Ultimas I, II & III – Learning to craft a game and a world
With the success of Akalabeth, I decided to start fresh with my first work intending it for public consumption. I began a game originally entitled Ultimatum! Built on much the same code base as Akalabeth, It continued to refine the Richard Garriott virtual world building techniques. The game maps were largely based on the D&D worlds I created called Sosaria. When finished we launched it under the name Ultima. The tile graphic world, would become common and a useful tool in Ultimas to facilitate the detailed world interactions where you could touch and interact with everything you saw, not just the monsters, that were pivotal to my design philosophy. Detailed world interactions are part of the essence of “Ultimate RPG”.
As a student of these great works of Tolkien and Gygax, I devoted even my earliest works to the creation of a reality deeper than merely fighting monsters, collecting treasure and leveling up, which was and has remained the main stay of most every RPG experience! Complete histories, languages and writing scripts defined even these early attempts at an Ultimate RPG. Cultural history, unique languages and writing are part of the Ultimate RPG.
Ultima ][ introduced time travel. The past, present and future game play needed a familiar setting, so earth became the playground of Ultima ][. Ultima comfortably embraced concepts as far flung as dinosaurs and space ships. Ultima ]I[ went back to Sosaria. The “Ultimate RPG” can live in many worlds and settings.
Ultima ][ was also one of the first games in the industry every shipped in a box, rather than a zip lock bag. After the collapse of California Pacific, numerous publishers were interested in publishing the next game in an already popular series. But when most heard my demands for a box, a cloth map and fictionally written manuals, their interest quickly faded. I believe that this devotion to making the game experience begin with the materials you had in hand, which grew to include, tarot cards, coins, amulets, magic stones and many other objects greatly deepened the bond between the player and the reality of the new world. Physical game components can deeply richen a virtual world.
Ultima ]I[ was the first game we published through my own firm Origin. This created another important opportunity in the quest for the Ultimate RPG. For the first time I received letters directly from you the players. We began to form a relationship. I knew what you liked, hated and where what I intended was not what was seen or felt by the players. This created a deep personal introspection about my work, its content and its meaning.
The feedback and criticism I have received along this journey has been crucial to the crafting of the Ultimate RPG, and I continue to enjoy the direct connection I have with y’all, via social media, face to face at trade shows and my favorite… snail mail. When anyone has ever completed one of my games since Ultima III, they have always been told to “Report thy feat to Lord British”, and when people did, often in the secret languages of the games, I tried to respond to each one personally as well! Let’s keep that dialog going! Connecting with the audience is essential in crafting the Ultimate RPG.
Please return tomorrow for part 3 of What is a Lord British “Ultimate” Role Playing Game?
a.k.a. Dr. Richard Garriott de Cayeux