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Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar Press Release and Hype Round-up

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Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar Press Release and Hype Round-up

Information - posted by Crooked Bee on Fri 13 July 2012, 17:54:12

Tags: BioWare; Electronic Arts; Geoffrey Chaucer; Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar

We don't normally cover F2P titles, but this is a very special case. Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, EA and Bioware Mythic's hack'n'slash free-to-play reimagining of the Ultima world for iPad and PC has seen an official press release as well as a few hands-off hype-on previews pop up around the web. So let's take a look - I know you're dying to hear what they have to say.

The press release describes the game as combining "accessible action RPG gameplay with trademark Bioware storytelling," i.e., the worst of both worlds:


Rediscover One of Gaming’s Most Beloved Franchises with Friends, Anytime, Anywhere on iPad and PC Later this Year

FAIRFAX, Va. – July 12, 2012 – BioWare™, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), today announced Ultima™ Forever: Quest for the Avatar. Expanding the legendary Ultima™ franchise, Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar combines accessible action RPG gameplay with trademark BioWare storytelling, immersing both longtime fans and new gamers into the deep and engaging world of Britannia. Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar will be available on both the iPad and PC later this year, with fully integrated, cross-platform play so gamers can experience all of the rich and deep RPG elements with friends, wherever and whenever they choose to play.

“There’s a fundamental shift underway in how gamers play and pay for games, and Electronic Arts is a leader in providing new business models and new ways to consume content,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, General Manager of EA’s BioWare Label and Co-Founder of BioWare. “With Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, we’re excited to give gamers the opportunity to play a high quality game with their friends anytime, anywhere, on both iPad and PC.”

“As huge fans of the Ultima franchise, the team at BioWare Mythic is not only excited to be able to bring this reimagining of the original rich world to the fans of the classic RPGs, but also to introduce a new generation of gamers who have never had a chance to discover why this is one of our industry’s most beloved worlds,” said Eugene Evans, Studio GM at BioWare Mythic.

Spanning over three decades, the fantasy world of Ultima has entertained millions of players from around the world with dozens of award-winning titles. The passionate and loyal fans of Ultima have braved perilous dungeons, faced off against fearsome enemies and creatures, conquered expansive lands and seas, and saved worlds. It’s time to revisit this enchanting universe and step into the shoes of your very own Avatar to find out where your choices will take you.​

You can visit the official website to sign up for a chance to take part in the closed beta and see the gameplay trailer, but do you really want to? Do you hate role-playing games, by any chance? If you do, please say so; I'm sure we can find a more appropriate website for you.

Meanwhile, Massively has Bioware Mythic's creative director Paul Barnett say the game is not an MMO, even though it kind of is:

And what about the gameplay? Is Ultima Forever an MMO?

No, though Barnett says it has "a lot" of players in it. "It's very tribal in the way we're building it," he explained. The game is a small-group affair, with "tactical, positional" combat that is less about hotbar abilities and more about where your characters stand, what kind of equipment they have, and how you use your abilities together.

Barnett compared the game to the hunting areas in older BioWare titles like Baldur's Gate, and he pointed out that the essence of Ultima Forever is focused on improving your virtues through a BioWare storyline and plenty of dungeoneering. "It's very much a classic RPG adventure. It's more in Dragon Age's territory than that of an MMO," he explained.​

Not sure if that's supposed to sound so positive anyway.

Speaking of positive, IGN claims the mechanics will hark back to Ultima IV, so that the combat is going to be similar to Diablo. Ultima IV, the first Diablo-like?

Ultima Forever is a throwback to classic Ultima games, with mechanics grounded in Ultima IV. Starting as either a fighter or a mage (a druid and paladin class are coming later), your hero sets out on a quest to become the Avatar, a person who embodies what are known as the eight Virtues. Using a Baldur's Gate-like isometric perspective, you'll guide your hero either alone or with friends through hours and hours of quests, battling it out with monsters and making hard choices until your character embodies the virtues and reaches the end-game dungeons. Once you beat it, becoming the Avatar, you then start a new game plus, playing through all the content again on an even harder setting.

Virtues are a system that play heavily in Ultima Forever. You level them up in a variety of ways, including some that encourage multiplayer. For instance, your "Sacrifice" virtue is tied to helping other players, which Barnett and company have integrated into a system wherein high level players can temporarily lower their level in order to assist a lower-level player. At the end of a dungeon, the high-level player won't earn nearly as many rewards as the lower level-player for completing the quest, but they will earn progress in their Sacrifice virtue. Essentially, said Barnett, "the entire logic was, 'wouldn't it be great if you bothered to help other people you got to help yourself?'" Smart, right?

While we haven't had a chance to see it for ourselves, Barnett likens combat in Ultima Forever to Diablo. "You're clicking around to move, you're clicking on monsters and you're selecting your abilities a la Diablo," he said. "It isn't the timer based '1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3' combat you see in MMOs."​

Next, Gamespot has the same Paul Barnett answer the burning question of why it is at all necessary to "update" Ultima IV for the iGeneration. Turns out playing Ultima IV is like reading Chaucer, and everybody knows how inadequate, byzantine and horrible that is:

"It's like reading Chaucer," Barnett said in an interview with GameSpot. "The controls are deeply inadequate, the graphics are horrible, the input system is byzantine at best." That's why his team is remaking it with modern trappings--updated graphics, multiplayer, and action RPG combat--and they're making it free-to-play.

[...] These updates create a delicate balance between adhering to the vision of Ultima creator Richard Garriott, who is not involved in the project, and alterations for BioWare's approach to narrative and usability by a touch-centric generation. Ultimately, he said, the idea is to get back to what has kept Ultima IV a topic of conversation more than 25 years after its release.​

And even though Lord British isn't involved, it is my duty to remind you that he and EA are basically moving in the same direction.

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