The old Ultima games were special... or do we just remember them that way?

Discussion in 'The Kingdoms of Old' started by Sonnington, May 14, 2015.

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  1. Sonnington

    Sonnington Avatar

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    To give a little context to what makes me ask this question. A recent thread at neogaf posted Rock, Paper, Shotgun's top 50 FPS. On the top of the list was Doom 1. Sure, it's clickbait and means nothing, but these lists always spark interesting discussions. A surprising amount of people spoke up and claimed Doom 1 was in fact the best FPS ever made and did things that no other FPS has ever done since. I'm not the biggest FPS gamer, but I find the notion and reasons give for Doom being the best FPS ever made rather untenable.

    In any event, it made me ask myself, "My god, is this what I sound like when I preach the good word of Ultima?" My very first RPG was Ultima 7. So the concepts, mechanics, and tropes of RPGs were brand new to me. Being able to kill NPCs, rob from them, decorate your house, complete quests, level up your skill points, and fight monsters was all new and novel to me. The thing that really hooked me was the magic system. While not the most complex it was the element of Ultima 7 I most anticipated exploring. After playing Ultima 7, no RPG has ever come close in my mind of matching its brilliance. I don't expect any new game to be able to match the newness Ultima 7 gave to me, but I feel regardless of that fact the game was indeed special and newer games haven't capitalized on as heavily.

    I think the elements to Ultima that I enjoyed the most was how cohesive the world was. Each NPC had their job to play and the world wouldn't function properly without them. To give the classic example, the bread has to be baked from someone, the ingrediants have to be processed somewhere, and the grain has to be grown in a field. There's many more examples of this, but is that much different from Gothic 1-2 or New Vegas? Of course, the npc schedules weren't as complex, nor was the crafting, and because the Gothic games took place on an island some things were explained away by shipping imports. I also never liked Bethesda titles in part because they ignore these types of details. But I never really recognized or appreciated the world cohesion while playing through Ultima 7 or Gothic. So it makes me wonder if that's the real problem or if they were special for a different reason.

    Well, I'm going off on a bit of a tangent now. What made Ultima special to you? Do you think they were special games objectively or was it mostly in part by nostalgic sentiment?
     
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  2. TantX

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    U6 was one of my favorite sandbox RPGs, and certainly one of my favorite Ultimas. U7 was a great storyline and all, but combat was very auto-pilot. It made exploring and dungeon-crawling boring for me. U6 I felt deeply immersed and loved going through the dungeons. U6 Online is out there, too, and it's the same mechanics plus some added extras to keep it exciting. Is it the best? No. Do I still enjoy it? Absolutely.

    But it doesn't have the same punch as a lot of other games I've played since, from MMO experiences in UO (that have almost nothing to do with Ultima itself) to Mass Effect and Fallout. If someone were to ask me what my favorite RPG was, it likely wouldn't be an answer unless it was topical (like on these forums) or it was a laundry list of more than 3.

    Also, DOOM isn't the best FPS, but it truly made the FPS a powerhouse, not just as a game, but as a genre.
     
  3. Kara Brae

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    They were special in their day, but now they are dated. Ultima IV was my first Ultima, and It hooked me on Ultima forever. Last year I installed it from GOG.com and discovered that it isn't fun for me any more. I can't imagine myself mapping dungeons on graph paper square by square like I did in the old Ultimas. Back then there was no Internet, and the sense of accomplishment when solving a puzzle or mapping a dungeon was phenomenal. Now it strikes me as a waste of time when the answers are readily available. I'm sure that Ultima VII would be more fun today than Ultima IV, but will it be as much fun as I remember? I'm almost afraid to try it and find out.

    What matters to me however is how much pleasure they gave me back in the day. My cell phone ring tone is always either Stones or the Combat music from the old Ultimas. It gives me a warm feeling every time my phone rings.
     
  4. Tartness

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    It all depends on who we're talking to. I really like falling back to games which don't hand everything to you without a challenge, including the mapping on paper and extensive note taking that some games(Serpent Isle for me) required so you don't forget everything.

    I do go back and replay III - VIII regularly and I've done so through the years, to me they still last because of their rich worlds, interesting companions, plots and themes. In my opinion, special? Absolutely!
     
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  5. Razimus

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    I'm pretty much disgusted by most Ultima VII part I & II walkthrough videos on youtube, because they are narrated by what sound like immature console fans describing how painful it is to play a PC game, let alone a PC game made when they were 1 year old. Perhaps you had to experience the games before the graphics were dated to gain a certain type of respect for them. Looking beyond the 2-d graphics, looking beyond the minimal bugs, Ultima VII was a masterpiece of coding, the questslines were complex, the creativity in the quests and writing and music and everything, it was just a lucky combination of talent. The music was amazing. Too bad we don't have the Ultima VII composers.

     
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  6. Katrina Bekers

    Katrina Bekers Localization Team

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    The first CRPG I remember playing avidly was "Odyssey - The Compleat Apventure" (sic!) on my dad's Apple ][europlus, circa 1981. (*)

    At age 9, I barely had any notion of english, but I was immensely fascinated by the depth of the game, the triple (!) scale map, the allosaurs, the crowbars to pry open the temples and pyramids, the price haggling intown, etc. All deciphered with my faithful hand-sized english vocabulary.

    Some years ago I tried to fire it up again, and to my surprise, the pair of Disk][ kept chugging at the 5.25" disks without a hitch. I was impressed.

    I think Richard remembers it, too, because it was published just some time before Ultima I. And if the Apple ][ at Portalarium's office still works, I believe it ran a copy of Odyssey at some point in the past.

    Still, for as huge memories I have with that game, one thing I'm positive about.

    I don't fondly remember the game I played at age 9-10.

    I fondly remember my world and myself at age 9-10. That's the memory I'm most attached to. What I was, how it was my happy world back then, what fanastic adventure was to be a kid at the dawn of the personal computing gaming era.

    What I remember of the game is more about how much of a pioneer *I* was, rather than about how much of a pioneristic software it was.

    I guess it's the same with all the memories of the "good old days", no matter what the subject, the item, the period.
    __
    (*) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odyssey:_The_Compleat_Apventure (now I want to play it again, damn!)
     
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  7. Selene

    Selene Bug Brigade - Bug Hunter

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    I think to appreciate any game you have to apply a filter to reflect the time in which it was created. When the movie King Kong (1933) came out, the hulking Kong AMAZED audiences. People were terrified. One review said it was "one of the very best of all the screen thrillers, done with all the cinema's slickest camera tricks".

    Nowadays, people would laugh at the special effects, but it's still a compelling story underneath. If you think about the piece in the context of when it was released, it was quite sensational.

    Most people won't take the time to do that, for a film or a game, but that doesn't make them any less brilliant. We remember the Ultima series as great because they are great; they just need to be viewed with the proper appreciation.
     
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  8. Sonnington

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    That's something I usually try to do. It's a lot easier for me to do if I've lived through that time period.

    For instance, I played the SMS version of Ultima 4 a few years back. I wasn't able to beat the game because it was simply too tedious. I had most of my virtues maxed and I think I left off at the secret city or shortly there after. I can totally see how that game was special for the time period in comparison to other RPGs, but even today the virtue mechanics were quite fun and novel. Most RPGs have a simple and straight forward good vs evil karma system. Whereas Ultima 4 had a very interesting virtue system that required you to interact with the world in different ways. It added a few more layers of complexity to the game that gave the world a deep and alive feeling. Even today, I would say Ultima 4 had some things that were quite special, positive, and unique that made the game superior to later RPGs. Best RPG ever? Not by a long shot imo. But there was some things to the game that were done better and make it worth revisiting.
     
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