In February 2017, Dragons from all around the world were summoned to California to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Ultima Dragons online club (Not to be confused with the UDIC, which is almost as old).
The event was organized by Cran Gallara, kickstarted by fans and supported by Lord British and a cast of Origin and Portalarium employees.
I was joined by Exodus Destiny Dragon, we flew all the way from our hometown in Colombia to the cold coastal basin of Los Angeles. Following is a brief account of our experience at the event.
Friday – Medieval Times Dinner
Prior to the event, we had a chance to meet and share dinner in Anaheim’s Medieval Times venue. After the event some dragons got to meet for the first time, stories were shared, and we looked forward for the main event next day.
Saturday – Main Event
The event kicked off with a panel composed of Dr. Cat, Starr Long, Denis Loubet and Richard Garriott, all of them former Origin employees who worked in the classic Ultima games on the 80’s and 90’s.
Many topics were discussed including the elements of design for the first Ultima games as sandboxes which allowed emergent behavior (Richard Garriott), the role of Ultima Online in the beginning of the age of the MMORPGS (Starr Long), the limitations of hardware and software and how they affected the game art back in the Ultima days (Denis) and the ability of game designers to affect how people interacts (Dr. Cat)
There were three Ultima Fan projects available for checking out at the event. Goldenflame dragon showed Dark Unknown (A completely new game with strong influences from the classic Ultima games) for the first time in public, and people was able to check Ananias, the fabulous game from Slashing Dragon. Sorceress Dragon also prepared a demo for her Oculus powered virtual reality game, which allowed you to roam Ultima 7 Britannia by foot, horse or dragon.
In addition there were computers set up where you could play classic Ultima games, Martian Dreams, Ultima Underworld and more, reliving old memories of these games we love so much.
Denis Loubet, creator of most of the art for the Ultima boxes and manuals, did a special poster for the event which was available for purchase, and also had a display of his creations which can be acquired online. There was also a display of giant poster versions of many of his Ultima game covers.
Goldenflame Dragon prepared an amazing skit portraying the complete adventures of the Avatar through the 9 core Ultima games. Lord British, Blackthorne and the Avatar itself (JC Shakespeare) were in charge of reviving epic battles with lots of stabbing, space traveling and feat reporting.
The event wasn’t safe from the influence of the Guardian tho. The interdimensional red puppet sent a message congratulating the dragons and challenged them to see who could make the best interpretation of his thundering voice.
Many dragons step to the challenge, with Great Siberian Dragon becoming the winner.
At the Portalarium Panel, Richard Garriott and Starr Long discussed the development of Shroud of the Avatar, revealing how their team works and interacts with the community to drive the creation of the game.
They also answered questions regarding the timeline of the project, and let the attendants know that the complete backstory for the game should be available around June 2017.
Dr Cat set up a gaming table full of wonderful tabletop games which were greatly enjoyed by the audience.
Not all fan creations were games… an interesting display of music boxes as well as a complete workshop for creating music for them was given at the event. People was able to create a small melody with the help of Minstrel and Yofa Dragon.
Also, during the three days of the event, Mike Nystul (another former Origin employee) directed an epic role playing adventure with multiple participants (including Lord British, Dr. Cat, JC Shakespeare and many dragons). In the game they had to deal with different threats to the world, fight evil monsters and interact with the inhabitants of the depths in a beautifully crafted dungeon with miniatures provided by the game master. Team play was essential for survival.
Gold Dragon (Doug Ricket), the founder of the Ultima Dragons, was acknowledged at the event and granted the Golden golden beard, the highest rank of beards on Ultima Dragonhood.
Cran Gallara, main organizer of the event, remembered some of the dragons who are no longer with us. Black dragon (Justin Eckblad), one of the founders of the Ultima Dragons, who was helping organize the event but passed away recently, was fondly remembered and the song, Puff the Magic Dragon, was played by the space bard Steven Goldman, in memory of them.
All Dragons and guests were then invited to a delicious feast for dinner, while they enjoyed musical live entertainment courtesy of the lovely and talented Sorceress and Tenor Dragons.
The rest of the day was filled with a geek electronic rap rock party with music from the Space Bards / ReCap.
Sunday – Disneyland
On Sunday, most dragons set up to explore Disneyland in small groups. A cloth map, given as part of the initial equipment to all party members, was used to prevent getting lost on the Disney Island.
For lunch, the Dragons met to have a Cinnabon feast, where awards were given for the different contests that happened prior and during the event.
Richard was also presented a plaque (harmless, as far as we know) made by Dalboz Dragon, in commemoration for the anniversary and for many great Ultima Memories.
Rise of Splut Dragon
The winner of the silent auction, Dominus Dragon, got the change to welcome Richard Garriot into the Ultima Dragons after 25 years of existence. In an unexpected turn of events, Richard was given the chance to fight back instead of resigning to having a pie hit him.
Dominus had his chance, but after a disappointing display of inaccuracy (some say British cast a force field around himself to deflect any incoming pies) Lord British suffered only minor pie damage.
Regardless of this, Richard was welcomed into the group with his chosen name: Splut Dragon.
The dragons who visited Disneyland during this day could also witness the dragon during the Electrical Parade, clearly a nod from Disney to our celebration.
Monday – California Adventure
Some dragons met for breakfast before heading to the parks; Shadow of Light dragon shared the secret arts of the Tim Tam Slam to those of us who didn’t know it.
Most dragons then proceed to explore the California Adventure park (while others remained at the fellowship hall, having fun with the assorted games and adventures that were still running there, including Nystul’s adventure).
It was hard to keep the pack of dragons together so smaller groups of people decided to adventure instead. Then we met again for a pizza lunch and to say farewell for now!
Let’s meet again to celebrate sometime soon!
Corrections or additions? please contact me!