Video: Ultima Forever – Reimagining a Classic

Over at the GDC Vault, Mythic’s studio general manager Paul Barnett’s talk on Ultima Forever is now available to watch for free. And I’ve managed to figure out its embed code:

The video is described thusly:

Revisiting one of the most beloved RPGs of all time, Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, with a new free-to-play and online rendition is no easy task — especially under the scrutiny of the seminal game’s fans. But senior creative director Paul Barnett and his team at BioWare-Mythic rose up to the challenge with Ultima Forever, which completely modernizes the 27-year-old game with a new look, new controls, new features, and a new business model. Barnett will deliver a talk on Ultima Forever, sharing what went right and wrong while attempting to bring the classic Western RPG into the 21st century. Art thou humble?

…and I’m just in the process of watching it through now. If I find anything interesting in its depths, I’ll update the post. There is some gameplay footage shown at various points throughout the presentation, so if you’d like to skip around and find that, select the fullscreen option above; it should bring up a chapter selection menu.

The First Age of Update: It’s a pretty sweet presentation, all things considered, and Barnett tells the tale of Ultima Forever’s development with amusing humour.

The game has had a rough go throughout its development, and seeing the presentation actually…clarified a few things I had been wondering about, like (for example) why the game kind of dropped off of everyone’s radar who had heard about it around the end of 2012, only to reappear some months later in a new form, only to disappear again for several more months after that point! Barnett’s team have been working with the proverbial “chicken and spoon” threadbare resources to get the game made, and as you can see in the story of the game’s graphical evolution, they even managed to pull off a miracle or two when they needed to in order to keep the project alive.

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This included thanking Frank Gibeau in a very conspicuous way.

What shines through in the video, I think, is that the team working on the game love Ultima. Even the people on the team who were relative Ultima newcomers have had to go through an initiation of sorts, challenged by Barnett and the rest of the team to either know and be passionate about the series or else find another project to work on.

And yes, the game was indeed supposed to be a browser-based title at one point:

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Also Facebook. And Twitter.

Also, I feel I should commend the men and women at Mythic for their courage; I’m not sure I could work with this watching my every move:

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By the Virtues!

Anyhow, as a consequence of this video being released, I’ve been able to publish a piece of old concept art for the game (as well as grainy images of a few other pieces of concept work that I caught brief glimpses of in the presentation) and an examination of the changes in its graphical look and feel over time. Have a look at both!

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