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

September 25th, 2010, 15:15
I am one of the greateast Ultima lovers ever, for me Ultima IV and the virtues were the revelation of an also personal level. I learned every bit about Britannia by heart; I played Ultima VII maybe 30 times through.

Still, it is the truth. I could not play Ultima IV now. The endless random spawns, the sheer difficulty, the 1-liner dialogues… it was an epic milestone, and one of the greatest RPGs ever. But I like anybody, changed over time in my playstyle. So yes, of course it is nigh implayable today.

BUT: So what? What is the message in that?? Why do you have to emphasis that? I don't see the intellectual gain in saying that a 30 year old game is practically implayable today? He says that as if there is some surprise or revelation.
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September 25th, 2010, 15:49
I previously stated that I found Ultima IV unplayable (me being a rather young member of this community), but I think Jeff takes it too far. I was always under the impression that Ultima IV was still a fabulous game. It's just that the technical aspects are horrendously outdated and certain gameplay aspects don't hold up as well today. However, I DON'T think that the UNDERLYING game (by which I mean story, game design, features, whatever) is frequently done better these days ESPECIALLY not the quest about morality and becoming the Avatar and whatnot.

Sorry for the caps. I felt like doing that.
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September 25th, 2010, 16:49
Originally Posted by EvilKoala View Post
Sorry for the caps. I felt like doing that.
I do that all of the time.
It's grown to have become my unique writing style.
I know of only one other person which uses this naturally.

“ 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, 17:53
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.
I cannot fathom him typing that with a straight face. What alternate universe does he live in that any RPG since then has actually done this BETTER?
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September 25th, 2010, 17:59
Originally Posted by Alrik Fassbauer View Post
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.
Yes, that is the part I miss. I also love a good manual, i.e. if it gives back story, lore, etc. I still have my all my Wing Commander manuals and I love them. But even there I did not need the manual to play the game. That is IMO the important point. I would love manuals (can you even call them that?) that give you background information and fit nicely in the setting. But I do not want to have to read a manual to play a game. Been there, done that and didn't like it all.
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September 25th, 2010, 21:18
Manuals in game today suck, they are usually quite small and provide only gameplay basics. These types of manuals I dont much care for either.

In older games the manuals used to be rich in game world lore and these I loved. Anyone have copies of the original Ultima IV manuals? There are two large books once is a history book and the other is a spell book that is a reddish brown book that is supposed to look like a leather bound book and every single spell has an entire page illustration and explanation devoted to it.

MAkes me wonder if these real manuals were given to the students if there would have been more interest.
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September 25th, 2010, 21:23
Originally Posted by Saxon1974 View Post
Manuals in game today suck, they are usually quite small and provide only gameplay basics. These types of manuals I dont much care for either.

In older games the manuals used to be rich in game world lore and these I loved. Anyone have copies of the original Ultima IV manuals? There are two large books once is a history book and the other is a spell book that is a reddish brown book that is supposed to look like a leather bound book and every single spell has an entire page illustration and explanation devoted to it.

MAkes me wonder if these real manuals were given to the students if there would have been more interest.
If you read the article:

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.

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September 26th, 2010, 00:09
Originally Posted by Jaesun View Post
If you read the article: […]
LOL Reading is not en vogue…
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September 26th, 2010, 00:13
Originally Posted by Jaesun View Post
If you read the article:

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.

Wow for World of Warcraft?

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September 26th, 2010, 00:33
Vogel surely likes to troll what΄s pretty much the target audience of his games, heh.
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September 26th, 2010, 00:35
Originally Posted by DeepO View Post
Vogel surely likes to troll what΄s pretty much the target audience of his games, heh.
He knows that they like it, those old masochists…
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September 26th, 2010, 02:21
Originally Posted by Jaesun View Post
If you read the article:

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.

My point was the black and white pdf's woudlnt be nearly as cool as the real color and parchment style manuals….But finding that many copies of originals would have been quite expensive.
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September 26th, 2010, 07:40
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
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.
While there is the cultural divide certainly, I think it should be fair to say that when you're a college/university student, if you're supplied with reading material of any kind - be it a book, journal article, handout, .PDF file or presentation - you should have the foresight and general common sense to read it. That it seems not one of them did so is rather disheartening.
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September 26th, 2010, 18:38
In an effort not to just be one of GBG's grumpy old men (which I am), I want to comment on one element I keep seeing pop up. I've seen multiple people state that manuals, or any external sources of information on a game (like McTeddy's comment in Rampant's very good post on this subject), are a bad thing. I disagree completely.

When I used to go out and buy a game, one of the joys, for me, was opening it up, looking through all the goodies inside, then pouring through all the reading materials. I didn't do this because I wouldn't know what to do when I started playing. I could have figured U4 out on my own - I suspect. It was about immersing myself in the world. They put me in a more receptive mindset when I sat down behind the keyboard.

I still go through this ritual these days, although it's rare to be a fulfilling experience. But I did so for The Witcher, Drakansang and DA:O, amongst others. Heck for DA:O I even bought the two novels for the same reason - and while they were mediocre, they absolutely did enhance my enjoyment of the game.

Edit: I want to add that I don't consider such materials a necessity. Games can give you these same elements in-game. But they rarely have substantial depth because they are afraid of scaring off people who just want to get to the less sophisticated elements of the game's play. So external materials, in any form, are a nice supplement for people like me.
Last edited by Guhndahb; September 26th, 2010 at 18:42. Reason: Addendum
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September 26th, 2010, 23:18
Originally Posted by Saxon1974 View Post
My point was the black and white pdf's woudlnt be nearly as cool as the real color and parchment style manuals….
I have something even cooler looking here.

A few years ago - this story really happened, so it's not a made-up tale I'm telling you - I was walking through a park in my town.

Failed a ccuriosity check (I always fail that, because I'm curious towards Nature whenever I'm in a park, a wood or in open landscape), I drew nearer to the rest of a small camp-fire. Which is forbidden here, but someone did this anyway.

What I found within it were small, heavily burned down pieces of a game handbook - and I'm quite certain these tiny parts (not many of them, and the majority not much greater than a 2 Euro coin in size) are from a burned Ultima handbook.
I'm not totally sure, but the style of the preserved writing points to that.

Now, I'm still puzzled why they did it. I'll never understand it. But I picked the small pieces from out of the ashes and kept them.

Now they look sort of "cool" in their own way.

But don't do that it home ! Burning an Ultima handbook is an sacrilege in itself !

By the way, I could scan them (the pieces), if I find the handbooks again. If someone here wants so.

“ 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 26th, 2010, 23:24
Originally Posted by automata View Post
While there is the cultural divide certainly, I think it should be fair to say that when you're a college/university student, if you're supplied with reading material of any kind - be it a book, journal article, handout, .PDF file or presentation - you should have the foresight and general common sense to read it. That it seems not one of them did so is rather disheartening.
They were presented material of a game.

A game is something entirely different than scientific material a student is supposed to read.

Plus, the publishers have not only trained the public to grow accustomed to DVD-boxes (instead of the big game boxes of past ages), but they are also training the public … not to need handbooks, so to say.

Next thing they'll train them is to perceive games as a service, which is actually coming, thanks to OnLive, Steam, and other service providers (there's an article on that in the tomorrow coming coming issue of the German-language magazine with the name of "c't".

And games as a service - that puts the customer, the public, totally to the passive side of the table.

One day it might be that youngsters might not even understand the concept of board games - to be active when playing them, that is.

Board games might become alien to them, maybe, one day.

And nothing is as good as a passive customer. Less trouble.

“ 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 27th, 2010, 03:40
It's not even about manuals. The whole manual could be easily accessible in-game. Problem is that the 'streamlining' of games nowadays have gotten people used to just skip all text and just check the automap for where the next objective is. Go there, see who they need to kill or click, and repeat until you find a boss. If something about the backstory of the game is not in the cutscenes, most of the players won't know about it.
Most RPGs (if not all) made in the last 10 years or so can be completed without reading a word. This was just not possible before.
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September 27th, 2010, 11:36
When you treat the audience like morons, don't be shocked by your perception of them - when looking at how they play.

If developers had half a brain, and some sense of personal pride - then maybe their games would be worth investing oneself in.

As it stands, the vast majority of games today are completely cookie-cutter bullshit, to meet perceived demands so you can get a good return for minimal effort.

Why would gamers want to invest anything?

Don't give them a Big Mac and ask them to savor the moment.
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September 27th, 2010, 12:17
This whole thing with the manuals gets really odd…
I don't get it. A game manual isn't some literature masterpiece it isn't supposed to make you smarter or enrich your life or expand your horizons or make you a better person in any way or even entertain you - it's supposed to explain which button does what… it was a necessary -boring- process that you were forced to go through before you could properly experience what the actual game had to offer.

The time spent reading a manual is dumb dead time when you are not playing the game and you are not reading a proper book that would entertain you or teach you something useful or relevant to your life. Some people went out of their way to make their manuals entertaining so that they could make that dull process more bearable, sometimes with very good results, but the fact remains: it's not literature, it's not useful, it's not relevant to anything other than the game and it's not the game.

Now all those damn kids don't like reading manuals because they are too lazy to do any 'hard work' in order to play a game… Shocking! They buy a game and they actually want to play the game instead of reading a 200 page tome explaining how to play the game? What is the world coming to?

Also, will I be too wrong if I assume that U4 was played at the time by an elite of geeks and not by the average 15 year old? Today that average 15 year old can go through a game such as Dragon Age without trouble. Now is Dragon Age severely dumbed-down compared to the Ultimas? I suppose it is but it's still complicated enough and even so, every damn kid can play it… Every 15 year old can use a computer and programs that the average 40 year old finds too complicated, there are plenty of dumb kids that spend time making flash movies for crying out loud.

So what does that that mean? That the average kid today is not as smart or not as willing to invest time and energy into deciphering an old game's archaic and obtuse interface as a few geeks were 20 years ago? Well… good for them I say.
[/rant]

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September 27th, 2010, 14:03
Originally Posted by holeraw View Post
A game manual isn't some literature masterpiece it isn't supposed to make you smarter or enrich your life or expand your horizons or make you a better person in any way or even entertain you - it's supposed to explain which button does what… it was a necessary -boring- process that you were forced to go through before you could properly experience what the actual game had to offer.
Then you haven't read an old SIM City or Railroad Tycoon manual EVAR

becaue they actually contained pieces of history, pieces of background information on the world.

I had several "aha!-effects" when I was reading them.


You are reducing manuals to their technical aspect alone.

But games aren't a technical geek-thing. Games are games. And they do contain - in my opinion they even have to ! - explain the world, why it works the way it does.

You could totally skip any handbook inormation of Dragon Age and run around in this world like amok. Well, in Blizzard's and other Action-RPGs, you actually do so : Running amok, but killing monsters instead of innocent bystanders.

In the case of let's say Ultima, you could do run aoun, do what you like - and THEN place a HUUUGE rant in some forum why the game actually punished you for doing what you liked to do !

And that would happen if you didn't know about Karma.

Or you could place a huige rant into a forum about "magic totally being f*cked up", because you didn't read the handbook, which would have told you how it works.

The point is, hat some things are so complex that they imho cannot be described rather explains the rules within the game than the UI or the world as such. For me, for example, I still have no clue what kind of setting "Greyhawk" actually is. Nothing, no-one explains that to me. The Gods there are only touched a little but, but I never ever learn anything about th underlying philosophies.

Not that underlying philsophies are interesting for an Action-hack&slay-player anyway. All he or she has to know how to lvel and how to loot. That's it.

And right now the dominance of Acion-RPGs over everything else called an "RPG" leads to people reducing ALL RPGs in general to these points : How to level and how to loot.

And everything more complex is just "crap".

“ 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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