SPID 7 – Remaking Ultima V – Warriors of Destiny for NES

I will be posting SPIDs (Slashie’s Project Idea Drafts) in the blog, they will be short ideas for games or other projects I may or may not develop into full projects. May be someone will be inspired by them and save me the trouble of developing them.

The Ultima VI engine for DOS was pretty nice, it transitioned from a dual scale to a single integrated world where you could interact in a lot more of ways with the elements on it. It was so good that it was reused for the awesome Savage Empire and Martian Dreams games

u6

However things didn’t work well when they tried to implement it on less powerful platforms. Ultima VI for C64, for example, tried to replicate the engine with not so good results.

u6c64

Then we have the FCI NES Ultima games; The ports for U3 and U4 were decent, mixing the graphic style and even the gameplay from contemporary jRPGs, they provided a good experience (specially the U4 one) by adapting the Ultima theme to the capabilities of the console. Then came U5, and for some reason they tried something different: Trying to replicate the Ultima 6 engine into the NES for it.

u5nes

The result was a game that was almost impossible to play and also severely reduced the plot of the original. The NES was just not able to handle something like this… it would take the power of the SNES to make a decent effort of replicating it (as we could see in the fairly good U6 SNES port).

So, what if we could fix this? fulfill the original vision of the game in a more powerful platform? Looking at the maps from the original game I see some potential for exploring Britannia and their dungeons in a way not many people has been able to, because of the issues of the game format. The idea would be to keep the same restrictions on graphics, but removing all the performance and user experience issues (and yes, fixing the damn music).

ultima_warriors_of_destiny_deceit

Would one alternative be using nuvie? As far as I know they focus on reading the data files from the original games, so I’m not sure if it’d be doable or practical to create an entire new game. So maybe the best bet would be starting from scratch and reverse engineer everything into it.

The Ultima Wiki lists some of the shortcomings of the port, I think all of these should be addressed:

Concern Plan
Game is very slow Make it run smoothly
No way to name the avatar or select gender Enhance character creation
Difficult to discern what the various on-screen objects are Enhance pixel art
There’s only one song thru the entire game. Add more songs and also moments of silence.
There are no sound effects. Add sound effects
Britannia had to be shrunked and deformed to fit everything in. Should be kept, as part of the original design.
The number of NPCs was drastically reduced. Add more NPCs
NPCs have much less to say. Add more dialog to NPCs
The content and the story was altered significantly Adjust content to the original game.
Controls are surprisingly complicated Streamline controls.
Each command has a delay before execution. Remove delay.
Party size reduced from six to four (and you can only have one extra) Allow six party members
All swamps are represented by poison energy fields Replace with swamps
Horseriding was eliminated Add back horseriding.
Intro was vastly reduced. Complete intro.
Ending sequence reduced and altered Complete and adjust ending.
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