Ultima 7 Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

I was looking in the Exult forums recently when I spotted a thread with a very interesting (if grammatically dubious) title: Rotate graphics 45 degrees to be upright? The opening comment from the original author of the thread was interesting:

I’ve never played Ultima, but looking at the screenshots, it seems like the obvious mod to make would be one to rotate the game world 45 degrees clockwise, such that characters stand upright, etc. The present perspective is somewhat nauseating.

I have not seen screenshots of such a mod. Does such a mod exist? How complicated would it be to do such a thing with the existing Exult code?

What resulted was a lengthy and interesting discussion about the technical elements that would be required to make Exult’s renderer rotate the graphics of Ultima 7. Colourless Dragon, in particular, provided some keen insights as to what would be required to actually effect such a rotation (with Marzo Sette Torres Jr. and someone called TDI chipping in ideas as well). Someone else, going by the handle cma, took all the provided advice and…

…did some hacking of Excult 1.4.9rc1 in Windows and render a bigger map, rotate and copy it to screen.

And after a few more issues were identified and solutions proposed, cma…

Did what Colourless Dragon said: render map to a new window and scale and rotate it 45 degree. then composite it with the gump with alpha background. I could not find alpha channel support in any scaler so I modified PointScaler x2 to make it support alpha (index 255, had to change the palette code to reserved it). The map graphics look much better now IMHO.

I also had the basic mouse navigation and mouse/object interaction working. I am sure I still missed some special mouse event handling cases. At least I can work around Trinsic and interact with things now.

You can see the results of his efforts above; it is indeed a very different perspective on the Ultima 7 game world…and frankly I think I like it a bit more. Hopefully, cma releases his mod in the near future so we can all experience Ultima 7 in this new and aesthetically pleasing way. I also agree with Kalos Dragon, who commented thusly:

Anyone who has played Ultima Online will feel fully at home in Exult, now, for a new sun has risen, and it is but half of a right angle from prior times.

There is a…significant block of UO players who have minimal experience with other Ultimas. Giving them the option to experience one of the best games in the series from a more familiar perspective could be a very good means of kindling their interest in the single-player side of the franchise.

11 Responses

  1. Infinitron says:

    It is nice, but when you realize it’s the exact same graphics, just rotated, you feel a bit cheated.

  2. Saeru says:

    With more effort (transformation, substitutions) one could probably switch the perspective to see the hidden side of Ultima 7 (and have left handed sprites). I don’t believe this will ever be done.
    The 45° tilt is a nice idea on paper, but the graphical results are disturbing. Perhaps it would not for someone who never played U7

  3. Micro Magic says:

    Well, that’s something I didn’t expect. I can’t say if I’d like it more or less. It’d be interested to find out.

    Makes me wonder, Ultima 7 specifically is my favourite crpg, but the one I couldn’t get my enthusiasm to rub off on anyone. Maybe the perspective was the x factor that people couldn’t get used to.

    On a side note, I’m surprised you didn’t much care for u7’s graphics. It’s the same angle as u6.

    • WtF Dragon says:

      Well, yes and no. It’s about the same angle, but it isn’t as tall. That’s more my objection to U7’s graphics…they seem stretched to me, stretched in the z-axis. I don’t get that vibe from U6.

  4. devo says:

    This really gives me motion sickness. I know some people get that from the original, but it’s weird since Ultima Online didn’t squash the depth value in half and neither do true isometric viewpoints (U8) it’s very odd to see this angle where the x and y are equal but the z is squashed.. it just makes the skew matrix more evident to me and harder for my eyes to “fake” the perspective.

  5. bmac2112 says:

    I remember a long time ago UO’s perspective feeling awkward and out of place. I took a screenshot and rotated it the other way. It looked like U7 and I felt right at home.

  6. Sanctimonia says:

    I think this is a fantastic achievement which will be championed throughout the ages coming. If gameplay inputs could be ever-so-slightly modified, the Avatar could turn in 45 degree increments and optionally rotate the screen along with him/her. It would look crazy when transitioning slowly, but perhaps less so with rapid turns (or interpolated frames?).

    Even attempting to modify the “camera” perspective in an Ultima, especially VII, is pretty awesome. Hell yes guys, good work.

  7. Marquillin says:

    For some reason – Probably because I loved watching my brothers play U7 before I got training with perspective – I barely noticed that the game was A bit wonky. However I know someone who said they couldn’t keep playing because the isometric felt too wrong to him. I had best tell him when this mod is released.

    So, does that put Britian to the North-East of Trinsic now (I mean, in the sense with birds eye games, and maps, that North is usually the top of the screen)? I guess I could get used to that. Hopefully this is the sort of change that seems massive to the player but doesn’t mess with the rest of Exult’s coding.

    I don’t suppose that this change would make sprites any more successful at sitting on chairs that face away?

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