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Default Ultima IV - Of DMCA Takedowns and Reboots

March 29th, 2011, 23:48
You may recall Ultima IV projects we've covered such Phi Psi Software's Flash remake - according to Ultima Aiera, Phi Psi has received DMCA takedown notifications and, indeed, the game is now gone. Their speculation is the sudden legal action from EA is preceeding a reboot - probably BioWare's Mythic's secret project we mentioned a while back.
Ultima Aiera has much more background on Ultima IV's status and their speculation on this secret project, so head over for a read.
More information.
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March 29th, 2011, 23:48
I would like to see a new Ultima, a reboot of the franchise if you will, rather than a remake of Ultima IV. I am afraid that anyone attempting a remake would not do it justice. The Ultima V: Lazarus and the Ultima VI Project remakes using Dungeon Siege were very well done, but I still preferred the originals. The same with Fallout 3 - it wasn't a bad game at all, but it wasn't the Fallout I knew and loved.

When asked what my favorite game is after nearly 30 years of computer gaming, I always reply with Ultima IV, so I may be a little biased
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March 30th, 2011, 00:24
Hmm I loved the ultima's.

Honestly, nothing back then came close to them. If they could relaunch the series and do it right I would be all in for this. The ultima's are not about stats, they are about choices…grey areas. I loved the whole different shrines and mantras. God do I miss these games.

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March 30th, 2011, 00:41
The sad thing was Phi Psi's remake was arguably an improvement on the original… while being careful to preserve (insofar as I tried it out) the gameplay and spirit of U4.
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March 30th, 2011, 00:58
Is there any evidence of a reboot, or is this just speculation?

Aren't there other possibilities, like perhaps EA is dipping its toes into gog.com and planning to sell some classic Ultimas there, or something like that?

Is this action specific to U4, or is that the only one that has been available for complete download, and is thus the only subject of all the cease-and-desist letters?
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March 30th, 2011, 01:15
Definitely speculation (which the newsbit states). If you follow the links, you'll see the reasoning, but we certainly don't know much as fact.

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March 30th, 2011, 02:22
Maybe I'm just feeling a bit more cynical than usual, but I'm actually dreading a possible resurrection of the Ultima series. Much as I might like a new game, I know that it would be no more than an excuse to save on marketing dollars for the publisher; the actual game would bear little if any resemblance to the Ultimas that I know from days gone by in either game play or lore (even though the Ultimas pretty much ran the gamut in terms of game play, from 4 - 8, I suspect what we'd see is a continuation of the game play from U9).

Besides, the true hallmark of the series for me was the moral stance of the Avatar. The concept of being deliberately Virtuous, according to the virtues laid out for you in the game, was, as far as I know, unique at the time and remains unique today, particularly in that many of the games hinged on that stance, far moreso than defeating some Foozle at the end. But without The Avatar specifically, I'm not sure there's really all that much to recommend the setting as a whole. There's the remnants and bits of lore from the old series — the columns, artifacts, Lord British (pretty much an artifact in himself) which I suspect would be heavily retconned anyway — but beyond that, it's a pretty standard sort of fantasy setting without much of anything to really set it apart.


Incidentally, what is it with the incessant retcons these days? Do developers simply not know or care that they're undermining their own storytelling, or is the whole game development process so infected by writer ego that "putting their own stamp" on a game, regardless of what the lore suggests, is more important? Revisiting locations seems to be particularly galling, for whatever reason, unless it's a cost cutting measure (with the 10 years span of DA2, Bio had a real opportunity to show how a city was affected by the player's actions. Reports that I've read suggest that they really did next to nothing in this regard), but I found that what Black Isle did with Kuldahar in the IWD series really brought that town to a new level of depth in that I'd been there before. Is one thing to read about the history; is another to have experienced it. That too was a hallmark of the Ultima series for me: that while there were changes here and there, the setting remained familiar. And this too is something that I feel is going to be lost with a new game.

Anyway… a rather dismaying line of speculation for me, but as I said, maybe I'm just overly cynical right now.
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March 30th, 2011, 02:41
The Ultima IP has already been in use for a year or so with Lords of Ultima. A garbage use of the IP perhaps, but why would EA issue a legal request now?

In regards to a true Ultima rpg, EA have no interest in producing a quality rpg as opposed to a streamlined cash cow title. EA's lengthy history is specifically purchasing quality companies, then strangling the life out of them for shareholder interests. Not that there is anything wrong with that from a business perspective, but as a customer of niche genre interests, if something is going to come about from this, it likely won't appeal to me.

A new Ultima game would probably make Ultima 9 look like an amazing rpg, to us older core rpg players (though I did enjoy Ultima 9 for what it was).
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March 30th, 2011, 03:56
Aeira's response is a good one.
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March 30th, 2011, 04:31
I was wondering why I couldn't play it anymore. I'd play it during my lunch breaks at work, but haven't been able to for about a week or more.

Too bad they forced him to take it down. It's not like he was making a profit on it. It's freeware after all and probably is nothing like whatever "secret" project that they are working on, but they need to protect their IP from those horrible fans.

It wouldn't surprise me if they tried going after the dozens if not hundreds of mods for Ultima. Luckily those aren't flash games and it would be very difficult to get rid of the mods completely from the net.

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March 30th, 2011, 05:03
I would love to see if a true recreation of Ultima could survive in today's market. I can't see it as a game that would appeal to many of today's gamers. Especially Ultima IV where the object of the game isn't to kill everything in your path and level up until you can beat the boss. You actually have to, well, be nice, humble, kind, and forgiving at times.

Anyway, probably just nostalgia talking, but I enjoyed Ultima IV on the Amiga 500 immensely.
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March 30th, 2011, 06:29
EA has done this in the past with other Ultima Fan remakes and doesn't mean they are rebooting the series or planning on selling the games again. Many of the other remakes got shutdown while in development like the remake of Ultima I that was being done in a 3d engine. I don't even understand why they went after this one when Ultima IV is freeware and is freely distributable anyways.
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March 30th, 2011, 08:04
Originally Posted by guenthar View Post
EA has done this in the past with other Ultima Fan remakes and doesn't mean they are rebooting the series or planning on selling the games again. Many of the other remakes got shutdown while in development like the remake of Ultima I that was being done in a 3d engine.
No they haven't. EA has never gone against any Ultima fan project or remake, nor against any Wing Commander fan project either for that mater. EA's policy in term of fan projects and mods has always been to basically let them be and if anything the Ultima community should be thankful that they are not enforcing their IP like some other publishers do (Ubi Soft comes to mind).

Ultima I was "cancelled" because the guys doing it were hoping to get some for of official recognition and permission from EA, with the obvious hope to make a buck out of it down the road as well. Since of course, EA said they couldn't give them a official sanction, they decided not to bother and mutated it into a non-Ultima related RPG called "Era" which in the end was never released either.

I don't even understand why they went after this one when Ultima IV is freeware and is freely distributable anyways.
But that's the thing: Ultima IV was never freeware. There was speciific permission given the members of the UDIC to redistribute the game and that's it. Ultima IV was never released in public domain, and EA always retained the rights to it.

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March 30th, 2011, 08:46
Originally Posted by Sergorn View Post
But that's the thing: Ultima IV was never freeware. There was speciific permission given the members of the UDIC to redistribute the game and that's it. Ultima IV was never released in public domain, and EA always retained the rights to it.

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So they need to protect their IP from the horrible fans.

It's just odd they went after this flash version. It's not making any money and even though it changes a few things the majority of it is exactly like the original.

Even with that said he doesn't own the IP so it's their right to take it down. It's just odd they went after that guy when there are so many fan made mods and fan made games in the Ultima universe.

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March 30th, 2011, 09:12
Originally Posted by Scrav View Post
The Ultima IP has already been in use for a year or so with Lords of Ultima. A garbage use of the IP perhaps, but why would EA issue a legal request now?
Slow day in the EA legal department? EA could never do ultima. Its impossible for them. The best they could do is corridor-based action-rpg. So there is fat chance theyll ever reboot ultima.

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March 30th, 2011, 10:25
Originally Posted by Sergorn View Post
Ultima I was "cancelled" because the guys doing it were hoping to get some for of official recognition and permission from EA, with the obvious hope to make a buck out of it down the road as well.
We never hoped to "make a buck" out of our Ultima 1 project, but we did hope to use it as a learning process that would allow us to make a living from developing our own CRPGs in the future. At least the "learning" part of that plan went well

We stopped working on the project when we realized (like every other indie crpg developer - ask the AoD team or Frayed Knights etc) that we had greatly underestimated the task and that it would require *a lot* of our heart blood to finish.. and it would simply hurt too much if we actually finished the game, and then EA would ask us to take it down.

Without a formal permission it was just not worth going for it, and this news bit just confirms to me that it was the right decision! The flash U4 in itself was a major accomplishment for the developer, and our project was even more ambitious. I feel really sorry for the guy(s) who did the flash U4.. and I cannot see how it could possibly threaten any future professional EA projects - Ultima related or not.
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March 30th, 2011, 11:17
I see this more as EA ramping up their flash and other web/social based gaming presence. If you're playing U4 on a flash site that's not theirs, then you're not playing a flash game on something they get money from. They had the legal power to take down a 'competitor' so did so.
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March 30th, 2011, 11:33
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
So they need to protect their IP from the horrible fans.

It's just odd they went after this flash version. It's not making any money and even though it changes a few things the majority of it is exactly like the original.

Even with that said he doesn't own the IP so it's their right to take it down. It's just odd they went after that guy when there are so many fan made mods and fan made games in the Ultima universe.
I think the issue about the Flash based U4 is that in the end it is basically a 1:1 remake still using assets (and in all likelyhood data files) from the original game – so from a legal standpoint this is problematic.

Which is why they don't go against stuff like Exult or xU4, because while they use the original game assets – they require the player to own a copy of the game to use the engine, just like all engine recreations. So they don’t distribute anything belonging to IP Holders. Ditto for game modifications like Forgotten Worlds (You still need Ultima IX for this) or remakes like Lazarus and U6P (they're different games altogether).

But for what is basically a port, I can see the issue. When the game was mistakingly and widely believed to be Freeware it is understandable for such a project to exist… but since it is not, it becomes an issue. Perhaps some agreement could be reached down the road with EA, but at this point I understand why the game had to be taken down.

Also someone mentioned the possiiblity earlier in the thread they might also be ramping up for some form of re-release of the original games through GoG or something (there were rumors that some people at Mythic really want to do this as DosBOX packages) which would explain while they'd want to limit the free availabity of Ultima IV (through it should be noted it is still legally available through a couple of site yet).

Without a formal permission it was just not worth going for it, and this news bit just confirms to me that it was the right decision!
Actually considering both Lazarus and U6P were released, got a lot of attention and never got any troubles with EA - I think it's pretty obvious on the other end that "A Legend is Reborn" could have been released without risking anything from EA. Though I'd grant it couldn't have been known at the time.

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Last edited by Sergorn; March 30th, 2011 at 12:07.
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March 30th, 2011, 18:47
Originally Posted by zakhal View Post
EA could never do ultima. Its impossible for them. The best they could do is corridor-based action-rpg. So there is fat chance theyll ever reboot ultima.
The cynic in me agrees very much. EA would do ANYTHING to exploit this grand name as mch as possible to gin he most possible income using this brand name - it's just the way EA works.

And - they'd take away ANY "avatarish" things … They just don't belong to coporate thinking. Suits are just not able to think spiritually, it' as if you try to tell/explain a blind man what colours are.

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March 30th, 2011, 18:48
I don't understand why EA did this…Yes, they may well be in their legal rights to do so. But somehow it is like they don't understand that if there are a lot of Ultima Projects out there, this will also benefit EA's projects. Many people will hear about these, and then they will be excited, and then they will, possibly, buy the new game, the Ultima game, from EA.

I once tried to play one of the older Ultimas. I couldn't. And I thought the game was nice and all, but the graphics. I'm normally not a graphics whore, but things can go too far as well…

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