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Freebies photo
Freebies

Time warp: Ultima VIII is free on Origin


The arm represents EA, probably
Apr 30
// Jordan Devore
If you have an Origin account and feel strangely obligated to fill it up with free games that you'll in all likelihood never get around to playing for more than five minutes (just me?), heads up: Electronic Arts is giving awa...
Ultima Underworld sequel photo
Ultima Underworld sequel

Original designer of Ultima Underworld launches Kickstarter for a sequel


I hope this Avatar isn't blue
Feb 04
// Jason Faulkner
Looking Glass Studios released some of the industry's perennial favorites. The System Shock series, Thief: The Dark Project, Thief II: The Metal Age, and the two Ultima Underworld games are all part of the company'...
Ultima photo
Ultima

Another EA closure: This is Ultima Forever's final month


I'll continue not playing it
Aug 01
// Jordan Devore
Given that publisher Electronic Arts closed Mythic Entertainment earlier this year, it's not unexpected to hear that the free-to-play mobile RPG Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar will also be shut down soon. Once it closes...

The joy of MMOs

Apr 11 // Chris Carter
My love affair with MMOs started in the '90s when Ultima Online was released. Regarded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, Ultima had it all -- player-ran economies, ganking, bounties for hunting down said gankers, books that could be written by actual players and sold for gold, dungeons, world events, politics, player housing -- you name it. Many of these mechanics wouldn't even be possible in current MMOs due to technical limitations, but Ultima sprouted countless stories that couldn't be experienced anywhere else. I got into a lot of trouble in Ultima, mostly due to the acts of hanging out with my player-killing, house-swindling friend, who used to con people out of their wares and cash. The entire game was basically policed and governed by the players, which was an unreal feeling amidst the typical linear world of gaming. I actually felt bad when I killed my first and only innocent player deep into the forest and took all his loot. Here, the healthy feeling of escapism was alive and well, as you were able to live out your wildest digital dreams. Heck, if you really wanted to you could play the entire game as a merchant, providing others with tools, gaining a reputation, brokering information, and writing novels -- it was insane. This was my gateway. But it wasn't until World of Warcraft that I really started branching out into the "massive" side of things. I had just started college when WoW hit, and as a result of my new relationship (with the lovely woman who eventually became my wife) and my desire to do well in my first year at school, I refrained from playing more than casually -- mostly leveling through beta and hopping on every so often on a low-level character when I had free time. Once the Burning Crusade expansion dropped, things changed a bit. Most of my friends had quit the game due to poor grades, and my best friend (who hadn't played prior to this arrangement) made me an offer I couldn't refuse -- we would casually play WoW together, level a pair of characters, and see what we had been missing all this time. Minutes of play became hours; hours, days; days, weeks. We made our way up to level 70 so quickly that I had decided to completely ditch my first character (an Orc Shaman) and level an alternate (a Draenai Priest) to help my chances of joining a guild -- a character that eventually became my new main. I had gone completely overboard -- our rule of "no raiding" turned into "once a week," then "twice a week," but "only 10-man dungeons." That eventually turned into us joining the top guild on the server and joining the first string raid squad, that raided two to three times a week. Given the rigorous application process (that probably sounds ridiculous to all of you out there), we had to completely change our attitude. Now we had to learn our full rotations (order of spells/abilities), theorycraft (research and look up viable strategies) in our free time, and teach others how to more effectively use our class (which often involved writing guides).  It was basically a job that paid nothing -- but we had a blast doing it. There's nothing quite like joining up with 24 other people for a raid, having fireside chats about what was going on in our life, and feeling a real sense of community. Wipes (full party deaths) were rare since we were so disciplined, but every so often we hit a snag -- only to overcome it within a week's time. To many, this sounds droll and unexciting. But if you find the right group of people, the feeling is indescribable when you best something for the first time with a giant collective of friends that have the same goal as you. I hit an absolute high when we were the server-first kill for Illidan -- a huge part of the Warcraft lore in general and the toughest boss in the game at the time. It was then that I started to slowly ease off of MMOs to plan for my wedding, effectively ending my career as a "full-timer" for quite some time. I would keep playing MMOs though for years to come, usually only getting max level and stopping before I got the itch to raid. Dark Age of Camelot, Conan (yuck), Warhammer Online, EVE, Rift, The Old Republic, TERA, Secret World, Aion, Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars 2, Elder Scrolls Online -- you name it, I've probably played it. But one particular MMO really brought me back in recently -- Final Fantasy XIV -- the second time around, that is, when it relaunched. Something clicked with me while playing A Realm Reborn. The art style is beautiful, the music is outstanding, and the battle system is a bit more action-oriented than most MMOs -- to the point where I'm heavily reminded of Phantasy Star Online. It doesn't help that it has a healthy serving of nostalgia either! Right now I'm in the process of joining up with a few of my old MMO buddies (including one that I played Ultima with way back when) to start endgame content and really kick things off. Things will never be the same now that I'm not a college student anymore, but the call of the genre is unending -- in some ways, I'm a "lifer." While I understand that MMOs don't appeal to everyone, I've had far too many fond memories with them to give them up. I've made friends that have stood up at my wedding. I've learned multiple videogame mechanics and concepts that have served me well as a writer and as a gamer. As ridiculous as it sounds, these games also taught me some form of responsibility, showing up on time for raids and owning up to my actions. It's for these reasons and more that MMOs bring me joy.
Why I love MMOs photo
From AOEs to Zul'Farrak
Read this list and let me know if it sounds like a good time. Crunching numbers in the wee hours of the night to maximize damage output. Grinding out levels and letting auto-attack handle things for a few seconds while you pl...

Review: Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar

Aug 14 // Chris Carter
Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar (iPad, iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5])Developer: Mythic EntertainmentPublisher: Electronic ArtsReleased: August 8, 2013MSRP: Free (with microtransactions) Ultima Forever is a loose remake of Ultima IV, custom-tailored to touch devices. You'll be going up against the Black Weep, an all encompassing evil force that threatens to destroy the land of Britannia. Lady British is in charge in Lord British's stead (funnily enough this is for no reason other than the fact that Ultima creator Richard Garriott has the rights to Lord British), and your job is to cleanse the land of evil. Basic, yes, but it works, and the actual world itself is just as fun as it was in the classic sense, and there's tons of variety to be found within its borders. There's a basic "virtue" system that involves various moral choices as well, and it's neither poor or groundbreaking -- it kind of just middles somewhere in-between. It really helps that the artwork is gorgeous all around, and helps accentuate the average in-game graphics. [embed]255683:49999:0[/embed] Everything is controlled by tapping on the screen, with no clunky virtual sticks to speak of. If you want to strike an enemy or use an ability -- simply tap it. If you want to dig into your equipment and statline -- just tap through some menus. You'll be able to choose between the Fighter and Mage class at the beginning, which basically translates to "melee or ranged" capabilities. Either way I had a ton of fun just wandering around the countryside, as this is easily one of the most intuitive dungeon crawlers on the mobile platform. There is a multiplayer aspect involved, and it's extremely easy to get into. All you have to do is stay outside of a dungeon, click the find group button, and wait. Given the fact that it's a free game on iOS with a big name attached to it, there's tons of people waiting at all times to indulge your dungeon-crawling habits. But while the system itself works in theory, I encountered a number of bugs that either dropped other players without warning, crashed my game, or lagged players so badly that they were floating around inside of walls. If you're kicked out of a party, the game doesn't start its own instance either -- so you lose all your current progress in that particular area. Thankfully, the game can be most played solo without issues -- at least, until you start tangling with microtransactions. This is how the IAP system works. Basically, there are three sets of keys as currency: bronze, silver, and gold. During normal gameplay, it's fairly easy to pick up a decent amount of bronze keys, along with a few silver ones. But here's the issue -- in order to open even basic chests, or repair items, you need to use bronze or silver keys. This creates a perpetual rat race of grinding, as you'll often times find yourself using too many keys for new items, and too many keys to repair your old items, which you're using to get new items. Fast travel is also tied to using bronze keys. The solution is to keep grinding, or give in and buy keys. Gold keys are another issue entirely. If you want gold chest items, you have to use the appropriate keys. In theory, that could be completely fine if they want to monetize the game that way, as gold keys can be earned very slowly without buying them. But for some reason, someone decided it would be a good idea to paywall off extra ability slots at 25, 75, and 200 gold keys respectively. You can also buy more buffs and heal yourself with gold keys. The current rate for gold keys piecemeal is $10 for 70 -- unless you're willing to shell out over $20 for a package deal, you do the math. It's not very fun to avoid opening up a chest for new items because you're afraid of exhausting your repair currency -- which is basically the exact kind of trap the IAP system wants you to fall in. At this juncture, I'm not sure how Mythic could make the game more appealing given these issues. I don't think eliminating microtransactions entirely is an option for them -- but sincerely, I wish it was, because this will eventually destroy the game's community, and create ghost towns over the next few months. Beyond the bugs and pesky purchases, Ultima Forever is actually a pretty solid touch RPG. The controls work far better than you'd expect, and there's a ton of content to explore. It's also really, really simple to jump into a dungeon or two if you have some free time and grab a few friends along the way. That setup is exactly the way mobile games should operate -- but unfortunately Ultima Forever forgoes a fair premium price in favor of greedy microtransactions.
Ultima Forever iOS review photo
There's a good game under all those microtransactions
It took me quite a few years to get on the Ultima train. The series started in 1981, but it wasn't until the mid-'90s until I would discover Ultima Online -- the catalyst that allowed me to really embrace the franchise. But m...

Ultima Forever photo
Ultima Forever

Ultima Forever reduces freemium prices due to fan outcry


Now the game doesn't gouge you quite as much
Jun 14
// Chris Carter
As we all know, freemium models tend to do more harm than good if they're not well designed. There's a very fine line between "wanting to monetize your game" and driving players away, and in the Canadian beta for Ultima Forev...

Why people hate Electronic Arts

Apr 22 // Vito Gesualdi
Lack of creativity Electronic Arts is terribly afraid of the word "creativity." Being creative means taking risks, trying things which haven’t been tried before. EA, meanwhile, prefers to release the same game as many times as possible, seeing just how much money they can milk out of a franchise before the public realizes they probably don’t need the “Extreme Farming” expansion for The Sims.  I've said it before, but this is still the stupidest thing ever. For a good example of how shameless Electronic Arts is about their lack of original ideas, look no further than Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. After snatching the Bond license away from Rare and churning out an endless procession of uninspired shooters, EA finally decided to just try and trick people into thinking they'd crafted a sequel to the N64 hit. The game wasn’t even based on the movie Goldeneye, it was about a dude with an actual golden eye, which makes literally no sense whatsoever.  Worst of all, EA doesn't even have the decency to recognize when they've published another uninspired piece of crap. Medal of Honor: Warfighter was universally panned by critics, though rather than recognize their failure and learn from it, EA execs decided to loudly whine about how unfair the scores were. Is there anything more pathetic than a bunch of filthy rich executives crying because reviewers judged their game based on its merits rather than its gigantic marketing budget? Buying out the competition As established, EA hates coming up with new ideas, and nowhere is this more apparent than their massive lineup of cookie-cutter sports titles. Of course, who can really fault them for taking advantage of those knuckle-dragging cretins who are happy to pay $60 for the exact same game they bought last year? Look at how excited John Madden is about his royalty check.  That being said, it’s pretty pathetic to see how terrified EA is of their competition, likely aware that any developer with even a sliver of respect for the customer could easily blow their half-assed efforts out of the water. That’s exactly what happened in the case of Sega’s NFL 2K5, a game which was not only hailed as one of the best football games of all time, but actually sold for $10 less than EA’s latest lazy installment in the Madden franchise. Sweating profusely as they considered the idea of actually having to work for their consumer's money, the EA execs frantically called up their chums at the NFL, negotiating an exclusive contract and killing off any competing NFL game series, including NFL 2K and NFL Blitz.  Of course, Electronic Arts themselves actually brought back the NFL Blitz franchise in 2012, which is pretty disgusting when you think about it. It’s one thing to commit murder, it’s another to reanimate your victim's corpse and force it to dance for nickels.  Treating workers like Slave Labor You might argue that EA can’t be faulted simply for being good at business, and I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got nothing against good old fashioned capitalism. Problem is, Electronic Arts is a little too old fashioned, the company clearly pining for the days when where treating your workers like slaves was just par for the course. Ah, the good ol' days. See, in America we have something called “overtime law,” where any employee working in excess of forty hours in a week get paid at 1.5 times their normal rate for those additional hours. It’s supposed to encourage companies to hire additional workers, rather than simply hiring a burly guy with a whip to provide encouragement. Somehow though, EA never got the memo about not forcing your programmers to work like sweatshop laborers. In 2004, Erin Hoffman, the so-called “EA Spouse,” posted a scathing expose on how the electronic giant had treated her husband and other employees, forcing them to work as many at 84 hours a week  without any overtime compensation. Her speaking out led to three separate class-action lawsuits being filed against EA, the software giant forced to shelve their plans for motivational shock-collars. Beatings will continue until morale improves. Ruining companies In the 90s Electronic Arts set about buying up every awesome PC developer they could find, with the hopes of working with these talented studios to create great software values for the consumer... Wait, that’s wrong. What EA actually wanted was to buy up a bunch of already popular franchises, then force the developers to release an endless stream of crappy bug-laden sequels. Remember the biblical story of Abraham, who was commanded by god to take his son Issac up to a mountain and stab the kid with the first sharp rock he could find? It was kind of like that, except Issac was the Command and Conquer series and Electronic Arts wasn't kidding around about the “murder your child” decree.    C'mon Abraham, just ship Ultima IX. Who cares if it sucks? Not that EA cared as they helped run studios like Westwood and Origin into the ground. Once the studios were no longer profitable, they simply fired everybody and pocketed whatever cash they'd made. Everybody wins, except of course for those developers who were forced to stab their most-beloved creations to death.  Poor Richard Garriott. I hope he's happy now that he lives in space. Shamless Money-grubbing Though most publishers these days have resorted to a variety of tactics to earn some additional cash, Electronic Arts is perhaps the most shameless about these practices, eagerly trying to squeeze every possible dollar out of your wallet. Countless hours of login screen fun. Downloadable content - You can be sure every EA release will come loaded with it, much of which probably should’ve been included in the retail release.  Used games - Sorry buddy. If you want to play with your friends, you’re gonna need this ridiculous online pass.  Micro-transactions - Because your favorite video games are made better when you're constantly being asked to feed them quarters Digital-rights management - EA promises to make sure that playing the game you bought is as frustrating as possible, either loading your computer up with DRM software, or forcing you to wait weeks for them to fix the servers before you can actually play that copy of SimCity you bought. See, the reason gamers love companies like Valve, is because Valve makes it clear they loves the consumer. Gabe Newell has proven you don’t have to constantly shit all over your customers just to turn a profit. Every time I buy a game on Steam, I feel like I’m supporting a company which actually cares about me as a customer. With Electronic Arts, I get the feeling my money is being used to purchase orphaned children, whose souls are used to power EA's massive fear engine, gradually opening the portal to the hellish nightmare realm where their demonic overlords plot the total enslavement of humanity. Call it a hunch. Non-Existent Customer Service It’s interesting to see how different companies approach the issue of customer service. Many retailers hold by the old adage “the customer is always right,” going out of their way to please every patron. Electronic Arts goes by the motto "we hate you, give us your money," something which has unsurprisingly earned them few fans. Hi! How can we make your life miserable today?  EA's inability to care about their consumers was less of a problem back in the retail days, though the move towards digital downloads has forced people to deal with Origin's incompetent customer service reps. Got charged twice for Battlefield 3? That's a banning. An opponent swore at you during a game session? That's another banning. You pre-ordered Command & Conquer: Generals 2 before it got announced as free-to-play and now need a refund? Sorry bro, better luck next time. The recent SimCity debacle was excellent evidence of how little Electronic Arts cares about their customers. When you sell somebody a $60 product that doesn’t work, the right thing to do is offer them a refund. However, the idea of swimming in a slightly smaller money pool was enough to send EA executives to tears. No refunds for anybody, though you do get a free copy of whatever game EA calculated would least affect their bottom line. So, Electronic Arts has established the precedent that they are allowed to sell you something that doesn’t work, then refuse to give you back your money, and potentially ban you for complaining about it. If that’s not enough cause to cancel your Battlefield 4 pre-order, I don’t know what is. Preorder your inexplicable Origin banning today! In summary, Electronic Arts is like most American companies, their blind greedy love of money resulting in a terrible experience for the consumer. Though we can't argue that they put out some great games now and again, it's their crappy business practices which are the problem. The Worst Company in America? Maybe not, but they're definitely working hard to keep the title.  
Why EA Sucks photo
Worst company in America? You decide.
It wasn't much of a surprise when Electronic Arts was recently voted the Worst Company in America by readers of Consumerist for the second year in a row. Though the game publisher's sins are arguably less substantial than tho...

Shroud of the Avatar photo
Shroud of the Avatar

Shroud of the Avatar gets Kickstarted with 16 days left


Lord British is no doubt drinking from golden goblets
Mar 21
// Fraser Brown
Here's some news that will likely surprise not one single one of you: Richard "Lord British" Garriott's latest foray into roleplaying and morality, Shroud of the Avatar, has gone past its Kickstarter goal, and is now sitting ...
You suck! photo
You suck!

Ultima creator thinks other designers 'really just suck'


Can't tell if hubris or fair criticism
Mar 20
// Steven Hansen
Richard Garriott, known for creating the venerable Ultima series and sometimes known as Lord British, had some harsh truth bombs to rain down on his contemporaries. Speaking with PC Gamer, Garriott said, "I’ve met virtu...
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BioWare Mythic is now just plain old 'Mythic'


At least in name
Nov 09
// Jordan Devore
Mythic Entertainment has seen its fair share of name changes over the years. What's one more? The company announced on the Warhammer Online website that it will be called Mythic going forward. This comes "in the wake of a new...

The trials, tribulations and rebirth of Ultima Forever

Oct 11 // Allistair Pinsof
“We really cared about it! We really wanted do to it, and we could get our hands on it," Barnett says about Ultima. "You’d be surprised how many times you want to put your hands on something and someone else says, ‘It’s mine you know!’” Just a couple yards away sits Ultima creator Richard "Lord British" Garriott who laughed and applauded throughout Barnett's off-the-walls, hysterical presentation, which doubled as a descent into one man's madness experienced during production. Ultima Forever has been rebuilt multiple times, shuffled around by production houses, and saved from cancellation through the act of begging to BioWare's co-founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk. Given Barnett's candor and spirited delivery, it's hard to tell when he's serious or not -- though, after the speech, he insisted he wasn't making anything up on stage. One of the most baffling things is that an early promo video for Ultima Forever (then attached with the subtitle "Quest for the Avatar") showed up at Mythic's office with a BioWare logo positioned at the start ... but they didn't work for BioWare, at the time. This is how they first heard of the 2010 BioWare Mythic merger that apparently marketing knew about before the developer. In March 2011, EA was overlooking its projects, trying to figure out which ones were making progress and which ones should be canned. Mythic scrambled together new footage and invited BioWare's Ray Muzyka for a studio tour. After feeding him a sandwich, Muzyka rushed off and threw up for two days. Instead of giving Muzyka a tour, Mythic had given him the wondrous gift of food poisoning. “We needed people to believe in what we were doing. All we had was a chicken and a spoon. We were up against it!” Barnett says. Barnett felt bad about Muzyka throwing up for two days in a Fairfax, Virginia hotel, so he sent Muzyka a video tour. The video opens with the team waving and shouting, "Hi, Ray!" The words "Sorry we poisoned you!" slowly fade into the screen. One gets the sense that working at Mythic is not so unlike living in an office sitcom. Another video made by the company is a holiday greeting that opens with a developer, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, diving into a snowman. “We had nothing. Nothing!" Muzyka shouts, talking about the state of the game during the time of EA was investigating the company's future. With support from Muzyka, the team scrambled together a new video of footage that mostly contained b-roll of the development staff driving around and goofing off in the office. It worked. “We just had to prove it could work," Barnett says, as a video of an employee imitating Medusa plays in the background. Another glimpse into the madhouse of Mythic. Months spent making a working prototype in Excel (not a joke) and painstakingly hand-crafted maps were for nothing, as the developer soon rebuilt Ultima Forever from the ground up. The main conflict came from an aesthetic disconnect between the art direction and game. For such a lighthearted adventure and bright world, it didn't make sense to have grim, D&D-style character portraits. The new Ultima Forever retains many aspects of Ultima IV but gives the game a new coat of paint. It's now a Diablo-style clickfest, it sounds like a PopCap game, and it looks as bright and shiny as Warcraft III. It may upset and divide some Ultima purists, but Ultima IV's original creator seems to support the new direction. The eight-week build shown is said to be "ancient" but it's the closest Mythic has yet come to making Ultima Forever look like a game people would pay to play (that is its chosen release model, after all). The studio continues to work with a large painting, styled after the iconic Obama "Hope" poster, of Richard Garriott: the words "Britannia believes in you" written below. Mythic printed a couple promotional maps for the game. A photo of Barnett and Garriott displaying the map is shown on the screen. Garriott proudly lifts his map up, in the audience. Barnett, on the other hand, no longer has his map. "[It] sold on eBay for $250. I think I found out how to monetize this game!” Ultima Forever is slated for release on iPad later this year, with a browser-based PC release to follow. [Image source]
Ultima Forever lives on photo
Creative director Paul Barnett tells all in a manic GDC Online presentation
“We went back in time to go forward," Ultima Forever creative director Paul Barnett said during a GDC Online presentation, Wednesday, on the game's tumultuous production history. Ultima IV is one of those much praised g...

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EA and BioWare announce new F2P RPG Ultima Forever


Jul 12
// Chris Carter
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be waking up in 2012 to news of a new Ultima game. But lo and behold, EA and BioWare have just announced a brand new entry in the series: Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar. Th...
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Grab some free old games on Good Old Games today


Jun 18
// Chris Carter
As of today, you can log onto GoG.com and nab two free titles: Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire and Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams. If you aren't hip to the series, these two games are spinoffs of the Ultima...
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Ultima VII Complete available on GOG for some dollars!


Nov 29
// Jim Sterling
One of the most revered monarchs in roleplaying history is now available on Good Old Games for the regal price of six bucks. Electronic Arts' recent dealings with GOG have allowed for Ultima 7: The Complete Edition to make it...
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Richard Garriott open to working with EA on more Ultima


Sep 06
// Fraser Brown
In a recent interview with IndustryGamers, Ultima creator Richard Garriott mentioned an interest in working with the series' current owner, EA, on another installment in the iconic franchise. The space faring developer brough...
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Ultima IV now free on Good Old Games


Sep 01
// Alasdair Duncan
PC download service Good Old Games has been on a bit of an Ultima binge recently. Not only did it put out a bundle of the first three Ultima games, but now it's gone and released Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar for free! Yes, f...






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