The Ultima Codex | The Ultima Codex The Ultima Fan Network Thu, 24 Jul 2014 03:04:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Exodus Project: Ultima 3 Upgrade Updated to Version 3.1 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 03:04:32 +0000 full_u3-cga-demo full_u3-cgacomp-demo full_u3-ega-demo full_u3-vga-demo

Voyager Dragon has, as of today, released version 3.1 of the Exodus Project’s Ultima 3 Upgrade.

This release adds a few gameplay fixes to the game and addresses a few issues/concerns folks had with version 3.0.

  • A set of gameplay fixes that can be enabled/disabled in the configuration program. The fixes must be toggled as a group; they cannot be toggled individually. If enabled, they will do the following:
    • Double the overworld monster generation rate. Perhaps one of the largest complaints of this port of U3 is the low monster generation rate and, by extension, the ship generation rate.
    • Increase the dungeon monster generation rate. Rate increase varies by level such that it is double the original on the first level, but only 25% more on the bottom level. Note that the effective rate increases with each dungeon level. This results in more lucrative dungeon runs, but also potentially more dangerous.
    • Halve the food consumption rate. Food is supposed to be taxing on a party, but weighs to heavily against poorer parties.
  • A streamlined installation procedure. This package ships with default configuration for the most common or recommended settings. You are of course free to customize it as needed, but it’s no longer required.
  • Windows-native (32-bit) and Linux-native (i686 ELF) versions of the U3RESET, U3CFG, and BINPAT tools. Windows versions end in “w” and Linux versions end in “l”. This should make it simpler to run these programs without having to boot into Dosbox and manually run them. Sorry MacOS users – I’d love to have OSX native versions as well, but I don’t have a great cross-compile solution to build Mac binaries from Windows.
  • The DOS 16-bit version of U3RESET was missing from the v3.0 package. It’s included again now.
  • A bugfix where a resurrection would cause the game to crash.
  • A minor VGA graphics update to the dragon animation on startup.

Naturally, you can grab the updated version 3.1 download of the Ultima 3 Upgrade from both the Exodus Project website and its project entry here.

Additionally, per a comment he left on the Ultima 3 subdomain, I have expanded the Ultima 3 Assembly project entry somewhat; it now plays host to a number of technical files released by Voyager Dragon (the assembly dump being among these).

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Shroud of the Avatar: Release 8 Tutorial Video Thu, 24 Jul 2014 02:26:14 +0000

This is a short (relatively speaking) video, prepared by Portalarium’s Chris Spears, that should hopefully help step players into the eighth pre-alpha test release — Release 8, as it is known — of Shroud of the Avatar. The combat and skill system have been overhauled somewhat with the addition of PvP combat; this video should address at least some of those changes.

Scott “Lum” Jennings also took time out of his busy schedule (by which I mean killing his co-workers in PvP matches) to prepare a short guide to building out a combat card deck in Release 8. That might be worth checking out as well.

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Shroud of the Avatar – PreAlpha Release 8 Instructions Wed, 23 Jul 2014 23:58:27 +0000 Good Afternoon Friends and Avatars! I am pleased to bring you the R8 Pre-Alpha Release Instructions from Starr “Darkstarr” Long.  PVP and Combat will be the main focus this time.  Below you will find the information.  I especially love the concept art he included in the main post on the SotA Website, as well as his forum post.


Greetings Avatars,

Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 8 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, July 24 at 10:30 AM Central Time. Release 8 access will end on Monday, July 28 at 10:00 AM Central Time. Starting today, you can begin installing and patching (see instructions below), but login will not be enabled until Thursday morning.

This has been yet another incredible release to work on. We kicked it off with a bang by completely redirecting the entire release to focus on pulling PVP in earlier than previously planned. We then followed it up with an incredibly positive showing at the Rooster Teeth Expo here in Austin where we signed up over 300 potential backers for Release 8 access. Right after RTX , we managed to pull in Deck Building and Glyph Combat (originally planned for R9) and then we hunkered down and spent every day making combat and PVP better. We do daily dev death matches in the Castle Arena Basement and they are epic! The team has never been more engaged and excited. Even team members who are not traditionally drawn to PVP were pulled in and had fun. After each death match, we meet to discuss the results and decide what we want to fix / add for the next session. The end result is combat that offers a truly refreshing and compelling experience that is completely different than anything we have played. Is it still rough? Of course it is, but it positively seethes with potential and you, our incredible backers, are going to help us reach that potential.

Without further ado here are the R8 deliverables, along with some extra notes and new deliverables in italics.


RELEASE 8 (revised), July 24 – 27, 2014:

  • Open PVP Areas: Certain parts of the map will now allow open PVP. Currently we have been testing this functionality in the Castle Basement Arena. For now there will be very little structure to this; it will basically be just deathmatch.
    • 7 Open PVP Zones: These range from Arena Basements to an entire player town island. They can be accessed from Kingsport (the Brave Coast ferry on the dock and at the northern guard tower), Owlshead (to the northeast of FireLotus Tavern near the gate to the town center and within the weapon shop near the barracks) and Braemar (within the very surprised young lady Bridget’s house). There are also two forest road scenes accessible via the overworld map.
    • PVP Balance (NOT): Despite daily play sessions and constant tuning for 3.5 weeks, PVP balance is still in a massive state of flux (as expected). Our focus with this first iteration was to get everything to a base level of functionality, balance will come over time. This is why it is is important for us to get it in sooner versus later (as many of you urged us to do). Expect it to take at least 1 or 2 more releases before it is even close to being near a steady state. Until then enjoy the Chaos (and report issues)!!!
  • Combat Systems: We will be iterating and adding to the fundamental systems that support combat, including more secondary effects like bludgeons damaging gear and heavy armor lowering your pool of focus. We are also going to introduce and experiment with interrupts, combat facing, and more sophisticated line of sight checks.SotA_R8_PvP_small
    • Positioning: We have now started implementing a positioning mechanic into the game where your relative position in relation to your target affects combat calculations including line of sight (they must be in your forward arc of view to be targetable) and damage (attacking someone from behind confers a damage bonus). We will expand the functionality and content related to positioning over time.
    • Cover / Line of Sight: Line of sight checks for being able to cast spells is now much more accurate and it is checked in real time. This is the first step towards implementing a cover system (similar to how we did it in Tabula Rasa) which will come online in later releases. Already you can use the space to assist you by keeping things like columns in the arena between you and an enemy so they can’t land that lightning bolt on you.
    • Interrupts / Casting Bar: Spells with casting times can now be interrupted. More powerful spells (like Fireball) have these longer casting times and you can see the time it will take to cast it with the new Casting Bar. Interrupts can be caused by moving, taking damage, falling, etc.
    • Jumping Mechanics: Jumping now uses focus and when used while stunned, rooted, and knocked down it has a small chance to cancel those effects.
    • Fizzle: Spells and Skills can now fizzle (fail). Fizzle is one of the penalties caused by wearing armor.
    • Misguided Missiles: Certain ranged spells like Fireball are now no longer guided missiles and instead now target the initial location of the target (i.e. they do not track the moving target). This means you can now dodge fireballs (although the splash damage is still likely to get you). Note that instant spells like lightning still track directly to target.
  • Damage Types & Resistances: Damage types and resistances (fire, ice, physical, etc.) will begin to affect combat.
    • Currently you can only increase your Fire Resistance by pumping the Fire Proof skill. The ability to increase other resistances will come online as we add those specific skills in upcoming releases.
  • Combat Skills: We are moving to a new strategy of going deeper verse broader in skill creation. For Release 8, our goal is to flesh out more of the schools of Fire, Blades, and Heavy Armor.
    • Innate Skills: Skills are divided into two classes: Active and Innate. Active skills are used in combat and until this release these have been the only skills that have been available. Each point spent on an Active skill adds another rune of that skill that you can add to a deck (therefore increasing the chance for that skill to appear). Points spent on Innate skills increase the stats associated with that school. For example points spent on Innate Fire Skills increase the effectiveness of Active Fire Skills. It is worth noting that only Fire, Blades, Heavy Armor, and Focus are the only schools that have innate skills in this release so they will be naturally more powerful than the other schools.
    • Prerequisites: Skills now require you to spend points on prerequisites in the skill tree. Note that skills we have not implemented yet will show as black boxes but you still need to spend points on them to get access to higher level skills.
    • 23 New Skills: We were able to complete 23 new skills including the addition of an entire new school: Focus. Note that this is list of ONLY new skills, not skills already in the game (ex. Fireball).
    • Fire Magic:
      • Fire Arrow: Ranged Direct Damage with DOT (damage over time)
      • Summon Fire Elemental: Summons a Fire Elemental which will attack a target that you attack (more behaviors will come online in later releases)
      • Highly Flammable (innate): Fire DOTs last longer and Fire Damage increased
      • Fire Reach (innate): Increase Range and Radius of Fire Spells
      • Fire Proof (innate): Increases fire resistance
    • Water Magic:
      • Douse: Removes fire DOTs
    • Blades:SotA_R8_PvP_small2
      • Rend: A ripping attack that causes the target to bleed (adding a DOT)
      • Parry: Increases defense values for next hit on caster
      • Riposte: Attack that also increases defense value for next hit on caster
      • Coup de Grace: Attack that does double damage if target is below 20% health
      • Vital Points (innate): Increases Damage with bladed weapons
      • Speed (innate): Increases speed with bladed weapons
    • Heavy Armor:
      • Defensive Stance: Increases defense values
      • Inner Strength: Increases Strength
      • Absorb Impacts: Decreases damage received but increases damage to armor (armor damage not yet implemented)
      • Knight’s Grace: Removes physical debuffs like stun, root, knockdown
      • Endurance (innate): Increases Strength and decreases Heavy Armor Penalties (Fizzle, Slugs, etc.)
      • Healthy (innate): Increases Health and Health regeneration rate
    • Focus: Focus skills are all related to how skills appear in combat (speed, duration, number visible, cost, etc.). See below for more info on Glyph Combat and Decks. Focus is the 10th School of Magic, it is the central “eye in a triangle” of the Magic Sigil.
      • Higher Consciousness (innate): Increases size of your hand
      • Concentration (innate): Increase amount of time Glyphs are visible before they are discarded
      • Mental Reflex (innate): Increases speed that skills appear
      • Eidetic Memory (innate): Increases the number of Locked Skills you can have
      • Mindfulness (innate): Decrease focus cost of locked skills
  • Glyph Combat and Deck Building: We are very excited that we were able to pull Skill Glyph Combat and Deck Building into this release (originally scheduled for R9). You can now build decks and Glyphs will appear randomly in your shortcut bar unless you lock skills.
    • Multiple Decks: You can create multiple decks and swap between them to try different builds. The only current limit is the amount of skill points you have available.
    • Gear Links: You can link your equipped gear to a deck so when you switch decks you automatically switch your equipped gear as well.
    • Locked Spells: You can lock spells if you spend points on Eidetic Memory. Locked spells will always appear in your combat bar in the same place regardless of any other randomly dealt skills. Locked Skills cost 50% more focus than unlocked skills and they start with a cooldown. Once a skill is locked it is no longer available for random dealing nor can it be used in combos (combos will be implemented in upcoming releases).
    • Slugs: Slugs are useless Glyphs that will appear in your combat bar for various reasons including: not putting a minimum of 20 skills in your deck, wearing medium or heavy armor, debuffs, etc.
    • Fully Locked Option: If you wish to forgo playing in Glyph mode, you can select the fully locked option in the options menu and the game will act like a traditional shortcut bar MMO (i.e. identical to how it has been in previous releases).
    • Helpful Links: We highly recommend you read Lum’s Deck Tips to learn the basics of building a deck and you should also watch Chris’s Combat Vid to learn even more.
  • Status Indicators: We are adding status indicators for things like low ammo, damaged/broken gear, buffs, debuffs, etc.
    • Buffs & Debuffs icons now appear underneath the party UI elements
    • Low Ammo and Broken gear icons now appear in upper right (note broken gear won’t show up in this release because we have not yet implemented durability
  • Scenes: Ardoris, the waterfront city on the main continent filled with canals and framed by two opposing castles, will now be available to players. Ardoris will also be the first map with Row Houses. Other adventuring scenes on the main continent will also appear. These new scenes on the mainland will be accessed via the Lunar Rifts which will now change destinations based on time of day.
    • Ferig’s Battle Camp: This new map on the mainland is the battle camp of Ferig, who is the son of the Titan Grannus. Ferig, along with his brother Demig can often be found around the Norguard Territories engaging Kobold armies that regularly pour out of Skrrekk the cavern empire of the Kobold King Korabar! For these early releases this map can be accessed via the Kingsport Lunar Rift.
    • Row Housing: We have added two small sections of row housing in Owlshead and Kingsport so you can start getting a feel of how this new house type will feel.
    • Ardoris Delayed: Ardoris is very close to completion, but it is our densest and largest city so far. We want to spend a little more time on it to ensure solid performance and to make sure it has the level of polish you expect. Trust us, it will be worth the wait. It is spectacular.
    • Lunar Rifts Delayed: Tying the Lunar Rift function to time of day had to be de-prioritized in favor of skill work and combat functionality.
  • New Creatures: Several new creatures will come online including a new mimic and a Fire Elemental, as well as variations on existing creatures (liches, kobolds, etc.).SotA_R8_PvP_FireElemental
    • Fire Elemental: The Fire Elemental can now be summoned with the Fire Magic spell. This is important because she is the first step to pets, taming, summoning behaviors, etc. You can expect to see a lot more behaviors for summoned creatures including state setting (passive/aggressive) as well orders (attack/stop/stay) in upcoming releases now that we have the fundamental AI architecture in place.
    • Mimic and Variations Delayed: The new Barrel Mimic and the Lich and Kobold variations are very close to completion, but we needed to focus our AI time on the Fire Elemental so these other creatures had to get pushed.
  • Item Tooltips: Much of the data in these tooltips was literal displays of behind the scenes data and was not ordered in any particular fashion. We spent some time providing an interpretation of that data that was easier to process and we also reordered the data based on relevance to you the player, so things like damage values sort to the top of weapons for instance.
  • NPC Collision: Being able to just walk through every NPC felt immersion breaking and wrong. However making the player actually collide with every NPC felt frustrating. So this release we are experimenting with a hybrid approach where running into NPCs will slow you to a walk but not stop you.
  • Target Highlight on Interactive objects: Previously there was no feedback that you had selected an interactive object (switches, lights, chests, doors, signs, etc.) but now using our new highlighting targets effect you can know instantly that you have one of these objects selected.
  • Crafting: Durability and Repair will come online.
    • With all the other changes coming online we felt adding yet another level of functionality to the game would make things needlessly complicated for you and for ourselves. We quickly realized we already were going to have a ton of variables to balance and adjust without adding this to the mix.
  • Overworld Animating Avatars: Players will now see their avatars (along with their party members) animating on the overworld map.
    • We decided to focus only on performance improvements before adding more features to the map
  • Intro Cinematic: We are making an animatic version of the intro with narration by our very own Bill Johnson (aka The Guardian).
    • The intro is coming along very well but we want to make some edits to the ending and do another audio pass before releasing it. In the meantime here are some still frames from the flic:

The Dire Prophecies:

intro 1

Scanning dark nets for mysterious documents about another world:

intro 3

intro 4

intro 2

Reaching into the portal:

intro 5

So now that it is clear what you can expect, we should also be as clear about what you should not expect:

  • Combat: Combat does not yet include combos or advancement.
  • Performance: We have only done rudimentary optimizations and we do not yet have a full suite of performance fallbacks (LODs, etc.). This means the game will be quite slow on older machines, and due to memory usage, might be unstable in certain conditions (like densely decorated areas). With each release, we will be doing further optimizations and adding to our fallbacks to improve performance.
  • Crafting: The crafting system is in the game as a framework, but is still missing some key components like repair, events, and enhancement. Skill checks are also not in yet, so results are always 100% successful. Long term, the percentage chance to make items will depend on a myriad of variables and can result in a variety of results including: making the item desired, making a simpler version of the item that will need to be enhanced, or making a damaged version of the item that needs repair.
  • Game Loop: Release 8 was a further iteration on our rudimentary game loop, but it is still very bare bones. Expect this to expand with each subsequent release, but it won’t be truly complete until we hit Beta later this year
  • Advanced Player Housing: There are some advanced features for player housing, including basements and ceiling decorations that are not yet integrated. Expect to see these appear in future releases.
  • Visual Quality: Efforts to improve visual quality are ongoing. We will continue to iterate on these until we have highly competitive visuals.

Here are links to instructions and known issues. Thank you again for your continued support. This is truly the most amazing community we have ever worked with and we are proud to be on this journey with you.

Starr Long
aka Darkstarr
Executive Producer

[Join the Release 8 conversation in the public forums]

Release 8 Combat Deck Video

Community member, Violation, put together a great video as well to help all of us use and build decks with the updated Combat features.  Check it out Below:

I hope to see many of you in R8… feel free to hit me up for a lil PVP or exploration… or just group up with other community members and have fun, as usual… Below are a few helpful links as well….

Release 8 Player Instructions

Release 8 Known Issues

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Wallpaper for the Week Wed, 23 Jul 2014 20:26:26 +0000 1920-1200-204448

I was going to feature some X-Wing concept art by Ralph McQuarrie as this week’s wallpaper, in response to the recent reveal of the new X-Wing design that would feature in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII.

But then I found this picture.

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You Should Enable Two-Factor Authentication (Yes, You) Wed, 23 Jul 2014 17:52:50 +0000 Hast thou enabled two-factor authentication on all thy accounts that support it?

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The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Interviews Richard Garriott Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:16:27 +0000 Lightspeed Magazine has a full transcription of Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy’s interview with Richard Garriott. Much of it focuses on the Ultima games and the philosophy of the Eight Virtues, although some discussion of Shroud of the Avatar also takes place. If you’re curious about what “the Oracle” is, you might want to click through and give the transcript a read.

]]> 0 Wed, 23 Jul 2014 14:20:26 +0000 “Beware of the jesters, for although they amuse, they may also deceive.” – The First Age of Darkness, Ultima 1

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Shroud of the Avatar: Release 8 Preview at Wed, 23 Jul 2014 04:31:05 +0000 Shroudpvp1 managed to get an early preview of Shroud of the Avatar’s upcoming pre-alpha test release, colloquially known as Release 8. The major focus of this release is PvP, so the game’s combat system is what captures the focus of the first part of the article. If you’ve tried any of the previous Shroud of the Avatar releases, you’ll already have an idea of what the combat system is like.

If not…

You build a deck based off of the skills you currently have by dragging runes from your skill UI to the deck UI, and then you equip the deck you want to use. That already implies that you’ll have multiple decks developed for a range of flexibility and a recent dev post says decks can be tied to specific armor, so there’s a win right there to my mind. When you engage in combat, your task bar will begin to populate with runes from your deck. You have a set amount of time to use each one, or it’ll be pulled from your bar. There’s already a system in to warn you the rune is about to be pulled, and which should be clear when you see runes start to slip down out of the task bar.

One of the things the folks at Portalarium have set as a standard for themselves in making Shroud of the Avatar, is this idea that things should be easy to get into and hard to master. The new combat system really demonstrates their adherence to that ideal, because while it is a very easy system to understand, there is a much deeper complexity laying beneath the surface. They’ve tied the runes to the skill system in a couple interesting ways.

First and most obviously, you need to have the skill to have the rune, so there’s a direct link between what you can do in combat and what skills you’ve worked on aquiring. As you work your way up the skill tree, you also have the option to stop and put extra points in a skill you already own. This allows you to get up to four extra runes for that ability.

However, Release 8 isn’t only about PvP, and when the article discusses some of the other new features, it makes the release sound rather more interesting…especially in this description of the new location that will be included for us to check out:

When you’re not engaged in mortal combat, there are few better places to recover your sanity than the Venetian-inspired city of Ardoris, which can be accessed via the Lunar Rifts. The new row housing options are on display in the new city, as well as some new cultural elements. They weren’t quite done with the city when I stopped in for a look, but there was more than enough completed to get a feel for it. Asian-influenced houses crowd the canals and waterways, aqueducts cross the city to carry fresh water in from the surrounding mountains, and all set in accents of blue. It combines to give the city a real exotic flair that separates it from the more traditional fantasy feel of Owls Head and Kingsport.

As well, on the second page, there is some recollection of feature that Richard Garriott mentioned, to the article’s author, wanting to include in the game:

…Richard wants to implement food in the game, which they’d already planned on, but he wants to put a twist on it. After some reading and research, Richard says he realized that most food falls into three categories, mostly equal in a balanced meal once the water removed. By weight, the average human diet is mostly a third each of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. That’s not exactly accurate, but it’s close enough to use as a rule in the game.

Thus, Richard wants to give in-game food stats that equate to each of those categories, and have each impact different components of the game. Body and strength related attributes would depend on eating a healthy amount of protein, for instance. For mind activity, you might need more fast-burning carbs instead. The result should be that food isn’t something you periodically shovel into your character’s mouth to meet a generic requirement. You’ll want to find the best and most balanced food possible, which makes player-run kitchens and restaurants a little more likely.

I’m of two minds about this.

On the one hand, in terms of role playing and world simulation, the inclusion of this system would be a pretty significant — and immersive — feature (although one wonders how well it would play out in the single-player mode, where player-run kitchens won’t be a factor). But on the other hand, done wrong, it would be an even more frustrating version of the food systems of the first few Ultima games…or in Ultima 7, for that matter. Can you imagine if Dupre, in addition to never shutting up about being hungry, gradually lost his strength and combat prowess if all you fed him was bread? Yes, it’s somewhat more realistic…but there’s a fine line between realism and having to keep track of a Weight Watchers program for your entire party.

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Britannia & Serpent Isle Maps for Dwarf Fortress Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:37:53 +0000 df-britannia df-serpentisle

Some of you may recall mikefictiti0us from his short-lived attempt to re-create Ultima 6 using Exult (which is not to be confused with The Ultima 6 Remake).

Well, his plans for a re-telling of The False Prophet using Ultima 7′s graphics may have been put aside, but he has gone and created a wonderful pair of maps — of Britannia (circa Ultima 7) and the Serpent Isle — for Dwarf Fortress.

Dwarf Fortress, if you haven’t heard of it, is a part-roguelike, part-city-building game that typically features procedurally-generated worlds created on Code page 437 graphics. However, as evidenced by this project, it also supports the import of custom maps. It’s is a donationware product, and can be obtained for free from Bay 12 Games.

Naturally, I have created project entries for both maps; the Britannia map is here on the Ultima 7 subdomain, and the Serpent Isle map is here on the Serpent Isle subdomain…which I see I need to migrate to the new template, still. Sheesh.

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Warren Spector is Featured in Video Games: The Movie Tue, 22 Jul 2014 17:23:32 +0000 Zach Braff’s Video Games: The Movie is “an epic feature length documentary chronicling the meteoric rise of video games from nerd niche to multi-billion dollar industry. Featuring in-depth interviews with the godfathers who started it all, the icons of game design, and the geek gurus who are leading us into the future, VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE is a celebration of gaming from Atari to Xbox, and an eye-opening look at what lies ahead.”

The movie was successfully Kickstarted a bit over a year ago, and was released on July 15th of this year. It features interviews with over 100 video game visionaries and designers, including the likes of Warren Spector, Harvey Smith, and Raphael Colantonio.

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Check out Mike Winterbauer’s Book About Game Box Art (Including Some Wing Commander Art) Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:03:01 +0000 Mike Winterbauer, an artist who created the box cover art for (among other things) some of the Wing Commander and Might & Magic games, has written about about his work on these and other projects.

Better still, he’s offering a PDF version of the book on his website, for free.

(Via: Kotaku)

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The CRPG Addict Plays Ring of Darkness (An Obvious Ultima Ripoff) Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:19:34 +0000 rodmain

The CRPG Addict has decided to take a look at Ring of Darkness, a game released in 1982 for the ZX Spectrum.

So imagine you’re an eager young player in the United Kingdom in the early 1980s, and you’ve just unpackaged your new Dragon 32 or ZX Spectrum. Maybe in some magazines you’ve heard about the Wizardry or Ultima series in the U.S., and you start looking around for something to fill that RPG craving. You find nothing, unless you want to type the code for The Valley yourself. You start to suspect that the U.S. is going to dominate the Computer Age.

Then a company like Wintersoft comes along and offers a game like Ring of Darkness. You don’t care that it’s a breathtakingly obvious ripoff of Ultima; it’s not like Richard Garriott–the prick who has the audacity to call himself Lord British–was porting his stuff to your little Welsh machine. It’s all you have, and you love it.

An Ultima ripoff? Well, yes, actually…very yes.

When I say “breathtakingly obvious ripoff,” I couldn’t be more serious. The product would be indistinguishable from Ultima except for the couple of features it steals from Akalabeth and Ultima II. These include:

  • Overland, iconographic surface navigation is contrasted with first-person wireframe dungeon movement.
  • The game has the same attributes, races, and character classes as Ultima, plus modifications to attributes based on race and class choices.
  • The same enemies pop up in the wilderness, including “evil rangers” (Ultima)
  • The command list is copied almost directly from Ultima, including (K)limb, (Z)stats, and (I)nform and Search.
  • A king gives you random quests to visit signs and slay enemies (Akalabeth and Ultima) and takes your gold for hit-point increases (Ultima and Ultima II)
  • Oh, but you also get hit points when you leave dungeons, based on the number of enemies you killed! (Akalabeth, Ultima)
  • Quests offered by kings alter between visiting signs and killing specific enemies in dungeons (Ultima)
  • Towns feature little counters selling weapons, armor, spells, and food. You engage them by walking up and hitting (T)ransact.
  • Bartenders give hints when you buy drinks (Ultima).
  • Spells appear as inventory items that deplete as cast (all three games)
  • You need to constantly watch dwindling food supplies (all three games)
  • Magic only works in dungeons (Ultima II)
  • A king’s castle features a princess in jail and a jester wandering around who steals from you. And guess what the jester has to say?

The Addict goes on to note that, insofar as it rips off Ultima, the game is quite good. He cannot say the same for where the game tries to be original however, and singles out its control scheme and error-handling for criticism in particular.

However, the Addict is a completionist, and so will attempt to pass the game; do stay tuned for his next report on it. One wonders if it will require him to become a space ace at some point?

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The Ultima Dragons Facebook Group Tops 800 Members Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:06:13 +0000 udic-logo

Some time in the last week or so, the Ultima Dragons Facebook group exceeded 800 members.

And while that number pales in comparison to the literal thousands of Dragons whose names grace the UDIC roster, it still represents a fairly significant group of people for whom Ultima, in all its various manifestations, is not just a much-beloved series of computer games, but also the means to — and binding agent of — a boisterous and imaginative online community.

And hey…the Dragons are one of the oldest (if not the oldest) gaming fan communities going. Eight hundred (and three) is a perfectly respectable membership for a group that is comprised of the fandom of a game that hasn’t seen a single-player PC release since well before Mark Zuckerberg began working on what eventually became the Book of Face.

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OpenMW: Version 0.31.0 Released Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:49:41 +0000 openmw

The OpenMW project has hit another milestone, and has released version 0.31.0 of their open source re-implementation of the The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind engine:

The OpenMW team is proud to announce the release of version 0.31.0! Grab it from our Downloads Page for all operating systems. This release includes implementation of many smaller features that have been sorely missing, as well fixes for a ridiculous amount of bugs. Many thanks to our developers for their relentless attention to detail. Some optimization has made it into this release, let us know if you see any increased performance.

The list of fixed bugs is indeed absurdly lengthy, so I’ll direct you to the official news post to get all the details. (All I will say is that if you give this release a try, do not attempt to switch from windowed mode to full screen if you’re using DirectX 9!)

A few days prior to the release announcement, the team also revealed that Zini, from the Titans of Ether, had gotten rendering substantially implemented in the engine’s OpenCS scripting language.

An installer for non-Windows operating systems is also being worked on.

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The Dark Unknown: New Demo Available Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:38:32 +0000 the-dark-unknown

Goldenflame Dragon posted some significant news to The Dark Unknown’s Facebook page (which was later added to the News page on the game’s website proper):

A few minor bugfixes, one new map, and the Demo version on the website is now up to date and no longer blatantly doesn’t work.

The version under this site’s Demo tab has been broken for… a while, now, presumably. This is what I get for the overly cute method I had been using for keeping it up to date up here. I’ve replaced it with the current (as of today) development version, and it appears to work… though since it now has sound and music, it is a little slow to initially load.

You can click on over to the game’s website to play The Dark Unknown right in your browser.

Additionally, Goldenflame has also made more progress with the game’s conversation editor:

Tonight’s progress: fleshed out the conversation validator, so it checks for more things. That’s good. Then discovered that the way I was now storing conversations (I had changed it to make working in the editor more straightforward) had actually broken something. Fixed that, but realized that the implication is that I cannot just use JSON to solve my save game issues. Save/Load is going to be a lot more complicated than I was hoping. Ah well. Still progress.

And his early use of the tool seems promising:

For the first time, actually used the conversation editor to expand the game’s dialogue, and in doing so found and fixed a couple of bugs.

Also, there are now sound effects for (a) trying to move but bumping into something (wall, mountain, dragon), (b) opening a door, (c) closing a door, and (d) trying but failing to open a locked door. Thank the virtues for

Oh, and now once you learn a person’s name, the game will remember that you know it and you’ll see that when you (L)ook at them.

But really, it’s the updated game demo that you should all be sure to check out.

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Ultima Online: Publish 86 Live on TC1, Launches Vice vs. Virtue PVP Event Sun, 20 Jul 2014 03:31:45 +0000 uo-kingdom-reborn

Broadsword Online Games have released Publish 86 for Ultima Online on the TC1 shard, and with it have kicked off the “Vice vs. Virtue” (VvV) event in-game. As I understand it, this is a faction-vs.-faction PvP event. The basics of taking part in VvV seem to be thus:

  • Visit the VvV signup stone located at the Yew gate in Felucca.
  • In order to sign up for VvV you must be in a guild and your guild master must have already signed up for VvV.
  • When joining VvV you will be automatically joined into an arbitrary faction. This is only for testing purposes, as some messages use existing faction tools.

And here’s how the competition plays out:

  • You can score points by,
    • Being the only guild that is occupying the city
      • You must be alive, and not in a house or on a ship to be counted
    • Killing players of opposing guilds
      • There is a 5 minute kill timeout for receiving points for kills
    • Stealing and returning the sigil to the Priests of Vice and Virtue
  • A sigil will spawn after a random amount of time following the start of the match in 1 of 5 predetermined locations.
  • When the sigil icon (located at the bottom of the battle status Gump) lights up, the sigil has spawned.
  • The sigil can be found by a passive detecting hidden check with a detecting hidden skill greater than 80.0%, you will receive a message indicating “Your keen senses detect something hidden in the area…”
  • The sigil can then be revealed using an active detecting hidden check.
  • Once revealed the sigil can be stolen by a thief with a minimum of 100.0% skill using the stealing skill.

As well, Publish 86 also activates the Traders Quest in-game event, which allows players to accept delivery tasks from Trade Ministers; successful completion of deliveries will result in all manner of rewards being bestowed, including gold and resources. The distance over which the delivery is carried out, and the difficulty of it, factor in to the determination of the size of the reward.

Finally, Publish 86 also overhauls the game’s loot system somewhat, spawned magic items will now be endowed with various properties by means of a new, automatic loot property generation system. The “Cleanup Britannia” feature has also seen some changes…and, of course, various bugs have been squashed.

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #82 Sat, 19 Jul 2014 14:15:28 +0000 Good Morning Friends & Fellow Avatars!

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

  • Are You Ready for some PvP?
  • Dev+ Early Early Release 8 Access
  • Lord Reward: Noble’s Magical Discourse Orb
  • Knight Marshal Winged Helm
  • Row House Expansion
  • Crowdsourcing Music Update
  • Hangout of the Avatar Developer Roundtable ~ Player Owned Towns
  • Flexible Placement Stretch Goal
  • Alienware Sponsors 1000 Access Keys and Prizes for Release 8
  • World Builder/Level Designer Job Opening
  • Upcoming Events

Are You Ready for some PvP?


There’s only 5 days left until Release 8 launches and all of you get to experience the PvP that’s been dominating the dev team’s attention for the past month. The team’s 30 minute PvP play sessions every morning are growing longer and longer as from what I have heard, they are having too much fun to stop (well, at least the ones that aren’t spending most of their time face down on the arena floor are having too much fun to stop)!

Here’s a recent list of PvP changes that Chris Spears posted on the Dev+ Forums:

  • Improved combat tracking for damage source type (per spell/skill)
  • Option to allow you to click yourself or click through yourself for better targeting control in close quarters.
  • Casting bar added so spells that can be interrupted now show how far into casting you are
  • Fix for losing target with right+left click move
  • Focus regen changed to start 10 seconds after last ability that used focus instead 10 seconds after you leave combat
  • Fix for locked slots not showing runes sometimes
  • Added slow sliding out for runes over 2 seconds to give visual indications when they are about to vanish
  • Added fast animation in for runes when they are dealt so they catch your eye
  • Fix for having full bar of dead icons when re-entering combat after leaving it
  • Fix to make runes useable while sliding/fading out
  • Update to UI for locked runesto make them bordered
  • Casting bar doubled in size for visibility during hectic battles
  • Add focus cost penalty for Locked runes
  • Make Locked runesstart in cooldown mode on combat start
  • Add cool down penalty for Locked runes
  • Stop movement when start casting an interruptible spell. (Can interrupt it and start moving by lifting and pressing again)
  • Lengthened Healing Ray cast time
  • Fix for triggering rapid attacks by moving in circles around the player
  • Low ammo indicator on screen to show when you’re low on ammo (and in the future, reagents, damaged armor, damaged weapons, etc.)
  • Added controls for card drawing speed
  • Added controls for duration of runes before vanishing
  • Added controls for size of hand (runes in play)
  • Added controls for changing number of locked slots in use
  • Added option to play with ALL locked slots to simulate older games for old people who think slow. Also known as “Dallas Mode”
  • Fix for bug that caused runes to deal faster and faster over time! This was exciting…
  • Allow for deck swapping during combat with focus use
  • Slug icon added!
  • Slug logic added to add slugs to fill out deck to minimum number of runes if the user doesn’t have enough runes.
  • Added linking of gear to decks so that gear is saved with each deck
  • Deck serialization to save on servers when online
  • More additions to right click context menu
  • Enforce skill prerequisites in skill trees (had been off for testing but needed to turn this on for our Devplus play test on Monday)
  • Fix for secondary effects of fireball ignoring distance to target
  • Added small focus use for jump
  • Added chance for jump to break root/stun/knockdown. You can try twice a second with around a 20% break chance with the stats we’ll be starting players with. Pound away!
  • Increase data send rate when in combat for faster reactions
  • Removed corpse explosion for players….for now
  • Added equipment requirements for innate skills
  • New rune options for cost/effect tied to ongoing concentration time (example, life drain ray that goes as long as you let me continue to cast without interruption)
  • Allow for unarmed combat if no ammo in off hand for ranged weapons. Punch is better than nothing
  • Toggling autorun now breaks following
  • Make dashes camera relative
  • Added slug data to all armor
  • Added fizzle data to all armor
  • Added fire elemental for summoning
  • Reduced fireball range
  • Fixed Douse so it removes fire DOT
  • Created new skill tree for focus related skills (swapping speed, hand size, focus pool size, etc.)
  • Added full screen effect for stuns and roots
  • Sped up auto attacks
  • PLUS Enough little bug fixes and tweaks not listed here to make it an even Bazillion changes…

Here are some screen shots from the dev team’s recent PvP play sessions:





Darkstarr got stunned in this shot, hence the blurred effect (both Starr and Dallas get a LOT of practice being stunned during these sessions):


Dev+ Early Early Release 8 Access

To help with bug hunting and PvP balancing the team is opening up Release 8 for a few hours to our Developer and above backers at 4:00 pm CST Monday, July 21st. So please get your game patched up and help us get R8 ready for its main release on July 24th.

Lord Reward: Noble’s Magical Discourse Orb

One of the new Lord pledge rewards is the Noble’s Magical Discourse Orb. A mysterious object that grants you access to a Nobility chat channel. All Game Devs have Discourse Orbs as well and are on the same chat channel.


Knight Marshal Winged Helm

Included in the recently added Knight Marshal pledge is this Winged Helm reward. A starting level helm that includes precious metals and jewels that can be used to enchant the helm. Comes with permanent enchantment of being a light source.


Row House Expansion

Michael Hutchison and the world building team have begun integrating Row Home Lots (included in the Ancestor pledge rewards and above) into villages and towns across New Britannia. Here’s an example of the new Row Home lots that have been placed in Owl’s Head:

SotA_RowHomes_OwlsHead_1 SotA_RowHomes_OwlsHead_2

Crowdsourcing Music Update

SotA_Citizen_Piano Portalarium has received some awesome music from the community, some of which you’ve already heard in the game or on Lord British has completed the music assets list, which will help to provide more direction to specific pieces the team need, as well as the payment per piece. Also, Gina “Firelotus” has been working with Holt Ironfell to further clarify the submission and review process. All the relevant information can now be found in the Bards of Poet’s Circle Forum area. Here’s an excerpt from the Music Submission Process thread in that forum:

Please follow this procedure when submitting your musical compositions:

  1. Consult the Crowdsource Music Request List + Naming & Placement Guide to see if any of the pieces available capture your musical imagination.
  2. Develop a sound sample (basic idea and/or chord structure) for the piece you would like to claim. Upload it to Soundcloud.
  3. Send a PM to Holt with FireLotus cc’ed with the title “Music Submission: <category from Spreadsheet> <Title from Spreadsheet> <date>”. Include a link to the sound cloud file for your song sample in the PM request along a (optional) short description of your proposed idea.
  4. Once the PM is sent, we will review your request and send an approval/denial notice (depending on if it has been claimed, not quite what we’re looking for, etc).
  5. From that time, you have 7 days to complete and upload the final track. That track will be marked as “lockedout” on the music spreadsheet for those 7 days, or until completed and approved, whichever is sooner.
  6. The final track will be reviewed, and if it meets our criteria, it will be forwarded to Richard and the SotA Team for final review and approval.
  7. If the final piece does not meet the criteria needed for official review, the lockout will be lifted and the spot will be up for grabs again. You are welcome to continue refining the piece, but you must wait 5 days before requesting that track again. Once a lockout is lifted, anyone else can claim that track.

Hangout of the Avatar Developer Roundtable ~ Player Owned Towns

Richard Garriott, Starr Long, and Chris Spears hosted another Hangout of the Avatar earlier today, where they had an in-depth discussion regarding Player Owned Towns. The community posted lots of great questions so if you weren’t able to attend then be sure and check out the video:

Player Owned Towns FAQ

FIreLotus recently updated our FAQ to include the following information on Player Owned Towns:

Will I be able to choose where the lots can be placed?
We will be building the player towns from templates and modifying them based on requests. Players can submit a general layout request and we will get as close as we can based on our starting templates.

Can players help design their towns, even what kind of biome it has?
We will be building the player towns from templates and modifying them based on requests. Players can submit detailed requests, like biomes, and we will get as close as we can based on our starting templates.

Can town owners select their NPC buildings? Will I also be able to decide where they are placed?
Yes, players can pick which NPC buildings they want (number of buildings based on town size). We will be building the player towns from templates and modifying them based on requests. Players can submit layout requests for the town including NPC building location and we will get as close as we can based on our starting templates.

Do we get to create the lore for our town and name the NPC’s?

Can we pick where our Town is located in Novia?
Yes, players can request a location for their town. As stated in the Add-on Store, the location will be limited to roughly the “quadrant of the map”. Exact hex location will be determined by Portalarium. This is because we have to place and balance them around plot points, dungeons, and adventure areas.

Can a Town be upgraded? If so, how will that work?
For Episode 1, upgrading to a bigger town from an already established town will require replacing the old map with a new, larger map. This means players will have to store and move their houses from the old map to the new map

Does a town generate income for the owner? Do we get a part of the tax on used lots or make money from our vendors?
For Episode 1, we currently do not plan to have these towns generate income for the owner via the game systems. However players are free to earn income by renting the lots in their town to other players.

How will sieges effect player towns?
Though it was not in our origional design to have seiges impact player towns, but if players think this would be fun we could expand the sieges to include player towns. However, some PvP options will be available to Town Owner.

Can I flag my player town as an Open PVP Zone?
Yes you can! *cue wild west music*

When can I start my design session with the team?
We will be contacting town owners in the next few months to get this process started.

How will you schedule the design sessions and how will deal with conflicts of location and name requests?
We will be honoring requests based on town size and purchase date. Example: Metropolis owners will go first and they will be sorted by purchase date with oldest purchase having highest priority.

Flexible Placement Stretch Goal

This week the team is adding Flexible Placement of Structures to the Stretch Goal Store. For this stretch goal, players will be able to place multiple structures on a single lot. Players can also rotate and move structures versus a fixed location. This will be a GREAT stretch goal that will allow player built towns to really look amazing. For example: On large central lots of town, guilds could build shared services and town squares, on castle lots, players could host an array of guest structures and services in their courtyards, even more modest lots could be built out as twin towers versus a single house.

The flexible lot placement items available for purchase are a small and large Knight’s tent, a garden shed, a greenhouse, and stables. Here are the items we currently have images for:





Alienware Sponsors 1000 Access Keys and Prizes for Release 8

1000 members of Alienware’s Shroud of the Avatar Group have been granted early access to Release 8 (July 24-27). Hurry over and join the Alienware Shroud of the Avatar Group so you don’t miss out on their next Weekend Access Giveaway:

In addition, Alienware is sponsoring prizes to be given away randomly to players that log in to Release 8 during the weekend access period. Stay tuned to a future update for more details…

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]


World Builder/Level Designer Job Opening

The dev team currently have an opening for a mid-level to senior-level World Builder/Level Designer for Shroud of the Avatar. Qualifications for the “ideal candidate” are:

  • Minimum 3 years industry experience (preferably on a shipped game)
  • Unity experience
  • Scripting ability
  • Experience building, texturing, and decorating natural, terrain based exterior environments
  • An eye for detail, with strong scene compositional skills

If you’d like to join the Portalarium Tribe working on the ground-breaking Shroud of the Avatar, please submit your resume to Provide links to your work (if possible), either as actual game play or in document form including images, maps, and event descriptions.

Upcoming Events

2014.07.24 – Release 8 Access
2014.07.30 – Monthly Video Hangout: R8 & R9 Discussion
2014.08.09 – SotA at synDCon
2014.08.21 – Release 9 Access
2014.08.27 – Monthly Video Hangout: R9 & R10 Discussion
2014.08.29 – SotA at PAX Prime Seattle
2014.08.29 – SotA at Dragoncon
2014.09.25 – Release 10 Access
2014.10.01 – Monthly Video Hangout: R10 & R11 Discussion
2014.10.23 – Release 11 Access
2014.10.24 – SotA at Captivate
2014.10.29 – Monthly Video Hangout: R11 & R12 Discussion
2014.11.14 – Duke & Lord of the Manor VIP Design Roundtable with Lord British and Portalarium Studio Tour
2014.11.15 – HoBLotH II: Legends of the Hearth
2014.11.20 – Release 12 Access
2014.11.26 – Monthly Video Hangout: R12 & R13 Discussion
2014.12.18 – Release 13 Access

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Raph Koster Discusses Privateer Online Fri, 18 Jul 2014 21:26:54 +0000 Raph Koster, inspired by the excitement surrounding No Man’s Sky, wrote a blog post about his work on a version of Privateer Online, which was ultimately cancelled. It makes for an interesting read, as Koster discusses some of the features that were planned for the game and goes on to describe the circumstances of its cancellation.

No Man’s Sky looks pretty awesome, by the way:

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Underworld Ascension Has Been On the Drawing Board Since October of 2013 Fri, 18 Jul 2014 19:08:40 +0000 October 3rd, 2013: that’s when Cerulean Sky Productions (doesn’t that just sound somehow familiar?) trademarked, among other things, three game titles: Underworld, Underworld Ascendant, and Rise of the Underworld. Since then, they’ve also trademarked the OtherSide Entertainment label, and are proceeding to develop Underworld Ascension (note the slight change) under that name.

(Hat tip: Infinitron Dragon)

]]> 0 Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:03:39 +0000 Ultima 3 is the first game in the series where cheating (by means of using in-game bugs & exploits) is possible.

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