The Ultima Codex The Ultima Fan Network Sat, 13 Feb 2016 19:27:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Ultima Codex 32 32 Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #163 Sat, 13 Feb 2016 19:27:49 +0000 Greetings Fellow Avatars!

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

  • Happy Birthday Avatars Radio!
  • The Making of Skrekk
  • The Halls of Artifice (A Work In Progress)

Happy Birthday Avatars Radio!

We’d like to wish a heartfelt “Happy Birthday” to Avatars Radio! Founded by Amber Raine, Avatars Radio is the first, and oldest, Shroud of the Avatar radio station, dating all the way back to SotA Release #1! Avatars Radio had an awesome lineup of amazing DJ’s broadcasting day and night for the SotA community as always! They started their birthday party festivities Friday at 3pm Here’s more from Amber’s Release 26 Events Forum Post as to what was planned for Friday’s festivities. I hope to get a full set of information from Amber Raine on how much Avatars Radio has grown over the past 2 years and have a more extensive separate post on this.


The Making of Skrekk

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Richard Matey]

Hey guys, I am posting my process earlier than usual so you can see this land build up over time. Currently I am working on Skrekk, the largest Kobold city in the known land. This section will be broken down into 3 scenes, entrance, caverns, and throne room.

Here you can see some shots of the entrance of this area.



My next focus is working on the main cavern of this land. Here you can see my reference board I built up.


Here is a rough layout of what I have in mind leading up to throne room.


Look forward to seeing more work in progress from Skrekk.

Level Designer

The Halls of Artifice (A Work In Progress)

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Scottie Jones]

Having passed through the golden door of Artifice’s grand entrance, one immediately finds oneself standing in a beautiful atrium, greeted by warm shafts of light which fall from a large oculus set in the domed ceiling above a gurgling fountain. Those who may have entered at dusk or in the midst of night will suddenly realize that if these warm rays are sunlight, then you may have left your world behind entirely…

As your gaze sweeps across the chamber, you’ll notice over a dozen benches tucked against walls between pillars and potted plants, all empty. In fact, regardless of the number who may have entered with you, this chamber echoes with your footsteps alone. Ahead and to the side, beyond the sunken floor below the dome, are three separate vestibules with three smaller golden doors, much like the one you just passed through…

When you turn around, however, you see not the shining portal through which you just stepped,…but two great bronze-bound doors that, when tested, are locked and stuck fast against you. It sees you have choices to make, and the only way through is forward. Could the promised rewards lay beyond this new set of magical gateways?


As I begin building the inner Halls of Artifice, I seek to maintain the theme I began outside; a mix of Greco-Roman-inspired architecture, with just a hint of Gothic mixed in. Though we don’t have any truly Babylonian-style assets to work with, a mix of our dungeon and sewer sets re-skinned with more “desert-like” materials and colors will help blend them in with some of the generic ruined assets we have purchased and altered for our needs, and will hopefully help continue the whole “hanging gardens opulence” vibe I’m going for… That, of course, mixed with a strange sense of “all that glitters is not gold” and possibly “lonely, ethical desolation”… ^_^ Enjoy the progress! More to come soon, as more special chambers are developed…. I think you’ll find the emerging themes “interesting”, to say the least…


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Shards Online: February Community Newsletter Fri, 12 Feb 2016 20:26:33 +0000

Citadel Studios have just published the February Community Newsletter for those who have been following development on Shards Online. As per usual, Derek Brinkmann’s opening letter in the update neatly summarizes the remainder of the content therein:

There is so much going on at Citadel Studios right now, I don’t even know where to start! Our core team’s focus is split into to major areas: Clusters and Catacombs. In addition, our new animators have been working on some major improvements to character animation and we have a team of people working on our shiny new official game trailer!

Our release this week lays the groundwork for the ability to connect regions together. I’ll be launching an experimental cluster for our playtesters to try out this week. It’s still a long ways from being ready, but it feels so good to finally be able to leave Celador (even if the maps you are going to aren’t finished yet!)

Catacombs content is quickly coming together. A dungeon that changes its layout randomly is a really fun concept to work with. (See Designer’s Den below) We’ve put the finishing touches on the 6 new clothing/armor sets, and we’ve begun to create the mobs and encounters that will populate the ever changing lower levels.
Our animators have made some big improvements coming in the next build (0.3.3) as well. Humanoid characters will sheathe their weapons when they are out of combat and they have special animations based on the type of weapon they are wielding. To top it all off, we have a slew of new animations both social and combat that will be adding to the game over the next few months. I can’t wait to be able to /salute!

The reason we were able to bring on some animator talent and hire an outside company for an amazing trailer is because of your support. Every pledge (new and upgrade) we receive makes the game that much better. We won’t let you down!

The update also contains details about some new pledge rewards for backers of the game:

Looking for that extra incentive to upgrade your pledge? Because our game is not free to play and players can run their own servers, we have refrained from selling castles and player owned towns. Instead, we have some great pledge rewards in the higher tiers that focus on exclusive and dynamic content.

Founders World (75$+): All official servers will have a special map that only Founders supporters can travel to. The Founders World is a magical bar/club floating in the depths of space. The NPCs here will sell custom items (potions,recipes,etc.) that can not be obtained anywhere else. There will also be a one-time quest line that involves obtaining items from all over the world of Shards Online for an exclusive reward.

Founders World VIP (100$+): Within the Founders World, there is a back room that is only available to the Collectors Edition level. Aside from being the coolest, most exclusive place in the universe, it also has a merchant that sells some items that can’t be found anywhere else.

Featured Server (200$+): Once our game is live on Steam, lots of community servers will be looking for ways to get attention. Every two weeks, we will offer two people at this level the opportunity to feature a server of their choice. The feature includes a write-up on and the server will be highlighted and pinned to the top of the community server list.

NOTE: The admin of the server you select must agree to be featured!

Live Dev Event (300$+): Citadel Studios devs will appear on the server of your choice (official or community) and run a 1 hour community event. We will have a list of custom events to choose from (Town Invasion, PvP Tournament, In-game Wedding, etc).

Was that a none-too-subtle dig at Shroud of the Avatar there in the introductory paragraph?

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The Digital Antiquarian: Ultima 5 Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:50:30 +0000

The Digital Antiquarian has published a follow-up to his recent article about the development of Ultima 5; this time around, he is talking about the game itself. He begins with a lengthy (read: 4000 words or so) discussion about the themes that inform Ultima 5’s story; here’s a taste of that:

CRPG villains had heretofore been an homogeneous rogue’s gallery of cackling witches and warlocks, doing evil because… well, because they were evil. In tabletop Dungeons and Dragons, the genre’s primary inspiration, every character chooses an alignment — Good, Neutral, or Evil — to almost literally wear on her sleeve. It’s convenient, allowing as it does good to always be clearly good and those hordes of monsters the good are killing clearly evil and thus deserving of their fate. Yet one hardly knows where to begin to describe what an artificial take on the world it is. How many people who do evil — even the real human monsters — actually believe that they are evil? The real world is not a battleground of absolute Good versus absolute Evil, but a mishmash of often competing ideas and values, each honestly certain of its own claim to the mantle of Good. Our more sophisticated fictions — I’m tempted here to say adult fictions — recognize this truth and use it, both to drive their drama and, hopefully, to make us think. Ultima V became the first CRPG to do the same, thanks largely to the character of Blackthorne.

Blackthorn is not your typical cackling villain. As Garriott emphasizes, “his intentions are really very good.” Setting aside for a moment the message-making that became so important to Garriott beginning with Ultima IV, Ultima V‘s more nuanced approach to villainous psychology makes it a more compelling drama on its own terms. The fact that Blackthorn is earnestly trying to do good, according to his own definition of same, makes him a far more interesting character than any of the cacklers. Speaking from the perspective of a storyteller on the lookout for interesting stories, Garriott notes that a similar certainty of their own goodness was the “best part” about the Moral Majority who were dominating so much of the political discourse in the United States at the time that he was writing Ultima V.

However, he does eventually get around to discussing the game itself:

…all the other things that Ultima fans had long since come to expect are still here, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The horrid faux-Elizabethan diction, for instance, is still present and accounted for. (One of my favorite examples this time out is a father telling his son he needs an attitude adjustment, a slang phrase very en vogue at the time of Ultima V‘s release courtesy of countless harried sitcom parents: “Thou shalt take a year off from magic, Mondain, to improve thy attitudes.”) And there’s still the sense of an earnest but not yet hugely well-traveled young man — physically or intellectually — punching a bit above his weight in trying to create a new world out of whole cloth. For instance, with Garriott apparently starting to feel uncomfortable with the whole divine-rule-of-kings thing, Britannia has now become a republic with an an uncanny resemblance to the only republic with which Garriott is at all familiar, that of the United States; Lord British, naturally, sits in for the President. Even the story of the government’s founding mirrors that of the American Constitutional Convention. Tolkienesque world-building, needless to say, this is not.

For all its additional complexities of theme and plot, Ultima V actually exhibits more continuity with its predecessor than any earlier Ultima. For the first time in an Ultima, it’s possible to import your character from the previous game, an innovation dating back to the second Wizardry gamethat most other CRPG series had long embraced. And the overland map of Britannia in Ultima Vis, apart from that new volcano that popped up where a dungeon used to be, almost exactly the same as that of Ultima IV.

At the same time, however, Ultima V is a vastly bigger and even more ambitious game than its predecessor. Positioned in the same places on the overland map though they are, all of the towns, castles, and dungeons have been extensively remodeled and expanded during the (Britannic) years that have passed between the two games. And if that’s not enough space for adventure, there’s of course also the huge Underworld that’s been added. The magic system has been revamped and better systemized, now sporting almost twice as many spells — almost fifty in total — that are divided into eight “circles” of power. The parser-based conversation system, while superficially unchanged from that of Ultima IV, now understands much, much more, and delivers more text back in response to every query.

But the heart of Ultima V‘s ambition is not in the sprawl but in the details. Ultima V‘s Britannia must still stand as one of the more impressive virtual worlds ever made. Many of its complexities are seldom seen even in games of today. To see them in a game that runs in 64 K of memory feels nothing short of miraculous. Every object in every room is now an object of its own in the programmatic as well as visual sense, one that can be realistically manipulated: torches can be taken off walls, chairs can be sat in, harpsichords can be played. Just as impressive is the game’s implementation of time. As you play, not only does day cycle to night and back again, but the seasons change, the fields filling with crops over the course of the growing season and then appearing bare and forlorn again when winter comes. Unbeknownst to many players, even the cycles of the heavens are scrupulously modeled, two moons and eight other planets moving across the sky, each according to its own orbit. Every five and a half years comes a full planetary alignment, which you can witness if you happen to look through a telescope at just the right instant. This Britannia is a land bursting with secrets and wonders, truly an unprecedented achievement in its day in virtual world-building.

I’ll just suggest you click on through to read the rest; there is a lot more that the Antiquarian goes into. Quite a lot more, in fact.

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Shroud of Infinity (Ultima 3 Remake): Loading Screen Work Fri, 12 Feb 2016 18:03:48 +0000

Vanzilar has been working on improvements to the Ultima 3 loading screen in Shroud of Infinity (Ultima Infinity) (his Java-based Ultima 3 remake):

More improvements on animator backend code to allow fade ins of any image with arbitrary rectangles. More to come soon. This is so easy and so fun to code!

A lot of gif manipulation on the byte level going on in the java code… looks ugly and simple in the execution. But very proud of where I am considering the other things to do in life.

Actually moving around bits, manipulating palettes, and working with Oracle VM to get all the niceties of the image coming up good. Still there is some off color, and at this point did not finish the animation code which is coming shortly which will allow me to animate anything and make it come alive.

This also gives a hint of the magic which is enabled as well as game save and load which is now working on a rudimentary level. Also introducing the Druid Class!

The videos are a bit rough, as they are camera captures of a computer monitor rather than screencasts, but they still show off the improvements that Vanzilar has been making rather well.

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Dino’s Ultima Page: Ultima Underworld Reference; Other Bits of Cleanup Fri, 12 Feb 2016 17:01:35 +0000

Dino the Dark Dragon has made some updates to the Ultima Underworld content on his excellent Ultima page:

If you’re planning to journey through the Stygian Abyss anytime soon, I think you’ll like the new Ultima Underworld 1 Magic page I’ve just added. It’s not just a list of spells. You can pick what runes you have available from the rune bag on the right, and the spells you can cast with those runes will be highlighted.

And having recently played through the game again, he has also been expanding that content considerably:

…the Ultima Underworld 1 Info page is getting a lot of new additions. As if the recently released Magic page wasn’t enough, there is now a Lizardman Language reference and translator, and a new Fun section. A subsection on combining items has been added, and a correction has been made to indicate that there are actually 2 resilient spheres in the game. More information has been collected during the playthrough, and will be added gradually to the site.

Oh, and he’s been making some general updates to the site as well:

I’ve also gone over all the links to the recently departed, and changed them to point to an archived version instead.

The magic selector is an excellent reference, by the way, and also pretty darn fun to play with.

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Check Out Beamdog’s New CRPG Magazine: The Familiar (It’s Free) Fri, 12 Feb 2016 15:08:05 +0000

Beamdog, the Edmonton-based game developer known for their remastered versions of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, have started a new digital magazine focused on the CRPG development industry: The Familiar.

Today we’re pleased to present Beamdog’s first digital publication, The Familiar! We partnered with Dialect (creators of Dragon+) to develop this quarterly (or approximately quarterly) app with industry interviews, fiction, contests, Beamdog exclusives, and everything else you didn’t know you needed to know about the CRPG industry.

How much does all this incredible content cost, you ask? The answer is nothing! You can download The Familiar for FREE as an app from the iTunes App Store or GooglePlay.

Our inaugural issue is available right now and takes a look at the state of the CRPG industry, from our own Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition to n-Space’s Sword Coast Legends. We also have a step-by-step guide for adding custom portraits to the Enhanced Edition games plus two beautiful free portraits. (The installation process is different for every platform, so if you’ve been wondering how to bring over your Drizzt portrait to your Galaxy S5, you’ll definitely want to take a look.)

Most excitingly…there’s a piece of original short fiction about Schael Corwin, one of the new NPCs in the upcoming Siege of Dragonspear. Oh, and check out the amazing cover art by Heather Hudson!

The app also includes an Updates feed that pulls the latest Facebook and Twitter (at minimum) posts made by Beamdog. Individual magazine issues are separate downloads within the app.

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The Digital Antiquarian: The Road to Ultima 5 Thu, 11 Feb 2016 19:20:52 +0000

I have been sitting on this for about a week, so many of you have probably heard it elsewhere. Regardless, there’s a lengthy and thoroughly excellent article up at The Digital Antiquarian concerning Ultima 5. And not just Ultima 5, actually; the article is more or less a direct continuation from the Antiquarian’s previous write-ups about the creation and release of Ultima 4, and so looks (in part) at the process of how Ultima 5 came to be.

The larger part of the article, though, concerns the political and economic machinations that went on between Origin Systems and Electronic Arts. Because, yes, well before EA bought Origin, the two companies did in fact partner up to release another Ultima game: Ultima 4.

The origin of Origin’s EA problem dated back to August of 1985, about a month before the release of Ultima IV. By this point distribution was starting to become a real issue for a little publisher like Origin, as the few really big publishers, small enough in number to count on one hand, were taking advantage of their size and clout to squeeze the little guys off of store shelves. Knowing he had a hugely anticipated game on his hands with Ultima IV, one that with the proper care and handling should easily exceed the considerable-in-its-own-right success of Ultima III, Robert also knew he needed excellent distribution to realize its potential. He therefore turned to EA, one of the biggest of the big boys of the industry.

The agreement that resulted was quite the coup for EA as well as Origin. Thanks to it, they would enjoy a big share of the profits not just from The Bard’s Tale, the hit CRPG they had just released under their own imprint, but also from Origin’s Ultima IV. Together these two games came to dominate the CRPG field of the mid-1980s, each selling well over 200,000 copies. For a company that had never had much of anything to do with this genre of games before, it made for one hell of a double whammy to start things off.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the deal broke down:

All went well between Origin and EA for the first eighteen months. The trouble started shortly after Richard’s move back to Austin, when he got word of EA’s plans to release a rather undistinguished CRPG called Deathlord that was even more derivative of Ultima than was the norm. As Strategic Simulations, Incorporated, had learned to their chagrin a few years earlier in the case of their own Ultima clone Questron, Richard didn’t take kindly to games that copied his own work too blatantly. When EA refused to nix their game, and also proved uninterested in negotiating to license the “game structure and style” as SSI had done, Richard was incensed enough to blow up the whole distribution deal.

Richard and Robert believed that Origin would be on firm legal ground in withdrawing from the distribution agreement at the onset of the third year because EA was projected to have purchased just $6.6 million worth of product from Origin by September 1, 1987, way short of the goal of $9.3 million. Origin informed EA of their intentions and commenced negotiating a new distribution agreement with another of the big boys, Brøderbund, currently riding even higher than EA on the strength of The Print Shop and Carmen Sandiego.

…it was the Ultima I situation that most ruffled EA’s feathers. When the rights to the first game of the series, having passed through the hands of the long-defunct California Pacific and then Sierra, reverted back to Richard in 1986, Origin assigned several programmers to rewrite it from scratch in assembly language rather than BASIC, adding graphical upgrades and interface enhancements along the way to bring it at least nominally up to date. Already a semi-legendary game, long out of print on the Apple II and never before available at all on the Commodore 64 or MS-DOS, the new and improved Ultima I carried with it reasonably high commercial hopes. While not the new Ultima, it was a new Ultima for the vast majority of Lord British fans, and should ease some of the disappointment of not being able to get Ultima V out that year. But in the wake of the Deathlord dust-up it became clear to EA that Origin was deliberately holding Ultima I back, wanting to tempt their prospective next distributor with it rather than give EA their fair share of its earnings. This…well, this pissed EA right the hell off. And, then as now, pissing off EA wasn’t usually a very good idea.

What transpired next is a bit complicated, so do be sure to click on through to read all the details. In essence, EA took a look at the contract with Origin, found a few places where they could shave dollars off of their financial obligations to Richard Garriott’s company, and then dropped a couple million dollars of essentially random product orders on Origin to fulfil their end of the deal.

You’re probably wondering what on earth EA is thinking in throwing away almost $2 million on any old anything at all just to retain Origin as a distributee. Far from cutting off their nose to spite their face, they’re playing hardball here; what they’ve just done is far more dangerous for Origin than it is for them. To understand why requires an understanding of “overstock adjustments,” better known as returns. It’s right there in the original contract: “Vendor [Origin] agrees to issue credit to EA based on the original purchase price for the return of resalable overstock made any time beyond 90 days of original receipt.” This provision gives EA the ability to crush Origin, accidentally or on purpose, by over-ordering. Origin can honor the order, only to have it all come back to them along with a bill big enough to bury them when EA doesn’t sell it on. Or Origin can refuse to honor the order and get buried under a nasty breach-of-contract lawsuit. Or they can come back to EA hat in hand and ask nicely if both parties can just forget the whole thing ever happened and continue that third year of their agreement as was once planned.

Fortunately, Origin managed to wriggle out of this particular trap:

…In rushing to become a distributee of Brøderbund, they’d found shelter with a company with the resources to go toe-to-toe with EA; Doug Carlston, founder and president of Brøderbund, was himself a lawyer. Brøderbund took Origin’s cause as their own, and a settlement agreement presumably entailing the payment of some sort of penalty from Origin and/or Brøderbund to EA was reached in fairly short order. (The actual settlement agreement is unfortunately not included in the Strong’s collection.) Origin signed a two-year distribution contract with Brøderbund, and all of EA’s worst suspicions were confirmed when the revamped Ultima I shipped on the very first day of the new agreement. And that wasn’t even Origin’s last laugh: Deathlord, the match that had lit the whole powder keg, got mediocre reviews and flopped. True to his tradition of adding references to his contemporary personal life into each Ultima, Richard added the words “Electronic Arts” to the in-progress Ultima V’s list of forbidden swear words (“With language like that, how didst thou become an Avatar?”). Just for good measure, he also built a mausoleum for “Pirt Snikwah” on the grounds of Britannia Manor. Like most monarchs, Lord British apparently didn’t forget a slight quickly.

This accounts, by the way, for why there were so many subtle — and not-so-subtle — references to EA and Trip Hawkins in the middle games of the Ultima series.

At any rate, lest you think the Antiquarian concludes the article by noting how Brøderbund basically saved Origin Systems from ruin, I’ll just note that in all the above, what isn’t much discussed is the actual development of Ultima 5. That, too, is included in the article, and because I have already excerpted quite a lot of text here, I’ll suggest that you head on over to read the rest for yourself.

One other note: the article also discusses the struggle and squabble that went on between Richard Garriott and his brother Robert concerning…well, a few different things, including where Origin should be headquartered. It gives new meaning to this video, if nothing else:

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Ultima Online: Publish 92 On TC1 Thu, 11 Feb 2016 18:55:09 +0000

Broadsword Online Games released Publish 92 for Ultima Online on the Test Center shard yesterday:

We are pleased to announce the first batch of bug fixes and miscellaneous changes that are part of Publish 92 will be released on TC1 today at approximately 3pm ET.  We encourage everyone to head on over to TC1 and check out the changes.  This is only the first release, and in the coming weeks we also plan to release additional miscellaneous changes and bug fixes, additional furniture facings to King’s Collection,  as well as our upcoming quest content, A Valley of One.  Please read over the notes and feel free to email us with any feedback.

See you in Britannia

As can be seen in the change notes, this Publish is indeed very much focused on maintenance and bug fixes, which is something that the Broadsword team talked about in Episode 28 of Spam Spam Spam Humbug.

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Check Out Dagur Dragon and Stephen Loney’s DOS Game Homage, “Kingdom of the Dinosaurs” Wed, 10 Feb 2016 21:59:08 +0000

Dagur Dragon and Stephen Loney — who I could have sworn was an Ultima Dragon as well, though I am unable to figure out what his Dragon Name is — have released a new game on Kongregate: Kingdom of the Dinosaurs.





The game isn’t Ultima-inspired in any conspicuous way, but it is a delightful throwback to the DOS games of yesterdecade. And you can play it online, for free (assuming you still have a Flash player active in your web browser).

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Shards Online: Version 0.3.2 Patch Notes Wed, 10 Feb 2016 16:57:08 +0000

Patch notes for version 0.3.2 of Shards Online have been published on the game’s website:

This release is mostly preparation for the upcoming roll-out of cluster support. Clusters are not fully ready for testing, but I am planning on putting up an experimental cluster server up so everyone can help us test the cross region travel. The most important thing in this release is a fix for the terrible freezes that were happening when you came into range of other players or populated areas like the village. So without further ado, here are the full notes:

The includes changes cover a number of things discussed recently, including the crafting improvements system and portals that were recently teased on Twitter. Click on through to read the complete set of new features and fixes.

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Check Out The Caverns Store ( Tue, 09 Feb 2016 17:23:03 +0000

As Stile Teckel — who runs the excellent Shroud of the Avatar (and Ultima, at times) news site — mentioned in Episode 35.5 of Spam Spam Spam Humbug that he had opened up a store:, The Caverns Store. And he’s not (just) selling mugs or t-shirts; this is more of a store that would be of interest to LARP participants (or HoBLotH attendees):

The Caverns Store is a LLC internet retail store selling products that the owners have a passion for.

LARP Weaponry:
Epic Armoury’s weapon collection range from the historical style to high fantasy, and we always aim to stand out in a crowd. The technical construction of the foam weapons values safety above all. We use a round flexible glass fibre core, with a Kevlar tip protection. The foam is developed to absorb impact and it does not shred. Check out the styles, we love the colours. We Say… Play more and vary your choice of weapon.

Metal Armour:
Epic Armoury metal is designed with focus on comfort and functionality. Our Armor can be purchased as single parts or as complete sets, this way, you can customize your own full armour. Remember the gambeson to support your armour wear, and make it more comfortable.

Leather Crafts:
Epic armoury produces both leather armor plus a collection of matching bracers and greaves. Furthermore, we have a great selection of quivers, sword holders, daggers holders and throwing knife holders to keep your weaponry safe and within arms reach. The best quality leather is used in our assortment.

Medieval Clothing:
All characters need a good base to build on, and LARP is much more than battleground action. Epic Armoury cloting wants to offer multi usable pieces of clothes, constructed with focus on practical abilities and durability. The designs reach through different times and different styles. The keywords are good quality at an even better price.

Don’t forget to accessorize your character. Epic Armoury makes character accessories that adds that little extra touch of ambience for every gamer; the small things you need to complete your outfit. A scout is a better scout with a telescope and a thief is a better thief with our thieves tools. Bags and belts is a must for every role, and a pair of handcuffs, well, you never know when they can come in handy too.

Stile has partnered with several suppliers, including tailors who can take custom orders. As a result, some items may go for a bit of a premium…but on the other hand, the quality of the product will probably be considerably higher as well. Do check it out if you have need of collectibles, LARP gear, HoBLotH garb…or if you want to grow out your collection of medieval wear.

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Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 35.5 – Shroud of the Avatar: 2015 In Review Tue, 09 Feb 2016 14:30:20 +0000

Welcome back to another year of Spam Spam Spam Humbug. This year, to ring in 2016, episodes for the month of January (and, now, into February) will mostly be focused on re-capping the news pertaining to Ultima, including Ultima Online (which, at least for now, is the only game still in active development that is carrying on the Ultima namesake), various Ultima fan projects, and also different games that have been inspired by Ultima (including Shroud of the Avatar and Underworld Ascendant, as well as — possibly — Shards Online and Crowfall).

This week, we will be looking at what has transpired with Shroud of the Avatar over the course of 2015. It was an eventful year for the game; it raised a significant amount of additional development funds via its ongoing crowdfunding effort, and also achieved some pretty notable development milestones.

Listen to the Episode

Always remember: If you like Spam Spam Spam Humbug, please leave us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, or anywhere else you listen to us. More important than that, however, is to make sure you subscribe to the podcast. This is especially true for iTunes; the more subscriptions a podcast has, the more visible it will be in iTunes. So, even if you subscribe to us using some other, better technology (Pocket Casts, for example), consider subscribing in iTunes (or in the Podcasts app) as well.

There’s also 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 Ultima Codex, 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. You can also support the site by buying computer games through GOG; the Codex is a GOG affiliate. This one is really easy; all you have to do is visit the Codex and click on the GOG banner in the sidebar before you go and buy a game at GOG. You won’t pay any more for the game, but we’ll get a bit of a commission on the sale.

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

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

Finally, 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.

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Slashing Dragon Is Trying To Add Turn-Based Combat to Ultima 7 (Via Exult) Mon, 08 Feb 2016 18:34:24 +0000

I’ve complained about the combat in Ultima 7 before, most recently in Episode 29 of Spam Spam Spam Humbug (and in Episode 17 before that).

Well, Slashing Dragon evidently agrees that, in general, the combat in Ultima 7 is terrible. And as a result, he has grabbed a copy of the Exult source code, and aims to do something about the matter:

Exult is one of the oldest and more popular Ultima fan projects; it allows you to run all the games using the Ultima 7 engine in modern platforms. It’s not a remake… it takes the data files from the original games and uses them to run a custom made engine, adding a lot of options for improved user experience in addition to making it dead simple to run in about any modern computer.

But, there’s another thing that Exult allows doing, it gives us a chance to fix things we don’t like about the original game. And that’s what I intend to do!

I want combat in Ultima 7 to be more interesting, more relevant, more tactical. I want to try and make it turn based.

The idea is pretty simple:

  • Exult already supports pausing in combat
  • We must detect when the party engages in combat and auto pause.
  • From here the player can either:
    • Move around a limited number of steps
      • This one may probably be the most complex thing to detect
    • Attack a monster (either melee or ranged)
    • Cast a spell
    • Use an item
    • Pass the turn
      • Requires adding a button to the UI
  • Once the player does any of these, the game resumes for about half a second, and pauses again if still on battle and the player is still alive.

And because Slash pursues side projects such as these with a good bit of tenacity, he has begun digging through Exult’s code looking at different functions which might help him craft a turn-based combat system. He has also begun creating a new module within the codebase that will contain all of the functions to control turn-based combat and its mechanics.

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #162 Sat, 06 Feb 2016 17:46:25 +0000 Greetings Friends and Fellow Avatars!

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

  • The Making of Shores of Malice – Really Excited for This!
  • The Entrance to Artifice
  • Hangout of the Avatar ~ Release 26 Postmortem
  • New Greenhouses

The Making of Shores of Malice

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Esteben “SorcerousSteve” Zaldivar]

Hey guys, once again its SorcerousSteve here with my latest map: The Shores of Malice entrance to the Malice Dungeon (final love quest location)!

The Shores of Malice are located on the banks of Stormwater Lake on the northern section of Drachvald bounded by the treacherous peaks of The Sirens.


Players on the love quest line will arrive by boat from Spite.


Inspiration for this location was drawn from the Washington State Coast.


Utilizing Gaia, our new water system, improvements in our lighting systems and our ever present attention to detail all come together in an effort to create the most natural organic looking scenery possible.


Ruins dot the ancient mountain range just up the trail from the Entrance to Malice.


Many of you who have visited Ravensmoor may be familiar with an island not too far off shore where a troll lurks and countless players have bravely fought to their deaths. Well many of you will be pleased to know that the Shores of Malice will have another such island where fellow Avatars can come test their wit.

That’s it for now folks, be sure to check out the Shores of Malice, coming soon!

Esteben Zaldivar
Level Designer

The Entrance to Artifice – Part 2

Last week we shared the opening comment and teaser image from Scottie’s Artifice Dev+ forum post. This week we’re sharing the rest of Scottie’s post, along with a repeat of the opening comment from last week (for descriptive continuity).

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Scottie Jones]

As most travelers and pilgrims to Xenos know,…across the rolling plains of Elysium,… several day’s journey beyond the River Fall,… and perched in a crook of the craggy northern arm of the aptly-named Rumor Peaks,… lay the mysterious and legendary destination known as Artifice. Though there are a variety of tales that claim to know the truth behind why it was created, and by whom,…the only rumors that draw hopeful visitors from across the world to gather with needy abandon in the halls of Xenos are the stories told of the dreams and wishes that can come true for those lucky enough to win the lottery granting permission to enter Artifice’s secluded depths.

This lottery, open to the rich and poor alike, grants the holder the power to pass beyond the glimmering golden door, and to feast one’s eyes finally upon those things which are close to any pilgrim’s heart. The lame, it is said, will be healed. The hungry, it is said, will be fed. The lonely, it is said, will find love. There are some who complain that those who are wealthy and affluent seem to win the lottery more often than those who are poor and in need of its miracles… But, honestly, who can truly judge the mercurial whims of whatever powerful forces created this mystical place? Surely, only the MOST worthy can hope to share in the miracles offered in Artifice, and if the groveling masses are kept at bay, allowing only the best of us to pass within its walls, then one can be assured that the rewards within must be truly fabulous,…and justly deserved.

Here is a little teaser of my work on the entrance of Artifice… My goal is meant to be a mix of the mythic gardens of Babylon and some ruined garden of earthly delights… Based loosely on an early concept by Stephen, and composed of existing props and set pieces,… the views of waterfalls, crumbling columns, and lush plants contrasted with the sparse and somewhat barren scenery below should make this place a fun little area to explore, and an interesting enigma to experience once players gain access to the marvels within.


Having travelled across the Elysian Plains, those lucky enough to have won the fabled lottery of Xenos will eventually discover a narrow cleft in the massive rocks that line the foothills of the northern Rumor Peaks. Through this craggy entrance, beyond a winding path overshadowed by looming rocky walls, a lonely road leads uphill toward a strange source of light in the distance. The terrain here is reminiscent of other mountain paths, with dry scrub and grasses washing over boulder-strewn hills, and dotted with tall sparse conifers and smaller pines.


There is an arid, somewhat dry quality to the environment here, and the trails leading up to what appear to be some kind of ruins are dusty and strewn with loose rocks and pebbles. The closest trail ascends in a series of small switchbacks toward what must be the entrance to Artifice itself. As one climbs this trail, the landscape to the right begins to fall steeply away into a small scrub-choked ravine at the base of a tall stone wall above.


Approaching the top of the trail, what had appeared to be a wall has resolved itself into an ancient dam of sorts, built long ago to contain a small yet idyllic pool that has formed at the base of a grand stone structure rising higher onto the mountain’s steep face. It is here, strangely, that some subtle art has changed the very nature of the place. Dry scrub and barren pines give way, as if by magic, to lush grasses, green ivy, and sculpted topiary junipers that appear to be carefully tended. From the moment one approaches the path across the dam, flowers grace the edges of the trail, and potted plants dotted with colorful blossoms adorn the tops of columns rising on either side.


Seen from a bird’s-eye view, the opulence of this place shines through, despite that fact that some of its features have fallen into ruin. (I’m told that satyrs and fauns will eventually tend this place, speaking briefly to travelers that have come so far to sample its beauty). Multiple tiers of decorative stonework rise higher and higher to a shimmering archway above, and sumptuous growths of plants both deciduous and tropical lace the terraces on all sides. There is a quiet, powerful decadence here that seems beyond even the presence of clear mountain water and the hands of its devoted keepers to possibly maintain.



As one climbs higher and higher, looking back across the small, hidden valley reveals a breathtaking view of the distant peaks to the west, and the rolling plains to the south stretching all the way to the River Fall and far Xenos, where the journey to this place began. A flock of birds that gladly nest in the high cliffs, so close to such verdant riches, wheel and swoop on the upper winds. Though the panorama seems peaceful enough, the valley below (assuming one explored its perimeters) has many dangers in the form of wild beasts that now wander the lower hills, likewise lured in by the abundance found here.


Upon reaching the top, small stone footbridges lead across the swiftly-rushing waters that feed the falls below. Here a balcony hangs over the pool, where eventually will be found a satyr who’s task is to formally greet those who have come to enter the magical gateway leading to the inner Halls of Artifice. He will explain that only those who have been blessed with winning entrance through the lottery will be allowed inside, while all others will be barred from entry by the powerful magic of the golden gateway itself. Of course, there is no rush, and visitors can feel free to wander the nearby overlooks.



Yet…the shimmering portal beckons, as do the promises of all the wonders supposedly contained inside. No amount of outer beauty, no abundance of mere flowers and crystalline falls could possibly compare to the treasures and rewards for those lucky enough to have won entrance into what certainly must be one of the most coveted destinations in the world… As anyone will tell you, “Everything’s better in Artifice!”…


Enter, and enjoy the rewards you so richly deserve…


Scottie ^_^

Hangout of the Avatar ~ Release 26 Postmortem

We had a great Hangout of the Avatar this week, with Richard, Starr, and Chris chatting about Release 26 and providing a sneak peek at Release 27. FireLotus fielded lots of questions and feedback live in the chat-room and from the original post! Here’s the video in case you missed it live:


SotA_StretchGoal_FlexiblePlacement_GreenhouseNew Greenhouses

In Release 26 the dev team introduced the “Greenhouse Effect”, wherein growing plants in greenhouses speeds up their growth rate. Currently, the Flexible Placement Stretch Goal Greenhouse is the only one in the game, and this greenhouse, along with all the Stretch Goal items, are expiring on February 29th at 10:30 AM CST (so ya better hurry and get the ones you want while they are still available).

The team is introducing two new “Rusted Iron” style greenhouses, crafted by Bob Cooksey. This first greenhouse, adapted from the stretch goal greenhouse, will be available on in-game vendors for gold:

Rusted Iron Large Greenhouse


Rusted Iron Small Greenhouse

This small Rusted Iron Greenhouse is currently available in the Add-On Store.


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OpenMW: Version 0.38.0 Released Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:28:06 +0000

The OpenMW team have released version 0.38.0 of their open-source re-implementation of the engine for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind:

Hot on the heels of the previous one, this release brings many fixes and improvements, notably movement of objects between cells, and support for the OSG native model format.

Known Issues:

  • Shadows are not re-implemented at this time, as well as distant land and object shaders
  • Features are missing from OpenMW-CS as well: only basic camera controls are implemented, pathgrid and cell marker rendering is missing, as well as instance moving


  • Implemented werewolf field of view
  • Implemented movement of objects between cells, fixes several issues
  • Implemented handling OSG native model format
  • Implemented separate field of view settings for hands and game world
  • Implemented isInCell checks on PlaceAt and PlaceItem
  • Implemented handling NiLODNode and NiPointLight
  • Implemented notification to indicate when a game is saved

There’s a lot more to the changelog; I’ve just excerpted the listing of new features in this release. Click on through to read the rest!

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Shards Online: Travel Between Maps (Via Portal); Improvement System Coming Online Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:44:29 +0000

Citadel Studios have made a couple of announcements, on their Twitter timeline, about new features that should — as of this writing — now be live in Shards Online. The first of these is an experimental portal system that allows for travel between the various maps in the game:



The other is an addition that should be of interest to players who engage with Shards’ crafting system:



If you have alpha access to Shards, look for both of these things the next time you log in!

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Crowfall: January Updates; New Goddesses; The Ranger Archetype; Castle Building Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:01:26 +0000

I haven’t checked in with ArtCraft Entertainment and news pertaining to Crowfall at all this year, which was clearly a mistake because there have been a number of news updates posted to the project website since the new year. Indeed, one of the first updates posted made a point of marking the dawn of 2016, and was actually timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Crowfall website. The most notable bit of news in that update is that there are new crowdfunding pledge packages available in their crowdfunding store.

There was also a new Q&A video posted for the month of January, which covers topics such as character movement, avoiding artificial boundaries and playtesting.

Crowfall’s Terms of Service were also updated, and many of the changes thereto seem to be concerned with refunds:

Up to this point, we’ve been doing ‘no questions asked’ pledge package refunds. (The official policy stated in our ToU has always said no refunds, but we weren’t enforcing it.) These requests aren’t made very often, but the process for accommodating them is complicated and far more time consuming than one might imagine.

The reality is that proceeds from the sale of pledge packages aren’t squirreled away in a little bank under Tully’s desk where we can easily shake out a few coins here and there. The money is invested in the company and is actively being used as working capital to develop the game. It makes financial planning more difficult when you’re doing all you can to make every penny count but piles of pennies suddenly disappear from the pile. Consequently, the time has come for us to firm up and enforce the ToU in regard to refunds.

Note that we are not insensitive to the fact that sometimes bad things unexpectedly happen and we have made provisions for that in the ToU. We also allow individuals to sell their retired pledge packages—retired packages have a higher resell value than current packages, by the way—although we don’t allow solicitation of pledge packages through Crowfall service (which includes the forums and social media channels). We are looking into options that will give our backers safer ways to buy and sell pledge packages in the future. We’ll tell you more about it after we’ve done a little more fine-tuning.

And as January ended and February began, we also got to meet engineer Vlad Judys, and another Founder’s Update which included revelations about the upcoming skill system, a pledge package trading program, and a new testing reward.

In terms of game content, ArtCraft also published a number of updates about goddesses, castle building, and more. We were introduced to Maeve, the sea goddess, and also Illara. There is also now a reference page for Crowfall’s pantheon of gods.

We also got a look at the Ranger archetype, including some of the equipment that will be available to Rangers. Somewhat related to this, ArtCraft also published an FAQ page about training your character.

And finally, it’s worth mentioning the threepart video series featuring various members of the development team discussing the castle building feature, and various issues related thereto.

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Dusty Monkey Chats With Derek Brinkmann About Shards Online Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:35:33 +0000 Dusty Monkey — a gaming live-streamer (whom I share a birthday with, incidentally) — sat down with Citadel Studios’ Derek Brinkmann to chat about Shards Online. It’s a good little chat, and there’s some gameplay footage to go along with it.

Topics of discussion include character skills, fishing, NPCs, mounts, clusters, the upcoming Shards alpha test, and whether it’ll appear on Steam.

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Grab All the Ultima Games On Sale at GOG This Weekend Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:52:26 +0000

This week, GOG’s Weekend Promo is what they are calling their EA Completionist Pack:

Are you on the hunt for some elusive Electronic Arts classics missing from your shelf, perchance? Well go ahead and grab the ones that got away or the whole EA Completionist Pack with a whopping 85% discount! But if you are still among the uninitiated, you can always take advantage of the enticing 60% discount on each game, to get your bEAutiful collection going.

Do you crave an epic, colourful story, crafted by beloved RPG gem-cutters BioWare? Welcome to the mystical, delightfully deadly Jade Empire, a place full of interesting quests, unique NPCs, and breathtaking environments where everybody is kung-fu fighting! And carefully arranging their skill trees like delicate bonsai.

Slashing down monsters for XP, gold, or sport is always a blast. But try to keep these unruly buggers in line as a visionary Dungeon Keeper and things are bound to get messy. Especially for the unsuspecting surface heroes who are about to have their lands taken from under their feet. Literally.

There are 42 great games waiting to be discovered in The EA Completionist Pack and you’ll want to catch’ em all! Complete your collection either by picking out the stragglers or in one fell swoop with that sweet 85% discount. But you can always take it slow and get 60% off the ones that caught your eye first.

That set of 42 games includes all of the Ultimas, and you can grab those packages for $2.39 USD each.

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Check Out AvatarAcid’s Dark Path (From Serpent Isle) in Minecraft Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:31:04 +0000 AvatarAcid has put together a video showcasing his re-creation of Serpent Isle’s Dark Path in (what else?) Minecraft.

It’s a narrated video, and AvatarAcid offers up some interesting commentary on the Dark Path itself, the plot of Serpent Isle and the design considerations that led to the Path’s creation. He also notes that it’s the first instance of fast travel in an RPG that he can think of; would that be a correct statement?

At any rate, the level of detail evident in this creation is pretty impressive, as is usually the case when AvatarAcid hammers out something in Minecraft; he has some serious talent for manipulating the blocks.

Naturally, there’s now a project entry for this, whereat you can find downloads of a Minecraft world save and an MCEdit template.

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