Ultima IX Interview
If you are curious about some of the gameplay elements to be found in the next Ultima title, this interview should be an enlightening read. Thanks go out to GameFan Online for conducting it.
GameFan: What's the story of Ultima IX?
Seth: Once again the Avatar has been called to Britanna, but this time he is told it will be his last visit. On arrival, our hero learns that his nemesis The Guardian has placed 8 columns throughout the world. These columns are corrupting the 8 virtues...
GameFan: Geographically, how large is the actual gameworld of Britannia?
Seth: Wow, that's a hard one. There is no question that Ascension is as large as the last few Ultimas and probably larger.
GameFan: Since this is the ninth incarnation of the avatar, you would think that he's accumulated some serious wealth and power. When you start the game, do you have any special equipment or powers available, or do you need to start over from scratch again? If so, why?
Seth: How the player answers the virtue questions, determines what skills and items the Avatar begins the game with. Because of the damage the Guardian has done to Britannia, magic as a whole is not working correctly, and thus, the Avatar must learn a new spell system. The spell system in Ultima 7 was based on Spell Circles. In Ultima 8 it was the elements, and in Ascension it's a combination of both.
GameFan: Ultima IX is the first of the series to use a true 3D game engine, how will this impact the game-play and game world?
Seth: It definitely makes the world more immersive. Being able to move anywhere in the world and see everything in 3D really makes the player feel as if they were in the game. It will also require the player to look everywhere in the world for things, not just in front or behind.
GameFan: How many dungeons are in the game? Will they be the same as in previous Ultimas? (i.e. despise etc) If they are the same, in all, how much game time would you speculate a player will be underground?
Seth: There are eight virtue dungeons and two other dungeons. All of the dungeons are very different from each other. Most players will likely spend close to half the game underground.
GameFan: What about the monsters? Will there be any new creatures in U9? Give a few examples.
Seth: Most of the traditional Ultima monsters are in the game such as Dragons, Mimics, and Gargoyles. New creatures include Bandits, Gazers, and the Gargoyle Queen.
GameFan: How advanced is the A.I. for Ultima IX's monsters? Tell us about what it's capable of...
Seth: Monsters have many different types of AI, from straight hack & slash, to Hit & Run, to casting spells.
GameFan: Is there a dungeon beneath the offices at Origin?
Seth: No, although we have a haunted trail behind the office... Richard Garriott does have a dungeon in his house with real skeletons!
GameFan: In many Ultima games, it was almost impossible to win the game without the clue book. At least for me... In U9 will you need the hint book to finish the game in a reasonable period of time?
Seth: Not at all. We have made sure there are plenty of hints throughout the game. Of course there will also be tons of hidden and secret parts that may be difficult to find...
GameFan: What role do the virtues play on your Avatar's development?
Seth: The story revolves around the Avatar helping restore the virtues to the people of Britannia. The Avatar also must follow the virtues, which in turn will help the player. Of course the player that deviates from following the virtues will be punished.
GameFan: Speaking of character development, what type of system does U9 use to measure the Avatar's ascension to greatness?
Seth: The Avatar has 4 main stats, strength, intelligence, dexterity, and weapon level. Each stat has 4 levels. At the beginning of the game, the player will be asked a series of 7 virtue questions. The answers will determine the levels of Strength, Intelligence, and dexterity the player will start with. When the player accomplishes major goals, they will be given the opportunity to raise one of these 3 stats. Weapon level is broken into 5 categories, Fists, One Handed, 2 Handed, Staffs, and Bows. Each weapon has 4 levels, which are gained by training.
GameFan: Does the avatar have companions in U9? How many people can he have in his party? Does the computer control them, or can you do it yourself?
Seth: All of the Avatar's companions play a vital role in the game. Because Ascension is the story of the Avatar, we chose not to have a party. The companions do help the Avatar throughout the game, and even Lord British gets in on the action!
GameFan: Will Ultima IX take advantage of any of the skill-based systems that Ultima Online uses?
Seth: No, the two games are completely different.
GameFan: What type of inventory and equipment system will U9 use?
Seth: The Avatar has a backpack that contains 20 slots. Items that can be taken use up 1 slot. There are also bags in the world that contain 9 slots. The Avatar also has a belt with a set of hot keys, that can hold inventory or spells. Pressing a hot key will "Use" or "Cast" the item in that slot. Equipping is done by dragging the weapon, armor, or item onto the Avatar. This will automatically replace the new item with the old.
GameFan: How many unique Non Player Characters are in the game, how interactive are they?
Seth: There are more than 200 different NPC's...each with full speech. Characters follow schedules, with some only appearing at certain times. Characters also talk with each other and fight each other.
GameFan: What type of magic system for spell casting will be in U9?
Seth: Magic can be used in three different ways. Spells that are cast from the Spell Book, Scrolls, and Potions. Before a spell can be cast, it must be bound into the Spell Book, which requires a scroll and reagents. Potions can be found, purchased or created.
GameFan: How many magic items are in the game? Will there be a random magic item generator, or is each magic item "hand crafted"?
Seth: There are close to 100 different magical items (weapons, armor, scrolls, etc..), and each is "hand crafted."
GameFan: One of the coolest spells in any of the Ultimas was the Automaton (sp?) spell. Will you be able to summon creatures to serve as followers in U9?
Seth: The Avatar has a Summon Undead spell that will summon undead creatures to fight. The Avatar can also learn Charm, which causes creatures to fight by your side for a limited amount of time.
GameFan: How's Ultima IX shaping up? The game has been delayed some time, will the wait be worth it in the end?
Seth: Ascension will DEFINITELY be worth the wait. Right now we a few weeks from finishing. We believe this is the best Ultima ever and fans new and old won't be disappointed.
GameFan: When will Ultima IX be released?
Seth: Fall - Before Christmas!
Source: GameFan Online