Today's gaming took far longer than expected--I decided to hit the anthill in the desert. It's not very dangerous, but it is ridiculously convoluted. It has four levels, and I mapped all four without finding the piece of the map that I was looking for! How frustrating. As it turned out, there was a small alcove on level four which housed the queen and the dead body with the map on it--but sadly, no other treasure worth having. I missed it the first time around.
Unfortunately, there's really not much to say about the ant hill--it's just a big dungeon without much in it! Therefore, I'll scatter screenshots around here while I discuss other things. Specifically, I think it would be interesting to discuss the ways in which the Ultima series changed over time. In my mind, it was all about increased depth--each game added new features which draq you into the game more thoroughly than the last one. Ultima VI is the game where this focus became most obvious, I think, and it lasted only one more main-series game, sadly, with Ultima VIII and IX trying to be more action-RPGs than anything else. In some ways, I think Serpent Isle, even in its broken state, is the height of the style of RPG gaming emphasized by Ultima VI and VII: A detailed world filled to the brim with unique locations, and particularly a world that reacts to the behaviours and choices of the player.
Of course, Serpent Isle is far from perfect--the world's reactions are all pre-programmed and you must win the correct way or never finish the game at all; the game is not open-ended. Also, it is comically linear in places, with chests appearing out of nowhere with quest items in it. I won't even mentioned all the quests deleted in order to get it out on time. It seems to me this development style was cut short after Electronic Arts began to exert more control over Origin, and then their overall direction shifted radically until the company went under. RIP. The Ultimas were basically a niche product, and trying to make them appeal to the masses was a big mistake.
I will correct something I said earlier--the "world reacting to player choices" actually began in a rudimentary way with Ultima IV. I think that's why it's so important to gaming history, because even if just in a very rudimentary way, the world became more dynamic and responsive in a way other than experience points and treasure to the particular "role" you play in this supposed "role-playing" game. Before that, computer RPGs could be simply called "roll playing games," in that your ole is only defined by numbers used in combat and stealing. The later games take that to an extreme.