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September 2nd, 2007, 01:20
There is a lot of interviews on the subject of ultima IV with Richard.
Key to his motivation was the constant complaint of the bad nature of video games in general. He wanted to put his money where his mouth is and solve this problem.
He went about a study of ethics and how to incorporate them in his next game. Although the magic number 8 crops up this is mostly a matter of binary logic and not Buddhism as he said his main source of study was the Bible. We see Hinduism (Om) and even Chivalric type influences such as Honour, and Courage.
Nearly every RPG out there was of the hack and slash variety. It wasn't uncommon to have a Paladin and a Thief in the same party for example. The Paladin conviently looked the other way when he noticed the thief picking pockets for example. Although there were alignments they were pretty much ignored.
You could play this in Ultima 3 - and it was very effective. In Ultima IV you meet a blind seer selling reagents. Its very easy for you to steal from her. However, the effect on one of your 8 virtues is devastating. This just wasn't seen in any game at the time; video or otherwise.
Achieving virtue could be very difficult at times. If you were in battle and your opponent faield their morale check they would start running away. You gained compassion by letting them but this could be at the cost of Valour. You had to hope you could kill enough opponents before they started running away. Other ways of gaining virtue were by giving donations.
The one problem with the system was its dependency on a work salvation. It didn't take into account human nature. The tediousness of constant combat also got annoying as it gave you the option to run away. You also had to be careful it didn't take you too long, and if you were stuck (and Ultima 4 is really complicated) this is could be costly.
You said these games were unique and they are. There is not a single game out there like it. These aren't just mere mailman or kill the boss quests and you did find those as well.
The virute system is complicated and takes careful planning to implement right. Its not that simple. It was no wonder games following looked to greatly simplify it.
Garriot himself said he didn't like the idea of Karma but his own company started implementing in their games such as Moebius (aka Windowalker). In U9 you see the Virtues are reduced to this oversimplified system as well.
Today we largely see reputation systems instead as you've mentioned.
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