Posts Tagged ‘Ultima’

The RPG Scrollbars: Language Of Uncommon Tongues

The sign of a truly hardcore world is that it has its own languages. Klingon. Dothraki. Elvish. The term for these is ‘Conlangs’ – aka ‘constructed languages’ – and whether you see them as a vital part of world-building or a joke-in-waiting on The Big Bang Theory (they’re due a third one one of these days), there’s more to them than just slapping together some uncommon syllables and hoping it sounds alien. Well, actually, that’s exactly how Klingon started, but never mind. Done right, paying attention to language offers more than just another DVD extra. Or at least, it can do…

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The RPG Scrollbars: Just Go Along With It, Okay?

Spoiler alert, RPGs are kinda ridiculous. Most games are, of course. While the Mythbusters may have shown that carrying Doomguy’s loadout into battle isn’t as bad as it might sound, there’s a reason they’ve never done a follow-up about doing it after taking a few rockets to the face. Likewise, we can’t know the effect of glugging down fifty health potions a day, but it must mean a lot of pauses for the heroic knight to hurriedly get his armour off for a quick pee-break.

Like a lot of things, there’s a line here – on one side, things that are interesting to see a game justify, and on the other, things that are probably best handwaved. Where does that line lie?

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The RPG Scrollbars: Sacred Worlds

Most RPGs ask you to save the world, but not all of them offer a world worth saving. Honestly, there’s been quite a few where given the choice I’d have joined the evil overlord just to beat up all the potion vendors who wouldn’t even give me a discount before the final battle, and for the mere chance of stabbing the guard in Act 1 who wouldn’t let me into The Town Where The Actual Bloody Game Starts.

This week though, I’m interested in the other side of that – the worlds that become more than just a place to grind for loot and XP. The places that feel real. Beloved worlds, which don’t necessarily correlate with beloved games. I really enjoyed Skyrim for instance, but Skyrim as a world largely leaves me cold for reasons that have nothing to do with the Frostfall mod. That’s not the same as saying it’s bad, or any real quality judgement at all, simply that for me it never became a second home, more than a playground. Fallout New Vegas meanwhile, despite its problems, ticked all of the boxes. It was a world I could believe in, get immersed by, and not want to leave, which given the current political climate around the world is quite probably for the best.

Here are some of the most special worlds for me. How about you? Note, we’re talking entire worlds, as in the settings for whole games, not specific places like, say, Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy VII or FFXIV. Those are cool too, but… another week!

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The RPG Scrollbars: The Lost Magic Of Magic

Given a choice, I almost always play as a mage. Swords? Pah. Divine magic? Save it for Sunday School. Give me control over the elements, the power to reshape the very building blocks of the universe according to my every whim, and if at all possible, a cool hat. It’s an easy fantasy to indulge in almost any RPG out there.

I just wish it was a more satisfying one.

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The RPG Scrollbars: The Worst Parts Of RPGs, Vol I

Hmmm? Sorry, is there something in my teeth?

As wonderful as RPGs are, some tropes and cliches and just general bloody annoyances really do spoil the fun. Some of them might only crop up occasionally, others just won’t go away. Some, you might think, are just petty irritations. But no! All these incontrovertible sins must be destroyed at once! Here’s a few of my least favourite offenders. What others would you add to the cursed list?

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Rule Britannia: Every Ultima For The Price Of A Pint

That’s right – Ultima 1-9, plus the two Underworld games, for the price of a pint. And not one of those fancy craft ales that you’d sup in a tweedy pop-up bar that charges sixteen quid for a thimble filled with ‘paprika-spiced apple cinnamon wedges’ that taste like rancid Doritos. GOG.com are currently offering the Ultima bundle for $7.14. That’s the price of a pint of Carling round these parts, with a pack of Transform-a-Snacks on the side. Ultima is far better for body and soul.

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Garriott On Shroud Of The Avatar, Why He Needs KS

Like so many role-playing pioneers before him, Richard Garriott has joined the boom-or-bust gold rush that is Kickstarter. However, unlike literally all of those same pioneers, Garriott’s kinda, you know, been to space. He also owned an actual, factual castle at one point. The fates, in other words, haven’t been unkind to his rather formidable fortune, and it stands to reason that he’s not in what mere mortals like ourselves would refer to as “dire straits.” So then, why all this Kickstarter hoopla for Shroud of the Avatar? Moreover, how will its episodic structure work? And Garriott’s gone on about how the pseudo-MMO is actually single-player at heart, but how will the teeth of one puzzle piece interlock with the sawblade edges of another? Click past the break for Garriott’s best attempts at explaining some of his Ultima successor’s stickier issues.

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Beyond Britannia: Worlds Of Ultima Free At GOG

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.

“Theoretically”: Garriott On Ultima Comeback

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.
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Richard Garriott Wants To Rebuild Ultima

REPLICANT!
Lord British, aka Richard Garriott, aka the creator of clasic RPG series Ultima: he’s been to space, which makes me instantly worry about him being some sort of replicant. It seems that since he’s been back on Earth he’s been pondering his next game. In a lenghty post on Facebook, he’s announced his intention to make the “Ultimate RPG”, distilling everything he’s learned in 36 years of game design into the new project, his New Britannia.
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Valve + Looking Glass’ Doug Church = !!!!!!!!!!

He even plays Arkham Horror! Wuv you, Doug

Here’s some news for you. And not just news. NEWS. Valve Software have just hired a new employee. And not just a new employee. A NEW EMPLOYEE.

Doug Church. Doug ‘Thief’ Church. Doug ‘System Shock’ Church. Doug ‘Ultima Underworld’ Church. Doug ‘Deus Ex’ Church. Doug ‘helped (to varying degrees) design a good dozen of the most beloved PC games of all time’ Church.

And now he’s at Valve, who have themselves made several more of the most beloved PC games of all time. To don my Hat of Supreme Hyperbole for a moment, Elvis* has joined the Beatles.
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Ultima’s Lord British Returns, Without Ultima

He doesn't look like this now. I'm not going to say what the main difference is. That would be very rude.

You can take the Lord British out of Ultima, but you can’t take the Ultima out of Lord British. Does that make sense? Probably not, but it sounded good, which is essentially the story of my career.

EA still jealously guards the Ultima license, despite not doing a whole lot with it outside of an only tangentially related free to play strategy game. However, it appears Ultima creator Richard Garriot has managed to personally retain the rights to sometime alter-ago and in-game ruler Lord British, which he now intends to use as the cornerstone of a new online game. “Lord British’s New Britannia” awaits…
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Richard Garriott Plans “Ultima-Esque” Games

All in, by any chance, ROBERT?

It seems worth noting what Mr Richard Garriott has been up to since his trip to outsidespace. Back in January Alec noted that the deposed Lord British would still very much like to work within the Ultima license. Since then he’s announced his involvement with Portalarium – an online gaming doodah that intends to create social media type stuff. (Hard-hitting analysis.) Which is to say, he’s planning on making more games, this time for social networking sites like Facebook, mobile phones, browser-based affairs, and they say for the PC. So far Portalarium has launched the bizarrely named Sweet @$! Poker for Facebook. But yesterday, speaking to Kotaku, Garriott revealed his ambitions to create an “Ultima-esque” game for the service.

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Holy Go Blighty: Memories of Ultima?

No, don’t get over excited. No news of any new Ultima. But before I do the Sunday Papers, I thought this may make a worthwhile talking point. I was chatting with Paul Barnett of EA Mythic on Friday about Ultima, specifically people’s memories of it. As in, it’s one of the series which a towering thing in the PC history, but what it actually means to you can vary enormously. In its original golden age, I’d argue it was particularly American-centric in terms of its appeal. And then there’s a second, seismic impact with Ultima Online. And some of you reading will never have actually even played any of the things, and it lives on sheer reputation. Anyway – that’s the question for the comments thread. What was the first time you became aware of Ultima? What did it mean to you?
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Lauded British: The Ultima 6 Project Beta

Someone should do a Dungeon Siege tribute in the Ultima 6 engine, sez I.

Brian RPGWatch brought news that The Ultima 6 Project has reached the public beta stage and is, by all accounts, pretty stable. The idea, much like the previous Ultima 5 Lazarus, is to reincarnate these seminal games in a more modern engine. In this case, Dungeon Siege. You can go and download the beta from here if you fancy a trip to Britannia. To see it in action… well, the only footage I could find is from Milestone 5. So bear in mind, the full Beta is 3 milestones along from this. Though, to be honest, this looks pretty nifty to me.
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What Would The Avatar Say?

I'm reminded of the Barbarian cover. Fondly, worryingly.

Who can tell? But Lord British has given his blessing, apparently. As picked up via Game Set Watch who picked it up from Armchair Arcade. Italian photographer Enrico Ricciardi has created an Ultima-themed calender, showcasing the 12 virtues. Which sounds like a euphemism, if I’ve ever heard one. Anyway, skimming through the images, it seems like it’s probably one for the Witcher fans. Oh yeah. I went there. Oh yes – ladies and/or gay men! You’re not left out. You’re just – er – marginalised. Check out Courage, eh? Pwoooar! (Are you sure? – Ed).

Richard Garriot Still Loves His Ultima

Just a quickie about GameDaily’s fairly candid interview with Lord British hisself. The sometime space voyager mostly shares about his thoughts on the upcoming Tabula Rasa closure. He seems saddened but not devastated; perhaps that’s because the old boy’s seen plenty of his games suffer in the past, or perhaps it’s endemic of how TR was never what it should have been.

The bombshell, such as it is, comes at the interview’s close, where he says he would gladly work on a new Ultima game for EA given the chance: “I think that if, by hook or by crook, I had access to that property, either in solo-player or multiplayer, I would absolutely love to continue to play in the Ultima universe.” EA has this nasty habit of jealously guarding its old franchises yet doing nothing with ’em, but lately we’ve heard rumours of new Syndicate and Dungeon Keeper titles. Maybe now there is a chance the Avatar will get to lock horns with that big red guy again after all…

Project: Origin (No, Not That One)

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Gaming archaeology: now there’s an idea. It can only be better than Bonekickers, anyway.

Upon hearing that EA Mythic had received several crateloads full of Origin Systems (the long-dead studio behind the Wing Commander and Ultima games, plus System Shock, and once home to the power duo of Warren Spector and Richard Garriot) archive materials, a group of fans arranged to catalogue the treasure trove. It turned out that EA seems to have hung onto an incredible amount of stuff, making this find perhaps the PC game equivalent of discovering all those fossilised folk in Pompeii. Best of all, there’s a good chance all these historical goodies will be released to the public.
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The Making Of: Harvey Smith

[At this point in these postmortem features, I decided to mix it up a little for PC Format. Since they were integrated into the mod-section of the magazine – with the subtext that they were inspirational things for readers thinking about becoming games developers – I thought a look at how a designer got to be a designer could be fun. Luckily, Harvey, who’s previously worked on landmark games including Deus Ex and System Shock, was up for it. The interview was done after the end of Ion Storm Austin, but before he’d joined Midway to work on Blacksite.]

He doesn't always wear shades.

We all look back, in an unholy mix of nostalgia and self-analysis. It’s what this column is all about. This time, however, we’re going to take an alternate route through this terrain. Rather than follow the path of a game, and what went right and wrong, instead we’re going to follow a career. How it started, how it moved on and what was learned at each step. And, indirectly, one of the most common questions that arrive in our inbox: “How do I get into the games industry”. Here’s a case study of how one man did. The man in question? Harvey Smith, who started back in 1993 in Quality Assurance at Origin and continues to this day at Midway.
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