The Ultima Codex | The Ultima Codex The Ultima Fan Network Wed, 16 Apr 2014 02:04:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why Are There So Few Fan-Made Ultima Music Videos? Wed, 16 Apr 2014 02:04:16 +0000 stones

Kevin Fishburne, it would seem, has charitably forgiven my tardiness in reporting on Sanctimonia…or, at least, I infer as much from this comment he left on the recent article about it. Of course, in that same comment, he deflects matters onto what I agree is a far more dire and concerning oversight:

What’s truly embarrassing and unacceptable is that so few have made Ultima Music Videos. AMV is a term unto itself, but UMV? The Space Bards video is the gold standard from what I’ve seen so far, but we need more. Here’s mine, though without original music so it’s more like a traditional AMV but with Ultima:

I challenge all Ultima fans who are able to mix videos of Ultima and music and produce more UMV’s. Let Gundam fans quake at the prospect of their videos being overrun by Ultima!

For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym, “AMV” stands for “Anime Music Videos“, which are — as you can well imagine — fan-made videos that splice together various clips from anime movies and television shows to serve as a music video for a chosen song.

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Goldenflame Dragon’s Ultima Underworld Walkthrough is Finished! Tue, 15 Apr 2014 04:01:30 +0000 ultima-underworld-title

Well, this was a reasonably long time in coming. Goldenflame Dragon has been slogging through Ultima Underworld for some months now, in an attempt to build a comprehensive walkthrough for the game…and he has finally finished that endeavour.

Naturally, you can find it in its entirety at Tumbolian.

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Which Notable Ultima Artworks Wouldst Thou Like to See Vectorized? Tue, 15 Apr 2014 03:53:25 +0000 ultima5_stateoftherealm

Golem Dragon posted a question in the Ultima Dragons Facebook group last week:

Ok I need some feedback fellow dragons… What Ultima Art would you like to see vectorized so it can be scaled to any size for all sorts of fun uses…

You may recall that Golem has already vectorized a piece of artwork from the Ultima 5 manual, so his talent at that enterprise has already been demonstrated rather keenly. Feel free to drop your requests/suggestions here…or on Facebook.

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Shroud of the Avatar – SotA Forum Limited Edition Art Print Poll Sat, 12 Apr 2014 02:48:04 +0000 Good Evening one and all… I wanted to post this sooner but as I am sure you all can understand, life has gotten insane around here this month… Not only did I miss the live stream of the one year anniversary, but I missed most of the Deep Dive videos as well. I sure am grateful for YouTube.

One post in the Shroud of the Avatar forums was made not too long ago by the Lead Concept Artist, Stephen Daniele. The idea was floated of offering the chance for the Shroud of the Avatar community to vote on which concept art piece would be considered if Portalarium would decide to have a  Limited Edition Art printing done.  Now this would be a REAL limited edition art printing – ie: no future re-printings like some businesses do.

The art would be on archival paper so it will last and will be numbered and signed by Stephen himself.  He even gives some details on the current thinking as to size of the piece and other details.  Being a one time printing only would this a truly unique and a one of a kind collector’s item.  As a historian and an artist, these opportunities are something I adore seeing as so many companies fall into the trap of re-printing limited edition art multiple times, thus reducing the value of the art.
Now please note, this is not a promise or a guarantee that Portalarium will be doing this. However, I would highly encourage everyone to vote in the poll as I think this is a great opportunity for Steven’s hard-work to be immortalized.  Concept Art is not something that fans and players get to see for many games.  There has been a trend lately to share some of it, often only in “collector’s editions”, pre-orders, or other special situations.

Below are the five concept arts in the poll.  VOTE NOW because the poll closes the end of April.  I know what my favorite is… what is yours?  Feel free to share by commenting below.


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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #68 – 04/11/14: Anniversary Recap, New Asset Pack, More Basements, Duke & Baron Crowns, and More! Sat, 12 Apr 2014 02:19:05 +0000 Happy Friday and Welcome my Friends and Fellow Avatars!The new Update of the Avatar has been posted and here’s what Portalarium has for us in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:

  • One-Year Anniversary Recap
  • Dev+ House Pack #2
  • Lord of the Manor’s 2-Story Castle Stone Basement
  • Founder Duke Crown
  • Founder Baron 2 & 3 Crown
  • Benefactor Baron Bed
  • Benefactor Tunic
  • Village Stone Arena Basement
  • Castle Stone & Timber Split-Level 5-Story Basement
  • Rustic 2-Story Village Home
  • Wood & Plaster 2-Story with Overhang Village Home
  • Blade of the Avatar Novel: Chapter 17
  • Alienware $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupons and Release 5 Access Keys
  • Upcoming Events


Shroud of the Avatar One Year Anniversary Recap and Videos

The One-Year Anniversary Telethon was an amazing success, raising over $95,000 and setting a new record for post-Kickstarter single-day funding! The day was filled with tons of community interaction, prize giveaways, and the usual zany antics that seem to be a common theme running through SotA Telethons. If you missed the live streams, you can watch the videos here, as well as below!

One year ago, at the conclusion of the successful Kickstarter campaign, the dev team wrote these words:

Wow! Words can’t adequately express how overwhelmed we are with the incredible outpouring of support and dedication that all of you gave to the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter campaign, and to all of us on the SotA Team! Because of your incredible support, we raised a total of $2.03M, double our original goal!

But it didn’t stop there! Over the past year the community and backers raised another $1.95M, bringing the total funds raised to $3.98M! The team have plowed every nickle of those additional funds back into the development of Shroud of the Avatar through new content and enhanced features. They even added more team members, and at 31 members the team is more than doubled in size compared to a year ago.

Developer+ House Pack #2


James Cousar has pulled together the latest Unity Asset Pack, House Pack #2.  Asset packs are included in the Developer pledge rewards (and above). This asset pack contains:

James (aka “Thud” in the forums) posted the availability of House Pack #2 on the forums. Here’s an excerpt:

Our second housing pack features a set of SotA buildings suitable for use on land, sea, and coast. Each can be imported into a Unity project separately. Each house set includes a prefab to make placing them as convenient as possible.

Our Village Lighthouse is a must for any seaside map, warning ships away from dangerous rocks and reefs. Anyone living on the luxurious House Boat will certainly appreciate the warning. Those more interested in raiding across the seas than partying on them will still enjoy coming home to the beautifully engraved Viking Village house, complete with free-standing stone hearth. The larger, Town version of our Tower home offers a regal view of your surroundings and the sturdy, two story Knight Benefactor house rounds out the collection.

If you have a Developer (or higher) pledge level, click here to download the Unity Asset House Pack #2.

If you missed Unity House Pack #1, Dev+ members can download it here.

More Developer Tools

Justin Gilbert (aka oneandonly in the forums), provided a Multi-Shader tool for artists in the Developer Depot forum (available at Founder pledge tier and above):

Multi-Shader – This is the first in hopefully a series of developer tools that we would like to share with anyone who is interested in creating art for us. It is a set of shaders that we use internally for a majority of our materials. Documentation and an example is included in the package.

[Check out the full post in the forums]

Lord of the Manor’s 2-Story Castle Stone Basement

Bill Kirkman has delivered several new basements for this week’s update, including this 2-story Castle Stone Basement, included in the Lord of the Manor pledge rewards:

SotA_LotM_Castle_Stone_2Story_Basement_top SotA_LotM_Castle_Stone_2Story_Basement_interior3 SotA_LotM_Castle_Stone_2Story_Basement_interior2 SotA_LotM_Castle_Stone_2Story_Basement_interior1 SotA_LotM_Castle_Stone_2Story_Basement

Founder Duke Crown

Included in the Founder rewards of the Duke pledge tier is this regal crown, uniquely identifying you as a Founder Duke:


Founder Baron 2 & 3 Crown

This majestic crown is included in the Founder rewards of the Baron 2 & 3 pledge tier, uniquely identifying you as a Founder High Baron:


Benefactor Baron Bed

Included in the rewards of the Baron 1/2/3 pledge tier is this regal 4-poster bed, an in-game decoration for your home, uniquely identifiable as Benefactor:


Benefactor Tunic

Included in the Founder pledge tier rewards is this special tunic for your in-game avatar to wear, proudly displaying unique symbology identifying you as a Benefactor:


Village Stone Arena Basement

Continuing the Arena basement line is the Village Stone Arena Basement. The enormous central room can be utilized to host combat tournaments or as a Grand Hall for Lordly feasts!

The Village Stone Arena Basement is available at an introductory 25% off in the Add-On Store!

(NOTE: You will need a Village Level Property to place the Village Stone Arena Basement in-game)

SotA_Village_Arena_Basement_exterior2 SotA_Village_Arena_Basement_exterior1 SotA_Village_Arena_Basement_interior3 SotA_Village_Arena_Basement_interior2 SotA_Village_Arena_Basement_interior1

Castle Stone & Timber Split-Level 5-Story Basement

Bill put a lot of work into this massive, 5-Story Castle Stone & Timber Split-Level Basement, now available in the Add-On Store at an introductory 25% off. The combined square footage is approaching that of 4 football fields (that ought to be enough space for Smack to store his stuff):

SotA_Castle_StoneTimber_5Story_Basement_exterior2 SotA_Castle_StoneTimber_5Story_Basement_exterior3 SotA_Castle_StoneTimber_5Story_Basement_exterior1 SotA_Castle_StoneTimber_5Story_Basement_interior1 SotA_Castle_StoneTimber_5Story_Basement_interior4 SotA_Castle_StoneTimber_5Story_Basement_interior2 SotA_Castle_StoneTimber_5Story_Basement_interior3

Rustic 2-Story Village Home

The Dev Team is continuing a line of rustic homes with this picturesque, 2-story, 3-room village home, now available in the Add-On Store (you may have seen this house in Braemar):









Get Your Rustic 2-Story Village Home Now for 50% off!

For a limited time you can get 50% off this home!  Reserve yours (or send as a gift) at the Add-On Store!

Wood & Plaster 2-Story with Overhang Village Home

Next up is a Wood & Plaster homes is this 2-story, 4-room village home , now available in the Add-On Store (also used as the College of Arms building in Owl’s Head).  As a member of the College of Arms myself as a Heraldric Artist, I have spent time checking this building out a bit myself… I love this this home and even I am tempting to get it myself if I can scrape together the funds.













Get Your Wood & Plaster 2-Story with Overhang Village Home Now for 50% off!

For a limited time the team is offering 50% off this home!  Reserve yours (or send as a gift) at the Add-On Store!

Blade of the Avatar Novel

BotA_smallThe latest installment of the serialized SotA novel, Blade of the Avatar (BotA), written by Tracy Hickman & Richard Garriott, is now available for download! If you are a Founder, or you purchased BotA in the Add-On Store, then you will find a download link for the current installment of the novel on your personal SotA account page (log into SotA website and click on “Account” in the top-right corner).  If you are a Kickstarter backer you’ll need to have your Kickstarter account linked to the SotA website (click here for instructions to link your Kickstarter account).

Here is a brief excerpt of the latest installment (illustration by Denis Loubet):

Chapter 17: Unwilling Help

“Jackals,” Trevan roared, slamming his fist down on the wide table, causing the various maps scattered across its surface to jump. “Worse than jackals … carrion birds at the heels of jackals!”

Syenna picked up the scroll before it had stopped rocking back and forth on the top of the table. They stood in the map room of the Legion Barracks

“This missive,” Syenna said as she unrolled it. “They cannot possibly mean what you say.”

“Oh, they mean it, all right!” Trevan pushed himself away from the table and began pacing once more behind it. “Read it! It’s all there in the fifth paragraph from the top!”

Syenna’s eyes moved down the page. In moments, she found the section and began to read aloud. “It says, ‘The Warlords of Resolute sympathize with the concerns of their fellow noble warriors of the South Paladis, but reports of military activities throughout the region have caused the Council in Resolute to reevaluate their strategic position against these insurgents of unknown strength and location.’ ”

“Keep reading!” Trevan seethed.

“ ‘The Council is resolved to abide by their agreements with the Elders of Opalis, their rightful representation of the Titans who rule them, and the people whom they protect and shall, in due course and at the proper time, support the cause of their defense with,’ ” Syenna paused, glancing over the top of the scroll at Trevan. “What does this mean, ‘in due course and at the proper time’?”

Download your copy of the latest installment of BotA to read the rest of this exciting chapter!

Map Reveal

For your map puzzle collection:



Alienware Sponsors $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupon

Alienware’s powerful gaming rigs are a perfect match for Shroud of the Avatar! To show their support, Alienware is sponsoring $20 SotA Pledge Upgrade Coupons to members of their Alienware Arena community!

These coupons can be used to start a SotA pledge account (for new backers), or to add $20 to an existing pledge account. If, for example, you have a $90 Royal Artisan Pledge, you can use the Alienware coupon to bump you up to a $110 Virtual Collector Pledge.

Pretty sweet deal, right? So, hurry over to the Alienware Arena website and get your $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupon now!

[NOTE: Only one Alienware Pledge Upgrade Coupon can be used per account. Coupon does not apply to Add-On Store items]

Alienware Sponsors 1000 Release 5 Weekend Access Keys

Every week for four weeks, starting March 24th, 250 members of the Alienware Arena Shroud of the Avatar Group will receive Weekend Access Keys to SotA Release 5, scheduled for April 24-27.

Access Key Giveaway Periods (does not reflect game availability dates):

  • March 24 – 30 (completed)
  • March 31 – April 6 (completed)
  • April 7 – 13 (completed)
  • April 14 – 20

250 members of the Alienware Arena Shroud of the Avatar Group will be able to gain weekend access to SotA’s Release 5 during each giveaway period. For more details, jump on over to the Alieware Arena site and make sure you’re registered in their Shroud of the Avatar Group!

[Note: Weekend Access Keys are non-transferable and primarily for use by non-backers to check out the game; Make sure that your SotA account uses the same email address as your Alienware Arena account in order to utilize the Weekend Access Keys]

Upcoming Events

2014.04.18 – Duke & Lord of the Manor VIP Design Roundtable with Lord British and Portalarium Tour
2014.04.24 – Release 5 Access
2014.05.22 – Release 6 Access
2014.06.26 – Release 7 Access
2014.08.29 – SotA at Dragoncon

That is it for today’s Update of the Avatar. I hope you all have had a great week, and I look forward to posting more as we get closer to launch later this year.  If there are any specific topics that you would like me or any of my amazing peers, leave a comment below.

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Interview with Mike McShaffry Fri, 11 Apr 2014 20:50:19 +0000 mike-mcshaffry

To further mark — somewhat belatedly — the twentieth anniversary of Ultima 8, the Ultima Codex is pleased to present a lengthy and informative video interview with Mike McShaffry.

Mike McShaffry got his start in the gaming industry shortly after Ultima 6 shipped. In fact, it was that game — and its inclusion of Origin Systems’ mailing address on the box — that prompted him to apply for a job with the company. His first game was Martian Dreams, and he worked on Ultima 7 as well, in both cases as a programmer. He rose through the ranks at Origin fairly quickly, and was tapped for the project director role for Ultima 8, and then again for the earliest incarnation of Ultima 9.

He left Origin before Ultima 9 was released, and worked at several other studios on the Austin area in the years that followed — including Ion Storm and Red Fly. He also runs a game design consulting service and, as he lets slip in the interview, is presently working with a pair of well-known game developers to launch a mobile gaming startup.

“Mr. Mike” was kind enough to answer a torrent of questions put together by the Ultima Dragons, and did so with humour and good cheer. In the course of the interview, he discusses many aspects of the design of Ultima 8 and its production history, and brings to light some details about the earliest designs for Ultima 9…including what I think would have been a truly brilliant way to end the series. We here at the Codex — and I’m sure I speak for the entirety of the Ultima fandom — are very grateful to Mr. McShaffry for taking the time.

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C64 Television Will Be Playing Ultima 4 Live…Tonight! Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:13:19 +0000 ultima4 - C64 - 08

Fenyx spotted this on the /r/Ultima Reddit sup-topic:

C64 Television presents ULTIMA IV: QUEST OF THE AVATAR for the Commodore 64. We will be hosting a LIVE BROADCAST show on Friday, April 11th at 9PM Central.

Come join in the live chat. All you need to do is register at and you can participate in the discussion and talk LIVE to me as I play Ultima IV from the very beginning. It’s been a while since I played Ultima IV so I will be taking advice as the game goes on. We will also be having a total 80′s soundtrack throughout the night as well as a live webcam!

Be sure to press the FOLLOW button to be notified of when I am live!

C64 Television is currently “off air”, but when it kicks in at 9 PM Central, it will feature the first of what I can only assume will be many episodes in which Ultima 4 is played through to completion. And during the breaks, you can groove to the classic hits of the 80s…if, for some reason, you want to do that.

(Image credit: Hardcore Gaming 101)

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New Ultima Sighting: Ultima Replenisher Fri, 11 Apr 2014 00:40:23 +0000 ultima-replenisher

This one comes to us via Rustic Dragon:

Upon moving to Texas, it was suggested by a few people in the know that I should get some electrolyte powder until my body gets good at sweating efficiently. Upon a cursory google, I think I have decided on which one I’ll be getting…

You can find the product on Amazon, in a variety of different flavours, if at all you’re curious about it.

And, of course, there’s now an entry for it on the Sightings subdomain.

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Concerning The Ultima Codex, Heartbleed, and SSL Thu, 10 Apr 2014 02:45:53 +0000 heartbleed

First, let me just preface this with a suggestion: consider changing your password here at the site.

So I got the following email from my web host, Mediatemple, yesterday evening:

As a valued (mt) Media Temple customer, we would like to inform you of a vulnerability (CVE-2014-0160) in the OpenSSL software library that was very recently was discovered. This exploit can be used to eavesdrop on information that is usually protected by the SSL/TLS encryption protocol.

Due to the severity of this vulnerability, our Security Operations team and system engineers have **already** upgraded your server.

**Will there be any downtime?**
Unfortunately, yes. In order for the updated, patched version of OpenSSL to take effect, your server was restarted, which likely caused a few moments of downtime. It should be back up by the time you read this notice.

**What do I need to do?**
Nothing. We have proactively performed the upgrade of the OpenSSL package on your server.

So if you happened to be in IRC chat yesterday evening, either in #Moongate or the official #SotA channel, you may have noticed a brief outage of that service around 6:20 PM Central Time. That outage was as a result of the above-mentioned reboot, which was itself necessary to ensure that the server — and by extension the Codex and all other services associated therewith — were no longer affected by the Heartbleed bug.

For those of you who are unaware, the Heartbleed bug is a pretty serious hole in the security of a significant portion (over 66%) of the Internet:

The Heartbleed Bug is a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. This weakness allows stealing the information protected, under normal conditions, by the SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the Internet. SSL/TLS provides communication security and privacy over the Internet for applications such as web, email, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs).

The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.

This is a big deal. But I’m happy to report that this site, and the server upon which it is hosted, is no longer vulnerable to it.

I am also in the process of obtaining a certificate for the site. There is actually an SSL certificate for the site already, meaning that it does support HTTPS connections. However, the certificate is the self-signed one issued for the Parallels Plesk control panel that is used to administer the server, and as such is not highly trusted; Google Chrome will throw up a warning screen, for example.

Still, the option to use HTTPS to view the site does exist, if you wish to avail yourself of it. And once I roll up a new certificate for it that has nothing to do with Parallels, that option will continue to be available.

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I’m Still Transcribing the Mike McShaffry Interview, But Here’s Something We Talked About Wed, 09 Apr 2014 05:18:51 +0000 DarthMaulTCW-IGN

The interview with Ultima 8 project director Mike McShaffry went off swimmingly on Monday evening, and I’ve transcribed roughly half of it thus far. One thing we talked about toward the end of the interview was his post-Origin Systems work, which included a stint at Red Fly Studios, back around the time that they developed Mushroom Men, Thor, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. (Interestingly, a number of current Portalarium staff are former Red Fly developers.)

Anyhow, one game he mentioned was an unreleased, cancelled Star Wars title that LucasArts had approached Red Fly about, which would have starred and focused on the story of Darth Maul. So imagine my surprise when, whilst checking the news feeds this morning, I spotted this article at Polygon:

Citing anonymous sources as well as Red Fly CEO Dan Borth, Game Informer reports that LucasArts gave the Austin, Texas-based indie developer a chance to make a Darth Maul game after the studio proved itself with the Wii version of 2010′s Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2. However, the publisher initially provided very little guidance except to say that Maul survived being cleaved in half — Red Fly wasn’t directly informed of Lucasfilm’s plans for Maul in The Clone Wars.

According to developers who had worked on the Darth Maul project, it was originally intended to be exclusive to Nintendo platforms before LucasArts shifted it toPlayStation 3, Wii UWindows PC and Xbox 360. Red Fly began creating prototypes in October 2010 based on the information it had, but during a meeting with Star Wars creator George Lucas, he presented a new vision for the Darth Maul title. According to Game Informer, Lucas wanted a “buddy cop-like experience” with Darth Maul and Darth Talon — a Sith Lady separated by more than 170 years of Star Wars fiction from Maul — teaming up as friends.

Red Fly tried to make that new direction work, figuring out gameplay mechanics to satisfy LucasArts’ suggestions. LucasArts reportedly considered buying Red Fly outright. But according to an ex-developer, the publisher eventually cut off communication with the studio for two weeks before canceling the project in late June 2011.

The full story — or, well, as much as sources were willing to reveal — will evidently be in the May issue of GameInformer. And Mike McShaffry did share a tiny bit about the game as well, which will be in the interview when it goes live. Which I’m currently hoping will happen on Thursday.

(Image credit: Wookieepedia)

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Shroud of the Avatar: One Year Anniversary Celebration! (Updated!) Tue, 08 Apr 2014 05:16:25 +0000

Akalaupdate: That’s part 1 above. Here’s part 2:

Original Post: It’s the one year anniversary of Shroud of the Avatar’s successful crowdfunding today:

It is hard to believe that it was one year ago today, April 7th, that we completed our successful Kickstarter campaign! What a fun and tumultuous ride that 30-day campaign was, with all of our Early Founders helping drive us to almost double our funding goal! If it weren’t for all of you, none of us would be here today!

The tremendous support that all of you have shown over the past year has been phenomenal! Not only did you help kickstart Shroud of the Avatar, but throughout the year you have continued to pour your support into the project with your participation in the forums, your crowdsourced art and music, helping enlist new backers, and your ongoing funding support through pledge upgrades. Your passion, commitment, generosity, and sheer love for what we are all building together is the fuel that drives all of us on the dev team on a daily basis!

Above is the video embed for the currently-live, twelve-or-so-hour special Hangout of the Avatar. The schedule of events for it (some have now passed, as the Hangout has been going on for a few hours already) can be found here. Tune in if you have time!

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The State of Ultima Online: Summary at Massively Tue, 08 Apr 2014 05:07:42 +0000

The first State of UO Address held by the team at Broadsword Online Games went off with seemingly no hitches last week, ably hosted by the team at Stratics. And while I’m aware that Deckard is pulling together his thoughts on the Address (which he’ll be sharing with us in due course), I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Massively’s brief summary of it in the interim:

On Friday, Ultima Online Producer Bonnie Armstrong and the Broadsword Online Games crew took to Google Hangouts for an informal state of the game address and player question-and-answer session. The event marked one of the first times we’ve heard from the Broadsword team about its plans for the game since its pseudo-acquisition a few months ago. The highlights?

  • The artwork update is still on the way, as are new housing tiles.
  • A resurrection of the old website is planned, along with a revamp of the new and returning player experience.
  • The team hopes to resume putting out one expansion or booster every year.

On the downside, the team isn’t currently working on new housing areas, new items for the cash shop, or storage expansions, and there’s no ETA for the bug-free return of vendor search, which was implemented and promptly went kaput just a few weeks ago.

An interesting factoid pointed out by Stratics poster Nails Warstein: The player split between the old classic client and the newest enhanced client is now 50-50.

As well, Massively’s Game Archaeologist recently interviewed a couple of well-known (I gather) UO players about the current state of the game. That might be worth a read.

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The Dark Unknown: Merchants Sell Items Now Tue, 08 Apr 2014 04:56:02 +0000 darkunknown-foes

A short but significant update from Goldenflame Dragon about his recent development progress on The Dark Unknown:

Tonight I successfully bought something from a merchant. Selling back to probably won’t be finished tonight, but who knows?

I don’t think he’s yet posted word about getting selling back to merchants implemented, but…can it really be that far off, if not?

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U3.5 Pax Britannia: Trinket Confirmed! Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:27:02 +0000 pax-britannia-codex

Andrew Owen didn’t have much to say in this update about Pax Britannia that he posted to the Ultima Dragons Facebook group:

There will be a trinket.

But then, when you’re promising trinkets to Ultima fans, do you need to say more than that?

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OpenMW: OpenCS Above All, Linux Game Award Nomination Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:20:21 +0000 openmw

The OpenMW team posted a short update recently about their OpenCS toolset:

Thanks to SirHerrbatka and Zini’s efforts, OpenCS now features the functionality mentioned in last week’s post. For your viewing pleasure, the preview and editing views in all their glory.

They also offered a short project status update:

Aside from that, we have fixes, fixes, fixes, and Scrawl. Like every other week, Scrawl dealt with some nasty bugs (this time having to do with NPCs not falling down). Slothlife, meanwhile, has included support for saving the current weather state in savegame files. I think that loading and saving the state of a character’s spells list should also appear soon.

And more recently, the project has been nominated for the Project of the Month nod (I assume for April?) at the Linux Game Awards.

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Checking In on Sanctimonia’s Progress Mon, 07 Apr 2014 04:11:49 +0000 sanctimonia-cloth-map-backdrop

Well, it would seem I haven’t checked in on the progress Kevin Fishburne has been making on his Ultima-inspired, PvE MMORPG, Sanctimonia since…er…January. Which is both embarrassing and unacceptable, but mostly the latter. So let’s see what he’s been up to since then. It looks like he spent much of January working on his block persistent world objects and related architectural features:

And here are a couple images of his work on the above-mentioned battlements:

sanctimonia-missing-battlements-01 sanctimonia-missing-battlements-02 sanctimonia-missing-battlements-03

Battlements required still yet more work, but that didn’t keep Kevin from looking forward to his next asset development goal:

Right, back to the battlements (so to speak):

More images:

sanctimonia-corner-battlements-01 sanctimonia-corner-battlements-02

He also released a new sound effect toward the end of January:

Which brings us to February, in which month Kevin decided to focus his energies on a different aspect of the game for a while:

He was soon back to tinkering with world objects, however:

He also came up with a sweet new background for his Twitter page, which he of course released for all and sundry to use. (You can also grab a slightly less space-intensive JPEG version of the image at the top of this article.)

March saw Kevin continuing his work on world objects:

Sanctimonia’s architectural system also grew somewhat, with the addition of the ability to furnish one’s dwelling:

That’s…not a claim to be made idly, is it?


He also set himself up a discussion area of sorts:

And after a bit of work on the game’s camera system, Kevin was back at work on walls and objects:


That would be ew.

And as for this month…

Looks like he got a bit of help on his question about the hinges, above:

So, that was his last tweet as of this writing, which means we are now all caught up on Sanctimonia. The project, of course, seems to be in good health, and Kevin continues to improve it at a stunningly rapid pace.

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Divinity: Original Sin Is Now in Beta Mon, 07 Apr 2014 03:20:21 +0000

This is old news, which on the Internet means it was posted four days ago. But it’s true: Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin has moved into its beta testing phase, bringing with it a whole host of changes:

  • 28 exciting new talents, including such fun things like the Lone wolf perk which gives an avatar super abilities but makes it impossible for him or her to hire a companion(s).
  • More than 60 new skills, allowing for a new brand of synergies, such as combining Invisibility skill with Pickpocketing.
  • A new witchcraft skilltree that can be combined with other skills to deadly effect
  • New areas to explore, new foes to fight, new items to find & new secrets to discover
  • A brand new character creation screen with new presets such as the shadowblade or the wayfarer, and an enormous amount of customisation options
  • More environmental interactions – you can smash or burn doors, pickpocket characters & use staffs to electrify pools of water. Or how about burning wooden chests to get the loot inside?
  • Improved AI, user interface, graphics, loading times, performance and stability mean playing Divinity:Original Sin has never been this smooth
  • A truckload of new sound effects & music tracks

You can discover the full changelist here.

You may all recall that Original Sin is Larian Studios’ and Sven Vincke’s attempt to create a modern spiritual successor to Ultima 7, chock-full of open-ended gameplay and an open, fully-interactive sandbox virtual world. And while it seems that the game is still poised to deliver on many of the gameplay and world features that made Ultima 7 special (well, after Ultima 6, of course), one key feature will not be making it into the game. Larian founder Sven Vincke explains:

We’re a bit over budget and over time, but I have no regrets whatsoever about that. The game’s quality is a lot higher than any of us originally expected, so we’re very happy about that. Obviously I now hope that this extra push for quality will transform itself into extra sales, because in the end it’s going to be those sales that will shape what opportunities we’ll have for our future RPGs, but even if that doesn’t happen, I’m sure that somewhere along the line we’ll reap the benefits of all the effort we poured into Divinity:Original Sin.

My main regret for D:OS is that we didn’t manage to do the day/night cycles. Killing your darlings never is fun, but it is an inevitable part of production. I guess we always figured that, if anything, this would be the one we’d cut. Up until not-so-long ago however, I did have some hope that we were still going to be able to make it happen.

The thing that forced our hand in the end is the size of our buglist. Despite having made quite a few RPGs already, I’m still impressed by what’s being reported.

It’s not the quantity that’s scary per se (we’re used to large numbers like this, and we are making an RPG, after all) – but the types of bugs we’re seeing are in a category of their own.

That’s why it took a lot for me to commit to dropping the day/night schedules and stick with the NPC routines we have now.

It makes it all the more difficult to disappoint those who were looking forward to NPC schedules reacting to day/night. But the realization that we need all of our energy to polish the game is strong.

That’s a bit of a bummer, since (as Vincke notes above) it will detrimentally impact NPC scheduling. Vincke doesn’t come out and say that scheduled NPCs won’t be a feature in the game, and I would assume that Larian will include NPCs who follow some manner of scheduled behaviour…even if it doesn’t include closing up shop for the night and heading home to bed. But, even saying as much, I’m illustrating the major shortcoming of this change: NPCs won’t close up shop (presumably) and head home for the night (because there won’t be a night).

So…that’s a bit of a downer, which I admit has somewhat cooled my enthusiasm for the game. Not that I won’t still give it a go upon release…and hopefully it will still amaze and impress in a variety of ways. But certainly it won’t be claiming quite as much of the Ultima mantle as it set out to. And that’s a bit of a shame.

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New Project: The Tablet of Ananias Mon, 07 Apr 2014 03:02:12 +0000 tablet-of-ananias-chrome-iphone

A browser-based roguelike (although an Android port is also available) by Santiago Zapata (or Slashland, if you prefer), The Tablet of Ananias pits the player against a…very deep (though presumably not endless) dungeon, fraught with peril and filled with monsters. Players must voyage into its depths — “the tomb of the gods” — to “find the tablet of Ananias and gain eternal wisdom”.

The art style, as can be seen above, is somewhat influenced by the earlier Ultima titles, and the developer is a long-time Ultima fan. The game can be played online here.

Naturally, I’ve added a project entry for it.

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Shroud of the Avatar: Another Weekend, Another Map Piece Sun, 06 Apr 2014 03:28:12 +0000 It being the weekend, there was of course another Update of the Avatar published yesterday on the Shroud of the Avatar website, which of course included yet another puzzle piece of the map of Novia:


Naturally, I’ve updated the Ultima Codex’s always-up-to-date map(s) of Novia with this new piece:


As map revelations go, this one is fairly big: we get the name of a town (Resolute), of a terrain feature (Highvale), and of a river (Santcus). This week’s map piece is devoid of references to the names of the Companions of the Avatar of Ultima fame, however.

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An Interview with Starr Long…From 1999! Sat, 05 Apr 2014 04:18:33 +0000 starr-long-1999-interview-photo

Deckard unearthed this as he was going through some old storage:


Here’s a quick transcription of the interview text:

Who: Starr Long

Age: 28

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Louisiana State University

Title: Project Director

Where: Origin Systems lnc., 5918 W. Courtyard Drive

Number of Employees: 200

Job description: I manage the art, design and programming of computer games from the start-up production through the shipping of the product. I also liason with the other parts of the company like marketing, testing. customer service, public relations and sales.

Corporate culture: The atmosphere around here is extremely creative and incredibly fast-paced. We put in a lot of hours, but we’re a pretty fun-loving group. Most people have toys in their office like action figures or race tracks. We are very eclectic in look — everyone dresses pretty casual, like summer shorts and T-shirts, earrings and tattoos, ex-military guys with big muscles.

Best perk: The No. 1 perk is just getting to be on the cutting edge of technology as far as games are concerned — getting to do things no one else has done before. We also participate in cool extracurricular activities like if some cool new sci-fi movie is out, we’ll take the whole company to see it. To blow off steam, we shoot at each other with Nerf guns, dump pumpkins from the garage roof, and we have a dunking booth for company execs at happy hours.

Ambition: I want to always be doing something that’s really out there, that’s different and new.

Career turning point: I was doing work in theatres here in town, building sets and stuff and not making any money. I decided I had to get a 9-to-5 job, but I didn’t want to do anything boring. I saw an ad in the paper that said ‘video game testers wanted.’ I thought It was a joke, but I checked It out, and they really paid me to test video games. That was six years ago, and I‘ve since worked my way up.

It’s a good day when: All Of the pieces from all the different departments fit together and everything looks really good and works without any problems, or when we demo the game we’re working on and it’s cooler than we even thought it would be.

It’s a bad day when: We don’t meet our deadlines and things don’t come out quite as we planned.

Role model: My dad. He owns his own antique store in Louisiana, and he is always organized and on top of things. He is constantly trying to learn and create stuff, and he can make money at it. Being in the computer gaming industry, I get to be creative and make money out of it, too.

– Charlotte Moore

The date of the interview, as noted, is 1999, so it probably took place during the production of Ultima 9. It’s not a terribly lengthy interview, but it gives a bit of a snapshot into the workaday culture at Origin Systems, as well as hinting at Long’s own rather meteoric rise through the ranks at the company.

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