Ultima VII is One Giant Reference to How Terrible Electronic Arts Is

Ultima 7

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.

Ultima 7, Guardian, EA

— 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.

Ultima 7, Elizabeth and Abraham

— 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 —

Inamo, Ultima 7, EAOne 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?

DMazd0DWsAALzwO

// Ocho

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.

Richard Garriott, EA, Origin

9 thoughts on “Ultima VII is One Giant Reference to How Terrible Electronic Arts Is

    • This is true. At the time, they were game changers. Today, their problems are too glaring. Even U7, the best of the series: the combat has nothing to do with the player, inventory management is ridiculous, and the story is very convoluted with no method of tracking it in-game. Still, at the time, the openness and world made it feel like Skyrim.

      Like

      • Even the controls drove me insane. I tried playing one of the early-early ones I got for free from GOG, and everything was mapped to a letter that may or may not be the first letter of the command.

        It’s just wildly different from today where you only use a handful of keyboard buttons!

        Like

      • I think the U7 style of inventory was really immersive and genius for its time! I loved having to dig and sift through badly organized bags as I would in real life, or be rewarded for meticulously organizing my inventory. With combat, I think that is another by-product of the era but it doesn’t do it badly either. You manage your stats and gear and even party tactics in a statistical manner with some intervention from the spell book.

        I still encourage gamers of this new generation to at least give it a shot using the Exult engine!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Honestly, I feel as though if you’re looking for combat in Ultima VII, you’re missing the point.

        Why are you youf always about moidah, anyways? Kill this. Kill that. Kill the other. don’t stop to question whether it actually deserves to die in the first place because you’re too busy stabbin’ its bleedin’ eyes out. Where’s the consideration, the rumination, the basic instinct to investigate first?

        INVESTIGATION, you see! That’s what Ultima VII was about. So many secrets to discover through talking to people, exploring, snooping in people’s homes, and whatnot.

        – I found a pretty fox wearing a bow that compels him to tell the truth about how beautiful he is. Oh aye, bloody narcissist. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found a unicorn in a cave that liked me because I was a virgin. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found a secret woods with a horny fairy who wouldn’t stop hitting on me. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found a Laurel & Hardy parody that’s mining materials to make a “tough crown” for Lord British because things keep falling on his head, then later accidentally killed him by reading a sign he was walking beneath (it fell on his head). That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found I could saunter into a baker’s and make pastries from scratch, much to the aforementioned baker’s annoyance. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I discovered I could follow a bank clerk home, steal her keys, and rob a bank. Then I found I could kill her to get even more keys, rob even more of the bank, and then take her to Lord British and have her resurrected so she can convert all the gold bars I just stole to coin. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found a crashed spaceship that was piloted by a Kilwrathi from Wing Commander, the poor beast was discovered and eaten by a local farmer that everyone believes is crazy for talking about sky chariots. Too lazy, or scared, to even drop by his farm and take a look. If they did, they’d hear some Wing Commander music play. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found a parody of Star Trek: The Next Generation in Serpent’s Hold, where everyone was an analogue of those characters. Right down to a gargoyle named Gorf and a man named Denton who’s never seen outside of his armour.
        – I hit a parrot with a gavel and learned the coordinates of some treasure, then used a sextant to go seek out that treasure. Which lead to a voice clip playing that sounded like it was backwards. Upon further inspection, it was. It was the guardian proclaiming “I am the pagan king!” That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found that the aforementioned crazy farmer took his hoe to a wizard to get it enchanted and ended up with a very dangerous hoe indeed thanks to an ailing old eccentric wizard. He’d locked it up in his shed and lost the key in a nearby lake, and sure I could go fishing for it there but why bother when I can use a keg of gunpowder to blow up the shed? That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found a flying carpet, then I found that I could load crates onto it and proceeded to half-inch every item in the land. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found I could stack those crates to reach secret areas in the game by making crate staircases. One of them being a secret area that has every item in the game and leads to the final confrontation, meaning one could technically complete the game in under five minutes. That’s Ultima VII.
        – I found out I could steal diapers and throw them at people, which would have them freak out and flee (who wants dirty diapers flung at them)? I found out that I could force enemies to drink sleeping potions. I found out that BOTH of these tactics work on DRAGONS, allowing one to 100 per cent the game with no unnecessary murders whatsoever. That’s Ultima VII!

        It’s about mystery, exploration, and the sheer joy and catharsis of discovery and interaction. It’s as much about combat as Portal is. I mean, if you’re playing Portal for the combat, you’re doing something incredibly wrong. That’s not a difficult thing to grasp, is it? The same is true for Ultima VII. That you CAN engage in combat doesn’t mean you should.

        What do you do if a crocodile is chasing you? YOU THROW DIRTY DIAPERS AT THEM!

        It’s a pity that other approaches to gameplay are so snubbed these days by youf who turn their noses up at anything other than a whole lot of MDK. I mean, look at Fallout 2. A quest to arrest a mob boss that can be completed in lots of ways. Sure you could murder the mob boss, or you could pickpocket a listening device onto him (or sneak into his home and put it in one of his cabinets). Then you could charismatically convince him that you wish to join his illicit organisation of ne’er-do-wells, dastardly vagabonds, and edgy accountants. This bout of chicanery resulting in evidence for his arrest, of course!

        But no… We have to see clouds of red mist, heads exploding, and whatever else the youf of today are into. Is this a worldwide conspiracy of some sort? Are the Illuminati pumping avocado toast full of testosterone and bile?

        Like

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  2. nice review. So much wasted potential from EA about Ultima (and Wing Commander too for that matter). And the links to spoony’s videos? priceless.
    Thanks !

    Like

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