Speaking of Richard Garriott

I just finished Ultima V. I’m only 18 years late.

I’d recently replayed Ultima VII, and was curious to fill a hole in my Ultima history - I’d played the decent NES port of Ultima IV and beaten it, and I’d played and beaten the PC Ultimas from VI on. I’d also played a vastly inferior NES port of V way back in the day, and I think I even finished it, but all sources indicate that the NES version was a horrible, castrated, mutant bastard child, and not worth mentioning in the same sentence as the original. So playing the DOS version was fresh and new.

But, yeah, I was pretty amazed at how well the game stands up, and how it’s got some ideas that current computer RPGs still don’t always get right, if they attempt them at all. Examples: NPCs with full, logical schedules throughout the entire day/night cycle, villains that actively try to hinder and/or stop you in your quest, serious shades-of-gray morality choices, a magic system that really feels mysterious, a huge world with lots of meaningful exploration to do, and some really well-designed set-piece battles. In some ways it’s smoke-and-mirrors; more is left up to the player’s imagination than is actually represented in the game, but the design does a phenomenal job at suggesting more detail than is actually there.

It’s a HARD game, too. I’m not sure a modern-day RPG could get away with being this hard, though it’s never frustrating - death is only a setback, not an end. Even so, that final dungeon is a real seperate the men-from-the-boys gauntlet. Actually, I suppose the Gothics are pretty hard - but they’re the frustrating kind of hard - death is death. In Ultima you can always keep making forward progress.

I see in another thread that Desslock seems to think Oblivion will be Ultima reborn, so here’s hoping.

Anyway, I just wanted to gush, and see if any old-school gamers had fond memories of this one.

Yeah, when the occasional best-game-of-all-time discussions pop up, several people (including Desslock, I’m pretty sure) put Ultima V in their top 3. I haven’t played it since I was in the 7th grade (when I got my first PC my Apple ][ got pushed aside with surprising permanence), but through the fog of nostalgia, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite gaming experience.

I would like to give it another shot and see how much really is nostalgia, but I remember too much of it to give it a fair play-through – a bunch of the Words of Power, the names of all the Shadowlords, 678-987-8767653, etc. I need a way to clear a bunch of that stuff out of the back of my mind.

Yeah, I’m as big an Ultima fan as it gets. In fact, if I ranked my top 10 games of all time, Ultimas 7, 6, 5, 4 and 2 would all be in the list, even though the most recent of them is 14 years old. To give additional context to guys like Charles, Morrowind would not be in that list, even though I’m a big fan of it. But Oblivion definitely is.

Ultima V is my favorite Ultima although (being a Commodore person) I didn’t play VI and onward until years after they were released, and then not to completion. In 1988 Ultima V was the absolute apex of CRPG design. I replayed it a year or two ago and it still held up well, allowing for obvious interface/graphical issues.

It holds your hand less than a modern CRPG would do and there are interface aspects that obviously wouldn’t be acceptable today. You need to do some dungeon mapping (though at least you have gems to help with that) and you need to take careful note of some conversations (and you better damn well have found that sandalwood box!). I think Blackthorn’s palace is a really devious location and indeed the final dungeon is a tough one, though it lacks a real Foozle battle to close things out (just a couple mean fights with demons and dragons if memory serves). The first time I played Ultima V I didn’t get the power curve right and got my ass handed to me when I first ventured into the Underworld. Replaying it I was able to fare better in there. I did need to resort to a FAQ to help locate the final dungeon.

Improvements over Ultima IV: The NPC scheduling and day/night stuff, which is still about as advanced as any CRPG has gotten pre-Oblivion. (Gothics obviously have superior graphics etc. but the scripted scheduling is similar to the late Ultimas). 6 party members instead of 8, and you can select an “active” member in combat which makes battles a heck of a lot less tedious. A choice of party composition: for the first time you have more NPC party members to choose from than your party can contain. (This is a method Bioware would use later on in the BG’s and KOTOR.) Better combat (you can finally shoot diagonally!) and better loot (potions/scrolls/rings, graphically represented, make it more fun to clean up after the monsters are dead). A couple of moral choices unlike U4 where it’s the way of virtue or the highway. Lovely static “cutscenes” to open and close the game. A rudimentary “physics engine” that allows you to push items around with some puzzle-solving applications (using cannons to blow down locked doors, for instance), plus a world in which you can read clocks, play harpsichords, pick food off tables, break mirrors, and otherwise interact with the world in a more “plastic” way than before.

A wonderful game and I really can’t say too many good things about it. I consider it Garriott’s masterpiece, though I am willing to stipulate based on others’ opinions that U7 is an equal or better game.

Have any of you tried the UltimaV Lazarus remake?

I missed out on the early Ultimas but I do remember being captivated by the visceral previews of Ultima 7 in CGW. I was bummed out when I read it would require a 386 and above to run it because at the time my poor ass family only had a piece of shit Packard Bell 286 and there was no hope of getting a 486 :{

There are a couple of threads here about u5:lazarus. Basically it’s fantastic but too buggy to play so we’re all waiting for the 1.2 patch.

While it’s not the one I’d choose to replay, I think it’s the Ultima that stuck w/ me the most (I played them all from III-on) even though I recall atmosphere more than specifics. I still remember the Shadowlords chasing me in some castle. The only let-down was, IIRC, the meh ending…I had the box, I rescued British, gave him the box, and…that’s it. We just stood there. Did I misremember something? It may be that I only remember when I tried out what happened if I said I did NOT have the box…damn…my memory just evaporated after 40…

Which I actually like - I feel that modern games tend to hold your hand to the point of actually taking away things for you, the player, to do. Like the runic language in Ultima - nowadays a game would just have a spell or item translate the stuff for you, if there was a runic language at all. In Ultima you, the player, had to read and decipher the script yourself. It added something for the player to do, and enhanced the atmosphere of the world.

you better damn well have found that sandalwood box!).

Yeah, perhaps the only benefit of my playing the NES version of V is that I remembered that I needed to get that box. Plus I knew where the magic carpet was.

I think Blackthorn’s palace is a really devious location and indeed the final dungeon is a tough one, though it lacks a real Foozle battle to close things out (just a couple mean fights with demons and dragons if memory serves).

I did find it odd that there wasn’t a final battle with the Shadowlords as you destroyed them. That would have seemed like a perfect place for a Foozle battle, and it could have been used as a sort of insurance for the player - if you’re not tough enough to beat the Shadowlords, you don’t want to try to tackle Doom.

A wonderful game and I really can’t say too many good things about it. I consider it Garriott’s masterpiece, though I am willing to stipulate based on others’ opinions that U7 is an equal or better game.

I have difficulty comparing U4 and U5 to 6 and 7. 6 brought some serious fundamental changes to the way the game progressed - it was almost more like an adventure game than the old-style RPG of the previous games. And 7 took the idea and expanded it even further. I love all 4 of them, but they feel like they’re in different genres sometimes. Why do we need to pick a “best” one anyway? :-) I would definitely consider 5 to be Garriott’s masterpiece though, since I believe it’s the last one he did any programming on.

U5 was the masterpiece? It was just an evolutionary step from U4. How I’d rank em:

u7
u4
u6
u5
u7: serpent isle
u6: martian dreams
u6: savage empire
u3
(never played alkalabeth, U1, or U2. Before my time. But hey, they’d probably be here.)
u9
u8

Out of curiosity, why do you prefer 2 over 3, or 1 for that matter? I’ve not played 2, but I’ve always heard it was kind of the redheaded step-child of the Ultima series, while Exodus is frequently lauded for being a real step forward in RPG design.

Yeah, sadly I 'd mostly agree with that ranking list. Which is sad because the two most recent by all rights OUGHT to have been the best. Sadness.

2 had a much larger world than 3. 2’s combat was mostly (entirely?) on the strategic map instead of a tactical map, which sped up gameplay (and made navigating the big world bearable.)

Playing them fresh, 3 would probably feel better than 2 to most people, but at the time, I was disappointed (somewhat) by 3 after having been hooked on 2.

IIRC, 1 had really lame town maps - they didn’t scroll - you had the entire town, very small, on one screen. So definitely 2 > 1. 2 > 3 is debatable…

Ultima 1 was really basic - there’s not even really NPCs, and the ‘towns’ are simple one screen miniatures. Ultima 2 was probably more “ahead” of its contemporaries than any other Ultima, when released - there really was nothing like it. Big worlds to explore, separate town maps that were actually interesting, time travel, space travel, an army of enemies in the time zone of legends, a fantastic foozle battle. Ultima 3 was prettier, and introduced separate combat screens and a party, but in some ways it was a step backwards, in my opinion. Ultima IV really combined the strengths of 2 and 3 and added its own incredible innovations.

But I’m probably biased towards Ultima 2 because it was the first computer game I ever played - I bought a c-64 specifically to play it.

I love the scheduling and interactivity of Ultima 5 - but was pretty disappointed with the actual Underworld plot, so I ranked it lower than 7, 6 and 4. Awesome game, however.

Which was the last game for which Garriott was the primary programmer? And do I recall correctly that Akalabeth and possibly Ult. 1 & 2 were written in basic?

I think I’ve derived more delight from those big old Ultima boxes than I have from many actual (non-Ultima) games. If anything, the Ultima games had more heart and soul than any other computer/console games I can think of… that includes PS:T, Morrowind, BGII, etc. And when you stop and think about it, it’s a fucking travesty that today’s RPGs are actually less evolved than any of the mid and later Ultimas. That’s actually a fucking joke.

Well, keep in mind that adding new enemies, NPCs, objects, etc to Ultimas (up through 6), was just a matter of drawing a 16 x 16 or 32 x 32 sprite, possibly with 3 or 4 frames of animation. Two hours work, tops (probably more like 45 minutes)

The equivalent for a modern RPG has a well-paid modeler and/or animator spending 2-4 weeks of time, plus a scripter, etc.

And if you do go back to the early Ultimas, like most old games, they probably won’t live up to your nostalgic memories (or at least they didn’t for me).

I understand, but I’m not interested in excuses. :P

And the Ultimas, at least 5 through 7.5, have held up well for me and are still amongst my favorites.

Sadly, U5 is the only major Ultima game I haven’t played yet. U4 was the last to come out for my Atari, and by the time I finally got my own PC they were up to U7. I at least got to play large chunks of U6 with a friend on his system in the meantime.

I do have it now, thanks to the Ultima Collection, but it’s been on the when-I-find-the-time backburner for ages now…

My memory of the Ultima series is a little fuzzy. Which one was it that had some “Ying/Yang” thing–I can’t remember if it was a meter, or what…

I will forever insist that U8 was great, post-patch. One of my favorite patches of all time, as a matter of fact, since the initial jumping system was ridiculously bad. It was as if the programmers wanted to make U8 a platformer, but none had ever played such a game in their lives and had no idea what made the best ones so good.

After the patch, it was a strong precursor to what we now call action-RPGs, and told a story that was as good as any other in the series. The only probelm with that was the Pagan world was so far removed from the familiar realm of Britannia that one almost got the sense that the game shouldn’t have used the Ultima name.

Then again, that problem - should you consider it one - was more than compensated by the fact that you didn’t have Shamino bitching at you every five steps about being hungry. So on balance I still think it holds its own with my favorites, 5-7.