Lord of Ultima Released! (April 20, 2010)

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
Electronic Arts announced today that the strategy game Lord of Ultima has been officially released. The game is completely free to play and is contained entirely within a web browser. Both English and German language is supported. There is no download or installation, and players don't even need to register to play as a guest. Anyone can start playing immediately here.




Free-To-Play Web-Based Game Transports Players to Legendary Ultima Universe

Lord of Ultima immerses players in a brand-new, deeply-rich strategy game set within the Ultima universe. The game introduces innovative social features, such as advanced trading, alliance creation, online chat and community forums, which make for an endlessly entertaining experience.

“Phenomic is committed to building dynamic communities that delight players as they interact with the game, each other and the legendary world of Ultima.”
“Lord of Ultima was designed to ensure that everyone, from strategy newcomers to diehard fans, can make it to the top of the leader board,” said Volker Wertich, Creative Director at Phenomic. “Phenomic is committed to building dynamic communities that delight players as they interact with the game, each other and the legendary world of Ultima.”

To become the Lord of Ultima, players will master the arts of diplomacy and trade, as well as the military activities of spying, plundering, and the takeover of enemy cities. Set in the new world of Caledonia, players start the game as eager conquerors in the early stages of raising an empire, and then move from developing a humble village and evolving it into a prosperous, highly customized capital. Players can flourish as peaceful merchants by trading resources over land or sea and using diplomacy. They can also become feared conquerors, by creating mighty armies of knights and mages to crush enemies.

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Original update published on April 20, 2010
 
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Mancubus

Rear Admiral
Just checked it out. Basically it's Travian with nicer graphics, without possibility to choose your race and staggering WEEK of noobprotection. Oh and production que so you won't have to wak up 3 in the morining to do something should you become addicted...
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Heh. "Interact with the legendary world of Ultima [...] set in the new world of Caledonia."
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
I played a bit in the beta--it's a neat little game. Cool to see the original Ultima logo font used again.
 

ChrisReid

Super Soaker Collector / Administrator
An Ultima in name only....how sad.
This is another one of those interneticisms that I just don't agree with. I see it all over every day for every franchise. Every time a developer does something new or different, people get all hot and bothered by it. If it's not your type of game, don't play it, don't worry about it, it's not hurting anything.

Here we go, perfect example: http://kotaku.com/5457910/ultima-returns-now-for-the-bad-news I didn't even know that "article" existed. I probably would have posted it on the front page as a pre-mention of Lord of Ultima that mentions WC. I hate every single sentence there and all the angst and condescension it's dripping with.

EA is now turning its attention towards bringing us a new game based on the Ultima franchise. ... and while I have no idea how it plays (the beta servers are currently full), I know one thing. EA needs to stop this.
What an incredible load of crap. Whine, whine, something different, I don't even know what it is, but it's bad, durrrr.

Lords of Ultima could be great, I don't know, I haven't played it. But I know that, as an Ultima fan - surely the type of person EA is trying to appeal to by using the brand name - I don't much care for the way a cherished brand is being plastered over something completely unrelated.
Oh no, poor nostalgia. Maybe the game is great, maybe it's a refreshing new take on things, maybe it's testing the waters and will springboard the franchise to new heights, but we'll never know, because we decided to hate it before we even knew anything about it, besides the fact that it was different.

LOAF's post last week does an excellent job explaining where things like this come from. ( http://www.crius.net/zone/showpost.php?p=381089&postcount=52 ) Companies are spending real money to make these things happen. They're not a bunch of buffoons that cook crazy things up just to piss the internet off. There's a logic and a method behind it, an extension of the same strategy that brought you your old beloved games in the first place.

Contrary to the Kotakus that think they're the center of the gaming universe, the market is constantly evolving and everyone should expect new and different things with their favorite brands. Wing Commander Privateer, Wing Commander Secret Ops, Wing Commander Arena, all "crazy" experiments that in hindsight, now partially define the series. If someone is so set in their ways that they won't even look at the latest product a franchise has to offer, that's fine, the research shows that someone else will, and the prior fans who do will have an opportunity to try a fun game that expands the universe that they enjoy.
 

Eder

Mr. Standoff
Contrary to the Kotakus that think they're the center of the gaming universe, the market is constantly evolving and everyone should expect new and different things with their favorite brands. Wing Commander Privateer, Wing Commander Secret Ops, Wing Commander Arena, all "crazy" experiments that in hindsight, now partially define the series. If someone is so set in their ways that they won't even look at the latest product a franchise has to offer, that's fine, the research shows that someone else will, and the prior fans who do will have an opportunity to try a fun game that expands the universe that they enjoy.
This experiment is a lot more crazy than Arena, Armada, WC3, WCIV, Privateer, Secret Ops, or the Pilgrim stuff in the movie, though. It's not just a different genre, or a story where you need a few retcons to make sense of the big picture. They took the franchise, and decided to make a game in a different genre, set in a different world, ignoring all the lore and all the key concepts of the previous games, except for the first couple lines of a press release ("Sosaria blew up, this world was one of its tidbits. There are no virtues or anything, but we even named something a 'Moonglow tower' for your satisfaction... so please pretend you find what we've taught you to expect from an Ultima game here").

Imagine the original Privateer had never existed, and what you know as "Wing Commander" is Confed vs Kilrathi and Broadswords and Draymans and all that stuff. Now imagine that Privateer 2 came out as "Wing Commander: The Darkening" in big bold letters on the box, and it was the same story, but played out as a first-person-shooter. Would your reaction to that be "OK, this is great, they're expanding the Wing Commander universe"? No, you'd say "OK, this is crap, where is my beloved lore and/or where is my beloved game play?"

I understand that people put a lot of work into games (heh, I do understand that :p) and that they don't do this kind of thing with the specific intention of pissing off their existing fan base or reducing the value of their IPs... but if their assessment shows that the move has the potential to bring in more suckers than it will scare away, should they do it? Of course - they'd be foolish not to try and attain the best possible return on their investment. So that's what they decided to do. They're just trying to get a generic game five minutes of attention that nobody would otherwise grant it. Would we be discussing a franchise-less generic-medieval-fantasy browser-based strategy game?

Probably not. The fact that they went ahead with this is probably evidence of that. They must have a strong reason to believe that for every idiot like me (who won't play a Ultima game unless it feels like a Ultima game), there's two other idiots who wouldn't have heard of the game if not for the fuzz surrounding its misuse of the franchise name, and who will try the game and enjoy it regardless of that.

It may even be a fun game (both to Ultima fans willing to try it and to newcomers alike), but my point is that it's not expanding or contributing anything to the franchise. It's free-riding on the previous games, not building on them in a new way. And if for some reason it does springboard the franchise to new heights... what does it matter? If it does that going into a completely different direction than what you understood the franchise to stand for, why would you be happy about that? If EA makes Wing Commander the most successful video game franchise on earth due to browser-based strategy games that have no mention of Confed or Kilrathi or Nephilim or Privateers in them, none of us should give a shit... unless we also happen to like generic space-themed browser-based strategy games (but that would be just a coincidence :p).
 

Iceblade

Admiral
My (and numerous other Ultima fans') sentiments exactly Eder. This is not a situation where a franchise branches out into a new genre, but a cheap means of gathering attention for what appears to be a rather lack-luster game. Also Ultima in general is really quite finished storyline-wise, though I found the Ultima X game they were planning to have an interesting storyline/backstory (which they could have easily used elements of for this thing). The added incorporation of the Virtues in such a game would then make it worthwhile to the franchise as whole.

A better analogy to the WC franchise would be to have a Wing Commander game that was a strategy game based in the Bronze Age on Earth (not Kilrah, while would be interesting actually). No fighters or anything remotely connected to the franchise (except the main planet: Earth for the WC example or this chunk of Brittannia). Really the Ultima franchise is about as defined by the Virtue system (or the main character quite frankly) as Wing Commander is by the existence of Kilrathi or starfighters.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
They took the franchise, and decided to make a game in a different genre, set in a different world, ignoring all the lore and all the key concepts of the previous games, except for the first couple lines of a press release ("Sosaria blew up, this world was one of its tidbits. There are no virtues or anything, but we even named something a 'Moonglow tower' for your satisfaction... so please pretend you find what we've taught you to expect from an Ultima game here").
Your sarcastic description, though, is nearly identical to the background Origin came up with for Ultima Online, the best-selling game in the series by some order of magnitude. (Existing Ultima world exploded when /a wizard dropped it on the floor/ and split into many different fragments that drop the previous lore and specifically the virtues and let us do whatever we want including making an entirely different type of game.)

Now here is exactly what the same hardcore Ultima fans would say if 'Lord of Ultima' had some take on the virtue system: Wah! This is awful, the virtues are Lord British's brilliantly executed philosophy, Electronic Arts has no right to plagiarize them just to sell a money-grubbing FaceBook game! (I know said exactly, but in reality various S's would be replaced with dollar signs because that's still clever.) There is absolutely no way to win with these people, which is why more and more no one is even *bothering to try*.

And defining Ultima by the inclusion of the virtues is arbitrary and disingenuous in the first place. No offense to the hundreds of original Ultima fans (of whom I am one), but the defining aspect of the series to the rest of the world (and if we're being honest, to ourselves in the first place) is the fact that it's a really good computer game version of Dungeons and Dragons. (For those unfamiliar, the virtues are indeed Richard Garriott's pop philosophy, which is the sort of thing that was very clever to all of us when we were teenagers... but it's also an aspect of the lore that didn't show up until Ultima IV, something that was specifically ignored in games not helmed by Mr. Garriott and a gameplay element that ultimately worked like Star Trek's Prime Directive, an interesting thought that was simultaneously something you had to write increasingly elaborate excuses to get around for new each game.)

Imagine the original Privateer had never existed, and what you know as "Wing Commander" is Confed vs Kilrathi and Broadswords and Draymans and all that stuff. Now imagine that Privateer 2 came out as "Wing Commander: The Darkening" in big bold letters on the box, and it was the same story, but played out as a first-person-shooter. Would your reaction to that be "OK, this is great, they're expanding the Wing Commander universe"? No, you'd say "OK, this is crap, where is my beloved lore and/or where is my beloved game play?"
I would have been so happy to see 'Wing Commander' on the Privateer 2 box... it would have done wonders for my health.

Probably not. The fact that they went ahead with this is probably evidence of that. They must have a strong reason to believe that for every idiot like me (who won't play a Ultima game unless it feels like a Ultima game), there's two other idiots who wouldn't have heard of the game if not for the fuzz surrounding its misuse of the franchise name, and who will try the game and enjoy it regardless of that.
No, no, no, we're so much more insigificant than that. For every one person who won't play this game because they decided it doesn't respect the continuity established in Ultima V there are *thousands* of people who know the IP because they played Ultima Online... and for every one of those people there are thousands of people who know the IP because of Ultima Online's place in the public consciousness (which is, in order: first MMO, medieval setting, was funny the time a player killed the king).

And if for some reason it does springboard the franchise to new heights... what does it matter? If it does that going into a completely different direction than what you understood the franchise to stand for, why would you be happy about that? If EA makes Wing Commander the most successful video game franchise on earth due to browser-based strategy games that have no mention of Confed or Kilrathi or Nephilim or Privateers in them, none of us should give a shit... unless we also happen to like generic space-themed browser-based strategy games (but that would be just a coincidence ).
Well, I have two examples -- Wing Commander Arena, where we were ready to do a full scale classic Wing Commander if the thing was a hit... and, again, Ultima Online, which started out as a generic fantasy game with Ultima names on things that eventually sponged much of the Ultima lore you love back up into itself as it went along (and ninjas for some reason) (its amazing success also convinced EA to let Garriott do Ultima IX...).
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
The issue here isn't whether it's a good move or a bad one to make an Ultima (or Wing Commander) game that only shares its name with the rest of the series. The issue is - why the heck should we, the fans, care?

This isn't to say I'm hostile to anything new in a franchise I like. I never played Wing Commander Arena, because I don't have an XBox, but I absolutely loved it in any case. It took the story in a direction I wouldn't have gone myself, but it was recognisably Wing Commander. It had the backstory, the ships, the characters - I don't mind in the least that this was all window dressing on a simple arcade shooter. All the effort put into this window dressing sold me. Similarly, I can imagine EA putting "Wing Commander" on a sequel to The Sims, and... if they were to put that much effort into the window dressing there, that would sell me. I'd love it, for continuing the story. On the other hand, if they were to make a game labelled "Wing Commander", a game that was a space sim, with the exact-identical gameplay of WCP (you know, all the core game mechanisms, storytelling forms etc. would be the same, just with 2010's technology), but with no traces of the WC storyline in there... well, I might still appreciate the game in its own right, I might love its gameplay, but it won't be adding anything to the WC *story*.

In short, they can change the genre, and keep the story, and they'll have my attention. They can change the story and keep the genre, and they'll have my attention (though I'll be interested in their game as a separate product, not as a continuation of the franchise)... but when they change the genre and the story, leaving only the name, I simply don't see any reason why I should care. That's my attitude regarding Lords of Ultima - I'm sure it's a good product, and labelling it an Ultima game is a sound strategy and all that... but as an Ultima fan, I'm also sure that this game was not made for me. That's all there is to it.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Well, right off the bat the big reason *we* should care is because it's Electronic Arts revisiting an Origin IP, which is something every fan should *care* about whether it's good or bad news. We must know that companies don't do things for no reason--bringing back Ultima here is part of someone's broader plan that may or may not include us (and may or may not mean more Ultima... the long term goal could be platform oriented or something else).

But: I really don't think this is a case of ignoring the Ultima mythos so much as it is following exactly what was established by Richard Garriott in Ultima Online specifically to let spinoff games exist without affecting his core series. (The Ultima world was split into parallel universes which all had recognizable elements but were different in various ways--one was the original game, others were different UO servers... this is another one.)

Now that probably sounds goofy and overly broad in many ways, but there's also no denying that the concept exists in the Ultima mythos, was written for this purpose (by Lord British!), is specifically being taken advantage of here, etc., etc. However you feel about the game itself, it put through some effort to live inside the Ultima veil even if it's not the direction you particularly wanted (which I posited above would not have been possible).

(I mentioned this recently, but I'll tell the story again--I worked on the now dead Wing Commander element of this old-IPs-for-social-media initiative. The requirement was that it had to use a classic IP and that it had to be done with almost literally no money (I am somewhat amazed by Lord of Ultima because I am assuming they did their game with the same budget. You can see how limited their graphics budget was, but if it was the same as the one for Privateer they really stretched it regardless.)

But--our game was exactly what you outlined above... *drenched* in Wing Commander lore, hundreds and hundreds of pages of fiction and background that we'd include in various ways because a couple of us were willing to do it in our free time, we built it right into the existing timeline in (what I thought) was a cool story... but the game itself had very simple turn-based gameplay that I just *knew* everyone here was going to hate every day I worked on it. I mean, it was the dark running joke--our friends are going to hate this.

The Ultima folks seem to have found a quick *and still legitimate* way to tie their project directly to UO, included a mess of familiar Ultima bits and pieces (magic, gargoyles, castles, whatever) and said we-aren't-listening to super hardcore fans who wouldn't be happy either way and went on with making a game that's probably more fun on its own... I don't know which way is better, but I'm kind of glad nobody ever played browser-based Privateer.
 
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