Friday, February 21, 2014

Ultima VI: It Must Have Been Moonglow

The Avatar gets the Orb of Cheating

Ultima VI begins with the player receiving the Orb of the Moons, a handy artifact that allows instant travel to practically every key location in the game. The satirical Ultima IV, Part II (which I reviewed in September 2011) refers to it as the "Orb of Cheating," which isn't far from the truth. The Avatar activates the Orb by "using" it on the ground in any direction from his current position, up to two squares. This provides 24 possible locations (though two don't seem to be used). Using it two squares to the north opens a portal to Britain, for instance, while using it a knight's move to the west takes you to the Shrine of Spirituality. Every town and shrine has a position.

Testing these locations is a bit of a trial at first. At the beginning of the game, all shrines are occupied by hostile gargoyles, so accidentally blundering to one of them means an inevitable combat. Traveling to towns is less lethal, but unless you're intimately familiar with the geography or willing to look up spoilers, it can take some effort to find out what town you're actually in. You have to talk to random NPCs until one of them happens to say the town's name. I used the Orb this way to get the screenshots for Minoc and the edge of the world (via a boat in Jhelom) for the first post, but of course I reloaded afterwards.

As I eventually discovered, using it two places to the northwest takes me to Moonglow.

But after only a little testing, I found the pattern. The outer squares take you to Britannian destinations and the inner ones take you to gargoyle destinations (with the exception of one square north, which takes you to Lord British's castle). Starting in the northwest corner and proceeding clockwise, you visit each town in the standard virtue-based order (Moonglow, Britain, Jhelom, Yew, etc.) followed by its shrine.


Including the moonstone in the game, at least the way that it works, was in my opinion a bad decision. A careless player can wander into the gargoyle world (somehow, Shamino knows the names to their shrines) long before the player should actually be there. At worst, an early-game player who still thinks the gargoyles are "demons" could end up killing some key gargoyle NPCs and create a "walking dead" scenario very early in the game.

Have you been here before?

It's also kind of lame that the Orb works in the middle of combat, enabling instant escape--directly to Lord British's throne room for healing, if you want--when things get tough. I certainly don't mind cutting down on travel time, but I think the Avatar should have to visit the stone circles associated with each destination before the Orb will take him there. That's the way I'm going to play it.

It's left a bit of a mystery where the Orb actually came from. Lord British said it wasn't his. I guess the gargoyles used it to open the portal to Earth to fetch me for sacrifice, but that suggests the Orb works in a weird way: you place it on the ground, it opens a portal, and then it can be found on the ground on the other side of the portal. What would have happened if I hadn't entered the gate, or hadn't picked it up before I did? Some kid could have found it later and blundered into a pack of hostile gargoyles. I also don't quite know how Lord British knew where to open the moongate so that Shamino, Iolo, and Dupre could come save me from the gargoyle sacrifice.

I think this is the place where the gargoyles tried to kill me.

When I last blogged, I was leaving Britain on my way to Cove, so I could talk to the wounded soldiers about their bungled attempt to free the Shrine of Compassion (the gargoyles have taken over all the shrines). But the path to Cove made me walk through the Shrine of Compassion, so I ended up liberating it from the gargoyles before getting any useful intelligence from the soldiers.

I attack a winged gargoyle while my companions deal with the unwinged brutes off-screen.

The gargoyles had placed a moonstone over the shrine and covered it in a force field, but using the Rune of Compassion (which I had obtained back in Britain) and chanting the mantra removed the field, allowing me to take the stone. If I put the moonstone in the ground, it opens up the moongate that should be in Britain. Naturally, with the Orb of Moons, I don't need this extra method of transportation, and I have a vague recollection that I need to keep all the moonstones, so I resisted the urge to go plant it in its proper stone circle.

Liberating the shrine also gave me the ability to meditate at it, which in turn leveled me up and awarded me with 3 dexterity points. Even from this one experience, the pattern is pretty clear. I'm guessing the Shrine of Courage gives you 3 strength points, the Shrine of Honesty provides 3 Intelligence points, and the others provide the appropriate combinations. Importing my character from Ultima V had already started him at near-max (30) in all attributes, so the selection of shrines is really only important for my other characters. Of them, only Dupre needed to focus on dexterity right now, and he didn't have enough points to level up.

Meditating and leveling up at the shrine.

That I was able to defeat the shrine's three guardians so easily says something about the martial abilities of the native Britannians. Even though I no longer needed their information, I continued to Cove anyway. In this game, it's a small town, consisting only of a healer and a mage named Rudyom who sells reagents and spells. I found the wounded warriors recuperating at the healer. Two just moaned in pain when I tried to talk with them, but the third, Gertan, told me of the gargoyles at the shrine and the force field. I wish the game engine was sophisticated enough to alter dialogue based on changes in the game world, because it would have been fun to tell him that the shrine had been freed.

Gertan also had a little to say about Freitag.

Rudyom lived in a house with an annoying little drake who shot fireballs at me from the safety of a cage. I bought some reagents from him, but I didn't have enough cash to buy his spells.


The next step of my quest was to head to the Lycaeum, find Mariah, and see if she could translate the book I'd stolen from the gargoyles. I left Cove heading east. I soon found that the landscape of Ultima VI constrains you in more ways that the previous games, and going to the eastern end of the continent involved threading my way through a specific mountain pass and then on a path through the Fens of the Dead. As in the previous two games, stepping in swamp instantly poisons you unless you're wearing "swamp boots," and I only had one pair. Fortunately, the AI is smart enough to keep your companions from accidentally walking into swamps as long as the lead character doesn't.

I don't want to go south.

The Lycaeum is on an island on the far eastern edge of the map, so you can't just walk there. But I'd risked some karma loss by stealing a skiff back in Britain. Shamino was toting it on his back, taking up nearly all his available inventory weight. I figured I'd get to the eastern coast, drop the skiff in the water, and row to Verity Isle. Unfortunately, as I soon discovered, the game won't let you use a stolen skiff. You have to have a "deed" to it. Thus, I changed directions for Minoc, reasoning that as a port city, they'd have a place to sell skiffs.

Really? Who's enforcing that right now?

Ultima IV, in introducing the "tinker" profession, seemed to interpret them mostly as blacksmiths. I can't remember what the city looked like in Ultima V, but in this game, it's been reinvented as a kind-of artisans' village, with NPCs making instruments, baskets, clocks, glass, and ships.

You know, that's a good point.

I found Iolo's wife, Gwenno, living in the city temporarily, rendering classic Britannian songs into musical notation. Julia was crafting musical instruments. Both were willing to join my party, but I didn't want any more companions just yet, so I saved them for later. Although I was in town for a skiff, I took the time to ask Isabella, the mayor, about the Rune of Sacrifice, thinking I could liberate the Shrine of Sacrifice on the way to Verity Isle. She told me that Selganor, the head of the Craftsman's Guild, had it.

My least-favorite NPC so far.

Selganor would only give it to me if I was a guild member, which meant creating a set of panpipes and learning how to play "Stones." Gwenno readily gave me the numeric sequence for the song, but Julia said that to make panpipes, I'd need some fresh wood from Yew, so I guess this little quest will have to wait for later. It's not like I'm trying to save the world or anything, guys.


The skiff was cheaper than I feared, so in no time, I had a proper deed and Shamino had a new boat on his back. In a change from Ultima V, you can row a skiff into deep water with no penalty, so I'm not sure if there's any reason to ever buy one of the larger, non-portable ships.

With the skiff, I made the long journey around the eastern horn of Britannia and to Verity Isle. The trip was uneventful, and I eventually found my way to the Lycaeum and met Mariah. None of her dialogue suggested that she remembered me from our previous two games, and she wouldn't join me this time.


She did, however, have some insight into the gargish book. She had half a silver tablet that served as a Rosetta Stone between gargish and Britannian. With it, she determined that the book was called The Book of Prophecies and said something about the end of the world. She said she needed the other half of the tablet to translate the full thing. She had received the first half from some gypsies she met at a pub, so I guess my next step is to travel from city to city, visiting bars and looking for gypsies. That's my kind of quest.

I spent a little time in Moonglow but didn't accomplish much. The mayor said he gave the Rune to a guy named Beyvin, who was living with a mage named Penumbra. I couldn't find either of them, but it's possible that they live in this house, whose entryway is filled with force fields:


I don't have enough reagents to "dispel" my way through all of this. This is one of many areas that I've had to annotate for a later return. There have been force fields in other areas (the Lycaeum in particular), plus various magically-locked doors for which I don't yet have the spell or the money to buy the spell. Rather than continue half-visiting these various cities, I decided perhaps it was time to do a little grinding and earn some cash.

I simply must know what's inside this building.

Thus, as I end this post, I'm back in the dungeons beneath Lord British's castle, looking for hauls of treasure. So far, I've only found a few cyclopes, trolls, and headless, none of whom have had more than a few gold pieces, but I'm going to keep exploring.

No gold in the aftermath of this battle. I'm definitely not hauling all this stuff up to the surface for sale.

I fought a number of random combats in my explorations above, none of which were worth recounting. There were some trolls hanging around a bridge near Cove, rats off in the Fens, and snakes on Verity Isle. I'll have a longer posting about combat some time later.

Boy, did this troll like his throwing axes.

A few more notes before I wrap up now:

  • My party members are always "hearing something" in various directions, but at least half the time, when I head in those directions, there's nothing there.
  •  Some of the geography in the game is funny. We're supposed to believe that these mountains are snow-capped and uncrossable despite taking up less space than a house.

Shamino hears something on the other side of this unscalable peak.
 
  • Some of the inhabitants of Britannia are extremely lazy--especially the mage types. I've had to wait until noon for some of them to get out of bed. There's no in-game way to wake them up ahead of schedule.

Apparently, just shaking him awake will cause me to lose an eighth.

  • When cyclopes are nearby, their stomping around causes the screen to shake.
  • In the first post, I noted how Lord British clumsily asked me for information from the manual during our first dialogue, as part of the game's copy protection system. It turns out that other random characters do it, too.

That was smooth.

  • Michelle, a basket-weaver in Minoc, tells tales of her father making a basket large enough for eight people but says she doesn't have the plans. I suspect I'm going to be making a hot air balloon and gondola at some point in the future.

Today I learned that beehives are woven.

  • I thought my Avatar was a little ostentatious for strapping an ankh to his forehead. This NPC is even more dedicated:


With luck, by the next time I post, I'll have met those gypsies and I'll have a bead on the main quest.





70 comments:

  1. Those yellow bubbles appearing over the NPC heads in most of these pictures make them look like they're drunk to me

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  2. You can solve your gold problems in a flash if you talk to the wisps. They'll ask you for a book; bring it to them and they'll literally give you all the gold you can carry - so much so that if you pile it all together you won't be able to pick it up again, so be careful about that.

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    1. Nice unmarked spoiler there, champ.

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    2. I didn't think it was that spoilerish; wisps have been part of Ultima for several games now. I didn't mention what book it is or where it is. And people give hints in these comments all the time.

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    3. That's not a hint, Viridian. It definitely is a spoiler. Wisps were always hostile before this, let alone giving heaps of money.

      Also, IMHO, if Chet was willing to steal a skiff, I'm just wondering why he would have no money when he could perform a heist on the Royal Mint.

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    4. Mea Culpa. I'll be more oblique next time. Wish I could edit my original comment.

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    5. As you'll see in this next post, I found the wisp and got the quest in fairly short order anyway. The spoiler would have been worse if you'd said the name of the book. This way, I have to decide whether to steal all of the books in the library in the off-chance that one of them will be the right one. So far, I haven't felt compelled to do it.

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    6. it's the lost book of mantras

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    7. As someone on Reddit recently said, I'm sorry you have to live with whatever is inside of you.

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    8. Whatever it was, it is dead inside. XD

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  3. What? No comment on how "Trebor" is the merchant who sold you the skiff?

    Anything clever about your interaction with that merchant, or is it just an obvious Wizardry reference and nothing else?

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    1. You know, I was just trying to get a damned boat at that point, and I wasn't even taking note of NPC names. Thanks for pointing that out.

      I don't see anything else about the interaction that would make it a Wizardry reference in particular.

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    2. Actually, Richard Garriott's brother's name is Robert and he co-founded the company. Pretty sure if Trebor is a reference, it's to him.

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  4. It is possible to wake NPCs ahead of schedule, if I recall correctly. You need to cast An Zu on them. Why you can't just yell at them, I don't know.

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    1. I don't have An Zu yet, but as Paul points out below, "dispel magic" also works. It's funny that in Britannia, all sleep is MAGIC sleep. I guess it makes sense given that they go to sleep at exactly the same time every day and sleep for exactly the same amount of time.

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    2. You can also punch them and then charm them.

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  5. I replayed Ultima 6 a couple of years ago and I have an absolute blast with it. Once you're done, take a look at the map and notes I took along the way: http://beust.com/ultima-6/

    The annotations I added to the map contain some mild spoilers but nothing game breaking.

    I was maintaining a big text file throughout the game where I would write down the quests under each village/person's name so I'd be sure never to forget something when I reach a new location.

    Looking forward to the future installments!

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    1. I'll be sure to visit when I've finished!

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  6. Agree the Orb of the Moons gives the player too much freedom to go anywhere, early on. In particular it renders irrelevant a major quest which is the primary motivation for visiting a bunch of the dungeons, looking for a certain set of items. The orb also eliminates the mystery of how to get to the Shrine of Spirituality, otherwise discovered through conversation.

    I also once came across a YouTube video demonstrating a non-cheating rapid playthrough of U6, which takes like half an hour to win the whole game, relying heavily on the Orb. I think this is it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-Shjfn1plA (but beware of complete and total spoiler of the game!)

    A few years later in Ultima VII:Part 2, they included a similar "rapid transit" system but had it locked up such that you couldn't get to critical locations until the plot wanted you to. That game (which I also enjoyed) was the polar opposite of Ulitma VI in that it was completely linear. I like your suggestion that they could make locations inaccessible by the orb until after you've freed the shrine, or until you've accomplished something that legitimately gives you access to the gargoyle world. I wonder if that was too technically challenging at the time? Hard to believe it didn't come up in play testing as a major concern.

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    1. That is definitely not too challenging to implement - Just a flag for each location, and a text message if you try to access an undiscovered location.

      Perhaps they just didn't think it through. World of Warcraft had a similar issue when they added "Looking for group", followed by portals to all the major game cities. It was convenient for players, but cut out most social interaction except in the main city, and made most "world pvp" irrelevant.

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    2. At least as far as the shrines are concerned, the game "knows" you've freed them because it stops spawning gargoyles to guard them (you can kill the gargoyles at a shrine but more will come back if you don't use the rune to remove the field around the moonstone). So yeah it should have been easy to implement.

      And for the gargoyle lands, there must be flags associated with learning the gargoyle language, and submitting to Draxinusom. Attaching one of those flags to the orb would require that you dungeon-crawl your way to the underside of the world at least once. Which would maybe means you actually finished the quest where you learn you should do that, although not necessarily.

      -spoiler alert - spoiler alert - spoiler alert

      Even apart from the orb - it is quite possible that by the time you finish following up everything you need to do to recover the other half of the silver tablet for Mariah, that you already have done what she tells you to do next! Which is another problem with this game being too open-ended, because chasing down the other half of that tablet is A LOT of work!

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    3. The orb of the moons made a lot more sense on an old computer (286/386 - 25mhz) if you were playing from the disk instead of the hdd. The increased complexity of the gameworld combined with the slow loading chunks made long distance travel a pain in the arse.

      It looks bad with hindsight in the present day world of happy save-reload, but I do wonder how many people in 1990 started persistantly playing around with it straight away.

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  7. I have to admit that I clearly did not understand how full of holes the story was when I played Ultima VI back then. Now it sounds so bad. Well, I was young and needed to play rpg...

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  8. It does seem like the game is too "easy" if you approach it like a typical game. I mean from the start you can warp to anywhere in the world instantly, your guys are relatively powerful and getting rich and powerful is not difficult at all, etc. but I think the strength of the game is exploring the world, meeting all the interesting people, discovering cool stuff. Origin really did "create worlds." In terms of combat, Ultima VII got even worse (all you do is click "combat mode" and everything happens for you). I thought it was great how the Ultima series (after 5 at least) stopped focusing on combat, since I was never a fan of min-maxing stats and grinding.

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    1. I remember playing U5 at in the beginning it is a real struggle getting creamed in combat by rats, spiders, and the like, and my companions constantly dying from poison. Somehow I remember it fondly, but I don't know why; it seems like it should be frustrating.

      This game is the opposite as far as combat. I remember the manual describing creatures like cyclops and giant scorpions like they were going to be super tough, and in fact there are very few monsters that present much challenge, even at your starting point of level 2 or 3. You can probably survive the game with much of the equipment you have right in the beginning; the main reason to level up is for the sake of a couple of handy spells. So I think you're right, the focus in this game is much more on exploring and talking to people and discovering stuff. But not to the same extreme as, say Ultima 8 where the whole notion of experience & leveling up was irrelevant. In that respect I think U6 finds a happy medium on the grinding & min-maxing.

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    2. Having to actually use strategy in combat is the opposite of grinding, imo. The problem in most modern games is combat is simply a matter of clicking, drinking potions, and looting. You click click click, heal, loot, move on, click click click, heal, loot and move on, etc. Ultima VII made combat infinitely more grindy, because it took the game out of the experience and made it boring.

      And I loved the stories and worlds after U5, but I think they focused on the stories at the expense of other aspects of the games, and they got worse as much as they got better.

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    3. Have you played modern games? What you are describing sounds a LOT more like older games I've played. Dragon Warrior, for example, or old Final Fantasy games. You walk up, click the Attack option and then wait for the animations to finish. Most modern games use some form of interesting system to make it more interesting, such as weaknesses/resistances rock-paper-scissors, tactical combat, spells that do more then just damage or buffs (Though we don't see this nearly enough), or the one I hate: AI control mechanics ah la MMORPGs. (NO, stop that. You should not be able to force the AI to attack the warrior due to 'taunting' it, it makes no damn sense.)

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  9. Re: Ships vs skiffs - the reason to get the ship is so that you get a cannon, and can shoot giant squid which will promptly sink your ship with arrows (?) and leave you adrift in a stupid raft.

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    1. You don't really need ships in this game. Sea monsters are relatively uncommon so you can sail from Britain to Moonglow in a skiff and you probably won't encounter any problems. In U5 I think you needed the skiff to navigate smaller areas and the ship to navigate the open seas.

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    2. I figured this out after the squids sunk a couple of my ships. I was so conditioned from U5 that I assumed I would need a ship to cross the ocean. Among many other things that U5 had conditioned me to, that changed in this game.

      There were certain spots in the wilderness that routinely spawn monsters, and this included the sea serpents and squids. But it was entirely possible to avoid them. The sea serpents were a good source of XP for level grinding, except they had a habit of swimming out of range quickly when you got them down to "critical".

      I do remember the ship being useful for attacking monsters on land. At night you would find a bunch of skeletons & ghosts in the fens of the dead near Paws. You could blast them from the ship and then walk around and collect the nightshade and mandrake. I don't remember how (or if) the game allocated XP when you killed something with the ship.

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  10. Regarding the house with force fields: you can actually walk on them -- except the electric ones. If you don't want to keep healing/curing/wake your followers, just use the solo mode. Too bad that you decided not to bring Sherry. You can make particular NPCs to do unspeakable things with her.

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    1. You should speak up more on this subject- now you really have me curious :)

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    2. Not quite. For the one in the image above, the first field is "sleep." The avatar goes to sleep as soon as he steps on it. When he wakes up, he instantly gets kicked back to the previous square. I agree that it would work on the "damage" fields like "fire," though.

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    3. @CRPG: I haven't played Ultima6 in a while, so my apology. Go diagonally to the fire field, then go the poison fields, and keep moving. I'd advice you do the solo-mode though.

      @William: http://www.it-he.org/u6_main.htm#13
      That's the best website to use if you want to finish Ultima the "wrong way."

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    4. Yeah, that works. For some reason, I had this idea that you can't move diagonally from doorframes. In any event, I got the spell fairly quickly, so I don't have to lead my party through fire.

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    5. You've obviously been playing too much Nethack. :P

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    6. There's actually an oddity in the game. While you CAN move diagonally, you can only move diagonally if there's a clear path to the diagonal square using non-diagonal movement. If that makes sense.

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  11. Awakening NPCs: cast "Negate Magic" (1st level spell that also cures poison). Apparently in Britannia, the sandman is real. Or something. Anyway, sleep of all variants is considered a "condition" by the game.

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    1. That's a riot. I think you meant "dispel magic," and I just verified that it works. That'll make exploring towns a lot easier when I have enough reagents that I can afford to spend them this way.

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    2. There were naturally occurring deposits of mandrake, nightshade, ash, and spider silk in large quantities in this game, and you could find the moss as well, but not as dense. The garlic and ginseng are cheap, so black pearl became the limiting factor. It was either Zoltan the gypsy or Horance from Skara Brae that had the best price on pearl.

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    3. Can you use potions on non-party members in U6? I'm positive one of them is Awaken (blue or orange -- I forget which). That may be another way to get lazy NPCs out of bed without wasting reagents...if it works, anyway.

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    4. I think so, but I haven't checked it out yet. It would make the poison potions a waste of time if you can't.

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  12. It must have been moonglow
    Way up in the blue
    It must have been moonglow
    That led me straight to Yew.

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    1. I wondered if anyone would get that. Well done.

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    2. The title did feel very my much like a song title, but I unfortunately didn't recognize the song at all. While youtube is a great tool for quick re-education, I do wonder if there's a Nina Simone version of it somewhere. I'd probably love that. Or Julie London.

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    3. It's a very vanilla song. Definitely not one of the best of the era.

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  13. With the party members 'hearing something' is it possible they're hearing something in a nearby dungeon?

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    1. It is very possible. It seems that Shamino doesn't care if the sound comes through mountain walls as long as it is in "earshot". His ears are impressive like that

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    2. He certainly hears into adjacent dungeons, in certain places where just across a wall may be a different dungeon. It would be interesting to see how the dungeon "layers" of the world are arranged, how tightly packed the dungeons are, and how much of the available space they utilized.

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    3. I remember seeing something on the Internet.

      A fan took snapshots on every screen and mad a gigantic big-ass map of the entire U6 Britannia.

      All the dungeons were shoved, if not completely, at least partially into mountains. So, it's quite usual for Shamino to scream out warnings against mountain walls too.

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    4. I went searching and found this:
      http://www.oocities.org/xenerkes/En/MapSect/mapsu6.htm

      It makes it apparent how "small" the world really is without the multiscaling. And yes, those dungeons levels are packed "tight".

      Ultima 6 world still seemed bigger to me than Ultima 7 which as I recall had only one layer. At times I wished the Ultima 6 dungeons retained 8 levels like their U5 counterparts, but I also found the U6 dungeons to be comparatively uninteresting and repetetive, without a whole lot of payoff except for certain quest items. So 8 dungeon levels instead of 4 would just be double the vast boring levels.

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    5. Actually dungeons were jammed into mountains in U7. In U6, there were "levels", so by going into a dungeon entrance you went down "one", and the last level was the Underworld/Gargoyle home. I don't think Shamino was able to hear across levels, so it was likely him just hearing things :P

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  14. "I also don't quite know how Lord British knew where to open the moongate so that Shamino, Iolo, and Dupre could come save me from the gargoyle sacrifice."

    How have I never realised this before?! Obviously Lord British felt a disturbance in the Force...

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  15. Long time reader of your blog. I just had to comment about that guy with the Codex tattoo. I laughed in my office at the whole part of that post. I can imagine it "Oh yeah I'ma strap this ankh to my head because I'm so hard core." Then this guy rolls up smoking a pipe like a pimp, a sh!# eating grin and a codex tattoo. You got served CRPG Addict.

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  16. Just had some thoughts about your comments re: the Shrine of Compassion and the Gargoyles and how you pretty much massacred them. I remember from my own play through that these guys were pretty hard initially and I struggled to beat them - usually I'd have to run past on the way to Cove to talk to the soldiers which made their comments about being whopped believable....as I usually did get smashed. But then again, I didn't important a level 30 character from U5! Perhaps that's the reason?

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  17. About that house with the magically locked door, you could simply look through the window to see what's inside :)

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    1. And yet I wasted time casting the spell. It was a well. Why did they magically lock their well?

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    2. It was a MAGIC well.

      Thing is, I think ALL wells in Ultima are magical. Probably this one has a higher probability of granting wishes. Except... there is already a walking wishing well traveling with you, by the name of Iolo.

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  18. Wait, wait. His name is YOLO? *head meets desk, head meets desk*
    I know, I know, this game was made 20 years ago, while that saying was only popular a couple years ago, and not for long, but still....

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    1. His name was an acronym for *I* Only Live Once. It was the "me decade," after all.

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  19. I wish the game engine was sophisticated enough to alter dialogue based on changes in the game world, because it would have been fun to tell him that the shrine had been freed.

    "“If you have the aptitude you should join the Wizard’s College in Winter Hold.” I AM THE BLOODY ARCHMAGE!

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    1. I tend to forgive the throwaway lines that people say when you walk by, mostly because no other game has them at all. I'm less forgiving for dialogue options that don't recognize that Ulfric is dead or Alduin defeated or whatever. Months after defeating the Stormcloaks, I still have an option to ask Balgruf "What will it take to end the war?"

      "Ulfric Stormcloak's head on a pike," he answers. Maybe he means it literally. I guess I have to head back to Windhelm, where his body still lies in the great hall, find a way to chop off his head, and mount it on a pike.

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    2. The only game I can think of that changes the throwaway lines is Fallout 2 (possibly 1 as well, but I'm not sure.) In that game, some of the random nameless NPCs will comment on your armor choice, and have extra lines if you're walking around with your weapon out.

      Delete
    3. I guess the question is, given x amount of resources to spend on dialogue, would you rather fewer, more reactive NPCs or a world in which more characters say -something-

      Delete
  20. "At worst, an early-game player who still thinks the gargoyles are "demons" could end up killing some key gargoyle NPCs and create a "walking dead" scenario very early in the game."

    This is *exactly* what happened to me the first time I played the game. After the intro had you kidnapped by gargoyles, you fight gargoyles in Lord British's throne room, you're attacked by gargoyles at the Shrines, I very naturally assumed that the goal of the game was to stop the invasion by defeating the enemy. When I stumbled upon the Moonstone entrance to the gargoyle world, I envisioned my group as an audacious band of commandos undermining the enemy's command and control structure. The combats were hard, but I managed to hit-and-run the gargoyle village until I had wiped everyone out (not realising they were the equivalent of "civilians"). Much later, after I had done everything else in the game and was completely stuck, I figured out from a hint book that I was supposed to befriend the gargoyles and needed one of them alive to tell me something to proceed! I wasn't really mad though. I loved Ultima enough to restart and play through the game again, the "right" way.

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    Replies
    1. It's a shame there wasn't an alternate ending based around the "wrong" way.

      Delete

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