In many senses, the Ur-Example/Trope Maker for the computer Role-Playing Game.Ultima is a long-running series of CRPGs created by Richard "Lord British" Garriott, which includes the following:
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- Akalabeth: World of Doom (1980)
- Ultima: The First Age of Darkness (1981)
- Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress (1982)
- Ultima III: Exodus (1983)
- Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (1985)
- Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1988)
- Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990)
- Ultima VII: The Black Gate (1992)
- Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle (1993)
- Ultima VIII: Pagan (1994)
- Ultima IX: Ascension (1999)
- Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash (1983)
- Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire (1990)
- Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams (1991)
- Ultima: Runes of Virtue (1991)
- Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (1992)
- Ultima: Runes of Virtue II (1993)
- Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds (1993)
- Lord of Ultima (2010)
- Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar (2012)
- Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues (In development)
- Underworld Ascendant (In development)
- Ultima Online (1997)
- Ultima Online: The Second Age (1998)
- Ultima Online: Renaissance (2000)
- Ultima Online: Third Dawn (2001)
- Ultima Online: Lord Blackthorn's Revenge (2002)
- Ultima Online: Age of Shadows (2003)
- Ultima Online: Samurai Empire (2004)
- Ultima Online: Mondain's Legacy (2005)
- Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn (2007)
- Ultima Online: Stygian Abyss (2009)
- Ultima Online: High Seas (2010)
The Ultima series more or less invented or defined all the classic computer role playing game tropes, and even went on to influence games more broadly. Though the series was computer-based, its general mechanics became likewise imprinted on the console RPG market thanks to its influence on the mechanics of the Dragon Quest franchise (and via osmosis, to a lesser extent the Final Fantasy franchise). IV and VII, in particular, had an impossibly huge influence on general RPG mechanics and open-world games, respectively.The Ultima saga begins, it is generally considered, with a primitive Dungeons & Dragons-inspired game called Akalabeth (and which Garriott now refers to as "Ultima 0", though this title has never been made official), which introduced the character of Lord British, king of a pastiche medieval/high fantasy type world.Originally titled "D&D28b", as it was Garriott's 28th game, Akalabeth was also heavily influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books; the name Akalabeth itself derives from Akallabêth, the fourth part of The Silmarillion. The game was hand-coded entirely by Garriott in Applesoft BASIC.This world was fleshed out to form "Sosaria", the world of Ultima (later subtitled The First Age of Darkness). The Evil Sorcerer Mondain is stopped by The Hero.The series continues with Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress, as space-time distortions threatening Earth are Best Served Cold by Minax, the
- Ultima IV Part II
- Multi-player Ultima
- Mythos: Caribbean Pirates and Legends from Greece
- Unnamed Pencil and Paper Ultima
- Arthurian Legends
- Ultima Underworld III
- Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale
- Ultima Online 2 A. K. A. Ultima Worlds Online: Origin
- Ultima X: Odyssey
- Ultima Reborn
- Ultima Resurrection
Major tropes and elements of the Ultima series include:
- Author Avatar: Lord British, the ruler of the kingdom, very heavily based on Richard Garriott himself. Lord British is always asking you for favors and is Nigh Invulnerable. Clever players amuse themselves by finding creative new ways to kill him.
- Artificial Script: The default Runic, Gargish, and Ophidian Alphabets.
- Awesome, but Impractical: The Armageddon spell, which destroys the entire world. It doesn't kill Lord British, though.
- Butt Monkey: Lord British wasn't originally this, but after the rise of the Lord British Postulate players trying to murder him in innovative new ways became a beloved series tradition. One game even features an Easter Egg in which the player can drop a plaque on his head to kill him and get away with it.
- Create Your Own Villain: The Avatar is indirectly responsible for the problems of every game in the series except I and IV.
- Flat World: In Ultima IV, V and VI, surrounded by an ethereal void. Ambrosia, the land of the Gargoyles, was the flip side of the world in Ultima VI. (In Ultima IX, it is a domed underwater city instead.)
- In Ultima III, IV and V, a separate and distinct interface for combat than the usual world map (see Fight Woosh).
- Keywords Conversation: The series generally let the player type in the topic they want to discuss with an NPC when engaging them in conversation.
- Magic A Is Magic A:
- A consistent spellcasting system (in Ultima IV-VII), where spells consisted of incantations built up from individual semantic atoms (thus, the common "Help" spell was "Kal Lor", literally "Invoke Light"; noting which constructions were spells in a previous game, and what their requirements were, sometimes allowed a player to access high-level spells early in the next game), and were powered by alchemical formulas (more-or-less consistent across games) which had to be mixed.
- In Ultima IV and V, magic spells had to be explicitly mixed before use, requiring the player to look up which reagents were needed and, frequently, do all this in the heat of battle. In Ultima VI and VII, reagents were mixed automatically, so long as the player had enough on hand. By Ultima IX, reagents were only needed once for each spell, as a "binding ritual" allowed the player to cast the spell whenever he liked afterward.
- In Ultima VIII, much of the story and gameplay revolved around the Avatar achieving mastery over not one, but five exotic magic systems, each of them manipulated differently, themed upon the five (western) elements.
- A recurring cast of NPCs, especially those who (from Ultima IV through Ultima VII) join the player's party, most of whom are based on Garriott's friends.
- An Aesop: Themes about the evils of totalitarianism.
- Bizarre anachronisms (especially in the first two games).
- Old Save Bonus: The ability (in some games) to import character data from an earlier game.
- Perhaps one of the most memorable notes in Ultima VII was the extended Take That against Electronic Arts. The company devoured Origin quite soon after, implying a win for The Fellowship, which proved rather prophetic considering the states in which VIII and IX were released...
- Pretty obvious once you notice that the Guardian's blackrock generators looked like the shapes in EA's logo at the time.
- An Ur-Example of the Digital Avatar with its deeply customizable characters
- Darker and Edgier: Ultima VIII was Darker and Edgier than Ultima VII-2, which was Darker and Edgier than Ultima VII, which was Darker and Edgier than Ultima VI, which was Darker and Edgier than Ultima V, which was Darker and Edgier than Ultima IV (that was pretty idealistic).
- Sequence Breaking: Parts IV-VI had you converse with NPCs by typing in keywords. A good chunk of quests had you follow the chain of a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who has what you need. If you knew who the final link in the chain was, you could skip right there and type in the keyword. From VII onwards conversation options were set to match what your character knows.
- Spiritual Successor: Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues to the core series and Ultima Online, Underworld Ascendant to Ultima Underworld.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential (And Video Game Cruelty Punishment) in spades.
- Wide Open Sandbox: Ultimas V to VII offer a fully interactive world that carries on with or without you. NPCs follow their own schedules (sleeping at home at night, going to their place of work, then to the inn for lunch), and almost everything can be interacted with - shear a sheep for wool, spin the wool into thread, etc. Even before Ultima V the game was completely non-linear and you were free to travel through the world. That changed in the second part of VII, Serpent Isle.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: Not only does time on Earth flow ten times slower than in Sosaria/Britannia, but people from Earth age ten times slower than natives even when living in Britannia.
- Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe — Everything was written in this style: dialogue, room descriptions, the manuals, everything.
- You Keep Using That Word — There are "gremlins" in the series that are little critters that steal food. In Ultima VIII they're shape-shifting creatures with a mocking laugh. Neither of those descriptions even remotely matches the concept of a gremlin.
Akalabeth was first self-published by Garriott, then picked up California Pacific Computer; Ultima was originally released by California Pacific; Ultima II and subsequent re-releases of the first Ultima (retitled Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness) were published by Sierra On-line. Ultima III through Ultima VII were released by Origin (a company formed by Garriott after he became dissatisfied with Sierra), and the remaining games were released by Electronic Arts (which bought Origin).While Garriott no longer owns the rights to the games, and is no longer with EA/Origin, he does still hold copyright on several of their characters, and therefore future Ultima games can only be made if EA and Garriott can be persuaded to get along with each other. In July of 2012, BioWare announced a new Ultima game, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, to be released later in the year. It will be a freeware multiplayer game for the PC and iPad, based primarily on Ultima IV with a few changes (for example, Lord British is now a woman since Garriott didn't give them the permission to use the character.) Meanwhile, Garriott himself has announced plans to produce an MMO Spiritual Successor, Ultimate RPG. He's also expressed possibly buying the rights to the series back from EA and releasing it as an actual Ultima Online 2. Garriot eventually turned to Kickstarter to fund Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, a Spiritual Successor to both the classic single-player Ultimas and Ultima Online, and closed with a respectable $1.9M.Recently, Origin released Ultima IV as a freely-distributable download on the internet. A free version updated for modern systems exists.All nine games of the main series (with the first six bundled into two trilogy packs) and both Underworld games are available from GOG.com for a quite reasonable price. Both of the Worlds of Ultima games are also available from GOG for free as well.There's also a widely praised Fan Remake of Ultima V, done with the Dungeon Siege engine. Featuring lots of added content like extended side-quests, an optional, alternate main quest for evil-inclined players, and an improved class and skill system. There's also a remake of Ultima VI, and while it wasn't made by the same team, it still uses the same basic engine, and has gained just as much praise, if not more so, than the Ultima V remake.Finally, there's Exult, a reverse-engineered reimplementation of the Ultima VII engine that can either use the data from the original games (Ultima VII and U7-2: Serpent Isle) or can be used with Exult Studio to create new games. It was originally written to allow Ultima VII to be played under Unix, but it's now cross-platform and adds some new features, both cosmetic and gameplay-affecting.In 2013 Richard Garriott successfully funded a Spiritual Successor, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, with Kickstarter. It remains to be seen whether it will live up to its pedigree.