanted me to put to use. Fortunately, Katrina showed up at her window and...blocked me. In fact, she did that twice.

"Justice is truth, tempered by love! I'm sorry, I couldn't keep a straight face. Honestly, hast thou ever sat in a courtroom and thought, 'yes, this is the worldly manifestation of truth and love'? Neither have I." - Jaana

New Magincia--which still had some skeletons hanging around from Ultima IV--had been turned into a giant rehab clinic, and to get the Sigil of Rehab, I had to help Katrina (looking like an old woman--I had always pictured her young and virile) figure out which patient was ready to be released.

As I said, the Kit itself makes a pretty good game. Yes, it only supports a single character, but the interface is very intuitive. It has an easy but satisfying leveling and attribute system. It allows a wide variety of weapons and armor, including swamp boots--which protect you from poison just as in Ultima VI--and the inventory screen very clearly shows which is better. On the inventory, incidentally, the game had me bring a shotgun from home. I didn't realize it had a limited number of rounds, and I wasted them on low-level monsters. I really could have used it at the end.

Note the Army of Darkness reference. Later, the game has me telling Lord British to send me home, "like in the deal."

Dialogue is both presented with Ultima IV/V keywords (as you've seen in other shots) and one-liners from minor characters, as in Ultima II/III.

The college in Moonglow, under the influence of Intoxication, became a party school.

There were a lot of monsters in the game, some using Ultima V icons, some with original ones. Almost all of them had original names. Among the more memorable were demented crows, voyeurs (gazers), evil butterflies, capybaras, evil supermodels and meth addicts (both using the skeleton icon), cheese golems and Dorito golems, forum trolls, and flushed goldfish. Their names were silly, but combat against them was legitimately difficult, especially at the end in Exodus's castle. The combat system is less advanced than Ultima V, but it supports targeting with both ranged and missile weapons, and the magic system--while not using all the reagents (you bought them all pureed together in a blender), supports a lot of different spells. I didn't get to cast them all.

The game had fun explaining why certain things happened between Ultima IV and Ultima V. Namely:

  • Vesper is gone because I helped Sin'Vraal destroy the lake, leaving the town to dry up with only Sin'Vraal's house remaining.
  • I raised the Codex myself--using a magic fishing pole that Julia made. "Deep below," the game notes, "You hear screaming, yelling, and the flapping of wings. You're sure it's nothing to worry about, though."
  • The Shadowlords invade Britannia because they make use of a bong I dropped into a whirlpool, get the munchies, and chase a rumor that Britannia has a White Castle.

  • Magic reagents cause blindness, which is why all the herb sellers are blind.
  • Blackthorn became reagent because when Lord British asked who would rule while he was off exploring, I said it didn't matter and pointed to some random guy in the corner.
  • I sealed the dungeons myself, on a quest for the Great Council, whose member summed up the attitude of most Britannians perfectly:

  • The Guardian, a friendly bloke, was created by Hawkwind to guard the eight corrupted Sigils in some alternate dimension. Hawkwind assured me that nothing could go wrong.

If you die in the game, as I did twice, you find yourself on a tropic island with a beautiful woman--just before Lord British resurrects you and yanks you back into the real world again. Shades of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6!

It would have been funnier if he'd made it Sarah Michelle Gellar.

The final quests to destroy the triumvirate were fun, especially Minax's. She had taken over Empath Abbey, and upon entry I was thrust back into a world of graphics and textures from Ultima II.

I had to take the old rocket to Planet X to get Father Antos to annul her marriage, and the game had me encounter Richard Garriott--who has, of course, famously traveled into space himself.

Now, I did win the game, but somehow after I won, the game (or some other corruption) ended up clearing my DOSBox capture folder and the saved games, so I don't have any ending screen shots. The ending was rather amusing, in which I take Lord British to task for not doing anything himself, and he vows to solve the next problem on his own. I leave Britannia saying to myself that the old coot will likely get himself into trouble and I'll have to rescue him again.

The Orb of Cheating made the game go pretty quickly.

All in all, it was a satisfying and amusing day's diversion. It probably would have taken longer without the Orb of Cheating, but there's only a limited amount of time I want to spend on a parody. I recommend that you play it yourself, and keep me appraised if you see any new games being released with the Adventure Creation Kit. It's Addict-Approved!

The Codex of Ultimate Wisdom, according to this game.


  1. You can actually get more shotgun shells from the Skara Brae inn after you finish a certain dungeon room. Also, did you find the "Hot Coffee" in Empath Abbey? This lets you bypass Katrina...

  2. I'm so glad you played this ACK Ultima parody! I agree that Chris to a great job of making it funny and fun.

    Just so you know, my retro-game-assistant app-making didn't end with the Star Saga Kit. I developed the little Windows and Mac GUI front-end for ACK, which itself is running in Dosbox. There's an ACK forum here: Forum member rld has been releasing a series of patches to ACK that add a bunch of nifty new features. Some day I'll get back to making my Crush, Crumble & Chomp clone with ACK.

  3. Awesome!

    I've been enjoying your blog for a while now, though I mostly lurk. I wanted to say this looked awesome and win. I'm glad you shared it with us.

    15 years ago, I found a similar parody game created with SSI's Unlimited Adventures. It had Star Trek references (Jon Nuke Pac-a-cards), The X-files (Mouldier and Skullie) and someone with a boomstick named 'Itchy Rash' (Yay for Army of Darkness!). The main villain was someone named Mike L Boulton. It was incredibly silly, and a lot of fun.

    Shops including "Only +1 Daggers" (guess what they sold), "Stuff to Hit People With" and there's one more that I can't recall. Twas fun.

    It was called 'The Final Reckoning'. My Google-fu fails to turn it up, alas!

  4. You can get more shotgun shells by buying reagents. I forget whether you have to try for lesser or greater reagents, but one will sometimes get you shells. Funny how the blind reagent seller gets the better of the Avatar most of the time :)

    1. I just finished playing this game (loved it) and I thought the blind reagent lady ripping off the avatar (for a change) was one of the funniest parts of the game! It took me awhile to figure it out as I wasn't verifying that my reagent count went up for each purchase I made, and I wasn't really reading the screen of text that appeared when a purchase was made. Eventually I grew suspicious found buried within the text were comments like "the blind lady reaches under the counter and hands you an apple core". My favorite was the blind lady reaches under the counter and hands you her cat". Only about 50% of the time did she actually give you the reagents she purchased Lol. As M. Dragon mentioned in the previous post, sometimes she gave you shotgun shells and the game commented "where the heck did she get those??"

  5. This was an excellent detour!


  6. The pole-dancing centaur is thanks to one Dr. Cat, famous furry person and long-time Origin programmer. That'll be your intro scene for Ultima VI, should this blog survive that long (and I certainly hope it does).

    A lot of the humor in the screens left me a touch baffled, but there's enough that I grinned at that I should really try out this game some time. Maybe I'll grab Ultima IV, give that a play, and start on Part 2...

  7. Unrelated comment here.

    I noticed that your first game in 1989 is "Bandit Kings of Ancient China."

    Bandit Kings is an AMAZING game... but it's not an RPG. It's a turn-based strategy game. I owned it on the NES as a kid. It's a very, very good strategy game with some role-playing elements, but it is not primarily an RPG.

    I'd recommend playing it (maybe not the ugly DOS version), but it's not a good fit for this blog.

  8. And now for a slightly more related comment...

    Have you ever listened to RPG Radio?

    The "welcome" audio clip for his shoutcast stream is that exact line from Impossible Mission.

    I could never figure out Impossible Mission as a kid. It was just baffling. I read a review of it recently where the guy described a full playthrough. It sounds like I didn't miss that much.

  9. I thought this game was going to be funny when the Shadowlords started chasing the Avatar around during the intro to the Yakety Axe which made me think of the Benny Hill show from when I was a child. Hope to see more games with this system.

    If you're interested in a future diversion you might want to try EUO. It's basically an online, multiplayer game in the style of ultima 5 and uses lots of ultima tiles and lore such as the shrines.

    1. I nearly died laughing when I saw the shadow lords chasing the avatar and company around the screen, flapping their capes with exaggerated motions and that silly song playing in the background.

  10. Parody RPGs can be great things sometimes.

    You still plan to play Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden in fifty years when you get to when it was released, right?

  11. From memory 'All your base' is from Zero Wing, and was at its height about the time I started seriously exploring the internet.

    Seriously, version control software is not hard to set up and would avoid these annoying corruption issues.

  12. Yeah, version control software is a wonderful thing, even for non-programming related things.

    This one is free and generally well recommended; I had a friend who set up remote access to his home network to keep track of a personal project while at work.

    You could also use it to help organize a backup of your website contents in case of server crash.

  13. It took me a while to place the Orb of Cheating's look... that infamous clip... :-)

  14. For your use I advise something distributed, like git or mercurial, not SVN. Most projects I've seen are moving away from SVN to one of the two I just mentioned.

  15. I'm feeling more of a "Dude, where's CRPGAddict" vibe, hope he's doing okay with his job.

    My anticipation for the Addict to play through The Magic Candle still has not waned. That and Lords of Midnight, but LoM isn't a RPG really. Shame, that.

    I'm hoping to get both games running on a Tandy 1000SX I rescued from a dumpster the other day, but I think the PC port of LoM runs in VGA only.

    Until I get a hard drive for the Tandy, I've been playing some MUDs on it. Works pretty well off of a 5.25 floppy actually.

    Here's hoping the Addict returns shortly. I'm running out of other things to read at work!

  16. Good timing, Raifield. I posted just as your message was going through. It's been a tough last couple of weeks with work and conferences.

    Thanks for the heads-up, GammaLeak. I'll check it out because it made my list, but I'll move on if its clear it has no RPG creds.

  17. Ah, Adventure Creation Kit... I have a bit of a history with this program.

    I first ran across ACK back in the 90s when it was relatively new (so you weren't exactly wrong; it was originally an "early or mid-90s tool"). It was shareware at the time, and I liked it enough to register my copy; if I recall correctly, the main advantage to registration was that it allowed you to use macros in your game. And I went about constructing a massive game with it, only to be highly disappointed on testing my game to discover that due to a bug in the program if a game had more than sixteen "regions" (different maps, essentially) only the first sixteen would actually work. (At the time, ACK only came with a couple of small sample games neither of which came near the unintended sixteen-region limit. My game was way over that limit.) I brought the bug to the attention of the system's creator, Chris Hopkins; exchanged a few e-mails with him; but I never heard of the bug being fixed, and, not being able to finish my game if I couldn't have more than sixteen regions and not feeling like making a smaller game that would fit within that limit, I moved on to other things.

    Then, many years later, I ran across a mention of ACK again and found that the bug had been fixed and more features added since I had last used it, and now Chris Hopkins had developed a full-length game with it. (Also, it was now freeware.) Curious, I downloaded Ultima IV, Part II and started to play it... and it almost immediately so thoroughly rubbed me the wrong way that I never finished it and never touched ACK again.

    I suppose that's going to change eventually; since ACK is a game creation system, at some point I'm going to be covering it in my blog (and may take the opportunity to finally finish that game I started so many years ago, now that the sixteen-region bug no longer exists). But it's likely to be a long time before I get to it...

    1. That's interesting. I had no idea it was so old. Thanks for the recollections.

  18. Another hilarious moment of this game was learning The Lord British, like president Skroob in Spaceballs, has 1-2-3-4-5 as the combination on his luggage.

  19. Oh goodness. I might have to play this game after all. I originally gave it a pass because parodies of video games often try too hard. But this looks awesome.


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