Author Topic: Source of Inspiration #2: Ultima IV

HobGoblin42

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#95 December 23, 2017, Saturday, 11:46 pm
Ultima IVChronologically speaking, to say our sources of inspiration begin with the SSI Gold Box games is actually a bit off. It may have something to do with the fact that most of us are not old enough that we actually entered the world of computer RPGs with games that came before Pool of Radiance. But as a matter of fact, by 1988, when the Gold Box series first commenced, Ultima was already on its fifth sequel with Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny.

Ultima IV Start ScreenIn all honesty, most of our team members never actually spent much time playing the original Ultima Trilogy but that’s not altogether detrimental. The one thing the Ultima series is most remembered for is its unique approach to character generation. This system, which presented the player with a series of questions forcing them to make difficult moral choices, was originally introduced in 1985 with the release of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar.



Aside from the memorable character generation, what made the Ultima series stand out in our memories was the exploration of a larger world. In Pool of Radiance, you played most of the game in first-person perspective. In Ultima, on the other hand, you spent most of your time traveling the world, navigating with a cloth map that was included in the box. So many times, your party would leave a city with only the vaguest of directions, as where to find the next dungeon. And so, you travelled east in search of that dungeon’s entrance. Finding the location itself became a quest.

Many of the game features mentioned in the introduction of our “Sources of Inspiration” post, may actually have started with Ultima. Ultima IV may have been the first party based RPG where you created only a single character and then hired other heroes to join your party, as you went along. These members were actually pre-defined characters with their very own names and backstories. Remember guys like Iolo and Dupre? And there certainly would not be a Minsc to remember, without the groundwork laid out by Richard Garriot more than a decade earlier.



But as we mentioned before, the path of a single hero, surrounded by pre-defined companions joining the adventure, is not all that interesting to us, particularly not in respect to how we shaped Realms Beyond. What really made a lasting impression on us are the memories we made exploring Britannia.

With every new Ultima game, you would return to that same world of Britannia—but decades, if not centuries, would have passed. Whenever you entered a city in Ultima V you would instantly be taken back to the events that occurred in that very location while you played Ultima IV. You could even catch up with locals on what happened in the area since your last visit, and as a player, you simply could not wait to explore more of the places that were both familiar and unknown. There was a sense of persistence to the world of Britannia that no other game had at the time.

It is this kind of persistence that we wanted to feature in our own game. While this may not be instantly evident when you first play the game, as you explore the world of Realms Beyond you will soon find that once an entirely different world existed, before it was overrun by forces of evil due to a global cataclysm. There is a vast history, there are lost cultures, forgotten people and the ruins of previous civilizations. They all hint at the former glory this world once held and it creates a sense of persistence in its very own way. The player’s adventures will become part of the lore and history of the world going forward.
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