Ultima Online (Windows)
Ultima: Canceled games
-Ultima Worlds Online: Origin aka. Ultima Online 2
Ultima X: Odyssey
Worlds of Ultima: Arthurian Legends
The planned but never completed third Worlds of Ultima title, with the Avatar questing in the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian Legends would have used the more recent Ultima VII engine rather than the Ultima VI engine used for the two previous Worlds of Ultima games. Designer Sheri Graner Ray claims that the primary design phase was complete and quite a bit of the map work and character art had been finished, and quest design had begun. It seems to have been canceled due to the lukewarm sales of The Savage Empire and Martian Dreams, though the idea to use Ultima engines to create new games fortunately didn't die with it, with System Shock based on Ultima Underworld and the Crusader series based on Pagan being released in the 90's.
Mythos (working name)
A game planned by Origin to use the Ultima VI engine, which would have involved a combination of the ancient Greek legends with the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean. This was planned before Savage Empire and Martian Dreams were developed and seems to have never gotten past the concept stage (the only real source of information on Mythos is in the first edition of Shay Addam's Book of Ultima). Fan speculation is that the ideas floated for Mythos eventually formed the basis of the original, non-Ultima Serpent Isle.
Ultima: 25th Anniversary Edition
A planned compilation of Ultima games that was to be released in 2005, but shelved for unknown reasons. The pet project of Ultima historian Stephen Emond, the 25th Anniversary Collection would have included XP-compatible versions of all Ultima games ever released to that point (except the two Runes of Virtue games and Mount Drash), a history book, a soundtrack CD, a complete atlas, and replicas of the various feelies from the original releases; whether this means all PC Ultimas or all versions of Ultima with attendant C64, Apple II etc. emulators is uncertain. It seems that EA had no real interest in completing the project, as it was originally intended for November 2005, then pushed to January 2006, and then canceled. The only evidence of this collection now is an image of the game box, and an unreleased advertisement designed by Emond showing the same box as well as the box of a Wing Commander 15th Anniversary Collection of similar scope. Given how the most complete existing collection of Ultima games excludes Ascension as well as the utterly fantastic Underworld and Worlds of Ultima series entirely, it's a horrible shame this collection never saw daylight.
Multima (working name)
A canceled, unnamed project that was being worked on by Origin sometime around 1987-1988. It was Origin's first attempt at an online multiplayer game and would have beaten Stormfront's Neverwinter Nights to 'first graphical MUD' by a few years. In development by James Van Artsdalen (who at the time was primarily employed with porting Origin games to PC and Macintosh), the game would have allowed from eight to sixteen players to join a single game. Eventually the focus shifted from a Ultima-style RPG to something like a strategy game, each player a Lord controlling a territory and competing with other players. GEnie (General Electric's online service) may have been negotiating with Origin for publishing rights to the game around this time. There's not terribly much clear information available otherwise, and the game was canceled for unknown reasons and never discussed after 1988.
Other canceled games
Other projects of far less exposure (and even lesser likelihood that they went past the planning stage) include: Ultima Reborn, a Nintendo DS game; Ultima Resurrection, a Sony PSP game; Ultima IV: Part 2, a planned stopgap game between Ultima IV and V, and various proposals for Ultima Underworld III. There's little to suggest any of these games ever got past the "Hey, wouldn't this be a neat idea?" part of development; in the case of UUW3, this is a terrible disappointment to Paul Neurath, who was pushing for a third Underworld game to be made for many years. Interestingly, it seems that at one point Origin was considering hiring John Romero's startup Ion Storm to work on a third Underworld; Mr. Romero declined, being busy with Ion Storm's other projects at the time.
The Ultima Legacy
Current game availability:
Akalabeth's DOS executable is not freeware, but the game's Apple BASIC source code has been released.
As of August 30th 2011, the entire Age of Darkness trilogy (DOS versions) can be purchased at Good Old Games (gog.com) for a mere six dollars.
As of September 8th 2011, the entire Age of Enlightenment trilogy (DOS versions) can be purchased at Good Old games (gog.com) for a mere six dollars, with Ultima IV free of charge.
Ultima III: Exodus for Macintosh and Mac OS X is available from Lairware's website. This is an enhanced edition of the game with multiple new features, released as shareware and costing $5.00 to unlock the full version.
Ultima IV is available for free download from multiple places, including the Ultima anniversary website set up by EA, and Gog.com.
Ultima Underworld and Underworld II are available as a combined download at gog.com for, again, a mere six dollars. They are fantastic games and worth at least ten times that.
ZioSoft's PocketPC port of Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss is available for download on PocketGear. This game, however, is neither rare nor expensive on aftermarket sites like Ebay or Amazon, and can easily be bought there for far less than this $30 price.
Ultima Online is still supported by Electronic Arts (the game is now being operated by Bioware Mythic) and has active servers, though activity has greatly diminished since the game's heyday a decade and a half ago.
Ultima: The Black Gate, the SNES release, can be purchased as part of the EA Retro Replay package on the Playstation Network store for PSP (it is not worth it for this game alone, but the package does include several other very good games, including the oft-forgotten Haunting Starring Polterguy, B.O.B and Mutant League Football).
Ultima VII, Serpent Isle, VIII, IX, The Savage Empire, Martian Dreams, Runes of Virtue and Runes of Virtue II, as well as all other console ports and the non-PC versions of the games are not available for legal purchase. Aftermarket availability of the games varies, and price depends on completeness of the package. Expect most available copies of the games to be on 5.25" or 3.5" disk. Nintendo console ports are generally very cheap and replacement documentation is available at replacementdocs.com. The non-PC editions of the earlier games such as the Commodore 64 and Apple II ports, were abandoned by Origin nearly two decades ago, and EA seems content to forget about these versions for long-dead platforms. Several versions of the games, particularly FM-7, Sharp X1 and Sharp X68000 versions, aren't even available through emulation or software archival websites. If you can dump an image of one of these games, there are several Ultima fans who wish to speak to you, this author included.
The AppleIIGS enhanced Ultima I may soon be available from Brutal Deluxe Software. Other games may soon be available from Good Old Games. It would be amusing if gog.com started selling the Runes of Virtue games or console ports with licensed Nintendo emulators; selling images of old console games for download doesn't seem to happen on the internet despite (or perhaps because of) the huge abandonware scene showing a demand for them, and it would be an interesting first.
This article on Ultimaaiera lists available upgrades and patches for the versions of the games released on gog.com. As Ultima Aiera is currently the most active Ultima fansite and central hub of information for the games and operates on a shoestring budget, it would be kind for people interested in purchasing the games to do so through Aiera and help them out. (The linked page promises to be updated should additional games be released on gog.com or new patches be created)
Source Ports, Fan Patches, Collections:
One of the most beloved, devotion-inspiring series in gaming history, Ultima has seen a landslide of fan work over the years, from upgrades and unofficial patches to engine source ports, mods for other games, and total remakes of the games from the ground up. The following is just a sampling of the many, many notable projects; downloads for these and a more complete listing can be found at Ultimaaiera.
Among these fan works, a few are of particular interest due to the sheer scope. These are getting the whole game treatment.
Exult is the largest, most complete and most far-reaching Ultima fan project. First released for the X Windows System, a GUI for unix-based operating systems, Exult has received official and unofficial ports to numerous systems. The project is a complete source port written in C++ of the Ultima VII engine, allowing people who own the data files for The Black Gate, Forge of Virtue, Serpent Isle and The Silver Seed to play the games on multiple modern operating systems.
There's a few reasons why Ultima VII was worthy for the treatment. For starters, even on actual DOS machines it's finicky to get Ultima VII games to run, and impossible on Windows 9.X and above machines, due to the nature of the Voodoo memory manager written for the games by Origin. On 16-bit computers like the ones Ultima VII was written for, it is physically impossible to access all of the memory that the game demands, requiring a special memory manager, but on 32-bit systems, the memory manager breaks. For another, the Complete Ultima VII has long been the favorite installment of the series of RPGers, computer gamers and Ultima fans for the sheer complexity and quality of the games, which built on every Ultima that came before without venturing into experimental territory as Pagan and Ascension did.
Exult as of the latest release works pretty much identically to the original games, with everything the Ultima VII engine had implemented and 100% compatibility with all four Ultima VII products. In addition it includes several improvements, including more keyboard shortcuts, a new game option menu, the addition of Serpent Isle paperdoll inventories in The Black Gate, extra save game slots, middle-button mouse support, extremely high resolutions, improved audio, and several others. Many Ultima fans have created mods for Ultima VII using Exult as well, including a Keyring mod that adds that useful item into The Black Gate as well as several other improvements, an unofficial Serpent Isle patch, the Serpent Isle in French project, and several (aborted) remakes of The False Prophet. Aside from DosBox, Exult is the best way to play these games by far; they even include settings for an authentic experience that sets Exult to play indistinguishably from the DOS original.
Exult is open-source and released under the GNU GPL, so if you're an Ultima fan with C++ skills, they probably have a problem or two they'd appreciate you solving, or an abandoned port that needs finishing. It seems quite a few people would appreciate someone implementing Serpent Isle's original extended intro, as well. The source port is available for for BSD, Linux, Mac OS X, PocketPC, Sony PSP, Microsoft Xbox 360, GP2X, Dingoo, Symbian OS, Android, Android Java, Amiga OS/MorphOS, Zaurus and probably others as well. The officially-supported platforms are Linux, Mac OS X, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and Windows (9X through 7); other ports are in various states of completion and activity. Exult is included as bundled software in many free distributions of Unix-based systems, such as Debian and FreeBSD.
The latest main focus of the Exult development team seems to be a standalone game engine for making entirely original games, titled Exult Studio. Other members of the Exult team and people inspired by Exult's success have also founded offshoot projects to create the same sort of source port program for the Ultima VI and Ultima VIII engines: these projects are called respectively Nuvie and Pentagram, and aren't quite as complete as Exult but getting there.
xu4: Ultima IV Recreated
First released as an alpha in 2002 but with much development work since, xu4 was written by Andrew Taylor and Darren Janeczek, and is a source port of Ultima IV to various platforms including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Zaurus, BeOS, Sega Dreamcast and others. The goal seems to have been to create an Ultima IV that played as close to the original as possible, with the advantage of modern system compatibility and a mess of configuration and customization options. As of 2011 the program seems to be essentially complete and bug-free.
In particular, xu4 allows you to select from a number of different graphical tilesets to play Quest of the Avatar in, including EGA, two different VGA sets, the FM Towns graphics, and others. xu4 allows a great deal of control over the technical aspects of the game, including various timing tweaks, as well as adding useful hotkeys to take some of the bite out of more tedious tasks. As well, the music is modified to use better instruments than Windows' standard GS Wavetable MIDI or the MIDI included in Dosbox, and the music sounds light-years superior to any other version of Ultima IV. The audio upgrade's quality cannot be stressed enough.
While Quest of the Avatar works perfectly well in Dosbox and even has a fine 256-color VGA fan upgrade to make it the superior 16-bit version of Ultima IV, xu4 is better. This, right here, is the definitive Quest of the Avatar, and anybody picking up the game from the Ultima Anniversary website or Gog.com is well advised to play in xu4.
Ultima IV: Online Flash Edition
Developed by Blair 'WebMonkey741' Leggett, a former EA programmer, Ultima IV: Flash Edition is a complete rewrite of Quest of the Avatar in Adobe Flash, completed over a period of three months in 2010 and allowing the game to be played via web browser. An impressive scale for a project, this version of Ultima IV has the game data transferred to XML and fully playable independent of platform. Not content to just copy the game entirely, Leggett also expanded the original with the addition of scaled treasure value to monster strength, region-based monster appearance rates, more variety in chest traps, more objects visible on the world-view screen, transparent energy fields in dungeons, and various other tweaks.
It's a wonderful project to allow more people to play one of the best games ever developed. It is also, unfortunately, impossible to play for legal reasons. As part of an early-2011 crackdown on people distributing unauthorized copies of Ultima IV (something only a few members of the Ultima Dragons were permitted to do and only one particular version), Electronic Arts sent a cease-and-desist to Leggett forbidding him from hosting or distributing his game. This despite Ultima IV being released as freeware by the Dragons, EA themselves and gog.com. This despite Leggett doing this in good faith, for no financial gain, so more people could discover the game.
Ultima V: Lazarus
Most ambitious mods for games fizzle out sooner rather than later. Either the people working on it don't have the time, or lose interest, or the game engine becomes dated as development drags on and technology advances. This makes Lazarus all the more impressive; a complete, enhanced, updated remake of Warriors of Destiny using Gas-Powered Games' Dungeon Siege engine.
The scale of Lazarus is enormous. Several members of the team are professional game designers - the project director, for instance, is Big Huge Games' Ian Frazier. In Lazarus, the entire Britannia of Ultima V is recreated in 3D, with all-new models, high-quality character portraits and newly remastered CD-quality music. The tale of Blackthorn's usurpation of Lord British is told in fine style with visuals that rival Ascension.
Lazarus improves and adds to Warriors of Destiny in multiple ways, with expanded dialogue, additional quests, more flavorful NPCs, and the addition of features from other Ultima games such as Serpent Isle style dialogue portraits, an Ultima VII style dialogue system, and much-expanded Resistance and Oppression factions that have a far greater effect on the game world. Lazarus includes 3D introduction, cutscene and ending movies created by the team, and adds additional player choice in the possibility of taking an 'evil' story path where the Avatar sides with the Shadowlords, helping Blackthorn's Oppression and trapping Lord British in the underworld forever. Some things couldn't be included in Lazarus due to engine limitations, such as the spells to travel up or down a level in the dungeon, but these are minor.
Lazarus is not a stand-alone game: it uses the Dungeon Siege engine and operates as a mod, so an installed and working copy of Dungeon Siege is required in order to play. The game looks utterly fantastic, and is essentially a whole new, unofficial and professional-quality Ultima game.