The summer of Ultima VI

Ultima 6 Gypsy

My brother & I alternated answering the gypsy's made for an interesting Avatar!

When I was a kid, my whole life was turned upside down when my parents divorced (don’t worry…this isn’t going to be a “my parents never loved me” kind of post). It was a series of typical events that I’m sure many of you can relate to, so I won’t delve into the superfluous details. Suffice it to say that my father ended up getting his own apartment, and my brother, Jasen and I were subjugated to required weekend visits twice a month. There wasn’t a whole lot to do during the weekends we spent with our father. He wasn’t exactly what you’d call a “hands-on” kinda dad, and would mostly spend his time locked away in his bedroom watching TV, leaving my brother and I to our own devices.

While we did have a Nintendo console, it remained chained to the single television which was usually in my dad’s control. However, there was an old IBM x286 that sat in a relatively empty office room, and somehow that became the center of our world during those weekends. There were two of us and only one computer, and miraculously, instead of fighting over it (which we were prone to do), we learned to compromise and share.

One of the few games that we had at our immediate disposal was Ultima VI: The False Prophet. Jasen and I quickly devised a system of game play that satisfied us both. He being older (by a year and a half) would be the captain and I would be the navigator. This meant that he actually got to control the game, while I sat next to him and helped steer the course. Four days out of every month would find us sitting in our respective chairs; my brother at the helm and myself to his right, clutching a pen and notebook as we immersed ourselves in the world of Britannia.

Ultima VI did not have an in-game map, quest journal, nor any of the other features that you find in today’s games. When entering dialogue with NPC’s, certain words would be flagged in red that indicated more information would be available on that topic. If you weren’t paying attention, it could be relatively easy to miss something good. But thankfully, there were two sets of eyes and we rarely missed anything. One of my jobs was to catalog all of the topic keywords, while my brother typed them in. I coordinated our quests, while Jasen guided the Avatar through them. When we entered a dungeon, I dutifully sketched maps of the area so we wouldn’t get lost, while my brother controlled the combat with the various dungeon inhabitants.

This might sound tedious to some folks, but for me, it was a hell of a lot of fun. And although I didn’t realize it, or truly comprehend this until much later in life, I really learned some valuable things that summer, hovering around a computer screen. Through our cooperative method, I honed the keen attention to detail that I’ve carried with me throughout my life. I got to spend time with my big brother (who I secretly idolized, even though he gave me indian burns and endless noogies). To top it all off, I soaked in the abstract concepts of teamwork and compromise, and working together to achieve something.

In time, we beat the game, and our temporary alliance would end. That summer brought a truce between siblings who were often at odds with one another, although adulthood thankfully brought the growing pains of sibling rivalry to a close. And I can definitely look back now and count those hours spent gaming with my brother as one of my most fun, and most memorable gaming experiences of all time.

I’d love to hear about your favorite gaming moments, so please feel free to take a moment and drop a comment below. Happy gaming!


Posted on August 14, 2011, in Legacy Games, Opinion, PC, Ultima and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I come from a tabletop RPG background. As such, I would have to rate my first trip to Gen Con as one of my favorite gaming memories. It was just a matter of sensory overload.

    It was like walking into Disney World for the first time. Everywhere you looked, something was going on. The people were all very friendly and engaging, just a really pleasant atmosphere.

    As for PC games, I’d have to pick the first week that I played World of Warcraft. I had loved the RTS game so I picked it up on a whim. About 20 minutes into it, I knew it was going to be something completely different.

    My gf at the time wasn’t much of a gamer but she kept looking over my shoulder and wanting to give it a shot. I think we took shifts of 4 hours on and 4 hours off that whole weekend (only had 1 computer in the house). We were like little kids.

  2. Great story! I felt so nostalgic reading it. I had a similar experience playing the old Ultima games with my two older brothers. We traded off who would control. Drawing maps and taking notes added so much to the feeling of adventure and exploration without the handholding that is standard for games these days.

    And then there was the “fun” part of getting some of those old DOS games to work. Making sure there was enough conventional memory and XMS or EMS to run both the game and a mouse driver, and later the sound card and CDROM. The troubleshooting skills I learned then have definitely served me well in life.

    • Thanks for the comment, and glad I could bring back the pleasant memories for you. I had a sense of nostalgia when writing this post, and I wish I could find those notebooks with our scribbled notes and dungeon maps.

      And yes, you nailed it with the troubleshooting skills! It took so much more effort in the old days to install & configure games back then. Makes me appreciate the relative simplicity of app installation now!

  3. Outside of hoghing the keyboard 😉 i believe most memorable piece of U6 was having iuse Sherry the mouse to get one of the runes. Believe it was rune of justice but that part of grey matter is probably gone.

    Oh and i loved the graphics in this game. Tile based rpgs are still much better than modern rpgs but im sure im dating myself.

    • Ha! I forgive you for hogging the keyboard, didn’t you get that part? Lol

      Yes! Sherry & the cheese…that was very memorable. I loved the cheeky reference to that in U7.

      You aren’t dating yourself by loving tile based RPGs. There was something about that era of gaming that hasn’t been duplicated in today’s age. Not to say that modern games aren’t great…but every time I go back to the classics, I still get that same thrill of playing them as I did all those years ago.

  4. 2D games are just pretty. It’s like looking at a bunch of composited paintings. You see what the artists wanted you to see. You can’t walk up to something and put your face in it and think, “Wow that looked good from far away, but now I see it’s just a bunch of straight lines with horridly compressed images pasted onto triangles.”

    I don’t really care how much technology advances, there will always be a place for 2D (or 2.5D for hybrids) graphics in games.

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