Gather close while thou art briefed on what changes hast transpired since last thou quested forth.
It’s been a week since I wrote my last article explaining what exactly Ultimore is, and what an incredibly week it has been! ‘Recovery’ is definitely the key word this week and I have for you a number of tales dear reader, from the mundane to the miraculous.
The Recovery of ‘A World Divided’
I have spent the last week traveling the wild lands of Sosaria, slaying foul creatures, exploring the murky depths of dungeons, and bravely going where few have tread before.
I streamed the more ‘exciting’ part of these adventures on my Twitch and intend to edit these streams down into a much more digestible Youtube video in the near future. I’ve mapped all but one town, two castles, and a handful of dungeons.
Whether through a corrupted disk image, an incompatibility with the version of Ultima III I’m using, or a flaw in the original map design I managed to hit another game halting snag whilst exploring the realm of Ambrosia beyond the whirlpool.
A pirate ship spawns in the North West of the map, designed to accost the player once they reach the coast, be captured, and then used to reach the Shrine of Intelligence where the Card of Moons resides. Without it adventurers cannot defeat Exodus.
Unfortunately said pirate ship can never reach the player. It will always get ‘stuck’ on the terrain, never reaching the player.
For a time I worried.
Salvation came in the form of the ‘Ultima III: Exodus Construction Set’ created and released by Dan Gartung in 1984. Images of this disk can be found online and with it (after spending some time learning how to use the software) I was able to pluck the problem ship from the waters and move it a short distance East where it would now be able to reach land and engage the heroes.
This simple ‘fix’ indeed worked and I was able to continue my journey and claim the Card of Moons, while also improving my Wizards intelligence to 99 of course.
Elsewhere in Ambrosia a mountain pass was closed and an area unreachable. It appeared to me that it was originally intended to be accessible and that again either through bug, incompatibility, or design error it no longer was. Again I opened the Construction Kit and this time changed a single mountain tile to a grass tile, allowing access to the hidden valley.
It’s my intention to go through all the maps once I’ve completed the game and fix any ‘problems’ like this. To be fair they are very far and few between, but some will break the game. I will then upload a revised disk image with the fixes in place so that others do not need to edit maps themselves or resort to save game editors to bypass the problem.
The Recovery of ‘Egypt’
I mentioned in my previous article that it was Tobias Hübner who was responsible for recovering and sharing the “Ultimore: Egypt” scenario in December of last year.
I caught up with him via Twitter for a little Q&A as I could only imagine how exciting it would have been to find the lost scenario.
When did you first play the Ultima games? Which one specifically? What platform (Apple/PC/C64)?
My first Ultima was Ultima Underworld, which I played on my i486 SX with 25 Mhz. A friend of mine had a physical copy of the game and I still remember how impressed I was by all the content in the box like the rune stones in a bag, the map and the beautiful hint book. But I think I didn’t make it past the second level, because I was 12 years old and couldn’t speak English.
20 years later, I came across an old Apple IIe, that was supposed to land in the trash. I love old technology, so I picked it up, and it worked just fine. I then started reading more about this computer and since then, I’m an Apple II enthusiast. Of course, one of the first things I was looking for this old machine, was games. I read, that the first five Ultimas were developed on an Apple II and I was curious if these games are still fun to play.
One thing came to another and I started collecting all Ultima games, which turned out to be quite difficult. It took me several years, until I got all from I to IX for a reasonable price.
When did you first hear about ‘Ultimore’?
As I said, I’m a collector of Ultima games and so I regularly go on eBay and look for a good deal. About a year ago, I was looking for the Ultima III hint book, which is very hard to find, and came across a copy of Ultima III with the hint book inside. It wasn’t even mentioned in the title, I guess the person selling this copy wasn’t aware that the hint book wasn’t a part of the original game. Then I saw a photograph of some loose disks, that were also in the package. This is quite common, because you had to make a backup copy of the Player Disk before you could play the game. But then I read the name “Ultimore” on one of the disks, Googled it and read, that these games were an unofficial add-on for Ultima III. I also read, that the “A World Divided” scenario was the only one, that anyone ever played in the past 30 years or so, all others were missing.
How did you acquire the disk with the two ‘Ultimore’ scenarios?
So of course, I bought the game on eBay. I live in Germany and the seller was from the US, so it took a few weeks until the game arrived. At that time, I was a beta tester for the “Nox Archaist” game. It’s an homage to Ultima, programmed to run on the original Apple II hardware. That’s why I got in contact with a lot of Apple II enthusiasts, who I asked about Ultimore and one of them actually knew more about it. He told me, that somebody once tried to contact the creator Joel Fenton in order to get all the games, but didn’t succeed.
What was your feelings and/or thought when you acquired/discovered the disk?
It was really exciting to put the disk in my Apple IIe and see that it actually worked. If you buy a 35-year old floppy disk, it’s not unusual if it doesn’t work anymore. After having played the game for some time, I wondered how I could make a backup to my computer. To cut a long story short, I had to buy a CFFA3000 expansion card in order to do that. Those, who are familiar with the Apple II, know, that it’s very hard to find and stupidly expensive. Luckily I had a friend in the US, who helped me out and sold me his card for a very low price. After that, I could make the images in a few seconds and upload them on the internet.
How extensively have you played ‘A World Divided’ and ‘Egypt’? What are your thoughts on these unofficial scenarios?
I must confess that I’ve never finished them. I was just wandering around the towns and dungeons, but never had the time to draw maps. I still haven’t finished all the Ultima games, so that is what I want to do first. But I definitely want to play them in the future.
Of the remaining three scenarios – ‘Pirate World’, ‘Spaceship Crash’, and ‘Rule of the Slave Lords’ what would you most like to see ‘found’ and play next?
I guess “Spaceship Crash” sounds the most interesting, maybe because I always loved the Science Fiction parts in Ultima I & II or the Kilrathi spaceship in Ultima VII.
The Recovery of Ultimore and Wizimore
Of course I had to attempt to contact the original Ultimore designer Joel Fenton. At worst he would ignore me, but at best he might be inclined to agree with me that now is the time to share and preserve this slice of video game history.
I wrote him an email.
Joel informed me that every few years somebody comes knocking on his door regarding the Ultimore/Wizimore games. He confirmed that he still has original Apple II floppies with all of the scenarios on them, and that he would like to have them converted to disk images, now being the time to do so.
He is willing to share copies of his scenarios.
This means that the three lost Ultimore and two lost Wizimore scenarios should be in the hands of gamers the world over in the near future. Ideally if we can get copies of these disks in the hands of Tobias he can convert them to images with his CFFA3000. Joel may have his own method. Either way a solution will no doubt be found.
Joel is also in possession of a number of original documents, hand-drawn maps, product catalogue’s and potentially more. Hopefully we can get these scanned and shared as well.
Joel went on to share a few anecdotes with me about his time making and selling the Ultimore and Wizimore games in the 80’s, however I think it best if we save the bulk of that for a much thorough and longer article. However Joel did have this particular tidbit that I think you may find amusing –
I did have brief communication with Richard Garriott while I was selling these discs in the mid-80s. As I recall, both Sir-Tech and Origin sent me checks to buy copies of the game. Robert Garriott was the one who sent me the request and signed the check. Lord British did write back to me in a friendly way, only chiding me about my use of the Serpent (as drawn by his mother Helen, I believe) in clip art in my documentation or catalog. I removed the Serpent artwork from my material per his request. I should have the letter somewhere. I’m sure he doesn’t remember it at all but I was quite impressed as a 17 or 18 year old kid.Joel Fenton (Email)
I think it would be incredibly cool to have Joel and Richard in a Zoom chat sometime in the near future, don’t you? It appears that the moons have aligned in a favourable configuration of late so who knows what is possible!
So What Now?
The time of thy rest is now o’er. Thou wouldst not be here if thou hadst not heard the distant braying of the war horns, or felt in thy blood the cry of kinsmen in dire peril. Thou art Called, and from such a Calling none of the People may turn aside. It is thy duty and thy destiny.
Now, dear reader, we wait a little more. I will continue to play and map “A World Divided” I am nearing completion of this epic quest and feel I will likely complete it this week, hopefully on stream. Once that is done I intend to put together a ZIP file with the original disk image, the original game documentation, my modified disk image which includes map fixes, all of my maps in PNG format, a companion PDF discussing each location, plus the original Excel spreadsheet I made the maps in so you can modify them yourself.
Meanwhile I’ll continue to correspond with Joel and Tobias in regards to recovering the remaining lost scenarios, and of course any documentation, maps, and images that Joel kind find.
I intend to touch base with FractalMindMike and see if he or his friends have had any luck reverse engineering the disk images. Failing that if they or someone else is able to create a ‘Construction Kit’ for the PC version of Ultima III then I/they/you/someone/anyone could take the images of the maps from the Apple II versions of the game and recreate them for the PC. I still believe the PC version would be the best way to distribute Ultimore and Wizimore simply because you can buy the games still on GOG. Well, Ultima at least.
Tobias also suggested spreading the word a littler further and louder, I believe he may reach out to ‘Retro Gamer’ magazine. He is absolutely right of course, my tiny little blog isn’t going to get the word out there in any meaningful way. It’s amazing just how many ardent Ultima fans don’t know of Ultimore, myself included until only recently.
Thy task before thee is not easy – Spread the word of Ultimore (and Wizimore) far and wide!