Let's talk about Wizardry and Ultima - http://www.mmcafe.com/ Forums


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Maou
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"Let's talk about Wizardry and Ultima" , posted Tue 8 Dec 06:25post reply

Now for a job only the wide range of ages, nationalities, and experiences of the Cafe can handle! Wizardry artist Suemi Jun's magical reappearance to do a magnificent piece of guest artwork for the Dragon's Crown artbook has reminded me of the distant sense of awe I hold for Wizardry and Ultima, despite having never played them. Tell me about your experiences!

It's well-known that these trailblazing PC RPGs were hugely influential in the birth of Japan's own RPG scene, Dragon Quest's Horii and Fuurai No Shiren's Nakamura most importantly among them. Suemi's stunning illustrations for the Japanese versions remind me of better days when the work of sophisticated artists like Amano graced video games. There are so many other interesting entertainment industry connections: Wizardry co-creator Robert Woodhead later created pioneering American-based anime translation house AnimEigo, then and to this day one of the only translation groups I would recommend to friends. They may have been the first group ever to take non-SF/fantasy animation like romance comedy legend Kimagure Orange Road to the US.

Anyhow! Like with Ys, there have been so many renditions of Wizardry and Ultima that I wouldn't even know where to start. It would be nice to find a user-friendly version that wasn't cursed with awful budget character re-designs like the Sega Ages Phantasy Star II. Do Cafe members have experience with these foundational RPG's and any memories or recommendations?





人間はいつも私を驚かせてくれる。不思議なものだな、人間という存在は...

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karasu
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"Re(1):Let's talk about Wizardry and Ultima" , posted Tue 8 Dec 09:32post reply

quote:
Now for a job only the wide range of ages, nationalities, and experiences of the Cafe can handle! Wizardry artist Suemi Jun's magical reappearance to do a magnificent piece of guest artwork for the Dragon's Crown artbook has reminded me of the distant sense of awe I hold for Wizardry and Ultima, despite having never played them. Tell me about your experiences!


YOU RANG? I can talk at length about Wizardry, having played it in my formative youth. Ultima... not so much, although I played a few of the games. It's just they never sank in for me. I can also add to your list of those two the Apshai games, even though they didn't last nearly as long as Wizardry and Ultima.

Wow, not to sound like an absolute codger, but I'm positive I encountered these games before leaving grade school, and along with some arcade games and the Atari VCS they were probably among the first videogames I ever played. Especially Wizardry. I'm also guessing that having played Wizardry provided an essential bridge between paper and pencil AD&D and Final Fantasy-type early videogame RPGs.

So I can't begin to advise you on Ultima, but if you care to play the original Wizardry there was a Super Famicom/Super Nintendo version that I didn't play until years later. But if you'd care to go full-anthropologist, you could always track down (in emulation of course) the version that I played circa '82 or '83, for the Atari 8-bit computers. You will of course be in for an alarmingly primitive experience, so be forewarned!

I feel like I have plenty more to say but I'll have to somehow trim it down from the volume I feel as though I could write.





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Maou
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"Re(2):Let's talk about Wizardry" , posted Tue 8 Dec 14:06post reply

I knew I could count on you! I'd love to hear more about the experience. I have a great respect for old-time American RPG's, though only indirectly in the form of point-and-click adventure RPG's in the charming and funny vein of Quest for Glory which I've mentioned before.

Wizardry interests me particularly since it continued and continues to be relevant in Japan as opposed to the US, with many more games and gaidens coming out as recently as DS. But whether it's DS or SFC, I'd love to hear what the most modern one is that could still ensure I understand the spirit of the original. Whereas some updates are enchantingly improved, the gap between the equally ancient majesty of Phantasy Star II and the Sega Ages version has always left me worrying I wasn't really "getting it," for instance.





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"Re(2):Let's talk about Wizardry and Ultima" , posted Tue 8 Dec 19:37post reply

Karasu doesn't want to wax about Ultima?

Too bad, because I will!

Ultima is a game with a grand vision, which some might say has a reach that exceeds its grasp, with the two exceptions being the sublime Ultima VII and Ultima Underworld (UW it should be noted, was NOT made by Richard Garriot's team, but by the single greatest single player first-person game developer in the history of the 90s not named id Software, Looking Glass Studios, but I digress). In fact, if you went back and played the Ultima releases prior to V? VI?, you'd find a bunch of games that feel like Ur-Dragon Quests, except much much larger in scope. Consider that Ultima III, on the NES, features battles that are mini SRPG fights where the members of your party and the enemy takes turns on a battlefield grid! And this game was released in 1983 (the same year as DQ1 on the NES)! You wanted a boat? Well you'd find a random pirate ship sailing around, hijack it and kill the pirates, and there you go! Figuring how the Moongates worked and where they actually took you was crazy. There was line of sight in navigation, and you needed to bring food, and... man, it was crazy and it was HARD WORK, even for back then. Did I mention that there first-person dungeons in the NES releases, and that in some of those dungeons, a wind will blow out your torch so that you can't see a thing? Ugh.

However, I think most of the early Ultima games are unpalatable. Exodus (i.e. Ultima III) is a game I never personally finished. In fact, I never finished any of the Ultima games prior to VII.

VI is where the game makes a huge change in how it operates, with VII blowing it wide open. Consider than VII is where the game has no HUD ever shown on the screen unless you explicitly open a window for it, and that window can be dragged around anywhere on the screen. It doesn't matter if you're exploring or fighting. VII doesn't have an overworld scale and a dungeon scale and a town scale (think Dragon Quest or classic FF), instead, everything operates on the same scale. You can walk the perimeter around a town, for example, rather than the town just being represented by a single tile in the overworld that you'd step on which would then warp you into the zone of the town. This together with the rich amount of small details in the game, the continuity with all of the Ultimas of the past (well, not so much with Ultima I and II i guess...), was really incredible. A lot of PC RPGs back in the early 90s strongly hint at open-world, but having tons of things to mess with, combat that didn't occur in some separate game module, the day-night cycle with daily/weekly schedules for the NPCs... the game world felt incredibly alive. You could run into monsters fighting bandits which could then lead into a fight with the town guards! This kind of freeform interaction of the game elements was something few games of the time could pull off, and which modern open world games aim to achieve.

The towns are also filled with NPCs with unique portraits and personalities. When the town cripple joins in a fight and starts walking people with his crutches, you know it's getting good.

Ultima VII is very much not about grinding XP and is very much about exploring. It's a game where one of the locations is hidden on the map because it's where the compass heading on the map is drawn. It's a game where you can find glass swords that can OHKO any enemy, but break immediately after one usage. It's a game full of dungeons that don't have any story purpose, but are mysterious and tempting to explore all the same, and usually have a layout that makes sense. "Oh, this looks like a pirate's treasure cache" or "oh, these are the mines" or "oh, this is a bandit hideout!"

Ultima Underworld has a part where you encounter a mute man who can teach you the language of the lizardmen, in the hopes that you can negotiate his release from prison. How does he do so? You have to go out and find friendly lizardmen and engage them in conversation, and record the words they say to you, to the extent that you are able to communicate with them. Then you back to the mute prisoner and TYPE IN the words you want the meaning of. You get a text description of the man's pantomiming of the meaning of the word you have just given him. It's a pretty remarkable role-playing experience. It is a game with a very concrete environment, again all to scale.

The cover art for Ultima Underworld is pretty classic pulp fantasy stuff, the exact kind of thing you'd expect from the cover a Western PC RPG from that era:
you wish you were as well-equipped as the somewhat generic Frazetta-inspired barbarian on this box when you started the game... Denis Loubet did the cover art for all of the Ultima games I believe, and for a number of other titles by Origin (the studio where Chris Roberts and Richard Garriott made their legendary PC games!)





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"Re(3):Let's talk about Wizardry and Ultima" , posted Thu 10 Dec 20:36post reply

Amazing post Spoon! The mute man's thing blew my mind for sure. Unfortunately I never was a fan of these kind of western RPGs, didn't like that feeling of being thrown into a vast world (or dungeon) with no clue of what to do. Everything you explained sounded really fresh and interesting, I'll give you that!