DGC Ep 101: Ultima Underworld (part one)

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we are beginning a new series on 1992's immersive sim classic Ultima Underworld. As usual, we situate the game in time a bit and in the Ultima series as a whole, before delving into the first few hours of the game. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Sections played:
Level 1

Podcast breakdown:
0:40    Underworld
54:54  Break
55:22  Feedback

Issues covered: Brett gets hooked, first person game and a lot of clicking, getting over the initial hump, taking a long time to finish a game, 72-hour game benders, epilepsy and flashing, firsts of their kind year, seeing the walls of the design, branching out with the Ultima series, Ultima Worlds of Adventure, adding simulation to the point of view, not being alone in the first-person space, vector wireframe rendering in the first Ultima dungeons, feeling the presence of the developer, exploration of controls, limited verbs in FPSes, free look, overdesigned mouse interface, not reading the manual, coming full circle to analog controls in the modern day, fine-tuning movement, "this will never catch on," clarity in input, instinct was right but implementation was wrong, poll rates, mechanical mice vs optical mice, Trish the Bard, 80s looking character portrait, innovating on taking a thing from world and dragging into the inventory, the Trello of inventory systems, adding too many things to a bag, UX nightmare, convergence game with systems coming together, top-down design vs bottom-up design, RPG differences between player skill and character skill, gesture-based combat, idea to implementation, fewer barriers to implementation, lack of level designers, taking more risks because of lower costs, dark side of games, using a key in a door, verbs and similarity to adventure games, where the three hours went for Brett, fearing dropping something that you'll need later, traipsing all over, jumping difficulty, factions as an underpinning of the underground society, lack of quest log/journal, does dialogue hint at actions you can take, clarity of the rules, fading fortunes of SSI, playing MGS vs remembering MGS, coloring what follows a good moment, CGI cutscenes painting in the player's impressions of fidelity, the legacy of Lara Croft's portrayal, avoiding blind spots through diverse representation in your development team, preferring Twin Snakes.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: The Chronicles of Narnia, Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM, Origin Systems, EA, Ultima (series), Richard Garriott/Lord British, Wizardry, Dungeon Master, Gold Box, Eye of the Beholder, The Bard's Tale, Dark Corners of the Earth, Elder Scrolls (series), Looking Glass Studios, Warren Spector, Doug Church, System Shock, Marc MAHK LeBlanc, Tim Stellmach, Deus Ex, Harvey Smith, Randy Smith, Prey, Dishonoured (series), Paul Neurath, Underworld Ascendant, Dune II, Warcraft, Ultima VII, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Hal Barwood, Ecco the Dolphin, Super Mario Kart, Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil, Flashback, Another World/Out of this World, Martian Dreams, Savage Empire, Quake, Wing Commander, Space Rogue, id Software, Stonekeep, Final Fantasy (series), Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest (series), Ogre, Quake, DOOM 2, Terminator, Planescape: Torment, SoundBlaster, Fallout 2, Elder Scrolls: Arena, SSI, Thief, Kupo1256, Christian Schuster, Metal Gear Solid (series), Fallout 3, Todd Howard, Jonah Lobe, Silent Hill 2, Final Fantasy VII/IX, Travis Grasser, Symphony of the Night, Tomb Raider (2013), Rise of the Tomb Raider, Jason Schreier, Kirk Hamilton, Michael, Final Fantasy XV, Christianne Meister, Skyrim, Jeff Buttaccio, GameCube, MGS: Twin Snakes, Shigeru Miyamoto.

Next time:
Levels 2 and 3

@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub