Monday, April 13, 2020

The Black Gate: A Microcosm

Pride goeth before the fall.
                     
Lord British wasn't quite as bad as I suggested in the last entry, although I might have expected a warmer greeting (and an explanation) from someone I haven't seen in 200 years. It occurs to me that Lord British and the Avatar aren't really "friends," as such, and come to think of it, he probably would prefer that I weren't there. I mean, let's look at the evidence. First--and this blew my mind when I realized it--Lord British has never actually summoned the Avatar to Britannia. When the Avatar comes in Ultima IV, it's because moonstones and lore books were scattered throughout the multiverse in hopes that someone who could become the Avatar would find one. Lord British didn't know that the person who became the Avatar, specifically, would find it.
     
Dupre, Iolo, and Shamino were responsible for the Avatar's arrival in Ultima V, and they weren't acting on Lord British's orders because he'd been kidnapped. The gargoyles summoned the Avatar in Ultima VI to kill him. It's not clear who opened the moongate in this game except that Lord British specifically denies doing it. Note, too, how quickly Lord British sends the Avatar back to Earth after each game. There's absolutely no denouement--the Avatar gets shoved through a portal the very moment he completes the main quest.
    
The reason becomes clear when you think about it: The Avatar is a threat to Lord British's own power. The Avatar is a spiritual figure who enjoys almost universal love, admiration, and recognition. He's shown himself wise and courageous enough to save Britannia from destruction several times over. He's built and re-built himself from Level 1 to Level 8 half a dozen times. He's mastered the arts of war and magic. He knows everyone important in the kingdom. And by Lord British's own standards, the Avatar is the only person virtuous enough to bear his title. Would you want him around if you were a monarch? 
        
The conversation starts out well.
   
But he's not dumb enough to ignore the Avatar's utility, and he's aware that a few things are clearly wrong. The most obvious concerns magic. It's been going wonky lately. Spells don't work. Mages, including his long advisor Nystul and Rudyom in Cove, are going insane. Rudyom had been studying something called "blackrock."

Almost immediately, he wants to know if I brought my Orb of the Moons. I thought the backstory had me grabbing it, but it's not in my possession, so I say no. This concerns Lord British. He worries that I'll be trapped in Britannia. He gives me his Orb so I won't have to stay, suggesting that it might work better for me because I'm freshly arrived.
          
"Feel free to try it right now."
         
As we saw last time, Lord British is a bit naive about the Fellowship and Batlin, but he is aware that something is going on. In addition to the trouble with magic and the ominous rumbling, he says, "there is something wrong in Britannia." He's not sure exactly what, but: "Something is hanging over the heads of the Britannian people. They are unhappy. One can see it in their eyes. There is nothing that is unifying the population, since there has been peace for so long." He wants me to go hang out with them and see what I can find out.

He is horrified to hear about the murder in Trinsic. He remembers a similar one from four years ago in Britain, and he suggests I talk with the mayor, Patterson, about it.
              
I ask him about the earthquake, and he's 100% up-to-speed on that. He says that for some reason, the Isle of Fire where I defeated Exodus has recently risen from the ocean. He warns me to watch out for the remains of Exodus and to make use of the shrines of virtue that I might find there. "Shrines of virtue?" I reply, confused. Yes, he says. In addition to the shrines to each individual virtue that I visited repeatedly in Ultimas IV through VI, Lord British also had built three shrines to the three principles of virtue: truth, love, and courage. These were on the Isle of Fire when it sank.
          
You lose more credibility with every word you speak.
               
I'm not sure how much I buy this little retcon, which not only suggests that Lord British conceived of the Quest of the Avatar before Sosaria became Britannia, but that first three shrines he had built were coincidentally unneeded during the actual quest. He goes on to say that the shrines are "meant for the use of an Avatar only," so not only had he planned the quest before building any of the other shrines, he was so sure that it would succeed that the first three he built presumed the quest would be completed. Uh-huh. Anyway, he gave me a deed to a ship, docked near Vesper (Vesper's back!) if I wanted to visit the island.

Beyond that, we make a little small talk. The castle has been renovated. He likes it but is annoyed by the nursery, which the Great Council talked him into implementing for his staff. (I'm 100% sure this reflects something happening at ORIGIN at the same time.) He's kept my stuff, including a spellbook, in a chest for 200 years; I'll find it in the west side of the castle; the key is in Lord British's study.
          
Indeed.
                 
A couple of entries ago, in relation to Trinsic, I noted that the increased realism of the simulation and graphics made it increasingly hard to regard the small number of buildings and people in the city as a representative sample, leading us to the uncomfortable conclusion that a major city houses only 10 people. Ultima VII, like the Elder Scrolls games but unlike, say, Baldur's Gate, has chosen not to fill the streets with generic NPCs or provide matte backgrounds suggesting untold miles of city blocks beyond the few that we can walk and experience for ourselves. Nonetheless, many of you argued that we should still regard the few buildings we see and the few NPCs we meet as a small representative sample of a much bigger world. While I have logical problems with this, I noted more and more signs of the truth of this view as I explored the tiny Castle Britannia.
            
A) It's kind of weird to denigrate your own sister as "prudish." B) You're so very, very wrong.
         
The fortress is a single story, except for a roof with four corner rooms. The main floor has a courtyard in the middle with Lord British's throne room north of the courtyard. When he's on the throne, it's just him and four guards--no advisors or courtiers or anything. The guards are all generically named "guard" (an exception with the "no generic NPC" rule), and they all call me an idiot for asking about their jobs.
             
The Avatar's eye twitches. His hand floats towards the hilt of his sword . . .
          
Moving clockwise around the castle from Lord British's throne room, we first come to the dining room and kitchen. A woman named Boots (it's been her nickname since she was a child) runs the kitchen and cooks for the entire castle. She turns out to be the matriarch of a family that is all in service to Lord British. Boots's husband, Benny, is the head butler. Her son, Charles, is a servant in love with a bartender at the Blue Boar named Jeannette. Her daughter, Nell, is a chambermaid. More on Nell in a minute. Anyway, Boots tells me that her husband is going absent-minded and forgot to order a bunch of mutton from Paws; if I go there and pick it up, she'll pay me 3 gold pieces per loin or chop or whatever mutton is divided by. Surely there's some kid who could do this?
           
I guess being the Avatar doesn't qualify me to eat whatever I want from the kitchen, because the first time I grabbed a piece of bread, every NPC in the area screamed bloody murder and the guards came running.
          
Great. Lord British's own guards are open to bribery.
                 
Lord British's hated nursery comes next. It's run by an old woman named Nanna. While she loves her job, she complains about the class system in Britannia and the crushing level of taxes imposed by the Britannian Tax Council. (I'm not sure that we ever meet these people, which is more evidence for the idea that the NPCs we do meet are just supposed to be a representative sample. Clearly, the Tax Council exists somewhere). Nanna has recently joined the Fellowship.
         
Oh, right. Somehow Sherry the Mouse is still alive, too. I don't believe any explanation for the ability of the mouse to talk is ever given, let alone its longevity.
           
Nanna's charges are three toddlers, and the weird thing is that only one of them is a child of an employee. What Nanna is really running is an orphanage. Max is the son of Miranda, who serves on the Great Council. A toddler named Kristy was found in an abandoned building in Paws. (The fact that there are no abandoned buildings in Paws is a perhaps evidence for the idea that the buildings we see are just supposed to be a representative sample.) Nicholas, the youngest, was left at the castle gates one night. He can't even really speak. Sometimes, the kids are sleeping in cradles, which you can rock by double-clicking on them.
          
If this was a modern console game, getting them to rock all at once would probably be an "achievement."
          
It's a point of amusement that the Avatar's script--NAME, JOB, BYE--never wavers even when he's talking with children, who are particularly confused about the idea of a "job." This is particularly funny for me because ever since I read this XKCD comic, my default reaction to being presented with a friend's new baby is, "I hope it does a good job."
         
The Avatar's dialogue options don't change even when the subject is pre-verbal.
            
We learn that Nicholas's "job" is to try not to wet his diaper. At this, he has apparently recently failed, and the Avatar has the opportunity--this is not only a "first" in CRPG history but likely an "only"--to replace it with a fresh one by double-clicking on the clean diaper and then double-clicking on Nicholas. You want to get this right because there's also a dirty diaper in the room, and if the Avatar uses that one, Nicholas's vocabulary develops real quick.
         
"Nurture" wins the old "Nature/Nurture" debate.
              
While we're on the subject of diapers, Spark complains at one point about the smell of them. You wouldn't think three children, two of them almost too old for diapers, would produce enough to really ruin a room, particularly in an age that didn't otherwise have actual toilets. Here again is some evidence that we're supposed to imagine more children, perhaps even more staff members, in this area.

Continuing on, we pass a servant's bedroom on the way to the Royal Council Chamber, which has only three seats despite having at least five members. I say this because the one member present, Miranda, mentions that she's one of three women on the Council, and the gargoyle in the chamber, Inwisloklem (doesn't that sound like it would be an Ultima V spell? IN WIS LO KLEM!), says he's one of two gargoyles. Miranda suggests that three women is in fact a small minority. I'm not sure we ever get an actual number of people on the Great Council, but let's assume it's at least 12. This provides us quantifiable evidence that the real size of the world, its buildings, and its people is supposed to be about four times what we actually see.
             
Miranda will learn that such things must be possible for any free speech to be possible.
        
My friend Corey, who is black, once told me that the true test of whether a white man is free of racism and prejudice is not whether he has black friends or whether he generally gets along with black people, but how he feels when he finds out that a black man is dating his sister. ("Daughter" also works well.) The CRPG version of this, for me, was finding a couple of gargoyles occupying prominent positions in Lord British's castle. I confess I actually had a bit of a reaction to it when I first played this game back in the 1990s. I mean, it's one thing to not want to see them victims of genocide, but to put them on the Council? What was Lord British thinking? That sort of thing. Naturally, I was expecting it this time, but I thought it was still an amusing example of art reflecting life.

Anyway, Inwisloklem reports that there's a lot of tension between Britannians and the gargoyles, starting with the relatively inhospitable island, Terfin (which one had Lord Blackthorn's palace), that they were given to settle. He's considering joining the Fellowship, apparently unaware of their involvement with the Britannian Purity League. A second gargoyle named Wislem is lurking around the castle, claiming to be Lord British's advisor. He reports that Lord Draxinusom is still alive, and he suggests that I visit him to report on the death of Inamo. Draxinusom will know if he has family.
            
You would have thought 200 years was enough.
           
Miranda, who's something of a feminist, wants to see more women in government positions and would like to ban fantasy depictions of women in revealing armor. At the time, they're working on a bill to outlaw the pollution of Lock Lake, and Miranda wants me to take a copy to Lord Heather, Cove's mayor, for his signature.

Continuing onward, we find the quarters of Lord British's personal bodyguard, Geoffrey, who despite his title spends all of his time training in his quarters. The quarters are notably spartan; Geoffrey appears to sleep on a bare mattress. I've always found Geoffrey to be the least interesting and most useless of my old Ultima IV companions--enough so that I generally play a fighter in that game so I don't even get him in the party. He has nothing important to say here.
         
For your sake, I'm going to forget you said that.
               
Chuckles stands in the entry hall to the castle at the far south. Chuckles is perhaps the worst NPC in RPG history--and yes, I'm including the Adoring Fan. The classic jester character in fantasy--think Wit from Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive or Robin Hobb's Fool--is funny and witty but also somewhat deep and tragic. He has wisdom when it's called for. Chuckles has none of that. He's just a jackass. His jokes aren't even funny. And you know what? Lord British doesn't even seem to like him. I'm not even sure he really works for Lord British. He's never in the throne room. He's always hanging around the entryway to the castle, as if he's some Britannian version of Mister Myxlplyx, and Lord British found it easier to just ignore him than deal with him. I mean, he's been keeping up his shtick for 200 years now. What kind of sociopath does that?

Here, he wants to play The Game. It takes a few attempts at dialogue to understand what The Game is. I didn't remember it from last time, but I picked it up fairly quickly: It's to speak only in single syllables. A few lines of inane dialogue later, and I had a CLUE to consult the fortune-teller in Minoc. I'm sure the CLUE will turn out to be something about saving the gargoyles in Ultima VI (I don't actually remember), so I'm not going to hustle off to Minoc real soon.
          
Why couldn't the first option have used "kill"?
        
The west side of the castle goes quickly. Nystul's quarters are next, followed by a random servant's quarters, Lord British's study, and two more servants' quarters. Nystul has gone senile from whatever is happening to magic, but he still sells spells and reagents. There isn't otherwise much to say about these rooms except for the books. This entry is already getting so long that I'm going to offer some book commentary as a separate bonus posting.

I'll also note here that the Avatar can sleep in any of the beds, even Lord British's, as long as he beats the true occupants to them. Another party member asks what time he wants to be awakened, and the Avatar specifies a time between 0 and 12 hours. I have no idea where the other party members go during this period, only that they're back when it's time to get up, and almost certainly they're complaining about hunger. They're really just like my cats in that regard. As I sleep the first night in the castle, the Guardian's voice taunts me: "Yes, my friend, rest and heal, so you are strong and able to face the perils before you. Pleasant dreams." It's amazing how well the voice actor is able to turn such pleasant words into menacing threats.

In the northwest part of the castle, we have Lord British's quarters. I note first of all that his "king" bed is just two double beds pushed together. It's surrounded by bedcurtains that can be double-clicked to open and close. I'm slightly disappointed that the mirrors don't reflect anything. (Even in 2020, have we seen any games with realistic mirror behavior?) You can also double-click the candles on his end tables to light them. How were 50 more games not created with this engine!?!

An astute explorer has noted a ring of servants' corridors or guards' corridors surrounding all of the rooms to the castle. Lord British's changing room is the only place that offers access from this side, via a partly-hidden lever in the north. In general, secret doors in Ultima VII are denoted with barely-visible square stones in the middle of the wall textures. Sometimes, you can just double-click on them to open them, but other times they require a switch or lever. Here, almost every room in the castle has them, but they require a lever on the other side. This would make me uncomfortable, frankly, if I had one of these bedrooms.
            
The arrow points to the lever. The wall to the northwest has one of the "secret door" symbols.
           
Once you have access to the outer ring of walls, you can go up a flight of stairs to the castle roof. There, you can access a pair of cannons pointed down the drawbridge, although to no real purpose. I violated my "no theft" rule only once this session by "pocketing" one of the barrels of gunpowder next to one of the cannons; they're just too damned useful to ignore. Incidentally, you mistake regular barrels for gunpowder barrels--which light and explode in response to double-clicks--exactly once.
    
Each of the four turrets has a corner room at the top. In the northwest room, I find the gear that Lord British was talking about: A shield, a bedroll (allowing me to sleep almost anywhere), a two-handed sword, some gold, some magic boots, some food, and my old spellbook. It comes with a full set of Level 0 spells--basic cantrips like "Awaken," "Weather," "Douse," and "Ignite"--and a few other scattered spells from the first through the third level: "Cure," "Light," "Fire Blast," and "Heal."
          
The Avatar claims his spellbook.
        
The northeast room has some armor, but I can't figure out how to open the secret door to get in there. The southeast room is an empty jail cell. The southwest room holds Weston, husband of Alina, who I met back at the homeless shelter in Paws. Weston confirms that he stole apples from the Royal Orchid after the overseer, Figg, quoted an absurd rate. (He also reported that Figg has been giving free apples to the Fellowship.) Weston offers no excuse for his "crime" other than the poverty inflicted by an unjust class system. Every one of his lines is mocked by a nearby guard whose entire job must be to stand outside this one cell, because he continues doing it after Weston is freed. The guard is a satire of the modern cable-news-watching, talk-radio-listening observer whose political views are entirely devoid of nuance. Right and wrong are defined by rigid adherence to the law and those in power. Any attempt to excuse or mitigate crime is saying, "Boo-hoo; it's society's fault." His father was poor and yet somehow managed to get by without committing crimes, so that anecdote should apply to everyone.
          
Do you think the official term is "Paviaphobia?"
         
I return to Lord British, who expresses horror at Weston's story, searches the records, concludes that someone had "usurped mine authority," promises a full investigation into Figg, and orders Weston released at once. This happens so quickly that the cell is empty when I return.
           
I half-expected him to next say, "I usually execute people for that!"
        
Before we wrap up, let's return to Nell and her family. Nell is the castle's chambermaid. She is pregnant and engaged to Carrocio, an entertainer who runs the "Punch & Judy" show out in Britain. When questioned about her child, she says that Carrocio is probably the father. She muses: "Then again, it could be . . . no, probably not him. Or could it be? Hmmm, that would be interesting."
               
Given your situation, I think you might waive that requirement.
           
I don't know if it's possible to solve this mystery without killing Lord British, but--after taking a save, of course--that's what I did. A few times a day, Lord British stands at the doorway between his throne room and the courtyard, looking into the latter with satisfaction. If at that moment you double-click on the plaque above his throne room door, it falls off and embeds himself in his head, supposedly a joke based on an incident in which a piece of metal fell off the ORIGIN building and hit Richard Garriott in the head, sending him to the hospital. To drive the joke home, the Avatar nonsensically yells, "Yancey-Hausman will pay!" This is the name of a still-extant commercial real estate firm that owned ORIGIN's building.
         
The Guardian is pleased with this turn of events. Note: To avoid the discussion, I have speech turned on, but if you just HEAR the Guardian, it doesn't really help in a screenshot.
         
Lord British's corpse--for which the graphic artists designed a gruesome imagine of the plaque stuck in his head--holds only one object: His will.
            
Being of sound mind and body, I hereby bequeath all of my belongings to . . . Nell, my beloved chambermaid. She has kept me warm so many nights, which is more than I can say for most of my bloody subjects! And to our unborn child I bequeath my crown. Long live the king. Or queen, whichever it shall be!
                
There's so much to unpack in this letter, and a huge question is whether we're to regard it as canonical. If it is, wow. No one would begrudge Lord British a love interest, of course, but it's a little troubling that he keeps her and her entire family in servitude instead of recognizing her and at least elevating her to queen-consort or something. More important, he's willing to let another man raise his unborn child, only recognizing the child if he dies, at which point he won't be around to see the havoc that this causes for Nell and Carrocio's marriage. Even worse, the letter shows a secret contempt for his subjects that we've never heard from his mouth, and he clearly expects that his government will continue as a hereditary monarchy.
        
I didn't do anything. I was just reading a plaque.
      
You could argue that the letter is just supposed to be an Easter egg, an in-joke, accessible only by doing something that breaks the game, but that's hard to countenance because it's the second half of the mystery that Nell introduces in regular dialogue. Either way, I've said it before and I'll say it again: If some ORIGIN employee is responsible for this note (and the general portrayal of Lord British in this and the next game) without consulting Richard Garriott, it was a pretty mean thing to do to one's boss. If Richard Garriott was aware, or if it was his idea, then it's a pretty weird thing to do to your alter-ego.
          
Oddly, no one in the castle has any reaction to Lord British's demise, so perhaps he wasn't all that beloved after all. Suspecting that his death makes the game unwinnable, I of course reloaded. 
            
She said loudly and clearly while looking around her nervously.
            
But we can't go without finding out how Lord British reacts to being changed with a dirty diaper. I gave it a try while he was sitting down to dinner. The answer is: he screamed, fled to the corner, and then turned around and killed everyone in the entire room with fireballs.
       
A diaper brings out the king's true nature.
          
I'm definitely saving one of those for Batlin.

Wow. Over 4,000 words on the castle alone. This is a very content-rich game. Shall I continue with this level of detail, or is it getting to be too much?
    
Time so far: 7 hours
  
Edit: I woke up in the middle of the night realizing that someone would ask what happens when you attempt to put a clean diaper on Lord British. I was mildly terrified by the possibilities but I knew I had to try it. Thankfully, he (and any adult) just says, "Those are for babies." Nothing else happens. Whew.

222 comments:

  1. "If this was a modern console game, getting them to rock all at once would probably be an "achievement." "


    Achievements are built into most PC games nowadays as well, and remakes are quite popular. Ware your words, or this very thing might happen.

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    1. This should be turned into another Internet Rule: "There is an achievement for it, no exceptions." No matter how nonsensical, obscure, or outright batshit insane something is.

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    2. I'm one of the people who enjoy hunting achievements. Unless they're just dumb busywork - I like getting an achievement for solving obscure quests, but "kill 1000 enemies" achievements are just lame.

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    3. I think my favorite silly achievement in a game is in Payday 2. There's a mission that's obligatory stealth; if your team is detected it's an automatic point-of-no-return timer to evac. You MUST sneak it. There's a cheevo for doing this while carrying a minigun and a rocket launcher called "I have no idea what I'm doing."

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    4. Despite Chet's legendary dislike of remakes, after beating it I feel like Ultima 7 could really benefit from being changed--even if that change is to demake it into a game more resembling Ultima VI.

      A lot of my gripes with it have to do with the real-time gameplay and mouse-based interface.

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    5. Irene insisted on purchasing and “playing” Dear Esther, which is what you get when someone writes a book, then pretends it’s a movie, then pretends it’s a game. It started up, she picked up the controller, and immediately turned the character the wrong way and made him fall off the dock into the water, where he drowned the Xbox went “Ping!“ And she got an achievement for drowning herself within the first five minutes of the game. It’s definitely a term that has lost its original meaning.

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    6. "Irene insisted on purchasing and “playing” Dear Esther, which is what you get when someone writes a book, then pretends it’s a movie, then pretends it’s a game."

      I always found the half-mocking/half-serious genre definition for these kind of games absolutely brilliant: walking simulators.

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    7. Achievements are often just a way for the developers to show off their vast knowledge of pop culture memes, obscure folklore, and terrible puns. That drowning achievement, for example, is called "Seonaidh," which is apparently a water spirit in Hebridean mythology. (No idea if there's any relation in-game, walking simulators are definitely not my cup of tea.)

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    8. People used to call Elder Scrolls games "hiking simulators" (at least over on RPG Codex) because you do a lot of hiking through fantasy landscapes in them.

      And then, a whole new genre came along that kept the hiking and removed the gameplay, hah!

      Regarding silly achievements such as "congrats, you drowned yourself" I laughed out loud back when I played Risen for the first time and had the achievement "Idiot" pop up. You got that for falling to your death 10 times. What can I say, I just like to explore vertical spaces with no regard to my character's safety...

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    9. There's an achievement in Fallout: New Vegas for beating Mr. House to death with a 9 iron. It's called "Would You Kindly".

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    10. Achievement is a bit of a misnomer, but there's not really a better word for "acknowledgement of an in-game event that may be a serious accomplishment, unexpected turn of events, unorthodox strategy, discovery of a secret, and/or using the game mechanics to goof off."

      Deus Ex: Human Revolution has an achievement for throwing a basketball into a hoop, I thought that was pretty fun. It was something you could do in the original too but I don't remember if it was acknowledged in that game.

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    11. You got secret messages ("Sign him up for the Knicks!" being one) for hitting the hoop with the basketball (you couldn't actually get it through because the hoop is a solid physics object).

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    12. Anyone remember X-Play on G4? 'Real Life Achievements' was the best!

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    13. @alex in one of the more hilarious references across genres, Farm Simulator 17 has the same basketball cheevo as Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Just as a nod to Deus Ex.

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  2. Actually the story in Underworld 2 takes place a year after the end of Ultima VII and the avatar is still there so guess Lord B let's him stick around this time.

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    1. Thank you. I’ll make sure to specify in the future that I’m not talking about games I haven’t played yet.

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  3. Please keep writing these detailed articles, I'm really enjoying them. I haven't played U7 since the late 90s, and I'm amazed again about the NPCs. They all have a well defined personality, relationships with other NPCs, schedules and even political opinions. True, some of them give you small quests, but this is not their main purpose, unlike for example in Baldur's Gate. When are we going to find this complexity level again? Fallout, maybe?

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    1. I second the motion. I enjoy reading these long, detailed posts.

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    2. I agree. I actually tried playing this game once, but I quickly abandoned it because I found the level of detail and complexity just overwhelming. Frankly, I am enjoying reading about the small details much more than playing the game.

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    3. Agreed! Spend as much time as you'd like Chet!

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    4. I want even longer articles!!! Just kidding, the one above is just perfect!

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    5. Reading a post where interest and joy of the game oozes from every word is a heartening thing to read. I've never gotten any further in the Ultima timeline than the sixth game, so this was a great read.

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    6. Raifield, you said what I tried to say on the last U7 post, but better than I said it.

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  4. I chuckle to myself thinking about Ultima VII's diaper mechanics at least once a week. You probably could have stretched that out to a whole entry.

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  6. I'm all for detailed posts about the minutiae in Ultima VII.

    "Even in 2020, have we seen any games with realistic mirror behavior?"

    I'm a bit confused. It's not super common, but several games have convincingly realistic reflecting mirror effects - Duke Nukem 3D, Super Mario 64, Max Payne, MDK2, and Doom 3 all come to mind. Doom 3 even lets you see partially transparent reflections in glass. You won't, however, be able to shine your flashlight at a mirror and see the beam hit the wall behind you. That probably can't be done without raytracing.

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    1. It's been years... but don't the mirrors in Ultima V change to show your reflection when you stand in front of them? That's some amazing realism... when you consider it from an 8-bit point of view!

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    2. Realistic mirrors are rare in modern games because of the way they work--in Mario 64 and games of that era, they have a second player character literally mirroring your actions on the other side of the mirror, in an area that you aren't supposed to access.

      In more modern games, mirrors with realistic reflections essentially have a camera pointing outward that renders the entire scene again, along with all the fancy graphical effects that you would see through your own eyes--essentially doubling the graphical workload of the game for something that can easily be avoided at the level design stage.

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    3. Wouldn't having a duplicate of the room you're in, complete with a second character, double the graphical workload of rendering the scene anyway?

      I remember Ultima V showing mirror reflections! Though IIRC, they show the Avatar's front side, even though the iconographic perspective makes it look like the mirror should be behind you. Regardless, it's a little disappointing that Ultima VII doesn't do that.

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    4. @arthurdawg - yes you are right, the mirros in U5 do show a reflection.

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    5. Ray tracing in real time is a thing on some recent graphic cards, so we'll probably see more realistic mirrors in the coming years.

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    6. @Ahab, not necessarily. The stuff duplicated on the other side of the mirror is only a small subset of the entire scene, and it was often just the dummy player character on a solid blue field--perfectly fine if the game is cartoony enough.

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    7. @Ahab, if well-coded, seeing an inverted room through a mirror works exactly the same as seeing a normal room through a doorway. So no impact on performance.

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    8. I remembered Ultima V, but while its use of mirrors was admirable for the time, it just showed a generic adventurer icon if your character happened to be standing right in front of it. When I say “realistic“ effects, I’m talking about actually mirroring the character and his background.


      I don’t understand what confuses you, Ahab. I haven’t played those games you mentioned. If the answer to my question is yes, those games do it, I guess I have my answer.

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    9. I just wasn't sure if "reflects the character and the environment" met your definition of realistic. Guess I was just overthinking the question. Found this on Giant Bomb, because of course they've got a list of games with functional mirrors (though it's missing Super Mario 64 for some reason):
      https://www.giantbomb.com/functional-mirrors/3015-4618/

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    10. I always wondered why mirrors seem to be so difficult to implement when games have been doing pretty decent reflections on water for almost two decades now. I replayed Morrowind not too long ago, and even vanilla - without any visual enhancement mods - it has reflections on lakes!

      Why are mirrors so much more difficult to do than reflections on water?

      Delete
    11. Hitman 2 (2018 version, rather than Hitman 2 Silent assassin (2002), don't you just love game naming conventions?) has nice mirrors, and people will even notice you sneaking up by seeing you in the reflection. Probably the best mirrors in gaming that I can think of right now!

      Delete
    12. Reflections on water are even more fake than most things in computer graphics. First, water is a flat surface, assuming you're near eye level, its reflecting only the top half of your screen. You dont have to worry about perspective distortion, or seeing anything that isn't already visible. Most game engines will take what's been rendered above the water, flip it upside down and blend that in with the water texture. Presto, cheap reflection. The system often breaks down when you look down at the water and watch as the reflection fades away, because the world above the water is no longer being drawn. Hope I explained that somewhat clearly.

      Delete
    13. It may not qualify as an rpg (or does it?) but the Sims 3 has mirors that accurately reflect what's in front of them.

      Delete
    14. The Sims 3 absolutely qualifies as an RPG and if Chet ever reaches that year (far, far in the future) he better add it to the roster!

      It's got stats and leveling up, so it's an RPG!

      Delete
    15. Does it have combat related to those though? If it doesn't, it wouldn't count as one for the blog... although this would mean that Stardew Valley's going to have to make an appearance assuming the blog ever gets that far

      Delete
    16. There’s a lot of overlap between the builder genre and the RPG genre.

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    17. Deus Ex and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines had mirrors that I remember seeming awesome for the time, specifically Bloodlines which would exclude your character in the reflection

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    18. Is combat a necessity according to Chet's rules? I'm currently playing Titan Outpost, which is an RPG without combat but it's clearly and unmistakably an RPG. You got stats, skills, XP gain, levelups, equipment. All of those directly influence the efficiency of your character at doing things (research, construction, exploration, diplomacy, etc).

      And then there's Disco Elysium which doesn't have a combat system either, but has stats and skills and dice rolls and equipment...

      The presence of combat is not a necessary component of an RPG, even though it is a common and expected one.

      Delete
    19. Yeah, one of the core rules is that it has to have combat that's based on attributes in some way. Still, it is Chet's blog, and just because it doesn't meet the rules doesn't mean it wouldn't appear, and I'd imagine that a game that's an RPG in every other aspect would probably show up here anyway. After all, the rules are a floor, not a ceiling

      Delete
    20. Well, they just released the beta of Minecraft RTX, which looks pretty good as a perfectly-still water simulator.

      Delete
  7. One interesting bit of fluff that struck me from the Ultima IV manuals was the statement that the spider silk used as spell reagents comes from some great giant spider farms to the south. We certainly don't see any giant spider farms in Ultima IV, and to the best of my knowledge we don't see them in any other Ultima either. It's an interesting bit of offscreen worldbuilding that seemed a lot more plausible in IV's graphics engine than it would in VII's. Sure would make an interesting dungeon, though.

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    1. That’s a good catch. I hadn’t thought of that one. I suspect we’d find a few more examples if we went back and read all the manuals and dialogue again.

      Delete
    2. Given the technology and budgets through the prime time of the Ultima series up to VII... I think you have to grant the designers a bit of "suspension of disbelief!"

      But still very good points, I think you have to assume that there is a larger world out there in the game.

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  8. Oh man... You're going to be wandering around for a while. No spoilers though. I'll be surprised if you don't find it on your own in the next session or two.

    You actually can eat breakfast and dinner at the castle. I forget exactly when, but if you show up at the right times and ask the cook to serve you he'll give you one food item for every person in your party.

    Something you haven't mentioned but is good to know, the different food items do fill you up to different amounts. Least filling are fruits and dessert items, then bread, then dairy products, then meat. This is outlined in the manual but easy to miss among all the other information.

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    1. carrying around lots of meat was certainly my strategy back when I played it, you get quite a lot if you go hunting for a little while (or you can steal from various places... but I suppose that's not very virtuous!).

      Later on, jura V tbg gur zntvp pnecrg, V hfrq gb chg n pbhcyr bs oneeryf ba gurer gb fgber sbbq naq bgure vgrzf. Zhpu rnfvre gura.

      Delete
    2. By the time your rot13'd tip occurred to me, I was on my way to the final dungeon. That would have been very helpful in the early game, before I realized that killing sheep for a minute will give you enough food to last for days.

      In the early game, I relied on the create food spell and actually buying food like an idiot. I shudder to think of all the gold I wasted when finding food isn't hard at all if you spend any effort to look.

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  9. I'm pretty sure Garriott was well aware of the dialogue in the game.I get the sense that everyone at Origin didn't really take the whole thing seriously. The plot of U7 is around the level of a comic book in terms of expectations of their audience.

    The whole sign dropping and killing Lord British was actually based on a pretty scary real life event. Richard was leaving the building during U6's development very late and a large metal sign at the entrance fell and struck him on the head as he was leaving. He woke up in a pool of blood and was rushed to the ER. Fortunately he did not suffer a fatal concussion.

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    1. That's unfair. It might not be at Witcher 3 or Planescape:Torment levels, but the plot and settings are more complex and mature than just about anything else at the time.

      There are tons of easter eggs (most of which would be missed during a normal playthrough) and more lighthearted moments,but it doesn't mean the devs didn't take the game (which is still a game) seriously.

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    2. Maybe not, but comic books are written at a level that a 13-year old boy would accept. And that seems about right here. For the time frame, you're right, other CRPG's weren't even CLOSE to this. But judging by today's standards, it's kind of goofy.

      I would say, though, that the vilification of Lord British is very noticeable. At least in Ultima V he took it upon himself to lead an expedition to the Underworld. In VI and VII he seems to be just a lazy incompetent monarch who has no real interest in the actual affairs of his kingdom.

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    3. Sounds like he had interest in at least one 'affair'

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    4. I wish I could find the link again, but I definitely remember an origin employee interview that mentions Garriott was unaware, both that the real-life sign incident had been replicated as an easter egg in the game, and of his fictional counterpart's affair, and was pretty unhappy when he learned about it after release.

      Delete
    5. I'd be interested to see that interview... and also what timeframe it took place in. During Ultima Online's beta testing and afterwards among the volunteers, there were a lot of stories about how Garriott had a lifetime membership to the "Bottoms Up" club in Austin. After he got married a few years ago though he's been refuting such claims.

      Which is understandable, actually. I met Phil Foglio at cons and he's rather embarrassed about his work on the Xxxenophile comic in his youth. As he said to me: "I got kids in school now."

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    6. It came up in a fairly recent interview with Garriott conducted by the Classic Gamer's Guild. He seemed to be pretty light-hearted about the inclusion, but I suppose he can afford to be... many years and plenty of money later.

      The link, for those interested in the interview: https://www.cggpodcast.com/e/ep-54/

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    7. Injecting unflattering depictions of Origin management was kind of a tradition. Dallas Snell has a pretty nasty cameo in this game, as does Warren Spector in Serpent Isle. And Raymond Benson, the writer of this game, is parodied as the director in the Britain theater.

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    8. That's sad about Phil Foglio. There's nothing whatsoever to be embarassed about about Xxxenophile, and it'll probably be remembered long after the rest of his work, most of which is really pedestrian.

      It's the sort of erotica which I'd be very happy if my kids were reading as teenagers in school -- generally gentle, loving, friendly, considerate.

      So much erotica is, shall we say, *extremely problematic*, full of not-very-subtle misogyny, violence, or worse. By contrast, Foglio did a great job with Xxxenophile -- in terms of humaneness and literary quality, it's probably second only to Omaha the Cat Dancer in the annals of sexually explicit comics. By contrast, the vast majority of sexually explicit comics are horribly offensive, and worse, dumb.

      I guess Puritanism lives on in the minds even of people like Foglio.

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  10. For me this is one of those games that is more fun to read about than to actually play, so I like the verbosity.

    But I'm surprised that you are still discussing whether the cities are representative or not.

    BTW, any screenshots of Charles? I remember he had a p. banal haircut in UU2.

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    1. I’m still discussing it because all we had before where a bunch of opinions. When the game tells you that more than six people sit on the council, and they’re only three chairs in the council chambers, that’s actual evidence for one of the perspectives that we were debating about.

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  11. Regarding IN WIS LO KLEM, it is also the case in Ultima VI that most gargoyles have names that are meaningful in runic chant; e.g. Beh Lem meaning "just one" (Beh being the mantra for justice, Lem being... short for lemming?), but there's also a Lor Wis Lem ("scholar of light", or literally "light knowledge person") around; and their leader is Drax In Us Om ("(honorific) creating diligence spiritually").

    I suppose it was meant to be In Wis Lor Lem, "person who creates the light of wisdom", or something like that?

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  12. A minor spoiler on Weston: V sbhaq n ovg qvfnccbvagvat gur Jrfgba fvzcyl qvfnccrnef nsgre orvat serrq. Vs V erzrzore pbeerpgyl, uvf jvsr nccerpvngrf uvf eryrnfr ohg ur qbrfa'g nccrne naljurer.

    N zvabe qrgnvy, ohg vg pnhtug zl nggragvba.

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  13. I am honestly okay if the rest of the year is just discussing Ultima VII in excruciating detail, so don't feel the need to hurry.

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  14. I like it too, but it's mainly because your previous experiences with Ultima and the perspective you are able to give us as readers makes for an interesting read.

    ReplyDelete
  15. as a 14 year old I never did figure out how Chuckles game worked and brute forced it.

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    1. Same! Not going to spoil as Chet doesn't remember, but the "CLUE" is kind of annoying for other reasons.

      Delete
  16. This level of detail is what makes Ultima VII such a legendary game, so carry on writing about it like that. It's still one of the best screwing around simulators out there.

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    1. "Screwing around simulator"! That's hilarious. What other games fit that bill?

      Delete
    2. Rance games?
      The Withcher?

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    3. "Screwing around simulator", Petrus, not *screwing* simulator.

      Delete
    4. Really, most Youtube fodder simulator games apply

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  17. I'm loving all the extra detail, this is the kind of game that deserves a deep dive and you're very good at providing it.

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  18. I think plot-wise the Forge Of Virtue is pretty stupid, yeah. On the other hand, it's funny that they picked up on the fan-hate against Chuckles in U5/6 and added the decidedly-unvirtuous line "I shan't murder thee". I think Chuckles is regularly in the throne room in earlier games.

    Remember Blackthorne's jester in U5? The one who tells morbid anecdotes and, if you say they aren't funny, calls the guards on you?

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  19. Didn't Chuckles also have a corpse stashed behind a fireplace in Ultima V or VI? There's definitely something fishy going on with that bloke.

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    1. Yes! He had the corpse and then Drudgeworth, locked up in the basement, said that Chuckles had framed him or something. How has there never been any canonical resolution to this mystery?

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  20. I don't think the Fellowship is racist against the gargoyles, I think they don't really care who workship them, I just think that the Fellowship members of Paws are racists against the Gargoyles, independently from them belonging to the Fellowship (though possibly the character traits for "likely to belong in a new religious cult" and "likely to be racist" intersect, but still)

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    1. Yeah but that is the thing: The Fellowship is classist or racist by definition as it needs to put a clear border between Us and The Others That Bring Evil. A theme the game repeats over and over.

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  21. Despite repeating myself - this level of detail of the game is what made me love the series. As I grew up with it, so did my expectations, as did the games. This unfortunately stopped with 8.
    From my point of view, you can continue on this level until 2022. That is probably how long it will take you to beat both parts and the addons.
    And then you can go back to U6 and U5 :D


    A detail on the other storage room: I would not open it - although it is possible - because the loot makes you kind of overpowered.
    This will happen sooner or later anyhow, but this might be too soon.

    As for part of the game being an abstraction: yes, that was always my understanding. Only the important people are actually shown apart from a few guards which are there for RPG reasons.

    And yes, why were there not 15 games made with this engine and the engine refined over the course of the years. I think there is basically no limit to the type of game you can create out of this. I think you could even write a 2d shooter.

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    1. Jimmy over at Digital Antiquarian just wrote on this piece of Origin's history. They sold to EA and that resulted in many changes to the company... unfortunately, the budget simply wasn't there. They did have a third game using the 7 engine planned that was to be a "Worlds of Ultima" game with an Arthurian legends background. It ultimately was dropped in the transition as the earlier Worlds games hadn't sold as well as was hoped. It would have been interesting to see how it player out... the only major issue with products based on King Arthur (and Sherlock Holmes) is that they have often been underwhelming in scope and sales...

      Far worse is that Ultima 8 ended up just being so very bad when they could have built off the 7 engine to make it even better!

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    2. They had to rebuild the engine because the Voodoo Memory Manager was a curse. People were running Windows by then and having to reboot to play Ultima, and then reboot again to go back to Windows, was a real market killer.

      Unfortunately, being starved for resources by EA meant that all the energy went into the back end of Ultima VIII... and never made it into the front end.

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  22. Actualy this time Chuckles give you a good advice..
    It is Smith the talking hourse how give you an hint for Ultima VI..
    Keep up the good work Addict!

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    1. As he does in U6 at least, not quite sure about U5.

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    2. If memory serves, Smith was supposed to give you a final key clue in 4, but this was missed or muffed and thus came about the humorous addition of Smith always telling you how to solve the previous game!

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  23. I am enjoying the level of detail, and I think it is appropriate for a game like this, where one of the selling points is the amount of interactivity.

    I do like how the game makes fun of its own dialogue system. As well as the babies, I seem to remember that there's another instance later on with an amateur dramatics society.

    The north-east tower in British's castle is opened ol n yrire haqre n oneery va gur xvgpura.

    I'm pretty certain that you can still continue the game with British dead. I'm sure that's how I did it back when I played it, but it's been a quarter of a century (!) since, so my memory may be faulty. There are also other ways to kill him, although none as easy as dropping the plaque on his head.

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    1. "The north-east tower in British's castle is opened ol n yrire haqre n oneery va gur xvgpura."

      Man, I'm dying here! The day I needed to know, your keyboard started acting up! ;)

      Delete
  24. Love this level of detail Chet. What an interesting game. It still seems more "adventure" than "CRPG" to me, but I could be wrong, never having played it myself.

    Seems similar to the plot of Ultima V though--the virtues/Brittannia getting subverted by hostile outside forces and pernicious internal influences. I guess when you've achieved world peace threats take a different form than an evil wizard, enchantress, and their supercomputer offspring.

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    1. ... no. Britannia is terribly classist and racist, before and after the hostile outside forces "corrupt" it. It makes its point pretty clear.

      Delete
    2. A few people have suggested U7 is an Adventure game, not an RPG, and I think that's completely wrong. Sure, combat is de-emphasized and much more chaotic (realistic?) than normal, but this is an RPG through and through. (Not picking on you Alex, especially since you've never played it.)

      You have a party of characters with their separate stats and a deep equipment system that all have a direct impact on combat. Winning combat and completing quests award you with experience points which level you up and increase your stats. And there's an open world packed with side quests and dungeons and monsters and hidden treasure.

      I haven't played a ton of Adventure games, but I see much less overlap. Superficially, yeah, because there isn't constant combat there's some tonal similarity, but U7 has all the RPG stuff, just mixed a little differently.

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    3. @asimpkins:

      I did not take it as though you were picking on me. I'll take your word for it! My familiarity with this game was watching Spoony's review (remember him?) about it what feels like 1,000,000 years ago and it seemed very fetch-quest heavy. I know fetch-quests are also a part of RPGs as well as adventure games, but it seemed to me to be more like the latter.

      Like you pointed out though, I've never played this myself! It sure LOOKS like a fun, well-made game, and the engine allows for a lot of interaction. And an open world is clearly more of an RPG thing. So when I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

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    4. Some people consider the recently released Disco Elysium to be more of an adventure game than an RPG because it mainly has dialogues and exploration as its gameplay elements, and no combat system at all. But it clearly has stats and dice rolls and equipment and XP gain for doing stuff, so...

      Delete
    5. It being an open world, some of this is just where you choose to go. So far it has been pretty much all towns. But after leaving Trinsic Chet could have chosen to just start walking west instead...

      Then the next post probably would have been about being attacked by bandits, looting their corpses for better equipment, finding a cave, lighting a torch, avoiding traps, fighting some monsters, losing a party member, and finding some potions and magic gauntlets. Then back to town to heal and train. More typical RPG stuff.

      It's all there, just largely optional. And, admittedly, the town stuff if the best part of the game.

      Delete
    6. Hey I loved Spoony before the days of youtube and some short time after that. I am glad he managed to publish his nice reviews of Ultima series before his fall.

      Delete
    7. asimpkins, you say that as if RPG and Adventure Games are totally different genres, when most of the time they share a lot of tropes and mechanics. Hell, Colossal Adventure is an origin for both genres in the computer.

      But I would say that Ultima VII depends way less on stats mechanics than Quest For Glory. Or Disco Elysium. The only element that I see in U7 that could not be part of a Lucasarts game is the battles (and well, Indy Crusade...)

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    8. Yes, because RPG and Adventure Games ARE two distinct genres, and while they share some mechanics, each of the two has a wide set of mechanics that the other lacks. More to the point, gameplay tends to be very different.

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    9. you say that as if all the adventure games and all the crpgs shared the same mechanics, which is untrue.

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    10. Risingson Carlos, there is combat in The secret of Monkey Island too, the swordfights with pirates to earn the help of the Swordmaster. You even have to grind to beat that Swordmaster.

      In an earlier reaction I called U7 an adventure game disguised as an RPG, and reading these posts doesn't make me change my mind. For me, combat and character stats are the most important features of an RPG, and U7 is not about those things. Of course it has everything an RPG should have, but combat is almost an afterthought, statistics are very limited and good equipment is available from the start. I think with this game engine, it would be possible to remove all RPG elements and still have a great game, but I don't think U7 would be better if combat played a bigger role in it.

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    11. Yeah but I don't know why you replied to me, if I agree :) Great point about the grinding in Monkey Island which I didn't think about.

      One way I used to tell adventures and crpgs apart was "if you are the main character, it is an RPG. If you play the character's main story, it's an adventure". Which ends up meaning that adventure games are more into a classic narration, the "closer to a book" thing.

      Delete
    12. Carlos, my fault, only the part about Monkey Island was a direct answer to you. I should have made it clear that the second part was an answer to asimpkins first reaction.

      Delete
    13. "if you are the main character, it is an RPG. If you play the character's main story, it's an adventure" is an interesting take on the genres.

      Especially since it means that JRPGs are not RPGs, which I fully agree with :p

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    14. I used to dislike that in many JRPGs you didn't make your characters. But then I played a few and realized that a good story is a good story. They each have a few differences, with their own strengths and weaknesses, but they weren't that different.

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    15. JRPGs having fixed characters and stories is also not at all universal. Dragon Warrior 3 let you make all the characters besides the Hero, and just like Ultima 3 you could swap em out or make new ones if you wanted. Final Fantasy 1 lets you pick classes if nothing else. Then we get into whether Japan-only Wizardries (almost entirely based on Wizardry 5) count as JRPGs or western ones...

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    16. @Jarl: Generalizing all JRPGs as not RPGs, and using "console RPG" and "JRPG" interchangeably is disingenuous or ignorant. How much control do you need before you consider a game an RPG? We've seen a lot of computer RPGs that don't allow for much control, especially beyond the initial setup. Take Pool of Radiance for example. Leveling up takes no player interaction beyond selecting to train. Each class level is on the same track.

      Delete
    17. I'm an Adventure gamer and Role-Playing gamer — and more of an Adventure gamer in the earlier days of Infocom and Sierra. At the time, which would have been early high school for me, I wrote an essay about how the Ultima 7 sandbox engine was a superior model for adventure games to the stage-like Sierra model.

      Text adventures have a distinct advantage in modeling situational puzzles because the player had to describe precisely what they wanted to do. "Slide newspaper under door" versus "use newspaper on door."

      A sandbox provides kind of a halfway point between scripted story and a simulation. Even in text adventures, having an item be takeable was a big hint. "An inconspicuous newspaper is here." In a sandbox game, it's the opposite problem: one thousand spoons that do nothing anywhere in the game. (And all you need is a screwdriver.) But it doesn't have to be that way...

      At the time, there was no public Internet to speak of, so the essay was pretty pointless. 30 years later I can post about it on someone's blog! Immortality!

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    18. There's no such thing as a genre really.

      Delete
    19. @Zenic: I tried several JRPGs and they all had a huge barrier towards my enjoyment. Usually I get a predetermined party with no character creation, including the main character. Then there's the non-interactive but verbose dialogue, along with a terribly time consuming piecemeal delivery of each sentence (Baldur's Gate: get an entire paragraph instantly appearing in a spacey dialog window; most JRPGs I tried: each sentence is typed out instead of instantly appearing and I have to click through a dozen lines, most of which are trivial banter, and get zero say in what my character says). Turn based combat is slowed down by lengthy animations. There's tons of grinding against random encounters. Etc etc.

      I tried several JRPGs but all of them had so many things that frustrated me, I couldn't get any enjoyment out of them. There's a lot of grinding in some 80s CRPGs, too, sure, but even the worst CRPG doesn't manage to rack up as many annoyances for me as even the best JRPG. It's just not my genre. Whenever I play one of these I just wish half of its features didn't exist, or its approach to certain core elements was different.

      Usually the genre is praised for its stories, but I find there to be too much inconsequential banter that wastes my time, and I don't get invested in a game's story if it's told entirely through non-interactive cutscenes.

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    20. Remember that for years games where you did make your own party had even less story and interaction, since your party, especially the main character, wasn't always the same. Look at Wizardry VI and VII. Despite making your entire party your characters had almost no impact on the story, just the party's actions as a whole. So all the story basically ignores the party. Your party might as well have been faceless mannikins for all the impact your choices during character creation had. And most other western RPGs are the same. The story happens around your character/s with barely any interaction with them.

      Any RPGs with premade characters can have your characters directly affect the story, even if there's no choices.

      Though I do agree that some of the design choices are annoying. Long animations or slow typing are annoying regardless of what type of game it is. And the grinding tends to be an eastern Asian thing.

      Delete
    21. Yes, some old CRPGs barely have any story at all. The early Wizardries might as well not have any story, but they also don't waste my time with lengthy cutscenes.

      That's the issue I have with JRPGs. When CRPGs started having more elaborate stories, they were presented to you with at least somewhat interactive dialogs (type in keywords to extract information from NPCs). Chet recently played Legend of the Five Realms which was an exception, dialogue in there seemed to work more like in JRPGs where your character speaks without your input, but at least entire paragraphs are presented to you at once and everything NPCs say has some relevance. Meanwhile in the JRPGs I tried, dialogue gets typed out sentence by sentence and a lot of it is just cute banter between party members.

      I don't mind games having no story or a barely interactive story as long as it doesn't get in the way of playing the game. In most JRPGs I played, the story feels like it's interrupting the gameplay every couple of steps, and those scenes sre very lengthy and either unskippable or take about a dozen clicks to skip.

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    22. Experiencing dialogue on consoles is a drag sometimes, especially when the dialogue isnt compelling.

      Typing 'name''health''job' for every NPC doesn't exactly get my engines going either though.

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    23. That's the thing though - with an RPG you make your own story. Sure there are plot points, but everything in between is you doing your own thing.

      I get that a lot of people don't like that part with all the combat and equipment and just want the interactive novel thing. One questions why they play RPGs, but then again these people have lots of money and pay over and over. They're un-ignorable.

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    24. One wonders if the people who "play games for the story" ever read books.
      Not that a computer game can't sometimes tell a story better than its source material or inspirations. Betrayal at Krondor and No One Lives Forever are the only ones I can think of at the moment, though.

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    25. I think the equipment, combat, magic, beastiary, and wilderness/dungeon exploring is more significant here than most of you are giving it credit for. But I also reject the idea that CRPGs must be about combat and not storytelling. I think like tabletop RPGs you can emphasize either.

      I will admit that I haven't played a lot of Adventure games, so maybe I have a more narrow view of them than I should. But when I think of Adventure games it's mostly a linear presentation of scenarios that you puzzle your way through by performing a certain set of actions, sometimes with multiple solutions, to progress to the next set piece.

      And I don't see how the open world freedom of U7 fits in with that. Once you get out of Trinsic you can almost go wherever you want and do whatever you want. Towns or caves, buy a boat and look for islands, plan a heist at the jewelers or the murder of a townsperson, hire or dismiss joinable NPCs at you see fit. This game is full of freedom compared to any Adventure game I've experienced, and I'd say you definitely are the main character.

      I don't think that RPGs and Adventures are totally disctinct genres, of course there's lots of overlap, but U7 just gives me a much more RPG experience than what I've ever gotten out of an Adventure game.

      But maybe I just don't know my Adventure games. What are some incontrovertible Adventure games that are similar to U7?

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    26. (Collosal Cave) Adventure and Zork were both significantly about exploration. There were puzzles to solve strewn about, but they were not all, or even largely, sequentialized.

      Ultima 7 has a pretty strong focus on this story of the Guardian, the Fellowship, the murderers... You can wander around, of course, but the clues for the Crown Jewel lead in a staged direction. I don't know that I see that much difference.

      Delete
    27. Books and movies aren't the only media capable of telling stories. Wasn't true when the first computers came out, wasn't true when The Black Gate was released, isn't true today. Asking why people who "play games for story" don't just read a book reduces a massive field of preferences and opinions to a single yes/no question.

      I have heard of books. I like a good book. I've also heard of nutrient pills and protein shakes, but just because they're supposedly a more optimized form of the same thing doesn't mean I will prefer them over an actual meal. Just because a book is supposedly be-all end-all of linear storytelling, doesn't mean that a linear story from a video game is impossible to enjoy.

      Delete
    28. I was going to respond, but Alex has me covered.

      Delete
    29. The better-designed adventure games offer both multiple solutions to a puzzle, as well as non-linearity of puzzles. Admittedly "better-designed" excludes most of them.

      Combat is an interesting distinction. While some adventure games have action-based minigames (e.g. Indiana Jones), the few of them that have statistics-based combat (e.g. Quest For Glory) are called adventure/RPG hybrids.

      Sandboxiness is also an interesting distinction. While no adventure games (to my knowledge) have that, almost no RPGs have it either: Ultima 6/7/UW are the rare exception. I would say these games overlap with the "sandbox genre" (e.g. Minecraft) much more than with adventure games.

      Exploration? Yeah, that's something pretty much all RPGs and adventure games have in common - as do e.g. metroidvania games.

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    30. A book is strictly linear regardless of the order the chapters are in. You still read them (usually) from start to finish.

      Games are puzzles that tell stories. You're trying to figure out how to get to the next part of the story, whether it's through actual puzzles or figuring out how to survive and to beat the next boss. Yes, many games are linear, but most RPGs allow you to explore and see things, or skip some, as you want. And to discover things on your own instead of being told them.

      As I said above for much of gaming's life, the created parties rarely had interaction with the story, they were just enablers. Some games later on decided to make just the main character created, but even then your character rarely had your creation choices make a difference in the story, just a difference in how you accomplished things. But it allowed you to solve the "puzzle" of combat how you wanted to. This is what is commonly known as the Western RPG (WRPG). Though, as people above has said, it's not a strict definition.

      Eastern RPGs eventually decided to make the main character a specific character too, though once again it's not all of them. This limited the player's choice in the character, but it allowed the main character to be an actual part of the story.

      Though it's not all set in stone. The Quest for Glory series gives you multiple starting characters with their own branches of the game. And Ones like the later Ultimas tried to bridge the general styles by changing the starting stats, but that really only affected the early game.

      But in the end they all tell a story while giving you puzzles, and can do so successfully if you give them a chance.

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    31. Anonymous, there are many more sandbox rpgs than those three. Bethesda has made an entire subgenre of it.

      I would say the Mercenary series of games (C64/Amiga/Atari/PC) count as sandbox adventure games. You can go anywhere and as the games progress in complexity, do more things, but the central gameplay mechanic is taking objects from one place to another, and solving puzzles with them.

      Delete
    32. @Jarl: Not discounting any of your experience with JRPGs. I agree they're simpler in many regards to their PC counterparts, especially those that began on PC first. My disagreement is your statement that no JRPG is an actual RPG, and in a previous post you used console RPG and JRPG interchangeably yet those two things are not equal (even though the majority of console RPGs are JRPGs).

      Most modern JRPGs have a text speed setting in the menu to instantly display text. I also think most of the clunky dialogue and repetition comes from bad localization, which is only a excuse, not a defense.

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    33. Several spectrums on which games can fall. In all cases there are games which fall somewhere in the middle.

      you define your character / the game defines your character
      you see the characters from a remove in third person / you view the world through the characters' eyes in first person
      open-world / linear
      random and stat-based puzzle solutions (CRPG) / non-random and logic-based puzzle solutions which work every time (adventures)

      Note that this last one is the only real distinction between the adventure and CRPG genre -- it's become the defining distinction. A lot of early games didn't make that distinction fully, while many still lie somewhere in the middle.

      The other spectrums are orthogonal to the adventure / CRPG distinction. There are CRPGs on both extreme ends of the first-person/third-person and the you-make-your-character/game-makes-your-character and the open-world/linear spectrum. Same with adventures.

      Delete
    34. This was a good post, but like any short genre definition you can poke some holes in it. CRPGs typically offer a mix of both types of puzzles, and while Adventure games tend to stick more to the latter, it doesn't cease to be an Adventure game if you introduce a stat and some randomness.

      Genres are fuzzy and are more useful when they guide you to a certain type of experience -- if you like this then you'll likely also like this -- rather than being a mechanics checklist.

      There are definitely trends in the mechanics a genre will use, because mechanics tend to lead to certain experiences, but those are just trends and you can usually break away from what's typical and stay in the genre if you keep your eye on delivering a similar experience.

      (So I would say that open-world is something that is much more common in CRPGs, though of course some Adventure games could do it also. But open-worldness usually doesn't fit well with the experience an Adventure game is trying to offer. Likewise Adventure games usually give you less opportunity to define your character, but it's not impossible.)

      Anyway, this is a long way of saying that if I had an anonymous group of CRPG gamers and Adventure gamers, I'd feel more confident recommending U7 to the former. Though it would be a great outside the box choice for the Adventure gamers.

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  25. I have my own hypothesis about the Avatar, only partly serious, but it make more and more sense the more I think about it. Only one possibility of many though, and it's never explicitly stated. But to my mind, each game in the series (at least from U4 on through UU1) is a dream. U4 starts with the Avatar falling asleep under a tree when a book and an ankh fall out of the sky and land on his lap. U5 starts with the Avatar in bed when he receives a sign from Britannia. U6 he's up late watching TV to try to sleep (I think he dozed off after all - it would explain that poster). In Underworld, Garamon comes to you in a dream. I think the Avatar is just a guy who aspires to do better in life, and then later to have a more interesting life.

    Of course, this changes with the whole Guardian thing. He's awake in The Black Gate, and even trying to play a game called Ultima VII. He forgets to grab his moon orb in his rush to get back to Britannia, and then is told he's stuck there. No more waking up in your bed on Earth. In other words, while the Enlightenment Era represents dreams, U7 and on represent a complete psychotic break with reality. The Avatar starts hearing voices, all the mages are insane, magic doesn't really work (nor do the moongates). Not to mention the realization that his dreams were pretty far from reality after all, what with the pollution, the Britannian Purity league, the fact that his friend, the king is really kind of a dick. It's all kind of The Wall-ish.

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    1. I will never understand this fascination with trying to retcon any and all fantastical media with "It's not real! It's just a dream!"

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    2. It's not a fascination, so much as an observation that they all (4-UU1) start when you're dreaming, asleep, or on the verge of dozing, and that insanity plays a heavy theme later on, starting with 7. It makes sense in the context of You as the Avatar, in a world created by Garriot in which his own alter ego appears (twice in fact). It wouldn't make sense in, say, Wizardry or Might and Magic.

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    3. I don't like "it's all a dream" theories because they cheapen the story. And if a book, movie or game pulls that as a twist ending, I tend to be pissed off. It's a GOTCHA! moment, where the developer enticed you into an interesting world, got you invested in your character and in the story, but then, as a final malicious plot twist, takes it all away by saying "And nothing of what you just invested yourself into ever happened, it was all just a dream!"

      I mean, yeah, none of that really happened either way. It's fiction. Britannia isn't real. But fiction works by making you imagine its locations and plots as being real. Yanking that reality away by saying "it was all a dream!" cheapens the experience.

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    4. I agree that it would be lame, but Judd also has a point in that the beginnings of those games invite you to THINK of the whole experience as a dream.

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    5. Oh, I don't know. On the film front, <rot13>Gur Jvmneq bs Bm, Oenmvy, naq Gbgny Erpnyy</rot13> all played the "just a dream" card to a greater or lesser extent, and it doesn't seem to have done them any harm. The common trope of having some small element of the fantasy show up in reality, to hint that it was more real than a dream, can help. Or sometimes the point is to show certain fantasies for the lie that they are -- that there can be no happy ending for these characters, or under those political circumstances (as in the second movie I mentioned).

      But when a TV show bails out on an entire season by pulling the "just a dream" card? The only two shows I can think of that justified that were Married...with Children, for tragic reasons (Katey Sagal's miscarriage), and <rot13>Arjuneg</rot13>, where they played the ultimate mind-gently-caress by writing off the entire series as a dream that happened in a completely different TV show. Of course it was a joke of sorts, but it's widely regarded as one of the all-time great endings.

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    6. Dreams are my reality
      The only kind of real fantasy
      Illusions are a common thing
      I try to live in dreams
      It seems as if it's meant to be

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    7. I think there's some value to this idea, but with the understanding that dreams can be interpreted in this case as being more complex than a bunch of stuff going on in your head while you're sleeping. Just because it was a dream doesn't mean it didn't happen! I see Brittania as some weird interdimensional space we enter through a different portals: dreams, moongates, computers, etc. Someone brought up Narnia on a different post and I think that's a great parallel.

      Delete
    8. The Land from the Thomas Covenant books is similar in that Covenant only goes there when he's in a near death state (hit by a car, bitten by a snake, etc.) The Land even has a similar vibe of artificiality to Britannia, to my mind.

      Delete
    9. "It was all just a dream" has been a ripoff plot device ever since Bobby Ewing walked out of that shower and negated an entire season of Dallas.

      Delete
    10. Some works do well with the core notion, although it is not uncommon for them to imply state that what actually happened was supernatural meddling.

      The obvious example is the various Yet Another Christmas Carol stories, as well as obviously inspired works such as the Adam Sandler movie "Click" or the Bill Murray's classic "Groundhog Day".

      These work because the focus on the story is the transformation of the main character - they are forced to face their nature and improve themselves. The fact that none of the events "really" happened in the continuity of the work is irrelevant, because the events were nothing but a device to reshape the character.

      Delete
  26. Does anybody else think that it is weird that he has a shield and a 2-handed sword in his chest?

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  27. "Chuckles stands in the entry hall to the castle at the far south. Chuckles is perhaps the worst NPC in RPG history--and yes, I'm including the Adoring Fan. The classic jester character in fantasy--think Wit from Brandon Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive or Robin Hobb's Fool--is funny and witty but also somewhat deep and tragic. "

    I'm not familiar with Hobb, but I am familiar with Sanderson, and thus find the implication the comparison invites - that Chuckles is rssrpgviryl n qrvgl- profoundly disturbing.

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    1. I'm not sure I care about spoilers for things that aren't CRPGs, but thanks for erring on the side of caution.

      Chuckles somehow has the power set up a multi-city scavenger hunt mere minutes after the Avatar arrives in the throne room in U6, so make of that what you will.

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  28. "Chuckles is perhaps the worst NPC in RPG history--and yes, I'm including the Adoring Fan."

    Count your blessings for not having played Ultima IX, yet.

    "There is nothing that is unifying the population, since there has been peace for so long."

    Wow, this is highly suspect; maybe the inhabitants of Serpent Isle are in the right.

    Somehow Lord British pulled a "Palpatine" in Ultima 3, he was responsible for creating Exodus, and used the upheaval and people's sentiment to fully concentrate all power in his hands and eliminate nonhuman races from the new Britannia (which is consistent with how he planned to deal with the Gargoyles before the pesky Avatar intervened in U6).

    Oh, and the guards he surrounds himself with seem to be no better than Mafia thugs.

    A pity that the series ended how it did, an UX where you discover the machinations of Lord British and he reveals himself as a true villain would have been glorious.

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    Replies
    1. Glorious, I don't know. Consistent with a trend, definitely. I wouldn't mind if the series had just ended with Lord British realizing that indefinite, immortal monarchy isn't good for him or Britannia. He would then step down and go find other worlds to explore.

      I don't like this idea that we need war to "unify" the population, either. Certainly there are peaceful alternatives. Maybe Lord British could get everyone to pitch in building a windmill.

      Delete
    2. Interestingly, Ultima IV had the same core concept - that people became aimless without Mondain/Mirax/Exodus to unify them.

      I can't help but wonder if this was related to the Cold War. Ultima IV came out in 1985, which was right at the beginning of the easing of tension between the two sides. It was before my time, but I've seen more than a few memoirs talking about this era leaving them confused because of the collapsing framework.

      1992, meanwhile, is not that long after The Wall fell. This era I remember, and there was a lot of "where do we go now? How do we navigate this strange new world?" commentary on TV for the first few years of the 90s.

      This feels right as a parallel - with the great danger (WWIII in the real world, monsters and the impending gargoyle wars in Britannia) apparently vanquished, people are confused and adrift.

      For that matter (and I don't recall if this was discussed at the time), Ultima VI's conflict has some Cold War overtones as well - Human and Gargoyle have philosophical differences, but the root of their conflict was a failure to communicate and discuss their grievances - and in the end everything was settled peaceably.

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    3. Well, the gargoyles ARE red...

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    4. @Gnoman Although I was way too young to fully evaluate, my recollection of the late 80s and early/mid 90s was one of mostly optimism and relief (even with major events like the first Gulf War and the Yugoslav War).

      The West had effectively won the Cold War, fears a nuclear Holocaust were relieved, walls were being torn down in Europe and the US emerged unchallenged as the only real Superpower.

      Loss of purpose and sense of direction is something I associate more with the 2000s, but of course my view can be completely skewed by my personal experiences.

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    5. Gnoman's theory definitely speaks to me. Growing up in the 90's I always felt that the dramatic politics of the 60's and 70's were so alien and distant. Now that I'm 31, I have a clearer sense of perspective, and understand that a span of 20 years really isn't that long, despite everyone acting like those times were ancient history. It's almost like Garriott and the writers were anticipating the repercussions of burying our heads in the sand, hoping the conflicts of the past wouldn't lead to future consequences... Nah, it's just a video game, what am I thinking??

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    6. We didn't communicate and discuss our grievances with the communists. We won. They lost.

      After we won they came out and admitted we had been right all along.

      Delete
    7. Too bad left wing extremism is on the rise again, and has almost become the new "normal". Look at all the praise Hugo Chavez and his communist experiment in Venezuela (which everyone but emocrats knew would end in disaster) got from the leftists (and not just the traditionally extreme ones).

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    9. C’mon you two, at least make the low-tier sociopolitical commentary a bit more relevant to the game eh?

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    10. Is there a way to block posts from people like PetrusOctavius on my browser? I rather like reading the comments when they're not filled with people like him.

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    11. Yes, please! I don't come to this blog to read extremist screeds.

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    12. Yeah, being anti-communist and anti left wing extremism is extreme. :-)

      BTW, are people supposed to feel which browsers you use? Or was it just a rhetorical question?

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    13. Being anti-communist is no more extreme than being anti-nazi, but right wing hate groups are popping up everywhere anymore, and are currently considered as big a threat as foreign terror groups by the Department of Homeland Security. Meanwhile, there are 4 communist countries in the entire world. Don't know if you're from the US, just saying, you may want to pick your battles, especially at a time when astroturfed extremist groups are blocking ambulances at hospitals to protest measures fighting a worldwide pandemic, and are then egged on by the President who encouraged them to not let the Second Amendment slip away. Now, do you think these "protestors" were flying commie flags, or Nazi and Confederate flags?

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    14. Well it's a good thing that being anti-communist doesn't mean you're part of some hate group. It's a position normal people have. Ask anyone who is old enough to have lived under communist rule in Europe. They get quite angry when the topic is broached.

      Is that really true? Or did you hear it on the mainstream media?

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    15. If you repeatedly tr to push your political opinions onto unrelated conversation (such as a gaming blog), then you're more of an extremist than you think. Please cut it out.

      Delete
    16. Ah, I didn't understand that "nazi flag" remark. Now I do. Evidently it's something being passed around Twitter.

      "Seen the viral photo that purportedly shows a Trump supporter displaying a swastika at the Lansing, Mich. protest against Gov. Whitmer's stay-at-home orders?

      It's a hoax. https://t.co/FsYqELMCCL"

      This blog is political, it famously endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

      Don't believe that every member of a group is as bad as its worst 5 percent. If you do, you're probably among the worst 5 percent of whatever group you're in.

      Delete
    17. Jesus Christ I wish these people would shut up.

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    18. https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/the-gateway-pundit/

      "Overall, we rate The Gateway Pundit Questionable based on extreme right wing bias, promotion of conspiracies and numerous instances of publishing false (fake) news."

      Delete
    19. Also, this doesn't look like a Bernie rally to me.
      https://apnews.com/098496d0ade7c499110dc2302d5cdbde

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    20. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    21. At the end of the day you're going to believe what you want to believe and the only thing these conversations can do is devalue the blog. I think it's better for everyone if we don't entertain these useless debates.

      Delete
  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  30. I can think of a few good reasons to keep Chuckles around: anyone that can handle him for long enough to actually get to the throne room probably has actual important business, and if he shuts up it probably means he's been killed and it's time to prepare for a fight

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  31. I remember hearing that you could also use exploding barrels to kill Lord British. That bit with the dirty diaper was hilarious, though.

    On Sherry, that mouse clearly is a cell activator carrier. Nothing else would explain that kind of longevity on a mouse!

    (If anyone gets that reference: Wow. I'm truly impressed.)

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    Replies
    1. Maybe Sherry is a mousebeaver? Gucky would be pleased, I assume ...

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    2. Sherry the Ilt is not so much into carrots as into alcoholica though.
      If you imagine the Avatar's hair to be a bit lighter still, he does have a bit of an "Atlan" vibe to him

      Delete
  32. "That is precisely the thing to do, avatar" reminds me of Nakar's playthroughs of the Ultima games, using Steve the Avatar. He is hilarious and quite reminiscent of IT-HE, which I which wish would update as the latter has been dormant for almost three years.

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    1. Those LP's with Steve were seriously great. I wish he would have done more.

      Delete
    2. Doug the Eagle from IT-HE has a seriously fantastic "Let's Break Ultima 7" on youtube (channel name Tapewolf). It's a pretty much a video version of the anti-walkthrough presented on his page, narrated in a very Attenborough-esqe style with a marvellously dry sense of humour. A true testament to JarlFrank's comment that this is a great screwing around simulator.

      Delete
    3. Here's the link to the actual video, for the convenience of anyone who thinks it's annoying to have to chase down video citations.

      Delete
  33. I've spent the last few months trying to catch up with the blog, but once I hit the first U7 post, I started skipping the other entries so I can keep up :) I'll backtrack now that I've caught up. Watching my brother and dad play U7 is a fond, early childhood memory, so it's great to get to this point. Obviously it's not Shakespeare, but someone (I forget who) arguing that it's comic book level quality writing seems like an unnecessary critique. My dad grew up with comics and still loves them, and he loves literary giants too. Different mediums do different things for our imaginations. And sometimes something simple like The Fantastic Four needs to exist before someone can make The Watchmen. That said, as is pretty clear from all the discussion, Ultima is far from simple, and I'm honestly sad about the final direction of the series, because it's clear with Ultima 8 that they were interested in continuing to grow and develop their moral sensibilities.

    Regarding combat, I don't know... After 7 games I would think combat would be an afterthought for a character who is basically a demi-god that has killed countless dragons and demons. I feel like it was an interesting creative choice to put it in the background. A lot of problems people seem to have with the game can be seen as unique creative experiments, which in my opinion should be celebrated. Pushing against that is one of the reasons games are "dumbed down," which is a pretty common complaint. As the ever insightful Harland has said, be careful what you ask for!

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  34. I have to say, from those posts it's not clear at all that this is one of your favorite games. Am I reading this the wrong way or are the good parts still to come?

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    Replies
    1. If he weren't having fun, would he be exploring it in such depth? Critique isn't mutually exclusive with enjoyment.

      Delete
    2. Don't worry Arthur... this game ain't no "dawg!"

      Long posts like this are a sign of liking the game. Critical comments galore are a sign of liking the game.

      Ultima reigns as my favorite to.

      Delete
  35. I have to say, from your posts it's not clear at all that this is one of your favorite games. Am I reading this the wrong way or are the good parts still to come?

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    Replies
    1. Did I ever say is it was one of my favorite games?

      Delete
    2. Yeah, not only it was mentioned how Addict enjoyed it at the time, but also, why cannot critical analysis be done on your favourite things? My favourite films are "Singin In The Rain" and "Night of the Hunter", and the first one has a Gene Kelly character I want to punch and is creepy as f, and the second one is very inconsistent to the point of being super patchy. My favourite genres are westerns and noirs, and jesus I do feel the values dissonance so strongly there, so strongly. I also LOVE U7, and I also see a lot of problems with it.

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    3. I did not say that this can't be done, just that right now reading this feels like there is a rather low gimlet coming.

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    4. We'll see if it manages to beat Ultima IV.

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    5. He's barely even started the game at this point. Where he is right now is approximately the same as meeting the Jarl of Whiterun for the first time in Skyrim, but even that is overstating it, since you at least do some fighting by that point in Skyrim. Britain itself has a lot more to do than visiting Lord British's castle.

      I don't expect the game to be mind-blowing in the GIMLET simply because the combat, economy, and controls are not very good, but I'm expecting very good (possibly record-breaking) scores for game world, NPC interaction, and quests.

      Delete
  36. I wanted to personally thank you for your passion, dedication, and for sharing your love of CRPGs with the rest of us. I love reading your posts and your own enthusiasm for what you do is infectious and ignites a similar response in your readers. So much so that I finally got the courage to start my own blog. You and your site are specifically mentioned and I do hope that you drop in. Again a resounding thank you https://thewhitewizard.net/in-the-beginning/

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    1. Good intro to the blog. I'll be keeping tabs on it.

      Delete
  37. There is a new (1.6) version of Exult that has this cool new feature:

    "Paperdoll support of wearing diapers"

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  38. Anyone else getting a bit worried that there haven't been any updates in over a week? Did Maine get hit with more electrical outages?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He just posted a micro-update on Patreon. Just busy with work, thankfully

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    2. Yeah, I was really happy to see that!

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    3. Thank you, good to hear.

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  39. How are you going in this covid19 crisis, Chet? Best wishes and hopes.

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  40. "How were 50 more games not created with this engine!?!"

    Technical issues. They did make an expansion to The Black Gate, and then a sequel ("Ultima VII Part 2") and then an expansion to the sequel... but by that time the engine was showing serious problems because it couldn't run on Windows, or Macintosh -- or DOS without rebooting after playing Ultima VII and before going into your productivity software. So basically the engine didn't work on any modern computer.

    Origin had gone to extreme lengths to access as much memory as possible on the PC, using the Voodoo Memory Manager, which still poses difficulty for anyone attempting to play the game today. DOSBox is pretty much mandatory, and it actually took several iterations of DOSBox before it worked.

    This incompatibility with the OSes which were taking over from the old "put a boot disk in" practices was the underlying reason why Origin decided to write a new engine. They did so and the Ultima VIII engine did attempt to implement all the same stuff.

    Unfortunately Ultima VIII had serious problems with script, design, and poor choices like adding platforming, as well as failing to actually finish the implementation. Pressure from EA to release early and to dumb down Ultima VIII to appeal to the "mass market", pressure which Garriott happily went along with, was extremely unhelpful.

    So the effort which went into the front end of Ultima VII had to go into the back end of Ultima VIII (reimplementing everything) and they just didn't quite make it.

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    1. But they had a case of "not invented here". They could have used DPMI, XMS or even EMS that were options around by that time and got better OS support

      Delete
    2. According to Origin, existing solutions at the time were insufficient for their needs. And you got to hand it to them, a map this size with such detail and with no (apparent) loading screens or loading zones in the middle is highly impressive by 1992 standards. It ran pretty smoothly on contemporary low-end computers, too (which U8 decidedly did not).

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    3. The game used XMS but was incompatible with EMS. I remember this well because how much of a pain it was to run it. Jesus Christ, the DOS era, having many CONFIG.SYS laying around (or booting with F8 always) for the games that needed XMS and not EMS, for the games that needed too much of the base memory and you could not load the mouse, etc etc etc

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    4. From my understanding, there were also management reasons for not continuing to reuse the engine. Namely, Garriott insisting on every numbered Ultima game having a different engine. Incidentily, this is why Serpent Isle was 7 Part 2 instead of Ultima 8

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  41. @Radiant , U7 did not run smoothly at all, even on a Pentium (I played a lot of DOS games in Windows95/98 in the late 90s/early 00s). I mean, you can try PCem to prove it. The engine allowed wonderful things but it was clunky.

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  42. I do remember U7 was just plain awful to get running. Making a batch file for the speech was not a nice moment.
    I hope everyone is pulling through this virus time ok!

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  43. Does anyone have any info regarding how the Addict is doing? Perhaps he said something on his Patreon account? Hope everything's Ok.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these 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.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

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