Finally, after waiting for many years, I got my physical copy of Shroud of the Avatar. So, I decided to record a short video of unboxing it, while comparing it with a classic Ultima game.
So, I’ve decided to give the game a go – There’s been a lot of talk recently about it, and I think it’s about time I fire it and see how it’s currently shaping… after some sessions I’ll give my thoughts about it.
Read on to the First Part
After the events on November things are a bit boring again… the changes that introduced daily “appointment” mechanics for captures and pokestops have kept me playing in order for not breaking the daily streaks, but the lack of rare catches and the monotony of the game leave only my completionist desire as the driving force to continue grinding endlessly. Even with all the new xp bonuses I barely managed to get to Level 22.
It’s been over a month since the last update; for the most part it had been a booooring month with little to talk about… I was about to give up in my quest, however by the end of October and start of November things started getting interesting again….
The halloween event brought lots of additional candy and creepy Pokemon…
And recent changes in the game have put some fresh air into the experience, you now get a lot of items on your first pokestop, lots of XP on your first catch and the game keeps track of your daily engagement.
Leveling up after Level 20 is hard… it took a couple of Lucky eggs and a whole month to get to Level 21!
- New caught pokemon: Onyx
- New pokemon via evolution: Butterfree, Victreebel, Polywhirl, Primeape, Gengar, Haunter, Golduck, Rapidash, Tentacruel, Marowak
- Collecting a lot of nidorano and nidorana candy for Nidoking and Nidoqueen
- I’m level 21 now, 73.5 km walked, 87/99 pokemon
I’ve been posting this on my facebook profile, but I decided the blog would be a better place to chronicle this epic quest. But first, an introduction:
I’ve been playing Pokemon Go. I’m not a hardcore player but I try to play as much as I can, it has led me to walk all the way home to the office and also randomly get up my desk and walk around a park or something, which I think is great.
I’m mostly interested in collecting vs. conquering gyms. And above all, I’m on a quest to take pictures of as many Pokemon as possible.
All previous updates can hopefully be found at this public facebook album. Now, for the update for my quest.
This was my status last time:
September 20 – Bay Area part 2
– New pokemon snapped: Tauros (caught) and Golduck (ran away)
– New pokemon hatched: Machop
– Got the pokemon go plus and started using it.
– I’m about to evolve my Pidgey and Caterpie farm, hope to gain at least one level.
– Level 16 now, 42.9 km walked, 70/74 pokemon
Now it’s time for a new update
October 5 – Back to Medellin
Sadly, no new Pokemon pictures to show today after 2 weeks of playing. This is a result of what the game has sadly become for me: I can no longer find new Pokemon… instead I’m hunting low level ones to gain XP via evolution. Lots of caterpie, weedle, pidgey, zubat and others… is this fun? well, it’s a different game now… a game about grinding.
I’m hoping that by leveling up I’ll have better changes to find new ones, but that’s unlikely. I set myself a goal to hit level 20, and I managed to do so via 2 sessions of massive evolution while using Lucky Eggs.
I also already lost my Pokemon Go Plus. I should have used the wrist-strap but I didn’t like how it looked. I hope someone found it and is enjoying it. The short time I had it it was mostly useful to hit pokestops while walking. It was far from perfect, constantly disconnecting from the device. Overall I didn’t really acquired it for its limited functionalities but rather as a sign for being a player. Well, it’s lost now 😦
- New pokemons: Electabuzz (hatched), Starmie, Ivysaur, Parasect (Evolution)
- Hatched a lot of not so interesting eggs: Zubat, Caterpie, Weedle, Pidgey, Spearrow…
- Also hatched a Staryu, Voltorb and Gasthly
- I’m level 20 now, 61.4 km walked, 76/79 pokemon
Back on 1996, “multimedia” computers appeared in my city. It was the SoundBlaster craze, and it was not easy to have one at home (specially if your family was not particularly rich). An aunt of mine used to take me to the local library, were they had set up a room with these amazing machines.
They had a bunch of software, mostly interactive children stories, but one of them was of special importance to me… it made me realise these machines could be used to transport people into virtual worlds for them to explore.
It was a multimedia package about Leonardo DaVinci. I remember it had a lot of neat content (and probably made me become even more interested on engineering), but what I remembered the most was two games that came bundled with it.
One of them, the one that dug into my soul, was about exploring a fortress, solving some puzzles in order to escape. This one defined many things on my game development life: computers could simulate a lone adventurer, exploring closed quarters on his own. I am a single player games kind of guy, I like the intimacy between the game world and the player.
The other one was about flying around the world with mechanical wings, dodging stuff in your way. The music was forever burned in my head… I could remember it perfectly, even after so many years of not playing the game. This game was hard, I could never win it when I was younger.
So, last month, over one of these nights where I cannot sleep, I decided to look for it. It was not easy… I didn’t remember the name! I just remembered it was about Leonardo DaVinci, and that it was a multimedia thing…
After lots of websurfing, I found some videos on youtube: they were the encyclopaedic part about some of Leonardo’s discoveries.. I never found videos with gameplay from the games, but I was sure this was it!
Some more digging around, and I was able to find it on Amazon. Instaorder.
Since I was unable to find any interesting information about it on Internet, I decided to do a video including the unboxing as well some gameplay of it. I hope you enjoy it!!!
It was not easy to get it running… It’s a 16bits Windows program, which means it cannot run on 64bit OS (like my noisy windows 7 box). After trying my luck with Wine (unsuccessfully), I went for a full Windows XP VM using VirtualBox. It took some tweaking but I was finally able to get it going!
At long last, after 20 years, I was able to beat the Icarus game! It took a lot of learning, but in the end I managed to do it… It’s not in the video, since it took me about 1 hour (or more?) of trying, but after dodging cannonballs, planes, more Eiffel towers and even tornados, I found a dragon (!) which I swiftly dodged to get to the finish line 🙂
Now I’m curious… this is version 2.0. May be I should also get version 1, and play around with it… I wonder if it also includes the games…
Here are some more pics for the curious
Behind the scenes… the suboptimal process I followed to record this video. I am fully aware iMovie is not meant for this, but that’s the tool I have at hand 🙂
Intro and unboxing (on my macbook)
- Record myself for the intro using Quicktime Player, using a handsfree earbuds microphone to reduce noise.
- Put a checkered tablecloth over my glass desk.
- Put the macbook in an awkward position so that the built-in camera looks almost down.
- Record myself opening the box.
On the Windows box (running Win7 64bits + Virtualbox with a WinXP 32bits VM)
- Record videoclips from VirtualBox (stored in webm format)
- Record audio from Audacity (using Windows WASAPI loopback thing)
Back on my macbook
- Convert videoclips from webm to m4v using VLC
- Sync each videoclip with its audio using iMovie
- It was as fun as it sounds…. the format conversion messed the framerates and I had to split the audio tracks and try to match as best as possible
- Exporting each videoclip (now with audio)
- Create the full vid joining all exported videoclips
I could have saved myself a LOT of time if I had set up VirtualBox on my Macbook… I was just lazy to get an external CD drive or fetch the ISOs from some place and take my time to set it up. Then I could have recorded directly with Quicktime Player + Sound Flower, probably to a much better quality.
I decided to post my ranking on the Ultima Series games, all of these are my personal opinions. Hope you enjoy it!
All images courtesy of The Ultima Codex.
The main series
Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (1980)
Exploration: A big fantasy world to explore (4 continents), mixed with some weird time/space traveling. Not very consistent but would later prove to be a good basis for future works. Towns/Dungeon/Overworld model established.
Visuals: Introduction of tile-based graphics. Also simple “vector” pseudo-3D representation of dungeons.*
Combat: 1 vs 1 overworld and dungeon fights.
Ranking: 8th, it was the foundation of the series, most of the other entries naturally enhanced upon it.
Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress (1982)
New elements introduced: Moongates
Exploration: World was a bit chaotic, now you were on Earth, and you traveled thru time using Time/Moon/Silver gates. Lots of weird 80’s USA pop culture references. Even more crazy space traveling than U1 and useless dungeons. It was also completely disconnected from the Fantasy World proposed on U1.
Visuals: Similar to Ultima 1
Combat: Similar to U1, no tactical screen so it was all 1 vs 1 on the overworld (or dungeons?)
Ranking: 9th, the worst game from the original series IMO.
Ultima III: Exodus (1983)
New elements introduced: Tactical combat screen, Adventurers Party, Music, Line of Sight
Exploration: The world was much more consistent and believable now, your party was standard DnD fare but it worked. The end boss was pretty disappointing tho 🙂
Visuals: Visuals improved greatly in general, compared to previous versions (while keeping the overview tile-based display and pseudo 3d for dungeons)*
Combat: First iteration of the tactical combat screen, random encounters on the overworld would take you to an independent screen where you could command each member of your party to move around, attack or cast spells. You had to do a lot of grinding but still worked.
Ranking: 5th, it opened the door to the greatest games by introducing lots of Ultima-defining elements
Ultima IV: Quest of The Avatar (1985)
New elements introduced: Britannia, Virtues, Interactive Conversations
Exploration: Hello Britannia, probably the biggest contribution made by the game. At long last a consistent and believable world which would be exploited in the rest of the games (Except U8). Towns/Dungeons/Overworld model continued.
Visuals: A bit better than U3*
Combat: Didn’t change much from Ultima 3 apart from changes in the magic system. Still good.
Ranking: 3rd, hailed by many as the best game of the series.
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1988)
New elements introduced: Day/Night Cycle, NPC Schedules, Underworld
Exploration: Same as U4 but better with the Day/Night cycle, and a whole new overworld (actually, underworld). Also much greater interaction with the world.
Visuals: Better than U4*
Combat: Pretty similar to U4, although fewer classes so a bit less of a variety (not that classes were clearly unique on U4 but still)
Ranking: 1st, it’s like U4 but with better exploration and a more interesting world.
Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990)
New elements introduced: Single world scale, weird top-down perspective
Exploration: This was the first game in the series introducing a single scale of the world instead of an overworld + detailed locations. However, for some reason the world still felt big, the main issue was exploring forest locations which was a bit annoying, augmented by the limited LOS range. Even more interaction with the world elements was allowed.
Visuals: A big jump from the previous iteration, graphics were now much more colorful and there were portraits of the people on the world.
Combat: Although it was a bit unbalanced, it kept tactics as an important part. It blended the new single scale of the world with turn-based combat pretty well.
Ranking: 2nd, world interaction was great as well as combat, if only it had not been single world scale 🙂
Ultima VII: The Black Gate + The Serpent Isle (1992-1993)
New elements introduced: Real-time
Exploration: Single world scale continued. Trinsic is HUGE and makes you wonder how big the rest of the world would be. Sadly once you manage to abandon it walls you notice the rest of the world is much smaller (Except maybe for Britain). For some reason I could never get past the jittering walking animation, it just didn’t match with the excellent graphics and sound ambiance.
Visuals: Excellent graphics, the world became alive in front of you.
Combat: was BAD, no tactics involved, everything happened far too quick to react.
Ranking: 4th, real-time killed it (especially in combat) but maybe there was no other way.
Ultima VIII: Pagan (1994)
New elements introduced: Back to single character party
Exploration: The game continued using a single scale for the world, but this time it was not Britannia, so I was never able to perceive the big scale of the world. Exploration was very confusing will all places looking very similar. The world felt very small.
Visuals: Nice! if a bit repetitive on the different locations. Better than U7 in the sense of having a perspective much easier to the eye.
Combat: Was even worse than U7, now it’s single player and you’ll have a hard time hitting your enemies.
Ultima IX: Ascension (1999)
New elements introduced: Complete first-person perspective (Polygon based 3D)
Exploration: Technical restrictions made the world feel much smaller. I think this is the point where the single world scale hit its worst point and the game would have felt much more epic with a dual scale.
Visuals: The overworld and dungeons were great and felt very alive. At long last, we could see the Britannian sky.
Combat: At this point, all degrees of tactics had been removed from combat, it now involved having a good weapon and maneuvering your character around while hitting the mouse.
Ranking: 6th, yes, I think it was actually pretty good.
* Games prior to Ultima 6 had a lot of ports for different computers. This is reflected in varying quality of visuals and music support.
Exploration: Basic dungeon exploration hoping not to step on a trap.
Visuals: Pretty limited, a command would give you a representation of the dungeon around you using characters.
Combat: Very unbalanced.
Music: Good (lots of types hitting the paper as you explore).
New elements introduced: Vector pseudo-3D graphics
Exploration: There was not much of a plot, it was mostly about exploring the dungeons which were pretty similar between themselves so not very exciting.
Visuals: Dungeons looked pretty much the same 😛
Combat: Not very balanced
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (1992)
New elements introduced: First person view using a primitive 3D Engine, Rune magic
Exploration: The game was confined to a single dungeon, but it was extremely believable and the setting was pretty good in my opinion. The Abyss is BIG, every level with lots of places to explore and to look for solving puzzles or finding better equipment.
Visuals: This game was a pioneer in 3D gaming, and although the viewport was pretty small, it was your great window to a world of fantasy.
Combat: While not a strong point of the game, it worked.
Ranking: 1st, best game ever.
Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds (1993)
Exploration: For some reason, perhaps due to trying to expand the world into a lot of locations, the world felt a bit less compact and believable.
Visuals: Better than UW1, viewport was bigger, sprites had better animation.
Combat: About the same as UW1
So, that’s it! Let me know what you think in the comments section if you want 🙂
There are some Ultima games missing from this list…
The 2 released Worlds of Ultima games used the same engine as Ultima 6, and I can say about the same about them that I said about U6. They were good games and actually Savage Empire was one of my first Ultima games 🙂
There were Runes of Virtue 1 and 2 for GameBoy (One of them got a SNES port), they differ significantly from the rest of the Ultima Series as being action adventure games instead of cRPGs. I could include them in the dungeon exploration series but I won’t. They were not very good.
Finally, there’s Escape From Mt. Drash. It’s a bad game, google about it if you are curious