Beyond Britannia: Worlds Of Ultima Free At GOG

By Adam Smith on June 18th, 2012 at 2:21 pm.

This is what heroism used to look like

Free RPGs of old! I hadn’t thought about the Worlds of Ultima games for a long time but they are now free on GOG.com and seeing that made me hunger for a continuation. Rather than taking place in Britannia, land of vice and virtue, the short-lived spin-off series transports the Avatar to fantastical Vernian environments, namely a savage jungle empire and a Victorian era Mars. The second game, Martian Dreams, even had Freud and Tesla in it which earns an automatic +2 points out of arbitrary number of choice. I love this sort of thing in my RPGs but for now it’s enough that both games can be mine again for free and more of the same, old or new, would be very welcome. They are hither and thither.

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39 Comments »

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  1. Spinks says:

    I did love Martian Dreams. Need to go and download it now, just for the nostalgia value.

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    LegendaryTeeth says:

    There is also apparently going to be some sort of special announcement at GoG today

    Edit: Looks like it’s this: http://www.gog.com/en/page/2012_summer_promo

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    tikey says:

    Martian Dreams not only has Freud and Tesla, but it also has Warren Spector in it.

    • YogSo says:

      Heheh, just logged to add this: My Adventures With Warren Spector by that Doctor Who’s chick ;)

    • harakka says:

      Warren Spector is also present in Savage Empire, and in a pretty significant role.
      It is awesome game in many other ways. The world still stands out to me as the most “real” of any Ultima game, with significant distances between the settlements and the differing cultures of the inhabitants. Lots of interesting secrets to find, and a nice crafting system that fit the modern day hero in a low-tech world feel really well.

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        Morlock says:

        I started replaying it not too long ago, but can’t get over the poor writing and bland characters. Both it and Martian Dreams have a nice pulp-ness about it though.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      And he only has 13 str. What a wuss!

  4. Thunderkor says:

    I seriously loved both of these games when they first came out. I was disappointed that they only made two of these, as I really enjoyed the Ultima gameplay a the time and they also brought a great sense of humor to the Ultima Adventures games. It would have been fun to see what other alternate worlds they could have touched on.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      The Savage Empire is one of the earliest PC games I remember playing. There’s been an ongoing project to restore it (similar to the Exult project for U7) but I think it stalled a while ago.

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      Thirith says:

      They were planning to do a third, in the Ultima VII engine, based on Arthurian legend. I think Elizabeth and Abraham put an end to that one…

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “It would have been fun to see what other alternate worlds they could have touched on.”

      Ultima Underworld II is almost a third game in the Worlds series. It’s even in the subtitle “Labyrinth of worlds”.

  5. starclaws says:

    Please continue to let us know about these free GoG games. I love that RPS does that. It is worthy news for such classic amazing games.

  6. Oryon says:

    The thing no one talks about is that Ultima & Worlds of Ultima games have been free for a long time on Abandonia. They’ve pretty much stopped being free now and GOG sells, fr’instance, Ultima VII for 6 bucks (content and extras exactly the same as the Abandonia versions).
    Now, i like GOG, but i find this kind of annoying. If it was Abandonware in the first place, it just feels like someone is suddenly trying to cash in. And i’m not sure who that is. (*cough*cough*EA*cough*hack*)

    • MistyMike says:

      There’s no such thing as ‘abandonware’ in legal terms. Sometimes distribution of copyrighted works is de facto tolerated, but the owner of the IP can put them on sale again at his discretion.

    • YogSo says:

      ‘Abandonware’ is nothing. It’s a made-up word, like ‘ziritione’ or ‘objective review’. And if something was ever free on Internet, you know what? Then it still is, somewhere. You just have to look for it, as with anything else. Even GOG releases. The thing is, people aren’t paying for GOG games because they are forced to, but because they want to, as a sign of appreciation and support. They could pirate all of them with impunity if they wanted, being DRM-free and all. But that’s the point, if someone treats you with respect, then decent people pay back in the same way.

      • Oryon says:

        Not arguing that at all. Not even claiming they should be free by right. Just saying it’s annoying, and speaks something of the ‘owner of the IP’ when they’re suddenly charging 6 bucks for a 21 year old game that they used to allow free.

        • LionsPhil says:

          They only “allowed” it by apathy, and possibly because they did some rough calculations and came to the conclusion that trying to prevent/prosecute the unlicensed distribution of their back catalogue wouldn’t be worth the legal effort and expense involved.

          Now, if EA take something like the previously-officially-freeware C&C back catalogue and throw that on GOG for a fiver, start complaining.

          Speaking of which, lookie, a “Buy Now” link.

        • Eclipse says:

          the fact is that they NEVER distributed it for free. Abandonia is a warez site, or a pirated games site, basically, they offer you pirated games.
          It focuses on old titles and I used and loved sites like Abandonia or the good old HOTU, but there’s this stupid idea of abandonware being something legal, they are NOT, those are just cracked copies!
          When a game is released for free it’s usually a freeware license, abandonware means nothing at all

          • MadTinkerer says:

            Yeah, “Abandonware” is a great concept that preserves old software when the rights holders forget that they own it, lose the right to continue selling it because of license issues (like how GoG is still trying to get System Shock 2 up, but not yet), the original author intends to make it freeware but is unable to, or the software otherwise cannot be obtained for money. However, copyrighted stuff is still copyrighted.

            Current US copyright laws are (fucking ridiculous, but that’s another rant) such that no commercial copyrighted software has ever gone out of copyright, because no software produced has ever existed for long enough to become public domain. In fact, tens of thousands of titles whose original sources are physically lost to disk / tape corruption are still legally under copyright. This is a grievous legal oversight and should be, at the very least, corrected for the sake of preserving programs whose original media is extremely fragile. Nevertheless historians owe and will continue to owe a huge debt to software pirates for a long time to come.

            But in terms of legality, any copyright holder is completely within their rights to start selling their copyrighted software. “Abandonware” is a preservation effort, and doesn’t apply to things that don’t need preservation. So, please, no complaining when old software becomes commercially available again.

    • sinister agent says:

      If the game’s been released by its creators/publishers (preferably creators of course, but sometimes that’s just not feasible and the publisher’s the closest thing left to a singular entity behind its release), I will stick with the free version (e.g. Ground Control, which was released for free some time before it turned up on gog). I agree with you in those cases.

      Otherwise, though, well. Several dozen games that I’ve bought on gog.com are ones that I only ever heard of and/or played via sites like HOTU, back when those games were abandonware. And yeah, legally it’s not a thing, but legal pedantry can fuck off – games that were no longer being sold were totally fair game and still are as far as I’m concerned. But once those games come back into circulation through sites like gog, I think that it no longer applies, particularly given gog’s generally low prices. Even in my povviest years (and I mean “I can’t afford milk or eggs this week. Plain pasta for dinner again, I guess” levels here), it wasn’t out of reach to save up three or four quid for a game.

      I’ve since bought practically every game I ever played via abandonware. It is a bit annoying, but hey, I put my mouth there, so my money ought to follow.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I am glad sites like abandonia exist because some games will never be sold again due to licensing issues or what-have-you. Still, the idea of “abandonware” is generally flawed and completely unfounded in legality. Apply it to any other entertainment medium and it looks ridiculous (“North by Northwest has not been updated since the 50’s!”). Even if abadonware was a legal concept the very fact these games are now sold on GOG makes them the opposite of abandonware, no longer applicable.

      I understand that people who got used to pirating every old game they wanted to play are now perhaps annoyed they are expected to pay for them. That’s more the fault of the original behavior than it is companies wanting to sell their stuff though.

      • Oryon says:

        I don’t see how downloading a game that was offered for free (alongside with all extras and work put in to make it run on modern systems) counts as pirating in any way.

        Moreover, the studio that made the product is gone and i don’t think Richard Garriot is seeing a cent of these sales either.

        All that’s left is the current owner of the rights for Ultima (EA) suddenly trying to squeeze some money out of it. I’m sorry if that tickles me the wrong way. Now, a grumpier man may conclude that EA is just trying to pick people’s pockets as much as they can, given recent developments ( http://www.google.com/finance?cid=168725 ). Come to think of it, i’m pretty grumpy at EA, yes.

        • sinister agent says:

          But then by the same token, you could argue that there’s no point paying for loads of other stuff too, because it can be found for free, and besides, the person who made it no longer makes money off the sale anyway.

          • Oryon says:

            Yes, yes you could. If you can find something for free, why would you pay for it. Please keep in mind i am not talking about piracy here.

            Also, small correction. Ultimas could be found for free. Now they cannot and you have to pay for it.

            /rant

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            Malibu Stacey says:

            So Oryon I hear cars, mobile phones, computers and anything else in the entire world can be found for free so why would you pay for any of those either?
            Keep in mind I’m not talking about piracy either.

            Also small correction. The Ultima series of games could be illegally downloaded from places which facilitated this illegal behaviour while it was overlooked by the copyright holders. Now they cannot and you have to pay for them.

          • Oryon says:

            Please tell me where i could get a car for free. I could use one.

            Small inquiry. How is it illegal to download the item, if the item has a price tag of 0?

          • Johnny Lizard says:

            Malibu Stacey, in the case of Ultima IV, Origin expressly permitted some of their fans (“the Ultima Dragons”) to freely distribute the game.
            See
            http://martin.brenner.de/ultima/
            and
            http://aiera.ultimacodex.com/2011/03/ultima-4-ea-corrections-and-clarifications/

          • sinister agent says:

            @Oryon

            Oh, fair enough. I’m not refuting your point, exactly – I can see what you mean, I think. But it’s a bit of an awkward area I think. Ideally of course we’d all like to track down the people who actually wrote and coded and animated etc. the games we buy, but it’s just not practical, so at some point we just have to draw a line.

        • malkav11 says:

          You are, in fact, talking about piracy. It’s pretty benign piracy that serves a useful and productive purpose, but it’s still piracy. Abandonia does not have the right to distribute most of the games it makes available for download. Neither does/did Home of the Underdogs. Not legally, not even tacitly. Since both sites have a policy of not hosting files when they are legitimately available for sale or they have been specifically instructed by the copyright holder or a representative to take down the download link, they have gotten away with it. (Occasionally the copyright holder explicitly gives permission.)

          I personally would far rather have a site like GoG than have to rely on abandonware sites, because there is no reason games should not be commercially viable indefinitely, and copyright holders are significantly more likely to make the game available at all if they derive some profit from it. Prior to GoG, quite a few excellent games were cease-and-desisted off abandonware sites but were not legitimately available, creating the worst kind of limbo for those games. (Some of those games have since made it onto GoG.)

          Edit: I also think copyright, especially in the US, is pretty severely out of hand and needs a major overhaul so as to accomplish its original goals without stifling creativity and creating artificial barriers to media availability. (I.e., regional restrictions, things going out of print, etc, none of which should be a thing in this digital age.) But with what we have, abandonware is piracy.

        • Deano2099 says:

          But you can still download them for free from other sites with lesser moral fibre than Abandonia. And now you can get the fancy fixed-up GOG versions from those sites too.

          So yes, failing to see the problem.

          • UK_John says:

            It’s one thing to talk about abandonware and piracy (I think abandonware provides a valuable service!), but what annoys me is the 2-3 times developers have incorporated a new patch to be included in the GOG version and yet not made available to original owners. One example was Arx Fatalis. This title had well known bugs and yet hadn’t been patched for many years. GOG came along and did a deal and the developers immediately went to work making a patch to fix those errors – and yet didn’t feel they had to make it available to current owners of the game. This meant that original owners and supporters of the developer were going to be required to spend another $6 on the GOG version, despite already owning it! Luckily, some clever person reverse engineered the patch and made it available – 2 days after I plumped up for the GOG version!

            Another issue is the “no refunds”. Infogrames Outcast that they sell still has problems, just look at the relevant thread! Yet GOG has marked the third post with “issue solved” followed by three pages of people saying they still have the problem! As far as I am aware, GOG is still selling a version of Outcast that many have problems with!

            Don’t get me wrong, I love CD Projekt Red and think what GOG has done is wonderful. But they are far from perfect and this needed to be debated somewhere, because I couldn’t say this on the GOG site without being flamed to death by fan-boys!

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    Morlock says:

    Both games introduced a lot of adventure elements into the Ultima RPGs by having many item-use-puzzles

    Martian Dreams is the one produced by Warren Spector. It is fantastic and absolutely unique. Savage Empire is unique but somewhat mediocre for an Ultima title.

  8. Eclipse says:

    just started Martian Dreams, boy if the Ultima VI interface aged bad… the game still looks amazing, cannot wait to delve deeper in it

  9. Guhndahb says:

    I’ve always been a massive Ultima fan, but I rejected the two World of Ultima games when I was a lad because they weren’t in a traditional fantasy world. In other words, I was a complete and utter dope.

    I’ve been wanting to play them now for years and, if you had asked me what games I wanted most to come to GOG, it was them. And now they have, and they are free to boot. I’m very happy!

  10. Stromko says:

    Neither of the installations work on my Windows 7 machine. Martian Dreams tries to go full screen and then closes itself, while The Savage Empire goes to full screen with a blinking cursor and then just hangs like that until I close in task manager.

    I had to go click on the shortcuts, go to open file location, go out one folder (so I wasn’t in the DosBox folder), find the config file, go through five nested menus in order to change security settings so I could modify the config file (CURSE YOU WIN7!), and then switch to windowed mode aaaaand … identical results to before, except now they aren’t full screen.

    It works just fine on my netbook that runs XP, so I’ll have something fun to play if I’m ever on the road again.

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      Erithtotl says:

      Running fine for me on Win7.

      Perhaps try right->click/run as administrator? Not sure. Perhaps its a hardware compat issue, though I’m not sure what that could be, I am running on mostly bleeding-edge hardware.

      • Stromko says:

        Huh, that fixed it. Most obvious fix but I missed it. Didn’t work on the last few games that had issues. Welp. :)

  11. E_FD says:

    I love these two, probably my favorite games in the Ultima series.

    So refreshing to see RPGs with unconventional settings, and a greater emphasis on exploration/puzzle-solving through item interaction than on combat and leveling up.