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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Ultima 4 - Quest of the Avatar - The Reason I Became a Gamer @ IGN

Default Ultima 4 - Quest of the Avatar - The Reason I Became a Gamer @ IGN

January 16th, 2010, 22:50
IGN has a piece titled The Reason I Became a Gamer: Ultima IV, written by one of their console reviewers, Hilary Goldstein:
Ultima IV wasn't about ridding the world of a particular evil. You were trying to become the spiritual leader of Brittania by proving yourself worthy in eight virtues. I know it sounds strange, but it remains one of the most unique concepts in the history of gaming. Your actions affect your attainment of these virtues and the decisions you make have real consequences. I'm certain that Ultima IV was a major inspiration for the gang at Bethesda who created Fallout 3. Look at the opening of Bethesda's game, for instance, where you take a test to determine your starting stats. Throughout there's a focus on exploration, morality and consequences play a major role and there's really no traditional final boss.
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January 16th, 2010, 22:50
Ultima IV is still my favorite in nearly 30 years of video gaming. I had played Ultima III before it, but Ultima IV is what really drew me in and made me a lifelong RPG fan.

Having to make moral choices was completely new at the time. One town had a blind reagent seller. I accidentally made a typo when paying for the reagents, paying less than the asking price, and the game thought I was cheating her. I got the message "Thou hast lost an eighth", and was no longer able to enter the shrine of Honesty. There were very few places to go for information about how to fix my mistake back then so I just started overpaying her on subsequent purchases and that eventually worked. You had to figure out how to raise your virtues on your own - give money to beggars to raise Compassion, never exit early from battle for Valor, and so on.

The other thing that stood out to me on Ultima IV was the music. I had an Atari ST and if you connected a MIDI keyboard it would output the music through that - a vast improvement on anything available for computer sound at the time. This was years before wavetable sound cards and the music just blew me away being played through an Ensoniq Mirage digital sampler.

My kids asked me what my favorite game was and we downloaded the XU4 remake and played it for an afternoon. It wasn't their thing, but to me even with the primitive tile graphics, the game itself still stood the test of time and was fun to play.
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January 17th, 2010, 00:09
I don't like much morale decision linked to rewards like that. I feel it involves weird test and reload gameplay. That's why I consider The Witcher to be a major step forward. All stuff linked to this had a high focus on designing to avoid tempting the player with such try and reload behaviors.

It's games of different time and you can't compare fully. Modern games have more contents story than games of the 80's, this involves much more a sort of mood coming from living an adventure. In this perspective I consider very important that the game let you live your choices without to constantly tempting you with the question, have I made the right dialog choice.

That's where the Witcher made some key design decisions, and not much game can compare:
  • No choice imply better bounty than other there's always a good balance.
  • When choices imply a later effect that can make some players feel bad, this only occurs when consequences can be seen much later in the game and so late that you aren't tempted to reload.
  • Also for each of these late consequences the game highlight the causes and consequences when it occurs but remind elements that could let the player not feel bad and that other choices could not have turn better.
  • No clear choice of evil vs good, when morale is involved, the decision is always very complex and any choices have morale arguments.

That's on this last point I dislike a lot D&D games, in D&D system decisions are choosing the morale choice or choosing the anti morale choice, stupid choice alternative. And I don't like much more the Ultima approach, I seriously don't need that Lord British gives me some lessons of morale. Moreover I'll learn much more by making me thinking about a complex morale element than by smashing my head with a "fact".

EDIT: That said, there's one point, it's clear that choices are important and be able do the bad morale choice is still a point even when you'll always do one of the other right morale decision choices. Having the choice is an important element I can't deny. Base the gameplay on reward and penalty linked to this is a weird gameplay design approach for me.
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January 17th, 2010, 01:31
I only played for the first time a few years ago … wonderful, wonderful game.

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January 17th, 2010, 04:40
Great game. It's not the reason I became a gamer, but it is one of the best games I ever played.

@TXA Did you play the original or the upgraded version? The graphics are a little better with the upgraded one.

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January 17th, 2010, 05:06
Funny, Ultima VII was my first RPG game, and thats the reason why i love some much RPG games
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January 17th, 2010, 05:26
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
Great game. It's not the reason I became a gamer, but it is one of the best games I ever played.

@TXA Did you play the original or the upgraded version? The graphics are a little better with the upgraded one.
I used XU4, but not the added graphics … I'll check those out.

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January 17th, 2010, 05:40
There are several remakes for U4, at least 2 of which use the NWN engine/game. Neither are much good IMO!!

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January 17th, 2010, 07:21
I have fond memories of playing Ultima III on the NES, it was the first Western style RPG I ever played. To this day it's the only Ultima game I've played from start to finish.
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January 17th, 2010, 09:17
Ultima7 I+II was incredible imo, most immersive games i've played probably (been gaming some 30 years or so if i count from the first console i had ) loved the free roaming experience and that the NPC's lived their own lives + almost all objects could be picked up and used. That kind of attention to detail is hard to find, even in todays RPG's (Bethesda's games is what comes closest and probably why i love them so much).
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January 17th, 2010, 12:16
As a big Ultima fan, obviously, Ultima IV has a special place in my heart. Especially the Sega Master System version, which is far superior than any other version. The game has incredible amount of depth that even todays' games fail to achieve, like day-and-night cycle, dynamic dialog and of course the marvellous virtue system.


I like the "story", that you are not suppose to kill the big evil boss, but rather conquer the evil within yourself.

Here's very good interview with Richad Garriott: Ultima Collection Richard Garriott Interview


And you can play SMS Ultima IV on website: http://mastersystem8.com/game/565/ultima_iv/
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January 17th, 2010, 21:49
Originally Posted by Ergonpandilus View Post
As a big Ultima fan, obviously, Ultima IV has a special place in my heart. Especially the Sega Master System version, which is far superior than any other version.
Really? Well if that's true I'm going to see if I can ebay that because I still have my sega master console and it still works.

Do you know if any of ther other console ultima titles are good? I have a working NES, SNES, and Genesis too.

Originally Posted by bemushroomed View Post
Ultima7 I+II was incredible imo, most immersive games i've played probably (been gaming some 30 years or so if i count from the first console i had ) loved the free roaming experience and that the NPC's lived their own lives + almost all objects could be picked up and used. That kind of attention to detail is hard to find, even in todays RPG's (Bethesda's games is what comes closest and probably why i love them so much).
I have just about the same gaming experience as you (gaming 30+ years sigh I'm old now). Like you, U7 1 & 2 my favorites of the series. I still play U7 1&2 all the time via Exult what a godsend that program is. Like you, I very much enjoyed the interactivity of the game world. Moving objects around, interacting objects with each other and so on. It's hard to believe that there really isn't any other single player game that repeated this on the same scope, scale, and depth as the U7 games did. Some came close, like Divine Divinity and Arx Fatalis.

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January 17th, 2010, 21:51
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I have fond memories of playing Ultima III on the NES, it was the first Western style RPG I ever played. To this day it's the only Ultima game I've played from start to finish.
Did you ever play U3 on an IBM PC or Apple Computer? If so how would you compare the computer versions of U3 to the NES console version?

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January 17th, 2010, 22:18
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
Did you ever play U3 on an IBM PC or Apple Computer? If so how would you compare the computer versions of U3 to the NES console version?
Not sure about the music, but the graphics were a definite improvement over the stick figures in the Apple, PC, and C64 versions.
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January 18th, 2010, 00:32
The 1st two Ultimas were among the first RPGs I played back in the day but haven't played any of the rest.

I did try Ultima 7 and couldn't get past the weird graphical perspective used… well that and was playing it on my current system and couldn't get it to work properly (think I was using Dosbox).

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January 18th, 2010, 05:38
Originally Posted by Relayer View Post
I did try Ultima 7 and couldn't get past the weird graphical perspective usedů well that and was playing it on my current system and couldn't get it to work properly (think I was using Dosbox).
Try playing the Exult version. Exult is a new exe that uses the orginal data files from the orginal game disc with some added improvements. One of the improvements allows for much greater screen resolutions. While this doesn't change the 'perespective' issue you pointed out, you can see a lot more of the game world at one time which I think is great.

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January 18th, 2010, 07:38
Oh yes! It was the same for me! I too found Ultima IV the game that made me a gamer, literally. It remains alas an exception. All too often games are sending us to open chests and kill mobs by the legions.
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January 18th, 2010, 17:07
I came late to the party, enjoying the depth and eye-popping visuals of my cousin's copy of Ultima Underworld. I'm sad that I missed UIV. As an aged game, it's too tedious for me even though I'd like to spend some time in it. But I do recognize the significant role UIV played in advancing RPGs. In fact I really don't think there has been an advance that large since.

Lasale, I think you're missing the point. This isn't about what's the overall best thing in a population of moral story-telling designs, it's about the fact that there *were* no moral story-telling designs before Ultima IV. At the time, such games were about two things: get stuff and save the whatever-it-is (still are, but that's another thing). Ultima IV's winning strategy basically amounted to "Be a good person", not "Be a consumate combatant". That's an earth shattering idea for Rogue/Dragon Warrior/D&D people that live and die by combat mechanics.

In fact I'd go a step further and say that no game has since really revisited what UIV did including the later Ultimas. We now have either well-developed binary (KotOR, later Ultimas) or trinary/quaternary (PS:T, Fallout) sliding scales where you tended towards one kind of person to the exclusion of others or we have situational moral choices without an overriding mechanic, such as quests that influence the behavior of individuals or groups, not a large global variable. UIV actually had game mechanics built for eight different binary sliding scales. You're not just a "good person" but a "valorous yet dishonest" person or a "sacrificial but cowardly" person. No one's really touched that kind of depth either in a clockwork/mechanistic way or an organic way. The thought of that complexity (Oh God, the dialogue engine, the dialogue engine!) must turn modern programmers and designers ghost white, but I'd say that there lies the future of RPGs, not the iterated improvements of our mature RPG tropes or the constant hybridization with "kill-the-nazis" games.
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January 18th, 2010, 19:28
Yeah, Ultima IV was the first RPG I played, if I remember correctly (it could have been Ultima V, I suppose - I no longer have the game). Whatever, I was hooked after that.

Personally, I didn't like the way The Witcher handled decisions. It was too random, with no reason to pick one way over the other. And all decisions seemed to turn out badly (compromises were completely impossible), so that meant my decision wasn't actually important.

I want the opportunity to make a GOOD decision, based on the evidence and rational expectations. In a choice between two sides, I want the chance to find a third way, possibly a compromise or at least an alternative. If I might as well flip a coin,… well, I will.
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January 20th, 2010, 15:38
Ultima IV might have been the best game I've ever played. For some reason, it's not as replayable as my favorites. I'm thinking the size and age have a lot to do with it. I had really hoped that the folks remaking the Ultimas would tackle IV, but nobody has accepted the challenge. The dungeons need work to compare with today's stuff but the rest is still great.

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