In Garriot's Own Words;
Worlds of Ultima, the Role of the GameBoy, and More
We looked at the Ultima series and thought "What else can we do to enhance the value of and exploit this property called Ultima?" So we played around with various things. Some have turned out to be successful; others haven't been so successful. The first ones we did were called Avatar Worlds of Ultima. Those were interesting: The theory was that by using the same tools suites, we could come up with a new game that was very efficient cost-wise in that intervening year - because Ultimas took two years to develop. It would still appeal to the original audience, but cost us less, so we thought it would be a good bet. Those games were actually well received - they were actually reviewed better than some of the mainstream Ultimas. But honestly, from a sales standpoint, it wasn't really the right model because it ended up not costing us any less than the original. The tools and the actual game are so interwoven that the task of extracting the tools and using them for another game is about as expensive as building a game from scratch.
Then there were the console games. There was the SNES version and the GameBoy version. The SNES version attempted to be as true to the original as possible. And in my mind, that's a really hard thing to do when you're going from hard drive to cartridge. So the SNES version really suffered from trying to cram a really big game into a little cartridge. On the other hand, when it came time to do the GameBoy version, we didn't even try to cram it into that - I mean your talking like 64k total RAM - that's it. So we knew we couldn't "clone" another Ultima. What we had to do is start over and ask, "What are the real essential elements that make an Ultima that we can put into this machine?" So we built it from the bottom up, developing the game specifically for that console. My personal opinion is that that's the best non-PC Ultima that was ever made because it feels and plays just how I would expect an Ultima to play on a GameBoy. It has nothing to do with the storyline of the other ones, but it just feels right.
That brings along to Ultima VII part 2: Serpent Isle, which was actually closer to the model of the Worlds of Ultima. Serpent Isle was really expensive. It cost more to make Serpent Isle than Ultima VII part one. It actually sold quite well and was reviewed better than the original, but again, it didn't really make economic sense.
So our new strategy is really much more like the GameBoy strategy. We're not going to try and take an Ultima engine and do the same thing with it. Actually, if you'll notice, Crusader is more or less Ultima VIII with a new look.
Take me back to Savage Empire and Martian Dreams
Take me to The Ultima Underworld Series