The Ultima series has had an undeniable influence on the RPG genre. Several of the games made innovations that would later become standards such as party-based combat, written narratives to formulate complex stories, and the inclusion of morals and ethics to create consequences for players’ actions. As fans of Ultima will know however, the series spiraled downwards in regards to quality after Electronic Arts bought Origin Systems, Inc., the company behind the games.
EA and BioWare are working on a new Ultima game officially known as Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar. BioWare creative director Paul Barnett was recently interviewed by members of Joystiq and has stated that the upcoming RPG will be both open to casual gamers and free-to-play. According to Barnett, EA and BioWare are exploring a new business model. Players can expect lots of optional items to purchase with real money. The game won’t favor those who have these items however as they’ll strictly be either for showing off or convenience. The more money that the player base sends in the more content that the developers will be to add in.
Despite the game being accessible to casual gamers BioWare is trying to make the game enjoyable to veterans of RPGs and Ultima. Ultima Forever‘s gameplay will be more like the first few Ultima games with more tactical combat requiring proper character positioning, adequate equipment, and skilled usage of abilities. Players will make their way through dungeons in parties of four. Even the story is going to be like how it was in the older games. Players will explore virtues and work on improving them while in the land of Britannia. This reboot of the series won’t be an exact replica of the old games though. Part of BioWare’s reasoning behind Ultima Forever is allowing anyone to enjoy it regardless of whether they played the previous Ultimas or not.
Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar is currently in the alpha stage of testing and will be available on the iPad and PC. Those who are interested in participating in the closed beta can apply at http://ultimaforever.com/signup. For those who want to see Joystiq’s interview with Paul Barnett should go to http://massively.joystiq.com/2012/07/12/eas-paul-barnett-ultima-forever-reboot-is-not-an-mmo/.