Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

Origin's Ultima IV was another ground-breaking computer game, for several reasons. The first was its setting. It was set in "Britannia", a fictional continent in a fantasy world with seven cities and a few villages, populated with characters (as opposed to games like Zork, which were strangely devoid of people). The second reason was these characters themselves. The characters previous Ultimas, when spoken to, only gave a short, preset speech, but the new Britannians had more to say, depending on what one asked them about. Each character had multiple keywords that he or she could reply to; conversation consisted of typing in single words to ask about, and seeing if the character would respond. (Later Ultima VII would poke fun at the primitiveness of this interface by including a play about the "Avatar" (the character controlled by the player), in which the lead actor's lines were those one-word statements (one could watch the actor pace around the stage, rehearsing: "Name! Job! Bye!"

Another notable feature of Ultima IV that sadly didn't spread to other games was its goal. Unlike prior sword-and-sorcery games, the goal of this game was to become the embodiment of eight different virtues, such as valor or compassion or honesty. Thus the player was actively discouraged from killing everything in sight (unlike modern-day Doom and its assorted clones). This emphasis on virtue was continued in later Ultimas, but never to the extent that it was found in Ultima IV.

EL112 WebBody & Self OVTitleIndex