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Default Ultima Underworld - Retrospective @ Man Bytes Blog

February 1st, 2008, 13:43
Corvus Elrod's Man Bytes Blog has a multi-part retrospective of Ultima Underworld. There are currently three entries that cover an introduction, presentation and the magic system, so we'll check back again when a few more entries are in. Here's a snip on magic:
Those familiar with the Nordic runes will be right at home with UW’s rune set. There are twenty four runes and each rune has a specific meaning–AN means negate, BET means small, CORP means death, and so on. Runes can be combined in twos or threes to form spells, which when read from left to right describe the effect of the spell. For example, combining IN (cause), MANI (life) and YLEM (matter) has the effect of creating food while combining IN (cause) and LOR (light) produces the magical equivalent of torch light. Adding a VAS (great) rune to front of the light spell VAS (great) IN (cause) LOR (light) produces the magical equivalent of sunlight.
This provides a consistency to magic and makes spells much easier to remember without the convenient reference card Origin provides with the game. In fact, I didn’t look up a single spell during this play-through. The spells I couldn’t remember off the top of my head, I worked out by reading the runes. The effect this approach has on the narrative is crucial. Rather than an arbitrary system involving a progression of various magical effects, UW’s runic system has an internal consistency that lends it a gravity, if you will. Collected RunesRelying upon actual cultural symbols that most RPG geeks will recognize and ensuring that the implementation of them is consistent practically removes the designer from the equation, allowing the player to build a relationship directly with the system.
More information.
Last edited by Dhruin; February 2nd, 2008 at 02:19.
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February 1st, 2008, 13:43
Thanks for the mention, I've got three more posts scheduled for the series. I ought to be wrapping up next week.

…and there's no 'n' in my last name. (-_o)
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February 1st, 2008, 14:29
Well, well, well… if ain't that our all favorite game "reviewer"? Sweet…
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February 1st, 2008, 17:26
Sweet article. I loved Ultima Underworld.

My first PC was a x386, and I also added memory and a sound card to in order to play games like Ultima Underworld.

Games were about the only programs that required you to expand or extend your memory. I'm sure I never would have tinkered with those config.sys or autoexec.bat files otherwise.

Later on Daggerfall, being one of the last DOS games, took that to the extreme by demanding a huge amount of base memory, and plenty of people weren't happy with that either.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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February 1st, 2008, 18:00
I just crammed it out of the box I had bought a few years ago last year - fortunately the disquettes were still readable.

Under DOSBOX it runs just fine.

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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February 2nd, 2008, 01:59
It's one of my favourites too. So much of it was revolutionary for its time!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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February 2nd, 2008, 02:18
Originally Posted by Corvus.E View Post
Thanks for the mention, I've got three more posts scheduled for the series. I ought to be wrapping up next week.

…and there's no 'n' in my last name. (-_o)
Holy crap, I channeled Lord of the Rings. Sorry about that.

-= RPGWatch =-
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February 2nd, 2008, 08:53
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Sweet article. I loved Ultima Underworld.

My first PC was a x386, and I also added memory and a sound card to in order to play games like Ultima Underworld.

Games were about the only programs that required you to expand or extend your memory. I'm sure I never would have tinkered with those config.sys or autoexec.bat files otherwise.

Later on Daggerfall, being one of the last DOS games, took that to the extreme by demanding a huge amount of base memory, and plenty of people weren't happy with that either.
Actually, that's incorrect. The first Elder Scrolls game, Arena, required more then Daggerfall. Arena required, at bare minimum to operate, 610K. I should know, I never was able to play it until the advent of DOSbox due to that monstrous restriction. Daggerfall took considerably less, and I ran that on my Windows 95 rig just fine.
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February 2nd, 2008, 18:35
Well, I don't remember having any trouble installing Arena, and the manual says it only needs 600k. Daggerfall demanded more and was widely criticized for its requirement.

That was the trend too. Games made for DOS kept demanding more and more memory (and DOS had a memory limitation). The greatest demands were at the end, and Daggerfall was one of the last DOS games.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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February 2nd, 2008, 23:18
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Well, I don't remember having any trouble installing Arena, and the manual says it only needs 600k. Daggerfall demanded more and was widely criticized for its requirement.

That was the trend too. Games made for DOS kept demanding more and more memory (and DOS had a memory limitation). The greatest demands were at the end, and Daggerfall was one of the last DOS games.
Common misconception. Daggerfall actually handled memory better. If you were right, then my windows 95 PC, which had only 580K available in pure DOS, would have not been able to run Daggerfall, yet it did. Completed it twice on that machine before mothballing it.

Ladyhawk, a prominent member of the Elder Scrolls community and TESguru staff member, at the time, was the one who told me about the 610K requirement of Arena. Sure, you *could* run it at 600K and it would boot, but it would crash about 5 minutes in. You needed 610K to play comfortably without crashing.
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February 2nd, 2008, 23:35
The worst was always DOS games that demanded so much "conventional DOS memory" that users of non-English versions od DOS just couldn't use they language-specific keyboard drivers … or had to turn to extremely tiny ones which were then hard to find (no internet as we are used to today).

Programmers just appeared to have "forgotten" about the fact that there are users of non-English versions of DOS with special characters on their screens and keyboards for which they actually needed certain drivers.

Even today, it is not uncommon for English-language-based developers to "forget" that people might for example want to save their savegames in folders using characters/letters which are absolutely normal in their on languages but do not exist in the English language at all.
Also, it is not uncomon that "security leaks" are found which imply the use of non-English letters or characters the developers couldn't imagine.

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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February 3rd, 2008, 18:58
Originally Posted by Boilerplate View Post
Ladyhawk…was the one who told me about the 610K requirement of Arena.
I see. You're welcome to your special insights, Boilerplate. I was referring to the official specifications and mainstream reaction to them. Myself, I never had any problems freeing up enough memory to run either game under DOS.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
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