Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Not Your Father’s Ultima IV

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 24, 2012

I hate to be critical of games that have not yet been released, especially when they are so clearly a labor of love for the developers. And in this case, it sounds like the principle folks here really, really pushed to make this happen. But man, this preview / interview about Bioware’s upcoming “Ultima IV reboot”  – Ultima Forever – really doesn’t sound much like Ultima IV to me.  I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve played it to completion. But…

Bioware Aims to Reinvent Ultima with Ultima Forever at Joystiq

Lady British?

Multiplayer? (Okay, I don’t have too much heartburn with that in general, but it does tend to change game design requirements to something more… Disneylandish).

Multiple avatars? Obviously, a concession to multiplayer, but…


I want to believe them when they claim they want to please the old fans, and want to be faithful to the original game and universe that Garriott & friends created. I really do. I want to believe their heart is in the right place, and that the end result will be a delightful new chapter in the Ultima saga. A return to its roots. I really do. And I hold out hope.

But … man.

Okay. So maybe “Lady British” is something they had to do because Richard Garriott still holds the IP rights to the original character (I think I heard something about that many years ago).  And in order to make it multiplayer (a requirement from EA, and also pretty much a requirement to make this kind of free-to-play game work), they had to do the multiple avatar thing. Though that could have been resolved another way. And I’m actually in favor of modernizing the interface, adding quest logs, etc. And I’ve been told that Kelly Flack holds a lot of the same opinions and reverence for the original game (and series) that I do.

And let’s be completely honest here – a remake of Ultima IV for modern audiences (even those who are fans of the original – we’ve changed since then) and technology could not be a simple graphical overhaul.  It’s quite possible to “reboot” the series like this and still remain faithful to what made the earlier games great.  So I’m still giving them the benefit of the doubt until I play it myself.

But… Lords of Ultima. Can we honestly say the EA suits have a true love for the original series when they slapped that branding on an otherwise run-of-the-mill free-to-play strategy game?

So I’m just going to say that I am skeptical. Free-to-play and multiplayer force game design in certain ways that I do not feel are easy to reconcile with the core of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. But can it be an awesome new entry into the series that draws inspiration from Ultima IV? I’m worried. But I want to believe.

(Tip o’ the helm to RPGWatch for the link)

Filed Under: Game Announcements, Retro - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • Anon said,


  • Craig Stern said,

    What design choices are you afraid multiplayer will force? Less reliance on dialog and puzzle-solving?

  • FuriousDave said,

    Is this play with a few friends small group co-op style multiplayer, or slum with the unwashed masses mmo multiplayer?

    The former might actually have some potential. Free to play leaves me cold though.

  • Albert1 said,

    Don’t lie to yourself: it’s going to be shitty.
    I don’t remember a single remake/reboot worth of mention!
    It’s like with dead: leave ’em rest in peace. Yeah, all this messing with long-time-dead games is really necrophiliac! 😉

  • jwmeep said,

    Here, let me worry you some more:

    >”It’s like when someone tells you to read Chaucer,” Barnett commented. “I know it’s supposed to be brilliant, but it’s incomprehensible!” Shifting from literature to film, he compared it to Battleship Potemkin, a 1925 Soviet film that pioneered many techniques that nearly all movies have used since. “I mean, I’m aware that Battleship Potemkin defined modern cinema, but it’s not a great view. You watch it and go, ‘it’s black and white and a bit crap, I’d rather watch something else.’ And that’s basically the problem we’ve been faced with, is how to reimagine and reboot a classic and make it so that there’s a new generation that can have an Ultima.”

    >”It plays fast, it’s clicky, but the combat’s fluid and fun rather than tactical and mind-numbing. The character progression is soft with a smooth up ramp… You’re going to get in conversation trees which are much more like you would get in Dragon Age.”

    >”You can do the entire thing on your own if you want. If you’re mildly anti-social,” Barnett answered, though clearly that’s not the way it’s really meant to be played. “It’s multiplayer as in you log in, you go to a server world, you play in there. There’s not a lot of people in it, it’s actually quite small, and it’s about going in with your friends, and finding your friends using the friend finder, when you’re traveling around the world there’s up to 500 people in the world, but it’s usually you when you go down to adventure it’s you and up to four people adventuring and having a jolly good time.”

  • Barry B said,

    Battleship Potemkin didn’t pioneer anything, but it did put to outstanding use editing techniques that its director, Eisenstein, learned in the classes of Kuleshov. And it hasn’t been influential outside a few directors in the old Soviet. But leaving aside Barnett’s gaff, and the telling thought that he regards it as a negative when a film is in black and white…

    It really does sound like they’re trying to sucker us old farts who played and reviewed the original Ultimas when they first came out into buying something with a label stuck on it. Of course, it may still prove to be good, at least if the people re-making Ultima IV are a good crew. But the likelihood of forming that kind of creative gestalt inside EA is I think on par with my winning a sweepstakes. We’ll see.

  • Anon said,

    Well, I didn’t like the new Bioware because of their recent action-oriented cinematic stuff but that’s fine as they are just making products I don’t want.
    Of course they want to sell more units (the sellout to EA didn’t make things better, also, but that’s really a given) and that’s fine, too.

    However, this Barnett guy is actually spilling the beans on how intelligent and culturally educated he thinks his customers are:
    “You watch it and go, ‘it’s black and white and a bit crap, I’d rather watch something else.'”

    Well, you are not as clairvoyant as you may think!
    I’d rather see a crappy old b&w movie instead of playing any of the newer Bioware games you philistine asshole!

    “Every generation deserves an Ultima,” Barnett declared grandly, “And we’re giving this generation the best BioWare Ultima that we can.”

    This is something I actually believe – and therefore I expect SHIT!