GameBanshee Interviews Sheri Graner Ray

Gaming news site GameBanshee has published a lengthy interview with Sheri Graner Ray, a former Origin Systems designer who, along with Bill Armintrout, was one of the principal architects of Ultima 7 Part 2: Serpent Isle. She also worked on a pair of projects at Origin that never saw the light of day: Arthurian Legends (a third Worlds of Ultima game) and The Lost Vale (a cancelled expansion to Ultima 8). And it was these subjects that GameBanshee were principally interested in.

And if you’re curious whether she thinks there’s a copy of The Lost Vale floating around somewhere out there, well…she has some bad news for you:

GB: Is it possible that anyone out there still has a gold copy of Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale? With the popularity of digital download services and classic RPGs, wouldn’t it be feasible that a working, “as is” copy could be released and even reasonably profitable in today’s market?

Sheri: I know that every Ultima fan out there desperately wants there to be a copy of Lost Vale somewhere, but honestly there just isn’t. It was in the early days of the ORIGIN/EA merger and ORIGIN still wasn’t doing much archiving. Frankly, I don’t even think U8 was archived, so there’s no way Lost Vale was. It was a small project with a small team, for a project that was kind of… well… a disappointment for the company. Add to that, the fact the company’s attention was on the much bigger and brighter Crusader and Wing 3 titles. Plus the looming overhead cuts that were coming. There just wasn’t thought enough of doing an archive.

The Arthurian Legends portion of the interview is longer…and is also something of a sad story. Here’s a taste:

GB: Let’s switch gears to the Arthurian legend RPG. Based on what we could dig up, it’s unclear as to whether or not it was supposed to be an Ultima game. Did ORIGIN have the intention of creating more games in the “Worlds of Ultima” series? Or was there just an idea for an independent Arthurian RPG? In essence, how did the game evolve into and out of the “Worlds of Ultima” spin-off series?

Sheri: The most interesting thing about Arthurian Legends is it was a completely employee driven idea. It was the brainchild of Brian Martin, a designer on several of the Ultimas and a major player in the Brittania Manor haunted houses. He came up with the initial idea and sold it “upstairs” as a way to reuse the Ultima engine. He convinced Richard that it could be made with fewer people than a traditional Ultima, faster than a traditional Ultima and that it would be different enough from Ultimas to not compete with them. At the same time it could still draw on the popularity of the “ORIGIN” name.

Although “Worlds of Ultima” was mentioned a time or two in the early phases of the game, I don’t think it was ever intended to be a “Worlds of Ultima.” It was always an independent, stand-alone, idea.

GB: If “Worlds of Ultima” was meant to be a continuing thing, were there any ideas (even vague one-sentence descriptions) for installments after Arthurian Legends?

Sheri: Actually, Worlds of Ultima was kind of dead by the time Arthurian Legends was dreamt up. Savage Empire and Martian Dreams had not done what they wanted them to and so that was where that ended. The Arthurian title, it was never considered to be of that line, and there was never even a whisper of doing more than one. Heck, we were just holding our breath every day hoping we could get the first one done!

Click on through to read the whole thing, Dragons and Dragonettes. It’s a fascinating, it somewhat bittersweet, read, and an interesting trip into “what could have been”.

1 Response

  1. enderandrew says:

    I stand by my comment in another thread that Ultima VIII was complex and interesting thematically. The Avatar no longer has all his old friends. He gets to explore somewhere new. He is the outcast and underdog. You have to explore all new magical systems. And arguably you’re forced to act un-Avatar like to escape and serve the greater good of Britannia.

    Some people didn’t like the jumping aspects, but that doesn’t mean the concept of the game was bad. If anything, conceptually it is a better game than both VII and IX.

    I’d love to see a good VIII remake that incorporates the plot concepts of Lost Vale.