Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Guest Post – Ultima 7: Shut Up, Iolo!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 8, 2014

Today’s guest post comes from Curtis Mirci. It’s a follow-up from my post a few days ago about Ultima 7‘s lack of modern assistance or hand-holding. Maybe he’ll come back to it later and try it again. Maybe. But I do have to agree – I do tend to mentally suppress memories of this particular complaint. Anyway, here’s Curtis:

A while back Jay shared a link with me about a game that is being heavily influenced by the Ultima series.  I don’t think he was very impressed with my lack of enthusiasm and I had to explain that I’d never played any of the Ultima games.  Five minutes later I had a new copy of Ultima 7 sitting in my GOG account.

I thought this was pretty funny.  Jay and I are both game junkies, and we’ll often joke with each other about our humongous backlogs.  I have well over 100 games on my steam account I haven’t touched yet, including Skyrim and Mass Effect.  He knows this.  I know the same about him.  Before I can joke about getting around to Ultima 7 he tells me that I need to play it soon since he bought it for me.

Soon was a week later once I decided I wanted a break from Defender’s Quest (great tower defense/RPG hybrid, BTW).  I got it running and started listening to a speech from Red Skull’s simian cousin.  And he’s in charge and everyone will love him and I need to bow before him.  Recurring villain?  Heck if I know.  And then my character walks into a portal.

For a moment I sit back and enjoy the music.  It reminds me of Daggerfall, which I spent a lot of time playing as a kid.  Okay, time to jump into this.

It takes me a few minutes to get used to the font, which left me calling Iolo Yolo for the first bit.  Okay, there’s a murder and it’s up to me since I’m the famous Avatar.  Let’s head up there and look inside the barn.  Left-clicking doesn’t move me.  WASD doesn’t move me.  Arrow keys move me, but only one square and I have to keep pressing them over and over.  Eventually I get in the barn and wow.  That is one crazy murder scene.  There seems to be some stuff lying around, maybe I can examine something.  No clue how.  It’s getting late.  How do I save?  I can’t figure it out.  I eventually close the game through task manager and check out the two manuals for some ideas of how to control the game.  Absolutely nothing about controls.  Great.

The next day I talked to Jay and he told me to use the reference guide instead.  I printed it out and gave it another try.  Moving around, talking to people.  One guy that I talked to told me that the footprints MUST be the footprints of the murderer.  Then he leaves.  “Aha!”  I think, “Following the obvious trail!  That’s something I can handle!”  I head out back and it’s a small fenced-in area where the footprints fade out.  And there’s the guy that told me that the footprints would lead me to the murderer. “Huh.  That was easy.”

Of course, he wasn’t the murderer.  At least, I don’t think so.  You see, I never did manage to solve the first quest.  I wandered around.  I talked to everyone that I saw about every topic.  I checked out the destroyed forge of the murdered man.  I talked to the wounded guard who made it clear that the killers escaped by boat.  I talked to the creepy cultists who seem ever so guilty, but gave me nothing to pin on them.  I attended their evening meeting.  I did every single thing I could think of, going through the town twice and making sure I talked to everyone.  It wasn’t long before Iolo got hungry.  I’m not sure how he managed to survive before Avatar showed up, but he’s clearly not capable of feeding himself anymore.  After LOTS of whining on his part (not even 5 seconds apart most of the time) I went back to the inn and bought some meat.  He pops up a “I’ll hold onto that” and I’m content.  He’s got his food, he’ll shut up and let me try to figure things out.  But I’m kind of at a dead end.  Before I can even wonder about my next step he’s begging for more food.

Okay, I’ve been hearing him complain a lot.  Maybe I need more food to get him out of the complain-zone.  I get 8 more and he gives the same message about taking them.  Finally.  Maybe I can … “Iolo needs food badly!”  Wrong game, Iolo.  I check my inventory, but there’s no meat.  He’s eaten it, right?  I eventually took to Google to find out what was wrong.  After I figured out that I had to enter his inventory and physically hand him the meat from his sack before he would eat.

He claims that he’s following me around so he can help, but I think he’s lying.  I think he realizes that I can’t send him away and that he just needs to be vocal and he’ll be fed.  He doesn’t even have to cut it himself, as he obviously is demanding that I feed him with my own hands.

Avatar: “Here’s the airplane, Iolo!  Open wide!  Brooooooom!”
Iolo: “Yay, daddy Avatar!  Do it again!”
Avatar: “Okay, just one more time!  Brooooooommm!”
Iolo: “Again!”
Avatar: “You’ve already had two muttons.”
Iolo: “AGAIN!!”

I hadn’t found a way to make any money, and five minutes later Iolo was demanding more food again.  I realized that I was going to be bankrupt at this rate, so I looked up a minimalist walkthrough to get me going.  Turns out I has missed a kid that I only jusy barely caught running around thanks to the walkthrough.  I talked to him a lot and felt I had covered all the bases.  I went to the next person I needed to talk to (tossing Iolo another mutton) and found that they wouldn’t tell me anything new that the walkthrough said they should.  Turns out I hadn’t asked the boy about something and … well…  that was it for me.

Beforehand I told Jay that it was the lack of hand-holding that was what got me, but after more thought, I found out that that wasn’t really the case.  What killed the whole thing for me was the hunger.  For me, it was no longer about finding that thing I had missed, it was that I had to do it and do it fast before Iolo ate through all my savings.  None of his dialogue helped.  He was just there to put a time limit on me.  I couldn’t sit back and really think about things because of how often he demanded I spoon feed him.

On the bright side, I think I technically made $5.99 for writing this post.  This is my best-paying writing gig EVER.

P.S. In Jay’s last post about Ultima 7 (he got tired of waiting for me to write this) the comments mentioned that the combat wasn’t very good.  I wouldn’t know because I never got that far.

Filed Under: Guest Posts, Retro - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • Infinitron said,

    “Yolo” is actually how his name is pronounced.

  • McTeddy said,

    This actually reminds me of the first time I played Ultima 7 where I also couldn’t get out of the first town. I haven’t thought about this in years…

    I spent days trying to solve a “Riddle” that the mayor demanded an answer to before I could leave town. It was my first computer game and I wasn’t going to get stuck! Eventually… I gave up and played Wing Commander.

    But now I know. My father stores all instructions for appliances in his secret place. This included the manual for the 10-pack… which also includes the copyright protection answers.

    Guess that’s why I couldn’t understand that riddle.