missing cover art
Cancelled remakeIn 2001, Jaakko Peltonen organized an effort to completely remake Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar with an updated game engine, isometric graphics and symphonic music tracks. The project was abandoned three years later.
DevelopmentIn an interview with Computer Gaming World (Issue #26, March 1986) Richard Garriot states that the original version of the game was rushed for Christmas and therefore playtesting was cut short. In fact, Garriot himself was the only one to complete the game before release.
ExtrasOriginal boxes of Ultima IV included a metal ankh symbol.
Fan patchesAradindae Dragon & Wiltshire Dragon, members of the Ultima Dragons Internet Chapter, have created an upgrade for Ultima IV, adding upgraded 256 color graphics, MIDI sound, and other fixes. See the Links/Searches section for the URL.
There is no music in PC version, but there exist a freeware patch that adds all the music from C-64/Apple versions to play properly with the PC version as MIDI.
Freeware releaseIn order to promote the release of Ultima IX: Ascension, Origin made Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar freeware.
ReferencesSome of the town inhabitants in Ultima IV have the same names as famous historical figures. Or are they really those figures, magically transported to Britannia? For example, in one of the towns you meet a man named Shakespeare. In another one you see a person who looks like a philosopher, and when you ask him his name, he says: "I am Buddha".
VirtuesAt the time of Ultima IV's development, RPGs were undergoing a bashing by right-wing extremists who claimed such fantasy gaming was amoral or downright evil. The concept of the virtues in Ultima IV were partially inspired by Richard Garriott's desire to prove otherwise.
The moral concept of the game was undoubtedly influenced by Buddhism. The number eight that appears in the game constantly (eight virtues, eight character classes, eight party members, etc.) is a sacred number in Buddhism (one of the most important concepts of which are the eight steps on the path to enlightenment). Shrines, meditation, mantras, the total independence of Britannia's moral codex from any supernatural power are all typical attributes of Buddhism. Lastly, the concept of the Avatar is nearly identical to the concept of bodhisattva, the Buddhist ideal person (although the word avatar itself derives from Hinduism and means reincarnation of God).
In an interview with Computer Games Online (www.cdmag.com), Richard Garriott offered some interesting insights about the creation of the virtues for Ultima IV. Here's the excerpt:
I started with a whiteboard and wrote down all of the virtues and vices I could think of, the seven deadly sins, many, many others. Obviously I wanted to talk about a few of these, but I couldn't address them all.
As I did more research, I began to notice things like greed and envy would have some overlap, so I needed to create a core set. You can easily split them up into virtues and vices, and eventually arrived at three primary aspects, which became the principle virtues of Truth, Love and Courage. Truth became Honesty, Love became Compassion, Courage became Valor, and I created the eight possible combinations of these three. Truth tempered by Love became Justice, Love and Courage became Personal Self-sacrifice, Courage and Truth became Chivalric Honor. Truth Love and Courage was kind of arbitrary, so I thought, "What is the all-encompassing virtue?" I said, "Spirituality," whether or not you're doing good or bad deeds in the world.
And what if you do none of the above? If not being virtuous is part of your psyche, I call it pride. Pride is not a virtue, so I decided to use the opposite, Humility. Since the eighth combination created a non-virtue, I began to create bits of pseudo-science I was pretty pleased with.
Ultimas are big in mathematical pseudo-science and alchemy, so I invented the Codex of Ultimate Wisdom to graphically illustrate their relationship. Then I associated the cities with the virtues, with the eighth one - which I called Magincia, the city of Pride - destroyed. Having these seven positive things with one eighth one that had to be flipped made for a nice variety of quests you could create.
Once the eight virtues were created, I needed to come up with quotes that expressed why each was important. And had to think of tests for people to see if they were supporting that virtue. Honesty was easy - I let you cheat shopkeepers and steal things, but the game kept a record where it could, later in the game, come back to haunt you. Just like the real world. Why is it you don't steal from people? Because if you do they'll throw you in jail or disown you. So that's how I designed the game - people will reject you if you're not honest.
So I went virtue by virtue and tried to craft these types of experiences.
- Computer Gaming World
- March 1988 (Issue #45) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #2 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #2 Most Innovative Computer Game
- November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #11 Most Rewarding Ending of All Time
- March 2001 (Issue #200) - #10 Best Game of All Time
- 2001 – #7 Top Game of All Time
- GameStar (Germany)
- Issue 03/2013 – One of the "Ten Best C64 Games“
- Happy Computer
- Issue 04/1987 - #16 Best Game in 1986 (Readers' Vote)
- PC Gamer
- April 2005 - #32 in the "50 Best Games of All Time" list
- Power Play
- Issue 01/1991 - Best Master System Game in 1990