The Forgotten Ultima

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Guest

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Archived from groups: rec.games.computer.ultima.series (More info?)

Some Ultimas are more popular than others. Ultima IX tends to be
popular because of its relative recency and notoriety. Many people
like to claim they have "fixed", "improved" or "restored" the game to
Lord British's unvarnished standards. Ultima VIII also was
disappointing and perhaps a somewhat shorter game. Ultimas IV, VII and
Underworld tend to get a great deal of attention for their
groundbreaking natures. Ultimas III, V, VI and Serpent Isle get
somewhat less attention but still respectable. Akalabeth and Ultimas I
and II are often acknowledged for historical reasons. The Worlds of
Ultima series often get passing mentions as does Ultima Underworld II.


But there is one game that is scarcely acknowledged by the Ultima
community. That game is Ultima, the game that officially began the
Ultima saga and propelled Richard Garriott into gaming designer
superstardom. This game, although released in 1980 is something of a
throwback to the 70's when you could release a game in BASIC and expect
it to sell. But in the 80s virtually every computer game, whether it
was an arcade port or knockoff, turn based strategy, role playing
games, graphic adventure games or the more advanced text based
adventures (Infocom) had to be written in assembly language. You also
could release a game in a Zip-lock bag with a rough manual and player's
reference card. Very soon professional, eye-catching publishing with
trinkets would become the norm for many years. You could release a
game with nary an advertisment and by mail order rather than advs
everywhere and by buying shelf space.

But Ultima has not aged well at all. The Apple II as a gaming machine
was losing its edge to the newer Atari, Commodore and Texas Instruments
machines of the day. The game is pitifully slow, with dungeon screens
visibly redrawing after every turn and an overworld that scrolls
through molasses. Even in the towns you can count the steps it takes
the character to get to the king or merchant. It does not help that
all the towns and all the castles and all the dungeons look exactly the
same. Nor that the continents are basically surperflous. Space is
very confusing to navigate. Docking ships can become a risky affair
and you can't readily determine whether you can afford to dock.
Dungeon traps combined with thieves and no directions make even the
early treks extremely dangerous. (As the exact same enemies appear for
two floors they could have cut them in half.) Digits go out to five
places to artificially lengthen the gameplay. Overworld encounters
vary wildly in terms of difficulty, from one bear to 7 knights in an
encounter.

More important than the game's defects is the game's unavailability.
Ultima was considered a great success when it sold 50,000 copies but
today that is an extremely limited run. Its notoriety is such that it
is conceivable that a collector would drop $500 for a complete copy,
even though the disk probably no longer works. Ultima was released
just before gaming companies acquired the mentality that their games
should be ported to anything with a hope of running the game. It was
only ported once, to the Atari 8-bit computers in a very faithful port
(the overworld is screwed up though and no demo mode.) This port plays
significantly faster than the Apple II original though.

The original Ultima follows the historical development of the series.
Ultima II built on that game, not the remake of years later. I'm not
sure how much input Richard Garriott had on the remake, but it feels
like someone else is "redirecting" the game.

GH
 
G

Guest

Guest
Archived from groups: rec.games.computer.ultima.series (More info?)

Great Hierophant wrote:
> Some Ultimas are more popular than others. Ultima IX tends to be
> popular because of its relative recency and notoriety. Many people
> like to claim they have "fixed", "improved" or "restored" the game to
> Lord British's unvarnished standards. Ultima VIII also was
> disappointing and perhaps a somewhat shorter game. Ultimas IV, VII and
> Underworld tend to get a great deal of attention for their
> groundbreaking natures. Ultimas III, V, VI and Serpent Isle get
> somewhat less attention but still respectable. Akalabeth and Ultimas I
> and II are often acknowledged for historical reasons. The Worlds of
> Ultima series often get passing mentions as does Ultima Underworld II.
>
>
> But there is one game that is scarcely acknowledged by the Ultima
> community. That game is Ultima, the game that officially began the
> Ultima saga and propelled Richard Garriott into gaming designer
> superstardom. This game, although released in 1980 is something of a
> throwback to the 70's when you could release a game in BASIC and expect
> it to sell. But in the 80s virtually every computer game, whether it
> was an arcade port or knockoff, turn based strategy, role playing
> games, graphic adventure games or the more advanced text based
> adventures (Infocom) had to be written in assembly language. You also
> could release a game in a Zip-lock bag with a rough manual and player's
> reference card. Very soon professional, eye-catching publishing with
> trinkets would become the norm for many years. You could release a
> game with nary an advertisment and by mail order rather than advs
> everywhere and by buying shelf space.
>
> But Ultima has not aged well at all. The Apple II as a gaming machine
> was losing its edge to the newer Atari, Commodore and Texas Instruments
> machines of the day. The game is pitifully slow, with dungeon screens
> visibly redrawing after every turn and an overworld that scrolls
> through molasses. Even in the towns you can count the steps it takes
> the character to get to the king or merchant. It does not help that
> all the towns and all the castles and all the dungeons look exactly the
> same. Nor that the continents are basically surperflous. Space is
> very confusing to navigate. Docking ships can become a risky affair
> and you can't readily determine whether you can afford to dock.
> Dungeon traps combined with thieves and no directions make even the
> early treks extremely dangerous. (As the exact same enemies appear for
> two floors they could have cut them in half.) Digits go out to five
> places to artificially lengthen the gameplay. Overworld encounters
> vary wildly in terms of difficulty, from one bear to 7 knights in an
> encounter.
>
> More important than the game's defects is the game's unavailability.
> Ultima was considered a great success when it sold 50,000 copies but
> today that is an extremely limited run. Its notoriety is such that it
> is conceivable that a collector would drop $500 for a complete copy,
> even though the disk probably no longer works. Ultima was released
> just before gaming companies acquired the mentality that their games
> should be ported to anything with a hope of running the game. It was
> only ported once, to the Atari 8-bit computers in a very faithful port
> (the overworld is screwed up though and no demo mode.) This port plays
> significantly faster than the Apple II original though.
>
> The original Ultima follows the historical development of the series.
> Ultima II built on that game, not the remake of years later. I'm not
> sure how much input Richard Garriott had on the remake, but it feels
> like someone else is "redirecting" the game.
>
> GH
>
Now that is a game I remember and still have minus the zip log bag :)
From the what is it 8 page manual to the California Paciic Computer
White Label. Talk about a slow game even on my Apple IIe. Just walking
from town to a dungeon was a chore, but back then it was a blast. What
took me away was getting spoiled by the faster gameplay of Ultima III
and on. Ultima II had slow load times of towns and castles. But still
Ultima I and Wizardry are still a blast to play.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Archived from groups: rec.games.computer.ultima.series (More info?)

I have a question. Does the manual contain anything like a story of
Mondain and your quest? The only manual scan I have seen may be
incomplete. The manual for the Atari version does and is otherwise
lifted directly from the Apple II manual and player reference card
(with a few adjustments.) If not, I would find it odd that the game
would throw the player in at the deep end without telling him what he
was trying to accomplish, leaving that to the barkeeper.

Apple II Manual + player reference card:
http://koti.mbnet.fi/~psychic/fin_games_ultima.html
Atari Manual:
http://www.atarimania.com/detail_soft.php?MENU=8&VERSION_ID=5592
 
G

Guest

Guest
Archived from groups: rec.games.computer.ultima.series (More info?)

....Previously written by Great Hierophant...
**********************************************************
More important than the game's defects is the game's unavailability.
Ultima was considered a great success when it sold 50,000 copies but
today that is an extremely limited run. Its notoriety is such that it
is conceivable that a collector would drop $500 for a complete copy,
even though the disk probably no longer works.
***********************************************************

Versions of the original Ultima (and it's variants) can actually
sometimes go for even MORE! I have witnessed a full version in the
original baggie sell for over $800, and that was a few years ago!
Although the number you state is a good *average* number, I just wanted
to point out that prices can fluctuate even higher, according to my
experience--John...find that baggie! ;)

Also, I wanted to note that the life expectancy of original Apple
floppies seems to be higher than was originally thought. With one
exception, all of our original copies of Ultima (and Akalabeth as well)
still maintain their disk integrity--over 25 years later!

"...Preserving Worlds..."
Tastrick Dragon
Curator of The Origin Museum
http://www.originmuseum.net