The Ultima Codex The Ultima Fan Network Mon, 27 Jul 2015 19:51:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dino’s Ultima Page: 13 Years Old; Information Updates Galore; Ultima Opinions Page Now Live Mon, 27 Jul 2015 19:51:03 +0000 dinos-ultima-pageSo here’s some big news: Dino’s Ultima Page — once the foremost resource for Ultima-related news, and certainly an inspiration for the Codex — was launched thirteen years ago as of today. And in a spirit of celebration, Dino the Dark Dragon has been making some updates to the page:

…I have resumed maintaining the information component of the site. There is still a long way to go, but a lot has been done last weekend:

Take some time to browse through the treasures buried in the depths of this website, from the treatise on the Guardian’s teeth to the interactive Ultima 4 dialogues.

And of course, take the time to write what you think about the Ultima series in the newly restored Ultima Opinions page.

That Ultima Opinions page is woefully short…or, at least, the list of fan-submitted opinions is. Might I suggest hitting it up and leaving behind a few thoughts of your own?

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #135 Sat, 25 Jul 2015 16:21:36 +0000 Greetings Fellow Avatars!

Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:

  • Architecture of the Obsidians, Part 3: Desolis Underground!
  • Very Large Creatures: Trolls in R20

Architecture of the Obsidians, Part 3: Desolis Underground!

[This is a continuation of A Dev+ Forum Post by Scottie Jones]

Hello all! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying this work in progress. Having crafted some of the last of my planned Obsidian-Architecture-specific objects, I’m now beginning the actual layout of the areas I’m responsible for building. Lord Tachys asked about level design choices in general, and I’ll be addressing some of that (at least for this specific area) as I show you some of the first area layouts. The last items I wanted to make, before creating the various areas in the Desolis Underground scene, were three different types of magical lighting used by the Obsidian lords.


Two hundred years before our game’s present day, the members of the Obsidian Order saw themselves as the preeminent sorcerers of their time, and forged their empire based on the use of such magics. They derived their power from the energies flowing out of the obsidian shards that fell from the shattered moon, lacing the world with veins of lava which seemed to conduct this energy from the Shardfall areas to a variety of locations, including Fate’s Lake in the subterranean chambers below the ruins of Desolis. It is the location of this lake that inspired the Obsidians to build their seat of power here, including the Chamber of Souls seen in the images above and below.


Since various colors of magical glowing crystals in our world can be harvested for use in sorcery and alchemy, it only made sense to me that the Obsidians would have used such crystals to craft undying sources of light for their more important structures. Above and below you can see examples of the three light-sources I created for general use anywhere abandoned Obsidian ruins might be found.


All of these styles employ glimmering, floating crystal shards in a variety of colors. Currently the colors aren’t meant to represent anything specific, and are simply used for beauty. These earlier images are a bit over-lit to allow the environments to be clearly seen in these examples. In addition to the light-sources, I created a few more elements that helped me build out these areas, including the angled stone supports with the Obsidian Order symbol at the top (behind the burning braziers in the image below, which I’ll eventually replace), the simple bannister design, which I’ll use in several places, as well as the huge carved stone wall panels inscribed with the names of all the individuals responsible for the rise and dominion of the Obsidian Order, as described in the “Blade of the Avatar”. Layout for this area was specifically inspired by the descriptions in that book, and I did my best to insure that the entire Desolis Underground level design was as true to the book’s descriptions as possible.


Below you can see several examples of the various hallways linking the primary rooms of the Obsidian Keep together. I combined different bits of the Obsidian architectural elements I created with the existing dungeon corridor set to make Unity prefabs to be used in areas like this. Though you can still see the more “generic” dungeon style beneath it, the Obsidian elements help to make these hallways seem different from the rest of the world’s dungeons. This, too, is in keeping with the fiction, which describes the Obsidians as having appreciated the older style of ruins they found, though they added their own style of architecture to them as they built the foundations of their empire.




Moving outside the Obsidian Keep, still in the cavernous underground,…you can see the edges of Fate’s Lake as it drains deeper into the earth, and the main gates of the entrance into the keep itself, which is built into the walls of the cavern. The scenes below are still somewhat sparse, since this phase is basic layout. Decoration will come a bit later!



Below is a close-up of the gates of the Obsidian Keep, opened to reveal the interior hall. To the right of this area is a fenced-off region separating the main entrance from a smaller side passage, where unfortunate slaves and captives were once driven into the terrible laboratories of the Re-shapers. Here, using the power of the obsidian shards, dark magic and alchemy were employed to twist these unfortunates into terrible, mutated monstrosities.


Here is the progress so far on the scene layout for the Desolis Underground. It seems like a bit of a mess in a few places, especially to the left in the unfinished cavern that will contain Fate’s Lake, but even as a work in progress you can see it taking shape.


That’s all for now! I’ll share more as I have the chance…

Scottie ^_^

Very Large Creatures: Trolls in R20

In recent Updates, we introduced you to some of Geoff Mellon’s initial work-in-progress on Trolls; our first very large creature. As previously stated, Poralarium intend to make the combat experience with very large creatures different than what will be found with normal sized opponents. For the Troll,  the dev team are working on equally large area of effect attacks that include a ground strike for nearby attackers and thrown boulders for distant enemies. Geoff posted these in-game images of combat with a Troll to the Dev+ forums, which you will be able to experience live in Release 20 next week:





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Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 14 – New Project Britannia Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:44:28 +0000 A confession: this episode of Spam Spam Spam Humbug is about a topic that has been a long time coming, and which (in fact) I have been far too tardy in getting around to publicizing.

SSSH 14 – New Project Britannia

A new framework to be built by and for the Ultima & Shroud of the Avatar fandoms, which intends to become the go-to resource for Ultima & SotA fan projects.

I wrote once that Neverwinter Nights 2 would serve well as the go-to engine for Ultima remakes and other fan projects. At the time, in 2011, it made sense to make that assertion. Four years later, while there’s nothing technically invalid about what I wrote, Neverwinter Nights 2 has largely faded as a viable option for…well…just about anyone with an interest in storytelling via game mods, and not just because the Neverwinter Vault  seems to have been taken permanently offline (despite IGN’s assertions to the contrary). Other, newer, and better options have come along; Divinity: Original Sin ships with a powerful editing toolkit, and Sword Coast Legends may also ship with one, as well. And then there’s also a wee little game called Skyrim, which supports truly massive open worlds, and also supports a lot of very Ultima-like features (including object interactivity).

There really is no existing game (and associated toolkit) which is perfectly — or even ideally — suited to making Ultima remake mod. No matter what ‘form’ of Ultima one favours, development based upon an existing game’s engine is basically all about compromising and cheating your way around the chosen engine’s limitations…to say nothing of the fact that what is being used is still the engine of another game, which in turn requires project teams to ask fans to buy a game they might not be interested in otherwise just to play an Ultima fan project.

Is there another way? Yes. Since the days of Lazarus, one game engine in particular has become the go-to engine for both professional and amateur projects alike: Unity. Back in 2011, Unity was basically an engine for making mobile games. Since that time, and especially since about 2013, it has really come to the fore as a powerful, versatile engine for making desktop PC games, as well, and in fact has been used by a number of game development companies, both independent and publisher-owned, to create a variety of titles (including RPGs).

And that’s what this podcast episode is about. We want to create New Project Britannia, a central framework that multiple fan projects can each contribute tech and artwork to, allowing it grow over the months and years until it becomes the long-desired Ultima Game Maker that many have wished for, which in turn could enable Ultima and Shroud of the Avatar fans to build their own games and projects using pre-made systems and assets. Eliminating as much of the grunt work of asset and system development (and world-building) as possible leaves these teams with more time to craft meaningful stories.

Always remember: if you’d like to recommend anyone for a shout-out, send an email to…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.

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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Crowfall: Founder’s Update; Playtesting; Confessor Powers; Spies of the Mind Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:26:17 +0000 There have been a few updates posted to the Crowfall website over the last week or so. Producer J. Todd Coleman wrote a short Founder’s Update post in which he discussed the work still being done to create the assets for player forts. He also let on that ArtCraft Entertainment have been doing still yet more fundraising (which is evidently going well), and that the company has hired a few new artists to work on particle effects.

As well, the first bit of website localization has begun:

3. GERMAN version of the website is now online and a German community liaison, Siamantha, has joined us. (The German site can be viewed by selecting the DE flag at the top right corner of our home page.) We would love to ask our German fans to please take a look — and of course, let us know of any issues that might have come up in translation! We need your help to make this site awesome!

Coleman also wrote another update about how ArtCraft are preparing to open up Crowfall to playtesters:

There are really two parts to testing our core combat features:

  1. Functional testing – Build a small test environment that exists for the sole purpose of allowing you to test particular items and features.

We started with #1 internally. We’ve done a ton of this, and I’m sure we’ll continue doing it… TBH, forever. Functional testing never ends. This part of the test process isn’t particularly interesting to watch (or, frankly, to do). It consists of loading the game and running through a checklist of items and features and logging what breaks, then waiting for a new version, and doing it again. And over and over and over again, forever.
This is not the part that you guys want to be involved in.

  1. Playtesting – Take those elements and ‘wrap them’ with some kind of a system to make the test itself more fun and engaging and to test emergent behaviors where the various features and systems intersect.

This is where it gets more interesting. This stage is often broken, and bumpy, and lacking in functionality — but it’s also where, every now and then, you get a brief glimpse at the game as it will eventually be. If you have the right attitude, those moments are worth it. (If you don’t then you really shouldn’t be participating in the test!)
This is where we will start external testing.

The rest of the post contains a bit of a tutorial on how playtester logins and character creation will work.

Up next, ArtCraft also gave us a look at their work on the powers for the Confessor archetype. The Confessor — some of her powers in action are pictured above — is evidently a fairly straightforward “glass cannon” type: capable of delivering powerful damage-dealing effects at range, but vulnerable to foes that can get into close-range.

Mechanically, the Confessor uses mana to fuel any power in the 1-0 position. Her left click primary attacklaunches fireball projectiles which explode when they hit something (or their lifetime ends) and creates damage within a radial area of that end point. The radius of the explosion is pretty small, so in almost all cases it will only hit 1-2 characters. Each character who gets hit by a Confessor’s primary attack fireball also gets a stacking (timed) debuff called Sin. Sin stacks don’t do anything by themselves, but they are pre-requisites that can trigger effects in other powers.

(By the way, stacking buffs/debuffs was additional new tech we had to build for the Confessor powers. Not only were stacking effects required to make Sin work, but it was also necessary to enable damage-over-time [DoT] effects from multiple opponents in parallel.)

The third power in the primary chain shoots three fireballs instead of one, in a V-shaped formation. We’re still playing with this until we get a formation we like. Another option that we are considering is having the three fireballs firing in the same trajectory, each slightly delayed out of the Confessor’s hands, basically a quick burst rapid fire. This could give her more control and utility, as she could re-target the trajectory with her reticle during the burst.

Her right click power, Zealot Rush, is the mobility portion of the Confessor kit. This power very quickly slides her 10 meters in whatever input is direction provided, WASD-based. This power is fueled by stamina and she can perform it back-to-back in a jam if at full stamina.

TL;DR Summary

The current slate of Confessor’s basic power kit is heavily focused on ranged-magical attacks. She has a few physics-based powers, lots of projectiles, varied methods of dealing damage, methods to avoid damage, and some fun combos. Our goal is for the Confessor to be the canonical glass cannon, dealing heavy damage when left alone…but better have a Knight (or other similar companion) around to peel enemies off her or to block for her because she only has a couple chances to use her get-away mechanics.

The most recent update (as of this writing) on the Crowfall website is actually, for the most part, a shout-out to author David Sirlin, and some praise for his book Playing to Win: Becoming The Champion.

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Underworld Ascendant: Shadow Beasts Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:10:44 +0000 The latest Stygian Sentinel — that is, the latest development update posted to the Underworld Ascendant website — features a mock interview with a Shadow Beast. Only a couple of these creatures showed up in the first Ultima Underworld, but they’ll evidently be re-appearing in the Abyss for Ascendant:

The Shadow Beast. One of the more memorable terrifying moments from the original Ultima Underworld was the encounter with one of these horrifying beasts on level 7. But what were these creatures? Where have they been since then? Our esteemed producer Chris sat down with one of the shadow beasts that are finally making a triumphant return in Underworld Ascendant.

I’d suggest clicking on through to read the interview in full.

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Wallpaper for the Week (Star Wars) Tue, 21 Jul 2015 04:15:47 +0000 So I guess the images in this gallery are actually all in-engine renders of assets from EA’s upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront.

But really…for a great-looking X-Wing or Han’s blaster pistol on your desktop, do you mind?

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #134 Sun, 19 Jul 2015 03:57:04 +0000 Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:

  • Architecture of the Obsidians!
  • One Month Countdown for Pledge Splits and Merges
  • Do you have a Public Cache Chest Quest?
  • NBNN Interview With Starr Long

Architecture of the Obsidians!

[This is a continuation of A Dev+ Forum Post by Scottie Jones first reported in Update #132]

Having created the primary building blocks for the large outer walls, I’m now moving forward with sets of smaller items I can use to decorate the scenes I’ll later be creating, and that others can use to add hints of Obsidian architecture to regions of the world that may have been touched by them. Here we have a set of items I’ve already determined we need based on some simple sketches I did for the Chamber of Souls.


In addition to these smaller items, I’ve also created a few new, larger building-block elements for use with the exterior map areas as well as the underground. The two you see below are some Barracks with an accessible guard tower above it, as well as my initial work-in-progress for the Chamber of Souls itself.



Here are these same items as seen in the game editor, placed on a somewhat starkly-lit test-art map I created to make sure all the materials were rendering properly. Eventually I’ll be testing them out on a much more environmentally rich map (such as Hutch’s swamp, as I did with the earlier wall pieces, to take full advantage of the softening effect of the atmospheric fog.

SotA_ObsidianArchitecture4 SotA_ObsidianArchitecture5 SotA_ObsidianArchitecture6

And lastly, we have the gloomy interior of the Chamber of Souls. The first image shows the scene from a floating point above, so you can enjoy the elaborate stone and inlaid metal floor dais where the Obsidian Council once met long ago. The second image is from the perspective of a player standing on the dais near one of the thrones, looking up into the domed ceiling.




Of course, as they say, “the devil’s in the details”… These spaces are all bare-bones and empty until I finish a few more details, additions, and decorations. I look forward to showing you more as I continue!

Scottie ^_^

One Month Countdown for Pledge Splits and Merges

As many of you know, the dev team have a very complicated pledge reward structure where backers with the same pledge tier get different rewards based on when they backed (i.e. the eras of Royal Founder, Founder, and Benefactor). With our announcement last week of certain pledge and pledge reward expirations, that complication just increased by an order of magnitude (or maybe several orders of magnitude). And over the rest of this year, there will be even more pledge and reward expirations, adding more and more orders of magnitude complexity to our ability to track which backer gets which rewards at which tiers.

Because of this growing complexity and the labor costs to manage it, the dev team no longer believe it is a good use of our backers funds to continue offering pledge splits or merges after the End of Summer Reward Expirations. Therefore, they are starting a 1-month countdown to get all pledge split and merger requests processed. Backers will have thru August 17, 2015 to request a pledge split or merger, after which they will no longer be able to do them.

They will continue to transfer whole pledges from one account to another. The only exception will be pledges that were purchased on Steam, or those where the Steam key has been claimed. In those cases the Steam access is permanently attached to your personal Steam account and you will no longer be able to transfer or sell $45 of your pledge value.

Do you have a Public Cache Chest Quest?


[This message that Lord British shared in Update #129 bears repeating as a lead-in for this article]

Greetings Avatars,

Many months ago, I began to see the amazing creativity of our community in the creation of quests. They were hacked in by players despite little intentional support from us to make this easy or powerful. Until now, live players had to stand in real-time to be the waypoints along any quest line. Likewise live players had to take or give any items or be the obstacles along any quest path. We began to explore ways we could create tools to help increase the ease and power of such community created events. Our goal is to allow players to craft deeper quests directly into the game world itself, to be able to leave clues in the world 24/7, and to have treasure (and ultimately protection of those treasures) that do not demand 24/7 live players to be ever present.

In R19, we are releasing the 1st features along this path. Writable books & notes and chest permissions open a broad new pallet for community quest making. Imagine for example, a community purposefully spreading a rumor about the local grave digger and his sinister nocturnal activities… players could write and leave notes in the graveyard they created in their town, describing how this grave digger bargained for body parts of deceased pets in graveyards in allied towns graveyards, or a specific person’s home. Sequences of notes could be placed such that false leads abound, and only carefully following the trail from the start will lead through the correct sequence. Finally when the ultimate destination is found, a new cache chest could be placed (which allows all visitors to take anything out of or put anything into it). The creators of this quest could stock that chest with pet call whistles that summon the supposedly restored pet. Pets that the gravedigger may have brought back to life!

All of these notes and cache chests must be left on a player owned lot at the moment and all “treasure” left in the cache chest must be stocked by the owners as well, but I believe this is an important first step in creating tools for powerful player created quests.

Good luck in your quest building, I look forward to experiencing and celebrating some of the best ones created in each release!

– Lord British

SotA_DukeGreagoir_iconDuke Gréagóir started a Release 19 Event Forum thread asking community members to post their public cache chest quests. As a fan of the public cache chests, here are a few excerpts:

Do you have a Public Cache Chest? Public Cache Chest Quest…

Duke Gréagóir: Let me know if you have one where I can get to it and I will drop off something for you in there…Mine is outside located in PaxLair downtown at the Pavilion with the Adobe Stables. Area: PaxLair (POT_forest_metropolis_01_paxlair) Loc: (51.4, 38.0, 197.7)…This is a NO HOST event as it is occurring all over Novia at any time.

Kendric Darrow: I have one in Owls Head, opposite Firelotus tavern, behind the lot which is used as a crafting centre. The chest is inside the house, left front corner…This is exciting!

Lained: I’ve one outside my home in Ashhaven, just follow the road left past the town crier.

Alexander: Finally have my community chest set up. I am located in Soltown in the Founders keep, near the cemetery. I also left a writable book in the chest with a simple message. The chest is outside, but not in plain sight. Look by the wind tower. Area: Soltown (Novia_R1_City_Soltown) Loc: (-147.0, 28.4, -96.5)

Spoon: Soltown. Right after the refugee camp on the right. Got them marked with baguettes, since folks don’t spot the difference between public and non-public chests. Usually fill them with good for new folks stuff and books in the other.

There are 4 pages to this thread, so be sure and check out all the community created quests!

NBNN Interview With Starr Long

Lazarus interviews Starr Long on about the upcoming Release 20! Starr talked about a wide range of subjects ranging from Chaotic philosophy to the challenges of building a narrative structure on top of a sandbox. Perhaps though the most intriguing topic was the news that we are experimenting with a new usage based advancement system for skills that we might see in game as soon as R21.

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Pix Plays Richard Garriott’s DND#1 On a Commodore PET Fri, 17 Jul 2015 20:52:44 +0000 Pix recently acquired a 2001-series Commodore PET. A vintage 1977 system, it sports “32K of RAM, a 1 Mhz 6502 processor and a 9 inch 40×25 character based green screen display”.

Richard Garriott’s Akalabeth precursor, DND#1, was written in 1977 as well…which fact led Pix to the following conclusion:

The PET first came out in 1977, the same year as DND#1 and it struck me that in the absence of a PDP-11 it was the perfect platform to port the game on to for an authentic 70’s gaming experience. Also since Commodore BASIC is extremely similar to the one used on the PDP-11 there should be minimal work involved. I took a lazier option still and started from an Applesoft BASIC port by Aaron Lanterman. Both Apple and Commodore BASIC were based on Microsoft BASIC making them almost entirely compatible and limiting the amount of work I had to do.

Of course, he had to make a few changes to the code to get it to work:

The changes I made were:-

  • Convert everything to lower case. Despite the PET only having uppercase it needs all the BASIC commands to be lowercase when pasting the code into the WinVICE emulator.
  • Remove most of the spaces from the code. Other than the one after the line number and those in strings, Commodore BASIC ignores spaces and since memory is in extremely short supply they needed to go.
  • Shrunk all the arrays. These all appeared to be unnecessarily large and caused out of memory errors in their original sizes.
  • Hardcoded a dungeon into the code. The original game allowed the user to pick 1 of 6 dungeons which were then loaded from a file. This wasn’t an option for me so I pinched the first dungeon from the winning javascript port at and load the data into the dungeon array. You get this dungeon no matter what number you pick.

But, as you can see above, he got it to work…and even played for a little while, to better form an opinion of the first in a series of little games that Richard Garriot would write, before calling one of them Akalabeth and putting a few copies up for sale at a local computer store:

DND1 is very basic and not all that playable but has to be worth a glance at least for anyone interested in the pre-Ultima dark ages of early video games. It’s not hard to see how this evolved into Akalabeth – convert it to 3D and they really wouldn’t be all that much different. As for playing it on the PET, it’s certainly an oldschool experience if nothing else. A bit of optimisation to get the speed up really wouldn’t hurt – I might take another look at it some time.

The game isn’t all that user friendly. If you do play it, don’t ask for instructions or it kicks you out, make sure your player name is shavs and enter 16 (or any higher number) once you have bought enough equipment at the start to go into the game proper.

He has also released the modified source code, the tape file, and the WAV file for loading the game onto real hardware. I’ll probably have to put together a project entry at some point…just as soon as I figure out where it should go.

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Ultima Online: Isamu’s Legacy Fri, 17 Jul 2015 19:26:12 +0000 As part of the run-up to the Time of Legends expansion, there’s another new piece of lore fiction — entitled Isamu’s Legacy — up on the Ultima Online website, again written by EM Malachi:

Sho Hill burned. Rondorin Castle was gone, devoured by a sinkhole caused by the nascent volcano. Falling ash filled the city streets, and hundreds packed the northern roads to escape the approaching molten flows. Messengers from the various daimyos had come with similar reports. Only tiny Zento was said to be safe from calamity. As the natural world tore itself apart, the odachi that had served Kimura Isamu so well was without purpose. All Isamu could do was follow the final orders his daimyo had given him.

The samurai was drawn from his brooding by a crash. An apprentice sailor had dropped a crate, spilling the contents across the pier. He looked up at Isamu with panic and started to frantically pick up handfuls of emeralds. Lost in worry, the sailor didn’t notice the wealth he was haphazardly tossing into the broken crate. Rather than reprimand him, Isamu stooped in his armor to help gather up the treasure.

As the bezaisen set sail for Zento, Isamu checked the worn scroll case strapped to his back. The scrolls were the legacy his daimyo had died saving from the archive: war journals, kenjutsu techniques, writings on Bushido, and the family registry. While only a dozen scrolls out of hundreds, they were what remained of the history and wisdom of the Rondorin Empire.

Click on through to read the rest; it’s available in both English and Japanese.

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Shards Online: June Newsletter; Pre-Alpha 2 Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:20:51 +0000 The June newsletter from the Shards Online development team was published earlier this month, and can be read in full here. Derek Brinkmann’s opening letter more or less sums up everything:

Yet another month has gone by and what an exciting month it was for us here at Citadel Studios. Our worldbuilders recently wrapped up the first pass on the Catacombs and we have lots of awesomely dark and creepy screenshots to show you. On the content side, we’ve packed the ruins full of crazy cultists for our next playtest, and Logrus has a prototype of the animal taming system up and running.

Of course I’ve been dying to talk about the stuff we’ve been working on for player run servers. We said we’d have them ready for our Pre-Alpha Admins by the end of the month. While we didn’t quite meet that deadline, we are really close! So close that we have scheduled our first Pre-Alpha Admin Roundtable. If you are a member of the Pre-Alpha Admin program, keep an eye on your inboxes this week for all the details on this event…. (the first of many!)

We know how important it is that Shards Online has awesome player run servers with active admins, custom rules and custom content. That is why we are committed to working very closely with our admins to make sure they are equipped to do exactly that. We’ve already recorded 3 tutorial videos for our toolkit and we will be running weekly live streaming events to answer questions and offer tips and tricks.

What does that mean for everyone else? Well, once our Pre-Alpha Admins are listing their servers on the main server list, our Founders (Pre-Alpha Playtesters) will be able to play Shards Online on these servers any time they want. Your heard right! 24/7 access to Shards Online by the end of July! Even though things have a long ways to go, modders will already have total control over the rules and content. I don’t think it will be long before we see hardcore PvP servers and zombie invasion servers and whatever else these crazy admins can cook up.

You can click through to read more about everything discussed above, and to find more screenshots of the game (and, in particular, the new Catacombs area, which is pictured above). But this is a good summary.

More recently, Citadel kicked off the Pre-Alpha 2 release of Shards Online, which is focused on the game’s modding tools:

Today marks a huge step forward for Shards Online. The Shard Server is now in the hands of our Pre-Alpha Admins ($200+ tiers). This means they are running their own servers and learning the modding system.

What does this mean for Pre-Alpha Playtesters?

As these admins get comfortable with their servers, they can choose to post the login details on the Pre-Alpha Playtesters forum. To connect to one of these shards, just put the address they post in the “Address” field and click connect. In the next build (0.1.15), they will be given the option to list their server on the main server list. This will make it even easier to try out these player run servers.

Access to Pre-Alpha 2 requires a pledge of $75 or more. Pre-Alpha 3, however, will be open to those who pledged at the $40 tier.

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Ultima Journeys: Honest Work, Honest Pay in Ultima 6 Fri, 17 Jul 2015 18:03:25 +0000 Linguistic Dragon has liberated the Shrines of Humility and Honesty in his ongoing playthrough of Ultima 6, bringing (I think) the first act of the game to a close:

I mentioned back in Ultima IV how much I enjoyed the aesthetic of the ruins of Magincia, especially since it provided such a stark contrast to the rest of the game. I feel much the same about New Magincia as it’s portrayed in Ultima V and VI. It’s always been the “odd duck” of the eight cities of virtue, whether it’s the ruins of the old city or the simple, rural nature of the new, and that feels rather fitting to me, considering it’s the town centered on humility, which is also something of the “misfit” of the eight virtues, independent of the three principles. Were I Britannian myself, I suspect that New Magincia would rank high on my list of favorite vacation spots.

It was Conor the fisherman who truly seemed to exemplify the virtue of humility, the only one of the townsfolk not to offer up himself as that highest of examples amongst the New Magincians, and uncertain of who to lift up as one out of reluctance to commend any of his neighbors over another. Antonio smiled when I gave him my answer, and pressed the Rune of Humility into my hands in reply – he had proven himself a good keeper for the rune, ensuring it was given only to those who truly understood what a humble man looked like.

Still musing over my experience in the village, we headed for the Isle of the Avatar and the Shrine of Humility that awaited upon it.

And with the shrine successfully liberated, his attention shifted to the checking out the Lycaeum and Moonglow, and had an odd experience at the Shrine of Honesty:

…it was a quick trip north to Dagger Isle and the Shrine of Honesty, which I found… unguarded, strangely enough. It was a simple matter to claim the last moonstone, and with that, I had reclaimed all eight shrines in the name of Britannia.

I don’t think the Shrine of Honesty is usually unguarded, is it? Perhaps the encounter just failed to trigger.

Be that as it may, Linguistic then set about exploring the Lycaeum in more detail, and re-connected with a former Companion:

Mariah was there in the Lycaeum as well, and after catching up for a bit I showed her the gargoyle book Iolo had been carrying. She recognized a few of the runes, telling me it was entitled “The Book of Prophecy” and that she had a silver tablet that she thought would help in translating the rest of it – or half of one, at least. She told me to seek out the gypsies she had bought it from to find out what happened to the other half.

Silver tablet, you say? Well…maybe in a bit.

…I sought to tie up a few loose ends before pursuing the other half of the silver tablet in earnest. I stopped by Lord British’s castle to store a few things and sell off some unnecessary equipment, then headed back to Yew to find Nicodemus and pick up a spell or two. In the process, I caught sight of some wisps, and upon recalling Xiao’s directive I spoke to them. They introduced themselves as some sort of interdimensional information brokers, and would be willing to arrange an exchange for knowledge that was “sufficiently dense.” They provided a sample of something they considered not particularly powerful or important – which turned out to be the Armageddon spell (!) of all things. Though I was somewhat dubious as to the wisdom behind it, I headed to the Lycaeum to find something they might think useful. My skill in wandering the stacks (which is fairly considerable by this point – numerous visits to Powell’s Books have helped with that) proved put to the test, but not only did I manage to find a book of Lost Mantras which might serve such a purpose, but also a copy of The Wizard of Oz, which I remembered being told Lord British himself had been looking for.

There’s only so much I should really excerpt, so I’ll encourage you to click on through to read the rest. As always, Linguistic has penned a lengthy and engaging piece.

He also had some comments on one NPC in particular:

… I’ve seen a bit of fun poked at the game and its presentation of humility here and there due to this, but I think there’s more here than just that simple statement. Humility is perhaps the most nuanced of the eight virtues, and that can be hard to capture properly. I think Conor does rather a fine job of it, though. There’s a quote by C. S. Lewis that the humble man “will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility, he will not be thinking about himself at all.” That pretty much describes how Conor is written to a T. I think it’s worth noting that beyond being the only one not to espouse his own humility, he’s also written in a such a way that he espouses very little about himself at all – most of the other townsfolk will gladly speak at length about themselves or their profession or their interests, but you hardly ever get more than a sentence or two out of Conor at a time.

And yes, he has even more to say than that, both about Conor, and about how characters in Ultima 6 are written in general.

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The Wing Commander CIC’s 17th Birthday Is Coming Up Thu, 16 Jul 2015 18:25:54 +0000 hd_wccic_birthdayballoons

Our friends at the Wing Commander CIC will be celebrating that site’s 17th birthday on August 15th:

We excited to announce the date for the next CIC Birthday Party: Saturday, August 15, 2015. Longtime visitors will recall that our actual birthday is historically on the 10th, but last year we began adjusting the event date so that it falls on a convenient Saturday evening for most visitors. We’ll be turning 17 years young this year, and you’re invited to celebrate with us!

The gathering place is our IRC chat room #Wingnut. No special software is needed if you fire up our browser client. It’s easy to pop in and say hello any time – it should even work on most modern smartphones or tablets! On the 15th of next month, Wingnuts should shoot to arrive at 7:00 pm EDT (4:00 pm PDT and 11:00 pm GMT). Festivities should last at least a couple hours with lots of fun stories, trivia contests and birthday updates. See you there!

The WCNews crew always throw a good get-together, and will usually have lots of hitherto-unseen Wing Commander-related stuff to show off. It’s all well worth checking out, if you’re also a fan of that series of Origin Systems games.

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Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 13 – Ultima On the Go Thu, 16 Jul 2015 17:30:16 +0000
SSSH 13 – Ultima On the Go

In which we look at ways to get the Ultima games up and running on mobile devices. This is relatively easy in the case of Ultimas 1 through 8…but what about Ultima 9?

So this is the longest Spam Spam Spam Humbug episode to date, clocking in at nearly two hours. If you’re able to listen to it in one, uninterrupted go…congratulations, and thank you.

It has been a couple weeks since the last episode, owing mostly to the fact that I took a bit of a vacation…in real life, not just from posting on the Codex. So, to get back in the swing of things, the SSSH crew sat down for a nearly two-hour long chat…ostensibly about getting the Ultima games running on mobile devices, but which veered off into a number of other topics as well.

You’ll really have to listen to the episode in full to catch everything; the show notes below will focus on the various means of running Ultima games on mobile devices.

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.

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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Last Batch: A Few More Ultima Images Subjected to Google’s DeepDream Wed, 15 Jul 2015 20:36:25 +0000 This will be the last I’ll mess with Google’s DeepDream, unless I get DeepDreamVideo up and running for myself…at which point, I’ll take a shot at warping a few Ultima cutscenes. But for now, what follows will be all.

It was fun doing the Ultima 6 image, and the Ultima 7 Guardian image ended up being particularly horrifying. Here are a few more stills, warped by DeepDreamIt:









Yeah, I think that’s enough nightmare fuel for a few weeks, at least.

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Star Citizen hat ein großes Interesse an Weltraum-Actionspielen losgetreten und The Witcher 3 zeigt, wie populär Single-Player-Rollenspiele noch sind. Wo bleibt also Electronic Arts mit Ankündigungen zu Wing Commander und Ultima?

Which roughly translates as (thanks, Google!):

Star Citizen has unleashed a great interest in space action games and The Witcher 3 shows how popular single-player role-playing games are still . So where is Electronic Arts with announcements about Wing Commander and Ultima?

gameZINE, for their part, seem to think that EA is more likely to pursue a new Wing Commander title, as opposed to a new Ultima, if it comes to that. Personally, I’m not even that sanguine; I don’t expect they’ll do much with Ultima in the near future (though I really, really want them to), but given that they’ve been so willing to shop around the Wing Commander IP, I think it’s even less likely they’ll do something with that property.

(Hat tip: the Wing Commander CIC)

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You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): Codex Dragon (Felicia Day) Has a Memoir Coming Out Wed, 15 Jul 2015 17:48:49 +0000 Felicia Day — actress, producer, violinist, and Ultima Dragon (she’s Codex Dragon; check the roster!) — has written a memoir entitled You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost):

From online entertainment pioneer, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to internet stardom, and embracing her weirdness to find her place in the world.

When Felicia Day was a girl, all she wanted was to connect with other kids (desperately). Growing up in the Deep South, where she was “home-schooled for hippie reasons,” she looked online to find her tribe. The internet was in its infancy and she became an early adopter at every stage of its growth—finding joy and unlikely friendships in the emerging digital world. Her relative isolation meant that she could pursue passions like gaming, calculus, and 1930’s detective novels without shame. Because she had no idea how “uncool” she really was.

They aren’t mentioned by name, but it’s well-enough known that one of the early online tribes she signed on with was the Ultima Dragons, back when they were still on Prodigy. I’ve no idea how much detail she goes into about her involvement with these early online communities, or what kinds of stories she relates with respect thereto…but I’m assuming there will be a few, at least.

You can pre-order her book on Amazon, of course, and also from numerous other retailers (which are all listed on the book’s website). Ebook versions are also available for pre-order. The book launches on August 11th, it would seem, and Codex will be embarking on a North American book tour at the same time. There’s also a promotion going on right now wherein you can win a signed bookplate, a poster, and a t-shirt; pre-ordering the book is the entry requirement.

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Ultima Online: New Dev Meet and Greet Schedule Posted Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:52:23 +0000 uo-dev-meet-greet
Ultima Online producer Bonnie Armstrong has published a new schedule for developer Meet and Greet events on the game’s website.

If you want to bump into the Broadsword Online Games staff in-game, be sure to check the list to find out when your opportunity to do so is.

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Rock, Paper, Shotgun: (Questionable) List of The 50 Best RPGs on PC Wed, 15 Jul 2015 16:38:00 +0000 Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published a list they are billing as The 50 Best RPG on PC…which is kind of a questionable claim.

Creating this list involved a great deal of debate and disagreement, primarily over what we mean by the term RPG. A game in which you play a role. In Doom do we not play the role of a space marine? In Football Manager are we not one with the fictional football manager who represents us in the game’s world?

For our purposes, as with all of our Best Of features, the scope of the genre is considered to be broad rather than narrow. Character development is important, as is a world with interactive qualities other than things to kill. Inventory management of some form is preferred, as is a setting that establishes a solid sense of place in which to play the role you develop and inhabit.

You can find the full list here. I don’t know how Dark Souls managed to grab the #1 spot, but it did:

If it’s not the most punishing RPG ever made, then what is it? Among other things, the Souls games are an intimidatingly assured re-invention of dungeon crawling and, in fact, the entire concept of dungeons in RPGs. Everything from enemy placement to the twisted lay of the land contributes to the challenge of the game, and to the lore that is stitched into the fabric of the world. The combat system is exemplary, combining inch-perfect animations, timings and agonising tension to make every encounter memorable. Stats are almost invisibly woven into the build of your character, whose abilities and proficiencies are recognisable at a glance, and whose behaviours you’ll adopt and modify as you go, creating and fussing at the role you’re playing without the need for dialogue or morality meters. There are details as well as broad strokes, for those who choose to pick at them, and those details are devilishly satisfying.

It’s a mark of the game’s quality that completing a single playthrough feels like a great achievement but that there are people who continue to play, time after time, and continue to learn. Dark Souls teaches you how to play as you travel through its horrors and mysteries, but it also teaches you how to read games, making you alert to the fact that every texture and scrap of flavour text can contain clues. Those clues might save your life, point you toward a diversion or shortcut, or they might help you to understand that there’s meaning and history in every part of the world. You just have to look closely. Pay attention and you’ll find the choices no character points out, and discover consequences whose warning signs you were keen to overlook, an optimist in a dying world.

If I read this correctly, the argument seems to be that Dark Souls is the best RPG precisely because the RPG elements thereof are hidden from view and are discernible primarily via effect rather than via player intervention therein? Essentially, it’s the best RPG because it tries hard not to seem like an RPG?

Do I read that correctly?

Meh…at least one Ultima title cracks the Top 5 (Ultima 7, in particular). And does anyone else find it amusing that they used Ultima 5’s map for their header image (seen above), but didn’t include Utima 5 anywhere on the list proper?

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And Here’s The Iconic Image of the Guardian From Ultima 7’s Intro, Subjected to DeepDream Tue, 14 Jul 2015 20:45:40 +0000 u7-intro-deepdream

Now this…this is the stuff of nightmares.

(For the original article I wrote about DeepDream, see here.)

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What Happens When You Run Ultima 6’s Intro Through Google’s DeepDream? Tue, 14 Jul 2015 13:49:55 +0000 ultima-6-intro-deep-dream

Terrible, nightmarish things happen…that’s what.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, DeepDream is a new visualization tool created by Google engineers to study how neural networks carry out visualization tasks. It also creates very wild, vivid images (the end result of DeepDream processing would probably not seem out of place in a movie like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)…or, rather, distortions of images; running DeepDream on images has become something of a thing on the Internet.

So, I decided to see what DeepDream did to a still from the Ultima 6 intro. The results are…well…there’s a bird, see?

The IPython code for DeepDream can be found here if you want to set it up for yourself. There’s also a reworking of the code for use on videos, which I might have to try on e.g. the Ultima 9 intro at some point. I used to make the image above (it takes a while; you submit the image, and they email it to you some number of hours later…once it has worked its way through the processing queue), though if I keep working on this I’ll probably run the code locally instead.

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