By Al Giovetti09/15/96
Ultima IX Ascension
Years ago there was a role playing adventure called Ultima, that spawned a multimillion dollar empire and now a ninth version of the game. Ultima is one of the longest running game series in the history of computer games, and traces its roots to before Sierra making Origin one of the oldest game companies. Richard Garriot, a noble and card carrying member of the Society for Creative Anachronism where he is known as Lord British, designed the game around his love of the age of chivalry and role playing games.
The game series was a hit and has never ceased to sell out whenever a new one hits the shelves. While Richard was prevented from working on Ultima VIII, he intendes to not allow himself to be drawn away from being intimately involved with the ninth installment of his creation.
Origin is not in a hurry to release this title. It seems that Richard Garriott is really enjoying the development of this new title, which could only mean that the role playing gamers will benefit from the result. The best games are those that are produced gy the love of gaming. The release has been pushed back from Christmas 1996 to Christmas 1997.
The new Avatar will have to deal with virtues, but no longer in white and black terms, every virtue will have shades of gray for the Avatar to deal with. The party of characters will be back to travel with and share your adventures. The Avatars goal will be to transend the physical world to another plane of existence setting the stage for the plot in the next part of this new set of games. There have been two trilogies and one two part series in Ultima, who knows what comes next? Richard Garriott says, "The players character will ascend beyond morality in the final struggle with the Guardian."
Real-time combat that will zoom out for a tactical bird's eye view of the situation.
Action type puzzles with jumping and climbing will be included along with the normal word and treasure hunt puzzles.
Point and click interface will allow you to point to a location, click an jump or walk there. When you converse with characters the free floating cinematic camera will zoom in for a close up on the character or characters talking. Overhead oblique or orthogonal (third person) view from the sky will be the order of the day, but since it will be true three dimensional graphics, multiple views will be possible.
The game play will center around a full party of characters exploring the land. Origin will resist the temptation to run headlong into an embrace with Doom like games. Ultima has already tried the "thinking person's" Doom with Ultima Underworld and they intend to continue with both game types.
Graphics in the new Ultima will be polygonal third-person three-dimensional instead of the old tile and bit map style graphics. All parts of the game, foliage, buildings, monsters, items, characters, steaks, fires, and other objects will be polygonal. The graphics I saw were beautiful with intricate details and artfully rendered scenes. It makes your mouth water just thinking about it.
"We'll have facial animations . . . ships drawn to scale, as your party will find out when you board," says Garriott.
Items will automatically arrange themselves for optimal use and storage. "There will be slots in a bag for each reagent, with its symbol and uantity easily available. A money purse will handle wealth, and key rings will automatically provide the proper key to enter a locked building if you have that key in your party. For the rest, Ultima IX will remain a go anywhere do-anything world that runs according to its own rhythms."
Utilities: Automapping has always been a part of Ultima games and the ninth installment will be no different.
Multiplayer: Wouldn't it be nice if Ultima IX would allow you to play with at party of characters some or all of whom would be human over network, phone modem, null modem, or internet. This would not be the same as Ultima Online, but a group of friends sharing the actual Ultima plot line together. I have always felt that scripted adventures were more fun than truly free form ones. I guess I just like well written stories.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
ReferencesSteve Bauman, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 22.
Barry Brenesal, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 37 - 38.