Slashing Dragon’s Ultima Ranking

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)

U1c64

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.

Music: None.

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)

U2ega

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?)

Music: None.

Ranking: 9th, the worst game from the original series IMO.

Ultima III: Exodus (1983)

U3cas

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.

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 5th, it opened the door to the greatest games by introducing lots of Ultima-defining elements

Ultima IV: Quest of The Avatar (1985)

u4-frontis

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.

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 3rd, hailed by many as the best game of the series.

Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1988)

U5pc

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)

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 1st, it’s like U4 but with better exploration and a more interesting world.

Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990)

U6pc

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.

Music: Excellent.

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)

u7

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.

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 4th, real-time killed it (especially in combat) but maybe there was no other way.

Ultima VIII: Pagan (1994)

u8

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.

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 7th

Ultima IX: Ascension (1999)

u9

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.

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 6th, yes, I think it was actually pretty good.

Notes

* Games prior to Ultima 6 had a lot of ports for different computers. This is reflected in varying quality of visuals and music support.

Underworld Series

DND1 (1977)

dnd1

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).

Ranking: 4th

Akalabeth (1979)

Akdng

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

Music: None

Ranking: 3rd

Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (1992) 

UltimaUnderworldScreen3

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.

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 1st, best game ever.

Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds (1993)

uw2

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

Music: Excellent.

Ranking: 2nd


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 🙂

Md1Sa2

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.

Rv2Rv23

Finally, there’s Escape From Mt. Drash. It’s a bad game, google about it if you are curious

1134094786-00

 

Rebase

Check the state of the branch you work in,
can't you see it's a crying shame... (Forgive them)
C.I. build fails before it begins
you just broke integration tests... (Forgive them)
Servers flare and patience wears thin,
fingers pointing to you on git blame!
Rebase, rebase, rebase, rebase.
Cause we're two steps away from a real disaster,
that bad commit just destroyed master.
Pushing with force seemed to be much faster,
now you're hunted down as prey (Forgive them)
..two steps away from a real disaster,
we can no longer deploy from master.
Pushing with force seemed to be much faster,
now you're hunted down as prey (Forgive them)
Trying to push the features they create,
they ignore all conflicting changes (Forgive them)
Men discarding another men's work,
they don't care you will find their name (Forgive them)
Your behavior can only cause hate,
now the whole team has gone insane!
Rebase, rebase, rebase, rebase.

2015 IoT Day Hack-a-thing

Yesterday I was at a “hack-a-thing” event sponsored by UPB, Ubidots, Intel and I+D Electrónica, made as part of the international Internet of Things day.

iotday

I have always been curious about the scene of hardware enthusiasts, and I had the time to go so I couldn’t miss the chance 🙂

There was an introductory talk by an Intel representative about how IoT is the future today, and a nice analogy of breaking paradigms. Afterwards it was a bit hectic since the audience was very varied, ranging from students with no clue about anything, to people with a rough idea of it (i.e. me) to already assembled teams of hardware hackers. In the end the organizers decided on a Startup-Weekend like format, with people pitching their ideas and the teams being assembled.

I had no idea what to do since I know nothing about electronics… the sponsors facilitated an array of boards / microcomputers and other components (Arduino, Raspberry Pi and some other fancier stuff from Intel and more), but it was a very short time for me to learn how these work and deliver something; I thought on doing a simple game using the Geolocation API so I could work with just smartphones, but in the end I pitched myself as a volunteer from the software side to a team with an existing idea, I needed to know how these things work.

I ended up working with 2 nice guys finishing their electronic engineering degree; they already had an idea for a Smart Home project so we went into it.

The guys had a lot of ideas so what we did first was trying to organize them into a pitcheable product, here’s what I came up with.

SmartHome Functional / Component Diagram
SmartHome Functional / Component Diagram

The work we did was basically:

  • Wiring things into the Arduino board
    • Temperature Sensor
    • Distance Sensor
    • Contact Sensor
    • Fan
  • Programming the Arduino board (In C)
    • Make the temperature sensor fire the fan if under some temp
    • Making the distance sensor beep if less than some distance
    • Send the data from the sensor via a serial interface to the Raspberry
  • Setting up the camera in the Raspberry Pi so it sent data (via TCP I think)
  • Programming the Raspberry Pi (In Python)
    • Receive the serial data from the Arduino board, parse it and send it to Ubidots via the Python API
    • Display the data received from the arduino board (This was on the plan, but we didn’t manage to implement it; pygame kicked us in the face after trying a lot making it work)
  • Setting up Ubidots
    • Creating the data source and the variables
    • Creating the widgets and getting the embed code
  • Making a web interface
    • Show the streaming data from the camera connected to the Raspberry Pi
    • Create a simple layout for the product
    • Include Ubidot widgets using their embed code.
A Raspberry Pi with a mounted mini display
A Raspberry Pi with a mounted mini display

After lots of wrangling and work we managed to have something for the jurors to appreciate; the guys did most of the work with the arduino to raspberry communication being one of the hardest part (and I think also the temperature sensor stuff, but I don’t know about that 🙂 )

Making things, feel like a "maker"
Making things, feel like a “maker”

We struggled to make pygame work to show the data in a small screen of the Raspberry Pi but didn’t manage to have it. However we managed to do the whole trip from the sensors on the Arduino to the Raspberry Pi and to the Ubidots Cloud, and then show them on a web interface, it worked!

Last minute rush with serial communications.
Last minute rush with serial communications.

The jurors decided our project was pretty nice and gave us some nice stuff, we split the loot and I got a Raspberry Pi which is sitting in my desk now, looking at me asking what I’m going to use it for… I don’t know yet but I’ll know soon!

The Web monitor powered by Ubidots
The Web monitor powered by Ubidots

Other prizes included an Intel Edison microcomputer (which I think is pretty cool!) and some merchandise from the sponsors.

The prizes for the 1st place
The prizes for the 1st place

All in all, thanks to the organizers of the event, I learned a lot and met some cool people, hoping to see more of these being done in the city!

Great Team!
Great Team!

Stygian Abyss 1.3 released

Work continues with jucarave. Play online and share with your friends! Also check our podcast about it if you haven’t

  • Increase resolution of dungeon textures
  • Increase resolution of monsters
  • Ranged enemy attacks
  • Darken monster colors
  • Improve sounds
  • Walking sound
  • Regen Mana over time

1.3-1 1.3-2 1.3-3

We are looking for a pixel artist to:

  • Enhance the monster sprites with textures, correct shadows and better colors
  • Add more detailed walking animations for monsters
  • Add attacking and dying animations for monsters
  • Add animations for the viewport weapons
  • UI frame similar to Ultima Underworld

If you are interested, check what we currently have and you may find a way to contribute!

The Voice of Slashland 1 – Let’s talk about Stygian Abyss with Jucarave

We made a podcast-like thing; it ended up a bit too long but you may find it interesting, listen to it here!

(Sorry about the quality for my voice recording, I had some microphone issues.)

Things we talk about:

  • Who is Jucarave (Camilo Ramirez) and how we met
  • Our entry for 2015 7DRL Challenge, Stygian Abyss
    • The backstory for the project from the Britannian Underworld and other proof of concept made by Jucarave.
    • The idea behind Stygian Abyss
    • How we feel about it after the 7DRL challenge
    • We react to the reviews made for the game.
    • The reaction to the game from the Ultima community
    • The future of Stygian Abyss.
  • Other projects by Jucarave.

Stygian Abyss 1.2 – New weapons, Intro and ending

Play online!

Stone veins
Stone veins
Intro
Intro

Gameplay

  • Add new weapons and armor
  • Reenable weapon degradation
  • Increase swimming speed

Graphics

  • Animated, bigger and solid dungeon features
  • Changed sprites for Dragon, Gazer, Skeleton
  • Generate different cavern walls

Player Experience

  • Fix typos
  • Reduce messages (Specially in battle)
  • Show player level
  • Add intro and instructions
  • Enhance ending sequence

Bugs

  • Prevent missile serialization issue
  • Fix kerning issue on UI

Stygian Abyss 1.1, Save games, compass, better melee and more!

One week after the 7DRL challenge, I have continued working hard with jucarave on the game!

Play online now! Gameplay vid here

The repo for the continued development is here; this version comes with the following:

The new title screen depicting the avatar
The new title screen depicting the avatar
New class selection
New class selection
Viewport weapons, compass, lowered lava
Viewport weapons, compass, lowered lava
  • Allow Saving and Loading games (using O)
  • Add compass
  • Add weapons on viewport
  • Change melee mechanics
  • Lower water and lava from the floor level
  • Added music tracks to each dungeon level
  • New title screen
  • New select class screen
  • Include 7drl hotfixes (Missing textures)
  • Change item icons and graphics
  • Add new textures for Dragon and Hydra
  • Add Lava Lizard
  • Add features to level
  • Tweaks on pixel font
  • Several tweaks on collisions
  • Lots of infrastructure work

Projects off the top of my head

  • A matchmaking platform for coders, musicians and artist to get together and make their projects happen.
  • A gamified experience to help people get rid of their debts.
  • Polishing Quadrigan’s UI and launching it to the public.
  • Using the Ananias engine to create a new game based on CastlevaniaRL.
  • Releasing Ananias on iOS
  • Reviving and releasing Pixal on it’s original scope, tournament only.
  • Resume development of the Virtual Universe platform.