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Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale and Arthurian Legends Interview at GameBanshee

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Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale and Arthurian Legends Interview at GameBanshee

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sun 3 March 2013, 20:18:34

Tags: Arthurian Legends; Origin Systems; Sheri Graner Ray; Ultima VIII: Pagan; Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale

Gamebanshee has interviewed ex-Origin Systems' Sheri Graner Ray, writer on Ultima 7 and 8, about two canceled RPGs she worked on while at Origin, Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale, an expansion for Ultima VIII: Pagan, and Arthurian Legends, "a traditional isometric Ultima style game" set in the world of King Arthur. Have a snippet:

GB: What circumstances led to Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale being cancelled despite the fact that the expansion pack had actually gone gold? While Ultima VIII hadn't met sales expectations, couldn't it have been packaged in the eventual Gold Edition to make that bundle pack more enticing?

Sheri: Honestly, it was directly due to a lack of sales. Back then you couldn't do anything as DLC, it had to have a box and go on a shelf with all the commensurate marketing dollars added to it. It came down to straight numbers. If the same percentage of U8 players bought the add-on as U7 and U7.5 players bought THOSE add-ons, it simply didn't justify the cost of manufacturing and distributing the U8 add on.

Also at that time Ultima 9 was beginning, as was "behind closed doors" discussions for Ultima Online. Crusader was in full production and so was Wing Commander 3 - complete with live action. On top of all that EA was starting to make noise about a cut back in headcount for ORIGIN.

So it's just safe to say the company's attention had already moved on from Ultima 8, which was seen as a less than successful chapter in Ultima history. Thus, there was no enthusiasm for Lost Vale.

GB: Is it possible that anyone out there still has a gold copy of Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale? With the popularity of digital download services and classic RPGs, wouldn't it be feasible that a working, "as is" copy could be released and even reasonably profitable in today's market?

Sheri: I know that every Ultima fan out there desperately wants there to be a copy of Lost Vale somewhere, but honestly there just isn't. It was in the early days of the ORIGIN/EA merger and ORIGIN still wasn't doing much archiving. Frankly, I don't even think U8 was archived, so there's no way Lost Vale was. It was a small project with a small team, for a project that was kind of... well... a disappointment for the company. Add to that, the fact the company's attention was on the much bigger and brighter Crusader and Wing 3 titles. Plus the looming overhead cuts that were coming. There just wasn’t thought enough of doing an archive.

GB: Let's switch gears to the Arthurian legend RPG. Based on what we could dig up, it's unclear as to whether or not it was supposed to be an Ultima game. Did ORIGIN have the intention of creating more games in the "Worlds of Ultima" series? Or was there just an idea for an independent Arthurian RPG? In essence, how did the game evolve into and out of the "Worlds of Ultima" spin-off series?

Sheri: The most interesting thing about Arthurian Legends is it was a completely employee driven idea. It was the brainchild of Brian Martin, a designer on several of the Ultimas and a major player in the Brittania Manor haunted houses. He came up with the initial idea and sold it “upstairs” as a way to reuse the Ultima engine. He convinced Richard that it could be made with fewer people than a traditional Ultima, faster than a traditional Ultima and that it would be different enough from Ultimas to not compete with them. At the same time it could still draw on the popularity of the “ORIGIN” name.

Although “Worlds of Ultima” was mentioned a time or two in the early phases of the game, I don’t think it was ever intended to be a “Worlds of Ultima.” It was always an independent, stand-alone, idea.​

Read the interview in full here.

(Why, yes, Infinitron is out for a bit.)

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