Ophidian Dragon blogs his way through the entire Ultima series, from beginning to end.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Forgot a comment!

I forgot to make a note re: Hacki's Ultima Nitpicking page. I've never been a fan of it, largely because the description of all the Ultima games contains at least one dig on Ultima IX, which is sort of amusing because I don't think it's a good game, but which makes me almost feel sorry for the poor thing from the pile-on. Also, there's a lot of "just plain wrong" in there, e.g., I was "off to kill Malichir" in Ultima VIII--dude, he attacks you--or, "Erethian doesn't notice the magic problems" in Forge of Virtue, when in reality there is specific dialog for that very situation when he tries to magically create a forge. I am amused by the effort (I fondly remember a "Star Trek" nitpicker's guide of the same genre) but the way it's presented rubs me the wrong way.


Adam said...

Yeah, Hacki's site is fun to read at first, then it starts becoming clear it started as a U9 hate-rant site and just expanded out.

To be perfectly honest, I don't think there was any way Ultima 9 could have lived up to hype by the time it was released. And the kind of game people apparently wanted (Ultima 7 but more) would never have made it past the bean-counters at EA. As it was, they were ONLY convinced to continue the project after one of the lead programmers hastily converted their 2D/3D isometric software engine into 3DFX Glide to wow them. I don't know, maybe it would have been better if it had been canceled and never released...

There is some interesting elements to the game I haven't seen in other 3D engines. The fact the water actually moves in waves, for example. Forget the crummy textures, this is a rather neat little detail... it's too bad they didn't expand it out a bit to have tides. Then you could have dungeons and places only accessible at particular times of day... maybe if they'd had another year, we may have seen some more "neat environment" development like that.

Deano said...

A lot of it is just simple continuity. People fail to realise that stories evolve. It was quite clear after Ultima 2 (partially 3) that Richard Garriott wanted to remove the sci-fi element of Ultima 1 and 2 and focus on a pure fantasy setting. This will introduce the same nit picks.

Personally I thought the site was a good read. A lot I didn't agree with but most errors could easily be rectified by an active imagination.

Grandor Dragon said...

It would be interesting to get a comment from Hacki. I will ask him to come here and have a look.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys!

When I started the website in 2001, I didn't think people would still talk about it 7 years later, so even though your comments are somewhat negative, I appreciate them a lot :)

"Hacki's Ultima Page" was always meant to be an Ultima IX bash page, and I don't think I've ever tried to hide this from anyone. Nitpicks for other Ultimas were only added later.

My opinion about Ultima IX has never changed. I think it is not only a very bad Ultima but a very bad game as well, provided you consider it a role-playing game and not an action adventure. As an action adventure, I'd say it's OK. As a role-playing game, it may have its moments, but in the end the story and dialogues are just boring and stupid.

However, although Hacki's Ultima Page is basically a UA bash page, I've always tried to use humour. Maybe I didn't always succeed because my English wasn't really very advanced back then, and you cannot use humour correctly if your command of the language is lacking. I was 18 years old when I started the site, and when I read some of the stuff today I am a bit embarrassed by my own style. It's definitely not a website I'd put on my CV in order to boast with my English skills :)

Some of the nitpicks may be too picky, both in the UA and the Older Ultimas sections. Most of them were sent in by readers, and sometimes I didn't bother to check everything for factual correctness. After all, the site was supposed to be fun, not some kind of scientific project. As for the very ancient Ultimas, I hardly included any nitpicks for them because it would be quite senseless to document continuity errors in, say, Ultima 2.

Someone here mentioned Phil Farrand's Star Trek nitpicker guides. Believe it or not, but those books inspired the creation of Hacki's Ultima Page. I had read them and thought it would be great if something like that existed for Ultima, too. I ended up doing it myself.

Hacki Dragon

Natreg said...

hey it's nice to see you again Hacki :)

Your site was really fun back then, and searching for new nitpicks was also fun :)

Anyway about Ultima IX being that bad and all... well the story and dialogue is bad, that's for sure, but the engine is ahead of it's time.

It has physics here and there, something that nowdays is very important for some games.

For instance you can shoot a fireball to something and you see how it flies away, or even breaks like the crates and barrels. The interactivy with the world is also really high for a 3D game of that time.

The problem is that this game is an unfinished one. They needed to relase it as soon as possible, and that was a bad move.

I always wonder how it could have ended if they could have finished fixing the engine and done a better plot.

Hacki Dragon said...

¡El placer es todo mío! (You are Spanish, aren't you? :))

Yes, the game is obviously unfinished, and the engine is quite nice for a 3D game (even if vastly inferior to the complexity of Ultima 7's wonderful 2D engine), but what remains from Ultima IX after all those years is nothing but a sensation of emptiness and the feeling that you must have missed something. And maybe some strange nostalgia whose origins you cannot really explain when you listen to the soundstrack.

Besides, I think the plot involving those evil columns is so extremely bad and silly that it would still suck even if they *had* finished it :) If they had ever finished the Bob White plot, then the game would at least be quite good, albeit not on par with Ultima 7 or even Ultima 8 in terms of storyline and plausibility.

Anonymous said...

P.S.: I cannot believe I am still discussing Ultima IX in 2008.

Natreg said...

lol, yeah, I'm spansih.

Sorry, but I don't know any deutsch to greet you.

I can't believe either that I'm talking about Ultima after all this years :)

as I said before, nice seeing you :)

Justin Alexander said...

Personally, I would prefer to have seen the original Ultima IX. Not the version of the plot Bob White revealed (although even that would have been preferable to what we got), but whatever the plot was that Garriott sketched out when he laid out the master plan from Ultima 7, 8, and 9.

Based on the ending of Pagan, that plot would clearly have taken place on the Guardian's homeworld.

Unfortunately, the fans who were displeased with Pagan blamed that game's failings on it not being set in Britannia. At some point, Garriott came to believe that, too, and pledged that the next game would be a "classic" Ultima. From that point on, IMO, the project was fatally compromised.

Of course, the reality is that Ultima IX was just the game where the rot plaguing the series -- and Origin in general -- became evident.

When EA first became involved in Origin, the influx of development cash allowed Origin to create some masterpieces: ULTIMA VII and WING COMMANDER IV remain some of the best games ever made.

But, from that point forward, EA's belief that you could have the same success that comes from quality without investing the time or money to create that quality began to eat the company's soul away.

In the case of the Ultima series, you had SERPENT ISLE: This game is very good, but even when it came out, the game's bugginess was evident. And later we discovered that the bugs were not the only compromise created by a rushed production schedule: The plot of the game had been hacked to pieces with the entire second half of the game essentially left unfinished.

PAGAN, of course, was not a bad game, either. It was merely a good one. And when held up in comparison to ULTIMA VII, it couldn't help but pale in comparison.

But the problem wasn't that the game had been set in another world. (SERPENT ISLE had the same "problem" and nobody seemed to mind that.) The problem was that the game was too buggy, too short, and -- ultimately -- too compromised.

There's an interview out there where Garriott talks about Pagan being "a much smaller world, but we really tried our best to make it a beautiful one". He's trying to sell that as a virtue, but the reality is that he's just trying to put the best spin he can on a horribly compromised position.

And when it came to ULTIMA IX, the cancer unleashed by EA was impossible to hide.