Ultima Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Ultima RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Are RPGs Doomed to be Dumbed Down Forever? https://www.gameskinny.com/piis0/are-rpgs-doomed-to-be-dumbed-down-forever https://www.gameskinny.com/piis0/are-rpgs-doomed-to-be-dumbed-down-forever Fri, 18 Nov 2016 04:27:45 -0500 Unclepulky

Any long time player of RPGs can tell you that that genre has changed a lot over the last few decades. And, unfortunately, the things they have to say about the current state of the genre aren't positive.

The first commercially available tabletop RPG was the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons, released in 1974. A few years later, the concept of the RPG would move over to video game platforms such as the Atari 2600 and the NES. While these early games were rough and, for the most part, don't hold up too well, things quickly improved.

Many of the RPGs from the 90s are known as some of the best games of all time. The Final Fantasy series really hit its stride with numbers IV, VI, and VII, Earthbound showed that the genre could have non sci-fi or fantasy based games and still be a success, and the greatness of Chrono Trigger is denied by none.

What made these, and numerous other RPGs from this time, special weren't the refined gameplay or updated graphics compared to what had come before, but the stories. Stories which had never been told before, that had real, meaningful themes, and rich characters which players could relate to and care about.

Sadly though, its been a long time since stories like these were the norm for the genre.

To be fair, in the 2000s, things still weren't looking too bad. Final Fantasy has arguably its best iteration of all time in IX, players gained more control over the direction the stories took, the action and strategy RPG genres gained a lot of popularity, and of course, there was the release of my favorite game of all time, The World Ends with You.

However, it was during this time that the tropes and cliches of the genre became more noticeable and prevalent. There were even tropes which didn't come into existence until the 2000s that people got sick of within the decade. Ex. Morality systems.

                                      This game still rocks though.

And now in the present, AAA RPGs have, for the most part, become a joke. Gone are the days of stories with actual meaning, and in their place are games which feel they can get by solely on flash visuals. Even the gameplay seems more shallow now.

For the sake of comparison, lets look at Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, released in 1985, and Final Fantasy XIII, originally released in Japan in 2009.

In Ultima IV, there is no antagonist for the player to go up against. Instead, you, as The Avatar, spend your time traveling the world, teaching interesting lessons about morality to others, and by extension, teaching the player.

In Final Fantasy XIII, your party consists of a ragtag team of idiots who are, for the most part, very difficult to sympathize with, and you travel around never really understanding what's going on because most of the game's lore is only available to learn about in data logs. And even if you do understand what's happening, there is no depth to the story beyond "We are friends and that makes us strong."

Sure, Ultima IV's graphics are horrendous compared to the beautiful presentation of Final Fantasy XIII, but it's clear which of these games is more interesting.

So, are we stuck in a world without great modern RPGs?

Not in the slightest!

Major developers may not be bringing their A game, but these past few years, the indie scene has been picking up the slack.

Evoland paid homage to all of the classic RPG tropes without simply recycling them, Gingiva threw logic away and worked as a surrealist masterpiece, and Undertale, with a story that can stand aside Final Fantasy VI's and Persona 4's as one of the greats, was one of the most popular games of 2015.

And with basic programs like RPG Maker available for an affordable price, we've got people whom, despite their limited resources, can bring their visions to life. Sure, there are tons of generic and downright bad RPG Maker games, but for everyone of those, there's a The Logomancer.

So no, we don't have anything to worry about. As long as there are independent developers with a story to tell, the gaming community will never stop getting great RPGs.

 

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Top 5 Most Underrated AAA Developers https://www.gameskinny.com/g4ocp/top-5-most-underrated-aaa-developers https://www.gameskinny.com/g4ocp/top-5-most-underrated-aaa-developers Fri, 04 Nov 2016 03:25:08 -0400 Unclepulky

It's easy to assume when you hear the term "AAA Game Developer", that they get all of the credit and profits that they deserve. But while some companies do have many employees and a large chunk of change to throw around, not every developer has the same luck as Nintendo, Bethesda, or Naughty Dog.

These five game devs have made fantastic games, and some have gone above and beyond in treating their fans well. Hopefully one day, they'll all get their due.

5. Oddworld Inhabitants

Oddworld Inhabitants is a studio who has never made a bad game -- while it's true that (not counting re-releases and remakes) they've only developed four games, with a fifth currently in the works, all of them have been absolute gems.

Abe's Odyssee and Abe's Exodus are must owns for fans of the original PlayStation. Munch's Odyssee, while the weakest of the Oddworld games, is still a gem, and Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is in my top ten favorite games of all time.

In addition to producing great games, Oddworld Inhabitants is also very friendly with their fanbase. In particular, their Twitter is very fun to follow.

It's easy to see why the company is so often overlooked though. All of their games are part of one series; and with how insane the lore and story are, some people may feel alienated.

4. Hi-Rez Studios

 Much like the last entry, Hi-Rez Studios has only developed a few games -- six in total. However, while I haven't played all of their games, they've all received critical acclaim. 

Their most popular game, Smite, is a very original and fun take on the MOBA genre, and there are many, including myself, who prefer it over the more traditional MOBAs such League of Legends and DOTA 2.

The other game that I've played from Hi-Rez is Jetpack Fighter, a speed platformer which stands among the better mobile games I've played.

Hi-Rez Studios also has a great relationship with their fans. They've sponsored many charity streams, and have developed a good rapport with the game journalism community.

They're the newest developer on this list, and given enough time, they'll likely gain the popularity they deserve.

3. Nihon Falcom

From the newest developer on the list to the oldest, Nihon Falcom has been pumping out games since 1981. They have released dozens of games, and while I fully admit to having not played most of them, the Ys series of action RPGs is absolutely fantastic. In fact, Ys is the second largest series of eastern RPGs, eclipsed only by Final Fantasy.

The main reason for this studio being on the list is the opposite of the reason for why it's only number three on the list. While in the west, the games the studio has made are virtually unheard of, it's a completely different story in the east. There, series like The Legend of Heroes, Zwei, and Brandish are all incredibly popular.

Many of their games haven't made it to North America and Europe, but come on my fellow westerners: Give Nihon Falcom some love!

2. Grasshopper Manufacture

Suda51 is a mad genius and I love him!

Formed in 1998 by Goichi Suda, Grasshopper Studios has a knack for making very distinct games. It's almost impossible to mistake one of their games for another, and you can always see Suda's fingerprints. 

While early on it seemed they'd be doomed to having their games stuck in the east, they eventually found mainstream success in the west with Killer7. And while games like Lollipop Chainsaw and Liberation Maiden are a blast to play, it's the No More Heroes games which have earned the company my loyalty. 

They don't have the same great relationship with the fans that some of the other mentioned developers do -- not that it's a bad one either -- but given how terrific and imaginative their games are, Grasshopper Manufacture is a highly underrated studio.

1. Origin Systems

The story of Origin Systems is one of gaming's most tragic.

Founded in 1983 by the Garriott brothers, Richard and Robert, Origin was a studio fueled by passion. Many great games came from the studio, such as Ogre and the Wing Commander series, but for me, when I hear Origin Systems, I think Ultima. 

The Garriott brothers, inspired by the table-top RPGs they played, crafted an entire, in-depth world within the Ultima games. This series revolutionized the RPG genre, and throughout the 80's and 90's, it was beloved by many PC gamers.

Sadly, due to executive meddling from EA, the main Ultima series ended on a sour note with the absolutely dreadful Ultima IX: Ascension. 

EA kept the company alive until 2004, not actually letting them develop new games mind you, at which point the developer was dissolved. The saddest part of all of this is that most people don't seem to remember Origin. Sure, a die-hard Ultima or Wing Commander fan will, but to the general gaming community, they're just a blip in history.

What AAA game developers do you feel are underrated? What do you think of these choices? And had you heard of Origin Systems before reading this article?

Let me know in the comments below!

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The Most Iconic Character Deaths in Games https://www.gameskinny.com/jqv0j/the-most-iconic-character-deaths-in-games https://www.gameskinny.com/jqv0j/the-most-iconic-character-deaths-in-games Mon, 17 Aug 2015 03:59:59 -0400 The Soapbox Lord

There's nothing quite like the death of a beloved character that allows them to meet their demise in a memorable fashion. Games are no strangers to having characters die, but these are some of the most iconic and memorable deaths to date. Since we will be looking at deaths of characters in various series, consider yourself warned of spoilers.

Now then, prepare to experience ultimate sadness. 

Sarah: The Last of Us

The opening to The Last of Us remains one of the most memorable and powerful beginnings in any game. While we knew what to expect, thanks to pre-release interviews and previews, the death was no less dramatic.

After having some quality father-daughter time, Joel and Sarah meet up with Joel’s brother in order to flee their neighbors who have become homicidal. After multiple close calls and encounters with bloodthirsty humans, Joel and Sarah make it to the edge of town where they are stopped by a soldier. Despite Joel’s pleading, the soldier receives orders to open fire, wounding Joel and leading to Sarah’s death shortly thereafter.

With great voice acting and framing, the scene is powerful and deeply affecting. Even worse, for those of us who are parents, this added an additional fist of emotional gut-punching.

John Marston: Red Dead Redemption

Red Dead Redemption was a powerful story about family and the unfulfilling pointlessness of murderous revenge. Also hunting - gotta get those skins yo! John was recruited by some shady lawmen that are holding John’s family hostage to hunt down members from his old gang, who kinda shot him up and left him for dead.

After doing all that was asked of him, Marston retires to his home and is ready to spend time with his family. After some daily routines of establishing his farm, a posse of men led by the marshals shows up at Marston’s house, eager to wipe the Marstons out in an effort to hide the government’s involvement with a former outlaw.

The resulting gunfight sees Marston going down in a blaze of lead and glory, and it's forever embedded in our memories.

 

Mordin Solus: Mass Effect 3

Mordin was the embodiment of the quirky scientist. The salarian had a unique, albeit slightly broken, way of speaking, a constant desire to work, and rarely allows his conscience or personal feelings to affect his judgment. In the series you learn Mordin helped develop the genophage, a disease that affects the krogan and essentially hampers the ability of the krogan to reproduce, crippling the krogan race.

After dealing with a Reaper on the krogan homeworld of Tuchanka, you discover you can help develop a cure for the dreaded genophage disease. Once you have the cure, you try to broadcast it via the Shroud, but due to previous salarian sabotage, someone must travel to the top of the Shroud in order to override the sabotage. Whoever travels to the top will not be coming down though.

Surprisingly, Mordin volunteers to sacrifice himself in order to broadcast for the genophage disease he helped create. He seeks to make up for his involvement in the creation of the disease and other mistakes by breaking the curse of the dreaded genophage. While it is possible to stop Mordin, by killing him, or allowing him to live and participating in a form of genocide, no other outcome has the effect of watching Mordin sing “Scientist Salarian” while becoming engulfed in explosions. It’s a rather touching scene and a fitting end to a fantastic character.

 

Andrew Ryan: BioShock

BioShock remains a landmark title and an intriguing look at choice in games, among other things. Andrew Ryan is the founder of the underwater city of Rapture where there are practically no inhibitions on science or anything really. Needless to say, things go downhill rather quickly.

Your character Jack braves the horrors of Rapture in his quest to find Ryan, get some answers, and get the hell out of Dodge. Upon confronting Ryan, you learn Atlas, the person you have been communicating with the entire game and your guide, has been manipulating you and using mind control to force you to do his bidding. The resulting scene is entrenched in the minds of players everywhere as Ryan dies, adhering to his philosophy and to prove a point. Memorable indeed.

 

Sgt. Paul Jackson: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The Call of Duty series has always been known for its grand set pieces, but nothing prepared us for this moment. Sgt. Jackson and a group of US soldiers are attacking the location of what they believe is a terrorist’s hideout. It turns out it was a decoy and is housing a nuclear weapon which is about to detonate. Jackson makes the decision to rescue a soldier who fell behind and then the fireworks happen.

To this point, deaths in games were not uncommon, but FPS games rarely featured the death of playable characters. This moment changed that. Unfortunately, it also led to the further CoD entries adding an obligatory “shock” moment and struggling to top the one before. Regardless, this moment remains effective.

 

Lee Everett: The Walking Dead: Season One

You’ve rescued a little girl from zombies and ensured her survival through countless perils and near-death situations. You deserve a break right? Well Telltale said, “Psh, whatever. Screw that noise.”

After everything that has happened and all Lee has done to ensure Clementine’s safety, Clemtine is kidnapped, and a rogue zombie bites Lee, sealing his fate. You can cut off the bitten appendage, but nothing will stop the inevitable creep of the Reaper.

Once you free Clementine from her captor, Lee and Clementine make their way through a horde of zombies and hole up in an abandoned storefront. Once here, Lee shows Clementine the bite and informs her of his impending death. You can have Clementine shoot Lee to cut his suffering short and prevent Lee from becoming a zombie, or you can choose to allow Lee to die and later turn into a zombie, presumably. This scene led to many tears shed in the real world along with Clementine’s digital tears. So many feels…

Jenny: The Darkness

The Darkness is a criminally underrated game, and you really owe it to yourself to play. Jenny is the love interest of the main character, Jackie Estacado. The two have essentially known each other their entire lives and are hopelessly in love. What’s even better is Jenny is conveyed realistically and comes across as a believable character instead of just eye candy.

There’s even a touching moment that allows you to sit on a couch with Jenny and watch To Kill a Mockingbird, among other things. It’s an intimate moment that isn’t too uncommon from what people do in real life. Of course, things end poorly.

Possessed by the titular demonic power of The Darkness, Jackie constantly resists the demonic power in an effort to keep some semblance of free will. The Darkness will have none of that and proves to Jackie his free will is no more. Jackie’s uncle is holding Jenny hostage in the orphanage where Jackie and jenny grew up.

When Jackie attempts to rescue Jenny from his homicidal uncle and a crooked police chief, The Darkness renders him helpless and forces him to do nothing but watch while the brains of the love of his life are splattered over the wall. It’s brutal. It’s gut-wrenching, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t provide motivation to kill those crooked jerks.

 NSFW VIDEO ALERT!


Dupre: Ultima 7 Part Two

The Ultima series is one of the influential and well-regarded RPG series in gaming. While the eighth and ninth entries are held in spite by fans, they aren’t enough to blight the legacy of this franchise. Dupre is first introduced in Ultima II, which was released way back in 1982. He remains a constant companion and a series stalwart.

During the events of Ultima VII, Dupre becomes possessed and becomes the Bane of Wantoness, proceeding to slay many innocents. He was eventually cured by the Avatar, the playable character. After this, you learn in order to mend the broken pieces of the Serpents of Chaos (which keeps the entire universe in balance and from self-destructing) a human sacrifice of one who is in “balance” is required.

Only five people are candidates and straws are drawn with the Avatar drawing the short straw. When the time comes to sacrifice yourself, Dupre throws himself in the crematorium, stating he cannot take the guilt over the lives he has claimed. His last words are, “Let it be said Sir Dupre died bravely!” A noble sacrifice indeed. Start the video at the 4:50 mark.

Meryl: Metal Gear Solid and The Twin Snakes

Solid Snake is a stoic soldier who is focused only on the mission and feels nothing along the lines of love, or so you might think. In Metal Gear Solid, Snake encounters Meryl, a soldier held on the island Snake is infiltrating. Meryl assists Snake during some of his battles before they both become kidnapped.

Snake is then being tortured by Ocelot who tells Snake he must resist his torture, which is essentially pressing a single button repeatedly. If you fail, you aren’t shown the consequences until the last confrontation with Liquid Snake at the end of the game. During the confrontation, you spy Meryl, but aren’t able to get to her with Liquid around.

After temporarily getting rid of Liquid, Snake rushes over to Meryl for a happy reunion filled with smiles, laughter, and good times! And she’s dead, all because you could not resist the torture. So it’s completely your fault. I’ll be in the corner popping some anti-depressants now.

Wander: Shadow of the Colossus

It’s a story we’ve heard a thousand times before. Man’s girlfriend dies. In order to bring her back, guy proceeds to listen to strange voices and kill sixteen colossi. After slaying the final titan, man becomes possessed by evil because the colossi were guardians to ward evil away. Man dies and girlfriend is shortly resurrected after his death. All that and he never got to see the fruits of his labors.

Aeris/Aerith: Final Fantasy VII

You knew it was coming, but people still mourn to this day. While characters in games had died before, the death of Aeris was unexpected and accompanied by a beautiful score; ensuring players will never forget this scene. ‘Nuff said.

Were there any iconic deaths I missed? Should any of these entries have been left out? Sound off in the comments!

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Wizardry: The Birth of Role-Playing Video Games https://www.gameskinny.com/26v8o/wizardry-the-birth-of-role-playing-video-games https://www.gameskinny.com/26v8o/wizardry-the-birth-of-role-playing-video-games Fri, 01 Feb 2013 00:47:28 -0500 Mat Westhorpe

Part 2 of our interview with Wizardry creator Robert Woodhead.

Mat Westhorpe: Robert, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions. It really is a privilege to get some insight from someone who has played a fundamental role in the early evolution of RPG video game design. Looking at your legacy, it certainly seems to make sense of your commitment to your role as a member of EVE Online's Council of Stellar Management. With the recent release of F2P MMO Wizardry Online, the modern reinvention of your brainchild, I'd like to know more about that legacy.

Along with Andrew C. Greenberg, you created Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord on the Apple II way back in 1981. It was well received at the time and is described as one of the first RPGs to evolve beyond the text adventure format. How did Wizardry come about and what part did you play in its creation?

Robert Woodhead:Andy and I were both at Cornell, and avid users of the PLATO system (which basically invented everything you love about the internet, including multiplayer games, in the early 70s). I had to take a year off because of low grades (too much PLATO, not enough studying) and during that year, was writing computer games. I wanted to see if something like the PLATO dungeon games could be written on a microcomputer, and started working on a game I called Paladin, in Apple Pascal. At the same time, Andy had been writing a game he called Wizardry, in Apple Basic. By some happenstance, we found out of our similar interests, compared notes, and decided to collaborate. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

MW: It seems that Wizardry was built on similar ideals to the Ultima series which was first released around the same time. Wikipedia states that by 30 June 1982, Wizardry had sold 24,000 copies to Ultima's 20,000. According to your Wikipedia page, you made a cameo appearance in 1982's Ultima II. What was the relationship between the two games and its developers? Was there rivalry?

RW: We ran into Richard Garriott [aka Lord British, creator of the Ultima series] a few times at computer game conventions, but other than that, there wasn't much of a connection between us, and certainly no rivalry. Back then, everyone basically did their own thing, and we rarely saw other games before they were released (especially since Andy and I were living in upstate New York).

Next: Wizardry: Turning Japanese and MMORPG That Nearly Was

  

Feature Index:
  1. An Interview with Robert Woodhead, Creator of the Genre-Defining RPG, Wizardry
  2. Wizardry: The Birth of Role-Playing Video Games
  3. Turning Japanese and MMORPG That Nearly Was
  4. The Mad Overlord and the Online Generation
  5. The Wider World of Woodhead
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