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Thread: A little over 20 years ago...

  1. #1
    Registered: Oct 2000
    Location: Athens of the North

    A little over 20 years ago...

    In case this had passed anyone else by, the Ultima Codex has a 20th Anniversary site that contains among other things a new interview with Dan Schmidt and scans of some of his design notes. Worth a read and it reminds me that I'm overdue another run through the game.

  2. #2
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: Hong Kong
    Thanks for sharing.

    Some comments:
    - The automap is indeed a highly underrated feature and is actually much better than most automaps are today. You could easily see where you had already been and no more of the map was revealed than what you were eligible to see.
    - The technical notes were very interesting. One that stood out was "Squid jump out of water momentarily." It would have been great to see the Lurkers offer more of a challenge than to simply run away momentarily.
    - It was amusing to learn that the oft maligned talking door was implemented as an offstage rotworm.

    As far as a replay is concerned, I'm pretty sure have managed to do this for at least one of the games once a year since they were first released. Unfortunately on a replay of UW2 at the beginning of the year, I hit the sigil bug and as a consequence never faced Mors Gotha at the end of the game.

  3. #3
    Thanks, Al!

  4. #4
    Yes indeed; a neat site and an excellent read! Many thanks.

    I'm surprised that the automap was considered "underrated", to be honest. Video resolution aside, it's pretty much the nicest map I've seen in a game, so personally I've always rated it extremely highly, and always assumed that most players felt the same way. In particular I could especially never understand why other games didn't run with the excellent user-notation ability.

    I can only guess that in most reviews it didn't make the cut simply because the game was also revolutionary in so many other spectacular ways, and word space was limited to discuss them all. I can well imagine that the reviewers all loved the map and, like me, assumed that most future maps would work like that.

    The GameBytes reviews certainly all praised the feature:

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Kuo
    One nice feature is the mapping function. Ultima Underworld will automap each location which you wander off to. And you can write any comment on the map itself.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Aigner
    By the way, the automatic mapping feature is great. You never have to write down any- thing with pencil and paper,... it is already there. Everytime you venture into a new area, your map of each level is automatically updated to show where you are, and where you have been. Unexplored areas remain blank until you check them out. In addition, there is a "pen" and an "eraser" to allow you to make extensive notes on your maps, as well as a few extra blank pages on which to record additional information that you come across in your travels (which you had better take full advantage of). Keeping track of all of the characters you meet, the hints they give you, the mini-quests that they send you on, bonus magic spells that aren't in the book, and where you left that darn recipe for worm stew,... gets hard to keep track of if you don't write it all down.
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Stevens
    Finally, given the size of the dungeon (8 large levels), I cannot thank the programmers enough for the inclusion (why doesn't everyone do this?) of an automapping facility. As you wander around the dungeon the initially blank map is automatically extended to include the areas you have explored. No more tedious fumbling with pencil and paper when you have a fancy computer sitting in front of you. This facility also plays a key role in playability in that acts as kind of prosthesis for the ``sense of direction'' available to a real explorer of a real dungeon in real (slow) time.
    Last edited by Shadowcat; 23rd May 2012 at 09:55.

  5. #5
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: Hong Kong
    My interpretation of "underrated" is not based on the UW's automap version, it is more a recognition that few have tried to emulate this feature over the years. I think that this is what the reviewer meant as well, going by his "why doesn't everyone do this?" comment, among other things.

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