Spector cites an amusing anecdote from Ultima 6’s in-house testing:
"…on Ultima VI, which is kind of where I realized that all this improvisational stuff could really be magical. It was unplanned, kind of a bug. There was one puzzle where the Avatar and his party came up on one side of a portcullis and there was a lever on the other side of the portcullis that you had to flip to raise the portcullis and keep on making progress. I watched one of our testers, a guy named Mark Schaefgen, playing in that area. And he didn’t have the telekinesis spell, which was the way to get past that portcullis. I was sitting there rubbing my hands together going ‘oh ho ho, he’s screwed, he can’t do it.’
He had a character in his party named Sherry the Mouse. You can probably see where this is going. The portcullis was ‘simulated,’ and here the air quotes are around simulated, simulated enough that there was a gap at the bottom that was too small for a human to get through, but not too small for Sherry. He sent Sherry the Mouse under the portcullis, over to the lever, she flipped the lever, and then the rest of the party went through. And I fell on the floor. At that moment I just said to myself, ‘this is what games should do. We should start planning this, not having it happen as a bug.’ That was where I realized this was really powerful."
It was things like this that make the Ultima series stick in my head to this day. :)
I don't know why that was so enchanting, but I never forgot it.
He also discovered a great amount of weird, interesting, and downright perverse stuff you can do in the Ultima series, and a lot of other RPGs. I highly recommend checking out his whole site: http://www.it-he.org/front.php
• Enemy boss in a building guarded by henchmen twice your character's level? Feel free to spend a day or two digging beneath the structure to make it collapse on itself.
• "Indestructible" doors and walls blocking the way? Gather the strongest weapons and just keep shelling the same spot; realistic physics should dictate that nothing is indestructible and something should give way even if it hadn't been scripted in. Of course, it could also cause a cave-in on the other side, making you lose your objective anyway. :)
I'd say it's worth a listen/read if you're into the genre
The complexity of the world model was such that Ultima VI became the first installment that would let the player get a job to earn money in lieu of the standard CRPG approach of killing monsters and taking their loot. You can buy a sack of grain from a local farmer, take the grain to a mill and grind it into flour, then sell the flour to a baker — or sneak into his bakery at night to bake your own bread using his oven. Even by the standards of today, the living world inside Ultima VI is a remarkable achievement — not to mention a godsend to those of us bored with killing monsters; you can be very successful in Ultima VI whilst doing very little killing at all.
I got into western RPGs only recently - I played only JRPGs on the SNES and then later consoles. My first western RPG was Mass Effect 2, and since then I played ME3, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Skyrim. When playing Skyrim, I realized that the wolf pelts I was accumulating by killing wolves as I walked the countryside could be smithed into leather armor! That leather armor would fetch considerably more money when sold than wolf pelts.
My first thought: I found a cheat to more money! My second thought: I found a business.
Modern games have given up on that for which I am very grateful. Diablo and Black Isle games were the real forerunners in the KISS principle that revitalised the dying 2D RPGs.
When everyone was praising the depth of Morrowind, for example, I found its environment sterile and lacking in the kind of interactivity I had enjoyed in these games of my youth. Skyrim was the first modern CRPG to really surpass them.
(I do realize that the itch I'm describing is probably better satisfied with something like Minecraft, but I'm getting stubborn in my old age).
However, at the time, again, it was definitely something new and different. Games in the 80's were more often conceived of as puzzles to solve, rather than worlds to explore: adding lots of surface detail was how Garriott perceived possibilities for immersion. A lot of games followed similar-yet-different paths of piling on stuff that made the games tedious in the early 90's. By the middle of the decade people were calling the whole genre dead, which is hyperbolic, of course, but reflective of the move towards streamlining and thinking about UX across the whole design, which left "traditional-looking" games out in the cold.
That said, its longevity and player retention I do think speak for itself. (Maybe the longevity more than the player rentention.)
Its a game from 1997 - and someone on HN linked to an updated version that is coming out/out now but... You need to play the original bugged 1997 game as the macro-economics are so much fun;
Y have to built a stone masons hut to get stone
Have to build a wood cutters hut to cut lumber
You have to build farms to get wheat
Have to build a farm for pigs
but you have to build out serfs who have to build the roads and then ferry all the goods back and forth between each business
the fun part happens when your little village reaches around 100 serfs and the AI fails and all your population starts starving to death because the serfs attempt to go to the Inn to get food/beer/wine (which you have to make that supply chain) but there is no food because the village is to big and your little serfs start going HNNNNGGGG and evaporating...
plus its multy-player and the challenge is fun when youre trying so hard to build your little village and the oponent comes in with lie ONE freaking soldier and can take out your whole village because you dont have enough resources to make weapons or armor or gold or you ran out of coal....
its a blast. frustrating, but fun, blast... give it a try
You then use this money to fund your adventurer so he can buy good gear from other players who have better miner blackmiths than you do. Minerblacksmith characters were always the richest.
There was like a serious economy running on the servers I played. It was great.
You would be merrily mining away in some cave when some unsavory types would come along for the seemingly easy pickings from the poor miners in rags.
Little could they suspect that there was the best plate armor(forgot what it was called) under those rags.
Corp Por Corp Por!
Serpent Isle was stranger and "colder" than U7 part 1, but likewise memorable. Will always be able to recall the following:
...seems to somehow better convey the essence of Ultima than what was attempted in writing above: A strange, dreamlike, occasionally-haunting impression from the era when computers were less understood and more full of possibilities.
"Patience Avatar, I shall be with thee shortly!"
U6, U7/1, U7/2 and UW2 were glorious worlds.
It was on an island in an undisclosed location and was playing in one of the restaurants there.
Luckily, I shazamed it and here is the song:
Coral by Bonnie & Klein
You need to listen around minute 4:00 for the loop
The creepy poster of a pole-dancing centaur hanging on
the Avatar’s wall back on Earth has provoked much comment
over the years…
I just finished a recent playthrough, no more than six months ago! The game holds up really well. There are obvious shortcomings compared to modern games, it could be a hard slog for younger generations who are used to a more polished product, but if you are looking for a good bit of nostalgia U6 is hard to beat.
For comparison I also tried re-playing Bard's Tale 3 recently. I wasted many hours of my childhood with that game. Frankly, I'm amazed at how poor and awful of a game it was and I just I couldn't stick to it.
I hope people do support the author (I've almost convinced myself that I will support all the awesome content I come across the Internet if I do "make it" - so many good writers, webcomics, video creators... and I have a 50 dollars/month entertainment budget)
Hah. That's how you are able to kill Lord British in Ultima VII. I had never understood the reference, until now.
The following recommendation might be unpopular: Try the now-antique Final Fantasy 7 for an RPG with an impressive, if somewhat meandering storyline, and a world seen through the lens of childlike wonder. Definitely a non-Western RPG, but about the best in that genera.
Anyway, doubt there will ever be anything like the single player Ultimas again, due more to the nature of computing and game production having moved on from a early baroque age of wonder.
Persona blends building relationships (which helps with your Persona customization and hence dungeons) along with doing various day-to-day tasks such as studying, getting a part-time job, going on dates, and even minor things like taking care of a houseplant all of which help improve various stats. Some activities aren't available if you don't have a certain rank in a stat.
They provide an interesting exploration into various challenges in the modern world, but without coming across as heavy-handed.
I think the only real problem is that Persona 5 holds your hand for a very long time as it introduces the system so it's not until around the end of the first boss area that all the options open up which is about 6 hours into what can be a 100 hour game.
I still haven't ever tried the FF franchise games. I'll have to try that. Thanks for the rec.
She went from rolling her eyes at my playstation time to getting her own that Christmas. We had many happy memories of playing games together, or even just watching one another work our way through single-player RPGs. Good times.
EDIT: wow - yep linux DL - fuck yes!
The entire reason I am in computers and tech is because of Ultima 2 which I found on a floppy in the Apple lab at my school.... I then ran a BBS, setup a network and converted the drafting lab from actual pencil drawing to CAD.
Bards tale was a good franchise as well - where we competed to complete them and me and my best friend got into fisticuffs over the fucking cheat book he bought.
He is now a Senior Producer at EA.
The player motivated politics and maneuvering and real threat to lose what you've worked hard for and the general scarcity of things in these types of games was unbelievable. Stealing, fighting for meaningful resources and guilds that existed to actually protect resources and players is just not possible in a game like WoW (was very good for different reasons though such as dungeon raiding) and derivatives where getting attacked and killed is meaningless.
WRT game philsophy, one might say WOW is combat focused (dungeon raids) where UO was much more personal-politcs focused (with the combat) and thus I think UO to be an 11 and wow an 8... regardless of how much $$ WOW has made... it is detracted by the fact that its massive, dedicated, userbase has never experienced original UO...
The politics of games like UO and Shadowbane where a thief stealing a single valuable item from some folks farming for the guild could set off a huge war with backstabbing and deceit and alliances and everything else really made those games dramatic and fun.
Yeah you'd lose your stuff sometimes too and the most scary thing in the game was seeing a group of players from an aggressive guild descending on your farming and XP group. Everyone would scatter like buffalo being hunted by a group of lions.
It was hard to setup towns near valuable farming resources and there would be battles for dominance. All the different player personalities would take on different roles that appealed to them in a guild - some where the leaders who worked out deals and alliances; others were social butterflies who like to chat and farm; others liked to help harass enemies and some were mercenaries ready to work for whoever paid them. And other people enjoyed going solo as a thief and hated by all but other thieves.
It was a world only as good as the players could make it with what felt like real consequence to decisions and actions. Trust mattered.
At the time there were no other options for people who wanted to play an MMO. You had to enter that world. So it was made up of all types of people but mainly you could break the community into 2 groups: Wolves and Sheep.
There were always plenty of sheep for the wolves to hunt for and terrorize and for the "hero wolves" to come in and protect. The relationships were real.
As soon as WoW came out anyone who preferred the sheep role (farming, socializing, building community, etc) had no reason to play a game they could be killed and have their spoils taken. It became a hassle when WoW gave them a peaceful world to coexist in. Where your enemy couldn't really hurt you or take anything you've worked for. A nice, safe space. The wolf types just became the hard core raiders competing to get eventual identical gear first and the sheep were the casual raiders and farmers and social butterflies.
I agree with this sentiment 100%
Never played EVE but yeah it's the only game I'm aware of that has these types of dynamics.
Ill have to find the link.
It was insanely laggy, when the servers were up at all. It probably was the best game ever made for a six month period, between when the servers finally got semi-stable and when they started releasing the expansions, which basically took all the fun out of the game. (What was the point of accumulating wealth and power once you could disable PVP to prevent yourself from getting randomly killed, and when there was now unlimited space for houses? Basically none.)
I DLd the open version(which is incredible how that was reverse engineered in-and-of-itself) and it was literrally entirely populated with house and was no fun AT ALL.
but yeah, there was some where near a year where that game was amazing.
It is funny to think though, even though the game was revolutionary, how quickly it was grokked by people and play strategies were realized.
Fuck, look at twitch and how basically computer game culture has evolved!
there will be PHD level courses on this within 20 years.
I did, however, play Trade Wars and the PIT on BBSs in the 80s...
I recall smoking pot while playing trade wars in about 1991 or so... and I was trying to corner the market on grain, but instead of buying all the supply with my massive bank roll, I accidentally sold all my grain and screwed up my position on the galactic totem pole.
I played some MUDs during university in the early 90s, but once I realized how much time I was spending on them, I decided I needed to stop for the sake of my grades. Of course, getting the original Civ game right before exams one year wasn't a good thing either from that perspective.
In the end, after hitting a bunch of roadblocks, I found a way of robbing the bank, bought a ship and started exploring the world. Didn't even know what I was supposed to to at that point, but boy, was it fun.
Amazing to think that such a game that totally changed the world had so few people working on it. Any modern AAA title has a credit list to rival a summer blockbuster.
We had 6 UO accounts...
We used to be followed around by admins who were invisibe because they were studying how we were so successful at the game.
We did use macros - but it was really about the fact that we had an OC-48 and everyone else was on a 56K modem.... and our Hide skill was 100 - but we played on 6 machines all right next to eachother and we had mule accounts - and nefarious accounts...
So we had Snoop and Sneek our mules with hide of 100, then we had both Great Lord Phlux and Dread Lord Phlux (me) and same for Mym...
We would taunt great lords with our dread lord accounts and then chase them down with our great lord accounts and they would attack us and lose their status and become dastardly and they would lose their shit.
We found this great axe that was bugged. It could kill literally any character with one hit. The mods that were following us around wound up taking the weapon, we were pissed - but they deleted the weapon as it was so bugged that we massacred many a foe.
we were skilled at kiting dragons to the top of our castle, then trapping them in corners of the castl with chests such that we would train our characters on attacking them.
We built houses around the front of the castle to enclose it, then we only used runes to teleport in, but we blocked all the other spots with bags of flour such that you could not rune into the spots...
Draygor (our third member) got too stoned and got whacked by the japanese contingent that we were at war with and he failed to put his rune in the bank....
the japanese team runed into our courtyard, and hid until we opened the door with our castle butler and then attacked and they stole every loot we had in a massive store of chests in the castle....
we quite after that.
in WOW being FPS, you are the being. in ISO youre mre omnisciently playing.
Think of Populous (not the shitty later versions, but the 80s version) -- even when you are playing as your personality, its easier to express and enjoy that personality at a macro level than a micro level.
The exception to this is that in any FPS, with PVP it is satisfying to conquer a foe directly... think Hitman sniping style... but that is quest based.
When you have an open world like UO that had no quests it much more free.
e.g. ever logged into a game you havent played in a while and been like "fuck I dont recall all these quests I was in process"? -- UO had none of that. UO was "forget damsels, gather loot and power" only and it was glorious.
the FPS genre needs to keep itself to "* Kill that guy without being killed/seen OR adventure*" like you say... but games like UO took game-thought to a new level and you were managing an empire if you could build it...
Now, with that said, I dont game much any more - so the modern version of UO would maybe be EVE, as I mentioned a guy had a full time income from managing an EVE army... thats next level cerebral.
Man, we are going to have Ghost-in-the-Shell future sooner than we planned.
(ALL gaming bleeds into reality... William Gibson and Neil Stephenson should get the Nobel prize in futurism)
Since we had all 6 accounts logged in, and right next to eachother, we would whack a guy in PVP but use our Snoop and Sneek hiding characters to grab the loot.
So if we got killed, your ghost would typically have to run back to your body - but typically the loot was gone obviously. - so we would move the Snoop and Sneek characters along the same path as our Dread Lords - and when we would whack a person with the dread lord, we would have Snoop and Sneek pickup the loot and hide.
Multiple times ppl killed our main character, attempted to loot us, knowing that we had just looted the ppl we killed but then found nothing of their friends loot on our body and were saying WTF... this is why admins followed us around. They didnt get how we were exploiting multiple accounts with such coordination.
Or if our dreadlord got whacked, we could quickly loot our own body, then hide, protecting our loot.
Snoop and Sneek, while skilled little rogues were master mages.
Recall when IN VAS FLAM was bugged and would insta-kill anyone? Yeah Snoop and Sneek have a vast kill roster with that bug.
When to others it looked like you were warping around and doing 5 things in an instant and you had great communication/coordination with your partners, you could do some serious damage.
I never thought that I would really be able to enjoy any RPG's, but recently I've started playing them. I'm currently working my way through Tales of Zestiria and having a geat time with it.
I would like to give the Ultima games a try. Which one should I start with? I'd like one that is somewhat easy to get in to.
I tried playing 4 & 5 a few years ago and gave up very quickly.
Any Ex-Origin able to confirm?