Thursday, February 2, 2023

Game 483: Ultima VII: Part Two - Serpent Isle (1993)

 
The main title screen . . .
     
Ultima VII: Part Two - Serpent Isle
United States
ORIGIN Systems, Inc. (developer and publisher)
Released 1993 for DOS
Date Started: 29 January 2023
      
Over the course of almost a dozen previous games, Origin has demonstrated a certain lack of forward-thinking when it comes to the lore of Ultima. They're only ever interested in the current title. They rarely plant seeds for future games. Expansion of the game world is always through retcon--often a needless one that creates conflict in the series' history and geography. For a more thorough analysis of what I'm talking about, see my first entry on Ultima VI: The False Prophet, but we've discussed plenty of other examples in relation to Ultima VII: The Black Gate and the two Ultima Underworld titles.
     
. . . and the subtitle screen. "The Silver Seed" is an expansion that I'll talk about later.
      
Nonetheless, I can almost believe that elements of Serpent Isle were plotted all the way back to Exodus: Ultima III (1983). I know they weren't, but this is how to do a retcon well. Find obscure references that you made in previous titles and bring them to the forefront, even if that's not what you originally intended. Star Wars has done this well in places (and, of course, not so well in others). Think of how an obscure reference to "The Clone Wars" in A New Hope spawned the entire prequel trilogy and television series, or how Yoda's "No, there is another" paved the way for the revelation of Leia as Luke's sister. Writing good serial fiction is a process of either a) scripting everything from the beginning, or b) planting a lot of seeds and deciding later which ones you're going to harvest, and how you're going to use them.
   
I thus have to give credit to the many Ultima authors for planting such seeds in the form of snake or serpent symbolism throughout the previous games. I went back through my notes and entries and what I could find online, and I made a list of all the times that we've seen snakes or serpents as something other than foes to be killed. Let me know if you think I missed any:
    
  • Ultima (1981) has the City of the Snake in the Land of the Feudal Lords.
  • Starting in Exodus: Ultima III (1983), the game manual has an illustration on the cover that shows an ornamental disc with a serpent in the middle.  I suspect Richard Garriott was influenced by depictions of "world serpents" in various mythologies, including Norse (J√≥rmangandr) and Hindu (Shesha).
      
     
  • In Ultima III, the ocean entrance to Exodus's castle is blocked by a giant silver snake. The party has to find the Mark of the Snake in the Dungeon of the Snake to pass it. The Ultima IV manual explicitly names this snake as the Great Earth Serpent.
  • Both the game maps for Ultima III and Ultima IV (1985) have serpents in the oceans in the margins.
  • Ultima IV's spellbook has the same serpent on the cover but without the disk around it. Ultima V's (1988) has a smaller version underneath an image of a scepter and crown.
  • Ultima IV's reconfigured Britannia has the Serpent's Spine (mountains north of Castle Britannia) and Serpent Castle (later Serpent's Hold), headquarters of the Order of the Silver Serpent.
  • The illustration of the druid in the Ultima IV manual shows her carrying a serpentine staff. But more importantly, the illustration of Lord British sitting in his throne shows serpents on the upper corners of his chair back and more on the tapestry behind him.
    
And on his crown, too! Jesus, man, we get it.
    
  • An illustration in the Ultima V manual depicts Lord British meeting with his councilors at a table with a huge tapestry of a serpent (the same from the Ultima III cover) behind them. 
    
    
  • In, Ultima VI (1990), we're told that the official currency of Britannia has Lord British's face on the front and a serpent on the back. The game also gives the knights of the Order of the Silver Serpent a special serpent shield.
  • In Ultima VII: The Black Gate (1992), Gwenno has left a note for Iolo that she's gone to find Serpent Isle. When you defeat Batlin, he says: "Return to your precious Earth and rest. Sleep, that [the Guardian] may visit your dreams with countless visions of death in the belly of the Great Sea Serpent."
  • In Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds (1993), several characters invoke "the Serpent" in oaths. Dupre says: "By the Serpent, Avatar!" Julia says: "Thank the Serpent thou didst find the ice caves." Patterson also says "thank the Serpent" at one point, and a guard shouts "by the Serpent!" in response to Patterson's death.
  • Also in Labyrinth of Worlds, goblins have arrived in the Britannian sewers through the portal gem from an unknown place. They give the Avatar a blackrock serpent statue (although I never got this in my game).
       
The last four references on this list are to Ultima VII and Ultima Underworld II, and by the time those games were released, the plot of Serpent Isle must have been known. The references are quite deliberate. But what to make of the earlier ones? You don't put serpents on your throne, banners, clothes, and currency unless you're making a clear reference to something. There is, in short, some serious serpent worship going on in Britannia. And yet the developers, not exactly known for their subtlety, somehow managed to keep it low-key across multiple games.
      
I'd love to know what the Avatar has been doing during this time.
     
Serpent Isle takes all of these clues and weaves a plot out of them. The introductory cinematic has the game taking place 18 months after the end of The Black Gate and the "dismantling of The Fellowship" that had been led by the oily Batlin. On a dark and stormy night, one of Lord British's guards (perhaps Geoffrey himself) approaches him in the halls of Castle Britannia.
   
"My liege," he says, taking a knee, "all we found among Batlin's belongings was this enchanted scroll--and a map showing the way to a place called the Serpent Isle."
      
This seems like a lot of sorcery to convey a simple message.
    
"Indeed," Lord British responds. "Put it on the table." The guard does so, and the scroll immediately bursts into flame, prompting British to cry, "Stand back!"
   
The flames swirl into the air and resolve into the face of the Guardian, who says: "Batlin! In the unlikely event the Avatar stops me from coming through the Black Gate, I command you follow the unwitting female human Gwenno to the Serpent Isle. There, I shall outline my plan to destroy Britannia."
   
"'Tis my worst fear," Lord British says. "I must send the Avatar through the pillars to the Serpent Isle." The cinematic shows a boat, presumably the Avatar's, sailing along a narrow rivulet cut into pack ice. The ship approaches two enormous pillars with sculpted snakes coiled around them. As it reaches the point between the pillars, it disappears in a flash.
          
How did the passage get cut in the ice in the first place, one wonders.
       
It's a decent setup for the game, but as usual, Origin manages to be ham-handed with it. Some thoughts:
   
  • It has nothing to do with the story, but I'll mention here that Origin didn't change the awful "Lord British presents" giraffe-print pre-title screen that we discussed in this entry. Literally every stylistic choice on this screen is horrible. 
      
"This Ringling Brothers production of . . . "
      
  • Why did Lord British have this enormous room constructed to contain a single table? 
  • Why did it take Lord British's men 18 months to search Batlin's place?
  • "Female human"? Did the Guardian get his skin color by swallowing too many pills?
  • Why create a scroll that produces a visual message? Why not, you know, just write the message on the scroll? Or why couldn't the Guardian just tell Batlin directly, as he's clearly done in the past? (Likely counter: the message is clearly a trap. "Outline my plan to destroy Britannia" is a little too on-the-nose.)
  • This is the first mention, I think, of having to sail through "pillars" to reach the Serpent Isle. Why is this necessary? Where were these pillars before, and why couldn't I find them in The Black Gate? Why not just make Serpent Isle accessible through a moongate like everything else in this universe?
  • Of course, I'm hardly the first person to point out that the most notable part of the cinematic is the voice acting. Richard Garriott himself (creator of Ultima and president of ORIGIN, for new readers) voices Lord British. It is a strong contender for the worst voice acting in the history of video games. (See if you agree.) I can only imagine that Garriott must have been a terrifying boss and no one had the nerve to tell him that they needed another take.
       
Perhaps the most significant issue that I have with the game is the title. This is not Part Two of anything. The Black Gate was a complete game in itself, and Serpent Isle is even longer. (That's based partly on recollection, but HowLongToBeat puts Gate at 37.5 hours and Isle at 52.5.) I know ORIGIN's policy, or perhaps Garriott's, was to only give new numbers to games that had new engines, but this is a little extreme. They made updates and improvements to the Black Gate engine and created an entirely new world with new NPCs, items, and quests. There was no reason not to call it Ultima VIII
     
I don't really have any screenshots to go with this section, so here's the party arriving.
     
I could see using Part Two for a game set again in Britannia, with the same landscape as The Black Gate, in which the Avatar goes around undoing the damage done by the Fellowship. (And perhaps the events of Ultima Underworld II besides; we never did find out whether the invasion of Britannia outside the blackrock dome was a lie or not.) I would have actually liked to see such a game. ORIGIN spent four games in a row on the same continent, and the one time I think it would have been most thematically justified to keep the same geography, they go and pull the player into a different universe.
   
These are relatively minor quibbles, though. Let's turn to the manual to get back on a positive track. The world-building, as usual, is fantastic. For the second time in a row, Origin manages to tell the player how to play the game in the context of a deliciously subversive manual that builds the lore of the setting by showing rather than telling. The manual is called Beyond the Serpent Pillars, ostensibly written by a mage named Erstam.
   
Erstam's history reaches back to the First Age of Darkness in Ultima, when "eight great kingdoms coexisted, often uneasily." He's referring to the continents of the first game, although there were only four of them: The Lands of Danger and Despair ("Shamino's kingdom," Erstam mentions), The Lands of the Dark Unknown, The Lands of the Feudal Lords, and The Lands of Lord British. When Mondain was destroyed by The Stranger, the resulting unleashing of dangerous magic destroyed all but The Lands of Lord British, which became known as Sosaria after the collective name for the previous world.
     
More dialogue from the arrival.
        
We've heard this story before, but like Batlin in The Black Gate's manual, Erstam has a Perspective. We've already learned that he fled Sosaria because he considered Lord British's rule "tyrannical." He criticizes British for being "unable to marshal his own forces" to deal with Mondain, instead inviting "an outsider" to handle things. He continues in this vein, decrying British's impotence in dealing with both Minax and Exodus.
   
But his worst criticism comes from the period between Ultima III and Ultima IV, when Lord British "forced" the world to unite under his rule--a rule that soon turned theocratic. "In the name of these virtues, Lord British turned ethics into law--his ethics and his law." A large collection of separatists, representing the populations of Fawn, East and West Montor, and Moon, decided to leave. Erstam had discovered that some of the pre-cataclysm lands had survived beyond the Serpent Pillars, and he led an exodus from Britannia to this world, leaving the "Beast British" behind. Erstam not only explains why those cities are found in III but not IV, but he also anticipates my objection to the pillars: "Stories mentioned that the pillars would rise only when both moons were above the horizon; some said the sun itself must be visible. Yet other tales suggested that the pillars would only appear in the depths of winter."
    
Unlike the history of Britannia presented by Batlin in The Black Gate, Erstam's is entirely reasonable. In fact, I find his interpretation of past events more trustworthy than what we get in the manuals for every Ultima up through VI. I've levied many of the same criticisms myself:  Lord British is an autocrat; Lord British is impotent; the people of Britannia ought to be able to do more for themselves; the way the people of Ultima IV treat the eight virtues (especially the organization of the cities around them) is a little cultish.
      
Did Exodus's kidnapping of the Great Earth Serpent cause the Ophidian War? How did Exodus even accomplish this?
        
Erstam and his fellow emigres left Britannia after the events of Exodus, so he doesn't provide a summary of the other Ultima titles. Instead, he gives a background of Serpent Isle, the continent his expedition found beyond the pillars. The continent was abandoned, but it held the remains of a past civilization called the Ophidians. A scroll told the fate of the people who lived there. Their society was structured around principles of balance, symbolized by the Great Earth Serpent. They believed that the three forces of chaos--Tolerance, Enthusiasm, and Emotion--could be reconciled with the three forces of order--Ethicality, Discipline, and Logic--to form Harmony, Dedication, and Rationality. Something happened to upset this balance, however, and the Ophidians were destroyed in the resulting war.
   
Erstam's party, meanwhile, quarreled among themselves and split off to found cities named after the ones they'd left on Sosaria: Fawn, Monitor, and Moonshade. Each has its own society, culture, and currency. I'll reference the manual more as we encounter various people and places in-game.
   
Character creation is as simple as in The Black Gate. You specify a name. Instead of a sex, you choose from among six portraits, three male and three female. The male ones are all awful. The canonical long-blond haired guy looks even dumber than usual, but it's better than the greasy-haired drug-user or the guy in his 50s clearly modeled after Paul Winfield. The women look much better, although the middle one looks a bit sinister. 
      
Three badass women and the younger brothers living in their basements.
      
The game begins with the Avatar's ship literally crash-landing on a foreign coast, the teleporter between the pillars having apparently propelled it through the air. The party, consisting of Iolo, Dupre, and Shamino, starts commenting on the crash, the colder climate, and the search for Iolo's wife, Gwenno, as well as the evil Batlin. There also seems to be a strange storm afoot, with snow flurries punctuated with lightning.
   
"Or her body, at least," the Avatar helpfully adds.
   
We walk off the ship and find ourselves on a grassy coast. Mountains block movement to the north and east, leaving only the south open for travel. A check of inventory shows that for the first time in an Ultima game, Lord British has equipped us properly. The Avatar has:
    
  • The Black Sword from the Forge of Virtue expansion. It is upset about being in the new world.
       
What a whiny sword. Give me Lilarcor any day.
         
  • A magic shield, leggings, armor, boots, and helm.
  • An ankh amulet.
  • A pocket watch.
  • A spellbook full of spells, but I can't cast any of them because I guess I don't have any reagents. Doh. There are also no "cantrips" as in The Black Gate. You only get the "Great" versions of "Douse" and "Ignite."
      
I'm not sure how useful these ninth-level spells will be to my third-level Avatar.
      
  • A glass sword.
  • The blackrock serpent that I was supposed to have gotten from the goblins in Labyrinth of Worlds.
  • Rudyom's wand, which makes blackrock explode (though curiously not the serpent; I tried).
  • In Dupre's hands, the Magebane sword and Dupre's Shield.
  • In Shamino's hands, a magic bow and 34 burst arrows.
  • Iolo's item configuration is strange: he has his lute in one hand, a pair of leather pants in another (despite the fact that he's wearing chain leggings), and a crossbow in his pack. Why is he carrying a random pair of pants?
  • Regular armor for the non-Avatar characters.
  • Several items of food.
  • Half a dozen torches.
  • A combined 120 gold coins and a gold nugget.
  • A note from Lord British explaining the most significant items in case the player didn't get them in the previous games.
     
"Doth make blackrock to explode"? Is English your first language, Lord British?
     
The Avatar, Dupre, and Shamino start the game at Level 3, and Iolo at Level 2. I guess they've spent the last 18 months letting their skills rot. The Avatar has 25 intelligence for some reason, and 18 strength and dexterity. The companions have a different balance of attributes. Shamino is 1 point less intelligent than the Avatar, but Dupre is 4 points stronger and Shamino is 5 points more dexterous.
    
The interface hasn't changed much from The Black Gate. If graphics have changed at all, they're too subtle for me to discern. You still get the excellent full-screen exploration window, with the mouse used along with hotkeys to call up inventory, character stats, and dialogue, and to activate combat. Movement can be by mouse or keyboard. The only major change is that the paperdoll inventory portraits show items equipped on the characters rather than just occupying certain character slots. It's an improvement, but not a huge one. No complaints here, however, as the interface to The Black Gate was one of the best parts of the game.
  
I think I'll wrap up here and get into the opening gameplay hours next time. As we contemplate heading south, my party feels confident that they're equipped to face anything this new land has to offer. 
   

110 comments:

  1. I came late to Ultima, having played the NES versions of III and IV before the PC version of VII. I found them all okay.

    THIS game made me fall in love with the lore. Of course, coming into the series both haphazardly and late, I didn't realize that this wasn't set up since the beginning, but this game made me hunt down the first trilogy to play them, so that (I thought) I could get the full enjoyment out of this title. Needless to say, I was disappointed and did not beat U1-6 until years later.

    All that is to say that I am very excited to see you play this game and I hope your experience is less buggy than mine. Despite playing several times, I never made it to the end without game-breaking bugs. I hope you make and keep plenty of save files. I don't remember the bugs well now as it was years ago, but I recall the frustration.

    Good luck!

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    1. I have completed the main game three times over the years without too many issues, but the game is notoriously buggy. I recommend making full use of the save slots.

      Some bugs I have run into:
      - Last time I played the Silver Seed (GOG version), the game crashed systematically when going through an area you need to. I could not complete the expansion. Hopefully it was just an issue with my game, but I suggest keeping a save when you are still in the main game map.

      - When exploring the eastern part of the island early in the game, you'll come across an abandoned house with some ghosts inside. They are copies of the same character and their dialogue won't make any sense at that stage. I'm not sure it can break the game, but it is not something you want to find out 30 hours later, so if you talk to them I would reload an earlier save and stay clear of them.

      - Due to how perspective works, you might kill an enemy too close to the north or west face of a wall and be unable to access their body for loot.
      If they happen to carry quest items, you are kind of screwed.

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    2. I think the ghosts you mention are probably the worst of the bugs, the dialogue being completely out of place doesn't help, but I think it does cause issues later on.

      That said, I don't think it's necessarily a "walking dead" scenario, I'm pretty sure you can still finish the game but that dialogue might not trigger later on when it's supposed to, which might be confusing.

      Most other stuff is not game breaking as far as I can recall, but there are occasionally things that can be a bit frustrating.

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    3. "you might kill an enemy too close to the north or west face of a wall and be unable to access their body for loot."

      This was an issue in the original version of the game, but fixed by patches.

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    4. In every version of the game that I've played, the key you get to open a certain misplaced building which houses a critical piece of loot (needed to get off the first island) failed to work. I could only continue by cheating with hackmover or similar exploits, depending on the version of the game I played. This early in the game, the bug nearly had me quitting the game when it first came out (can't remember how I solved the problem back then, possibly via a patch file on a disk - downloads weren't invented yet), and to my horror reappeared in later versions I played.

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  2. I cheered at the sight of this entry! Has anyone ever asked LB the significance of the serpent imagery that appears early and surprisingly often through the series? Like so many other Easter egg aspects of Ultima, I have to imagine there is some reason predating SI.

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    1. Posted below too - he has worn a silver serpent necklace he made at an early age for most of his life.

      https://www.polygon.com/features/2017/9/15/16304980/how-richard-garriott-got-started-in-games

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    2. There's always something new to learn about Ultima!

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    3. According to this tweet he was inspired by Doc Savage to use the serpent imagery.

      https://mobile.twitter.com/richardgarriott/status/712946081542307844?lang=bg

      Perhaps this is the film he is referring to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doc_Savage:_The_Man_of_Bronze

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    4. According to the plot summary, a Native American sniper tries to kill Doc Savage and that would-be assassin has a big green snake tattoo on his chest (supposedly a reference to the Mayan god Kukulkan - the story leads to a disappeared Mayan tribe in a fictional Central American country), as can be seen e.g. in this still:

      https://www.imfdb.org/images/thumb/d/d2/Docsavage1.jpg/500px-Docsavage1.jpg

      So that could indeed be the image which inspired young Richard Garriott.

      I just can't work out the timeline. According to the links above, RG saw it and created his necklace when he was 11, which should have been 1972/73 (the article points to the summer of 1973).

      The Wikipedia entries on the movie and its main protagonist say it was released in July 1975 and that this was the first appearance on screen of the character. No idea if that's incorrect or it's a case of memories from a childhood long ago having years and events slipping into another or if I'm missing something here, but in any event the image looks like it could have been where this came from.

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    5. That was the first appearance on screen, true, but Doc Savage was already a popular pulp fiction character and in 1972 marvel comics was adapting "the man of bronze" in an 8 issues mini.

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    6. Most of those drawings look pretty normal, but I was going to say the player manual cover and the Government banner from the U5 manual looked a little, um, suggestive. But seeing the picture of Garriot's actual necklace, I can see where the design came from. I'm still not sure the proportions are spot on for a snake.

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    7. @Ronconauta: Ah, if the tattoo(ed assassin) already showed up there, that might explain it. RG referred to a / the old Doc Savage movie as inspiration in the tweet, but as mentioned, there could be a mixup or conflation.

      Anyway, never had heard of Doc Savage before. Sounds like he was the or at least a precursor to Superman (including an arctic "Fortress of Solitude" and Clark as a first name!). New piece of pop culture learned.

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    8. Honestly I should have elaborated more and said that he was still popular in the 70s. Today he's mostly forgotten.
      Personally I knew about him only because he was a big influence for Alan Moore's Tom Strong and for Doc Brass, the version of him that Warren Ellis created for his Planetary series.
      It's a sad case of a precursor in a genre that got forgotten mostly because while everybody took something from him and his stories everybody also did better with it. Still almost forty years of popularity among nerds aren't something to scoff at

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  3. "The women look much better, although the middle one looks a bit sinister. "

    Not so loud - you do NOT want Steve to hear you say that!

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    1. That's a good way to get force-fed a few dozen green potions...

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    2. Shouldn't the lefthand one be the one who looks sinister anyway...?

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  4. Another serpent (or two, depending on how you count it): British's amulet in Ultimas 5 and 6.

    Ultima 3 was my first crpg, and 4 was the first crpg I finished, so I find myself trying a full playthrough of the series every five or six years. 7.5 is by far my most frequent stopping point, sometimes because of the bugs, sometimes frustration with the game design. Exult and the Serpent Isle Fixes mod have helped with the former, at least; I can't imagine trying to play the original release version again.

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    1. Not sure if that "counts" for your list above: In 'The Black Gate' you found "serpentine daggers" in the Library of Scars in Jhelom and on the crime scene in Minoc (which De Snel then later, upon being asked about it, said had been stolen from the Library, but then attacked you).

      According to https://wiki.ultimacodex.com/wiki/Library_of_Scars, at some point in that game De Snel says or could say that the Library's weaponry all have a serpentine pattern to it, reflecting the academy's emblem, the snake, whose strike is said to resemble the fighting style of the Library - quick, silent, deadly. So it's more about actual snakes than some kind of world symbolism.

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    2. Thank you for remind me about the amulets and daggers. The amulet is clearly a reference to the necklace that ArthurDawg alerted us to, but it still fits with the lore.

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    3. There are serpentine swords in the Library of Scars, too.

      Obgu gur qnttref naq fjbeqf ner erhfrq va Frecrag'f Vfyr jvgu nyzbfg vqragvpny neg. VVEP gurl'er nyjnlf nffbpvngrq jvgu gur bcuvqvna ehvaf, naq gurer'f ab nggrzcg gb rkcynva ubj gur qrfvta znqr vgf jnl gb Oevgnaavn.

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    4. In Ultima VI, there's also the Silver Serpent monsters. These are among the most powerful monsters in the game, but iirc they only appear in the gargoyle hall of tombs - where you never even have to go! I seem to remember that the manual had some blurb about these creatures being the likely progenitors of the many myths and fables of serpents in Britannian folklore.
      In Ultima VII, silver serpent venom is of course a powerful drug that pops up in several places in the story and has a small quest attached to it.

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  5. Here's a weird easter egg to try if you're playing the game in DosBox. Go to the game folder and type "intro hisss jive" (no quotes). It looks like at least one Origin employee agrees with your assessment of the intro sequence.

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    1. It doesn't see to work in the GOG version, but I watched it online:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NNtXAJ-pzU

      Goofy, but "Batlin! Know that my face is most Muppet like!" had me laughing.

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  6. I agree that the 18 months is odd (though not as odd as the 200-year lapse of the last game) because characters in Monitor talk about Batlin as if he were there last week, not a year ago. Lbh'er tbvat gb fcraq zbfg bs gur tnzr punfvat uvz, whfg yvxr lbh fcrag gur cerivbhf tnzr punfvat ryvmnorgu naq noenunz; abguvat nobhg uvf cynaf fhttrfgf gurl gbbx uvz n lrne naq n unys.

    Speaking of plans... arvgure guvf tnzr abe gur arkg bar erirnyf nalguvat nobhg gur thneqvna'f cynaf gb vainqr oevgnaavn. Va snpg, guvf tnzr vf nyzbfg ragveryl nobhg ongyva'f cynaf: bcra n fcrpvny zbbatngr gb orpbzr nyy-cbjreshy!! Gung'f cerggl jrveq yber-jvfr, nf abguvat va gur tnzr yber fhttrfgf gung zbbatngrf qb gung be gung nalguvat ng nyy nobhg guvf cyna rira jbexf gung jnl. Ongyva'f tenaq evghny qbrfa'g qb jung ur jnagf, ohg gurer jnf ab ernfba gb nffhzr vg pbhyq RIRE qb gung va gur svefg cynpr.

    Batlin is an IDIOT.

    Svanyyl, qvq rkbqhf xvqanccvat gur terng rnegu frecrag pnhfr gur bcuvqvna jne? Lrf, vg gbgnyyl qvq.

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  7. Maybe the pants are Gwenno's and Iolo is bringing them along for her (though leather pants don't sound like the warmest option to me).

    It's probably too obvious for you to mention, but me noticing immediately that (ROT13 just in case) "Refgnz" vf na nantenz bs "Znfgre" shows how this blog has "trained" me to look for these kinds of word constructions.

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    1. AlphabeticalAnonymousFebruary 2, 2023 at 11:51 AM

      > Maybe the pants are Gwenno's and Iolo is bringing them along for her

      Yes, I had exactly the same thought.

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    2. Maybe the pants are Iolo's, and maybe they have a rip in them, and maybe Gwenno had promised to mend them before she left but forgot to, so maybe Iolo is bringing the pants to Gwenno to patch them for him, and the Avatar and the rest are just along for the ride.

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    3. According to Nakar, Lord British knows Iolo well enough to predict that he'd need a change of pants soon... and seconds later (when the lightning strikes), he is proven right!

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  8. Your description of the Avatar portraits is priceless.

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  9. Garriot made a silver serpent necklace at age 11 that he reportedly still wears. His mother was an artist!

    https://www.polygon.com/features/2017/9/15/16304980/how-richard-garriott-got-started-in-games

    Back details at the link!

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    1. Lord British has a serpent amulet in VI, probably based on that necklace.

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  10. Sorry, but neither Safari nor Mozilla let me sign in today to comment…

    Man, that brings back memories! Hope it’s as good as in my nostalgically blurred memories!

    As an aside: resist the urge to play with the silver seed extras: the game gets far too easy!

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    1. I'll second that. Personally I've never seen how the lore in Silver Seed makes a whole lot of sense, and judging from the internet, most people play it simply because it contains some magical items that are overpowered.

      That's quite similar to Forge of Virtue then, isn't it?

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    2. Yes and no. Forge of Virtue is unbalanced really. Most of the expansion can be done with starting characters except for one fight iirc. And all for a sword. Powerful one, but still only 1 sword.

      Silver Seed has a bit more behind it, for multiple magic items. More bosses, more puzzles, more areas.

      The thing they are very similar in is that both of them give you a vital item just for starting it. In FoV you get a free boat, in SS you get a keyring

      Delete
    3. Don't forget that FOV maxxes your strength at double the regular cap.

      I'll grant that Seed is at least reasonably sized for an expansion; FOV feels rather lazy for how small it is.

      Delete
    4. In my opinion, that key ring is the best item in any of the two U7 games!

      Delete
  11. I don't really remember if it's something you do, Chet, but I really strongly recommend playing with Exult and the Serpent Isle fixes mod.

    As others have noted, this game is notoriously buggy and I'm pretty sure I spent 100+ hours on it in my youth never to actually successfully get through it without a progression breaking bug stopping me.

    Young me was of course happy to play around in Ultima sandbox land basically forever and didn't care, current me could not handle this.

    IIRC Exult and the fixes mod don't change anything that would break the sense of playing the game as it was for Serpent Isle.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The timeline doesn't check out, but there's an eerie similarity between Ultima's serpent imagery and Ken Russel's Lair of the White Worm.
    https://film-grab.com/2021/09/16/the-lair-of-the-white-worm/#bwg2670/164568

    ReplyDelete
  13. In Ultima I, there were indeed only 4 named continents, but each had 2 castles. Maybe that's what Erstam is referring to when he says "8 kingdoms."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That makes sense. I had forgotten that there were two castles on each continent. Who did Lord British share power with, then?

      Delete
    2. Answered my own question. The Lost King. I guess since he was "lost," he didn't mind Lord British naming the continent "The Lands of Lord British."

      Delete
  14. I find it interesting that you came to a similar conclusion that The Spoony Experiment had about the character of Lord British.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's hard to conclude otherwise. Years ago a friend and I wanted to make a fan game called "Lord British Must Die", a reimagining of Ultima VII where the Avatar comes back to Britannia, sees how bad the place has gotten, and comes to the logical conclusion that the land needs a new government.

      Delete
    2. You're supposed to take it at face value that LB is a kind and benevolent leader. The virtues are good. All that stuff. As a kid I did at least and I'm 99% sure that was Richard Garriott's intention with the character.

      Delete
  15. RG's voice acting may not be excellent but he IS Lord British. Just imagine him DMing an entire D&D campaign, voicing all of the NPCs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RG: "'Tis thy worst fear! An orc appears before thee."

      Player: "I attack it with my sword."

      RG: "'Tis thy worst fear! Thou misses!"

      Player: "Look, can we take a break? I'm getting hungry."

      RG: "I must SEND out for pizza."

      Delete
    2. I guess I can't get too upset at people who comment anonymously. Somehow, I managed to do it.

      Delete
  16. > Why did Lord British have this enormous room constructed to contain a single table?

    That's obviously the Giant Head Message filming and editing room. Every monarch or interdimensional being worth its salt has one.

    > Why did it take Lord British's men 18 months to search Batlin's place?

    They were trapped in a dome of blackrock for months !

    > "Female human"? Did the Guardian get his skin color by swallowing too many pills?

    The Guardian forget about Lord British's Great Genocide of Elves, Dwarves and Other Bobbity things that happened on Britain, and so he did not know that "women" was accurate enough a description. Women in a pre-Lord British unification could have been an Elf, a Goblin or whatever.

    > Why create a scroll that produces a visual message? Why not, you know, just write the message on the scroll?

    Why do people watch Let's Play on Youtube rather than reading your blog, Chet ? We all have our preferences !

    > Why couldn't the Guardian just tell Batlin directly, as he's clearly done in the past?

    Paper trail. "Look, I TOLD you to kill the avatar. Let me attach my previous Giant Head Message to this Giant Head Message.

    > Why not just make Serpent Isle accessible through a moongate like everything else in this universe?

    You need both. Moongate then ship. That's called commuting, that's what most of us have to live through. That's also why Iolo never visited Gwenno.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your answer to the second question isn't bad. The events of UU2 must have certainly delayed things.

      Delete
    2. If I remember correctly, its intro places the beginning of UU2 one year after the events of U7, so there is quite a bit of time unaccounted for.

      Delete
    3. > Why not just make Serpent Isle accessible through a moongate like everything else in this universe?

      Remember that all moongates disappeared during the events of Ultima 7.

      Also, as long as the moongates existed on mainland, who cared about a serpent gate faraway in "Sosarian Antarctica"? Only recently the serpent gate became the only option.

      Delete
    4. "Paper trail. "Look, I TOLD you to kill the avatar. Let me attach my previous Giant Head Message to this Giant Head Message."
      LOLOLOLOL. Comment of the year!

      Delete
  17. Finally! Aside Wizardry 7 and Ultima Underworld II this was my favourite CRPG i played during the Ninetees. I was lucky to not encounter any game breaking bugs on my first playthrough but remember being stuck for a while and not knowing what to do next at least twice during the latter half of the game. Later i replayed both The Black Gate and this using the Exult engine. I have been waiting for the coverage on this game ever since i started reading the blog for a couple of years.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I've been looking forward to you getting to this one. I found that I enjoyed it much more than its predecessor, but it was because the things that you seemed to really enjoy in VII I was not a fan of. So I'll be very curious to see how you feel about this game's approach.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Serpent Isle was the first Ultima I literally spent an entire night playing; wondered what the light was hurting my eyes on the side and realized it was the rising sub through my window.

    It's definitely got bugs, mostly related to scripted events that are forcing the engine to do things it wasn't initially designed to do. I had Iolo trapped in the training area once so I blew the doors away with a gunpowder keg. But after that the NPC guard who tries to open the doors for you would error out spewing a stack trace followed with "Uhh the training area is closed right now!"

    ReplyDelete
  20. with snow flurries punctuated with lightning.

    I played Ultima 7 twice, the first time during summer, then during the following winter. The second time I noticed frequent snowfalls, while playing in summer I had mostly good weather and occasional rain.

    I suppose that the game engine is connected to the computer's real-world date & time.

    Anyone can confirm or disprove ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not really. And there's only snow in a specific area of the game

      Delete
  21. Of course, I mean in-game snowfalls and in-game rain.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Another aspect of Serpent Isle I really enjoyed was the music. While it recycled some from the Black Gate, it also had unique pieces that played at specific moments and raised tension and drama.

    The Ophidan theme which is used though out the game is in particular really well done, with a slow build and sinister undertone.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This was my first RPG ever, and from 1992 to 1995 I spent a lot of time playing other great contemporary titles, like Wizardry VII, Might & Magic 3 to 5 and obviously the other Ultimas. Then I went to college, and I remember there was also a "RPG dark age" that lasted until Baldur's Gate and Morrowind.
    I agree that Serpent Isle is too long, but the first half of the game is fantastic, with memorable locations and NPCs.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I guess Iolo has just literally charmed the pants off someone.

    As for the errant preposition in "doth make blackrock to explode", I believe it actually wouldn't be at all out of place in genuine Elizabethan English. In fact, it sounds more authentic (to me at least) than much of the hokey "ye olde Englishe" in a lot of the Ultima games.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Given what happens about five minutes after you start playing I assume your final line was meant in jest. In which case I will admit I lol’d.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. It's been a while, but I remember that part of the game.

      Delete
  26. Was looking forward to this. Serpent Isle is, par with Ultima 6, but for completely different reasons, my favorite Ultima.

    Ultima 6 is to me flawless, never repeating, never boring (thinking of you, UW in U5), nice interface that delivers

    Serpent Isle is wildly in the extremes. Buggy, unfinished, rushed, linear... yet amazing interface, gaming experience improved from the winning formula of Black Gate, wild plot twists, filled with great discoveries and lore (something it takes from the best parts of Martian Dreams imo)

    I think I need to set up my Roland MT32 and replay it!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this game. For me, it's definitely in that peak of the Ultima series, it's a shame it never would reach the same heights again.

    While it's less free-roaming than The Black Gate, the main story felt a lot stronger, and putting the Avatar in an unfamiliar world was a welcome change.

    In subsequent playthroughs there were always two things I did (rot13 for potential spoilers) V nyjnlf yvxrq gb hardhvc nyy gur vgrzf sebz zl cnegl zrzoref, fb gung V pbhyq trg n urnq fgneg ba ertnvavat zl rdhvczrag, naq bs pbhefr gur ovttrfg bar vf znxvat fher gb trg gb gur Fvyire Frrq QYP nf fbba nf cbffvoyr orpnhfr gur rkgen vgrzf lbh pna trg gurer ner znffviryl urycshy, rfcrpvnyyl gur Evat bs Erntragf.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The first thing doesn't work, on patched versions of the game at least

      Delete
  28. I have very fond memories of this, and as a kid I especially loved the Silver Seed stuff. On a much later replay my estimation of the base game and the expansion soured quite a bit. While there are things to admire, I suspect the Addict will be quite annoyed by a lot of it. Also, quite understandably, the game won't do that well on Gimlet, probably a point or two short of Black Gate.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I may have missed a comment, but I haven't seen anyone note that the intro cinematic was originally a bit longer. Denis Loubet gave background and shared the video some years back... the Ultima wiki has a good writeup on it, as well as a link to the video itself:

    https://wiki.ultimacodex.com/wiki/Original_Serpent_Isle_introduction

    There's no story changes, just an early 3D rendering of the ship's voyage. In this version, rather than going down an ice channel to the pillars, the pillars rise out of the sea when the ship approaches. Nothing mind-boggling but a fun bit of Ultima history!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pillars rising from the sea goes with what's said in the manual. It overcomes some of my retconning objections.

      Delete
  30. Been looking forward to this one. I'm going to add my voice to those suggesting you play this in Exult with all the fixes in place. I have both an early and a later copy of SI (1.02), and the fact Origin changed the bright yellow "Read me first!" insert from boot disks to admonishments about saving basically tell it all. Game's hard enough without the bugs, save your sanity and play the updated version :)

    https://imgur.com/a/tx6hbTh

    Early release insert on left, later release on right.

    Somewhat sad that this will be the last really good Ultima you'll play. VIII is OK with all the fixes, but this is pretty much the top... it's all downhill from here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, that's depressing. I appreciate the suggestion, but I'm going to play the GOG version.

      Delete
    2. I played and won the original DOS version without running into any serious game-breaking bugs. I'm pretty sure the GOG version should be all right. My only advice would be save frequently/often, make back-ups of the files, and nibvq gur tubfgf va gur ehvaf abegu bs gur Fyrrcvat Ohyy Vaa, nf gurl ner npghnyyl yngr-tnzr tubfgf. Cbffvoyl gurer orpnhfr fbzrbar oebhtug gurz bhg gb purpx qvnybthr naq sbetbg gb qryrgr gurz va grfgvat.

      Delete
  31. I'll add my voice to the chorus of Exult supporters. I've only played U7 part 2 with Exult, and I have no memories of bugs at all (could be that I got lucky or that I misremember, bottom line is that with Exult the game runs perfectly fine) . It's one thing trying to recreate the original feel of playing the game as it was back then, but it's another thing to quit the game after 50 hours because bugs made it unwinnable.

    Exult can let you do things like play the game in a larger resolution, meaning you see more of the game world on screen at any given moment. Such things change the gaming experience too much, but if you stick to default settings you just get the original experience, minus most of the bugs.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Just a quick note about an early choice you can make that will put you in a walking dead situation - Vs lbh svaq n obggyr bs fgenatr nypbuby va gur jbbqf abegujrfg bs Zbavgbe, qba'g qevax vg (be tvir vg gb Qhcer gb qevax, nf V fghcvqyl qvq).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm quite sure that that item is replaced daily if removed/destroyed, to ward against just such a walking dead scenario. One of the places the developers were actually on the ball, as far as I recall.

      Delete
    2. Interesting! Is that something added with a patch or maybe with Exult? 13-year-old me was stuck for weeks (of in-game time) before I gave up and called the Origin hint line. They confirmed that a restart was in my future.

      Delete
  33. Heh. Reading this entry made me realize I still want to make another serious attempt to beat this game on my own. Guess I won't be visiting this blog as often over the next few months.

    ReplyDelete
  34. The manuals for the Ultima games are so good. That's why, despite all the retcons, the lore of this series was amazing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. I spend a lot of time poking holes in it, but that's only possible because it's so detailed in the first place.

      Delete
  35. While I'm at it, I've just finished reading "The Official Book of Ultima" by Shay Addams. Fawning though the book may be, it goes out of its way to mention collaborators on four through six, and their specific contributions, down to cover artists and illustrators for the manuals. Half the staff of Ultima VI gets named. Nowhere does it mention a co-writer for Ultima IV. In fact, given the book's excerpted interviews about Ultima IV, Garriott would have to have been a systematic and talented liar for the game to have been co-written. This is at odds with the many revealing things he unknowingly says about himself, like the fact that he rarely reads. Garriott's weakest virtue is Humility, not Honesty.

    I think you, as a professor, understand that extraordinary claims require strong evidence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Garriott is a systematic and talented liar. The co-author of Ultima IV is Roe R Adams III. Aside from a brief mention in the credits in the manual, his place in Ultima history has been virtually erased by Richard Garriott.

      Delete
    2. Uncredited contributions are fairly common. That Adams contributed to the story/worldbuilding, whether true or nor, is hardly an extraordinary claim. Either way, it's not a claim that's been made on the blog.

      Delete
    3. As I said, extraordinary claims require strong evidence.

      Delete
    4. I introduced the possibility in my coverage of Wizardry IV, but I'm of a mind with Lhexa. I'm not entirely convinced by the evidence, which seems to boil down to a couple of Japanese articles discussed on Reddit:

      https://www.reddit.com/r/shroudoftheavatar_raw/comments/vqdooy/more_proof_that_richard_garriott_is_a_fraud/

      (An anonymous commenter tried to offer this link here, but I rejected it because of my policies towards anonymous commenters.)

      I frankly don't see why Adams wouldn't have been more vocal about his contributions if the story were true, nor why any other Origin employees wouldn't have come forward over the years. In contrast, it's not hard to perceive a clear evolution from Akalabeth through Ultima IV and beyond, and Garriott has given (in Addams's book and other places) an entirely plausible account of how that evolution happened.

      Delete
    5. Hooray for the second time in my life in which my encyclopedic knowledge of Ultima VI has come in useful!

      Buck: I try to let confrontational remarks sit in my head for quite some time before posting them. I guess I mixed up who said what, over that time period.

      Chet: Thanks so much for the link, and for the clarification of your position. The Reddit post is easy to disprove, because it includes:

      "I was able to contact the author of the article on twitter (@snapwith) and he claims that Roe not only completely designed Ultima IV, but gave Richard an outline for the entire Ultima IV-V-VI trilogy."

      Ultima VI was written by Dr. Cat (dialogue) and Warren Spector (plot outline), in close collaboration with Garriott.

      If Shay Addams can be trusted (and he often can't), during its development Garriott was much more absorbed with getting his new programmers (who were far better than he had been) to implement new things. There's a charming anecdote in which Addams (who wrote the first edition of The Official Book of Ultima _during_ the development of Ultima VI) tags along as Garriot hauls various items from his mansion (like the cauldron) to a scale, in order to use that data when designing objects.

      There's also the intriguing Acknowledgments section, which I'll transcribe in full. "A special thanks and a 40-gun salute to Bruce Wily for the basis of the Ultima I solution and to Patricia Fitzgibbons and ORIGIN, Inc., for its verification. Thanks also go to Warren Spector for his help and patience, Stephen King for the basis of the solutions for Ultima II and Ultima IV and the table for II and III, Peggy Wiley for verification of the Ultima II and III solutions, Frank Evangelista for the basis of the Ultima V solution, Mark Ellis for assistance with the Nintendo Exodus solution, and my editor, Pam Plaut, for not asking too many questions. I also want to thank all the little people who made this .44 magnum opus possible -- all the Dwarves, Hobbits, Bobbits, and Elves in the land... especially the Keebler Elves."

      ...Stephen King?!

      Delete
    6. Oh, and about the (admittedly aggravating) "canonically white, male and blonde" Avatar, I've found confirmation that the multiple-worlds cosmology of Ultima Online is canon. In the Shroud of the Avatar manual, it says:

      "Abandoned by the mighty Avatars and their Virtues, those who remained were left defenseless in an untamed land. That is, until the Obsidians came. Through dark sorcery and overwhelming force, the Obsidian Empire brought order to chaos, no matter the cost."

      That's an unambiguous plural.

      Delete
    7. That's an ambiguous retcon :D (and a rather silly one, in my opinion).

      Delete
    8. Wait. When my Avatar said, "F@$& this" and let Britannia burn, that's CANON?!

      Delete
    9. I was the one who posted those articles on Reddit. I guess I tried to post them anonymously here and it got deleted.

      The gist of the articles are that Roe R Adams III was the primary writer and designer for Ultima IV (including the virtue system) and Richard Garriott mostly was involved in programming.

      Some evidence of Roe's hand in Ultima IV: Hawkwind (Roe's alter ego) gives you your virtue status, Skara Brae (also appears in Bard's Tale which Roe helped design), the bell book candle puzzle also appears in Wizardry IV.

      The main gameplay loop of scattering items and clues across the world to make you go everywhere was Roe's. Contrast to previous Ultimas where visiting most locations in the game was unnecessary.

      The author of the article, who claims to be an old friend of Roe's, claims that Roe wrote the OUTLINE for the entire Age of Enlightenment trilogy, not that he wrote them or worked on them. Roe and Garriott had a falling out after Ultima IV and Roe has never spoken publicly about it to my knowledge.

      Andrea Contato actually did contact Roe during his research for his book Through the Moongate but Roe wouldn't go on the public record regarding the development of Ultima IV. Why? Who knows.

      The author of the article sent me the full version (about 25 pages long) that was published at a Dojinshi convention in Japan a few years ago and I got his permission to translate it to English but I've been too busy. However, I think it would be quick and easy enough to just machine translate the whole thing, edit it a bit and publish that as a kind of rough draft to get the gist of it across.

      Delete
    10. I find the Roe Adams story intriguing, and he wouldn't be the first creative who got sidelined by a more cutthroat partner. But be that as it may, I just wanted to point out that this isn't just entirely based on some online posts - the author also linked a 1995 book by Yutaka Tama, so if anyone speaks Japanese and wants to delve further into this, they can.
      https://www.amazon.co.jp/%E6%AC%A1%E4%B8%96%E4%BB%A3RPG%E3%81%AF%E3%81%93%E3%83%BC%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8B-%E9%9B%BB%E6%92%83%E3%82%B2%E3%83%BC%E3%83%A0%E6%96%87%E5%BA%AB-%E5%A4%9A%E6%91%A9-%E8%B1%8A/dp/4073034561

      Delete
    11. Kaiser: Hawkwind is a character in Michael Moorcock's books. Skara Brae is a prehistoric ruin in Britain. The bell-book-candle symbolism derives from Catholicism.

      As for the rest, I'm sure the Japanese dude feels very blessed to be the only person in the entire world to whom Roe Addams has disclosed this crime.

      Delete
    12. Chet: I think the abandonment refers to the ending of Ultima VIII, which very much does not lead into IX. Sorry for the post spam.

      Delete
    13. Lhexa, I'm mostly with you on needing more proof on the "who invented the 8 virtues" question, but come on. Hawkwind and Skara Brae and bell-book-candle might exist outside these games, but they appear in two RPGs very close together in time and we know Roe Adams worked on both of them. Those are clearly his contributions.

      Delete
    14. @Tim: You have made a pretty serious accusation without any substantial evidence.

      You have not quoted a specific statement from Garriott that you consider a lie, nor have you explained who exactly (with their real name) supposedly has first-hand knowledge that the statement is a lie, or why that person should be trusted. There is no statement from Roe R. Adams III himself that suggests Garriott lied about anything. If I'm not mistaken, even that "man who claims to be an old friend of Roe" did not claim that Adams said that Garriott was lying about anything! If I understand correctly, the whole thing is merely an inference that went from the claim "Adams did a lot of design work on Ultima IV" (is this even disputed by Garriott?) to "Adams invented the system of 8 virtues" (speculation, as far as I can see) to "Garriott lied" (about what?) to "systematic and talented liar" (a nasty accusation).

      This is how Adams is credited in the manual of Ultima IV (specifically, the manual of the original Apple II version): "I, Lord British, would like to thank Roe R. Adams III for his invaluable collaboration on the plots of the great quests and for his writings contained within this manuscript."

      Which of Adams' contributions is supposedly not covered by this credit? Heck, how is a game director supposed to credit another developer's contribution in a way that such accusations do not come up 40 years later?

      Now, of course your accusation might be true anyway, how should I know? But you haven't given any substantial evidence, so you might as well believe similar things about any other development team, too: "It must have been X who had that great idea, not Y!"

      Given this level of evidence, I see no reason to believe that unless you *want* to believe it -- and that might be the crux of the matter, I suspect. There's this desire to take famous people down a peg. Never understood it.

      Delete
    15. Chet: In a situation like this it's not easy to determine whether the chain of casuality is A->B->C or A->B and A->C separately; I gave A for each. Heck, the casuality could even have gone A->C->B for some of them; Garriott, "Lord British" and longtime SCA member, could have been the one to first learn about Britain's ancient ruin Skara Brae from his SCA pals. Likewise, Addams could have learned about "bell-book-candle" from Garriott, and liked it so much that he used it in his other game too. (Also, where did Nethack get it from?) In the absence of further evidence, you cannot attribute specific contributions to specific people.

      For the three Principles, of course, there is specific evidence, namely Garriott's story about being inspired by The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz's characters embodying Truth, Love and Courage is not Garriott's invention: it is an explicit theme. In the book, Tinman frets that he has no heart, and as a result he takes every care to treat beings with respect, since he no longer has an intuitive feeling of right and wrong. At one point he cries over stepping on a bug. Meanwhile, the Scarecrow frets that he has no brain, but often comes up with clever solutions, while the Lion bemoans his lack of courage, but shows genuine bravery in several scenes. The movie dropped this aspect of the original, sadly.

      Delete
    16. That was the Principles. As for the Virtues, there's Garriott's story about how we went to various people and asked them to list what they thought were the most important virtues. Garriott, according to his testimony, discovered that there were commonalities among these lists, and drew the eight Virtues from these commonalities.

      So: Garriott not only claims he invented the Principles and the Virtues, he has stories (repeated multiple times throughout the years) about _how_ he invented them. Think that Addams invented the Principles or Virtues instead, and we're back in "Garriott is a talented liar" territory.

      Delete
    17. Lhexa, I think you're ruining a generally good point by quibbling over issues that are both well-documented and not terribly important to the overall question of who "wrote" Ultima IV. Adams's SCA name was "Dair Hawkwind of Skara Brae." He is documented using that name in the early 1980s. Suddenly, in 1985, two games are released that have cities of that name and one of them has a character named "Hawkwind." No, it's not impossible that Garriott came up with them independently and just happened to employ Adams on the same project, but you're asking a lot. That a couple of names and themes that Adams contributed ended up in U4 hardly makes Garriott a "liar" nor diminishes his own contributions.

      I think Bitmap says it perfectly. I would never have even talked about the issue except that I was writing about Adams in the context of W4, and I felt that his use of unusual mythologies in that game might have been related to the same in U4.

      Delete
    18. Oh! I never knew that fact. Thank you for giving it to me. That does clear that up.

      I think my points about the Principles and the Virtues are well-stated, though.

      Delete
    19. The guy who wrote the article is Hiromasa Iwasaki. He's a game developer who has been in the industry since the late 80s. You can google him to see his LinkedIn. His twitter name is @snapwith. He speaks English so feel free to contact him.

      The online version of the articles is here: http://www.highriskrevolution.com/wp/gamelife/2017/06/24/roe-r-adams-iii-%e3%81%8c%e3%82%84%e3%81%a3%e3%81%9f%e3%81%93%e3%81%a8%ef%bc%88%ef%bc%96-%e7%b5%82%ef%bc%89/ You can use a site like deepl.com to get a pretty decent rough translation.

      He also posted in the Roe Adams thread (at my behest) on the rpgcodex forum. (https://rpgcodex.net/forums/threads/roe-r-adams-iii.140199/) Though that site is populated by a lot of unsavory characters so be careful.

      The lies that Garriott tells and what makes him a "systematic and talented liar" is that he has basically erased Roe Adams' role in Ultima development from the history books. Also, if you followed the development of Garriott's more recent disaster of a game, Shroud of the Avatar, you should be more than aware of all the falsehoods he has spewed regarding that.

      Delete
    20. Hawkwind is a British psychedelic rock band that was probably most popular in the 70s and early 80s, the band Lemmy was in before Motorhead. Hawkmoon is the Michael Moorcock character in question, for clarity's sake. Moorcock collaborated with Hawkwind a few times so I understand mixing them up.

      Delete
  36. "Erstam's history reaches back to the First Age of Darkness in Ultima, when "eight great kingdoms coexisted, often uneasily." He's referring to the continents of the first game, although there were only four of them"

    Four continents with two castles (and kings inside) each = eight kingdoms.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Come crawling erstaf
    Obey your erstam
    Your life burns erstaf
    Obey your erstam, erstam

    ReplyDelete
  38. "Literally every stylistic choice on this screen is horrible."

    It was the zeitgeist of the era -- finally enough graphical power to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks! (What sticks: throwing less at the wall.) I was testing World of Xeen in SCUMMVM last night and there was an unskippable "Jon Van Caneghem productions" splash screen that was exactly the same as this one, different in all regards but essentially the same mistakes being made.

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  39. Looking forward to reading about your journey through the Serpent Isle (and beyond). I just re-replayed the entire Ultima series last year (in part inspired by your blog, plus deliciously low GOG prices), including finishing UX for the first time ever. It was daunting, occasionally very annoying, but overall a wonderful trip. I wish we could revisit the adventures of the Avatar in some new fashion.

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  40. The Ultima series is easily my favorite RPG series for its innovation and the advancements of the individual installments, but the continuity between them was slapped on.

    The Retroactive continuity errors of the Ultima series drove me nuts enough for me to create a 'Storyline FAQ' back in the 1990s. Yep, that's a really long time ago!

    https://journals.billo.ws/ultima-storyline-faq/

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    1. I've read this before! I think I read it when it was relatively new, but also when I was playing one of the original games. I'd have to hunt down the post, but I think I even linked to it.

      I swear the versions I read previously also had a question about how the Avatar could possibly be the same hero who solved U1-U3 given that those heroes could be of any race and U3 could have 4 of them. I believe your conclusion was that the authors of the manuals who insisted the Avatar was the earlier hero were simply wrong. I also thought I remembered that someone from Origin agreed and said they'd incorporate that correction in future materials.

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    2. Ah, never mind. I overlooked the relevant paragraph in the context of a different answer: "Furthermore having a human Avatar playing a role in the first trilogy makes no sense as players could choose to be any race or class they wanted. It is unfair to assume that all of the Ultima series has to be formed around the Avatar character. Surely throughout Sosaria’s and Britannia’s history there must have been other heroes and heroines."

      The problem with this, of course, is that in U7P1, the Avatar engages directly with Mondain, Minax, and Exodus, and it's clear they remember each other from the original game.

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    3. @Chet: You reference this FAQ at the beginning of your 'Won' post on 'Ultima I' (thirteen years ago almost to the day!). At some point in the meantime, the link to the place where you originally found it back then no longer worked and there was no archived version, so good to have a new one now.

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  41. I've thought this for a long time, but - you should create a physical book from all your entries. I love reading your posts and would totally buy a hardcopy edition. Thanks for creating your blog and sharing with all of us!

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

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I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

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