What is a Lord British “Ultimate” Role Playing Game? Day 3

Ultima IV, V, VI – The Hero’s Journey: Reflecting player behavior in values, virtues and social issues.

With Ultima IV I began my first strong effort to craft a unique world not drawn on movies, books or other games to the degree I had in my previous work. Thus the first incarnation of Britannia was born. Originality in world craft became an important element to my designs, as did the social and virtuous context of the stories found within the game. I became a student of story craft and the works of Joseph Campbell. Living and playing through detailed realistic worlds with stories about virtue and social issues, became the central essence of my “Ultimate RPG”.

Ultima V and VI continued in this vein. Reflecting to the player the results of their deeds is for any interactive story as important as it is in any linear story. It must touch the reader / player at a deep personal level to be compelling and relevant! Holding a mirror up to yourself is part of an “Ultimate RPG”.

While portals from earth to my worlds were common, something I borrowed from my readings of the Chronicles of Narnia, it became essential starting with Ultima IV. In theory playing a role playing game as Conan the Barbarian is fine, but your success should be judged on how well you embody the beliefs of Conan. In Grand Theft Auto, you should be judged as how good a thug you are. Since my story was intended to be the story of YOUR PERSONAL evolution as a person, it was important that you were you, not someone else! Fiction supporting your journey from earth to the new world is part of The Ultimate RPG.

Ultima VII-IX – Unique & Internal Consistent Fiction

In Ultima VII, for the first time, I actually believed and planned on their being a game after the one I was working on, and thus planned characters and stories that would transcend a single game for the first time. While Ultima VII continued deepening the stories in Britannia, Ultima VIII explored a new realm with Pagan, and we concluded the trilogy of trilogies back in Britannia with Ultima IX.

In each of these games since Ultima IV I have carefully removed overused often plagiarized standard RPG elements like orcs and elves, and instead tried to create a new fully realized world of my own, that had a sense of deep history and self consistency, nothing that was not justified by the new reality was included, new items were fully researched and justified. An original deep and consistent world is a critical part of the “Ultimate RPG”.

Far too often in magic and science fiction, a bad storyteller will solve the final problem with the last minute discovery of an unknown mystical power. This is just as bad as the adventure games I hated, where unless you could guess that the designer thought it would be funny to only let you get past the yeti by throwing a cream pie in his face, the game was otherwise unsolvable. Thus in these mid Ultimas I refined the designs of internally consistent pseudo science and magical concepts from reagents, to linguistics. Logically constructed internally consistent fiction is part of an Ultimate RPG,

Please return tomorrow for the final installment of What is a Lord British “Ultimate” Role Playing Game?

Lord British

a.k.a. Dr. Richard Garriott de Cayeux



  1. Hellblade

    One part I love about Ultima IV and that has vanished from the modern RPG was that you actually had to (baring any cheating) pay attention to NPC conversations and you had to really figure stuff out. Now RPG do it all for you and you just have to go into city x find characters with little blips over their head and click thru all the dialog and look for the next blip or follow the waypoint. I miss the clues and eventual discovery that Ultima IV provided. I actually miss the notebook full of notes taken to figure out what was going on.

    There was no “cream pie” but there were things you had to do that you had to figure out how to do on your own and you were not given a yellow brick road to follow.

    1. randomoniumrandomonium

      I really loved that ‘paying attention’ part. The idea that *any* NPC in the game, no matter how insignificant, might be important to the overall world.

      I also really loved the characters – I mean, who can forget even the tiny little sub-plots with characters as lively as these.

      To this day I remember the ins-and-outs of Trinsic, how much I despised Balin, and even little details like the threads running between the various Ultimas.

      By contrast, I can barely remember the quests I ran last week in LOTRO or AoC. Probably something that required me to kill 5 of some trash mob.

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