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Default Ultima IV - Unplayable @ The Brainy Gamer

September 23rd, 2010, 23:08
The Brainy Gamer writes on the recent results when he asked his students to play Ultima IV, which makes for an interesting - if disccouraging - read:
They had five days to play U4, and I asked them to make as much progress as they could in that time. When we gathered to debrief in class, a few students explained how they'd overcome some of their difficulties, but the vast majority was utterly flummoxed by the game. As one of them put it, "I'd say for gamers of our generation, an RPG like Ultima IV is boring and pretty much unplayable." After removing the arrow from my chest, I asked them to explain why.
Thanks, Guhndahb!
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September 23rd, 2010, 23:08
These people who need directions are the "leaders" of tomorrow. Won't be pretty.

I totally expect VIP to sport ! on top of their heads in a few years. You know, so that the new generation is able to know whom they need to speak too to get "going".
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September 23rd, 2010, 23:15
Interesting. I concur with a lot of the students comments and I actually played Ultima IV when it first came out and I liked it. Liked it then. Today I have better things to do than take notes and make maps by hand thank you.

Many things in "modern" games are not better but even so a lot of stuff in the older games was dreck even back then.
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September 23rd, 2010, 23:39
Now I like complaining about those damn kids on my lawn as much as the next guy but bad archaic games are bad.

Horrible UI and controls are just that, they were bad then, they're bad now. It's a game, some of the early games, especially the early Ultimas forgot that part. It's not supposed to take hours of work to figure out how to control your character.

The reason those early games didn't include automatic journals & auto-mapping wasn't because they wanted to test your patience, mettle and tolerance for spending three hours writing & mapping for every hour spent playing, it's because of byte size limitations of the disks they came on and the computers ability to process and store that much information in memory.

I never liked games that I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing or how to do it back then either. For instance, Wasteland, classic right? How many of us have ever actually finished that? I haven't, I did about 95% and then was completely lost. I forgot to take a note or something and had no clue that I was looking for a secret door under the computer in base cochise or something like that. That's back when it was new too, so it's not like I had become spoiled by these fancy games with their quest logs.

Arguments about the kids being too lazy to read the manuals are even questionable. They're used to game manuals being instructions on how to put the disc in the computer and an advertisement for the publishers next game, most of them it didn't even occur to read the manuals.

Can you make an argument that non-combat games with lots of NPC interaction that was story based aren't as popular with todays kids used to playing Halo? Sure. Then again, what percentage of RPG players had fun with Ultima 4 when it was new? And back when U4 came out, the only people playing computer games at all were us hard core nerd types that liked that kind of game.

I guess what I'm saying as I'm scared of the intellectual laziness of today's youth as much as the next "old timer" and I think all the games they like are rubbish too but at the same time, Ultima 4 is a horrible litmus test.
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September 23rd, 2010, 23:59
With Ultima IV, I think it's best to play the Sega Master System version on an emulator.
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September 24th, 2010, 00:02
Originally Posted by LuckyCarbon View Post
I guess what I'm saying as I'm scared of the intellectual laziness of today's youth as much as the next "old timer" and I think all the games they like are rubbish too but at the same time, Ultima 4 is a horrible litmus test.
I think that Ultima 4 is an "hardcore" example, but then I know a few recent games they gathered the same type of critics: lack of hand-holding and bad UI.

I believe there's a bit of Windows vs OSX kind of thing, some people are just used to a certain type of "UI" that they can't adapt to something else and lots of people lack the initiative and curiosity required to just look around and try to do stuff in the first place.

It would be interesting to see what those students would say about Baldur's Gate or Morrowind.
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September 24th, 2010, 00:45
It would be interesting to see what those students would say about Baldur's Gate or Morrowind.
I think the presence of tutorials (Morrowind did walk you through the controls and interacting with the environment and Baldur's Gate had a decent number of optional tutorials in Candlekeep), automaps, and journals (bad ones but better than pad and paper) would produce very different results.

I really don't understand how I enjoyed playing games where I had to manually map out levels and keep a running physical journal. I've tried going back and playing them, but I find I'd much rather replay Torment or Fallout one more time and quickly lose interest. I don't find their reaction upsetting or suprising at all.

Imagine someone asked you to type a draft, proofread it, and then give them a revised draft. Then imagine they gave you a typewriter. Not quite the same, but it's a good analogy for the comparative levels of tedium
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September 24th, 2010, 01:20
Yeah, mapping was hell. Not just in the computer games, either. Having the DM describe a room then trying to map it out back in Dungeons & Dragons days was also a lot of no fun. It didn't take long to just start letting the DM draw the map himself.

I think this is equal parts of game advancements and audience, though. Anybody smart enough to hook up a TV set can hook up a console and start playing games. Back in U4 days, you had to mess around with your autorun.bat to clear out as much memory as you could, set whether you are using expanded or extended memory, and worry about whether your graphics card/sound card would be compatible with the game. You had to be pretty friggin' smart just to get a game started so naturally many of the games are going to be aiming for the smarter folks.
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September 24th, 2010, 03:50
It scares me to think of the next generation's being in control of the world when I am old

I get the interface and lack of mapping and journal being a pain, but I honestly think it makes a game more fun when you put more effort into it…..but I know not everyone agrees.

But the scary thing is the Entitlement generation, they just wanna be spoon fed everything. The comments about we didnt know what to do is what's worrisome. Figure it out for yourself! That's what and RPG is about to me!
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September 24th, 2010, 04:22
I got a chuckle out of this:
I had supplied them with the Book of Mystic Wisdom and the History of Britannia, both in PDF form, but not a single student bothered to read them. "I thought that was just stuff they put in the box with the game," said one student. "Yes," I replied, "They put it in there because they expected you to read it." "Wow," he responded.
U4 is probably one of the most important games of all time for me. It was one of my earliest RPGs and a lot of my love for gaming can be tracked back to that game. I recently replayed it (w/ xu4) and still quite enjoyed it. So I can't really be objective about this game. But I, like Michael, got that "arrow [in] my chest" feeling reading those comments.

I think people's reactions to this are probably right all around. U4 may be an extreme example, but I still think it's a little sad they had THAT much trouble wrapping their head around it. It was second nature to us way back when, and, while I remember struggling with one of the eighths at the time (sacrifice), I never found it to be a difficult game to get into. I agree that U4 could be greatly improved upon (what old game can't be improved with lessons learned), but some of that hardcore nature that we're losing in modern gaming is still a regrettable loss, even if some of it isn't.
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September 24th, 2010, 04:26
Ultima 4 is probably the hardest to complete apart from Ultima 5 though. Some of the virtues are exercises in boredom even if you know what to do. While they were an interesting concept they were ultimately flawed.

The other negative is the sheer amount of combat. It was toned down a fair bit in U5 but leveling Sheperds is mind numbing. To be honest U4 was actually one of the lowpoints of the series for me.

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September 24th, 2010, 05:42
You have to read the manual to grasp the game. This used to be the case back then, and I could understand that people not aware of this simple fact would totally botch the game. Had Ultima IV been produced for machines with more memory capacity they would probably have been able to add a better and more intuitive interface and more hints about what to do.

Even you and I will have trouble with old technology since we do not know how it works. Take the modern car that no longer have a handle that need to be rotated to start it anymore.

LOAD "*",8,1
RUN

Yeah, I say this teacher did botch his introduction to the game a bit.

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September 24th, 2010, 06:20
I've been very confused throughout the entire experience. I've honestly sat here for hours trying to figure out what to do and it just isn't making much sense to me right now.

When I start a game I like to do it all on my own, but it's been impossible to do so with Ultima. I've asked friends for help, looked up FAQs/walkthroughs, and even searched for Let's Play Ultima 4 on youtube and am still uncertain as to how to get further in this game.

Yeah, I still have no idea what the main goal is. I suppose it's to basically find out what the purpose of the Ankh is. But I see no way of furthering that goal.

I tried for awhile without any walkthroughs to get the full gamer experience sort thing and within the hour I gave up because of a combination of bad controls and a hard to get into story for me at least. It reminded me of a bad runescape.

i dont quite understand the concept of the game. i believe my main confusion is the controls and how it displays what you have done and how you moved. im not used to rpg's and i dont like them to much. i hope to find out how to move forward,but so far no luck.

How the hell do I get out of here after I die?
I don't believe any of that for a second. They were assigned a game as homework, got high and couldn't figure it out because the game doesn't reward you for being a moron or they flat out didn't want to do it because it was a "game". No one is this stupid if you are ASSIGNED it as homework. You figure it out. Hell, I'd figure out how to play a flight simulator game if it was assigned as homework.

All of these sound like excuses to get out of doing the homework. Change a few words and I gave the exact same excuses when I was going to school.

I've used this one word for word "I've honestly sat here for hours trying to figure out what to do and it just isn't making much sense to me right now." I hated anything to do with math

Either they really are morons and can't figure out how to read a manual (in which case god help us all) or they were too stoned to figure it out (probably) or they were making excuses for something they didn't want to do (more than likely, imo).

Despite all my rage.
I'm still just a rat in a cage.
Last edited by skavenhorde; September 24th, 2010 at 06:31.
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September 24th, 2010, 08:09
Originally Posted by azarhal View Post
These people who need directions are the "leaders" of tomorrow. Won't be pretty.

I totally expect VIP to sport ! on top of their heads in a few years. You know, so that the new generation is able to know whom they need to speak too to get "going".
Reminds me of the movie "Idiocracy":
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

Originally Posted by LuckyCarbon View Post
I never liked games that I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing or how to do it back then either. For instance, Wasteland, classic right? How many of us have ever actually finished that? I haven't, I did about 95% and then was completely lost.
I finished it last year as a start of my last and final playthrough of the fallout-series.

Still I dont expect anyone to have fun playing dusty classics like these. Its a minority sport really.

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September 24th, 2010, 08:26
Some classics just don't stand the test of time. Just like some classic TV shows. I played U-4 all the way through. When I finished I took all my maps and notes to the computer store I frequented (yeah, I was one of those guys) and showed it to the store clerk and he looked at all my work and gave me a rather unenthusiastic WOW! I was surprisingly able to intuit his real feelings and I put the work away and eventually stashed it in a drawer. A few years later I was cleaning out that particular desk, looked over the paper for about 3 seconds before I tossed it all in the trash.

I don't consider the future bleak just because some of toady's kids find U-4 unplayable. All that map charting and note taking was of necessity due to the weak computers we had at the time. And BTW, at the time I didn't think mapping and note taking was fun either. But it was the only game in town.
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September 24th, 2010, 11:35
I was born in 1990, so Ultima IV was released 5 years before I was born, and I too must admit that Ive always had a lot of trouble playing the game. I can recognize that its obviously a great game, but the dungeons, lack of helpful graphics and some other stuff is really offputting. Its one of those games where I also have to admit that the lack of good graphics really bothered me, because they really ruined the atmosphere and even harmed the gameplay. I like games that have graphics that allow me to use my own imagination, but in Ultima IV its a little too much. The fist Ultima I was able to "play" was Ultima VI.

That being said, Id still play the living shit out of it if I got it as "homework"….
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September 24th, 2010, 11:36
Originally Posted by LuckyCarbon View Post
<snip>
I agree with that.

I never played U4 myself but I'm sure that if I had gotten my hands on it back then I would enjoy it as much as any fan does… but I tried to play it recently and I also find it 'unplayable' or rather 'too much work'.

I can understand why people find managing to overcome such problems as an unintuitive interface enjoyable or even something to be proud about, but I also think that's beyond the point of the game - ie I'm supposed to be fighting dragons with my sword not fighting the interface with my manual (generic example not referring to Ultima which, as I mentioned, I haven't played - just a note so that I can avoid anyone replying to my post by saying 'there are no dragons in U4 you n00b' or something)

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September 24th, 2010, 11:58
Haha, well isn't this ironic…. I think the reason that young people of today are getting more and more lazy…. is…. *drumroll* computers and cellphones. Without them we couldn't even play games in the first place.

I mean there was a time when you had to write everything on a paper.. and use an eraser if you wrote something wrong and write it again. You had to actually think how to spell something….. you had to go to the store to buy something… you had to go to the library to find information…. you had to do physical work to get money…. list goes on and on….. anyway without computers we couldn't play games
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September 24th, 2010, 12:02
Originally Posted by GothicGothicness View Post
Haha, well isn't this ironic…. I think the reason that young people of today are getting more and more lazy…. is…. *drumroll* computers and cellphones. Without them we couldn't even play games in the first place.

I mean there was a time when you had to write everything on a paper.. and use an eraser if you wrote something wrong and write it again. You had to actually think how to spell something….. you had to go to the store to buy something… you had to go to the library to find information…. you had to do physical work to get money…. list goes on and on….. anyway without computers we couldn't play games
Yeah, and people from previous generations would consider people who had access to an eraser, lazy. In the past, you had to rewrite everything if you messed up.

It's not about being lazy, it's about being human.

Human beings, generally, do what they need to do - and no more.
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September 24th, 2010, 12:03
Human beings, generally, do what they need to do - and no more.
I thought that was the definition of lazy
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