I’ve been following Syp’s playthrough of Ultima VII very closely, as it is by far one of my favorite games of all time, and remembered that Richard Garriott placed TONS of easter eggs in the game. Every party member of the Avatar’s group is some reference to someone Garriott knows, for example. Iolo is a reference to bowyer and composer David R. Watson, Iolo’s wife Gwenno is a reference to Watson’s wife Kathleen, Chuckles the Jester is a reference to one of the founders of Origin, Chuck Bueche, and Shamino and Lord British are references to Garriott himself. In fact, Sherry the Mouse is based off of one of his former girlfriends and the actress portraying Sherry at the Royal Theatre in Britain is dating Garriott’s alter-ego Shamino!
And all of these references are just the icing on the cake for us Ultima fans. They give nods to previous Ultimas played, to the developers themselves, and really added to the enjoyment of the game. However, it never occurred to me until recently to dig a little deeper. The deeper you go, though, the more you start to see something disturbing. Namely, Garriott did not like EA from the start, and he made that clear in Ultima VII.
Warning: I know this game came out in 1992, but SPOILERS AHEAD. Ye have been warned.
– The Guardian Represents Electronic Arts –
The big bad menace of Ultima VII is called “The Guardian”. He is a huge red dude who wants nothing more than to enter the world of U7, Britannia, and destroy it. He accomplishes this by getting into the minds of the people, and pushing them to help the Guardian enter the world. Many worlds have already fallen to his evil. He is referred to by the wisps as “vain, greedy, egocentric, and malevolent”.
So how is the Guardian the representation of EA? The Guardian is called “The Destroyer of Worlds”. Origin’s motto: “We Create Worlds”. Also, Origin saw EA’s way of doing business as immoral. According to Origin, EA’s method was not only to make games, but also to interfere in others ability to do so. EA suing Origin probably didn’t help.
– The Murderers Elizabeth and Abraham… E & A –
Elizabeth and Abraham are two figures that figure prominently in the storyline of Ultima VII. Elizabeth and Abraham are two of the founding members of the Fellowship, the pseudo religion the Guardian has a hand in, similar to Scientology, and travel from city to city collecting funds and convincing the important people to build Fellowship branches.
E & A seem well intentioned on the outside. Big surprise, though, the Fellowship turns out to not be on the level, and E & A help out in assassinations of those who speak out against them. E & A? Killers.
– “Create Love” is Slaughtered by E & A –
One of the very first scenes of the game, the Avatar is tasked with finding the killer of a murder that has just occurred. The blacksmith Christopher has been ritually murdered. At the time, this was ridiculously graphic. He had been tied down, had his extremities severed, decapitated, and his blood filled in buckets. His assistant, the Gargoyle Inamo, was also run-through with a pitchfork.
What does Inamo’s name mean in his own language? “Create Love“. Who killed him? E & A. Yup.
– The Destroyer’s Power Over the People Comes From The Cube, The Sphere, and The Tetrahedron… EA’s Logo –
Might as well save the best for last. In the Avatar’s travels across Britannia he finds out that he needs to destroy three structures, “generators”, which give the Guardian his power. The Cube helps broadcast the Destroyer’s voice to his followers, the Sphere helps disrupt the moongates and trap the Time Lord in his prison, and the Tetrahedron helps to disrupt magic through the land.
The Cube, The Sphere, and the Tetrahedron are symbols of the Guardian’s evil. Remind you of anything?
P.S. In case you were wondering, here’s a history between Origin and EA:
– The History of EA and Origin –
Origin Systems was created in 1983 as a way for Richard Garriott to capitalize on his game-making talents. Up until then, Akalabeth, Ultima I, and Ultima II had all been published by other publishers who took advantage of Garriott’s work. The California Pacific Computer Company bought the rights for Akalabeth and Ultima I, and Sierra On-Line bought up Ultima II. It was issues with Sierra that caused Garriott to finally form his own company. Origin’s first game was the next in the series, Ultima III, which helped them to get through the great video game crash of 1983. From there, Origin produced further Ultimas IV, V, and VI, Wing Commander 1 and 2 and many other games. By 1988, Origin had about 50 employees under it’s umbrella.
Ultima VII: The Black Gate was released in April of 1992 and is greatly considered the pinnacle of the Ultima series. At the time, Electronic Arts was a big competitor of Origin. At one point, the bigger EA took Origin to court, which ended in a costly out-of-court settlement for Origin. Origin believed the games they made were works of love, and saw EA as trying to get ahead any way they can. In September of 1992, though, Origin was acquired by Electronic Arts.
Under EA’s banner, Origin went on to release a lot of great games like the rest of the Wing Commander series. However, the quality of the Ultima series started to drastically suffer. The last game, Ultima IX was, well, it was stunningly terrible. The storyline had been scrapped multiple times due to EA’s interference, the systems had been pared down to almost nothing, the majority of the team was pulled away to work on Ultima Online, and Electronic Arts would not waver on the release date. Ultima IX was not received well by the community, to say the least. Not long after, all games being worked on by Origin, like Ultima Online 2 and Ultima X, were canceled and Origin was shuttered by EA.
EA still owns the name of the Ultima franchise, as shown in their Free-to-Play, Pay-to-Win, iOS title Ultima Forever, which is a reimagining of Ultima IV. In my opinion, reimagining one of the greatest RPG’s of all time as an iOS P2W App is a huge slap in the face to the original and the series.
However, Richard Garriott has a new offering in Shroud of the Avatar, the “spiritual successor” to the Ultima series which features just enough similarity to not trigger any copyright issues. As far as can be concerned it currently looks like a successful endeavor having raised over $3.3 Million in funds, is extremely open about it’s production (as it should be), and has been having periodic Alpha weekends for it’s supporters. I have personally played in the first Alpha, and I must say they look to be on the right track. More than graphics and features, the Ultima games had a specific “feel” to them.
In one of the best compliments I can give to the game, Shroud of the Avatar has that feel.
P.P.S. – According to Mr. Garriott, the plans to include all the “EA is the root of all evil” plots had already been so ingrained within Ultima VII that EA gave them their blessings to continue with them in place. I couldn’t imagine if U7 had turned out any other way, really, so I’m certainly glad they let them proceed.
Grind is as grind does.
I’m a big Zach Weiner fan. I’m not sure if he’s a big gamer or not, his comics don’t usually contain references to video games, but then he posts something like this and I love his work even more.
P.S. – I have a lot of respect for those that can create posts every day. Belghast, Rowan, and Scary are three bloggers that come to mind that are doing just that. I have no idea how they do it, I think they have magically found more time in the day. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up, I just need to find those hours.
Previous: End of Day 2
So while I was perusing the manual, it heavily suggested that I read the included graphic novel before Day 3. Since it was not included in the GoG offering, I made sure I was backed up, my malware and virus protection were in good condition and then descended into the bowels of the internet in search of it. After a bit of search and a couple of malware scares, I found the graphic novel in clean condition.
And woah! I don’t remember this, either! So far, Gabriel Knight has been essentially following a modern-day (for 1993) story of a jerk trying to research his latest book. But this? This is deeper than I thought it was. I don’t remember any of this. Of course, the reasons why I played games when I was 12 is a little different than why I play them now. Story wasn’t that important to me then. My tastes have changed just a bit.
Day 3 starts off like all the others. Wake up, have some coffee, get the day’s messages from Grace. I get the phone number for an old lady I saw in a Voodoo store, so I decide to attempt stalking her. Called her a few times, but she’s not that receptive. The police are interrogating a suspect for the murders, which is interesting because I still have the Detective’s badge. A guy named Bruno keeps coming into my shop, asking to buy my father’s painting, and a Wolfgang Ritter keeps calling from Germany. After having read the graphic novel, maybe I should call him back this time. Finally there’s a lecture on “African Religions” going on at Tulane University. Lots to do.
The police suspect is named Crash, and is your stereotypical junkie, but doesn’t say anything meaningful. I DO give the Detective back his badge, though. No hard feelings.
I head back to Jackson Square and pick up the artist’s drawing of the symbols, and see a psychic in the park. I walk over, she gets up, puts her snake on the ground and starts… dancing? Wait… PUTS HER SNAKE ON THE GROUND?! This is a public park! Lady just lets a boa constrictor just wander around?! She’s not playing with a full tarot deck, it seems.
Well, Gabriel is REALLY into her, however (big shocker). She drops a scarf, I pick it up, and find a snake scale on it. Another snake scale? Why did it have to be snakes? I hand her back her veil, sans scale, and she thanks me by giving me a reading which starts with double entendre and ends with… demonic voices. Ooooo-kay.
This game has been great about the slow build-up. Foreshadow everywhere. Day 3 looks to be speeding things up a bit, though.
While walking through the cemetery Gabriel runs into Malia Gedde, and she’s kinda surprised to see me. Once more, Gabe lays it on thick, but she runs away citing traditions, and… not liking creeps, maybe?
I head to the university to see the lecture, and it all floods back to me. THIS I remember. I mentioned in the first part how a scene scared the wits out of me when I was 12. Well, this is that scene! Gabriel watches a very interesting lecture on African Voudoun, falls asleep, and has a nightmare of being shoved into a tiny coffin! I remember literally jumping out of my seat, and never playing the game again… until now.
Adult me, however, will continue playing.
[Previous Gabriel Knight playthrough entry]
I know the game is 20 years old, but SPOILERS AHEAD!
You ever hear of a Sierra Search? If you haven’t played them or don’t remember the games, Sierra liked to make sure you really spent time trying to figure out how to progress. They never just blatantly handed you the answer, and sometimes the answer was really far from making any sense. It’s doing your adventure gaming due diligence. Click on everything, talk to everyone, and eventually, after banging your head against the wall, the way opens up.
I head to the local police station, where Detective Mosely, voiced by Mark Hamill, is working on the Voodoo Murder case, and I’m secretly assisting. He’s the one who gave me the picture of the murder victim that I keep showing to every single person I meet. Gabriel is just an awful friend to this guy. On Day 1, I photocopied evidence while he was occupied, then today I turned up the heat in his office, told him to get me a cup of coffee and then STOLE HIS BADGE! So, imitating a police officer, huh? That’s kinda a step-up from Gabriel’s normal jerk behavior. It might help me get into the Gedde mansion, though.
Let’s see what else is going on before I head there. I head to the cemetery where tombs have been marked with Voodoo characters, and talk to the groundskeeper. He tells me that other tombs have had offerings on them, and that Dr. John visits every day. The first couple letters of the translated tomb markings are even “DJ”… methinks Dr. John is up to no good.
I ask Grace to look up the info of an older woman I saw in the Voodoo store, and then head over to the Gedde mansion, police badge in hand. I’m right, the badge does get me past the butler. I end up speaking to Ms. Gedde in her personal library. After questioning her on all the same topics I’ve been asking everyone else, she see’s right through my charade that I’m not really a detective. After Gabriel stammers a bit, she kicks me out of the house. Not sure what I got out of the meeting, and I’m sure Gabriel looks like a fool in her eyes, but hopefully it progressed the story ahead a bit.
This apparently does not end the day, though. I head back to the park and see the wind blow a large piece of paper away from the guy working on architectural drawings. It lands inside of a fence that I can’t reach. Well, here I end up stuck again. I do another Sierra Search. Nothing.
Not to give up hope, before caving to a walkthrough, I flip back through the game’s manual, seeing if there’s anything I may have forgot, and there totally is! I never opened the cash register in Gabriel’s bookstore in the tutorial! I go back and find a gift certificate. The hot dog vendor is reading a book, so I head back and hand it over to him. Sure enough, he hands me back a hot dog. Progress.
I take the hot dog, hand it to the kid, and he’s all happy. Happy enough to fit through the bars and get me the lost page of the architect. I hand it back to the architect, and he’s grateful enough to piece together the bunch of voodoo drawings I have into one bigger drawing! He says he’ll have it for me tomorrow.
Thankfully, this is enough to end Day 2, and I didn’t even have to steal the architect’s tools.
P.S. – Up to 94 out of 342. I think I’m doing pretty good!
Next Post: Day 3 Beginning
Previous: Day 1 of Gabriel Knight
Day 2 of my playthrough of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, and maybe I’ll find more people to show that picture of a dead body to. “Are you uncomfortable? No? Have a look at this!” I’m assuming that’s the thought process, anyway.
The first stop is the Voodoo museum, where Michael Dorn, I mean Dr. John, awaits. And… I hit on him? Okay. Who am I to judge.
After chatting Mr. Dorn up for a while, he tells me some information about the Queen of Voodoo, Marie Laveau, whose tomb I saw marked with symbols the previous day, and points me in the direction of a Voodoo practitioner. So far I’m up to 61 points out of 342.
Points are an interesting way to keep score in an adventure game, a way to make sure you check every single nook and cranny. Since they don’t give you any clue of how many you’re supposed to have at a given point, though, I guess I won’t figure out if I’m doing everything right until the end.
Well, there are two places I haven’t been yet: The Gedde mansion, where the attractive woman from the limo lives, and now this Moonbeam lady’s house. I head to check out Moonbeam.
Ms. Moonbeam has a pet snake, and so does the museum. And here I am with a snake scale in my inventory and I can’t seem to show it to anyone. Ms. Moonbeam, in all her psychic glory, does translate some of the symbols I have been finding lately, saying it’s a secret code. After talking with her a bit, it’s obvious she knows French, but refuses to translate some French phrase I picked up.
Then… she dances with her snake. Impressive? Sexy? Confusing? I do grab a snakeskin I find in the cage while this is going on, though, so it’s only slightly creepy (or does stealing while she dances make it MORE creepy?)
After that fun, I head to check out the Gedde mansion, but I get rebuffed by the butler. Huh. I have nothing in my inventory that he needs. Ah well. I’m sure the answer is found elsewhere.
Just for fun, I stop by the park to see what’s going on today. Hot dog vendor, tap dancing kid, bands everywhere. No mimes, though. There is a guy doing architectural drawings, and I could use his tools to recreate a couple of drawings of my own. I ask nicely, but he won’t do anything. We all know what happens next: time to steal them! However, again, I come up stumped on the how. My guess is shoo away the dancing kid, buy a hot dog, and give it to the guy, but haven’t figured how to shoo away the kid.
Alright, so we have three mysteries. How to get into Gedde mansion, how to get the tools, and what to do about my Grandfather’s clock from Day 1.
Looks like I have to start scouring areas until I find something useful. Good ol’ Sierra.
P.S. – Also, the way Gabriel speaks in this game is awful. Is this really Tim Curry? Does he know he does a terrible Louisiana accent? I don’t know how creepy they told him to play Gabriel, but man does he come across as a creeper. Not exactly Mr. Suave.
Next: The End of Day 2
So, hey, remember how sometimes I periodically mention Broken Age, the Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter that funded March of 2012? And how I listed it on my Top 5 Games I’m Really Looking Forward To In The New Year? I mentioned how I wasn’t even sure Broken Age was going to be dropping in 2014. Being almost 2 years since it funded, you can see how I would be worried.
Well, the good people at Double Fine yesterday released an update and posted a date for the beta of Broken Age: Act 1 to start: Today. TODAY?! Well, this is certainly a surprise. I, like a great number of others, will be jumping in head first as soon as I get home. This is great timing as I’ve been on an adventure style gaming kick lately, from the old-school Gabriel Knight to the new indie UnEpic. Putting down one of them isn’t going to be the easiest of feats, but this certainly qualifies as “the new shiny”.
But, see, I hate betas. Most times when I’ve played in a beta, I find I come to dislike whatever game it’s for. For example, I played in the Rift beta and haven’t played Rift since because of it’s beta flaws. I remember the graphics having been terrible, the combat lackluster, and the rifts annoyingly got in the way of the questing! Blargh! But this doesn’t feel like a beta that we’ve come to understand. There are no server load tests. There aren’t any character wipes. They aren’t giving us fake cash to use in the game’s store. They aren’t making it feel like we’re working for them but not getting paid for it. This, instead, feels like the product is complete, and the primary tests will just be for system compatibility. The ins and outs of playing the game itself should be good to go. This feels like a real complete game (or at least Act 1) and so doesn’t feel like I’m just donating my time to them.
Of course, I can’t tell you anything about the game yet. They are releasing a press release today (Though the trailer was posted to YouTube yesterday, having since been rescinded. We all know when you want to keep something secret, posting it to YouTube is the best thing to do. In case it’s still down, here’s an older trailer.), to announce the public ship date of the game.
A “formal review” embargo, though, is also being placed until January 27th, so I won’t be able to tell you any thoughts until then. I don’t consider this post anything even close to a review, so I’m assuming this is hunky-dory. [Update] Strike that. They’ve changed their minds and according to the last update, they’ve lifted the embargo entirely. According to the update:
‘The decision to set this originally was not made with any sort of malicious or controlling intent, but rather to keep spoilers to a minimum and give press time to enjoy the game, reflect on it, and write a review without feeling rushed to get it out first.”
I didn’t see it as overly controlling personally, but I’m guessing others did. I agree with keeping spoilers to a minimum, though. I guess the only thing that’s stopping me now is just playing it!
So, anyway, YAY! A new adventure game to prove the world still likes adventure games! Or… at least us older gamers who like to read and explore do, anyway.
I do wonder, though, what the point of truly fiendish puzzles are in this age of Google? Will people appreciate the challenge, when the answers are literally a couple of keystrokes away? Will they make the puzzles so easy that people don’t feel compelled to cheat? If they make it too easy, then what will be the draw to play? Is this why the adventure game is considered “dead” in the first place? I hope not. Not all of us cheat first and play later. This is going to be either the first step in a resurgence, or the last breath of a dead genre.
I may be a little on the old school side, but I hope the adventure game never dies.
P.S. – Update: It looks like Broken Age, Act 1 will be releasing on January 28th fully
(not a long time to post reviews), is currently available for pre-order on Steam, and the trailer has been put back up. Can’t wait to start kicking some ass with Vella!