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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Game 139: Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990)

Note: this post has a lot more full-game spoilers than the typical first post for a game. Read with caution if you don't already know the story of Ultima VI.

Origin System's motto was "we create worlds." It was a fitting motto for a company so dedicated to detailed back story and lore. Britannia is the most obvious example, but even the company's minor titles, like Times of Lore or Knights of Legend, have rich game manuals and complex histories. For years, I've thought of Origin as the paramount example of what became the first category in my GIMLET index: "game world."

Richard Garriott created the Ultima series in a time when hardly any games were paying attention to good stories--and even if they did, the technology of the times wasn't sufficient to justify much of the prose. In this era, Ultima IV comes along like a revelation, with a manual outlining Britannia's history, detailed descriptions of every town, monster, and item, a fully constructed virtue system--and, most importantly, a game that made full use of all the manual's lore. It's one of the few games of the era in which the manual and game seem like partners in the gameplay experience. It is, in fact, one of the few games of the era in which the manual and game feel like they were written by the same people.

But perhaps as notable as the effort and detail put into Britannia's history is how poorly Origin maintained it. The Ultima series is rightfully famous for re-inventing the game engine and magic system between numbered titles, but it also re-invented its stories, too. Hardly any aspect of the world holds up to scrutiny between any two games. IV and V are the closest, but in general, the game manuals engage in a rampage of retconning between titles. To take a few of a million examples:

  • To excuse nothing more than a desire to create a bigger, more geographically complex game world, the games suggest that the destruction of Exodous at the end of III created earthquakes and tsunamis and other geological upheavals, transforming Sosaria to Britannia. I'm pretty sure that global catastrophes capable of so re-shaping continents would also kill every living thing.

When you think about what had to happen to turn the map to the left into the map to the right, you wonder if it wouldn't have been a better idea just to learn to live with Exodus.

  • Starting in the Ultima VI manual, the Avatar is explicitly named as the same hero who won the first three Ultima games, never mind that III had four characters, and any of the characters in the first three games could be of non-human races.
  • Minax is given in the manual has having threatened "Sosaria," despite the game taking place on Earth.
  • Exodus is manifestly a computer in III but becomes a demonic entity in later depictions.
  • Lord British is said to come from Earth, as are Iolo and Dupre. This supposedly accounts for their long lives. But Iolo and Dupre never really talk about Earth, and Gwenno and Shamino, both Britannians, are similarly long-lived.
  • The enemies in VI are the "gargoyles," despite gargoyles having existed as separate creatures in V and gargoyles having been called "daemons" in previous games.
  • Ultima IV and V took place on a three-dimensional world that wrapped around on itself. Suddenly in VI, it's possible to reach the "edge" of the world and see the void of space beyond. The gargoyles apparently live on the other side of the world, and the "underworld" from Ultima V is now the space in between the two. This suggests that there's some point in the underworld where gravity flips around, I guess, but I suppose if we're talking about a world shaped like a cereal box, considerations of things like gravity, hydrology, and atmosphere are already pretty absurd.

I'm afraid getting here so early in the game, just so I could take this screenshot, involved a bit of homicide.

There have been all kinds of attempts to explain or hand-wave these inconsistencies, both in canon and fanon, and I don't doubt my message board will be full of them. That's fine. Discuss away. Tortured explanations for inconsistencies in fiction are usually fun, as are fan theories. (Here's my pet one, which I never heard anyone else talk about: what evidence do we really have that "the machines" are the enemy in the Terminator franchise? Just the beliefs of a bunch of terrified, depopulated technological throwbacks, but you could easily see this belief growing out of their incomprehension that any organic mind could cause such death and destruction. Since the series has never convincingly argued for the developments in AI necessary for a computer to become "self-aware," commandeer machinery, and create replicas of itself, it seems overwhelmingly likely to me that there's an organic intelligence behind them, either human or alien.) But the important thing is not to confuse something mildly plausible that someone pulled out of the air with a carefully-constructed game world.

What's particularly startling about many of these retcons is that they're utterly unnecessary. Who in the world came up with "gargoyles" as the best name for this other civilization? The word carries all kinds of baggage in existing lore, and it's always been tied to creatures who spent at least part of their time as stone. That's how Ultima V had them. Why create all kinds of confusion between gargoyles and daemons? A bolder choice would be to just leave them as daemons but, through this game, show that they're a lot more complex than the "always chaotic evil" creatures of the previous games. It would have allowed the game to explore themes of absolute good and absolute evil so common in CRPGs.

Then there's the Avatar. Not only is it unnecessary to make him the hero of the first three games, as if the Sosarians and Britannians are so inept they always need outside help to solve their problems, but I honestly think the series should have abandoned the concept after Ultima IV. In that game, it worked perfectly. The creators were making a meta-commentary on the very nature of playing role-playing games. The Avatar was clearly meant to be the player himself or herself, warped into the land through the "moongate" of his or her computer screen, represented as a literal avatar in the game window. Ultima IV was a game that invited the player to act in a way that was more courageous, more virtuous, more adventurous than in the real world. At the end of the game, when you're manifestly returned to your real life, you're invited to "live as an example to thine own people"--to apply the lesson of the seven virtues to the real world. It was brilliant. They should have left it alone.

Already in Ultima V, though, they were weakening the concept. In that game, the Avatar is clearly not you, but some guy who lives alone in his single-family house of a precise layout. But fine, you rationalize, all that is just a metaphor for where you actually do live. By Ultima VI, you have some weird picture of a pole-dancing centaur girl on your wall, you're inescapably a white male with long brown hair.

"To be looking like a hippie. To be rectifying this."

By Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire, the game has fleshed out a whole Earth bio for your character, including his associates. It was when I read the manual for that game and found the Avatar talking to one of these associates, saying "I told you that I occasionally do favors for a foreign dignitary who goes by the name Lord British," that I decided not to play the game. By the end of Ultima VII, when you find yourself remaining permanently in Britannia, the game has abandoned all pretense that the player is the Avatar.

It's not just the Avatar that's the problem. As the game world starts to lose its iconographic abstraction to take advantage of the latest graphics and sound technologies, to become more "realistic," the world begins to feel a little sophomoric. With the eight major cities, each "founded on a virtue," each featuring one major profession that exemplifies that virtue, each with a nearby dungeon named after an antonym to the virtue, all ruled by a benevolent, immortal sovereign, Britannia has always been a little too tidy. This was fine when it was as much of an abstraction as your little CGA icon, but Ultima VI begins the era in which the series wants to have it both ways--gritty realism coupled with a goofy master-planned fantasy kingdom

Although it's not quite a retcon so much as an expansion, Ultima VI also goes beyond the originals by giving specific portraits and personalities to your NPC companions. Geoffrey becomes a bit of a drill sergeant, Dupre a womanizing, boozing adventurer; Julia a bleating woman with calloused hands who looks more than a little like Julie Brown. I honestly don't remember my reaction to these personalities the first time I played the game back in 1990 or 1991. I generally find them welcome now, though if you'd spent a lot of time imagining your own personalities for the NPCs in the previous games, you might not like the contrast.

I went through more effort getting to Minoc to take this screenshot than was worth it. And I'm not sure how rumors got there ahead of me, since I used the moonstone.

If I have misgivings about the game world, though, I have none about the gameplay experience. The interface for the Ultima series has always been state-of-the-art (at least when it comes to a top-down view). Ultima V had one of the best game engines I've ever played, and yet Ultima VI manages to improve upon it. The game uses both a mouse and keyboard, but in a comfortably redundant way so you can choose what works best for you. The world is still tile-based, but movement around it is quick enough that it feels fluid (having the characters face the direction they're moving helps with this illusion). The paper-doll inventory is extremely easy to use. You can LOOK at any object or person to get more information, and interact with a lot of the objects. The multiple keyboard commands from the previous games have been consolidated into about a dozen (LOOK does both looking and searching; USE handles opening, jimmying, and other actions).

I loved how you could interact with the Ultima V game world by moving things around, locking doors, playing a harpsichord, and so on. VI continues and expands on this tradition in a hundred ways. There are books to read (not as verbose as those in The Elder Scrolls, but still good), paintings to look at, and dozens of objects of furniture to move around (which might reveal hidden items beneath them). You can shatter mirrors by attacking them, look at clocks and sundials to get the time, pull decorative swords, paintings and torches from the walls, break doors and chests with a weapon, rob graves, play a variety of instruments, and douse fires. There are a billion little items--bouquets of flowers, knives, spatulas, rolling pins, cooking sheets, pitchers, mugs, bottles, gavels, pliers--most of which do nothing but add some flavor to the game world in a way that all those inkwells and embalming tools do to Skyrim. The game offers one of the first "sandbox" worlds that we have seen in RPGs.

Moving a bouquet of flowers isn't a great example of this, but I haven't gotten far into the game yet.

The game preserves the dialogue system of the previous two Ultimas while allowing an option that highlights keywords so you don't have to try absolutely everything (purists can easily turn this off). It also preserves the day/night cycle of V, with NPCs going to work, bed, and places in between at appointed times. V and VI remain the only games that do this in my chronology (before you say The Magic Candle, it's not quite the same; those NPCs just disappeared and appeared at certain times; they didn't move around).


Starting with this game, you no longer "enter" cities, keeps, and such; they're integrated into the game world. Dungeons are now top-down instead of first-person, and there's a lot more to see, do, and find within them. There's also no real separation between regular exploration and combat, and since it takes place on the regular screen, you can establish yourself in helpful terrain ahead of time, even altering the terrain with objects.

Perhaps the best part is the ability to take control of a single party member at any time. Different party members can be in different places accomplishing different things, and indeed many of the puzzles rely on this. For combat, you can decide whether you want to control the individual actions of party members or have them fight on their own with predetermined scripts (attack forward, attack the flank, attack the rear, etc.).

In total, I think it's one of the best interfaces ever designed for a CRPG. If it lacks some of the graphic sophistication of more modern games, it more than makes up for it with the ability to interact with objects and NPCs in ways that we no longer see. My only real complaints are that the game window is just a little too small, which makes it all the more infuriating when night falls. This is one of the few games in which trying to accomplish something in darkness is about as realistic as it is in real life, and the game mechanic actually encourages you to just go to bed.

Night falls as the party tries to navigate around some buildings.

Ultima VI begins with a partly-animated sequence in which the Avatar sitting at his home on Earth, "five seasons" after the events of Ultima V. He's got that famous pole-dancing centaur woman (with zebra legs, to make it odder) on his wall, and he's mindlessly flipping through TV channels. The animation here is fun, showing commercials for some digestive medicine and a razor, a news report that alters between a plane crash and something to do with the Soviet Union, a rock video, and a televangelist who gets struck by lightning while soliciting donations. The Avatar is missing his friends and adventures in Britannia.

The number at the bottom of the screen is Origin's.

Suddenly, there's a storm outside and lightning strikes the ground in the midst of the circle of stones where the moongate has appeared in the past. The Avatar heads outside to investigate and finds a small obsidian stone--the same type of thing that Lord British used to banish Blackthorn in the previous game. Then, a red moongate appears. The Avatar is hesitant because the moongate has always been blue in the past, but when it starts to disappear, he decides screw it, and runs on through, his long hair flopping along behind him.


He emerges on a "desolate plain" next to a "rune-struck altar." Before he can react, a bunch of gargoyles surround him, chanting. They bind him to the altar stone and one of them whips out a sacrificial dagger. Just as he's about to plunge it into his heart, another moongate appears and Shamino, Dupre, and Iolo pop out, nailing the gargoyle leader between the eyes with a crossbow bolt as they enter the plain.


They cut the Avatar's bonds, hand him a sword, and haul him back through the moongate to Lord British's throne room. Unfortunately, some of the gargoyles follow through the portal, so the gameplay itself begins in the middle of a battle.

Characters can be created anew or imported from Ultima IV or V. If you create a new character, you go through the whole gypsy virtue test again, answering a series of hypothetical questions to identify your overall bent, which affects your starting attributes. The questions are different from the previous games, and I somehow ended up prioritizing "spirituality," which would have made me a ranger in Ultima IV, but it has less of an impact here since there are only three NPC professions (fighter, bard, and mage) and the PC is always just an "Avatar."


You can also choose your sex during character creation, and assign a portrait that includes among its selections one black PC, so perhaps what I said above about the PC being a long-haired white male isn't quite true; he's just portrayed that way in the game introduction. I guess they had to choose something as the default, but I don't see why they couldn't have done the intro from a first-person POV without actually showing the PC.

Against all odds, I still had my save game files from Ultima V, and I found that transferring the character gave me significantly higher strength (28 vs. 21), dexterity (28 vs. 22), and intelligence (29 vs. 19), as well as a higher magic point total (58 vs. 38), though some of these differences may have been due to different choices with the gypsy. The transfer process reduced me from Level 7 to Level 3, but on the plus side, I was able to change my name to my new preferred PC name, and I was still able to select my own character portrait.

The available character portraits. I had to go with the black guy as having the only respectable hairstyle. You also have to admire how he just straps that ankh to his forehead. No doubts about who's the avatar in this room.

The beginning of the game, in which you have to defeat the gargoyles who followed you into Lord British's throne room, is not its finest hour. The player is just getting used to the controls, and he already has gargoyles whaling on him. Lord British, Nystul the Mage, and Geoffrey the Fighter (now promoted to Lord British's guard captain) just stand there and watch. You'd think Lord British could help quell an invasion of his own throne room, given that he's effectively immortal.

The opening scene.

When you first talk to Lord British, he greets you by name, but then immediately runs through a copy protection exercise in which you have to answer questions from the manual, all under the guise of "I must make sure it is thee."

After this slight fumble in the opening, though, the game immediately starts being fun. Lord British relates how the underworld has collapsed and the gargoyles (he uses the term right away) have started to invade Britannia through the dungeons. They've captured all the shrines to the eight virtues.


Lord British tells me that he's set aside some quarters in the castle for me, along with some equipment, and he--at last!--gives me free reign to take anything else from his castle that I might find useful. He's come a long way from the guy who used to make me buy hit points. He also notes that the obsidian stone I found is a portal stone, and if I experiment with various placements around me, I can fast travel to various locations in the game world. More on that next time.

I get a couple of quests almost immediately. Geoffrey recounts a failed attempt to liberate the Shrine of Compassion and suggests I speak to the wounded survivors of the battle, who are recuperating in Cove. I guess Geoffrey had more important things to do than to stay with them. Nystul the mage (named after RPG developer and onetime Origin employee Mike Nystul) has a look at the book I recovered from the gargoyle leader and suggests I take it to Mariah in the Lycaeum for translation. Since Cove is comfortably on the way from the castle to the Lycaeum, my initial route is clear, but I need to finish exploring the castle and Britain (now essentially one big city) first.

I didn't get very far into the gameplay in this posting, but I wanted to get my misgivings about the world and the Avatar out of the way first, so I can just ignore them and enjoy it from here. I've won the game two or three times before, the last time in (I think) 1999. Those 15 years put me in the sweet spot of having forgotten most of the game's details (particularly its puzzles), but still remembering enough to know that I'll enjoy it.


179 comments:

  1. Game of the year 1990 and my favourite Ultima.

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    1. Yup. One of the best 2 or 3 RPGs ever too!

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    2. It may very well be GOTY, though I wish there were more games giving it a run for its money.

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    3. Well, looking at the list for 1990, for me only Wizardry 6 and Tunnels&Trolls come close.

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    4. Hey, how about Secret of the Silver Blades? You like Gold Box games... ;)

      (I want to see if you actually get through the ice caves or give up in disgust.)

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  2. It's a great game, although not my favourite for various reasons. I never really enjoyed the interface, especially after playing Ultima VII.

    There are lots of fan projects for U6 to check out too, in various stages of development. http://ultima6.ultimacodex.com/

    One to check out in particular is Nuvie, which is an attempt to completely overhaul the engine and UI, whilst maintaining an authentic look and feel for U6. Progress has been quite slow though, so I don't think it's quite ready for people to use. http://nuvie.sourceforge.net/

    I based my Minecraft texture pack mostly on U6 sprites (the rest were taken from U5 and U7). Unfortunately I haven't been keeping it up-to-date, but perhaps if I have some free time I may go back to it.

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    1. Nuvie is in a playable state.I've finished the game using it.

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    2. Ah cool! I assumed that it wasn't since it's at version 0.4!

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    3. Thanks for these links, Andy. I didn't realize there was so much going on in the fan world. For a while, I followed a promising-looking U4 remake, but EA sent them an injunction and they shut it down. I'm not sure why all of these persist.

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    4. I can never tell what attitude a company will have towards fan-projects. EA seem to have been generally okay as far as Ultima goes (there's a page on the Ultima Codex website for each Ultima game and it's fan-creations).

      Ultima 5 and U6 both had full remakes as mods for Dungeon Siege, and they seem to have allowed that. There's also projects to recreate various Ultima games in the Exult engine.

      So long as EA aren't going to give us any proper Ultima games, playing the originals or fan-creations is the only way to get that fix. I was always surprised that the success of The Elder Scrolls didn't lead to an Ultima Underworld revival.

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    5. If the U4 remake you're thinking of was The Dawn of Virtue, it wasn't an injunction. The project lead contacted EA asking for official sanction to do the remake, EA said they couldn't do this -- though they never said 'cease and desist'. I know because I was on the tDoV team ;)

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    6. I should add that the project shut down because Jaakko (our lead) wasn't willing to continue if EA wasn't willing to give an official blessing, which honestly was never going to happen. The most other projects got out of trying to contact EA was silence.

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    7. Thanks for the correction. That is indeed the one I was thinking about.

      I remember the engine looked very promising. The site had all kinds of articles about the intricacies of developing dialogue and a good combat system. But I know development was dragging well beyond the anticipated date. Since EA's response was so weak--a refusal to offer a blessing instead of a demand to stop, and you had to prod them even for that--was the cancellation of the project really motivated by EA's response? Or was it more of a convenient excuse to pull the plug on something that was dragging on and consuming too much time anyway?

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    8. To be honest, it's hard to really know. The final decision was Jaakko's alone, and he fully intended to create his own game if EA didn't respond the way he wanted. The engine was all his, and much like the Ultima I: A Legend is Reborn project it felt a little like an excuse to stop working on a remake and instead try to create an original game, albeit with the (possible) support of people who'd been roped in hoping to do something Ultima-related.

      I don't know if anything ever came of Jaakko's intentions either; while I was asked to stay on as a dialogue writer I declined so I could focus on UV: Lazarus' writing.

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    9. Jeez, EA was desperately trying to do the right thing. Silence despite repeated prodding is the best possible outcome. Getting top executives to agree? Will never happen. Either the guy was dangerously naive or he wanted to quit and found an excuse.

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    10. Well, Ubisoft had no trouble giving an official blessing for an "unofficial" M&M game that even used lots of graphics from M&M6-8, I wonder why EA couldn't do the same.

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    11. I'm not familiar with Dawn of Virtue, but I suspect that EA decided not to give their official blessing because they had no control over the project.

      As for why the dev lead for DoV decided to stop working on it, I can say from my own perspective (being a developer-hobbyist of my own line of CRPG games), it takes a huge amount of time and commitment to write a CRPG game. About halfway through a project, I tend to have an extreme amount of contempt for the game that I'm making but I still have to keep going because I don't want all of my work to go to waste.

      If I didn't have bills and any responsibilities (like say if I was that proverbial unemployed guy living in his mom's basement), I'd love to be able to devote all of my free time to developing even more CRPG games.

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    12. Unfortunately, a lot of people are downloading the 0.4 release of Nuvie instead of the snapshots. We are almost at a release and have a lot of improvements and some critical fixes for new (formerly fullscreen_map) style. There are also new paperdolls by HiPhish.

      There is also original+ and original+_full map which use the original interface, get rid useless background, and support resolutions greater than 320x200. I just added joystick (controller) support and being able to navigate menus with keyboards and joysticks (along with lots of unmentioned interface improvements).

      I added a forum post with some screenshots and some basic settings people might want to change. http://nuvie.sourceforge.net/phorum/read.php?1,1557

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    13. Because of this...
      http://www.ultimaforever.com/

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    14. If at least the game wasn't this bad... But it's far from being something worthy of an Ultima player. To rub salt in the wound, it's not even available to PCs and is best played on tablets.

      I miss the online Ultima4 myself, it was fn to play it thru my browser via flash. At least xu4 got most of the inovations from that project and is a blast to play.

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    15. In related good news.

      http://www.gamepolitics.com/2014/02/13/ea-shut-down-lord-ultima#.UwTyWh-NRw5

      Now if only we can keep microtransaction out of his new avatar game.

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    16. The direction that Shroud of the Avatar went has pissed me off so much that I wish I could get my money back.

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    17. What exactly happened with that game to piss you off?

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    18. All the updates I've been getting about the game have been stressing its MMORPG credentials and other online features rather than its single-player campaign. I guess it's still going to have one, but you wouldn't know it from the updates. Its early launch was in multiplayer mode only. Etc.

      I wanted a decent single-player campaign that exemplified the spirit of the 1980s Ultima games, not Ultima Online, Part II. I realize there's a large number of players who disagree with me and I guess that's where the game had to go financially, but it still pissed me off.

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  3. Personally, I thought the comment on the portraits was in questionable taste at best.

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    1. I removed one bit of it that I think could have been open to misinterpretation.

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  4. Aw, I wish you hadn't. I don't think the comment was at all disrespectful; it was good-natured and hilarious.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Okay, so we don't have to continue this thread, I originally made a comment to the effect that many of the character portraits (I was speaking specifically about the male ones) looked like they were designed for a gay protagonist. (Naturally, I didn't use the term "queer" or anything like it.) It was an inappropriate comment, and I thought better of it and deleted it when skeezix said something.

      Whatever you think about it, PLEASE just let it end there. Don't make this comment forum about a throwaway comment in a caption.

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  5. Welcome back from the shark cage, Gideon! Considering that I’ve always pictured you as the spitting image of the carefully-coifed dude with the goatee to your character’s right, I find your characterization that the other portraits are “options for gay players” as questionable as Dr. Cat’s zebra centaur fetish. Seriously though, that stuff about avatars strapping ankhs to their foreheads like the Mark of Lord British’s Beast is a comedy gold ingot. You could take this post on the road to the Chuckles Hut in East Brittany or Minoc’s Laugh Smithy.

    I will initiate the hand-waving from canon and fanon by suggesting that if the Ultima VI Britannian cosmology is conceptualized as a cloth map (as poor Iolo was sacrificed to prove…), then Sosaria could indeed be visualized as Britannia from the reverse side with some heavy laevorotation and, you know…earthquakes and tsunamis. Exhibit A: the resemblance of the lower SW corner of Sosaria to Lost Hope Bay with the lake to the north resembling Lock Lake (The map at http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/staff/m.dodge/cybergeography/atlas/ultima_large.jpg assists in the visualization of this plate reversal and anti-clockwise rotation).

    Finding your update this evening emerging from the dregs of the Edu-Ware nether realms to the eternal lands where Mariah awaits in Moonglow to translate esoteric tomes was an eagerly-anticipated moment of triumph. Although this realm’s Julia may resemble a semi-forgotten MTV icon rather than the John Lennon-inspired mythological goddess she rightly embodies, through your post I am basking once again in the land of the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom (an aside for Guided by Voices fans of the Ultima series: note the resemblance of the Codex and its Halls to the “Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory” http://www.gbv.com/oldgbvsite/lyrics/beethousand.html).

    In anticipation of the day several years from now when you post your initial assessment of Deathlord (1987), and find it wanting in all categories, including its NPCs, I remain a long-haired hippie fan of Sherry the Mouse and the CRPG addict. We are well-met on the path.

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    1. Wow. You really put a lot of effort into this. I'm afraid "welcome back from the shark cage" goes completely over my head, though. To answer a few things:

      1. The bit about the maps seems like a prime example of apophenia. It would be interesting to hear from someone at Origin whether they considered the old map of Sosaria at all when developing the map for Britannia.

      2. By Julia looking like Julie Brown, I didn't mean DOWNTOWN Julie Brown. She doesn't look anything like her. I was talking about the comedy actress who appeared in films like the tragically non-sequeled Earth Girls Are Easy.

      I picked up Sherry early in the game. I remember the bit about needing her to solve the rune puzzle. I'm sure most players ditch her after that, but I think I'll try to keep her in my party for the whole game.

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    2. I believe that is a reference to coming out of the game "Interstellar Sharks".

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    3. Duh. Sometimes I can't believe the stuff I don't pick up on.

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    4. I didn't get it either.

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    5. Yeah, keep that little shrew around.

      Get her to level up at the Shrine of Valor, die to lose a level, and then level up again in the same Shrine till her Strength goes beyond 20 for one of the most fearsome godly rodent armed in Magic Plate and Magic Ax ever to traverse the lands of Britannia.

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    6. Yes Kenny. Then we can pit Sherry vs Boo the minurature giant space hamster to see who shall rule!

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    7. And if it's a stalemate, it would be up to Minsc and the Avatar to duke it out. Okay... pretty lopsided there.

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    8. Ditching Sherry? No way. Having a tiny mouse killing gargoyles with a boomerang is comedy gold (she probably can't ever wield bigger weapons unless you focus all the level ups on Str).

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  6. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday I consider Ultima 6 to be the best RPG ever.
    On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I give that title to Ultima 7 part 2
    On Sundays, it's Darklands.
    :)

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    1. I share that sacred Sunday Tradition - if only because Darklands is the only video game ever to actually feature my hometown :D
      The first half of my week, however, is occupied by Ultima Underworld 2, I'm afraid.

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    2. I think Ultima VII is better than Serpent Isle and The Stygian Abyss is better than Labyrinth of Worlds. I'd also pick U5 over U6. But that's just me...

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    3. Same here, U5 was my favorite.

      I do wish someone would remake U3 with unified inventory/gold to make it more playable as well, as I kinda liked that one too.

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    4. I confess to not being a fan of U5, the combat system, all the dungeons and the Underworld ruined it for me.

      Despite all its virtues U7 lacked immersion. Some times it felt like a social game instead of a fantasy game. Serpent Isle gave it that plus all the unexpected events.

      UW2 is a bit linear and some times it seems developers ran out of imagination "hmmm to which world will we throw the avatar into after this one?"

      As for Ultima 6, it's just flawless. I'm not saying other games didn't do a few parts better, but U6 just has no weak spot.

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  7. Well, the disappearance of non-human races clearly suggests that the cataclysms took their toll on the ecosystem.

    Also, didn't Hero Quest have NPC schedules too? I don't remember that one exactly, but later titles in the series clearly did.

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    1. It did, but like The Magic Candle, they were binary things: the character was in his assigned place during the day and somewhere else (or just gone) at night. These two Ultima games are the only ones I know (so far) where the NPCs have a permanent existence at all times, actually walking from one place to the other, going to bed, taking time for meals, and so forth.

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  8. A great read as always my friend!
    I love how expansive and detailed the world of Ultima is, even though it has a "few" inconsistencies it still remains as one of my favorites.
    Keep it up! :)

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  9. second best ultima next to 3! It also ups the tedium quite a bit imo. but the living world is so much more here than anything that came before it.

    last ultima for the c64 too. it was pretty epic on that but with a vga card + adlib? woooooowsers.

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    1. And the last for the Amiga as well. They REALLY took a few liberties with the C-64 version. But it did show that there was enough of a C-64 market to put out one last Ultima. I wondered back in the day, why they didn't have extra options or such for C-128 users like they did with U5 and the music. Also shows you that the Apple market was basically over for Origin as U6 did not find its way on any Apple computer (II series, IIGS or Mac) I worked at Electronics Boutique back in the late 80s early 90s and I can still remember opening the shipment box and seeing this game looking back at me and then buying it on the spot. The last game to do that before U6 was Wasteland.

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  10. "Then there's the Avatar. Not only is it unnecessary to make him the hero of the first three games, as if the Sosarians and Britannians are so inept they always need outside help to solve their problems"

    "Buy Ultima VI, you have some weird picture of a pole-dancing centaur girl on your wall, you're inescapably a white male with long brown hair."

    Straight white male saviour, comes to pacify our wilderness and civilize our world, kill all the 'monsters', make us all safe. Eh. I think with the development of technology Garriot could with every installment flesh out his stories more and more, and sometimes to their detriment. We can see the possibly unconscious symbolic undercurrents in every newer game with increasing clarity. For all we know, the avatar had a pole dancing centaur poster in earlier Ultimas but the graphics weren't advanced enough for them to fit it in there.

    When the symbolisms of a piece of literature run away from the author, it's a clear sign that the author is not very skilled (Twilight comes to mind). We can say many positive things about Garriot as a game designer but I doubt anyone would recommend him on his literary strengths.

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    1. I don't think it's fair to blame it all on Garriot's supposed literary talent (not that I'm suggesting it's all that great).
      Technology quite clearly has a role in the stories he was able to tell - to say nothing about his abilities as a video game programmer, which goes hand in hand with the technology aspect, kinda, seeing how it took a long time to establish all the tropes and conventions of RPGs as a genre. What Chet decries as "lazy handwaving" RE: Ultima I-III is, to me, a very understandable attempt at creating a more involving game world, continuity be damned.
      Still, I think it's incontestable that the Ultimas IV-VII - despite all their narrative shortcomings - stand out among early CRPGs (and even most *modern* CRPGs, really) in terms of story and plot - if only because because they are among the very few who actually take story and plot *seriously*, beyond simple aping of Tolkien. Or aping ridiculous, long-running Telenovelas, if we're talking about JRPGs.

      You are quite right about the "runaway symbolisms", though. For a guy who put killable children into cages just to make a point, or made a game whose box-art was nothing but a flaming pentagram, Richard Garriot sure as hell doesn't understand the implications of some of what he's written/created. And I'm saying that as a straight white male with long brown hair.

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    2. Why are you so sure Avatar's straight? That dancer might very well be a drag queen ;)

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    3. Dressing up as a zebra would not be drag, technically, but some sort of furry fetish.

      InnerPartisan: These games might have interesting stories and plot, more than most other contemporaneous games, but there's a difference between plot/story and what a story means. I'm sure you agree, I just wanted to underline this because it seems a lot of fandom conviniently forgets this, and when their favourite games are on the recieving end of criticisms for symbolism, tone or subtext, they rush to say stuff like "it makes sense that this is like that in this game because this and that [in-story] reason". It's as if continuity and consequence is the measure of literary worth.

      And perhaps for pulp fantasy, for 13 year olds, that's indeed all that matters, that a world seems immersive and it grabs you and holds your attention as if it is real and exciting.

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    4. There's the "tranimal" drag subgenre - which isn't as fitting that dancer as the name suggests, but quite fitting nevertheless ;)

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    5. Getting back to your original point, InnerPartisan, I've mostly avoided using Garriott's name specifically because by the time of U3, he was working with a team, and it's hard to say who's responsible for what developments.

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    6. I personally think that, by U5, Garriot's main task in Origins is counting money.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZ70hbvaPdU

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  11. Yes, though it is undertheorized online, the shark cage pales in comparison to Sherry et al. It was hard to give too much credence to Mr. Mullich's mental state with UVI on deck.

    Brittanian apophenia is gargoyle synchronicity… No really, I get the Garriott hustle that is obviously in progress in 1990. I used to carry around the codex in my back pocket and think about how the 8 virtues link with the Buddhist 8-fold path, but it’s hard to reconcile that with the guy who bought his way into space issuing His Majesty’s Royale Kickstarter Quest (now at just under 2million USD and counting). Somewhere in a gratuitously topless dungeon, David W. Bradley blushes underneath a bushy mustache from the pretention.

    Kickstarting an Earth Girls Are Easy sequel, however, now that’s crowd sourcing well-spent. I was thinking about Julie Brown appearing on Remote Control, and downtown Julie Brown is a trip down memory lane, “Live at the palladium, in the place to be!”

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    1. Well, I owe you an apology. My knowledge of 1980s trivia has failed me. I didn't realize that BOTH Julie Browns appeared on MTV.

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    2. Red-headed Julie Brown had the video for "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," "Cause I'm a Blonde," and was the queen of Weird Al's kingdom, but don't feel too bad, stalwart addict: you're the one piloting this good ship that we all have the privilege of sailing on, and we'll follow you to the edge of the map. Hopefully, we will fare better than poor Iolo...

      But speaking as someone who once killed the entire population of New Magincia with a club, there is no apology necessary.

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  12. I don't think that the idea that the hero of the Ultima series is called the Avatar was to be taken as literally and metaphorically as you would like (?). The hero's name is the Avatar but it's not literally the avatar of a you, a person in the real world playing a computer game on your PC. I mean, they still let you pick the name, gender and portrait of your character. I said basically said the same thing last time we had an Ultima VI discussion but goofy centaur poster aside, I still think they intended the avatar to be as generic as possible because the avatar was the character that you created.

    I do agree that the Avatar in U4 should have stayed a different person than the heroes of the first 3 Ultimas.

    Actually going through your post, almost everything that you address was actually discussed during that thread on that game by Dr. Cat.

    Though replaying the game now, the most annoying thing is how small the actual gameplay screen is. In U4/5 the physical area of the gameplay screen took up almost as much as it did in U6 but in U4/5 the viewpoint was always more zoomed out. Though I remember in U5 at night without any lights it was almost as tough as in U6 to find you way around in the dark.

    Anyway, growing up as a huge Ultima fan I feel that most of these lore contradictions are nitpicky and the overall lore and characters and worlds in the series are so strong that it doesn't really make much of a difference.

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    1. Definitely agree that the lore contradictions and retconning in this game seem nitpicky, at least when compared to Ultima 9. So the world geometry changed from a torus to a plane... but at least the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom isn't laying out on some guy's table like an old copy of Life magazine!

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    2. I guess the problem is that I don't think the lore IS particularly strong. It certainly was in 1985, but it loses a bit of its luster as we enter the 1990s and begin to see examples of more complex storytelling. Britannia starts to look a little too cute.

      In any event, I disagree that the Avatar in Ultima IV is "not literally the avatar of you." I think the quotes in the game and the manual make it completely clear that's what the developers were going for, particularly the admonition at the end to take the eight virtues out of the game and into the real world and "be an example to thine own people." You don't think they chose "Avatar" for a reason? The figure that you move around the game world is literally YOUR avatar in Britannia. The term was meant to be understood on multiple levels, but by U6 they'd all been reduced to one.

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    3. "at least when compared to Ultima 9. "

      Good Lord, yes. "What is a Paladin?", anyone?

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    4. Actually you're right on the point that the avatar is supposed to be a representative of you but I feel that until maybe Ultima 8 or 9, the changes made to the character made him a bit more specific but left enough wiggle room so that it was still your character. Example, the unicorn in the house of the intro of U6 and the brown haired male in the intro or the blonde guy on the cover were just examples of what the Avatar could be and not the definitive image of the avatar. I mean the image on the box and in the game itself were totally different! Once you actually got in the game you could still give the avatar any picture, gender (except "other" from U3 maybe) and name and I felt that was always the true avatar. Obviously they couldn't create multiple boxes and intros for each and every potential avatar. Unfortunately the guy on the box of U6 eventually did become the "canon" image of the avatar but up until this time I believe they were still trying to stick to the basic concept that you described.

      Also, what other games by say, Ultima 7, in 1992 had lore that rivaled the Ultima series? Wizardry had no lore, and the "lore" of Might and Magic was basically a joke. Maybe it doesn't hold up to game series today that are specifically planned years in advance but at the time they really did "create worlds" and with the game itself, the documentation, the history of the world, characters, etc. was probably the most complete fantasy world created for a CRPG at the time.

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    5. Let's agree never to bring up U9 ever again... Until Chet has to play it, of course.

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  13. Since it's been quite a while since I played this (24 years.. wow), I may be mis-remembering BUT.... I think there is a quest at one point where you my take on a mouse as team member to infiltrate the kings room. If you keep the mouse, he eventually can equip plate armor and becomes the fastest and most powerful member of your team. I did it on a lark and turned out to be a bit of a spoiler/easter egg. SO much fun. It may have been intended, but since this option becomes so overpowered, I'm inclined to say it was just a untested result of letting you keep the mouse as a member.

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    1. You're thinking of Sherry, whom Chet mentioned picking up already. I did the same once out of boredom. She's a pain to grind up to any usable level -- if you want a real overpowered option, you can pick up Beh Lem early if you sneak through the Gargoyle plane at night.

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    2. The game isn't remotely hard enough to break the natural progression of the story to do that, though.

      I think I might like the challenge to keeping Sherry around. I don't know how she'd ever be able to wear armor, though. She has a strength of 1.

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    3. Level her up at a shrine! I was able to equip her with a helmet. Though in my head she was never *wearing* it...I was carrying her around in it. ;)

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    4. I remember playing this on my Amiga. I was never that crazy about it (too much walking around and talking). But I will always love Sherry the Mouse.

      I gave her a wand (which was light enough for her to carry) and in battles I always pictured her putting on the ground and running back and forth tugging on it to aim the thing.

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    5. Ah, I forgot that leveling up at shrines increases your attributes.

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    6. Being forced to have a useless, non-canonical, talking mouse join my party was definitely one of the lowest points in U6 for me and, I assume, another of Dr. Cat's contributions.

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    7. Er. What? How's Sherry any more or less canonical than the next NPC? She was hardly the only talking animal in the series.

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    8. Feh! Now you're probably gonna say that horses, wisps and gargoyles could talk! Spam, spam, spam, humbug!

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    10. I'm pretty sure Smith is the only talking animal prior to VI and he's a bit of an easter egg. To be fair, there aren't many animals at all in the games before VI, just monsters and a fair few of them do talk. There is a talking rat in V, though, but he's not really a rat, he's a mage that permanently turned himself into a rat.

      So no, I don't really see a basis for talking animals in Britannia. It's not Narnia, after all. Sherry's presence in VI (as more than a throw away joke like Smith) signals one of the biggest problems I have with the game, the way it brings in elements from other fictional universes that don't really fit in Britannia. Just my opinion.

      -Light Spoilers Ahead-

      And the whole quest with Sherry really bothers me. As I recall, to get the rune of valor, you have to get some cheese, talk to Sherry, get her to join your party, travel to Jelhom, use her to retrieve the rune. All this so that I can liberate the shrine from the *foreign invasion force*. You'd think I could just explain to the bar owner that I'm the freaking avatar and I'm saving the world and he would help me cut a bigger hole in the wall or something. Recruiting a useless, annoying talking mouse just doesn't seem like the optimal solution to this problem - it's more of a badly conceived adventure game puzzle...

      Don't get me started on the jerk who runs the artists' guild in Minoc.

      -End Spoilers-

      (removed comment was the same as this, but without the spoiler tags)

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    11. There was also Nate the Snake in U4; while uncommon, talking animals weren't unheard of before Sherry, and she certainly wasn't the last (e.g. Frank the Fox and Lasher in U7).

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    12. Yeah, for animals (and not including parrots or the U5 rat-mage) there's Nate the Snake in U4, Kador the dog in U6, Frank the Fox in U7 and Eustus the Vulture in U9. Then Smith and Sherry, of course.

      Like it or not, some animals in Britannia could talk. :p It's canon.

      As far as the quest of Valor in U6 went, if I remember correctly the whole point was that you're getting a weak, vulnerable creature (Sherry) to not only be brave enough to leave her home and travel to the other side of the world with you, but to go up against a giant freakin' rat to get the rune. It wasn't a test of the Avatar's valor; it was a test of Sherry's (and seen through your eyes, as you have to party-control her to enter rat's den).

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    13. Frank the fox? What does he say?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jofNR_WkoCE

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  14. Ah Chet, again you slay me. The thought put into your posts as well as their literary quality is amazing. I guess, though, since you have written (text?) books though by now your writing skills would be well honed. Still, the sheer quality of these posts is amazing. Well worth the money paid and by Hemshaw you should be paid for them. Huzzah.

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  15. Come to think of it all of the old games have really small screens and sometimes I wonder how the heck we managed to play these games when screen estates were so small.

    Also "odder" is that proper english ?

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    1. And *I* get called out for "nitpicking."

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    2. They're "small" because pixel density has massively increased. Playing at 320x200 on a 14 inch monitor wasn't bad at all.

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    3. I had to ask because I've studied "English as a 2nd language" for 12 years and I never even thought of making a word "odder". :-)
      For some strange reason that word feels too "artificial" if you get what I mean.

      As for screen estates I mean that even when we consider the technical aspects and play on correct resolution they still feel "small" compared to what could be fit to screen but then again games like times of lore on c64 were already on their limits when it came to screen scrolling.

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    4. In my opinion, the reason the view-able area of the game world in VI feels so small is not because it takes up so little of the monitor's real estate; it's because the geography of the game world can't be comfortably displayed in that area.

      In Ultimas IV and V, a city took up one square of space on the overland map. You always knew where a city was and how it fit into the surrounding land. Similarly, in towns, buildings tended to be small enough that their entire space could be fit onto the screen at once. This gives the player a good sense of scale and aids navigation.

      In VI, on the other hand, most buildings are much bigger than the space that's available for viewing. As a result, it's much harder to get a sense of a town's layout or the geography of an area (Trinsic is a notable exception). It's difficult to tell where cities like Moonglow and Skara Brae even begin and end - some buildings are flung far away from the body of the towns. To me, this makes exploring cities rather tedious and adds to a sense of never really getting your bearings or knowing where you are. Several times in VI, I missed talking to an important NPC simply because their location in the game world was not telegraphed and no other NPCs told me where to find them.

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  16. At least they didn't go with that classic ret-con strategy of "It was all a dream"...
    It was 1990, we should be thankful the characters didn't all sport mullets and moustaches.

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  17. Your comments on Ultima's long-running and sometimes snarled continuity make me think of the Might & Magic series' continuity. Early MM games were set on separate worlds in a shared universe (Varn, Cron, Terra, Xeen). Adventures on other worlds in the shared universe combine into an ongoing mythology throughout the Heroes of Might & Magic turn-based strategy games, and even the RPG/Puzzle hybrid spinoff "Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes" has a story that supposedly fits into the complicated chronology.

    Then there's the long-running MMORPG World of Warcraft, which notoriously retcons events or adjusts its story specifically to serve gameplay... some of the changes to its lore make the alterations in the Ultima series appear slight indeed. (The Eredar are 100% evil! No, wait, let's retcon this little group of Eredar into a virtuous, playable race. We'll call them "Draeni".)

    BTW, I'm looking forward to more nuts-and-bolts gameplay descriptions in the next few posts. Do you still have to micromanage food in Ultima VI?

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    1. It's paradoxical, I guess. I don't nitpick M&M's world because it's too confusing to even identify the contradictions (if there are any). The Ultima series tries harder to build a more coherent game world, which of course opens it up to more problems.

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    2. M&M's world has the advantage that the 'lore' in the sense of how the world ultimately works, is *designed* to fade into the background for most of the game, until the bad guy turns out to be a mis-programmed robot or something. They can happily tell stories of kings and queens, etc., or have the world invaded by 'demons' who turn out to be a species of alien.

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  18. Nice to see you get to Ultima six. I wonder.. are there are ultima games that you have -not- played yet that you are looking forward to?

    Also, are you aware that some fans made an online version of Ultima six?

    http://ultimasixonline.thezogcabal.com/

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    1. 1. Not really. The two Worlds of Ultima games sound really dumb, so I can't say I'm looking forward to them. I tried to play a little of VIII maybe 10 years ago and didn't like the interface. I never tried IX, but I hear it's not very good. All the others--VII, the two Underworld titles--I've played.

      2. No, I didn't know about that one. I guess it looks good, but I'm not tempted to switch to it.

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    2. I tried to play one of the Worlds of Ultima games once but they used a really gimped version of the U6 engine and it was just awkward to play. I mean usually when you have a game that uses the same engine as another game it will play the same, or they will make some improvements to it, but in this case the U6 engine got WORSE. I have heard that Martian Dreams is the good one though.

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    3. I would like to suggest that you may enjoy the worlds of Ultima games more than you imagine. Both Savage Empire and Martian Dreams are fairly unusual, and more of a step towards sci-fi than fantasy, but a lot of work was put into both story wise and there are noticeable engine improvements over Ultima Six. By the way, I once interviewed Warren Spector for an online ultima fanzine I was running as a teenager (it was terribly amateur but fun to do), and Martian Dreams is one of the games he is most proud of.

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    4. That's good to hear. I hope so.

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    5. Savage Empire is a mess, in my opinion, but Martian Dreams is interesting. It continues the story of Ultima 5 in a rather unexpected way. I won't give you any spoilers, but it might be something to look forward to.

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    6. I loved Martian Dreams back in the day. Savage Empire I got recently when they released it free on GoG, but I was turned off pretty quickly by the manual's content and the forced male Avatar. :(

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    7. Martian Dreams has the best ending of an RPG ever. No spoilers!

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    8. Funny timing, I started reading this blog post alongside the Saturday Crapshoot about Martin Dreams (Don't read this Chet): http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/08/10/saturday-crapshoot-ultima-martian-dreams/

      Speaking of which, there is a quote I want you to read and explain to me Chet, without having to read the article and get spoilers:

      "As with the other Ultima games, the hero is the Avatar - a hero from our world who regularly heads into the land of Britannia to solve its problems, from giving the people a symbol to look up to, to preventing justice being perverted and turned to evil, to ending a race war, to finding each and every person responsible for the new iOS game Ultima Forever and kicking them hard in the nearest available genitals. (If you haven't played that F2P abomination, consider my review less a series of specific criticisms as the taste and sensation of sick. It's one thing to know a classic series you once loved is dead, quite another to see its corpse being used as a piñata. Playing it is to wish they'd taken the license and done something more respectful with it. Like Ultima Kart.)"

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    9. I'm not sure what you want me to explain. I haven't investigated Ultima Forever, so I don't know what it's like.

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  19. A particularly weird part of the daemon/gargoyle retcon was that there were still daemons around in VI as well, as the same magic-summonable mute monsters they were in Ultima V, and nobody comments on this. And there have been evil otherdimensional daemons in every Ultima since (VII had no daemon mobs, but it had the guy you bound in your stormbringer), though you don't see gargoyles in Pagan or the Underworlds.

    You can find more Ultima VI weirdness if you can get a copy of Shay Addams' Official Book of Ultima from somewhere. It was written when VI was in development, and Addams had a chapter on following the development process. As I remember, there were a bunch of things that were different from the game we ended up with. Addams had multiple references of the gargoyles being blue instead of red. At one point he described how the player can enter a locked house by climbing to the roof and breaking the ceiling down, when the actual game is extremely two-dimensional and doesn't even have the second floor levels of V.

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    1. I should have bought that book a long time ago. It would have been fun to reference it after completing IV and V. I'll see about getting hold of it.

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    2. There are gargoyles in...U6, U7 and U7p2. Sin'Vraal is shown as a daemon in U5 and a gargoyle in U6. While you don't encounter gargoyles as a creature type in the Underworlds, Lord Draxinusom is both mentioned and seen in a dream the Guardian sends you.

      The 'stone' gargoyles in U5 could be akin to the stone harpies of U7 -- basically animate statues with a different appearance and name. The description for stone harpies in the bestiary even says the name is a misnomer and refers to any animate statue regardless of form.

      Hard to know whether it was a retcon, though at the end of the day it looks like gargoyles and daemons ended up being treated as two different species, even if no one ever acknowledges this in dialogue. I tend to agree it would have been more interesting if gargoyles *were* what Britannians had always called daemons. What about the moral implications of that Summon Daemon/Gargoyle spell then? Was Old Magincia destroyed by gargoyles? etc.

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    3. I fully agree with your last paragraph except that I think it was silly to call them "gargoyles" in the first place. It makes about as much sense as if they were called "dryads" or "minotaurs." I think it would have been much better if they'd kept calling them "daemons" but dealt with the ramifications of finding out that something as evil-sounding as "daemons" still aren't automatically evil.

      I don't remember whether this is addressed in the game, but presumably the gargoyles don't call THEMSELVES gargoyles, right? So one wonders where the term even came from.

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    4. I think you're misunderstanding. Gargoyles and daemons are two separate species, there was no retcon. The gargoyle similarity to daemons is part of the whole war of misunderstandings theme, Britannians believed them to be daemons when they weren't - this is repeated later on in Serpent Isle. As was pointed out, daemons exist in Ultima VI as well, alongside gargoyles.

      As for why they are called gargoyles, it's the Britannian bastardization of the gargish word for themselves, 'Gargl'.

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    5. I guess it's possible that Sin'Vraal is the only retcon. I had it in my mind that there were other inconsistencies.

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    6. Actually, don't you fight a bunch of daemons in the Abyss in U4 that are later retconned as gargoyles defending "their" Codex?

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    7. "I don't remember whether this is addressed in the game, but presumably the gargoyles don't call THEMSELVES gargoyles, right? So one wonders where the term even came from."

      If memory serves, they call themselves 'gargl' in their language (which was a bastardisation of latin for the most part). I agree that a more unique or interesting term could have been used, but I don't think names have ever been Lord British's strong point, sadly. ;)

      "I guess it's possible that Sin'Vraal is the only retcon. I had it in my mind that there were other inconsistencies."

      I'm sure there are. ;) You're right about U4, even if you can realistically headcanon that the Avatar thought everything with red skin and wings were daemons. After that you have to wonder how many daemons in early Ultimas were supposedly gargoyles. There was a daemon guarding Stonegate in U5 named Balonir. Was he a gargoyle like Sin'Vraal?

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    8. Balinor, not Balonir >.< (My kingdom for an edit button...)

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    9. I always though that it was a retcon that Daemons and Gargoyles were exactly the same thing and then in U6 you find out that the "Daemons" are not "Daemons" but an intelligent race called Gargoyles that just want to live in peace and harmony. If the Daemons and Gargoyles are different then why didn't Daemons appear in any other Ultima game after that? Or did they disappear like the Bobbits, Fuzzies and Dwarves?

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    10. Also, Sin'Vrall was a daemon in U5 and a gargoyle in U6. Hence, all daemons were really gargoyles. Though on the other hand since Daemons had been around for a long time, it would explain the panic over the "new" race of gargoyles appearing and taking over the shrines since if they were the same as daemons then people would know more about them.

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    11. Daemons appear in plenty of Ultimas after that. There are daemons in Ultima VI, Arcadion in Ultima VII, lots of daemons in Ultima Underworld II, plenty of them in Ultima VIII, and though I hate to bring up that travesty, more of them in Ultima IX.

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    12. Oh wait there were both daemons AND gargoyles in U6? I don't remember daemons in U6. Where were they? In the dungeons?

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    13. Yeah, in the dungeons. They looked sort of like wingless gargoyles, but were a deeper red and they were pretty tough. You could find them here and there, but the only place I remember them being for sure was the Shrine of Passion.

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    14. I don't know why I'm belaboring this, but it's not just a matter of the Avatar (or other Britannians) "confusing" gargoyles for daemons. The daemons you encounter in U4, as well as Sin'Vraal, act like daemons. In combat, they're capable of possessing party members and summoning others of their kind. Gargoyles can't do that.

      In worlds of expanding fiction, there are three ways to develop the world, plot, and lore:

      1. Know exactly what the world is about from the outset, but only reveal things slowly to readers/viewers/players. Think of A Song of Ice and Fire. George R. R. Martin already knows who Jon Snow's parents are and whether [insert character] is still alive. He'll tell you when he's good and ready. Babylon 5 was completely plotted from the first episode (though it had some minor adjustments due to the vagaries of actors).

      2. Come up with a new idea but make it "fit" with previous installments. This is the method of most serial television and games with sequels. I don't think the creators of Baldur's Gate II had it all plotted before they finished the first one, but the continuing adventures of the protagonist manage to build on the first game without contradicting it. A good early example is how Apventure to Atlantis built on Odyssey.

      3. Pull stuff out of the air and pretend it was that way all along. See: Midichlorians (and about half the other nonsense in the prequels), Lost, the four Cylons revealed at the end of the third season of Galactica, "I breathe now, in royalty, and reshape this land which is mine."

      There are plenty of times where #3 is excusable; certainly, we can't always expect creators of a series to foresee everything at the beginning. There are plenty of times where #3 actually looks like #2 or even #1. And there are times when it's crystal clear what the creators are doing, and that's the case with Ultima VI. There isn't the slightest hint that Sin'Vraal is a gargoyle in U5 because he isn't. No one had yet thought of the concept. And to me, the idea that Lord British made a daemon consider his own morality is much cooler than the idea that he's just a member of a different race.

      Delete
    15. Well yeah, Sin'vraal was a retcon, but he was also the only retcon (except possibly Balinor, but that was never stated). The daemons guarding the shrine of Humility in U4 were daemons, not gargoyles. Daemons elsewhere, daemons. Sin'vraal (and maybe Balinor!) was the only gargoyle encountered prior to U6. At the time of U5 I'm sure he was meant to be a daemon, that's not really in question.

      It's just important to remember that while there was a retcon, it was very minor and affected just one (maybe two!) characters. It's not a disaster, and although the idea of a redeemable daemon is an interesting one, I'm kind of happy toning down Lord British's godlike status some; he doesn't need to be virtuous enough to show a malevolent daemon the light, so to speak.

      Delete
    16. So we're agreed that it was a slightly clumsy retcon. ;) Perfectly in line with Ultima lore!

      Delete
    17. What about the shrines to Mondain, Minax and Exodus in the gargoyles' land? It's a silly enough concept that gargoyles just happen to look like some daemons, but do you think it's supposed to be a coincidence they revere the same three individuals that daemons famously followed? Linking the triad to gargish virtues seems an attempt to explain why members of this mostly benign culture entered their service.

      As for having both "daemons" and "gargoyles" around, just because I make friends with some raiders and start calling them Cherokee doesn't mean that raiders don't exist anymore.

      Delete
    18. The MM&E shrines were *weird*. Personally I couldn't see how they fit at all. It was as if some dev shoehorned them in as a weak link to previous Ultimas. I wouldn't call it a retcon, but I wouldn't call it logical either. :p In light of Sin'Vraal, perhaps shrines to the Shadowlords (or less extreme versions of them) would have made more sense.

      Delete
    19. I agree. We're getting strongly into spoiler territory here, but it really isn't very far into the game that you realize that the gargoyle's aren't actually EVIL, so it's a bit out of place that they regard Mondain, Minax and Exodus as exemplars of their principles of virtue. None of the previous games suggested anything remotely redeeming about the "Triad of Evil." It also doesn't make a lot of sense that the gargoyles know who they are or can recreate their likenesses. (Unless, of course, the gargoyles really ARE the "daemons" you encounter in those previous games, working for the Triad.)

      Delete
    20. Ultima 3 had Daemons and Gargoyles (and apparently Manes) which were just recycling the same monster icon (like Balrons, Orcus and Devils, or Skeletons, Ghouls and Zombies). All (land) monsters in U3 existed in trios of slightly increasing strength.
      I agree that there were several retcons and they just feel arbitrary.

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  20. This is one of the first CRPGs that I have vivid, complete memories of. I played many before this, but I was engrossed and enthralled by U6. It's one of the few games I started over immediately after beating it. So I will be intensely interested in following this. I remember this game being surprisingly glitchy - and not just the Sherry the mouse becoming mighty as Charlemagne type thing.

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  21. There is also that weird dungeon siege remake if anyone likes that sort of thing. http://u6project.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1 These guys made that Ultima V remake on the same engine.

    I'm most likely just going to go for the regular game on gog instead. Or, if I find the time, I'll play both.

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    Replies
    1. The Dungeon Siege remakes are excellent, especially Ultima V. It's like a whole new game, with new quests, characters, brilliant writing. Highly encouraged!

      Delete
  22. I'd hate to nitpick, but you need to revise your Ultima statement slightly... Ultima 5 may have been first to have schedules, but Windwalker also had schedules, and came after Ultima 5 but before Ultima 6, being released in 1989. (I don't know if Moebius, which came before Windwalker, also had NPC schedules.) In fact, to me having NPC schedules was what made Windwalker interesting...in general the game is average, nothing to write home about although also not horrible...but NPC schedules are one of the highlights. The fishermen sail all over, and most NPCs move around conducting their daily tasks. If I recall your write-up correctly, I don't think you found the monastery when you played through, but at one point you even become integrated with a group's schedule for the day and follow their routine before fighting yourself to cleanse your inner spirit before becoming a part of their monastic order (gaining the staff).

    Don't get me wrong, Ultima 5/6 are better games overall no doubt...and for other games at/near that caliber they are unique for their time in having NPC schedules, but it isn't entirely unique to the Ultima series up to this point.

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    1. I don't "need to" do anything but pay taxes and die.

      I had forgotten that about Windwalker. Nonetheless, it's a pale shadow of what we have in U5 and U6 where EVERY NPC has a daily schedule, and a complex one at that.

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    2. I like when you get snarky. It makes me feel right at home.

      Delete
    3. U7 and SI also have full NPC schedules, a la U5 and U6.

      Delete
    4. I agree, I was too strong in my original statement. I will say some of the Windwalker NPCs had very complex daily schedules as well. That said, I am in complete agreement with you that Ultima as a series and Ultima 6 as a whole is far better than Windwalker.

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    5. I would actually prefer my games to exist entirely in daytime.

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    6. There are some games where the nighttime is used to a strong narrative or aesthetic effect. I like how different NPCs and encounters appear in Baldur's Gate II depending on the time of day, for instance. Skyrim and the recent Might & Magic X are both quite pretty at night. None of these games try to obscure your visibility as the time changes.

      Delete
  23. And don't forget when talking to Iolo...

    Spam
    Spam
    Spam
    Humbug

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    Replies
    1. Well, that's an interesting Easter egg. I won't be using it, of course.

      Delete
    2. It would ruin the game. But when you finish, you may enjoy sniffing around for a few moments. I just remember finding out about back in 1990 when information was a little more difficult to come by :) For a then 19 year old, the temptation to use it was difficult to control.

      Delete
    3. Reading this code in the back of a Dragon Magazine blew my little mind, and I rapidly compiled an exhaustive catalogue of every one-tile object in the game's database. Strangely, after you got through them all, higher numbers started the count over again -- but this time, the objects were all also containers.

      I circulated the list as a BBS tfile. A friend was thrilled to find that by dropping tiles strategically he could use the item debugger as a map editor, and would go and build himself castles, tile by tile, out in the wilderness. He reports that NPCs would act as kleptomaniac garbage collectors, and would purloin his estate piece by piece.

      Delete
    4. Sorry, could you expand on what it does for those of us who don't know?

      Delete
    5. It brings up a cheat menu that lets you edit your characters, edit the party's status, or acquire any item in the game.

      Delete
  24. Question about your eventual GIMLET rating for "Game World".

    Will this game be judged on it's own internal game world, or will you grade it for how well it fits into the game series?

    I think it would be most fair to judge the game on its' own merits, as if you'd never played a prior installment, rather than oenalizing it for the inter-game inconsistency of the Ultima series as a whole.

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    1. Either way, it will do well. I guess I didn't make it clear, but it's only because the game world is so detailed that the inconsistencies I highlighted can be identified. I didn't mean to suggest that, on balance, it isn't a very good game world, just that it loses a bit of its luster (for me) by the time of U6.

      Delete
  25. 1) I couldn't bring myself to play U6 for very long. The problems for me: I HATED the interface. The actual game is taking place on maybe a third of the screen, and as soon as light levels drop off even a little bit? Ugh.

    2) As I understand it, Ultima Online explains the world differences between games, particularly 1-3, with the concept of shards: http://www.uoguide.com/Shards. The short version: Mondain's Gem was so powerful that its destruction split the entire world to pieces. Britannia was split off into its own shard, Serpent Isle into another. Presumably the events of U2 and U3 were also on different shards.

    The shard theory could also explain Shamino's extended life, for he is actually from Serpent Isle.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. #1: Yeah, a lot of people seem to disagree with me about the gameplay experience. I did note in my post that the interface window was too small and I hated when it got dark, but these things, while annoying, don't detract from its more positive aspects for me.

      #2: That's one of the dumbest things I've ever read. And, in any event, it's just another retcon. In U5 canon, the gem split into exactly three shards, giving rise to the Shadowlords.

      Delete
    2. I always thought the explanation in UO was just a way to explain why there were a bunch of "worlds" (servers) for Ultima Online.

      Delete
  26. I don't really mind that the Ultima series as a whole didn't really have strict continuity and they kept changing things around to fit Garriott's particular fancy at the time. I like the way the manuals tiptoe around the fact that Ultima II is supposed to literally take place on Earth. I suppose that if I were advising Origin Systems back in the day, I would have simply written the 'history' of U2 as something to the effect that Mondain's protege Minax had taken it upon herself to invade the hero's home world for revenge.

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  27. Played the game back in the early 90's. Having previously finished both Ultima IV and Ultima V, well.. this game was a disappointment. Didn't really like the new interface or the scaling of the world map. Combats were more fun in the earlier Ultimas, when the combats happened on a separate screen. Loading times with the c64 were just horrible. C64 also had bugs, for example one or two members of your party could just disappear from the screen.. and a while later you might find them helplessly trapped somewhere in the near mountains.

    Tried the game a few years later with a new Amiga and again with a pc in the late 90's. But it never had the charm of the earlier Ultimas. I still rank IV/V among the best crpg's, I-III and VI a few steps behind.

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  28. Wonderful discussion.

    My view of this is that Ultima was always evolving, both technically and story-wise.

    The origins were simpler and much dumber and thatwas not tried to be hushed over, but instead tried to be incorporated into the later games.
    I think this is a nice way of dealing with it.
    Granted, you break some things, but I always liked the idea of Mondain, Minax and Exodus having an additional value.

    I can only recommend the Spoony's Ultima Retrospective and the Roasting of Lord British, there are many points about this discussed there.

    (http://spoonyexperiment.com/game-reviews/ultima-retrospective/)

    and

    (http://spoonyexperiment.com/game-reviews/britannia-burns-richard-garriott-interview-part-1/)

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  29. Daemons are in several places in U6 - Shrine of Passion as mentioned previously; also as I recall you can find them in Destard and Hythloth, and also the dungeon under Sutek's castle if you go the wrong way. In dungeons they tend to be around lava pits. You can also summon them. An interesting thing to do (preferably while invisible) is to summon a daemon and watch it fight dragons. Better yet, summon some daemons around a bunch of dragons and then cast "confuse". This game gave a lot of freedom to do random and entertaining stuff like that.

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  30. Regarding the "smallness" of the game window - I believe it is about the same size (as percentage of screen) as in U5. The difference is that the tiles are bigger. This lets them have prettier, more detailed pictures. But now you can see maybe 4 tiles in each direction away from your character. Whereas in 5, with smaller tiles, you could see maybe 5 or 6 tiles away from your character. As mentioned, the lack of scale change combined with this "short view" does make it hard to get a sense of perspective. Another irritating feature is that monsters can often see you (and attack you) from well off-screen. I seem to remember sea serpents being very troublesome this way. You also tended to "hear" combat between assorted creatures from a distance (sometimes even the next dungeon over - you'd hear "cyclops heavily wounded!" "hydra barely wonded!") because the game was keeping track of monsters etc from much farther outside your field of view. As for me, I think I preferred the U6 prettier graphics with bigger tiles, vs seeing farther in front of me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that's exactly what it is. I never meant the literal size--the DOSBox window is the same size as every other game. It's the amount of stuff that fits in the window that's problematic.

      Delete
  31. Hi Chet. Love your blog. I've been a fan since day one. I'm particularly enjoying your analysis of The Ultima series. Just wondering (this is slightly off-topic) if you have any preference of setting in the CRPGs you play with regard to futuristic sci fi and medieval fantasy (the two heavyweights of the genre). Also, if you do indeed have a preference, does this also apply to the books your read and films you watch?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fantasy. I'm certainly not a strong fan of science fiction when it comes to books and film. (Most of what I like that's "sci-fi" is really space fantasy, like Babylon 5 and Farscape.) I've read some of the books that science-fiction fans often hold up as the best of the genre, and I usually feel like they're pretty dumb. (I'm not going to mention specific titles to avoid a flame session.)

      I've rated some science-fiction titles high, but all of my top favorites (including modern games) are fantasy.

      Delete
  32. The ultimate sandbox indeed. This was probably the best CRPG I ever played. The only problem was that you could play it only once in every 10 years.

    This world is full of stuff and characters. It has an imersive quality that is only broken when people, whom I do not remember, call out "hail avatar". Britain may seem a masterplanned community, but many tyrants and kings and done such things, though not as neatly as in a computer game.

    I agree that the Avatar concept was best left with IV. The lack of option with characters limits replayability.

    You are a good writer and think the opening here is your best yet.

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  33. Slightly off-topic, but I wanted to thank you, CRPG Addict.

    My first experience with Ultima was the NES version of Ultima 3. We rented it from Blockbuster for a weekend. It resembled Final Fantasy in some small ways, so that's what drew me to it. Still, it wasn't quite what I was expecting, so I didn't plead for my parents to buy it for me.

    Later (years later?) I became aware that Ultima was a much larger series and originally for computers, not consoles. I'm a chronic "completionist" (must play EVERY game in a series), so I looked at some screenshots of Ultima 1 and somehow concluded that it didn't look like fun. That was dumb of me, but we all have our moments.

    Fast forward in time some more to your blog. The way you and others spoke of the series convinced me that I was missing something. When they all went on sale as a big bundle at GOG about 1-2 years ago, I bought them. But I was working through all the Might & Magic stuff at the time, so I didn't play them.

    About three days ago I finally loaded up Ultima 1 and finished it last night. I started Ultima 2 immediately. I came in with low expectations, but I have to say... I'm enjoying it. It's very grindy, but I've always secretly enjoyed grinding.

    It's clear that I really did miss out on these games and that they do, in fact, deserve the reputation that they have (both the good and the bad). I feel like I'm in for a real treat as I work through the series.

    So really, thank you, CRPG Addict. Because of you, my CRPG gaming life has been enriched in a way it would not have been otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No problem. I'm glad I turned you on to the series.

      Delete
  34. Oh boy, Ultima VI. I've waited for this a long time! Best CRPG ever, besides Ultima VII.1, and maybe Morrowind (the best of the Elder Scrolls series IMHO), Baldur's Gate II, and the Ultima Underworlds!

    On to commenting:
    Somebody pointed out the famous spam-spam-spam-humbug cheat (more like a developer back door). I'd like to add some less cheat-y ways to get on in the game, which might still be considered exploits, but aren't exactly game-breaking:

    1. Cannon stealth kills. You can move cannon around and fire them at people. They don't call for help, and you don't lose karma when you kill them. One nice use for this is farming the Trinsic guards for platemail, halberds and gold.

    2. Animal grind. If you have problems leveling up your characters, kill animals. One runaround at Sutek's castle, outdoors, nets you a three-digit figure of XP. The two-headed animals here don't fight back too well, and they respawn once you go back to where you started. Best way to do this is with singular characters while the rest of the party waits at the castle entrance.

    3. Duplicating items. If you drop, say, a suit of magic armor on the floor, cast Animate on it, followed by Clone, you now have two suits of magic armor. You only have to kill them both if you want to de-animate them... works with most items in the game, including all the useful but rare stuff like rings of invisibility, glass swords (watch out for their attacks! A Paralyze spell might be helpful here), magic armor components etc. Expensive ingredient- and spellpoint-wise, though.


    Concerning Sherry: he's actually quite useful if you level him up some. At level 8 he can be at Str 22 if you always level him up at the shrine of valor (which yields +3 Str everytime you use it to level up). Even at much lower Str, he can be a useful party member if equipped with dual boomerangs, a ring of protection, a ring of invisibility, a magic helm and swamp boots. All this combined weighs little enough that you can do it at level 3, which takes like no time at all to get him to.

    I love Sherry, he's so cute! Much more interesting than most NPCs in the game (don't tell me you can say that much for Leodon, Katrina or Blaine!).
    The best NPCs to fill out your party would then be Seggallion (huge Str, can carry that skiff/balloon for you), Beh Lem (great at everything) and possibly Gorn (again, carrying capacity is just that important).


    Leveling up is something you should take some care about: usually, you only want to level up at the shrines of honesty (+3 int), compassion (+3 dex), and valor (+3 str). The shrine of humility gives +1 to all attributes, this can also be OK. ALL the other shrines merely grant +1 to two attributes, so it's better to skip them if you want to grow your characters' power.


    I usually like to get halberds for everybody (except Iolo, who sticks to crossbows for RP reasons) as soon as possible: the best weapon in the game for damage and convenience! This is only rivaled by dual boomerangs, but those are a bit harder to come by in good numbers.


    For later dungeons, it is highly recommended to have at least one Storm Cloak in your inventory at all times. Completely nullifies i.e. demon possession, sea serpent breath, reaper/gazer nonsense, dragonfire... good value. If you worry about using up the cloak, just animate-clone it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "She"... Sherry's a "She".

      Also, cannons and powder kegs can blast away any doors that does not require magic to unlock.

      Note: There's a bug that disallow casting of all 8th Circle Spell except the ultimate one provided by a certain something. I think a patch should do the trick.

      Delete
    2. Nitpick:

      The shrine of humility does of course not increase any attribute at all. It is humility after all.
      Spirituality increases each stat by one :)

      Delete
    3. I started my passion for Ultima, when Part 5 came out.Back then I didn´t mind the simple good/evil thing.It was a bit like in the golden age of comics, when the protagonists where simply heroes and not harbingers of revenge, driven by self-hate and doubts.The rich lore made me overlook such things.In my opinion, the story telling reached the top, with Ultima 7, showing the avatar fighting a dubious, Scientology-like "Brotherhood", that at first look seemed to help people.

      Delete
    4. Paul the part I liked best about your very informing and entertaining post is that after shooting guards with cannons to loot their armor, using item duplication glitches, grinding on hapless animals, adventuring with a talking mouse, and min-maxing your level-ups at shrines, you insist on keeping Iolo armed with a crossbow "for [role-playing] reasons."

      Delete
    5. I read somewhere you can get the 8th circle cells if you return to the Wisps the Lost Book of Mantras. Never worked for me though. The only way I was able to try out the 8th level spells like "Mass Kill" was to use the spam-spam-spam menu. I forget what item number the spell sheet is, but if you request that item, "quality 0" and move it to your spell book, you get all spells of all levels on a single sheet, at a weight of 0.1. If you actually do it the right way and buy each spell, each one weighs 0.1 so by the time you buy 50-60 spells your spell book weighs 5-6 stone - as much as a chain mail or other heavy object.

      Delete
    6. Didn't the Shrine of Spirituality grant +3 to all stats on level up?

      Delete
    7. @RobertM - That was a bug. People staying the US could get the patch disk mailed to them, literally free-of-charge. Overseas customers are required to pay for shipping charges. Back then, to get that patch disk to Asia will easily cost 10 times more what it is today.

      A lot of Non-US customers thought that it was due to loss of Karma which caused the inability to cast any 8th Circle Spells other than the singular spell from the Wisps.

      Delete
    8. So how was I supposed to know there was a patch disk? This was like 1990-91. I didn't have a modem, let alone a connection to the information superhighway. My only source of reliable information about computer games was the occasional issue of Computer Gaming World from the bookstore down the street. I don't remember if there was a product registration card - maybe that would have put me on Origin's mailing list. But I managed to beat this game without recourse to the level 8 spells anyway. I don't recall any of them being terribly useful. By the time you can cast them, you can lick most creatures in combat, and for the ones you can't (i.e. dragons) they'd be immune to the spells anyway. The highest level spell I remember being useful was "mass invisibility" which I believe was 7th circle.

      Delete
    9. Thanks for your reply, Chet! Gave me a chuckle :-)


      Concerning the roleplaying/minmaxing thing:

      Of course I like to roleplay in this game. I just listed some options in case somebody liked giving them a try. In my current playthrough (not actually inspired here, although I started about the same time), I'm not going around stealth-killing, grinding etc. These were just some techniques I discovered on earlier playthroughs - and at an earlier point in my life, before I ever joined my first D&D group...

      Item duplication I can't help but feel was intentionally put in there by the designers. Otherwise, Animate and Clone don't really serve any purpose whatsoever. You may feel about this however you wish, but it's in the game, and as far as I'm concerned, it's largely RP-neutral. I'm not currently using it, mostly because I can't be bothered to. But an Avatar out to save the world would be stupid .not. to use any non-unvirtuous method available to her/him.

      Minmaxing levelups is hardly .not. roleplaying, imo. It just depends on what virtues you personally value highest. For me, it happens to be honesty and compassion, btw. I have a harder time justifying valor :-b

      Iolo is just a crossbow user in my imagination! Nobody else is much associated with a specific weapon to me...

      Thanks for the headsup where the Shrine of Humility/Spirituality was concerned. For some reason, I always mix up the two.

      Delete
  35. Dude, where you been? You just started Ultima 6 and then you took off for a week?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Business trip, work, gimlets, etc. The cycle repeats next week, so hopefully I can get some playing done over the weekend.

      Delete
    2. I need my fix! and soon.

      Delete
    3. Seconding this. I was wondering why I kept having this weird nagging feeling a few days ago, until I realized it was because I've grown accustomed to updates every couple of days. I'm so spoiled now.

      Delete
    4. Unfortunately, posts every couple of days have their cost in productivity, and I'm paying for it now.

      Delete
  36. A couple of interesting things about this game - there are a lot of in-game conversations that are mostly irrelevant to "winning" but just add color. Like for example in some towns you can ask each person about every other person and they'll have some opinion to share with you. I remember also there is a guy in Britain named Wilbur who sells horses. So it occurred to me to ask Wilbur about Mr. Ed. And to my amazement, the writers thought of that too. You can ask the gypsies' dog to "speak" and even the dog has something to say. And yet when you ask most people about major plot things like "gargoyles" they don't have anything to say... Anyway the conversations in U4-U5 were mostly more compact and functional, and in U7 and beyond the menu-tree driven conversations eliminated these fun little sidebars.

    Also I recall there were interesting ways to make money - local economies, so to speak. So in Paws you could buy thread and sell it at a profit to the weaver. Or you could buy cloth and sell it at a profit to the tailor. I think you could do similar with grain & flour & bread. Now if it was just about the money, it was easy enough to just rob the mint and then sell the gold back to them, but I liked that they included some legitimate business opportunities for the entrepreneuring Avatar.

    ReplyDelete
  37. In the course of reading up on the spam and humbug thing, I came across a collection of interesting exploits and bugs for U6 hither:

    http://www.it-he.org/u6_main.htm

    I know it isn't in the spirit of how you play things to be abusing these Chet, but I find them really interesting for the glimpse they give into how bits of the U6 engine must have been doing things. A lot of them seem to be an unintended consequence of a places where two different systems intersect.

    (This is a risk of trying to do things in a 'simulational' way I suppose, where you can't think of every crazy thing a player might do. I remember a friend of mine breaking erm... I think it was Baldur's gate, or maybe NWN... by save-scumming until he successfully pick-pocketed a powerful magic item from one of the early 'mentor' characters in the game.)

    Some of them are also pretty funny, like being able to pickpocket meat out of animals and such...

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    1. Regardless of whether I use the options, it's fun to hear about them. This is one of the few games of the era in which the game mechanics are complex enough that the developers couldn't foresee all potential interactions.

      Delete
  38. Ultima 6 - yet another game I never played but am looking forward to your review of. Quite a few years ago, one of my friend's dad worked at Origin, and I got a tour of their company in Austin. Pretty sweet being a young kid seeing them beta test Wing Commander (1 or 2? a very early one) in one room and composing music for Ultima in another!

    Slightly off-topic, but back in September I said I was finally going to play a classic CRPG (Dragon Warrior). A game I started many times but never finished. It has taken some time, but I've finally beat it! It's great, just the right amount of jotting down notes and Excel mapping for me. I'm looking forward to your review whenever it comes.

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    1. Unfortunately, console-only games aren't on my list. They need to have a) western release on b) a personal computer. Dragon Warrior doesn't meet those criteria, right?

      Delete
    2. You're right. I remember a few discussions here and there about you playing some of the other classics (including people mentioning Dragon Warrior). Totally understand if you're still nixing all non-personal computer games though. Have to draw the line somewhere!

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    3. That's true. Those discussions were before I came up with my "new plan" to expand the list to non-DOS but still-PC games. I'm not ruling out dipping into the occasional console game, but it will be very, very rare, so I don't wan tot get anyone's hopes up on Dragon Warrior.

      Delete
  39. Chet: I'm afraid you and I will forever disagree on what constitutes awesome hair. I would have picked the rather androgynous figure two from the left on the bottom as having the best hair.

    Not that I'm implying that you are boring and staid or anything.... ;)

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    1. The best hair is the hair that is closest to mine--none.

      In a practical sense, these people are in a Medieval society with nothing that looks like a tub or shower. We need to be concerned about hygiene and lice-prevention. Chopping off those locks would be my FIRST action after arrival.

      Delete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these two rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.)

2. Please avoid profanity and gross imagery. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.