Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ultima VI: It's a Small World After All

The adventurers and their skiff at the corner of the world.

I'm going to use this post to wrap up my explorations of Britannia, including various locations, NPCs, and conversations, but first a conversation that happened in real life.

Irene and I were having sushi the other night, and our waitress looked exactly like a Japanese version of Jennifer Connelly. Irene didn't know who I was talking about.

"Oh, come on. You know who she is. Labyrinth? The Rocketeer? When I was a teenager, every guy wanted to be Frank Whaley in Career Opportunities. I'm not sure I've seen her in anything since Dark City, though . . ."

"I think I remember Labyrinth," Irene said. "Anyway, if you're done staring at the waitress, I wanted to tell you about my new promo--"

"Dark City!" I spit a few pieces of rice across the table. "Oh my god. That's exactly what Britannia is. Dark City."

"Think about it," I said, momentarily forgetting that Irene had never heard of, let alone played, any of the Ultima titles. "The geography doesn't make any sense. The landscape is constantly getting rearranged and yet no one comments on it. Britain's west of the castle in one game and east in another. Entire towns disappear. Continents rise and fall. This is all stuff that the Strangers do in the movie. They also inject everyone with this serum every night to change their memories, which is why everyone in Britannia remembers everything differently than I do. They remember Britannia as always having been there; they remember Minax and Mondain as having attacked Britannia; they remember a party that never happened. Characters who died in the previous game are suddenly alive again. It totally makes sense. I just don't know if Lord British is in on it--if he's one of the Strangers--or if he's a victim." I chewed on the thought and a bit of Philly roll at the same time.

"So, anyway," she said after a moment. "Starting next week, I'll be running--"

"Or," I cut in, jabbing at nothing with my chopsticks, "Maybe it's more like The Truman Show. After all, the world is tiny. It's like a snow globe. Maybe it's a manufactured world and all of the NPCs are actors, and the whole point is to watch how the clueless PC character interacts with them and the environment."

Irene was silent as Japanese Jennifer brought a second bowl of edamame.

"No, wait!"--a guy at the next table startled and spilled some soy sauce--"The Truman Show wouldn't explain why the very shape of the world keeps changing. Britannia isn't Dark City or The Truman Show; it's The Matrix or the holodeck in Star Trek. Oh, that explains everything--even the changes in the magic system from game to game."

"Are you almost done?"

"What if--what if--the NPCs aren't even real? That would explain why they have the same routine every day, and only can talk about certain conversation topics, defaulting to some variation of 'syntax error' if you ask about something they're not programmed to answer. They're just a bunch of subroutines! Britannia is nothing but a computer simulation!" I beamed, proud of my new theory.

Irene was unimpressed. "You've been talking for like 45 minutes, and your big conclusion is that your video game . . . is a video game?"

I turned that over for about a minute, looking for a way out. "It seemed more significant in my head," I finally offered.

"Next time, keep it there."


My attempts to create a fan theory were prompted by my investigations into Britannia's size in Ultima VI. I sailed my little raft to the (awkwardly rounded) corners of the flat Britannian map and counted the number of squares north/south and east/west. The totals came out so close to 1,000 that I'm sure the actual number of squares is 1,024 if you count the spaces of the "void." That gives us 1,048,576 squares that make up the entirety of Britannia.

The size of each square is up for debate. 10 feet is RPG-standard and seems to go with the size of doorways, bridges, houses, furniture, and so forth. But it takes half a minute to walk a square, and a normal walking pace would get you about 40-50 feet in half a minute. Britannia is thus somewhere between 1.94 miles and 8.53 miles in each direction. In abstract terms, this is actually a bit smaller than the previous games, where you could argue that each of their 256 x 256 squares was more like 250 feet (making the entire map 12 miles across) given the size of cities on the "world" scale relative to their sizes once you "enter."

I can hear you arguing that the squares are supposed to be an abstraction and not consistently-sized between cities and countryside; otherwise, we have the absurdity of 50' x 50' mountains, some with volcanic craters. I'd buy this argument except that the time it takes to move one square is the same--30 seconds--no matter where you are. No matter how you look at it, Britannia is a miniscule place. Cities are basically neighborhoods separated by a few tracts of woods, and the ocean is basically a little man-made pond. This would explain why heading down into 100 feet of dungeon can take you to the other side of the world.

North of Moonglow, a poor mage named Ephemerides tries to sort it all out. When he's not out back studying the stars through his telescope, he's sleeping, so talking to him is a bit difficult because he'll only have a conversation in a brief window between the sunrise and him hustling off to sleep. An expert in glassware (such as lenses--I think I'll be visiting him again), he's created a scale model of the cosmos to illustrate why Britannia is flat.

His logic doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but then again, I can't figure out how our moon works, so I'm not the one to criticize. You can often see it during the day. That means they can't see it in Australia, right? Do Australians know that we have a moon?

Madam Librariah

I visited the Lycaeum early in the game to talk to Mariah, but it was a while before I had the "Dispel Field" spell necessary to fully explore the place. In this game, the structure takes the form of a large and convoluted library, the entrance of which is underground and blocked by a ring of fire and electricity fields. I guess this is to prevent non-mages from entering, although it seems a bit unegalitarian.

Fortunately, the Avatar is a member of the magic-using ruling class.

There are a lot of books in the various rooms of the library. Some of the more notable titles include:

  • A Treatise on the Lore of Gargoyles by Norlick the Elder. This book tries to clear up some of the confusion between gargoyles and daemons and basically suggests that since they look alike, no one made any distinction until recently.
  • Books titled Tangled Tales, Knights of Legend, and Caverns of Freitag that summarize the plots of those previous games. The first two are Origin titles, the latter was designed by Dr. Cat before he joined Origin. Freitag explicitly names the hero of the story as Gertan, the knight wounded in the botched assault on the Shrine of Compassion.

From the Knights of Legend summary. Seggallion becomes important in a minute.

  • The Lost Art of Ballooning, which summarizes my use of a balloon in Ultima IV. I have a feeling this one is a bit prophetic.
  • Books that summarize each of the previous Ultima games but retcons the first three titles so that they take place on Britannia.

Hey, I was there. Lord British wasn't even king of the whole place yet.

  • The Lost Book of Mantras, which in addition to all of the mantras of virtue, contains goofy entries like "Dim Sum," "Zowie," "Spam," and "Meow." I wonder who put that last one in there.

There are two quests associated with the library. Lord British is looking for a copy of The Wizard of Oz, and he rewards its return with . . . actually, I forgot. He was really happy to get it back, but I didn't write down what he gave me.

Once again, Lord British demonstrates that he has his priorities straight.

The wisps, which I recounted a couple posts ago, are looking for a "sufficiently dense source of information." Any number of the books might fit the bill. I was thinking maybe Of Dreams and Visions or Dilzal's Almanac of Good Advice, but some anonymous jackass had to come along and spoil the real answer. So if I return and get the book, I'll apparently be rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Off to See the Wizard

I'll cover magic more in later postings, but for now suffice to say that spells exist in eight levels, or "circles," and each spell requires some combination of reagents. Unlike the previous games, VI doesn't require you to mix the spells ahead of time; when you cast them, the reagents are simply deducted from your total.

This is the first game of the series to feature a "spellbook" to which you have to (M)ove spells after buying them. The previous games simply allowed you to cast them if you knew the codes and had the reagents. So far, I've found four wizards who sell spells in the game, and each of them is a bit odd in his or her own way.

Xiao, north of the Lycaeum, is the most normal in conversation, but her abode is a bit weird: a large mansion with two lion statues in the foyer. The main room is dominated by some kind of huge gearwork with a spinning saw on the end of it. Characters can walk into it and take damage.

I'd hate to be a burglar stumbling through this place in the dark.

She also has a raging fire going in the corner of her bedroom, and a magically-locked door leads to a room with a ladder that connects to the catacombs beneath Moonglow. In general, she's up to something that her dialogue alone doesn't convey.

Rudyom, in Cove, keeps a pet fire drake in a cage next to his entryway and lets it take potshots at visitors. He otherwise has no dialogue aside from selling things.

Nicodemus lives southeast of Yew, but his house is an enormous pain to get to, hemmed in by impassable forest. His door is also magically locked, so you have to buy the "Unlock Magic" spell from Horance in Skara Brae before you can even visit him. His foyer is full of fire fields, and the doorway into his home has an impassable electric field, forcing you to cast "Dispel Field."

In dialogue, he'll sell spells, reagents, and magic staves. He claims to be "experimenting," but won't say on what. His protege, Thariand, works at the Lycaeum and says that Nicodemus brands all of his students with a blue star, which he wears prominently himself.

Finally, we have Horance, a crazy old man living alone (save a single bat) on an island north of Skara Brae. He speaks entirely in verse. He doesn't cue many dialogue options, but he has a lot to say about all the other NPCs in the town, including the pompous mayor, Trenton.

I hope this poor guy doesn't lose his mind and do anything horrible.

I don't know if there are other spell vendors in the game, but among these four, they seem to have all the spells listed in the manual. There is at least one other person who sells reagents: Zoltan, the king of the gypsies.


Conversation in Ultima VI is much like the previous two games, with NPCs responding to keywords--or, specifically, the first four letters in keywords. GARG gets you the same response as GARGOYLE. One difference is that (unless you turn off the help), the conversation highlights words that serve as prompts for further conversation. But these aren't exclusive. NPCs often have things to say about other NPCs even if they don't prompt those names in their other dialogue, and of course some NPCs give you clues about what to ask others.

It took me a few hours to realize another major difference: you can type a lot more into the dialogue box in this game than previous games, and NPCs don't just recognize keywords at the beginning of the string but anywhere within them. This means you could theoretically type out entire sentences. (If the sentence contains more than one keyword, the NPC responds to the last one.)

To give you a sense of the favor of the dialogue, here's my entire exchange with Trenton, the mayor of Skara Brae. It mostly concerns the murder of Quenton, which I covered two posts ago.

You see a tall, rather well dressed man with a wilted smile. "Yes?" he asks, reaching over and removing something invisible from your shoulder.
Me: "What is your name?"
He sniffs the air as if smelling something bad.
Trenton: I am, of course, Trenton Bell, the mayor. You may call me 'Your Honor.'
Me: Hey, Trent!
Trenton: I would appreciate if you would use my title, 'Your Honor.'
Me: Ooh, look who has a fancy title.
Trenton: Yes, I am the mayor.
Me: What's that job like?
Trenton: Job? I do not labor like others.
Me: What do you have against labor?
Trenton: You know: rigging the masts or swabbing the decks.
Me: I've never rigged a mast in my life.
Trenton: You aren't much of a sailor, are you? Yorl and that young Delancy girl can tell you more about that?
Me: Who's Yorl?
Trenton: He works at the pier with the Delancy girl.
Me: Okay, who's the Delancy girl?
Trenton: She has run the pier ever since her father, Quenton, was attacked by a gargoyle.
He coughs and then clears his throat.
Me: Oh. Sorry about Quenton.
Trenton: We were not friends . . . not good friends, that is. He resented my position.
Me: And he was attacked by a gargoyle?
Trenton: Huge, fierce creatures, they are. Quenton didn't even have time to scream before one of those beasts had killed him.
Me: How do you know he didn't scream?
Trenton: Many believe that if he had screamed, someone in the inn would have heard him.
Me: Was anyone in the inn?
Trenton: A couple of travelers were staying there that night, but they said they heard nothing. Still, I find this strange.
Me: Do you know anything about the travelers?
Trenton: I do not know their names. 'Twas Gideon who questioned them, not I. [I forgot to comment earlier that the Skara Brae innkeeper and I share a name.]
Me: Who's Gideon?
Trenton: He runs the Haunting Inn.
Me: What do you find 'strange'?
Trenton: Yes, you see, my brother is a guard for Lord British. A few months ago, a gargoyle attempted to enter the castle proper. He said that although they killed the beast, its horrifying noises still give him nightmares.
Me: What kind of noises?
Trenton: He keeps hearing its deep growl. I'm sure that even if Quenton couldn't scream, someone would have heard that growl.
Me: Do you have the Rune?
Trenton: Quenton, not I, was in charge of its safekeeping. Just as I suspected, when he died, so too did our chances of finding the rune. You see, he never told anyone where it was located.

This is the last game to use dialogue like this--Ultima VII switches to clickable keywords. Although it doesn't present the player anything in the way of "options" (aside from the occasional Y/N), I love how you have to pay attention and take notes. Somewhere in the 1990s, developers stopped asking players to put that kind of effort into games.

Finally, I like how the different NPCs have different ways of responding to keywords they don't understand. Some just say "I can't help thee with that," but most have something specific to their characters. Maldric, the cook in the castle, says, "Funny you should mention that--it reminds me of my secret recipe for roast boar." Terri at the Royal Mint gets distracted by the Avatar's eyes. Shamino, Dupre, and Iolo suggest asking each other about the topic. Marney in Skara Brae just sobs. Crazy Horance has a rhyme: "I hear you have a question / I'm here to answer some / If I may make suggestions / Please ask another one."

Clowns to the Left of Me

A piece of Chuckles's long scavenger hunt.

I knew Chuckles was setting me up for a wild goose chase the moment he told me to search the chest in Nystul's room for a clue, but I went with it anyway. The clue said to search under a potted plant in Serpent's Hold.

No building in Britannia has more potted plants.

After shoving around about two dozen potted plants, I finally found the note, which said to look under a beehive in Minoc. This, in turn, directed me to the harpsichord at the Blue Bottle Tavern in Moonglow, then to the beds in the jail in Yew, then to a cauldron in New Magincia. This latter note was in a private home, I should mention.

I had to go back to Lord British's castle and search the stone lions in the entryway to get the final clue.

Iolo hadn't mentioned his hut so far, but when I asked him about it, he said that it was in the deep forest, south of Yew. That was fine. I had to return to Yew to get swamp boots for Seggallion and Sentri anyway. As I did, I wondered how Chuckles managed to get around to all of these cities and plant the clues, especially given that he never leaves Lord British's castle, and also given that he had no way of knowing I was coming.

At Iolo's place, I talked to Smith the horse, who first appeared in Ultima IV. He described his "job" as "I eat Iolo's hay to keep it from piling up everywhere and making a mess." He further described hay as "the greatest menace to the well-being of Britannia."

When asked about the CLUE, he delivered the punchline.

 Dupre's reaction served for the entire party:

One for you, Chuckles.

Party People

I picked up Seggallion--my sixth party member--in Serpent's Hold. (Awkwardly, only five party members'  names appear on screen, you have to scroll for the rest.) As we've already discussed, he's the same Seggallion who appears as a key NPC in Knights of Legend. Although another character of that name appeared in Ultima V, it doesn't appear to be the same person. This Seggallion relates that after he was freed from the clutches of Pildar (who he describes as like Mondain), he accidentally got swallowed by a moongate and spit out into Britannia. No word on how he feels that Britannians consider his land and life a work of fiction.

He looks a bit like Tom Selleck.

I thought the game would cap me at six, but then I was able to add Sentri, my fighter companion from Ultima V, to the party as well, so I guess perhaps I can have eight. I feel like the group is a bit unwieldy at so many members, though, and I'll probably dump Jaana soon, following the revelation that she can't cast spells after all. Part of the problem is that Sentri, Seggallion, and Dupre have the same icons, making it hard to tell them apart in combat.

Iolo, Shamino, and Dupre won't leave the party even if you tell them to. The other joinable party members I've found are Gwenno (Iolo's wife, a bard), Blaine (the gypsy juggler), Sherry the mouse, Julia, and Katrina.

Serpent's Hold--the stronghold of Courage--features a bunch of knights belonging to the Order of the Silver Serpent, first mentioned in Ultima IV. Though supposedly upholding the virtues of valor, honor, and sacrifice, at least one of them was a bit of a jerk:

The Hold offered two side-quests: joining the Order of the Silver Serpent and retrieving a dragon's egg for the cook, Shuban, who wants it to make Magincian Pastry. The egg will have to wait for later, but joining wasn't a major problem. Koranada, the head of the order, told me that to join, I needed to create a serpent shield and sent me to Gherick, the armorer, for instructions. Gherick said he needed a normal "snake shield" (called a "curved heater" in the game), a chunk of gold, and a magic gem.

Dupre was still holding his original curved heater, Jaana had come with some magic gems, and when I picked up Seggallion, he had a gold nugget. In moments, I had my magic Silver Serpent Shield, which I gave to Sentri, as everyone else had a two-handed weapon or needed their left hands free (for Gideon, I find it too much of a pain to keep swapping out his spellbook and prefer just to keep it in his left hand).

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

A bunch of random NPCs, locations, encounters, and gameplay mechanics worth noting:

  • A vaguely-Polynesian guy named Utomo makes armor in Yew, and I feel like I'm missing something with this character. He claims to have sailed from an island and that he fled when an evil man burned his home after he refused to help the evil man "kill good people." He laments the love he left behind--made all the worse by the constant sexual harassment he receives at the hands of Andrea, the tavernkeeper in Yew ("She try to kiss Utomo. Utomo say, 'I no want you' but she kiss anyway"). Does anyone know what this is a reference to? Something to do with Windwalker? There certainly aren't any islands like the one he describes in the world of Britannia, so I'm not sure where he sailed from.

  • A bard in Britain had told a haunting tale of the wreck of a ship called the Dutchman in the Fens of the Dead. I thought it sounded like an interesting side-quest, so on one of my trips down the interior coast, I took the time to explore the Fens. I found the ship, broken in two, but there seemed to be no way to loot it or otherwise get anything interesting from the encounter.

Skyrim would have had this crawling with bandits and slaughterfish.

  • Daros, who maintains the sewers beneath Britain, has a little room of his own in the sewers, along with a pet rat in a cage. Isn't that cute?

  • You can indeed "use" a cow to get a bucket of milk.

  • Serpent's Hold features what I think is the only black NPC in the game (I could easily be wrong), a serving woman who insists that I call her "Miss Mandy." When you leave, she asks you to, "tell your friends 'bout Miss Mandy." [Later edit: As a couple of commenters pointed out, there's at least one other: Ephemerides, whose picture is literally the first one in this post. In my defense, I wrote those sections at entirely different times and in different posts and only pieced them together later. I still should have re-read the whole thing.]

  • Unlike Ultima V, NPCs don't actually walk between homes and work and meals and such. They sometimes move around--at lightning speed--if you happen to be on the screen, but otherwise they just disappear in one place and appear in the other without hitting the transition points in between. This explains how they're able to, for instance, get out of the castle even when the drawbridge is closed.
  • Water in the game is animated in the direction of flow. I can't remember seeing this in an earlier RPG.

  • I really hate the day/night cycle. The amount of territory you can view is already too small to screw with it, and it always seems that night is falling just when I arrive in town and want to talk to a key NPC. Yes, you can rouse them from bed by casting "Dispel Magic" on them, but shopkeepers still won't sell you things.

Why is it pitch dark in the tavern?

  • I can't seem to keep a skiff to save my life. If I'm not accidentally leaving them on islands when I moongate out of there, I keep doing stuff like this.

Dammit, Shamino. You had one job.

  • Bordermarch, the island in Ultima V where you could find Sir Simon and Lady Tessa, apparently sank into the sea at the end of the game--some consequence of rescuing Lord British from the underworld. It's amazing how nonchalant the Britannian people are about disappearing landmasses. It's like Atlantis happens every year in this place.

This brings us at last to Buccaneer's Den, where the next stop on the main quest (assuming I didn't just head down to the gargoyle world through Hythloth, as Sin'Vraal recommended) has me trying to find Captain Hawkins, who stole the other half of the silver tablet from the gypsies.

I decided to reach Buccaneer's Den not by sea, but via the caverns beneath Lord British's castle. I knew this was possible from a previous game, and I hadn't otherwise done much dungeon-delving in this game despite the existence of all eight of the original Ultima IV dungeons.The path took me down to a large underground lake, and I needed the skiff with me to get to an island in the middle of the lake to reach the lowest level. Fortunately, Shamino was portaging it.

Viewing a magic gem to get my bearings in the dungeon.

There were memorable encounters with a group of spiders and a single dragon, which I defeated. Earlier, a dragon had slaughtered me in the mountains near Destard, so I was pretty happy with my victory. The secret turned out to be the "Paralysis" spell, which rendered it frozen and unable to cast its "Summon Demon" spell--more on that in a later posting.

Defeating a dragon in its lair. A gargoyle didn't fare too well here.

Given all its dangers, I was surprised to find someone living in the dungeon: an ex-Thieves' Guild operative named Phoenix. She said she used to be captain of a ship called Black Thechu before it snapped its anchor and drifted off the edge of the world. (In Dr. Cat's Caverns of Freitag, the main character was said to be a "Thechu warrior.") She told me if I wanted to join the Guild, I could ask Budo in Buccaneer's Den.

Buccaneer's Den was a lot more respectable than I remember. No real pirates, wenches, or gambling--just a bunch of ship captains and crewmen in between assignments. Two marooned female sailors will even join the party. After asking everyone about HAWKINS, PIRATES, and MAP, I finally hit paydirt with a guy named Homer sitting in the corner of the tavern. He related that Hawkins was murdered by his own men and buried. But when I asked about the MAP, he refused to talk to me because I wasn't a member of the Guild.

Budo keeps a facade as the town's provisoner, but he dropped it quickly when I asked about the Guild. He said to join, I'd have to "retire" a member--specifically Phoenix--and get her belt. He also had some threatening to do.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to kill him after I get what I need.

So now I'm headed back into the dungeons to find Phoenix and get her belt. I suppose my choices are to kill her or try out the "Pickpocket" spell. I'll report on what happened next time.


  1. I'm waiting for Irene's 'Living with a CRPG Addict' slice-of-life blog.

    1. I don't know about that. I could always ask my wife about that.

    2. It does sound like it'd make an amazing nerd sitcom. I'd probably actually watch it.

    3. You know, aside from the occasional conversation like this, she doesn't even really notice. You have to remember that I'm self-employed, so my RPG playing basically just blends into the other work I do at my computer. When I'm at home (instead of on the road), I do combinations of playing and working all day, knock off for a few hours when Irene gets home, and then do combinations of playing and working in the middle of the night or when she's doing her own things.

      I don't want anyone to think that I neglect my wife for RPGs. I may have made jokes like that before, but it's not really like that.

    4. That's what I tell myself too. We all do. Welcome to the Dark Side of CRPG Addiction, Chet. XD

      Seriously, though, your companions have these to day to you...

      DUPRE: Do U Play RPGs Extensively?
      SHAMINO: Spent Health And Money, Invested Negatively On -
      IOLO: I Only Live Once!

    5. My Mom has a blog about my Dad's beer hobby (turned second career). It was formed as a cheap way to get into the Beer Blogger's convention with him, as they decided to merge his trip to Boston for the conference into a vacation. It then got amusing....

    6. The funny thing is, so few people can pick beers apart when blindfolded. A substantial amount of the taste in beer and wine is confirmation bias.

    7. Tristan: As part of my Dad's brewmaster program you had to learn how to set up a blind test, and then have the prof set up a blind test and judge how you did. Then you had to do it again, with things spiked into the beer and identify what was wrong with it via taste.

      Sure, if you are drinking standard mass-brewed beer it might be hard, but not actual, proper beer.

  2. It's so long since I saw Dark City that I forgot the main premise, but it is also my main point of reference for Jennifer Connelly.

    Your description of it reminded me of a 1950s sci-fi novella I read recently, called "The Tunnel Under the World" by Frederick Pohl. I don't want to spoil it lest someone dig it up and read it, but it shares some of the same elements you describe from Dark City, and also perhaps would explain the strangely small scale of Britannia.

  3. Wikipedia has a fascinating plot summary of Dark City, for anyone who doesn't want to watch the movie. (But if you like sci-fi movies at all, you should watch it instead of reading about it).

    Oddly enough, the description sounds like it would make a great video game.

  4. Really enjoying the detailed run through Ultima VI so far. Looks like I'm going to have to play it as soon as that Nuvie thing gets finished.

    As an aside, it looks like the mage Ephemerides at the top of this post is a 2nd black character in Britannia, so that makes at least 2.

    1. I was coming to point out Ephemerides as well...

    2. Jesus. He was IN my posting, too. I've said some stupid things before, but that one might take the cake.

      The explanation is that I composed the post rather sporadically, and those two elements were originally from different posts written some time apart.

    3. I figured something like that. I know you're not that colorblind :p

    4. I'm sure someone mentioned you can play through Ultima VI with Nuvie right now, even though there will be more updates to come. You need to use the latest snapshot (rather than version 0.4) for all the latest features.

    5. Yeah, but I've been holding off because it seems to be being actively developed, and I'm looking forward to playing it full-featured. Supposedly 0.5 is coming pretty soon, I think...?

    6. I don't understand what you were going for on the 'Mandy' thing anyway. Are you saying its racist that there aren't more black NPCs? Or that 'Miss Mandy' is racist because of her dialogue?

    7. I wasn't saying that anything is "racist." Why do we have to jump directly to "racist"? I wouldn't even call it "culturally insensitive." At worst, I'd simply say that it suffers from a certain lack of imagination when almost every time a non-white NPC shows up, he or she talks like a caricature.

      The Ultima Codex, plus Steve below, suggest that Mandy is based on the appearance of Whoopi Goldberg's character, Guinan, in The Next Generation. Have you ever seen TNG? Was there ever any dialogue like this?

      Riker and Picard sidle up to the bar.
      RIKER: "I don't know what we're going to do about that holodeck."
      PICARD: "Yes, it seems to be baffling our most concerted efforts."
      GUINAN: "Oooooh-eeeee! Laws a' mercy, Mista Picard. You just sit on down, chile, and tell Miss Guinan all about it over a slice of PE-can pie."

      Of course not. Guinan talks with the same dialect and articulation as everyone else around her, so why base a character on her appearance but have her speak like a character from The Help?

      This isn't the first time I've criticized Origin for something similar:

      I don't think anyone at Origin was racist. And I'm not suggesting that anyone should be offended by the dialogue. I am suggesting that Origin had an opportunity to show a multi-cultural world without stereotypes and for some reason they didn't (see also: Utomo, the gypsies, Monsieur Loubet), either because they thought the stereotypes were endearing or because they just didn't think of alternatives. Either way, it's a very minor part of the gameplay and probably not worth all the words I've already invested in it.

    8. Not a Star Trek fan. I thought Guinan was a place.

    9. Also, "Jesus. He was IN my posting, too."

      Where's Jesus?

    10. Also it isn't literally the first image. It is the first image with a person in it, and the second image over all. I'll just be over here now, running away from Chet and the massive broadsword he is swinging at me.

  5. The conversation with you and the mayor would have been better with bolded keywords. Then we could see which ones he told you to ask about and which ones you did yourself.

    If the NPCs are shooting around the screen, then DOSbox's emulation speed is too fast. Press CTRL-F11 a few times until they move at a more reasonable speed.

    Man, commenters are dicks about spoilers, aren't they? It's like they don't think you're capable of finishing a game without help, despite the fact that you explicitly don't want hints.

    Really liking this Ultima VI report style. No hurry to get to the end, no PLOT PLOT PLOT like modern games. Let's just enjoy what the game provides and explore at a leisurely pace.

    1. The NPC speed isn't an emulation thing, since the game is turn-based. No matter how slow I put the emulator, NPCs still move between areas at about 5x the speed that I can walk because the game is literally trying to hustle them to their appointed positions as quickly as possible--and it only bothers to do this when you're on screen. As an example, Lord British moves from his Throne Room to his bedroom at about 20:00. If you're standing in his throne room at the appointed time, you'll see him get up and scurry off, and if you're standing in his bedroom, you'll see him scurry in. But if you're standing in the hallway in between, you don't see him scurry by.

      In this way, it's fundamentally different from U5, where their walking paths were part of their overall daily routine.

    2. Oh, and the keywords was a good idea. I just bolded and colored them.

  6. The joke with Smith the horse was due to an error in the initial versions of Ultima IV. Supposedly Smith was supposed to tell you the final answer to the last question asked of you in the final dungeon, but the coders forgot to do so before the game shipped. So in Ultima V they had Smith finally tell you the answer as an in-game joke, and continued the tradition into Ultima VI.

    1. And beyond. Smith is in Martian Dreams (where he provides clues for Ultima VI and Savage Empire) and in Ultima VII (where he provides clues for Ultima VI and Martian Dreams).

  7. The moon here in Australia is, of course, kangaroo shaped.

  8. I know you don't like spelling errors pointed out in the comments (delete this afterward), but you mispelled "librarian."

    1. In case you're NOT trolling--which is hard to believe--the title was a very clever reference to "Marian Librarian" from The Music Man, the first lines of which are:

      Madam Librarian

      My librarian was of course named "Mariah."

  9. It has been years and years but I reckon I found the Dutchman in the fens, it is broken in half, but not by a mountain and it is usually found with skeletons guarding it. I think there was a treasure in it but I'm not sure...

  10. Don't forget about A Beautiful Mind in 2001. Jennifer Connelly made going crazy studying math well worth it!

    1. The Ang Lee version of Hulk contained her as the only thing worth looking at (even though her character didn't have much to do really). She starred alongside Keanu Reeves in the reportedly abominable The Day The Earth Stood Still, which I didn't see. There was also Blood Diamond, which I don't remember too well, and of course Requiem for a Dream. Her best performance IMO was House of Sand and Fog, but that film was so unbelievably depressing I'll probably not watch it again. Excellent actress, and one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood as far as I'm concerned.

  11. If you one day in the future reack Utima 9, you will find a Brittania, they shrunk so badly, that it feels, like you´re travelling a Britannia-Theme Park instead of the land, where the other games took place.

    1. I think I managed to jump up and over the mountains between Britain and Yew. Also I decided there was no role-playing challenge so I switched to the immortal "God mode", and could swim from Jhelom at one end of Britannia to Minoc at the other in under a minute.

  12. I'm kind of surprised you've seen Dark City. Brilliant movie, I love it. But while you were talking about it, I started to think perhaps Britannia is actually a VARN from Might and Magic. It is almost the same principle and seems even more fun of a solution.

    1. Remember, VARNs are attached to CRONs, but there's no evidence of that in Britannia. Moreover, VARNs are about creating stable, mulch-generational ecosystems, which makes no sense when your land is constantly undergoing violent upheavals.

      Why does it surprise you that I've seen Dark City?

    2. I had a longer post, but my google profile spazzed and lost it..

      Anyway, with regards to Dark City, I just never understood it to be a widely known film. On top of that, I had the erroneous impression that you didn't watch many modern films.

      As for Britannia, I think it well could be a VARN. The CRON is supposed to be hidden, for one thing, and to any varnlings it could just appear as another planet or star. The VARNs, to my understanding, are primarily about research, not creating stable ecosystems.

      My guess is that Britannia was formed to study morality as a virtue ethics system, which would explain some of the rapid changes to refine their research. The big, big changing of the system after the first few Ultimas could be regarded as a reboot by the controllers after the Avatar went to space and ruined their whole isolated system thing.

      Or, more likely, it just suffers from narrative creep.

  13. Not only are Australians aware they have a moon - if requested, it is likely they will cheerfully show it to you.

    I love the vignette format and hope it is revived for Part 7. I'm playing that now and the addition of 200 years only provides more opportunities for cognitive dissonance. It kind of adds to the fun though.

  14. Okay, Bush Jr. is Lord British.,9171,2069582,00.html

    Also... I can only imagine how hot Japanese Jennifer is. Daaammmnn!

  15. speaking of Jennifer Connelly, she's in the movie Noah, with Russell Crowe


  16. Weird. Two of the blogs in my blogroll mention Jennifer Connelly in their latest post. Neither of them being a Jennifer Connelly blog.

  17. When you mentioned the anonymous jackass I thought you were initially referring to me. I'm gald you weren't! I skirted the edge of jackasshood!

    1. There were two possibilities there, but I'm glad you went with the optimistic one.

  18. Is Amanda supposed to be Whoopi Goldberg?

    I remember playing this game I was so engrossed in the world that I was annoyed that the in-game books were so short. I know the Elder Scrolls games have long in-game books but I never got into the lore as much as Ultima (even though the Elder Scrolls lore is much more detailed and rich, I always thought Ultima had more "personality" to it)

    Some people have criticised Dr. Cat's writing but I think the writing in this game is really engrossing. Take the text from the intro to the game. "There is the wooden clack of a crossbow, and a violet-fletched rose blooms in the priest"s barren forehead." and all the characters have interesting personalities as well. It really gave me the feeling of me being the Avatar and I had all these cool friends and went on amazing adventures. I think what differentiates U6 from U5 is that the characters in U6 had much more personality.

    1. Though U5 had some good writing as well. Stuff like "Blackthorn looks upon Lord British without hatred, without even surprise, but with a passive calmness, as would a prisoner awaiting the sentence of hanging."

    2. I honestly don't know what people find to criticize. There are some silly moments, but the Ultima series has never been short on these. For the most part, I've found the writing to be quite good. What do people complain about?


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