History of the Ultima series. Part 4: Ultima III: EXODUS
Note: some of the screenshots are not mine, taken from the Old Classic Retro Gaming channel
After the release of Ultima II, Richard's relationship with Sierra On-Line became more complicated. They were already strained because of the disregard for the opinion of the developers, Garriot and Chuck Bueche, on certain issues. For example, with regard to the game's protection against piracy with Sierr's Spiradisc system, which they wanted to abandon, but the bosses were adamant.
Yes, and in general the approach of Ken Williams, the founder of Sierra On-Line and Richard, differed. It was similar to Warner's relationship with Atari. On one side was a professional, business and hierarchical approach, where there was that person or people whose decisions were considered right because of their position, he wasn't outright soulless, but he demanded that the rules be followed. And on the other were those whose imagination, freedom-loving and, in a sense, dilapidation and gave such successful results.
But the last straw for Richard's departure from Sierra was the royalties. Ultima II had a decent number of ports. But Richard didn't get paid in full for them, he only got paid as a designer. For the original version, he got both as designer and developer. Yes, that was written in the contract he signed. But either he didn't notice it, or it was carefully concealed, but Richard remained unhappy with the fact. And so the contract was terminated. And Richard never gave the rights to the series to anyone originally. So after being with California for a while, and then Sierra for the first two (three) parts, Richard got the rights back. And he wanted to continue developing his series. But he needed a publisher to do that.
Richard was reluctant to rejoin any other company. He decided to discuss the problem with his "advisor," his brother Robert. He had just finished his second master's degree at MIT, which was all about games. And he suggested that we become publishers in their own right: Robert would be in charge of the business part, and Richard and Chuck Bueche (who had also left) would be in charge of the technical and creative part. To create such a publishing house, money was collected into a common piggy bank from the wallets of the brothers, Chuck and Owen Garriot, the father of the family. That was the birth of Origin Systems.
True, their workplace was not the most impressive. It was a room located above the garage in the House of Herriot, which had once served as an art studio for Helen Herriot - the mother of Richard and Robert, later transformed into a place to sit for D&D, and now in the development studio for video games.
In the beginning, Origin had two projects in mind: Caverns of Callisto by Chuck and Ultima III by Gerriot. First was a simple arcade game in which the player controlled the hero who put on a jetpack. Accordingly, all hopes were on Ultima III.
A lot of things changed to create the third installment. Richard decided he needed to create something more serious and less dorky. Also, this part should have been done as early as possible and be able to do everything with quality. Also, despite their unsustainable position, Richard decided to keep up with the past parts in terms of additional material. For Ultima III we created 4 manuals with artwork, one main manual, two for cleric and mage magic, and a manual with maps of specific locations and controls, a quality made map, and all this in a box with a colorful demon on it. For all this it was decided to divide the duties and involve more people: Ken Arnold was responsible for the music, Helen Garriot drew the map, and Denis Lube, who had already worked on the cover for Akalabeth by California, drew illustrations for the packaging and the manuals. And this time it wasn't Richard, whose writing was rather tongue-in-cheek, who came up with the text for the manuals, but Margaret Weigers, Richard's friend in charge of the magic manuals, and Roy R. Adoms III worked on the main manual and will bring a lot of detail to the series later on. And as a result, the work was done in six months instead of one and a half for Ultima II.
Simply put, a lot of familiar people were invited and a lot of effort was made to ensure that the third part would not fall flat after the change of publisher and its level. And the new approach also affected the game.
After the fall of Minax, the world began to improve again. Humans reconciled and began to rebuild their lives. Orcs, on the other hand, left the settlements as if they never existed.
Lord British even thought of sending scouts to Minax Castle (no idea how), to see if there was anything to look forward to. In the castle some records were found which said that there was a love connection between Mondain and Minax, and that something was created from their connection, but they didn't say in what way or if it was a man or a demon.
Twenty years later, from beneath the ocean surface, in endless and huge clouds of steam, the Island of Fire appeared. Some of the sailors claimed that when the fog cleared for a moment, they saw the castle. But since the sailors had a reputation for being drunkards, no one believed them. But it didn't take long to doubt their claims, as a short time later new large-scale monster raids began across Sosari'i lands, forcing villagers to seek shelter in nearby forts. And on the sea began to run amok pirates, thereby blocking the trade routes. As if that weren't enough, the only route to Fire Island was blocked by the Great Serpent of Earth, also known as the Serpent of Balance. People believed he had risen from the seabed, waking from a very long sleep, they began to spread rumors of the end of the world.
The final proof of the arrival of the great new evil lord was a barge that had sailed to the islands to the town of Britannia. It was abandoned, there were no bodies on it, but it was covered in blood. An inscription written in blood, "EXODUS," was found on her.
Afterwards again organized units to settle the problem. He also gathered volunteers to map the new world, because after Mondain's death, the world was changed and of the four continents only one remained (the most opportune time!!!). This project is called "Great Work" (for us manul - Cluebook). Among the participants of this expedition will be many of the future landmarks. Directly to the Island of Fire went a friend of British'a - ranger Shamino. Upon his return from the reconnaissance, he was terribly wounded and exhausted, both bodily and mentally.
That's how the last Age of Darkness went.
Unlike the previous parts, this one has a much more complex system of character creation. First of all, now we can create not just one, but 20. This time, what British organized squad is true. We are free to form a squad of 4 people from the 20 adventurers we created, and if someone is no longer needed, we can delete him and create a new one in his place.
Second, a great connection between all the choices made. First we should clarify that in Ultima III there are 4 parameters - Stamina and Charisma remained in the last part. And now the maximum possible character's characteristics depend on the race. And before you create a character, you need to carefully consider who to make. For example, a man will never be the best at something, he has a maximum of 75 and strength, and dexterity, and intelligence, and wisdom. And Dwarf has 99 strength, but 50 intelligence. Also, there are 11 classes to choose from. It depends on them what equipment they'll be able to wear and whether they're capable of some magic or theft, how much mana they'll have, depending on the amount of wisdom or it won't be there at all, and so on. Simply put, now, when creating characters, there is something to think about at least a little. True, now the choice of gender has no effect on anything, but now you can choose a third gender - "other" (did you ever want that?). In terms of point allocation there is the same problem as in the last part - out of the 50 points you get, 20 go to equal allocation, and 30 are left for free.
In the world we enter without knowing what to do, as in the trailer and in all parts before that. But immediately notice the status bar on the right, top and bottom. The first shows the status of the party, who is who with the abbreviation and who has what in their pockets, their level, and so on. Now you have to monitor the availability of food for each of the adventurers, though they do not die immediately without food, and the money can be given to the head of the squad all.
The second panel shows the position of the moons, of which there are two in Sosari. With these "clocks" you can determine where there are working moongates and where they will lead, but to get used to the principle of their work you need to experiment. And below it shows the direction of the wind.
Controls as such have also become much more complex. Because of controlling multiple characters, the number of hotkeys has increased by a factor of two. It now requires a minimum of 5 keystrokes to pass items, which really slows down the pace of the game. Cleaning up your inventory alone takes a lot of time and attention.
Also, because of the change of one hero per party, the combat system has also changed. The global map depicts only one enemy representative, faced with which the player is shown the battlefield. There may be more than one enemy on it. Because of the control of several characters with different tasks in the team, this aspect of the game becomes more tactical and demanding.
As for dungeons, they have changed visually and are no longer useless (about that below). The combination of stitching without textures and monochrome color has been replaced by different colors and more articulate, pressed objects. As a result, navigating dungeons became easier.
I also can't help but mention the ships. They're a problem in this part. Starting with this part and ending with part five, ships can't be bought, only stolen from pirates, but how long you'll have to wait for them is a mystery. Some are lucky and they get through almost from the beginning of the game, some don't and you have to wait a long time. But that's not the whole problem. The problem is more about the wind. The point is that the ship can't move without a tailwind, but it changes almost every step. You can stand in one place for quite a long time until the wind blows in the right direction, take one step and then wait again. It's almost like a grind.
Goals for the player became more specific. It's necessary to burn four markers, located in the dungeons, each in the party, as they give different skills (to walk on the lava, walk through force fields, etc.), to learn the click, which can chase away the Great Serpent in the city Yew, get four punch cards and learn from the Lord of Time how to use them.
There's not much point in retelling each of the tasks this time. They are accomplished by simply exploring the world and the dungeons. The only interesting detail is the journey to the lost continent of Ambrosia through the whirlpool, where there are four punch cards, each located in its own Temple, the name of each should be remembered along with the name of the cards and the place where you found them. By the way, in these same temples characters pump their characteristics, though again for money - 100 gold pieces per point.
After full preparation for battle and EXODUS, we go to the Isle of Fire, shout the snake's recognized cry and make our way to the castle. There will be some pretty tough battles to fight in it, some of which are better avoided. But at the end, the worst enemy that you haven't seen and won't see yet will be waiting for you - POL!!! Yes, the last enemy before EXODUS will be the floor... technically they're just invisibles, but the game calls them the floor... ahem. When we get to EXODUS, we learn that he's some sort of supercomputer that you have to insert punch cards into in a certain order. Richard at the end doesn't hold back from his oddball style. And overall this ending makes me déjà vu:
And this time the game was better than the last one unequivocally, and better than the first one in my opinion. Richard successfully (almost) restrained himself from sticking in anything unnecessary and strange. As a result, passing it, there is no sense of unnecessary waste of energy developers and unnecessary interest the player, such as with the extra planets (and in general flights into space) and useless dungeons. Passing it you always know what you're doing and why. The sense of progression to the final destination is not lost for the waste of time to get ribbons, minutes, turquoise just to get the ship. Yes, the grind from the game is not going anywhere, but the game does not inflate the prices so high, giving the player a pittance. Yes, and in principle the money is only needed to pump and eat, because the best armor and weapons are in one particular place and is given for free and it can be nagrinit.
And many at the time of the game's release agree with me. The game sold 120,000 copies and had good to excellent press reviews. Many appreciated Ultima III, considering it the best in the trilogy and a great step for the series. This strengthened Origin Systems' position, giving it both a reputation and more leeway.
The influence of Ultima III was so strong that it reached Japan. And it was under the impression of Ultima III that huge series like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy were created (Daur, where's the history of the FF series?).
But not everyone was happy with the game. The game was accused of being satanic because of the demon on the cover. And the influence of such opinions and some personal decisions Richard, the series will acquire the very face for which it is so loved and respected, the one that she can boast to this day.
Thus was the end of the Age of Darkness. With the death of the last of the Evil Triad, the Mondain "family," there was no one to harm Sosari anytime soon, and that was not easy for people to think, it was in fact, and it was the beginning of a new era - the Age of Enlightenment.
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