Paul Barnett's Rose-Tinted Memories of Ultima

Highlights from Barnett's appearance on the GameSpot Comic-Con 2012 stage show.

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BioWare Mythic's Paul Barnett joined us on our Comic-Con 2012 stage show to talk about the newly announced Ultima Forever. Here are some of the most interesting quotes from that interview…

On deciding which Ultima game to reimagine

When you look at Ultima, it's basically got three types of worlds that look good. Ultima Online--still going strong, still great. Ultima IV--very much stimulation. You go all over the world, the virtues become the avatar. It's got boats and pirate dens and great stuff. And then Ultima VII--this big, chunky, simulation world. We looked at the three of them and went, hmm, well we haven't got a very big team and we haven't got a lot of time. So I guess doing the online one's probably not a very good idea…and Ultima VII looks quite chunky. Maybe this…this Ultima IV looks pretty good!

So we got a group together at Bioware and said, who really cares about Ultima? Who's not gonna mess it up? Who's got supreme passion and wants to do Ultima IV again? Then they put their hands up. We said, great! We gave them sugar, put them in a room, and off they went.

On looking back at Ultima IV with rose-tinted glasses

Everyone who played Ultima IV who's old and craggy and remembers when all of this was text, they have this vision in their head of what all of this was like. In their head, it was this beautific game, and it wasn't really 27 different key controls with terrible, juttery graphics. They think it was awesome!

You then take the modern team, the team who have to deliver it. You sit them down and say, we need you to play this game we're gonna reimagine. We tell them it's an all-time classic, it's been around, it's formed a lot of big thinking. They then try to play it and it's sort of like when you're given Chaucer to read.

On building a game for both PC and iPad

In their head, Ultima IV was this beautific game, and it wasn't really 27 different key controls with terrible, juttery graphics. They think it was awesome!"

One of the benefits of going to the iPad is that it kept you honest on complexity, game depth, and game timing. It stopped us from being drawn into the gravitational black hole of, I'm a PC! I've got a mouse, all these keys, I can put hot bars in…I can go crazy!

We wanted it to be an RPG adventure. And so if anything, we were inspired by the Super Nintendo Japanese RPGs. One button to get through a conversation, choices that you had to make, extreme emotion, reasonably tight and fun controls rather than hot bars of madness and number-crunching math puzzles. Going onto the iPad helped keep that focus, that strong design urge.

On the biggest myth about Ultima Forever

[The biggest myth] is that it's a crappy Facebook game with energy rubbish and that we're trying to gouge money from people just for blinking. It's absolutely not! It's a joyous, full, rich game. It doesn't have any of that nonsense. You can get in and literally within half an hour you'll have gone across the entire world, visited all the great towns, got yourself a boat, visited Lady British, gone off to the Lyceum--there's no stopping you!

We went out of our way to remove the glass walls and instead we though, you know what? We're just going to let people play it. Play it and enjoy it. Have a really great go at it. When you actually see the game up and running, it's a joy.

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