The map for Ultima Forever has undergone significant revision since the game was first conceptualized. Mythic Entertainment generously allowed us to obtain photographs of the various “early stage” maps for the game, showing how it began from a tracing of the Ultima 4 map and, through successive iterations, became what it is today. We are hugely indebted to Paul Barnett and Kate Flack for walking Withstand the Fury Dragon through the history of these eight maps, and for allowing him to record images of each.
The First Map
The first map drawn up for Ultima Forever was based on an upscaled tracing of the map of Ultima 4. Some of the paper sections are missing now, but most of the major landmarks from Ultima 4 can be seen on the map, in addition to a number of annotations made by the development team at Mythic. Notably, Mythic were keen on ensuring that every little island was given a proper name. Where possible and feasible under canon, they relied on other Ultima titles, but you’ll note (for example) that the group of islands south of Skara Brae has been circled and labelled “Seven Sisters”.
The Second Map
The second revision of Ultima Forever’s map was still very close in design to that of Ultima 4. In keeping with the previous map, every island has been given a name, and many other points of interest have also been defined. At the same time, it can be seen that the team at Mythic had begun to explore putting their own little twists on the lore into the game, such as the island of Spektran…which at one point they had considered setting atop the back of a giant turtle.
The Third Map
This third map — which some of you may recognize — was drawn up to test the fledgling engine that Mythic’s developers had put together for Ultima Forever. Obviously, there has been a fairly significant departure from the shape of Ultima 4′s Britannia, and many of the smaller features from the earlier maps (tiny islands and the like) have all but disappeared. Although this was just a testbed map, note the shape of the continent; we’ll see it again below.
This map also features one artist’s attempt at a logo for the game:
The Fourth Map
This was a “back to the drawing board” map that Mythic put together to look at the possibility of breaking Britannia up into zones, of the sort one might find in a typical MMORPG. The idea, brief as it was, was to break the game up into eight zones, each corresponding to a particular Virtue; the markup on the map reflects this. Ultimately, this concept was shelved.
The Fifth Map
The next revision of the map was broken out over several large sections of graph paper, requiring that photos of each be taken in turn. We may have a go at stitching these together into one piece, although the map is not wholly complete: only Dagger Isle and the areas around Skara Brae and Trinsic are depicted. In this set of images, elements of the third map’s design can be seen, although effort is also being made to preserve more of the fine details from the original Ultima 4 map.
The Sixth Map
The sixth revision of the Ultima Forever map built off of the fifth. Different terrain types have been given solid colours to better visually differentiate between them. The map, at this point, is very much a hybrid between the Ultima 4 map and the third map, above, and is being expressed in tiles in order to ensure that the ideas being templated on paper can be incorporated into the game’s still-evolving engine.
You’ll note that many points of interest have had their names and locations set by this point.
The Seventh Map
This was the last version of the Ultima Forever map that would be expressed in tiles, and also represents the point at which the game’s design moved away from something purely tile-based to the painted artwork backdrops that have featured in all of the released media for the game. As can be seen below, the initial map was put together using tiles from the VGA upgrade for Ultima 4. Also visible below: what might be the last surviving sample of the original painted artwork put together for the game.
The Eighth Map
The eighth revision to Ultima Forever’s map shows off an early version of the painted artwork that will be used in the final version of the game. This version of the game map incorporates many of the design elements of the previous three, and the similarity to the third map can also be noted. But, rather than using tiles from Ultima 4 or low-detail coloured squares, the map is now very obviously comprised of higher-quality art elements (although some re-use of elements is still visible; this has been refined and removed in later versions of the map).
The Ninth Map
With the release of Ultima Forever, the final map of Britannia can be shown:
As can be seen, the art has undergone significant revision and polish, although the basic shape is the same. A number of points of interest have been added, as well. For more information about Britannia in Ultima Forever, and for maps of many of the cities in the world, see this page.