“Theoretically”: Garriott On Ultima Comeback

By Alec Meer on December 12th, 2011 at 3:27 pm.

Can they put the Ultimas on the Chrome Web Store thingy please

It’s no secret that Richard ‘King English’ Garriott is working on a spiritual sequel to Ultima, having left the series’ rights locked in an EA basement somewhere. It’s no secret because he’s said so, repeatedly. But what’s more surprising is that he apparently isn’t resigned to never getting them back – and he’s even talking about working with EA again. The lion and the lamb! Cats sleeping with dogs! THE END TIMES.

More specifically, he told Eurogamer that “We’ve had discussions at very high levels with Electronic Arts about access to the property [and]…a possible marketing and distribution relationships and things of this nature.”

Which is rather promising, presuming he’s not just making wild public declarations in the hope of changing minds. More below.

“Theoretically that would be possible” he said in reference to his RPG – so far known only as The Ultimate RPG – becoming Ultima Online 2. And he reckons that EA are “one of the best, most powerful and competent sales and marketing and distribution companies in the business.” There’s a lot of red tape and “resistance” elsewhere in the mammoth publisher though, he fears.

Whatever happens though, he wants the setting to change – so we’re unlikely to see Britannia again, or at least not in its traditional form. “I actually think it’s time to move on from that regardless, so even if we were to have access to the properties of my historical work, I don’t think I would change my current plans.”

Much more here, including on quite what a spiritual sequel entails and why The Ultimate RPG’s development will take “closer to the Minecraft route” than something like SWTOR.

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43 Comments »

  1. Flukie says:

    Well im sure EA want a bigger chunk of the MMO market, and after throwing a massive amount of money at sci fi with TOR they will probably want fantasy with a new ultima game, how will they make it? By throwing money at it.

    • Shuck says:

      No doubt – after all, EA has been spending money on making Ultima sequels for the last 10 years. I can’t imagine how much money they’ve wasted so far. The real question is whether they’d release a Garriott sequel since they haven’t released any of the others.

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      Carra says:

      They released Lords of Ultima not that long ago.

  2. Bishop99999999 says:

    I don’t think Richard Garriott has the balls to turn it into a modern FPS.

    Go on, “King English,” prove me wrong!

  3. Underwhelmed says:

    Garriott is a hack. At one time he may have had some good ideas, and you really can’t deny that the Ultima series (particularly 7) have made a huge impact on the games industry, but he hasn’t done anything worthwhile since Ultima 7. This man is the George Lucas of video games.

    • youthful cynic says:

      Isn’t LucasArts the George Lucas of games?

    • Wizardry says:

      What? He’s been making video games since the 1970s. Why should he have been expected to create games throughout the 00s? People still love Warren Spector who has also done nothing decent in over a decade and has had a far smaller impact on the games industry. If Garriott is a hack then all game developers are hacks.

    • gritz says:

      Yes, creating the world’s first popular MMORPG was not a worthwhile thing that Garriott did after Ultima 7.

    • IDtenT says:

      Wizardry, I have to ask. Why do you love Ultima so much when it doesn’t adhere to your RPG mechanics idealism?

    • Wizardry says:

      Because adventure games are my second favourite genre.

    • JFS says:

      You just gotta have to love Wizardry :)

    • Bret says:

      If one defines “Love” to be any strong emotion, including irritation, then yes. I suppose so.

  4. Bhazor says:

    Please not an mmo. Please not an mmo. Please not an mmo.

    • Rao Dao Zao says:

      But MMOs get the developers more money-hats. Don’t you like money-hats?

    • the.celt says:

      It *is* an MMO. A multi-platform social media MMO. He is more specific about it here: http://www.portalarium.com/index.php/ultimate-rpg?id=93 . Scroll down to the section titled: “The Third Grand Era of Games – Social & Mobile gaming”.

      To be fair, there’s a very small chance that I’d consider the beast he’s describing to be genius. A very small chance. More likely it will either never exist or never be anything I’d consider. My current state of mind is that I don’t want any of my gaming life to interact with Twitter or Facebook or other things yet to be created from the catagory of social media.

      Short version: Yuck.

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      Big Murray says:

      The irony is that Garriott kick-started the whole MMO genre of games with Ultima Online. And when he did it … MMOs weren’t uncool.

      Amazing how times change.

  5. adonf says:

    I didn’t realised RG’s Ultimate RPG would be just some more online crap. What a waste of enthusiasm…

    Also, this is probably 100% vaporware at the moment.

  6. wisnoskij says:

    It is strange how many designers of legendary video games series do not own and are not allowed to continue working on their own creations.

    • Skrying says:

      When you’re a creator/developer you often have to sell the rights to your creations in order to secure funds for development or publishing. It’s not uncommon at all. Happens in games, music, movies, etc, etc.

  7. Papagiorgio says:

    Richard Garriott also laid the steaming turd called Tabula Rasa. I’m not optimistic.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Garriott had much less influence on Tabula Rasa than people think. He did help cause it to be delayed and run overbudget, and thus got yanked from control, and ended up being mostly a figurehead.

  8. Zarunil says:

    Funny you should post this. I’ve had an epic piece of Ultima 7 music lodged in my head all day. It will not be removed!

  9. vecordae says:

    After reading a few of the man’s interviews, I have to say that his ideas don’t sound too promising and that he’s probably a difficult man to work with. Neither of these things bode well.

  10. Tuco says:

    I know people who could kill for a new Ultima Online.
    Me? I don’t care that much, but I could go “postal” for a new Ultima VII or Ultima Underworld.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      I dream of a new Ultima Underworld (or System Shock for that matter).

      It’s sad that the Ultima series – most of them, at least, and in particular the Underworld series – being as old as it is, still has more fascinating dungeons than the linear, dull, repetitive efforts in Skyrim.

      I suspect the best we can expect is another Ultima MMO. Those that want interesting dungeons in a single player RPG, well, outside of Jeff Vogel’s games, there’s not a lot out there. Let alone anything first person. :(

    • Tuco says:

      Well, what’s really sad, generally speaking, is how the Ultima series and the Underworld spin-off still are the pinnacles of the RPG genre even today, many hardware generations later.

      I remember how, as a kid playing Ultima, I used to dream about how those games could evolve in the successive years.
      Nope, I was wrong. I was *already* playing the most ambitious and well crafted RPGs the world would know for the next twenty years and counting.

    • Grygus says:

      I think the Baldur’s Gate games kicked the hell out of Ultima, but since that’s the end of my argument, I suppose I must concede the main point.

    • gritz says:

      The Baldur’s Gate games built on the RPG framework that Ultima helped invent and came out years later. And while Black Isle/Bioware really pioneered in characterization and storytelling (which has now grown stale and formulaic) they still missed all of Ultima’s lessons about seamless world-simulation and interactivity.

    • Wizardry says:

      Nah. Baldur’s Gate ripped off Dark Sun: Shattered Lands/Wake of the Ravager way more than Ultima, which in turn were the successors of the Gold Box games, which themselves were successors to Wizard’s Crown and Eternal Dagger, which may have been influenced slightly by Ultima III but seem to be far more heavily influenced by SSI’s older war-games than anything else.

  11. PostieDoc says:

    I personaly would love another take on Ultima Online as it was in the early years.
    No inane quests to collect 20 goblins knackers like in WoW just an open world for you to play around in as you please.
    Established npc towns for safety but when you wander outside you have to be wary of PKs (player killers). I know a lot of people cursed them for their activities but they did add a real sense of danger as you wandered off to collect materials for building some new furniture to put in your house, or to make armour with to sell at your shop by the road.
    One of the most fun things I remember doing in the game is teaming up with a bunch of other do-gooders and forming a posse to go and hunt down any PKs in the area.
    We promptly had our arses handed to us on a plate butit was great fun all the same.
    Shame that the advent of Care-Bear land ruined everything.

  12. RyuRanX says:

    Please, Sir Garriott, make a single-player Ultima-like RPG for the fans, even if it looks like a 1980′s DOS game! Please! Please! Please!

    I’m replaying Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny after many years. It’s so fun that I left The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim rotting in a dark corner of my hard drive.

  13. LordHuggington says:

    I’d love to see a new single-player Ultima come along. I’ve had quite enough of MMOs for the time being. Something with the classic Ultima spirit with some modern day production values could be pretty snazzy. If SWtoR does well, though, I reckon EA will be more inclined to keep Ultima in the realm of MMOs.

  14. plumbob says:

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a new Garriot MMO. He is (I welcome your hatred) responsible for the single finest MMO that has yet been created in Ultima Online. And at least in part is responsible for moving large scale multiplayer from MUDs to the main stream.

    I would welcome a nonquest based MMO, that is what breaks the lion’s share of MMO’s for me. The quest systems largely get in the way of the multiplayer aspect of this genre. In games like WoW the quest system waters down player interaction to the point where the games cease to be multiplayer, but rather are single player games with friends. To make a bad analogy, modern MMO’s aren’t a basketball game, they are a slam dunk contest. Who can get the coolest swag and show it off to their fellow humans; while having little reason to actually engage with them.

    There are a handful of truly adversarial MMO’s out there that rely upon long term teamwork for success, Wurm comes to mind, EVE to a lesser extent; but I wouldn’t rate either of those as particularly accessible, and in the case of Wurm, borderline playable at times. Ultima Online itself has been watered down to a shadow of its former self chasing after the WoW model.

    Time for someone to turn a new page here, maybe Garriot can do it, he certainly did it more than once before.

  15. Brosepholis says:

    Conjecture: He will balls it up, but everyone will blame EA.

  16. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Why is there a Tibia screenshot up there

  17. Starky says:

    The problem with ageing game developers (and aging musicians for that matter) is that time and tastes move on, they lose touch and short of a few luminaries, lose any ability to advance their medium. The only exceptions are genre’s which have already matured, John Williams might still be capable of writing an epic, and amazing sweeping orchestral film score today.
    But Paul Mcartney is never going to have anything close to the impact he had as a song writer in the 60s and 70s.

    They might have it in them to oversee an amazing project – just as ancient old audio engineers are basically audio gods (most of them anyway).

    Hell it might be possible for a old game designer to direct a new game the way an old movie director directs films, but I just don’t think games are in that space of maturity yet. A director can have a vision and getting that vision to screen is much the same now as it was 70 years ago, FX guys are just FX guys the director just needs to worry about what he wants and make sure he hires others who can make that happen.

    While a game director really does need to know current trends, current tech, current player expectations – they need to have played modern genre games, know the limitations of modern engines and where to push them, where to compromise and such.

    Hell it would be great if Garriot could prove me wrong, but he’s been so off the pulse and out of touch for so long I doubt he could ever produce something that would resonate with a modern gaming audience.

    So at best we’ll see another the gaming equivalent of a classic rock stars new album – it might be good, and it may please old fans – but it’s highly doubtful that it will rock the charts.

  18. Mitch says:

    Ultima without Britannia? I don’t know…
    Honestly I would prefer an Ultima 7 remake with nice graphics…

  19. kud13 says:

    but will they make it run on Origin?
    and wouldn’t that get a bit confusing?

  20. pilouuuu says:

    Why can’t Ultima be brought up-to-date? It could be something like Skyrim, but including much improved interactions and dialogues between characters. The cities should feel more alive with really good citizen’s routines and behaviour. And also I would love to see a game which doesn’t focus on violence all the time and where you can find a diplomatic solution against enemies. A game in which you try to achieve virtues and not looting. It would be fantastic and could be as big a hit as Skyrim if well done.