Revealed: The Ultimate RPG’s Map

The puzzle pieces on the Ultimate RPG’s Facebook page were tantalizing, and some of the speculation that was fostered thereby was interesting indeed. Ultima fans thought up some very clever possibilities as to how the revealed pieces connected.

We now know, however, that the pieces were part of a much, much larger whole:

map_11_final

And just for good measure, here’s how the revealed pieces align with the map in its entirety:

urpg-puzzle-pieces-to-date

Here’s Portalarium’s official word on the map:

Behold! The pieces are coming together! And at 10 am, join Richard “Lord British” Garriott at www.lordbritishpresents.com for a special, live presentation hosted by our friends at Rooster Teeth.

May I just hazard to say that it looks rather familiar, this new land in which the Ultimate RPG is set?

Are you excited yet, Dragons and Dragonettes? The countdown has nearly run out; what more will we learn in mere hours from now?

54 Responses

  1. mark says:

    Neat,
    I always liked Sosaria, and it definitely has its similarities. I like that there are quite a few different towns, and the fact that there are a few of them surrounding that one castle, a la the Britannies is pretty cool. Though does that further imply dual scale? I was also correct about the hex-thing. Rivers, roads, and to some extent, shorelines, seem to be following a hex grid. I wonder if that is artistic interpretation, or some clues about how the in-game map is laid out?

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      You’ll see in a bit. 🙂

    • Fenyx4 says:

      You can see in the Kickstarter video that is is definitely from a hex map. good call!

      I need to spend some take grabbing those images from the video for the wiki… (Unless someone beats me to it).

  2. So apparently the puzzle pieces were just teasers, without any real value. Thats… disappointing.

    I do like the look of the land; an updated Exodus-era Sosaria. Today should be interesting!

  3. I’m shedding tears of joy.

  4. Sergorn says:

    This definitly feels a lot like Ultima III’s Sosaria.

    Can we get a Cloth Map now ?

  5. Steve says:

    That new looks a lot like Ultima 3. I have never seen this new map before and I can predict where things will be from playing Ultima 3.

  6. Noviere says:

    It is weird that they released a few pieces of a giant map, none of which could even be pieced together. So it wasn’t really a puzzle.

    Still, I love how similar it is to Sosaria! Looking forward to the reveal 🙂

  7. sirklaus says:

    Funny this morning I was wondering how the puzzle pieces we’re lacking any script much like U3 map :p

  8. Toro says:

    This map looks like a step back from all the newer Ultima maps. It is more primitive in its design and the geographical features look artificial/man-made rather than natural. -1

    • T.J. Brumfield says:

      He mentioned that in the live stream, he has 5 episodes/chapters of the game planned. This is the map for the first episode. So there is apparently more to the world on the whole, but this is what we’re getting initially.

      He also mentioned Trinsic as a town name.

  9. Thepal says:

    I’m sensing some geographical upheaval throughout the lifespan of the game…

  10. Mark says:

    interesting design choices. I am struggling to make a conclusion. Why spend the time and effort to make detailed, up-close 3-d assets only to abandon them to a simplified world map once you step out of a town. Its as if the concept of exploring the land has been abandoned. I feel I speak for quite a few people when I say that full game-wide interactivity was what made Britannia in U6 and U7 so memorable, and what consequently made the games so great.

    Didn’t Neverwinter do this first in an expansion? I am starting to believe that they did a disservice to rpg fans by reviving what is looking more and more like a convenient way to make a game, while delivering a little bit of a watered down experience to the players. Let’s face it, it worked in UIV, because when you only have 10 tiles to choose from, there is little to create that is exciting for the player on the overworld map. This paradigm was shattered over 20 years ago though. I am starting to think that Larian’s offering might be more interesting, but I will withhold judgement.

    • Sergorn says:

      I really fail to see how and Overland map is incompatible with exploration. If anything I’d argue the vid already gives a nice sense of exploration : all they need are nice and interestin POIs.

      And yeah NWN2 did such and overland map in SoZ, and it was awesome – the best aspect of this addons sadly.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      As I recall, there were areas of Ultima 4’s overland map in which Easter eggs could be found. And as I recall, much as I love Ultima 6, its monoscale world had very few Easter eggs.

      All of which is to say: don’t discount the game in the basis of its dual-scale nature. Garriott worked wonders with that design for five games; he can do so again.

    • Duke says:

      There is also the original Baldurs Gate – That was just a map with clickable locations to visit – but it really captured the sense of epic exploration. If you strayed off the beaten path then you really felt that you were out there exploring the wilds and were rewarded by a lot of really cool content that you’d easily miss if you didn’t take the time to explore. And there were a lot of locations on the map that were really just there for you to explore if you felt like it.

  11. Mark says:

    i guess. it just would have been so easy to give us the original U9 engine with updated graphics. it is something the world has not yet seen, where as instead, it almost feels like we would be playing an ‘ultima’ neverwinter mod. i hate being so harsh, but i have been waiting for something like this since 1993.

    • Sergorn says:

      I’m obviouly biased because I am doing an Utlima mod with NWN2 and an overland map… and SOTA just felt like what I am aiming with it.

      I understand the perference for a seamless world, but personally I just think both approaches have their pro and cons and overland map can be just as immersive.

      • Mark says:

        Well you aren’t going to ask for 10 million on kickstarter, either. I will gladly play your mod, and find it great fun. but this is Garriott. He is supposed to be moving mountains here.

  12. Razimus says:

    Reminds me of the boxy Ultima 1 maps, nothing wrong with this I understand it has efficient purposes as well as server space is always bound to a square.

  13. Mark says:

    the more i think about this, the more pissed off i am. dual scale is a short-hand way to allow the player to buy-pass uninteresting or unpopulated areas. it is a mechanic that in un-immersive and, to me, only makes sense in non-interactive JRPG’s or old tile games of the 80’s. Dev teams have long since had the ability to increase immersiveness and provide the player a detailed world to explore. Elderscrolls has made this a hallmark. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, origin’s slogan was ‘we create worlds’ and in that Ultima book that was released, there was a lot of talk of pushing the envelope to create the most realistic world possible, and only afterwards filling in the story. If you look at EVERY single ultima mod, it has been an attempt by the fans of increasing the immersiveness of the old titles. But now everyone is defending what appears to be, by both mythic and garriott, to be a regression to a lower level.

    • Lord Eternal Dragon says:

      Dual-scale maps are also a way to allow the designers to focus their time on areas of the world that have interesting and unique content instead of spending hundreds of hours “filling in the world” between points of interest.

      Modern game development tools can speed this process somewhat with procedurally-generated terrain and landscape features, but generally still require a non-trivial amount of time to tweak the results so as to look as good as other locations in the game.

      I love the seamless, mono-scale world maps as much as any other Ultima fan. But it’s a trade-off; building a seamless world at this level of graphical fidelity is a very time-consuming, and thus expensive, task. Especially for an independent developer, it’s a better use of resources to let the designers and artists focus on locations which have more meaningful gameplay.

      A dual-scale map also facilitates having more dynamic content in the game. If the player fails to thwart an enemy attack on a town, a “ruined town” can be more easily swapped into the world than in a seamless world. New locations can be added to the game more easily as well.

      • Sergorn says:

        “A dual-scale map also facilitates having more dynamic content in the game. If the player fails to thwart an enemy attack on a town, a “ruined town” can be more easily swapped into the world than in a seamless world. New locations can be added to the game more easily as well.”

        One of Portalarium’s developper pretty much said this out loud in the livechat happening right now. They seem to want to offer this kind of dynamic change of content in location, and this most easily done with dual scale.

        -Sergorn

  14. mark says:

    These origins guys used to really push the envelope though. It could have easily been monoscale. Just look at what the Lazarus team did. They had ‘zones’ in DS. From what I understand, the construction of that game is more or less dozens of ‘town maps’ strung together. Using that methodology, they easily created a seamless world which would allow you to do what you mention above. Same thing LOTRO does. All still monoscale.

    • Duke says:

      The Britannia in Lazarus is very small though. As it is in Ultima 7 & 9 (I haven’t played U6 so I can’t comment on that). So they’ve already chopped out a lot of the unpopulated areas that were sort of represented by the overworld map in earlier games. This isn’t a criticism – it made for interesting worlds, packed with lots of stuff to find.

      A well designed dual-scale map can provide ample opportunity for exploration (see the example I mentioned earlier of Baldurs Gate) and also give the impression of a much larger world. Granted, a badly designed one (and there have been plenty of them) is guilty of all the things you mention. We just gotta hope that Garriott remembers how important exploration and adventure is to the Ultima experience.

      • Sergorn says:

        Agreed. A good overland can give a better sense of scale and vastness than a seamless world IMO.

    • Lord Eternal Dragon says:

      “Just look at what the Lazarus team did. They had ‘zones’ in DS. From what I understand, the construction of that game is more or less dozens of ‘town maps’ strung together.”

      Yes, and it took a very long time to build the world in Lazarus. I built the four regions which comprised Verity Isle for the alpha demo, which probably took me at least 200 hours. Building the terrain from the prefabricated nodes was fairly time-consuming, but it was the placement of each individual rock, tree, flower, mushroom, and tree stump that truly became a time vortex. The maps from the original Dungeon Siege game looked pretty good for their time, and that was because the terrain was only filled in along the fairly linear path through the game — just out of camera range, there was nothing. Applying that level of detail to a continuous world is a staggering amount of work. I also built Dungeon Shame, which was relatively quick to build in comparison.

      It can take a designer two hours to detail a section of terrain that a player passes through in about four seconds without giving it a second thought. Of course, if that terrain is lacking in detail and looks like a bunch of the same trees and flowers were randomly dropped there, the player will notice immediately.

      Claymore Dragon did the vast majority of the world-building work on Lazarus, and he did an amazing job — most of the Lazarus map was wilderness that players don’t generally pay close attention to while walking through it.

      As I said, I love the continuous, single-scale world maps, but it is a monumental amount of work to build them, and you need to either hire more designers or lengthen your development cycle in order to include them.

  15. mark says:

    Idk, looks like they are painstakinglycrafting the townsd dungeons by hand already. How much harder to procedurally generate the space between and then spruce it up a little? They aren’t building an engine from the ground up after all.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      As LED noted, the hard part is making it…essentially unremarkable. Purely procedurally-generated terrain and forests stand out and look off; a lot of additional polish and touching up is needed to make the procedurally-generated filler look like it isn’t just procedurally-generated filler.

      Ya know, the Unity devkit is free to download. Pick it up and try to build some terrain in it. You’ll get what I mean in fairly short order.

      • Lord Eternal Dragon says:

        Yup. You can fire up Unity and then sculpt some terrain, paint on some rocks, paint on some trees, and add some water within about 10 or 15 minutes. The result might suffice for a quick prototype, but you’re not going to get something remotely good enough to include in a game.

        As far as I know, Oblivion uses procedural generation to create the trees (so they don’t all have identical branches), but the trees are all hand-placed on hand-crafted terrain.

        Procedural generation can be a good starting point, but the real trick is in making it indistinguishable from hand-crafted content, which can often be nearly as much work as just building it by hand in the first place.

    • Lord Eternal Dragon says:

      It’s not a matter of it being difficult, although I think you are underestimating how much effort still needs to go into manually tweaking the generated results. It’s a matter of the amount of effort that needs to go into bringing the “filler” terrain up to the standards of the rest of the game and making the results interesting. If the terrain in between points of interest looks bland and/or repetitive, without any cool things to discover, then players will simply opt for the fast-travel system (or complain about the long travel distances if there isn’t a fast travel system).

      Having larger wilderness areas would necessitate having a wider range of models for trees, flowers, rocks, etc in order to avoid bland and repetitive-looking terrain. The team would need at least another full-time world builder to create and tweak the wilderness terrain, even with procedural generation. For the cost of these additional models and designer(s), the team could spend more time developing the focal locations in the game. For a smaller, independent team, it’s likely a poor trade-off.

      I’m also not sure how well Unity handles a seamless, continuous-world game. There are very good reasons why most games do not feature a seamless world and have transitions from one map to another. Continuously streaming in the world terrain and objects isn’t trivial by any stretch of the imagination. You can run into major performance issues if the engine isn’t designed for streaming large chunks of terrain. Working with discrete and self-contained maps is much easier and quicker on the development end, which again is important for a smaller team without an AAA budget.

  16. Duke says:

    Just noticed the Kickstarter rewards refer to a cloth map of “the new world in its original state.” Looks like he does intend for the world to change through time. . .

    Also looks like he’s planning to use runic language. Cool!

    • Sergorn says:

      He’s basically explained that in the livestream too. Seems there’ll be a new map for each new Episode, that will basically represent a “snapshot” of the world as it is at this point.

      So essentially Chapter 2 will have new Map showing the original are with the evolutions it lived and the new area brought by Chapter 2, and so on.

  17. Toro says:

    To me, this map is very flawed. There is no natural variability. Where are the different types of geography, geologies and climates? It seems very flat. The entire landmass or continent is just a big square. It also does not give the impression of a world composed of different cultures. The scale of it seems underwhelming, and by no means epic which is what we have come to expect from roleplaying games with open worlds in the modern day in age.

    The other problem is the dual-scale nature of the world within the game. I don’t have to say what others have said except to summarize that this breaks immersion and does not give a sense of scale or exploration when playing in an open world sandbox as has been standard to Ultimas since U7 and onward. I think there’s been an overwhelming amount of negative feedback on this regression.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      There is no natural variability. Where are the different types of geography, geologies and climates?

      Where were these things in most Ultimas? Only two Ultima games — Serpent Isle and Ascension — ever really bothered playing around with variety in biomes to a significant degree.

      • Toro says:

        I’m not talking about only Ultimas. Ultimas were heavily constrained by the technology of the day. And as you’ve stated, there are already previous Ultimas that have incorporated some of these ideas, albeit on a smaller scale than can be seen in modern games.

        What I am talking about is what’s expected of something in this modern day and age and about what should be done in order to make something that lives up to not only the standard set by previous Ultimas, but also the standards by which a modern player will judge the game.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        Well, it was stated in today’s livestream that the goal is to have the seasons change dynamically during gameplay. Would that be to your satisfaction?

      • Toro says:

        The fundamental problem is that when I look at this map, it does not spark the imagination as to what I would uncover if I explored those lands. It immediately makes me think dull, flat, square, and it makes me wonder why it appears to regress to a point where it doesn’t even meet the bar set by Ultimas as far back as the early 1990’s.

        Yes, it’s part of a 3×3 grid, so the world will eventually be expanded, as stated by Richard, but even that idea is a regression because you could sail all the way around the world in Ultimas released in the early 1990’s as well and now you presumably will not be able to because there will otherwise be no way to explain where these other landmasses came from.

        Even if the additional episodes introduce more variability to the geography, the center tile of the grid is still planned to look like an unimaginative, square landmass. Can you imagine how unnatural and bizarre that will look?

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        Heh…I guess we just see different things when looking at the map.

      • Toro says:

        Btw, forgot to answer the question about the seasons changing dynamically.

        To me, this is an example of a feature that could be really cool if it were more than just eye candy (for instance, one would require warm clothing in the winter). But if the rest of the game world is not a place I would want to inhabit, it doesn’t matter. It also does not make up for the flaws I pointed out.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      The other problem is the dual-scale nature of the world within the game. I don’t have to say what others have said except to summarize that this breaks immersion and does not give a sense of scale or exploration when playing in an open world sandbox as has been standard to Ultimas since U7 and onward.

      Ultima 6, actually. That was the first one with an open world, monoscale design. And while the issue has been discussed, a number of valid counter-points have also been raised. And you can still have an open world experience on a dual scale map, since the open world idea refers primarily to the ability to roam the map freely, rather than being forced into progressing through certain areas at set points in the narrative.

      Also, its worth noting that “sandbox” gameplay and “open world” design are…not prerequisites of each other. The sandbox concept refers to open-ended narrative design and a high degree of interactivity with the objects in the world. You can have these features even in dual-scale games.

      • Toro says:

        Yes, I’m aware of Ultima 6 being in a single scale. However, I avoided to mention it because while it does include some of the aspects I mentioned, these ideas really mostly came to fruition fully in Ultima 7 and later. Ultima 7 is arguably the most beloved game of the series as well, and it’s the earliest one that still has relevance in the modern day (in terms of design), in my opinion.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        I don’t care that much for Ultima 7…it’s about my fourth favourite Ultima.

        And while it did offer a somewhat more interactive world than Ultima 6 (this is where I grump about not being able to ride horses), and did offer more Easter eggs in its map…it also had some of the most uninspired and boring dungeons in the whole series.

        Whereas Ultima 6 had great dungeons, with real character and very distinctive designs and “feels”. This despite the fact that the dungeons were, technically speaking, located on separate maps. But: there was no load screen…you just walked into a dungeon entrance and then *pop* there you were in the dungeon, by the exit ladder.

        And at least based on footage seen so far, it’s this sort of rapid transition that Shroud is going to feature.

  18. Also remember that this is only one of five “continents”, so depending on how far away they are, we could just be looking at one climate region.

    It will be interesting to see what they call the continent(s), and the world.

  19. mark says:

    I have kind have been the standard bearer on this whole mono/dual issue. After having seen this post, I can see why they did it, grudgingly. There is still a hole in my heart for that truly visual , immersive world, as Sergorn eloquently pointed out as being a pillar of Ultima. Hard to believe that after U6 and U7 this ground would be given up, but someone will eventually make the game I am looking for. It is strange to me how much of a focus is being placed on story-line and the moral choice aspect of game playing. To me, Ultima never had a super-tight story driven structure, and the moral choice aspect was always just an additional layer of imeersion, as far as i was concerned. oh well.