How To Play (And Patch) The Ultima Games Today!

Andrew writes in, asking a question that realistically I should have already published an answer to:

I want to play the Ultima games from beginning to end, but I have no clue how to apply the upgrade patches!

I’m not an expert or even a novice code writer, so please excuse me if I ask you to tell me what to do step by step.

If it helps, can you start with just Ultima 2?

I’m going to put my reply in an article, because that way I can add it to the FAQ as a link. If any of you have suggestions which you feel are better than mine, by all means give them in the comments.

Note: For the purposes of this write-up, I am assuming that everyone is trying to run the PC/DOS versions of the earlier games.

Akalabeth

Your best bet for playing Akalabeth (or Ultima 0) is Paul Robson’s remake of it. Or you can grab the iPhone version of the game.

Alternatively, if you want to run the original game in DOSBox, you should grab this patched executable which will enable the Ultima Collection version of the game to run smoothly under the DOS emulation software.

Ultima 1

There isn’t much you need to do — or can do — for Ultima 1; there is only a single graphics patch available for the game, which is recommended as it corrects a known glitch in the original display driver executable.

It is best to run Ultima 1 in DOSBox.

Ultima 2

There are two different approaches you can take to get Ultima 2 up and running. One method would be to use Ultima 2 for Windows, which is a front-end for the original game data files. As such, it should work with the various patches that comprise the Ultima 2 Upgrade (but that is untested). And realistically, I’m not 100% sure that the Windows front-end works under modern Windows environments, or on 64-bit systems.

So, the other option is to run Ultima 2 in DOSBox, and just apply the Ultima 2 Upgrade.

Ultima 3

There are two different approaches you can take to get Ultima 3 up and running. One method would be to use Ultima 3 for Windows, which is a front-end for the original game data files. As such, it should work with the various patches that comprise the Ultima 3 Upgrade (but that is untested). And realistically, I’m not 100% sure that the Windows front-end works under modern Windows environments, or on 64-bit systems.

So, the other option is to run Ultima 3 in DOSBox, and just apply the Ultima 3 Upgrade.

A third option, which Sergorn Dragon recommends, is to pay $5 to LairWare and grab their OS X port of Ultima 3. If you can get a good Mac emulator up and running (or an OS X virtual machine), or if you have an Apple computer already, this is easily the best way to go, as LairWare’s version of the game is easily the best out there.

Ultima 4

The best way to play Ultima 4 is using xu4. There is really no better way to do it. You might also want to grab this fix for Hythloth.

I believe that xu4 also renders moot the need for the Ultima 4 Upgrade patch.

Ultima 5

It is best to run Ultima 5 in DOSBox. There are a number of patches available for the game as well, including the comprehensive Ultima 5 Upgrade , a music patch, a patch that lets you use the numeric keypad properly, and (of course) a patch to remove the runic font used at various points in the game.

Alternatively, if you have an advanced TI calculator, there’s a faithful port of the game for that platform as well.

Ultima 6

I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think you can yet complete the game using Nuvie. As such, it is probably best to run Ultima 6 in DOSBox.

There isn’t much in the way of patching needed to play Ultima 6. If you configure it to use the PC speaker, this timing patch might be of use if you are noticing odd sound errors, and there are also patches for MTU-32 and Soundblaster sound, and for AdLib sound. Use as necessary.

Savage Empire & Martian Dreams

Since Nuvie does not yet support these two games fully, it is best to run Savage Empire and Martian Dreams in DOSBox. There are no patches needed for either game.

Ultima Underworld & Ultima Underworld 2

The best way to play the two Underworld games is to just buy them from Good Old Games; they will run under pretty much any modern version of Windows. The GOG version should already incorporate the official patch for the first game and the second game. If you want a bit of mood music in the first game, there is a patch which adds a MIDI soundtrack, which I can only assume works with the GOG versions of the game.

If, on the other hand, you don’t want to buy the games off of Good Old Games, it is best to run Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld 2 in DOSBox. If you’re playing the CD-based versions of the games, you shouldn’t need the official patches; if you’ve got the game on ancient 3.5″ diskettes, you may need those patches.

Ultima 7 & Serpent Isle

A good and easy way to play Ultima 7 and Serpent Isle is with Exult, which is a mature cross-platform engine for the original game data files that incorporates a number of graphical scalers (so you can run the game at higher resolutions), bug fixes, and enhancements. If you use Exult, there’s no need to install any other patches.

If, however, you want to play the games in their pure form, they are well-supported by DOSBox.

As far as patching the games goes, you shouldn’t need much in the way of patches to run the game under DOSBox. If, however, you want a bit of additional atmosphere in the game, there is a patch that adds support for MIDI music in Ultima 7 (and a similar patch for Serpent Isle). There is also an official patch from Origin Systems for Ultima 7, which might help if you find that Ultima 7 crashes.

Ultima 8

A good and easy way to play Ultima 8 is with Pentagram, which is a cross-platform engine for the original game data files that incorporates a number of graphical scalers (so you can run the game at higher resolutions) and bug fixes. If you use Pentagram, there’s no need to install any other patches.

If you have a version of Ultima 8 that is on 3.5″ diskettes, however, you may want to install the official patch for the game from Origin, before firing up Pentagram.

And if you want to play the game in its pure form, they are well-supported by DOSBox. If you want to go this route, you may find the official patches from Origin Systems that add AdLib support and fix a few bugs and improve gameplay to be of use.

Ultima 9

Ultima 9, interestingly, will run even under Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit). To get it working, you just need to install the official v1.18 patch and the unofficial v1.19f patch. You may also want to install the Forgotten World v1.19g patch, which corrects a couple more bugs in the game.

And if you want to improve the look and feel of Ultima 9 somewhat, there is also the Beautiful Britannia R1 patch.

Be mindful of the fact that when you have the game fully patched, it will run pretty darn well for the most part…but you will encounter bugs in Moonglow, possibly in Yew, and possibly when trying to manually sail the boat around. You will also want to enable the flying cheat, because on most modern systems you will encounter the “floating runes and sigils” bug after cleansing each shrine.

One final note: Keep your eyes on Good Old Games as the summer progresses; it has been confirmed that more Ultima titles (beyond the two Underworld games) will be released through that service over the coming months. Which games, exactly, I am not yet sure of.

18 Responses

  1. Sergorn says:

    Good articles. Some points :

    The UC version of Akalabeth really is the best as it uses some Ultima music.

    Ultima IV doesn’t have Runic Fonts. The patch you link actually replace all the text with runic font. It’s for real hardcore fans!

    It should be said obviously taht U7/SI and U8 both runs flawlessly with DosBox.

    I tried Ultima IX with the latest BB unofficial patch and U9BB.exe and it seemed the floating rune bug is gone.

  2. dancingcrab says:

    Just echoing Sergorn – U7/SI and U8 do run well in DOSBox. However, you do need a fairly beefy processor to keep them running smoothly.

    Great post, thanks!

  3. PV_Dragon says:

    “a patch to remove the runic font ”

    Nooo, no, no, no…

  4. Jaesun says:

    Did anyone else ever get the “skeletons” that when attempting to re-assemble themselves would cause the game to crash bug? The last time I tried to play Ascension that’s all that would happen to me, constantly so I could never finish. This was using Windows XP. Never tried Win 7 yet.

  5. Thepal says:

    Yeah… I would say that DOSBox should be recommended for U7-U8. Exult is awesome, but when I actually want to play through U7 and SI I do not use Exult. Exult alters how the game is played (the main thing being combat). I’ll use Exult when I want to jump into the game to see something, but not to play the actual game.

    And Pentagram actually runs perfectly now? Last thing I knew you could “play to the end” but there were still features missing.

  6. Adric Dragon says:

    Yes, quite against removing the runic font, also. It’s not hard to find a chart if you don’t have one, and after a while you learn to read it anyway. :-). It’s adds to the atmosphere, it think.

  7. Metallikatz Dragon says:

    Don’t overlook emulation. It might be worth checking out the “gold” remakes of Ultima 3 and 4 for the C64. I personally prefer the Atari 800(xl) version of Ultima 3, as I think it had the best music of them all (and the red/blue graphics were just weird). Ultima 2 plays nicest on the Atari ST.

    Overall, I’d recommend:

    Akalabeth: Go oldschool – emulate the original Apple 2 release

    Ultima: PC version, or emulate the C64 remake. The Atari 800 release lets you play with a joystick – that’s almost worth checking it out right there

    Ultima II: The Atari ST version runs well under the GEM interface and even allows mouse control

    Ultima III: Atari 800xl. Best music and the red water lends an otherworld atmosphere

    Ultima IV: Tossup between the C64 gold remake, or the PC version with all the bells and whistles (music, VGA graphics).

    Ultima V: PC version with MIDI patch, unless your MIDI table sounds like crap with the included .XMI files (mine does) – in that case, the C128 version has good graphics, good music and runs well. The Atari ST version also has good music, but suffers from a slightly smaller view window.

  8. Sergorn says:

    @Thepal – I played U8 through Pentagram a year ago, I don’t remember feeling much of the difference with the original game as it.

  9. Just one thing:

    Ultima IV had also a version 1.01 done (I think) by the people at xu4.
    I guess donwloading the complete game is not legal, but the actual patch is only 6 files (5 TLKs and 1 ULT file), so I have uploaded it to rapidshare:

    https://rapidshare.com/files/2211631826/u4v101.rar

    it also includes the original txt file listing the fixes:

    —————————————————–
    This updated version of Ultima IV fixes some minor bugs in the data
    files. This is a list of the fixes:

    1.01
    – Charm in Cove asks her question
    – Water in Lord British’s castle asks its question
    – Alkerion in Minoc asks his question
    – Shamino in Skara Brae asks his question
    – fixed mispelling of keyword of prisoner in Yew
    – fixed incorrect guard indices in Serpents Hold
    ——————————————————

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      Natreg: I think that the version(s) I link to for download are the v1.01 patched versions, but I’ll do a file comparison to make sure, and post any differences that I uncover.

  10. I’m sure the one at Ultima Forever isn’t 1.01. That’s the one I did compare with my 1.01 version using the diff command.

  11. Hareton says:

    Do not use Exult. Many actions of npcs are broken here, and it is one of the most valuable parts of the game. Exult shows poor imitation of Ultima.

  12. Klapse says:

    If you want the Original Experience of Ultima I-IV, go for the Apple ][ version. For Deluxe Original Experience use dual Mockingboards.

    For ze emulators, AppleWin is good. Linapple is pretty good except for audio problems.

  13. Zimriel says:

    I just tried Ultima 5 on a 64-bit machine on Win7. Just running these EXEs in DOS will not upgrade the system.

    1. Ultima has be in a DOS-sey file folder. No spaces! No foldername greater than 8! I have my Ultima in “C:GamesUltima”.
    2. You will have to pull the upgrade files into DosBox too (from c:gamesultima). This will mimic a pre-64bit machine.
    3. Even then, an error is possible: it wants a file called “csdpmi5b”. Just download this from a reputable site and put it in c:gamesultima.
    4. The sound system is fine just with “windows”. THAT part was easy.

    When playing U5 I recommend doing it in a window, not full screen. Get a cheat sheet of commands and put that off to one side. Also, a pdf of that cloth map.