[In which I discuss that I’m an Ultima fanboy and how that inspires my RPGs]
I’ve been talking a lot about the Ultima VII games these last couple of weeks when pitching project E to the press. I happily abused them to explain where a lot of my inspiration was coming from, and what aspirations we have with our new game.
While talking about Ultima VII, it unfortunately dawned on me again that I’m really not that young anymore. Apparently half the journalists had never played any of the Ultima games, and several of them had never even heard about them.
I was a bit shocked by this, because to me that was like a fantasy book reviewer saying that he’d never heard about Tolkien. Of course, if you think about it, it does makes sense. Most of these guys were still trying to figure out if Optimus Prime really existed when it was first released, yet for some reason that hadn’t occurred to me.
That didn’t dissuade me from talking about it though. I consider Ultima VII: The black gate and Ultima VII: Serpent Isle to be among the best RPGs ever made, and in my mind there’s not been a single RPG since 1992 that surpassed them, including those now considered to be the industry benchmarks.
So why was I talking about Ultima VII so much ?
Well, for one, I was trying to explain that when making the first Divinity, my goal was to recreate the feeling I experienced when I played these Ultima games.
The Ultima games gave me a feeling I had never experienced before: that of totally being immersed in a world created by someone else. They were also the games that really got me into this business. I remember vividly the moment where I said to myself – right, this is what I want to do.
Ever since I started making RPG’s, I’ve been looking to recreate for other people the same experience I had with Ultima VII – it really is my drive. Now, in my mind I never succeeded in this but if I can believe the reviews and the fanmails, apparently Divine Divinity somehow struck the same chord for a lot of people. Which was quite motivating of course. The knowledge that even a subset of the original ambitions managed to satisfy players implied that if ever we succeeded in realizing the vision behind those ambitions, we might very well have a very big hit on our hands.
But as it happened, after the first Divinity, I lost track a bit – Beyond Divinity definitely wasn’t as good as Divine Divinity, and I always regretted making that one, even if it got ok reviews. Then the second mistake was made – the joys of console development steered Divinity II far away from the original idea, and so many compromises were made in that game that what shipped was but a shadow of what I had envisioned it to be.
While some of that was rectified it with the release of Divinity II: Dragon Knight Saga, in truth there are only a few gameplay moments in there that come close to the reason I set up this company.
So I explained to the journalists that with project E, I wanted to rectify that. When I’ll be playing the final version of project E, I hope that I’m going to get my Ultima VII vibe back, the method being recreating all of the values present in these masterpieces, and then taking it one step further.
Exactly how we intend to this you’ll discover soon enough, that means latest within a couple of weeks though I expect the news will break sooner. I’m quite nervous about how you all will react,because you’ll see we’re taking some risks, but you’ll also notice that we’ll be on very familiar ground. And you’ll also discover that project E really was a misnomer, it should be project D, but we had that one already 😉