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Default Ultima IV - Jeff Vogel: "The Ugly Truth"

September 24th, 2010, 23:45
Jeff Vogel wades in on Ultima IV and The Brainy Gamer article:
Look, nobody worships at the altar of Lord British more than me, and you can't put into words what a breakthrough Ultima IV was at the time. It set me on the path to writing games for a living. I played it again and again. It literally Changed My Life.

But it isn't playable now. The controls make no sense. The dialogue is bland. All of the little UI tricks that make RPGs accessible (tooltips, in-game maps, pathfinding) were not yet invented. And, and this is really important, everything that Ultima IV introduced everyone has done far better. Ultima IV had an epic quest and morality woven into the game, which was amazing at the time. But everyone does those things way better now.
While I'm doing a Jeff Vogel update, he also addresses indie game pricing issue again in another blog post.
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September 24th, 2010, 23:45
I remember playing Ultima IV right after Ultima IX.

I really couldn't believe how good dialogues and story in "Quest of the Avatar" were, in comparison to "Ascension". Honest!

And I really don't like how the professor didn't demand that the students read the manual. No one ever believed that (any) Ultima explained itself.
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September 24th, 2010, 23:59
READ a manual!!!!! Are you sure those kids could even READ at all??!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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September 25th, 2010, 03:12
I'm sorry, Jeff is wrong. The game is not "unplayable". I will admit that it is not enjoyable to kids who grew up with today's games, but that wasn't the issue. The issue, for me at least, is that these kids couldn't do it when it was assigned as homework. They couldn't even read the manual to figure out what was going on.

"Ultima IV had an epic quest and morality woven into the game, which was amazing at the time. But everyone does those things way better now."

Name one game that has morality as the central theme or has done it better than U4? The whole game is about morality. To become the avatar you must become the best person you can be. Not one game has touched on this subject as the main quest. KOTOR has the "good/evil" meter, but in the end it was about beating the foozle. The Witcher is another game that gave you decisions that you had to make based on your own philosophy (or the one you were roleplaying), but again that game fails to beat U4 because it's still about beating the foozle whichever way you want to do it.

U4 is unique in that there is no foozle. I would love to see what Richard Garriot could do with today's tech if he remade Ultima 4 because obviously no one is going to try and do what he did. I just wish Richard hadn't been so gung ho about Online crap and continued making SP rpgs for a little while longer.

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Last edited by skavenhorde; September 25th, 2010 at 03:42.
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September 25th, 2010, 03:55
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
U4 is unique in that there is no foozle.

Actually, U3 didn't have an end boss either.
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September 25th, 2010, 04:04
Exodus was the foozle, but that really is beside the point. I wasn't talking about all games, just games that have attempted to have the main quest as one of enlightenment rather than beat the foozle.

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September 25th, 2010, 04:07
How many other games fit that description though? I can't really think of any.
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September 25th, 2010, 04:14
That's my point. Jeff says that it's been done better, but both of us can't think of any game that has even attempted what U4 did.

I love Jeff's games and trust him when he talks about his business, but when he starts talking about his personal opinions I tend to disagree with him.

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September 25th, 2010, 05:36
Funny, while I like Jeff's games I also agree that usually when he is interviewed I disagree with most of what he says.

I played U4 just a few months ago for the first time since 1985 and had a great time with it, but I guess I missed his comment that it was unplayable before I started otherwise maybe I would not have played it
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September 25th, 2010, 09:23
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
READ a manual!!!!! Are you sure those kids could even READ at all??!!
I think so - they are students. Somehow, this must mean something.

… I hope.
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September 25th, 2010, 11:01
Okay, the UI is something almost everyone does now in a way that's clled an "industry standard".

But the plot ? The setting ?

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 25th, 2010, 11:10
Guys, stop being ridiculous. Old men complaining about todays youth are always ridiculous. Of course these students can read, some of them might be smarter than you. Its about a cultural divide thats opening up here, as this teacher correctly understood. You have to begin to see these games as part of history - that means you have to provide context for people that are newcomers to these things.

I assume this is a class about game design, so naturally these kids chose it to learn about contemporary game design. I think its a cool idea to throw some historic games into the mix, because its an excellent way to show what the basics of gameplay design are, when you strip all the shiny away. But it is not surprising that such games may need a little introduction with people who have never played anything that wasn't 3D and mouse/controller driven.
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September 25th, 2010, 11:18
Re: skavenhorde's statement ->

Name one game that has morality as the central theme or has done it better than U4? The whole game is about morality. To become the avatar you must become the best person you can be. Not one game has touched on this subject as the main quest.

..and JDR13's statement ->
How many other games fit that description though? I can't really think of any
…………………….
There is one ultimate morality game that is yet to be beaten, where morality is the core yet hidden concept and can only be realised through game play progression.
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September 25th, 2010, 11:23
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
Of course these students can read, some of them might be smarter than you.
Unfortunately, that stopped none of them to not read the manual.

It would be the first thing I'd do (even with modern games) if I didn't know how to progress in a game right at the beginning.
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September 25th, 2010, 11:36
Originally Posted by Hindukönig View Post
Unfortunately, that stopped none of them to not read the manual.

Honestly? Because I wouldn't. I believe the last manual I read was the Civ3 one. If a contemporary game needs a manual it sucks. Plain and simple. And it has been that way for quite a while. So when you grow up on modern games (say, the last five to ten years) you really wouldn't need to ever read a manual (and that's a bloody good thing in my opinion cause when I want to read I take a magazine or a book and not a manual for a game).
And if I do have a problem with game (to stupid to complete a quest, don't know what to do, etc) then I just use google to find a solution to the problem.

By the way, I actually can't remember when I read a manual because it was essential to the play the game for the last time. I'm confused.
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September 25th, 2010, 11:58
Besides, there re more and more being distributed nowadays without any manual at all (digital distribution, for example). It's only a matter of time untill a "manual" or a "hand book" will be history in itself.


By the way, the booklet of the new OMD album just states this, about Modernism :

"What then, if Modern becomes History ?"

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 25th, 2010, 12:25
I have to agree with GBG - there's a difference in how games are played and what sources of information are used, not a difference in terms of intelligence. They are quite capable of reading a manual, but simply not used to it as the internet is usually the first and last source of information for a student or pupil today.

Also, new gamers are used to games that are intuitive - if they're not, the game is not up to par, and they'll play something else. Unlike us, they've never experienced a time where we only got a few good games per year, so we had to invest a lot of time into each game. Spending a day learning the mechanics of a game is no problem if you're going to spend the next two months playing the game, but if the game only lasts two days you can't spend one of them learning how it works.

As an example: I remember playing games like Transport Tycoon and Civilization 2 for months. In such cases, learning curves hardly mean anything.
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September 25th, 2010, 12:39
Originally Posted by Roi Danton View Post
If a contemporary game needs a manual it sucks. Plain and simple.
That's a shame. I love when manuals are a part of the experience.
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September 25th, 2010, 12:39
Originally Posted by Roi Danton View Post
If a contemporary game needs a manual it sucks. Plain and simple.
I concur. (I didn't say I always like to read manuals, especially not modern ones, as they are mostly boring or even full of spoilers.)

But Ultima IV isn't contemporary, and not telling contemporary students to read manuals, is like forbidding players to play contemporary games' contemporary tutorials. I wouldn't know from the beginning what to do and how to do it if Oblivion, Divinity 2, etc. did not have tutorial missions. Sometimes, I get informations by just reading the control configuration in the options. Something Ultima IV (or any other Ultima, IIRC) does not have.
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September 25th, 2010, 13:30
Originally Posted by Elwro View Post
That's a shame. I love when manuals are a part of the experience.
Same here. Ever browsed through a SIM City Manual ?

The manual to SIM City 2000 or to Railroad Tycoon is just a pleasure to read.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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