Ultima IV remade as free-to-play Ultima Forever

Quest for the Avatar due this year with online multiplayer, action RPG combat; playable free "start to finish."

Many modern games ask players whether and how to do the right thing, but none quite like Ultima IV, according to BioWare Mythic's Paul Barnett. But the 1985 role-playing game, which is renowned for its system of interacting virtues, has a few rusty hinges and rough edges.

Quest for the Avatar arrives later this year.

"It's like reading Chaucer," Barnett said in an interview with GameSpot. "The controls are deeply inadequate, the graphics are horrible, the input system is byzantine at best." That's why his team is remaking it with modern trappings--updated graphics, multiplayer, and action RPG combat--and they're making it free-to-play.

Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is set to launch on iPad and PC later this year. The game, which Barnett said will be playable "start to finish" for free, is the second major free-to-play project from BioWare, the first being Facebook tie-in Dragon Age Legends. He said the team took several lessons from the EA2D project, which was recently discontinued online.

"It had a lot of good ideas in it, it struggled to find a long-term audience, and perhaps was too aggressive with its monetization policy," Barnett said. So instead of "glass walls" preventing advancement through the game, Ultima Forever players will be able to buy additional means of transport or the ability to fast travel through the world.

Ultima Forever will feature the same set of virtues from its 1985 counterpart, but players will find new choices and consequences reflected in the game's fully integrated multiplayer. "Virtue is how you treat other people, in lots of games that's how you treat NPCs," said lead designer Kate Flack. "We want to take that same idea of how you treat other people and then apply it to the players."

She explained the game's mentorship system, through which high-level characters temporarily reduce their level to help with less-experienced friends' campaigns. Mentors grow in the virtue of sacrifice, for helping out on tasks beneath their heroic stature, and mentees grow in humility, for admitting they need help.

Barnett said the game will use Origin's matchmaking services across iPad and PC to facilitate multiplay between small groups of friends. These updates create a delicate balance between adhering to the vision of Ultima creator Richard Garriott, who is not involved in the project, and alterations for BioWare's approach to narrative and usability by a touch-centric generation. Ultimately, he said, the idea is to get back to what has kept Ultima IV a topic of conversation more than 25 years after its release.

"The idea that it's finding out who you are, that there's a difference between who you claim you are and who you actually are in the game," Barnett said. "Hopefully, if we've done it right, what it's actually hearkening back to is that good storytelling that we used to do in the past, when the technology was a lot simpler."

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Discussion

78 comments
Axe_Armor
Axe_Armor

I'll stick to the original, thank you.

King9999
King9999

I don't know about this.  The reason why I like the original game was because of how personal the quest was.  If you put a multiplayer element into it, how will it work?  If a party member robs a store, does the whole party lose an eighth?

dr_jashugan
dr_jashugan

I want my magic axe and the words of power! 8-)

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

Hmm...sounds interesting.  We'll just have to see how it goes.

Dragdar
Dragdar

quote; "Look, it's Paul Barnett. That crazy British dude that appears in random videos at EA to promote his latest bullshittery. We know him as the crazy British dude who we have no idea of how he still has a job."

 

.

Chibi_Kami
Chibi_Kami

I've just thought of a way to save this

Post-9

The avatar has ascended and the world is once again in chaos. The world of Sosaria once again needs a beacon of hope. It's your job to find him.

unacomn
unacomn

You get to be the Avatar, you get to be the Avatar, everybody gets to be the Avatar!

A wave of disappointment washes over the land, and engulfs everything within it's murky depths of suckiness.

 This it is written, thus it shall be.

Maxor127
Maxor127

Why bother pretending it's Ultima IV when it has nothing to do with it besides the virtue system?

Bachem_gamespot
Bachem_gamespot

To all those "hooray it's free". Ever thought about, why? Well definitely not, because they love you. It's because of money in the long term. In fact they try to lure you to their "me-too-Steam-product" or "all-seeing-eye" called Origin. I guess somebody had the idea: Heck, how do we attract the older players.. well let's heat up an undead brand and hope they'll buy from our Origin or later on some ingame stuff.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

Bwahahahahahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...and Garriott said the series was pointless.  Screw you Garriott!!!!  Bwahahahahahahahhhhhhhhhh...we, the fans, were right all along!  You threw away the money!  Now, all these developers have to do is see that virtuous gameplay still sells.  Any rules system can be made into a game, even a virtuous one.  That's what made Ultima popular in the first place.Sadly, it looks like an online game (MMO), so I won't be playing it.  I still have the original, though.  I don't need the new one.  When you decide to make a single-player Ultima game in the original Ultima (Lord British) universe, with software on the disc and not an internet download, and not requiring a constant internet connection to play, though, let me know.  Then I'll have a look.  IN SANCT MANI Ultima !!!

dangermouse2k
dangermouse2k

Ultima 7 is my favorite game of all time. What this crap is this?!

UnwantedSpam
UnwantedSpam

So how will EA screw it up this time? Let's wait and see.

texasgoldrush
texasgoldrush

This is NOT a remake of Ultima IV. Its an entire new game

Miriani
Miriani

... EA, can you please stop pissing on Origin's ashes?

Mozuckint
Mozuckint

EA and Ultima? Strike one

Origin? Strike two

 

You don't even deserve the chance of a third strike EA. Done.

Henrique2324
Henrique2324

"The controls are deeply inadequate, the graphics are horrible, the input system is byzantine at best."  This game is from the 80's and it's MUCH better than anything this Barnett ever made.Turning this into a social MMO blasphemy pot does not undo that. 

Henrique2324
Henrique2324

Seriously, just download this from GOG for free. It'll be a much better game even with the 80's graphics.

lindallison
lindallison

Never played Ultima IV, I'd ne sure to play this if they made movement real-time but kept the turn-based combat.....I've played enough action RPG's to last a lifetime thanks.

Erebus
Erebus

I'm.... interested..... cautiously optimistic even!

Henrique2324
Henrique2324

As if the franchise wasn't dead enough. I used to love this game. I swear to god, if EA gets their hands on GOG, I'll spaghetti everything.

cegab
cegab

From the Ultima forever website: "Accept the challenge from Lady British and save the land of Britannia."

 

LADY British?? How very progressive of you Bioware. Hard to be that optimistic for this when you decide to change the most central and recognizable character in the entire Ultima series.

NeoIostars
NeoIostars

I'm not warming up to the idea, but heck, it's free, might at least try it out. It won't/can't replace the legend that filled my childhood with fond memories, however.

lokar82
lokar82

Ultima IV like reading Chaucer?!?  No wonder gaming has reached the sorry state it is in today.  One of the coolest things about Ultima IV was getting lost on your ship, blown off course, hitting an island and wondering where in the heck you were in the world and having to check your cloth map for possible places you might have landed.  I'm sure this new version will have auto maps galore and everything dumbed down within an inch of its' life.

Epyx911
Epyx911

Richard Garriot hasn't had the drive and ambition for a real Ultima style role playing game since the 90s...he's all about space now...sad but true and I don't blame him. His current game is a collecting/shopping style game zzzzzzzzzzzzzzMy first games on my C64 were Ultima II/III/IV, Phantasie, Wizards Crown, Bard's Tale, Questron, Wasteland...true pc gaming classic rpgs.Someone to carry the torch forward...anyone is a good thing imo...hopefully one day when the space bug has worn off , Garriot comes back down to earth and continues his legacy under a new name...but not holding my breath so for now excited about this Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns!

Chibi_Kami
Chibi_Kami

And Lady British can be the chambermaid Lord British was romancing in 7. LB himself has come down with a case of poisoned bread

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

 @Maxor127 How do you figure that?  It said it's going to be a complete remake start to finish of the original...

Henrique2324
Henrique2324

 @Maxor127 Because EA is not done murdering Origin yet. Just wait til they start defiling Wing Commander.

VarietyMage
VarietyMage

Oops...it's IN MANI CORP.  I've lost an eighth.  ;)

Banefire76
Banefire76

 @UnwantedSpam

 EA screws everything, thats a given. The question is will people screw themselves and play it?

NeoMosko
NeoMosko

 @cegab Lord or Lady doesn't matter, its life is forfeit.

gSp0t0210
gSp0t0210

 @cegab Just realize that Lord British is tradmarked by Richard Garriott, so they cannot use it legally.

 

Know your fact, dude.

whodagoose
whodagoose

 @Epyx911  I tip my hat to you sir. As a PC gamer...never, never in a million years would I expect anyone at GameSpot to name-drop QUESTRON. Then you double-down with PHANTASIE in the same sentence... What next? Telengard and Zoarre? I do oh so miss the golden age of RPGs exclusively on PC from '84-'94 (Oh... and I do recognize the joystick/game dev reference up top)

whodagoose
whodagoose

 @Henrique2324 They already did defile Wing Commander about two years ago. It was called something like "Wing Commander: Armada" on XBLA. It was an arena based combat game that handled like the SNES Mario Kart VS mode... so painful, and had nothing to do with Wing Commander...

Epyx911
Epyx911

 @whodagoose  @Epyx911 Hehe thanks in return for the mention of Telengard and Zoarre hehe...Ah Telengard...spent many hours on that roguelike. I do miss those years! Other obscure games like Fortress of the Witch King, Wrath of Denenthenor and Rings of Zilfin you probably remember...a golden age of rpgs.

cyberarmy
cyberarmy

 @whodagoose I  didnt know this :/ Just read your post and googled(a new word ...) the game.

Im dissapointed over 9000!

Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing!

Henrique2324
Henrique2324

 @cyberarmy  That's awesome, you still remember those two. Screw this world where everybody ditched our old gems to go play COD.

Ices100
Ices100

 @mrboone01 they can never make a complete ultima game ever again load british owns the right to some of the characters in the series......get ur fats straight idiot.

gSp0t0210
gSp0t0210

 @NeoMosko  @mrboone01 Getting back to the original matter at hand, They wont' use Lord British as he has always been known as that, and with less than amicable departure, neither would like that.

J_Dangerously
J_Dangerously

 @mrboone01 I've seen enough of Garriot in the press to know he's an arrogant fool.

 

Good for Bioware for slapping a pair of panties on him.

gSp0t0210
gSp0t0210

 @mrboone01 If you want to get "real techincal" no one owns the name "lord british" anymore as the copyright expired in 2007, but as everyone knows Lord British as Richard Garriott, they wouldn't want to associate themselves with him.

Epyx911
Epyx911

 @sasami_adachi  @whodagoose Definitely Wizardry, Roadwar and The Magic Candle and while we are at it...Autoduel for awesome Origin Systems goodness back in their heyday...Agreed about SSI...spoke to the previous owner in a few emails a while back. He is still making wargames but alas no RPGs...SSI...they were good people ;)

sasami_adachi
sasami_adachi

 @Epyx911  @whodagoose No Wizardry, Roadwar, or The Magic Candle? ;)

 

Phantasie and Questron, two of my favourite RPGs of all time. Gosh, I miss SSI. They made some great wargames and RPGs.