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Ultima VIII (or, How to Destroy a Gaming Franchise in One Easy Step)

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Infinitron, Feb 19, 2021.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    YES finally: https://www.filfre.net/2021/02/ultima-viii-or-how-to-destroy-a-gaming-franchise-in-one-easy-step/

     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2021
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  2. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    It's a bit too long for me to get through, but is it true that in September 1992 "epic CRPGs were at literally their lowest ebb in the entire history of computer games"? (I'm not sure that that's the date at issue when the article says "at this juncture in time," but I assume so.

    Does that mean 1992 releases (Darklands, Clouds of Xeen, Eye of the Beholder II, Realms of Arkania, Ultima VII, Crusaders of the Dark Savant, etc.) were not popular, or that there was nothing in the pipe for 1993 (contra BAK, Serpent Isle, Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, Lands of Lore, Darkside of Xeen, etc.)? I can't really remember back to the era, but it seems like a somewhat weird proposition, though perhaps it is true.
     
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  3. Desiderius Found your egg, Robinett, you sneaky bastard Patron

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    Ultima’s descent from IV to VIII was the descent of Lord British himself and the West for whom he makes an evocative avatar.

    Virtue to its opposite.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if he was into foam party/Eyes Wide Shut shit in that period.
     
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  4. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    I was not "RPG conscious" back then, but having played games chronologically (now in 2001), I think 1992 and 1993 was the Golden Age of CRPGs (1988-1989 was also very good). So that quote looks strange to me. 1994-1995 was the lowest ebb, with a handful of shareware games being the highlights. Unless the "epic" part of the sentece is of vital importance, maybe.
     
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  5. samuraigaiden Liturgist

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    He mentions how both Wing Commander and Ultima Underworld outsold Ultima VII. Maybe he is talking more from a development perspective and the perception that action oriented games were the next big thing.
     
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  6. Unorus Janco Lurker

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    Yeah, sales numbers were probably telling a completely different story at a time when many were afraid of an upcoming CD-ROM apocalypse. People back then were thinking that traditional series like Ultima wouldn't survive without massive streamlining and eye candy, which explains the mid 90's dark ages right after the two most monocled years in CRPG history. And people at Origin Systems were particularly affected by this mindset after having Wing Commander outselling Ultima, leading to many questionable design choices in Ultima VII as early as 1992.
     
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  7. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    I still don't understand the "literally lowest ebb" point, though; at the moment, I'm not seeing any evidence that any other developer at that point abandoned the genre. SSI did change from the traditional Gold Box games to Dark Sun (a game more like Ultima VII than the prior ones!), but otherwise the other franchises continued coming past Ultima VIII's release without any massive changes that I recall.
     
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  8. Unorus Janco Lurker

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    Are you sure? I might be wrong, but I believe Sir-Tech, NWC, Westwood and Sierra stopped developing CRPGs for a while after Wizardry 7 (1992), World of Xeen (1993), Lands of Lore (1993) and Quest for Glory IV (1993), back when annual releases were the norm, and came back only after the success of games like Diablo, Fallout and Baldur's Gate. Studios like Origin, SSI and Mindcraft released some commercially disappointing titles and lost all relevance soon after. Darklands bombed in 1992, becoming MicroProse's last attempt at joining the RPG crowd. LGS was already moving away from RPGs after Underworld 2. And before Fallout, Interplay role-playing games were a mess.

    Sure, some European developers like Attic were doing fine, and Bethesda would soon publish their first Elder Scrolls title (which was a fast-paced first-person action game closer to Doom than more traditional RPGs, and it wasn't very successful at first anyways), but these must have been very precarious times for developers, way before most consumers noticed there was even a problem around 1994.
     
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  9. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    The argument in the article, as I understood it, was in 1992 (when EA acquired Origin and U8 was in early development), RPG developers viewed the genre to be doomed, and that as a consequence, Origin shifted U8 away from being an RPG. Other developers don't see to have gotten that memo in 1992; you're right that from like 1994 to 1998, things are a little less active, but that doesn't fit with the timeline he's describing, I don't think.
     
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  10. Unorus Janco Lurker

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    And my point is that 1994 must have been only the last manifestation of a much earlier crisis, and that developers were aware of this for a long time. Sales numbers must have been really disappointing if by 1993 studios were all leaving this genre behind despite how well crafted many of these games were.
     
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  11. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Wouldn't that make 1994 literally the lowest ebb? :)
     
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  12. Unorus Janco Lurker

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    By that time most developers had already moved on, so no. :M
     
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  13. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Isn't the point and which developers abandoned the genre when "epic CRPGs were at literally their lowest ebb in the entire history of computer games"? Maybe we're just using language differently.

    The idea that U8 represented an early instance of developers betraying the genre is a little different from the suggestion that every other developer was doing the same time.
     
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  14. samuraigaiden Liturgist

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    The article is referring to the historical perspective at the time. "CRPGs were at literally their lowest ebb in the entire history of computer games" up until that point. And the focus of the article is understanding how an abomination like Pagan got made, not determining historical milestones for the CRPG genre.
     
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  15. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Fair enough -- I'm still not sure it explains it all, but that's true.
     
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  16. :Flash: Arcane

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    Even Attic was only surviving, because they were a tiny studio and never released a game after Shadows over Riva.
    At that time, every RPG got unfavourably compared to Ultima Underworld by reviewers (if it doesn't have a 3D engine, it's not a good game), but even Ultima Underworld was massively outsold by Wolfenstein 3D, so it's understandable the companies thought RPGs had no future.
     
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  17. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    It's like how prog music suddenly died after reaching it's peak in 1973-1974, to be replaced by something simpler and more accessible.
     
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  18. Desiderius Found your egg, Robinett, you sneaky bastard Patron

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    That’s as much of a cover story as EA made me do it. Or Gargoyles are just misunderstood or Virtue is just the man keeping us down. The fall started long before VIII.

    The Gate turned Black for a reason.
     
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  19. Desiderius Found your egg, Robinett, you sneaky bastard Patron

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    You should really add an Eyes Wide Shut smilie for yourself, Inifinie.

    I'm dead serious. Look up what Garriot was up to during these years. Pullman pulled the same shit. He even called it Pagan with the Pentagram and everything. People were into that then. I was there.

    He wanted you to know. So in a way your obviousness is trolling him.
     
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  20. DaveO Erudite

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    Oooh boy, where do I start with this series without sounding like Spoony?

    First and foremost that article has so much bullshit its not even funny. I think Garriott used the employees as fall people. EA's practices of devouring and obliterating personnel and resources were well known before Origin was bought.

    Both parties are equally to blame, but the level of hubris is downright appalling. Did nobody learn the lesson of Dai Katana at Origin?

    When egos the size of a planet are involved, nothing good can come of the situation.
     
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  21. Morpheus Kitami Learned

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    Wasn't the "death" of prog rock slightly later, like 75-77?
    You mean John Romero's Daikatana? The one that didn't even come out until 2000? I don't even really think there was a much publicized case of egomaniacs in gaming yet, at least nothing that's stood the test of time anyway.
     
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  22. Sceptic Prestigious Gentleman Arcane Patron

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    It's definitely not true (that came a few years later, I'd pin it at ~1995, a quick shuffle through my old CGW prints seems to confirm it when glancing at TOCs), but then this is Maher, I pretty much expect him to randomly make shit up to fit whatever weirdo version of history he came up with this week (not to mention yet another guy who does not understand what "literal" means).

    I didn't read the article (reading Maher again? ha ha ha) but I saw you quote (and correct, thank you!) that idiotic line about U8 killing LB's career and burst out laughing. I never did and never will understand MMOs and their appeal, and UO interests me even less than U8 and U9 do despite my low, low opinion of both games, but to claim that LB's career never recovered when his single biggest success came AFTER is ridiculously stupid. But again, it's Maher.
     
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  23. rusty_shackleford Arcane

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    The reports of the death of the cRPG genre have been greatly exaggerated. The genre only hit a low if you exclude certain types of cRPGs.
    With regards to 1992: Ultima Underworld released that year. Really not sure how you can be writing about Ultima and say that was a bad year for cRPGs?
    Every year of the 90s I can think of a handful of masterpieces that released off the top of my head.
     
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  24. Dayyālu Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Interesting article.

    I do wonder where he got the theory that VIII could have been a "good game" outside of the theoretical realm of Ultima on the basis that Crusader was after all a good game and a success: despite them sharing the engine they are completely different beasts in philosophy and design - no one with half a brain could think that Crusader's somewhat carefully designed combat encounters can compare with VIII's dreadful dungeons., or that Crusader's Wing Commander-inspired presentation can compare.

    Feels like a desperate attempt to salvage rotten apples by comparing them to oranges.
     
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  25. Infinitron I post news Patron

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    That's not his idea, it's what he says other people think. He thinks it was an ill-conceived project that was always doomed.

    Personally I think U8 could have been a good game even as some sort of action-RPG retooling of the series, but it would have required long-term commitment and a vision that Garriott clearly didn't have. They would have basically had to go to EA and say "CRPGs may be unfashionable now but we think we can bring the genre back. Give us a few years to figure this out, Ultima is a major franchise and it deserves a chance". Bring in Warren Spector and hire back all the U7 writers, wait until CD-ROM drives were the standard so they could create a more detailed world with better visuals, iterate and re-iterate on the gameplay mechanics until they were actually fun. In the end I'd like to think they would arrived at a game with less of the jumping and a more developed combat system, with a more open world instead of dungeon after dungeon.
     
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