Ultima Forever – The Ultima Codex http://ultimacodex.com The Ultima Fan Network Mon, 22 Jan 2018 19:30:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.2 http://ultimacodex.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-ultima-codex-favicon-150x150.png Ultima Forever – The Ultima Codex http://ultimacodex.com 32 32 33386326 Spam Spam Spam Humbug 95 – Alternate Histories of Ultima http://ultimacodex.com/2017/12/spam-spam-spam-humbug-95-alternate-histories-of-ultima/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/12/spam-spam-spam-humbug-95-alternate-histories-of-ultima/#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:37:49 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62682
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Co-Producers

This episode of Spam Spam Spam Humbug is brought to you by our Patreon backers; thank you to everyone who supports Spam Spam Spam Humbug and the Ultima Codex by that means. And, as always, a hearty thank you to our Patreon co-producers: Seth, Dominik, Chris, Violation, Adam, Erik, Thorwan, Pascal, Helgraf, Aaron, the Hearth of Britannia, Edward, Stirring Dragon, Cranberry, Slegnor, and Bruce.

New Patrons & Shout-Outs

We acknowledged Bruce in a previous episode, but it’s fitting to actually mention him and thank him here; he’s a recent backer of the podcast on Patreon.

And we’d like to also thank Slegnor, who recently bumped his pledge up a bit.

New Ultima Dragons

Facebook: Ruben, Cindy, Daryl, Dan, Salvador, Ian, Sebastien, Jeremy, Amicis, Jeremiah, Daniel, Vicssy, Jeff, Breno, Diogo, John, John, Matt, Wanis, Paolo, RJ, Amber, Mark, Ryan, Rayme, Jeff, Michael, David, Didier, Eddie, Nicolas, Michael, Pat, Joe, Cory, John, Daniel, Jon, Kerry, Luke, Andrew, Karl, Seer Hawkwind, Hawkwind Legacy, Tony, Chris, Andrew, Jan, Matt, James, Andrew, Petra, Matt, Rich, Markus, Peter, Glenda, Sam, Stefan, Daniel, Bill, Daniel, Steven, Tim, Dan, Tommy, and Phillip

Google+: Colin, Jason, Jihad

Podcast Topic(s)

This discussion had its genesis back in October, in the #topic-suggestions channel on the Spam Spam Spam Humbug Discord server. We started down the rabbit hole of “what it?”-type scenarios with different events and figures from Ultima lore, and within the span of a few hours had expanded into competing headcanons and comparisons of how various games — such as Ultima Online and Ultima Forever — had addressed changes to the continuity of Ultima.

Inasmuch as we can say that there is any continuity in Ultima, since the canon of the series tended to be a very malleable thing from game to game; retcons and contradictions were common. We come up with a few interesting ideas about those as well; give it a listen!

In Other News

A friend of Withstand the Fury’s donates to a charity called Worldbuilders every year. The campaign may have ended by now, in which case…well…apologies to all and sundry for the lateness of this and the vagaries of a publishing schedule. Worldbuilders is hosted by author Patrick Rothfuss, whom a number of you have no doubt heard of.

Be that as it may: the campaign had a set goal of $500,000, but as the end of it drew near, they extended the deadline of the fundraiser a bit in order to go from $500,000 to $715,000, to garner a top-up from a benefactor to $1 million.

If the campaign is still ongoing, please do consider supporting it; it seems like a quite worthwhile initiative.

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Music

Ultima VI Gates of Creation by OC ReMix

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Mythic: The Final Walkthrough http://ultimacodex.com/2016/06/mythic-the-final-walkthrough/ http://ultimacodex.com/2016/06/mythic-the-final-walkthrough/#comments Fri, 03 Jun 2016 17:34:22 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=59603 Nick LaMartina, formerly the Audio Director at Mythic, posted a moving video to his YouTube profile on June 1st.

This hour-long video features Paul Barnett, who ended his time at Mythic as the General Manager thereof, narrating an extensive walkthrough of the entire studio…on the last full day of its operation. Along the way, we get to meet some of the developers who were still on hand, and of course we get to see the many artifacts of the various games that Mythic worked on…including some Ultima Online and Ultima Forever stuff.

It’s well worth the watch, if you have the time.

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Ultima Forever: A Hitherto Unseen Piece of Art http://ultimacodex.com/2016/05/ultima-forever-a-hitherto-unseen-piece-of-art/ Fri, 27 May 2016 15:19:17 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=59553
u4e-rose-and-virtues

Purely by chance — I was doing a Google Images search for some Ultima-related artwork, but not specifically Ultima Forever-related — I happened across the above image at the portfolio website of digital artist John Cipriani, who at least for a time was in the employ of Mythic. (His site suggests that he worked on both Ultima Forever and Dungeon Keeper.)

Much of the art in his U4E portfolio is stuff we had already seen — portraits and areas that had been featured in other screenshots. However, this one image stood out; it’s not something that I can recall seeing elsewhere.

I suspect that this was meant to be the topmost room of Blackthorn’s Castle, which can be seen in this screenshot from the Ultima Forever alpha test:

 
U4E_Alpha_2012-07-10_22_15_55
 

It’s the polygonal rose that gives it away; the same rose can be seen in the artwork for the castle’s foyer.

One wonders what arcane experiments Blackthorn — or one of his subordinates — might have been performing in this dark and mysterious chamber. Would that we had been given the chance to find out!

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Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 21 – Ultima Not So Forever http://ultimacodex.com/2015/09/spam-spam-spam-humbug-episode-21-ultima-not-so-forever/ Wed, 23 Sep 2015 15:08:45 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=41102

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It’s difficult to find a way to start talking about Ultima Forever, I find. I was really heavily invested in the game — personally, emotionally — and even now I still feel kind of impacted by the loss of it. Of course, what I’m feeling (and, to be fair, my level of involvement and investment in the game) no doubt pales in comparison to what the Ultima Forever team at Mythic must have felt when the studio was shut down on May 29th, 2014. I don’t want to try and put myself above that, and it has been with considerable relief that I’ve seen various people from Ultima Forever’s development team end up on different game design teams…some within EA, some at other companies.

Still…leaving aside the freemium aspects, Ultima Forever was an excellent game, in spite of being unfinished. I liken it to Galaxy on Fire 2 in some respects; it might be a bit light, content-wise, when compared to the PC games that very obviously inspired it, but within the context of mobile gaming it stands out as a truly excellent example of just what the mobile platform is capable of, and of the excellent gaming experience the platform can deliver when a game really pushes its boundaries.

And in some way, Ultima Forever was something I contributed to. And I stuck my neck out for it, vocally supporting it to the Ultima community. And now, a year (and change) after its closure…let’s talk about that a bit.

Listen to the Episode

Always remember: if you’d like to recommend anyone for a shout-out, send us an email…which you can also use to suggest podcast topics, offer commentary or criticism about podcast episodes, and/or to volunteer your time as either an occasional or regular contributor to podcast sessions.

As well, if you haven’t already, you should totally sign on with the Ultima Dragons group on Facebook, or with the Ultima Dragons community on Google+ . The Facebook group is easily the larger and more lively, but that just means that the Google+ one needs a few more members posting content there on a more regular basis. Also, don’t forget to contribute to the #udic hashtag if you’re on Twitter.

As well, please consider Liking the Facebook page for The Ultima Series, following the Ultima Codex on Twitter, or encircling the Ultima Codex on Google+. And whatever social network you favour, please also consider sharing any content posted to those social media profiles with your own followers and friends; spread the word, spread the Ultima.

And if you like Spam Spam Spam Humbug, think about leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, or anywhere else you listen to us.

Finally, there’s the Ultima Codex Patreon. A $1 pledge will get you access to Spam Spam Spam Humbug episodes the day before they go live here on the site, and you’ll be helping me both maintain and — with sufficient funding — expand the server infrastructure of the Codex to better deliver all the things you come looking for thereat.

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A Year in Ultima Forever and Ultima Online: 2014 in Review http://ultimacodex.com/2015/01/a-year-in-ultima-forever-and-ultima-online-2014-in-review/ http://ultimacodex.com/2015/01/a-year-in-ultima-forever-and-ultima-online-2014-in-review/#comments Sat, 10 Jan 2015 16:23:46 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=21596 2014 was a year of triumphs and tragedies; Ultima Online began the year languishing in development limbo at Mythic, and ended the year with several new content updates released for it, a revived Counselor program, new staff, and an overall very positive outlook. The game has sprung back to life in some respects; it is healthier now than it has been in some time.

But along the way, both Mythic and Ultima Forever were lost forever. Though at least many of us were able to spend hours upon hours logged in to Ultima Forever on its final day, taking in as much of its story and quests as possible. And fortunately, Joe Garrity of the Origin Museum was able to salvage box after box of Ultima and Origin history from the Mythic offices; former Ultima Forever producer Jeff Skalski arranged to give him access to the studio’s former offices in the weeks prior to when EA would be abandoning the lease on the property.

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January

It was a slow start to the year, overall. Mythic pushed Publish 85.3 to Ultima Online’s TC1 shard toward the end of the month, putting some of the groundwork for the long-anticipated vendor search feature into the game.

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February

BroadswordOf course, Mythic was undergoing something of a shakeup during this time. The Ultima Online team more or less all quit the studio at the same time, and promptly re-emerged as Broadsword Online Games (which was headed up by Mythic co-founder Rob Denton). Development on Ultima Online was transferred to Broadsword, and it has been speculated that the creation of this new studio may have been the result of a last-ditch effort to stave off cancellation of Ultima Online.

Ultima Forever had not seen an update — or even a news post — in a while by then, and at the time I posited that this might have been the result of Mythic diverting effort to their re-imagined-for-mobile version of Dungeon Keeper.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in early February, EA shut down Lord of Ultima. This action proved to be something of a portent of things to come.

And while they’re not exactly news, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two articles that Deckard posted in the early days of this month: Broadsword, Ultima Online, and Dark Age of Camelot – a Commentary and
7 Questions for Broadsword about UO
.

Broadsword very quickly began to demonstrate their intent to take a different approach to Ultima Online’s development, posting job openings for a Japanese-fluent associate producer and four Japanese EMs and releasing Publish 85.3 globally. They also patched some bugs related to player housing and game tokens. And, toward the end of the month, they also announced that the long-absent Counselors program would be re-instated; the blue-robed Counselors would be returned to the game.

In late February, Mythic released an update for Ultima Forever, which added little in the way of new content to the game, but which did enable players to complete the Quest of the Avatar and earn the title of Avatar in the game.

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March

In the middle of the month, Broadsword announced that they had hired a new associate producer (Japanese) for Ultima Online, and also announced their intent to overhaul the game’s official website. They also released Publish 85.4, which actually brought the vendor search feature to Ultima Online. (Of course, the search system was not without issues during its first few weeks.)

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April

uo-greenlitIt was early in this month that Broadsword hosted their first State of UO Address, in which they clarified their immediate and longer-term development plans for the game. Enhanced art assets, an improved new player experience, and yearly content updates were all discussed.

Around the middle of the month, Ultima Online appeared on Steam Greenlight, and soon won approval from the community there. Of course, there has been no real follow-up to this success on Greenlight, and it is unknown whether we can expect to see UO released on Steam at any point.

The vendor search feature was patched and re-activated by the end of the month.

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May

Issues with Ultima Online’s character transfer system cropped up at the beginning of the month, prompting Broadsword to temporarily deactivate that feature. (They had it working again a week later.)

The studio also put up a job posting for an engineer.

Later in the month, Publish 85.5 was released, bringing changes to the Governor system in UO. The game was plagued by login system issues as the month drew to a close.

A small update for Ultima Forever was also pushed out toward the end of the month, correcting an issue with the game’s chat system. However, on the 29th of May, Mythic was shut down by EA, and ceased all operations as a studio. The closure seems to have happened rather suddenly — perhaps unexpectedly — and also occurred just as hints were emerging that the studio was ramping up to work on another RPG.

Mythic-real-flame

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June

Mythic co-founder Mark Jacobs shared his thoughts on the closure of his former studio early in the month. A bit of research on my part, primarily focused on LinkedIn profiles, revealed that in their final months, Mythic had put together seven different game prototypes, and had also pitched a mobile reboot of “another classic franchise” (albeit which one remains unknown).

dk-1And EA’s CEO, Andrew Wilson, publicly admitted that the Dungeon Keeper reboot had…not met the expectation of long-time fans of that series of games. (EA Mobile’s Frank Gibeau chipped in his own thoughts on that game’s issues a few weeks later.)

Mythic’s closure also impacted Broadsword’s work on Publish 86 for Ultima Online, delaying the release of that update as the latter studio scrambled to transfer everything UO-related that Mythic was still holding on to over to their control. But in and amidst all the chaos, UO producer Bonnie Armstrong did at least find time to release a new Producer’s Letter.

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July

Early in the month, a brief Producer’s Note was released, giving UO fans an update on the status of Publish 86. The Publish was released on the Test Center shard a week or two later. It was patched later in the month, but didn’t see wider release in July.

Broadsword Online Games also updated the Ultima Online Facebook page with a look at their offices, and all of the various UO-related treasures salvaged from Mythic held therein.

On the 31st of the month, it was announced that EA would be shutting down online services for Ultima Forever, and thus shutting down the game as a whole, on August 29th.

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August

The pending shutdown of Ultima Forever galvanized us here at the Codex somewhat; it forced us to prioritize various side projects related to the game that we had been putting aside for a while. So, for example, I was able to extract some game data — mostly art assets — from the archive files of the PC alpha of the game. And Fenyx4 busied himself with implementing a zoomable map of Britannia as it appeared in the game.

A downed Dralthi

A downed Dralthi

Oh, and if you were wondering whether there was a Kilrathi-related Easter egg in Ultima Foreverthere was. Not that it could be seen or reached in-game, but…it was there.

At the beginning of the month, Broadsword released a small Publish and patch for Ultima Online, to correct a few issues that had cropped up in the game. Bonnie Armstrong also published another Producer Letter, and Publish 86.2 was pushed to the Test Center shard.

In late August, an issue with the Yamato shard required it to be reverted 7.5 hours. And a second Producer’s Update gave some details about the Vice vs. Virtue event that Publish 86 kicked off.

As the shutdown date for Ultima Forever approached, I pitched the idea of “Play Ultima Forever Day”. Essentially, everyone who was able to was encouraged to log back in to the game for as long as possible, to give it one last solid play session before it was taken offline. The day was a great success; I spent several hours in-game adventuring through Britannia with Fenyx4. And during breaks in gameplay, I posted a few galleries of salvage Ultima Forever world art, including its take on the Stygian Abyss, the unused (and prototypical) Guardian’s Hollow dungeon, and the fortress of Vesper.

Ultima Forever was taken offline, permanently, at 9:08AM (Mountain Time) on August 29th. For what it’s worth, you can still grab the excellent Ultima Forever soundtrack on Google Play (and on iTunes and Amazon, actually).

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September

Broadsword began ramping up for the 17th anniversary of Ultima Online early in the month, beginning with the sale of a series of commemorative t-shirts. They also announced their need for another ten in-game Advisors.

A week or so later, another Producer’s Letter was released, and a job opening for a web designer was posted. Broadsword also released a few “how-to” videos to help new and returning players understand changes to the game’s account management system. Soon thereafter, Publish 86.3 was pushed to the Test Center shard, and it was announced that the Factions system would be removed from the game. A UI overhaul was also formally announced.

After a brief delay, Publish 86 was released on the Origin and Izumo shards, and Advisors (the re-named version of Counselors) were officially brought back to the game. As well, with Richard Garriott’s permission, Lord British popped up in some of the written lore for UO. This was followed up by the in-game reappearance of Lord British.

Quite a bit else went on during Ultima Online’s 17th anniversary; be sure to check out Deckard’s write-up about it.

The Ultima Forever forums were taken offline on or about September 23rd.

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October

October 1st saw the kickoff of Ultima Online’s Return to Britannia promotion, a yearly effort to entice former players to return to the game. Publish 86.1 was also released, adding various bits of Halloween-themed content to the game. And Publish 87 followed hot on its heels…initially to the Test Center, Origin, and Izumo shards, and then to all shards about a week later.

It was about at this time, by the way, that the Classic Client stopped being mentioned in the lists of client updates that Broadsword released with every set of Publish notes. The Enhanced Client was still mentioned in these, and was still receiving lots of work…but if any effort was being put into the Classic Client, it went unmentioned.

uo-vvv-vices-u4e-art

To promote the Vice vs. Virtue event, the Ultima Online team borrowed some art from Ultima Forever; it was nice to see this (wonderful) artwork find a second life in another Ultima game. And to the delight of many UO players, MyUO was resurrected at the official Ultima Online website, bringing back long-missed player and guild search features.

It was also revealed, toward the end of the month, that Mythic had reached out to, and worked with, key Dungeon Keeper fans during their production of the mobile re-imagining of that game. Say what you will about the games themselves; I don’t think it can be denied that the people at Mythic had genuine love for the properties they were attempting to work with, and desired to do right by the fandoms for each.

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November

In about the middle of the month, Publish 88 for Ultima Online was released; Broadsword were indeed making good on their stated goal of releasing regular content updates for the game. Publish 88.3 was released a week or so later, to address various bugs.

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And that, Dragons and Dragonettes, is all the news that the Codex was able to print about Ultima Online and Ultima Foreverin 2014. Here’s looking forward to seeing more development and content additions for Ultima Online in 2015. And hopefully Joe is able to find some treasures we haven’t seen in amongst the things he was able to salvage from Mythic, so that we might all get a look at them.

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And This Is Also Why It’s a Shame that Mythic Was Shuttered http://ultimacodex.com/2014/10/and-this-is-also-why-its-a-shame-that-mythic-was-shuttered/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/10/and-this-is-also-why-its-a-shame-that-mythic-was-shuttered/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 02:53:18 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=20673 Mythic-real-flame

Eurogamer has an interesting article up that looks at the contact that the developers of War for the Overworld had with Mythic’s Paul Barnett:

During the War for the Overworld Kickstarter someone from EA Mythic got in touch with Bishop requesting a Skype call. It was a call Bishop had expected, at some point, but he was nervous all the same.

“I had heard on the grapevine that EA might be doing something Dungeon Keeper,” he recalls, “after we’d started our Kickstarter, anyway.” Bishop handed over his Skype details, and the mysterious EA Mythic person video called. “I was like, er… I didn’t really know what to think.”

The person on the other end of the video call was Paul Barnett, an English designer who was then an executive at Mythic. Barnett, you’ll remember, played a key role in EA’s now closed massively multiplayer online role-playing game Warhammer Online.

According to Bishop, Barnett lifted an iPad up to the screen to reveal a new Dungeon Keeper game. “I was like, okay, interesting. I was relieved in a way, because I was like, that’s not competition for us. That’s a different market. That’s a mobile game. And they were coming to us and showing us. It was this guy. It was a developer. It wasn’t a suit with a briefcase. It was nice and incredibly unexpected from someone like EA to do that.

“He wanted to make sure we were a team of people who were passionate about the game and that we weren’t backed by some big, other publisher. He also wanted to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do as far as taking elements from Dungeon Keeper, which we were following already: don’t use Horny, for example, because that was a character they had invented.

“That was all fine. He was very friendly. We continued to have chats after that. It was all surprisingly nice.”

Indeed, Barnett and Bishop kept in touch…just about right up until Mythic was shuttered:

…following the launch of War for the Overworld on Steam and Dungeon Keeper on mobiles, their developers followed two very different paths through the dense and dangerous jungle of video game development. Subterranean Games is holding fast off the back of War for the Overworld’s success as an Early Access title. 15 people are working on completing the release version of the game, planned for February 2015. By then its modest but loyal community will have grown ever larger. There will even be a physical version sold in shops.

Mythic, on the other hand, is dead. EA shut it down half a year after the release of Dungeon Keeper. “That was a bit of a shock,” Bishop remembers. “I spoke to this guy about four or five days before that and then… I don’t know.”

Fate, it seems, is a fan of irony. A developer of the new Dungeon Keeper helped the developer of the series’ spiritual successor avoid getting into the kind of trouble that usually results in a cease and desist popping through the letterbox. Then the new Dungeon Keeper sparked outrage because it wasn’t the kind of game its spiritual successor promises to be. One developer is still here, sitting on a successful game. The other is no more.

Okay, let’s get this part of things out of the way: Dungeon Keeper wasn’t great. Well, no, that’s not true. The gameplay and mechanics were actually very engaging; it was a slick, stable title that ran smoothly and was fun to pop in to for a minute here and there when there was a minute to spare.

But yes, it was horribly monetized. And it was this horrible monetization, in no small part, that was the reason that it was best approached a minute at a time. Otherwise, all you would be able to do is log in and watch your imps hack at walls for hours.

But leaving that aside…there was something about the people at Mythic, something special. Even if the argument is to be made that they didn’t deliver on their desire to do something new and cool with the old IPs collecting dust in EA’s closets, they still cared very deeply about those old IPs, and the fanbases thereof.

Paul Barnett reached out to the Ultima community, to me, as well, back when Ultima Forever was in the works. He, and other Mythic staff, let me bum around the Mythic studios essentially unescorted. Heck…they even encouraged me to see and share some pretty cool stuff with the community.

And where they could, they went to bat for the fans. I can’t get in to specifics, but…the cease & desist ugliness from a couple years ago could have been a lot worse than it ended up being.

It’s a shame that Mythic had to close…and then for multiple reasons. But this might be the most significant one: they cared. Really, genuinely…they cared.

(Hat tip: Infinitron Dragon)

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Ultima Online: Vice vs. Virtue Banners Revealed http://ultimacodex.com/2014/10/ultima-online-vice-vs-virtue-banners-revealed/ Sat, 18 Oct 2014 04:33:25 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=20550 uo-vvv-vices-u4e-art

uo-vvv-virtues-u4e-art

It was purely by chance that I checked out the Ultima Online Facebook page this evening, whereat I noticed this post (which featured both of the images visible above):

Here is what those new VvV banners look like. Pretty cool I thought.

The art should seem familiar, and for good reason; these banners have all been created from artwork created for — and featured in, while it was still online — Ultima Forever. The Virtue banner is comprised of the eight Virtue tarot cards, while the Vice banner features several of the Major Arcana cards that Mythic created to expand upon the traditional character creation card-casting idea.

It’s kind of bittersweet, but it is nice to see some of the frankly amazing art that was created for Ultima Forever getting a second chance to shine. Kudos to the team at Broadsword Online Games for this keen re-use of game assets!

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The Ultima Forever Forums Are Offline…Basically http://ultimacodex.com/2014/09/the-ultima-forever-forums-are-offline-basically/ Wed, 24 Sep 2014 04:02:04 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=20297 u4e-forum-maintenance-mode

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and to be fair I’m not quite sure when it did happen. But all the same, the Ultima Forever forums have been put into permanent maintenance mode. Now, only a perfunctory farewell message greets those who browse there:

U4E ceased live operations on Aug 29, 2014. To all our players and forum participants: we thank you for your patronage, and for your contributions to the game. From the Gypsy, Lady British, and all the other citizens of Ultima Forever’s Britannia: Thank you for your time spent in our world; we’re going to miss you very much!

So that’s that, then. I’ll note, though, that for the time being, Mythic’s website is still up, and still advertises Ultima Forever. I should really grab copies of the media there, if at all possible…

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New Gallery: Ultima Forever’s Pirate Ship http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/new-gallery-ultima-forevers-pirate-ship/ Mon, 01 Sep 2014 03:32:43 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19826 u4e-pirate-ship-boarding-cropped

This pirate ship scene was actually used in two dungeons in Ultima Forever, although only one of these was of any importance to the plot. And given the nature of the dungeons in which the pirate ships could be seen, it was quite possible — likely, even — that players would really only explore a small amount of the ship…to say nothing of the fact that the artwork for the ship covered a significantly greater area than was walkable during gameplay.

Case in point. It's not a wide field of view.

Case in point. It’s not a wide field of view.

So here it is in all its glory, along with most of its constituent pieces.

A huge note of thanks goes out to Fenyx4, who took on the task of assembling all of the pieces into the completed ship. He did fantastic work, and was given pause only by the fact that there is actually one missing piece of the ship that has not yet been found in the data I’ve recovered from the PC alpha release of Ultima Forever.

For the time being, I’ve filled in the missing piece with its in-game appearance, thanks to a well-placed screenshot. However, the in-game view of the asset is slightly lower quality than the rest of the pieces of the ship visible here. As such, should I happen upon the original art asset at some point, I’ll be sure to substitute it into the final image of the ship.

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Ultima Forever Went Offline at 9:08 AM (Mountain Time) http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/ultima-forever-went-offline-at-908-am-mountain-time/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/ultima-forever-went-offline-at-908-am-mountain-time/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:06:47 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19806 u4e-offline-for-good

Many thoughts on this, and what it means for the future of Ultima. Maybe later this evening, time permitting.

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Explore the Map for Ultima Forever http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/explore-the-map-for-ultima-forever/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/explore-the-map-for-ultima-forever/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:47:28 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19800

Ultima Forever is still online for the moment, pending its cancellation later today. So why not explore this map of Britannia, as it appears in the game, that Fenyx4 put together?

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New Gallery: Vesper (From Ultima Forever) http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/new-gallery-vesper-from-ultima-forever/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/new-gallery-vesper-from-ultima-forever/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 20:26:30 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19787 u4e-vesper-cropped

The town of Vesper is inaccessible in the release version of Ultima Forever. Not that it isn’t present in the game; it’s located to the south-east of the Shrine of Sacrifice, but it can’t be accessed by land. Mountains, forests, and even a moongate stand in your way if you try to access it. (I think, assuming Ultima Forever‘s boating system had been preserved, Vesper was supposed to be accessible by sea only.)

However, one of the MYP files for PC alpha version of the game could be opened using EasyMYP…and inside it, I found the map of Vesper.

Exactly what events in the plot of Ultima Forever would have transpired in Vesper remains unknown.

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New Gallery: Guardian’s Hollow (An Early Ultima Forever Dungeon) http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/new-gallery-guardians-hollow-an-early-ultima-forever-dungeon/ Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:12:01 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19782 u4e-old-guardians-hollow

After the shutdown of Ultima Forever’s online services was announced, I took one last stab at extracting the game’s data files — which are encapsulated using Mythic’s proprietary MYP archive format — using EasyMYP. There was nothing to be gained from the MYP files in the iOS version of the game; these use a newer version of the encoding that EasyMYP can’t process. However, one of the MYP files for PC alpha version of the game could be opened using the tool…and inside it, I found these images.

What’s notable about this dungeon is that it’s a holdover, a relic from the earlier days of Ultima Forever’s development. There is no Guardian’s Hollow dungeon that appears in the game; indeed, there are no overt references to the Guardian at all.

The dungeon would really have been, by all appearances, a homage to other Ultimas in more than one respect: there would evidently have been a lot of serpentine art and decoration for players to take note of as they progressed through its depths. Some of the serpent art very explicitly evokes Serpent Isle.

The character art visible in the above image is what gives the age of this set away; the more cartoonish, oddly-proportioned characters date back to…well, early 2011 or 2010, I suppose. By the time that a few of us got a first look at the game in mid-2011, the appearance of the characters — and the art of the game in general — had been iterated upon.

Anyhow, you can check out the entire gallery here.

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New Gallery: Ultima Forever’s Great Stygian Abyss (And the Isle of the Avatar) http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/new-gallery-ultima-forevers-great-stygian-abyss-and-the-isle-of-the-avatar/ Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:35:21 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19777 int_StygianAbyss_HorrathBoss_crop

Over the course of Ultima Forever’s development and short release window, Mythic sent the Ultima Codex a number of exclusive art pieces. The four images in this gallery are examples of that; they are four areas (out of, I gather, many, many more) from the Great Stygian Abyss. (The cropped image, above, comprises perhaps a third of one such area.)

Also included in the gallery is a crop of the main world map, which offers a high-resolution look at the Isle of the Avatar as it would have appeared in the game.

Sadly, development on Ultima Forever ceased before Mythic was able to add the ability for players to visit the Isle, so these images are likely all we will ever get to see of Britannia’s greatest — and most feared — dungeon.

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Play Ultima Forever Day http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/play-ultima-forever-day/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/play-ultima-forever-day/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:25:17 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19773 u4e-day-banner

As the top menu of the site proclaims, it is “Play Ultima Forever Day”, also known as August 28th. If at all you are able, I would encourage you log in and give the game one last, lengthy play session. And if you feel so moved, please do take screenshots of your character(s) in action. Taking screenshots on an iPhone is easy: press the Home and Lock/Power buttons at the same time.

Image credit: Today's iPhone

Image credit: Today’s iPhone

If you do take screenshots of the game, I would suggest sending them out on Twitter; use the #U4Eday hashtag. And be sure to follow that hashtag as well during the day, as I’ll be posting to it myself…and then not just screenshots of the game.

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Let’s Make August 28th “Play Ultima Forever Day” http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/lets-make-august-28th-play-ultima-forever-day/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/lets-make-august-28th-play-ultima-forever-day/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:45:49 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19742 There seems to be some confusion between EA’s Online Service Updates page — which lists August 28th as the date on which Ultima Forever will be taken offline — and the Ultima Forever Twitter account (and forums):

 

 

Hopefully the 29th is the correct date…because there’s something I want to propose.

I think we should all — or as many of us as are able, given that not everyone has an iOS device at their disposal — take time on the 28th to play Ultima Forever for as long as possible. We should make August 28th into “Ultima Forever Day”.

Certainly, that’s what I’ll be attempting to do; I’ll be logging as many hours in the game as possible…in addition to posting a bunch of art from the game that I have at my disposal. And I would invite everyone who can access the game to join me therein. We’ll wander through Britannia once or twice more, do some dungeon runs, and spend every last key in our coffers.

And if the game gets shut down on the 28th…well, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to be in the middle of something in-game when the signal flickers out. We can hope, at least.

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Where the Kilrathi Were in Ultima Forever http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/where-the-kilrathi-were-in-ultima-forever/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/where-the-kilrathi-were-in-ultima-forever/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 03:11:38 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19563 u4e-title-sequence

In and amongst the numerous content-heavy posts that our friends at the Wing Commander CIC put up over the weekend in celebration of that site’s anniversary was a short — but highly interesting — piece of Ultima Forever-related news:

When Ultima Forever launched last year, there were rumors of a quest that involved a downed Kilrathi ship. The game’s untimely cancellation was announced without the easter egg ever having been found, but thanks to a little birdie, the mysterious relic has been revealed! Here’s the screenshots! So cool!

The “little birdie” in question is none other than former Mythic producer Jeff Skalski:

These images prompted me to go back to the massive PNG file I have sitting in a Dropbox folder, which is a full-scale (I think; its dimensions are 11776×11776 pixels) image of the Britannian overland from Ultima Forever.

When Ben “BanditLOAF” Lesnick had asked me — a couple of weeks ago, if not more — if I knew of the Kilrathi ship in the game, I had gone back to the overland map on the Ultima Forever subdomain and checked out the ankh-shaped island located due east of the Fens of the Dead. I had thought — based on a too-distant recollection of seeing the Kilrathi ship in-game whilst on-site at Mythic’s now-closed studio — that it was either this ankh-shaped island or the smaller island situated still yet further to the east of it that had been the intended location for the downed Kilrathi.

Unfortunately, these islands are barren on the map…or, at least, seem to house nothing so interesting as the ruins of a Kilrathi fighter. So I mistakenly assumed that the Kilrathi had been removed from the game prior to its being shipped.

But clearly, I was wrong.

I took the liberty of making some crops of the full-scale map for this post; these are the same islands that Jeff Skalski tweeted out images of:

As it turns out, I had been looking too far to the north. The Kilrathi crash site is due east of Serpent’s Hold, while the Kilrathi monument is situated on the island that should have played host to Buccaneer’s Den:

kilrathi-locations-u4e

I say “should have” above because, as you can see, there’s no indication of Buccaneer’s Den being on the island, despite the fact that an in-game map of the town is available.

But I digress.

It’s important to note that none of these locations is accessible in Ultima Forever by regular means. Indeed, I’ve only heard of people reaching Serpent’s Hold by means of some manner of game glitch which has resulted in their Avatar’s location being shifted thereto, and this glitch has not proven to be particularly replicable. Had boats been kept in the game, it would have been trivial to at least sail up to each island and grab some screenshots…but, alas, Mythic removed that mode of travel from the game some time between the alpha and the iOS soft-launch.

And sadly, I’ve no other information available to offer concerning what story, if any, would have surrounded the downed Kilrathi. But if anyone is reading this who was formerly a Mythic employee, I’m sure that both we here and the good folks at the CIC wouldn’t mind hearing additional details about this part of the game!

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Ultima Forever: Blackthorn’s Castle (Foyer) http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/ultima-forever-blackthorns-castle-foyer/ Sun, 10 Aug 2014 19:32:17 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19369 u4e_gameasset_blackthorn_foyer

Blackthorn’s Castle was a planned location within Ultima Forever more or less from the game’s inception. In fact, Mythic’s idea for his inclusion in the game was to show the first hints of his transition from an apparently trusted advisor of Lord British (and, subsequently, Lady British) to the Shadowlord-corrupted tyrant the Avatar faced in Ultima 5. Here’s what it looked like in the PC alpha test of the game:

And here’s how it appears now, in the iOS version of the game:

U4E_2013-05-25_20.00.25

As you can see, it is more or less unchanged. And unfortunately, it has always been inaccessible to players, and always will be now. Which is a pity, because (as is the case with much of Ultima Forever), this was an area of the game that featured some significantly beautiful artwork…the only surviving piece of which can be seen above.

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For What It’s Worth, the Ultima Forever Soundtrack is on Google Play http://ultimacodex.com/2014/08/for-what-its-worth-the-ultima-forever-soundtrack-is-on-google-play/ Fri, 08 Aug 2014 03:21:52 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19406 u4e-soundtrack-cover

I knew that the soundtrack for Ultima Forever was available on both iTunes and Amazon, but I had missed taking note of the fact that it had also been released on Google Play at around the same time.

The game is still going dark on the 29th of the month, of course; that won’t change. But it’s still a little bit heartening to realize that the game’s soundtrack — which, really, is excellent — will likely remain available past that point.

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Ultima Forever: August 29th Online Services Shutdown Announced http://ultimacodex.com/2014/07/ultima-forever-august-29th-online-services-shutdown-announced/ http://ultimacodex.com/2014/07/ultima-forever-august-29th-online-services-shutdown-announced/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 03:57:01 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=19361 u4e-title-sequence

The Weep prevails:

Strangers, Seekers and Avatars all,

While the past year has certainly been quite the adventure – in Britannia and beyond! – that adventure is now drawing to a close, as the time has come for us to say goodbye. As of Aug 29th 2014 (11:00 AM EDT), Ultima Forever will be shutting down its online services, and will no longer be available to play.

This was a very difficult decision for us to make. We’ve seen the game through ups and downs, and hope that you’ve enjoyed playing it every bit as much as we had making it! Through it all, it’s been players like you who’ve made it all worthwhile.

To thank everyone for their loyalty and support, for our last month of live operations, the following changes will be made to the game:

  • Significantly boosted Virtue and Reputation rewards
  • Equipment degradation to be disabled (no damage to worn/equipped items)
  • Increased drop rate of Gold keys
  • The in-game store will no longer sell premium currency (Silver and Gold keys)

We invite you to visit our Facebook page to share your favorite game memories with us. We’d love to hear from you:

https://www.facebook.com/UltimaForever

From Lady British, the Gypsy, and all the other citizens of Ultima Forever’s Britannia: Thank you for your time spent in our world; we’re going to miss you very much!

Remember and uphold the Virtues, always!
– The Ultima Forever Team

This is…profoundly disappointing news. Not wholly unexpected; Ultima Forever has not seen significant maintenance since February, apart from a fix for the game’s chat system. And the February update wasn’t particularly significant either; it basically unlocked a series of “infinite” dungeons and unlocked the ability to attain Avatarhood, a move which some took to mean that the game was being put out to pasture. Those sentiments have been vindicated today, unfortunately.

The official FAQ that Electronic Arts published concerning Ultima Forever’s impending shutdown is about as boilerplate as such things come:

1. What is happening to Ultima Forever? Is it being retired?
On August 29, 2014, EA will be retiring Ultima Forever on iOS devices, which means that the game will no longer be available for play.

Please see our official sunset announcement here on the forums.

2. Why is Ultima Forever being retired?
EA is focusing its efforts on developing new and exciting titles, as well as bringing new content and updates to existing popular games. As such, we had to make the difficult decision to reallocate development resources to other social and mobile games to ensure a continuation of the best game-play experience possible. EA deeply values all of its players and is dedicated to offering the most fun and engaging experiences across all of our current and future titles.

3. What can I play now?
EA offers a variety of other fun mobile and social games for you to try. Feel free to check these out on your device’s app store.

http://www.ea.com/iphone

or

http://www.ea.com/android

or

http://www.ea.com/kindle

4. What if I have an existing balance of Gold, Silver and/or Bronze Keys in Ultima Forever?
We encourage any player who has a remaining balance of currency to spend them prior to the game being retired on August 29, 2014. Any remaining currency left on players’ accounts at that point will automatically become invalid.

But of course this doesn’t tell the whole story, does it? Recall that not all that long ago, EA Mobile head Frank Gibeau had this to say about the mobile re-imagining of Dungeon Keeper:

“…when you bring in a group of people to Dungeon Keeper and you serve them, create a live service, a relationship and a connection, you just can’t pull the rug out from under them. That’s just not fair. We can sustain the Dungeon Keeper business at its level for a very long time. We have a committed group of people who are playing the game and enjoying it. So our view is going to be that we’ll keep Dungeon Keeper going as long as there’s a committed and connected audience to that game. Are we going to sequel it? Probably not. [Laughs] But we don’t want to just shut stuff off and walk away. You can’t do that in a live service environment.”

Now, I observed, in remarking on Gibeau’s remarks, that Ultima Forever probably didn’t even do as well — financially — as Dungeon Keeper did, and Gibeau interview stated rather plainly that Dungeon Keeper was no success in and of itself. But I took Gibeau’s comments about not wanting to “just shut stuff off and walk away” when there was still “a committed and connected audience to that game” as a potentially — if perhaps vanishingly — hopeful sign that Ultima Forever might also continue to be supported, or at least have its online services maintained, as long as the game kept its players and kept bringing in money.

And I know it still had players; I saw them every time I logged in.

But what it probably didn’t have was much in the way of was paying players. Like as not, the game fell victim not to its freemium, microtransaction-based monetization model directly, but rather (I suspect) to the gradual neutering of that model in response to fan outcry. Not that the original monetization scheme of the game was great; it wasn’t. Gear broke too often, and cost too much to repair. Loot (in the form of keys, the in-game currency) was rather more scarce, and the exchange ratio between Bronze and Silver keys was too unbalanced. And the key bundles cost quite a lot for what little they allowed you to do. And fans reacted to all this…rightly so.

Mythic, to their credit, made a number of changes over the course of the first few weeks and months of the game’s soft launch, as well as after its global release. But if anything, they were too gradual about it, and too unfocused at first. Simply dropping repair costs on items helped, for example, as did overhauling the item damage rate some months later. The thing is, those changes should have been made in tandem. Ultimately, it was the gear breakage rate that was the issue; as long as it remained high, gear repair was always going to be significant currency sink, even with lower repair prices. This, in turn, had the effect of making gear too disposable; players just wore out gear as they went, replacing it with whatever could be scrounged from chests in dungeons along the way.

What Mythic probably should have done was roll out the game’s vanity item store in tandem with the above changes, and then much earlier on. Granted, they probably didn’t have the development staff or budget to pull this off…but I suspect it might have helped the game’s bottom line.

I would suggest, as required reading for added context, Rock, Paper, Shotgun!’s examination of just how far $20 would go in Cryptic’s free-to-play Neverwinter MMORPG. The answer, surprisingly, was “quite far”; indeed, RPS found that they really didn’t need to spend the $20 at all; in-game currency doesn’t have to be spent on needs…only, really, on wants. Now, arguably, a desktop MMORPG is quite a different thing from a mobile MMORPG in many respects, but the point is that Mythic eventually set themselves up a somewhat similar freemium model that could have worked for Ultima Forever. It just took too long to get to that point, because they got too bogged down in dealing with the moment-to-moment issues with the game’s monetization instead.

Or so I suspect.

Could the game have been saved? There’s no way to know that, of course. But I think it could have had a chance. And its shutdown really is a significant loss for the mobile space; there are only a handful of decent RPGs in any mobile app ecosystem these days, and even less that actually have a well-enough-told story and a body of lore that players will desire to connect with. The current trend in mobile RPGs seems to be…card games, basically, that have a thin veneer of RPGness to them. How many engaging, open-world RPGs are there for mobiles? Very few. And now, one less.

Anyhow, there’s a lot of content that had been planned for inclusion in Ultima Forever that we now just won’t ever get to see. Whither Serpent’s Hold? What of the Abyss? What of the supposedly pacifist Druid character class, or the boats that could be sailed across the waves of Britannia’s oceans?

Well, as it happens, I’ve got a few pieces of Ultima Forever artwork sitting in a folder on my hard drive…things which never saw the light of day, and now will not see inclusion in the game. And since they won’t ever feature in the game, they really don’t count as spoilers anymore…so I think I’ll release them over the next little while. Here’s three pieces to begin with. Up first are a pair of rather silly images, showing off some of the outfits that had at one point been planned and built for Fighters and Mages:

u4e_fighter_lineup_01

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These are older images; you’ll note the presence of the BioWare logo, for example. And I’m not sure whether Mythic were entirely serious about all of the outfits depicted, although I suppose two of the Fighter outfits could have been Easter and Thanksgiving vanity items.

This next image, though, may impress somewhat more:

int_StygianAbyss_HorrathBoss

This is a part — a small part, at that — of the Stygian Abyss. Specifically, this is the quarters of the demon Horrath, who accosts the player in the opening sequence of the game and seems to be responsible for the Weep infestation that is consuming Britannia. This would have been the site of one of the final battles of the game’s plot…or, at least, the part of it that pertained to solving the Weep crisis.

I have more Stygian Abyss artwork to share, and was able to see even more of it during my visits to Mythic. It would have been a massive dungeon, genuinely worthy of its name rather than being just a little ten-minute romp through a cave-looking area. If there’s a part of Ultima Forever’s failure that I regret more than anything else, it’s that we won’t get to see the Abyss in-game. And, of course, that PC and Android gamers won’t get to experience the game.

That’s enough for tonight, I think. If you want to further discuss things, feel free to chip in a comment below…or, if you’re on Facebook, join in the discussion already taking place the Ultima Dragons group.

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