News related to Ultima Forever reached a crescendo in the summer (when the game was announced), and then again in the fall (with the release of Paul Barnett’s GDC Online talk about the game’s development history). For many people, the GDC talk provided the first look at in-game footage, although some lucky people got a look at the game earlier in the year during a short alpha test. However, various hints and pieces of media for the game were released over the course of the year…some officially, and some unofficially.
So as the new year opens, let’s look back over the various revelations about Ultima Forever that came to light in 2012.
A series of Ultima-related avatars were added to the profile customization section of Electronic Arts’ Origin storefront client. The Ultima Forever logo was among the selections.
Jeff Skalski, the Ultima Franchise Producer, posted a vague message on Twitter regarding work being done on new Ultima Online and Ultima apparel, ostensibly to be released in the coming months. This was in response to a user asking about buying a new UO t-shirt.
This was the first month in which official Ultima Forever activity began to trend upward. The official Ultima Forever Twitter account, as well as the Twitter account of the Ultima Franchise Producer, Jeff Skalski, were very active with some interesting messages as July began. A rumour that a new free-to-play game would be announced by what was then BioWare Mythic broke on July 11th, and the very next day the Ultima Forever website went life, along with a new Facebook page. The game was announced officially, and several interviews with key Mythic people went live on the same day. Even MSNBC, not exactly a common source for gaming news, picked up the story.
Various bits of Ultima Forever-related media began to come out around this time, beginning with a photo of the promotional cloth map and Virtue cards that had been produced for the game’s announcement. The Ultima Codex put up a series of wallpapers featuring the game’s logo, and BioWare Mythic posted an image of the back of the Virtue cards a few days later…before allowing the Ultima Codex to post all the cards for all to see.
Interest in the game continued to circulate into the latter half of the month; its official Twitter feed was quite interesting to follow during that time, and more interviews with Mythic staff were released, including one in which a blurry glimpse of in-game footage could be seen. Another interview, meanwhile, showed off the Virtue cards and cloth map, and the official Facebook page for the game began posting a series of Virtue-related tests. Jeff Skalski even went so far as to opine on how Ultima Forever might benefit Ultima Online.
When the game was announced, a beta sign-up formed the main element of its website, and as July drew near to a close, beta slots were offered as prizes to people that “Liked” the Ultima Forever Facebook page. More beta slots were given away in a different contest.
Two gameplay screenshots were leaked in late July, in which one of the Shrines of Virtue was visible. This seemed to pass without significant controversy, however; podcasts, more interviews and more Facebook-based Virtue questions were released soon thereafter.
Finally, as July ended, a map of Britain was released, showing off the in-game look of Britannia’s capital city. It was also rumoured that the beta was still “several weeks” away, but as of the end of 2012 it has not yet commenced.
More Virtue questions were posed in August. It should be noted that at the conclusion of each question, Mythic released an image of the Virtue card corresponding to the Virtue that the majority chose the answer for. Thus, the Honesty card was revealed around the middle of the month, and the Sacrifice card as well. Justice, as it turned out, was the last Virtue card to be revealed.
BioWare began to heavily encourage beta sign-ups, and Jeff Skalski gave a couple interviews to various gaming news outlets. He also remained quite active on Twitter, fielding questions about Ultima Forever swag (among other topics). He also published a producer’s letter to the UO website, in which Ultima Forever was also mentioned.
The Ultima Codex, for its part, published its Ultima Forever dev tracker in mid-August, highlighting the various pieces of information about the game and its development team that could be gleaned from public sources.
Also around mid-August, some of the cloth maps and Virtue cards given out at the game’s announcement popped up for sale on eBay. Soon thereafter, rumours about a possible Android version and possible monetization schemes for the game began to emerge. Ultima Forever even merited a mention on CNN; Ultima fever was in full swing.
The Ultima Forever team were on the ground at PAX 2012, and it was around this time that Paul Barnett’s GDC Online talk about the game’s development history was first announced. Barnett also confirmed that the game will feature Retina graphics.
GDC Online took place in Austin, Texas, which meant that the Ultima Forever team had the opportunity to meet Richard Garriott for lunch. Lord British didn’t get to see the game proper, but he gave a hearty “thumbs up” to the cloth map. And, as Paul Barnett explained during his presentation at the conference, Garriott also gave his approval for Lord British to appear in Ultima Forever, in a cameo.
While Paul was presenting in Austin, Mythic quietly launched their new website, which featured Ultima Forever — and Lady British — quite prominently. This was also as close to official confirmation as was had that Mythic had indeed transitioned away from the BioWare label. The studio also shifted focus, away from desktop MMORPGs and toward mobile titles (albeit still with a multiplayer focus).
Back in Austin, thanks to the tireless work of Ben Lesnick, we got a glimpse of the Ultima Forever internal trailer that was shown off as part of Paul Barnett’s talk. Destructoid offered some comments on the talk as well, and several other gaming news sites chimed in with commentary and details soon thereafter.
Oh, and as the month closed, an iPad focus test of Ultima Forever was held. Ben Lesnick and Joe Garrity were on hand to take part…and take pictures.
Early in the month, the GDC Vault released a video recording of Paul Barnett’s talk for free, from which the Ultima Codex was able to extract images of the game’s graphical evolution. We also secured permission to release an old piece of concept art for the game. And Australian gaming magazine PC PowerPlay published a lengthy article about the game.
German gaming magazine Chip PowerPlay also published a lengthy Ultima Forever feature, and the Ultima Forever team released the map of Paws on the game’s Facebook page. A second image, showing the scale of character models relative to the town art asset, was also released.
And news of the beta was promised…in February of 2013.