U is for Ultima

U

 

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: Ultima Online (UO) is an MMORPG set in the Ultima universe. A spin-off of the main series, it has become an unexpected hit, making it one of the earliest and longest-running successful MMORPGs of all time.

Ultima Online is the product of Richard Garriott‘s idea for a fantasy game involving several thousand people who can all play in a shared fantasy world. Prior games allowed hundreds of people to play at the same time, including Habitat (beta-tested in 1986), The Realm OnlineNeverwinter Nights (the AOL version) and Meridian 59; however, Ultima Online significantly outdid these games, both graphically and in-game mechanics.

Release Date: September 24, 1997

Developer: Origin Systems

Genre/gameplay mechanics: continued the tradition of previous Ultima games in many ways, but due to advancing technology and the simple fact that it was Origin’s first persistent online game, many new game mechanics appeared. Partially designed as a social and economic experiment, the game had to account for widespread player interaction as well as deal with the tradition of players feeling as if they were the centre of attention, as had been the case in single-player games. It is also known for its extensive PvP combat system.

Setting: Ultima Online began with a single world, with specific expansion packs adding additional territory and new worlds. Felucca, the original world, evolved to include dead trees and tombstones to distinguish. It has a harsher rule set where player killing is more common. The third world of Trammel did not allow player killing and was geared towards fighting monsters. Felucca adopted a darker, more foreboding look and kept its player vs player roots. The worlds were called Felucca and Trammel, after the two moons in Ultima’s Britannia world.

Storytelling: Its lore retconned the ending of Ultima I, stating that when the Stranger shattered the Gem of Immortality, he discovered that it was tied to the world itself, therefore its shards each contained a miniature version of Britannia. The player characters in Ultima Online exist on these “shards”.  From that moment of shattering, their histories diverged and each ‘shard’ became home to their own unique people, places, and traditions. There are different guilds and different player organizations on each.

Releases + Expansions:

Since its release, Ultima Online has added eight expansion packs, a booster pack and dozens of free content updates. The release of Ultima Online: Kingdom Reborn in 2007 brought a new game engine with upgraded visuals.

Formats: Microsoft Windows, Linux

Origins (Chronological):

  1. June 1981 – the release of Ultima, later known as Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness or simply Ultima I, was created by Richard Garriott and first published in the United States by California Pacific Computer Company Since its release, the game has been completely re-coded and ported to many different platforms. The 1986 re-code of Ultima is the most commonly known and available version of the game.
  2. 1979 – Akalabeth is considered the first published Computer Role Playing Game. In the fall, Garriott entered the University of Texas at Austin, and later joined the Society for Creative Anachronism. He created Ultima I while at the university. It was published by California Pacific Computers and sold in Ziploc plastic bags, as was common in those days. While not explicitly stated, Akalabethis seen as the first game of the Ultima series, and was, therefore, included as part of the 1998 Ultima Collection where it officially picked up the nickname Ultima 0.
  3. In creating Akalabeth, Garriott was primarily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, for which he held weekly sessions in his parents’ house while in high school; and the works of J R. R. Tolkien, which he received from an in-law of his brother.
  4. The name derives from Tolkien’s Akallabêth, part of The Silmarillion; though the game is not based on Tolkien’s story. In the original game, the last monster on the need-to-kill list is called “Balrog”, like the demonic monsters from The Lord of the Rings, and unlike the later name for the monster in the Ultima games, Balron.

Ultima

Adaptations set in the ‘Ultima’ universe – beyond the extensive video game series:

  1. NOVELS – Several novels were released under the Ultima name, including: The Forge of Virtue (1991) by Lynn Abbey; The Temper of Wisdom (1992); Ultima: The Technocrat War by Austen Andrews; Machinations (2001); Masquerade (2002); Maelstrom (2002)
  2. JAPAN – Three manga comics, an Ultimasoundtrack CD, two kinds of wrist watches, a tape dispenser, a pencil holder, a board game, a jacket, and a beach towel were released. There was also an Ultima anime cartoon.

Recommendation: According to an Origin employee, Electronic Arts initially expected a maximum of 15,000 subscribers for Ultima Online. Between Ultima Online‘s launch on September 25 and November 13, the game sold 65,000 units. In Japan, its initial shipment of 5,000 units had sold out within 15 minutes. Origin announced that it was the company’s fastest-selling title ever, and the fastest-selling online-only computer game of all time. Ultima Online reached 150,000 simultaneously subscribers by February 2000.

Alternative ‘U’ thoughts:

U is also for the 1995 movie Usual Suspects

 

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

 

 

L is for Lord Of The Rings

L

The aim of my Blogging From A to Z Challenge is to find the origins of online games, some relatively modern and some with ancient roots. Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling. A perfect excuse for a writer to delve a little deeper.

[Visit here for links to other A to Z participants.]

Game: LOTRO or The Lord of the Rings Online is an engrossing MMORPG set in Middle-earth, the high-fantasy universe based upon J. R. R. Tolkien‘s writings.

Release Date: April 24, 2007

Developer: Turbine

Genre/gameplay mechanics: MMORPG mechanics with special features such as traits, deeds and reputation; PVE and PvMP (Player vs Monster Player); avatar selected from six races and ten classes; evolving/learnable skills; questing through virtual game-world; six-player Fellowships (groups); Kinships (clans); crafting; housing; musical instruments, festivals.

Setting: 25 distinct and semi-realistic regions of Middle Earth during the time period of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR). Each Region of Middle-earth is represented as being permanently “frozen” at a certain point in time. For example, it is always September of the Year 3018 of the Third Age in the Shire, December 3018 in Rivendell, February 3019 in Lothlórien, etc.

Storytelling: The player starts simultaneously with Frodo and company leaving The Shire and their actions on the Epic Quest Line (main storyline) are helping the Ringbearer on his task, while combating the forces of evil. These are extra events created by the makers of the game but based on LOTR lore. Throughout, the player interacts with characters from The LOTR at key moments. Standard side-quests are new stories.

The game’s milieu is based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, the developers do not have rights to any other works in Tolkien’s legendarium, such as The Silmarillion, but intend to develop their interpretation of the Middle Earth world.

Releases + Expansions: In addition to regular free updates, six expansion packs have been released:

– Mines of Moria: 2008 – this expansion featured the underground world of Dwarrowdwelf.

– Siege of Mirkwood: 2009 – introduced Mirkwood region and the skirmish system.

– Rise of Isengard: 2011 – introduced Dunland region and new instances in Isengard.

– Riders of Rohan: 2012 – featured mounted combat and introduced East Rohan.

– Helm’s Deep: 2013 – introduced “epic battles” and a new region in Rohan (West Rohan).

– Mordor: – 2017 after three years of minor free updates. It introduced Plateau of Gorgoroth region and new instances in Mordor.

Formats: Microsoft Windows and OS X

Origins (Chronological) – :

  1. Published in three volumes over the course of a year from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955, J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.  Although a major work in itself, the story was only the last movement of a larger epic Tolkien had worked on since 1917, in a process he described as mythopoeia. In 2003, it was named Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in the BBC’s The Big Read.
  2. 1937 – The Lord of the Rings started as a sequel to J. R. R. Tolkien’s work The Hobbit, published by George Allen & Unwin.
  3. 1936 – “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf. Tolkien also revealed how highly he regarded the poem: “Beowulf is among my most valued sources”, and this influence may be seen throughout his Middle-earth legendarium Plus, reading the lecture in my teens was my first encounter with the Professor.
  4. 1920-1959 – LOTRencompasses many influences, including religious and mythological sources from Tolkien’s academic studies and from personal experiences.
  5. The Völsunga saga is a legendary saga, a late 13th-century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan featuring, in particular, a magical golden ring and a broken sword re-forged.
  6. 1220 – The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger EddaSnorri’s Edda often assumed to have been written, or at least compiled, by the Icelandic scholar, lawspeaker and historian Snorri Sturluson. Tolkien’s Elves and Dwarves are by and large based on these and related sagas.
  7. 9th-11th century – The influence of the Welsh language, which Tolkien had learned, is summarized in his essay English and Welsh: “If I may once more refer to my work. The Lord of the Rings, in evidence: the names of persons and places in this story were mainly composed on patterns deliberately modelled on those of Welsh (closely similar but not identical). This element in the tale has given perhaps more pleasure to more readers than anything else in it.”
  8. 10th century – Beowulf one of the most important works of Old English literature. A date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. Tolkien was a Professor of Old English/Anglo-Saxon and Middle English language and literature, and this literature, particularly Beowulf, influenced his own writings.
  9. A final question: was Tolkien creating a new mythology or building on others? See – Simon J Cook’s J R R Tolkien’s Lost English Mythology.

Adaptations set in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe – (Middle-earth would be too numerous):

  1. FILMS – Three film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings have been made. The first was The Lord of the Rings (1978), by animator Ralph Bakshi, the first part of what was originally intended to be a two-part adaptation of the story. The second, The Return of the King (1980), was a television special by Rankin-Bass. The third was director Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, released in three instalments as The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
  2. TELEVISION – there has been a Swedish TV series and a Finnish one. Amazon is reputed to be developing an adaptation with Warner Bros. Television and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien.
  3. STAGE – several adaptations have been made including musicals.
  4. AUDIO – over a dozen recordings and radio plays have been made, notably the BBC broadcast dramatisation in 26 half-hour instalments. It starred Ian Holm as Frodo Baggins, the protagonist; he would play Bilbo Baggins, his character’s cousin/uncle, in the Peter Jackson films.
  5. VIDEO GAMES – over two dozen games have been produced including The Lord of the Rings Online. The two most recent are: 2011 – Lord of the Rings: War in the North is an action RPG that takes place in Northern Middle-earth; 2014 – Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is an action RPG – with a sequel, titled Middle-earth: Shadow of War in 2017.

LOTRO_Isengard

Recommendation: The Lord of the Rings Online received wide universal acclaim on release, and positive reviews continued to appear after the game’s release. For instance, GameDaily awarded the game 9/10, praising its rich, fantasy-themed universe, well-integrated trait and title system, and a story that remains true to the works of Tolkien. Metacritic gave the game 86% (40 reviews). See also: MMORPG.com, and MMOS.com.

However, the release in July 2017 of the Mordor expansion received largely negative reviews, and there are signs in its eleventh year of operation of burn-out.  But the game has a staunch core following and Middle Earth is still populated. This interesting in-depth 2017 analysis at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_j22DC4axaQ gives the pros and cons.

4.7 Stars: My partner and I have played The Lord of the Rings Online since 2011, for a time in an active kinship and more recently on-and-off, especially for festivals. Great soundtrack and setting make it enjoyable. Classes and races give enough variety. For me, this is the nearest I can come to being in Middle-earth – interacting with Frodo and Elrond were highlights. Lore is very true to Tolkien with acceptable developments within the restrictions of rights. There’s a huge world to explore and we have yet to visit everywhere. Nor have we tackled the end-game grind that we have been warned about.

  1. Setting: 4.75*
  2. Storyline: 5*
  3. Gameplay: 4*
  4. Entertainment: 4.75*
  5. Genesis: 5*

Alternative ‘L’ thoughts:

L is also for Lagaan, a superb Hindi movie that I highly recommend, even if it’s very long at 225 minutes – drama, romance, cricket and so much more.

 

Enter this portal to reach other Worlds in my A2ZMMORPG

Hela da

 

 

Adaptations Unmasked

atoz-theme-reveal-2018

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal – #AtoZChallenge #ThemeReveal

When I discovered that it was A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal day, I had been relaxing for my day oblivious to the work ahead.

I hadn’t even remembered to sign-up – well, in fact, my thoughts were still drifting around what I scribbled down after 2017’s challenge. I had a list of places in North Wales that were linked to my Welsh detective series.

Change of plan. I’m heavily into the rewrite of my first Welsh mystery. Do I need to get deeper into my world, or do I need a distraction? I have that: reading other books, watching movies, and gaming. Three more lists began to emerge – and a link.

The Lord of the Rings: a book – a re-visited trilogy, great movie adaptations and an immersive game. All firm favourites.

And LOTRO is not the only game with roots (or cuttings) – Conan, Star Wars, Tomb Raider, and the Welsh medieval masterpiece, The Mabinogion.

So, my theme might be ‘gaming’ in inspiration, but its roots are ancient. Do all games have such roots? What about other adaptations? Gaming might well be a modern take on an art that is almost timeless – storytelling.

Where did Shakespeare borrow his tales from? Who is re-telling his?

And how about testing your wits against The Bard: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/ng-interactive/2014/apr/23/beat-the-bard-shakespeares-characters-fight-it-out-in-our-interactive-game

That’s all folks. I’m off to do my research – there are a few letters to find. X is okay but what about Q?

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UPDATE: Tuesday, 20th March 2018.

Apologies, yesterday I forgot to link this post to the main Blogging from A to Z Challenge page so readers could find out more about this amazing annual event. So, today I am adding some links in the hope that helps explain more than I have.

I’m switching off for now as my brain is getting overloaded and confused = short-circuiting, stress time. (I hate MonSters and losing my Spoons.)

a2z-h-small

Lord of the Lists

At the end of August, as part of the Indy Block Party, I posted my Top 5 Books – in fact Top 6 as the Infinite Improbability Drive was playing up as usual.  I had a feeling that another Blog was creeping up on me and here it is – Four more Top 5 or let’s stick with the Hitchhiking theme and go with Top 6 lists. Of course there is a common theme, if you notice.

A Matter of Life and Death (film)

Top 6 Movies: Should this be in order of favourite or chronological from when they were made or random? You tell me…

  1. A Matter of Life & Death or Stairway to Heaven in US (1946) – my favourite Powell & Pressburger movie.
  2. Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) – the books reimagined and echoing the world I was transported to by the Professor back in 1970.
  3. Cinema Paradiso (1988) – a moving tribute and evocation of the magic of cinema in Italian.
  4. Shawshank Redemption (1994) – full of wonderful moments and brilliant acting from Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins.
  5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2206) – Guillermo de Toro’s Spanish language amazing and captivating fantasy set during the Spanish Civil War.
  6. Blade Runner (1982) – maybe not a sci-fi classic but there are classic scenes and lines, including the speech by Rutger Hauer’s character at the end.

 ScreenShot00051

Top 6 MMORPGS: As video gaming has now been around for 40 odd years, I am probably missing out the early classics that got me hooked. So these are the Top 6 from recent years – ones that I’ve got engrossed in and got characters to respectable levels. Currently I’m even taking a course linking two key areas in my life fiction and gaming – Online Games: Literature, New Media,and Narrative.

  1. Perfect World – this will always be No 1 as my elf archer asked a beautiful warrior if he could fly with her. And now we’re happily married in real life.
  2. LOTRO or Lord of the Rings Online – where I got to visit Middle Earth and meet Elrond. What more can I say but I keep going back.
  3. SWTOR or Star Wars: The Old Republic – set before the Star Wars movies but still a chance to wield a light-sabre and follow a narrative which you can change through your actions. Currently on the run….
  4. Age of Conan Unchained – based in Hyboria, the world created by Robert E Howard. Adult themes mean semi-naked characters, blood everywhere and challenging gameplay.
  5. Cabal – a fantasy world with unique armour and weapons. And great dance routines. Wished I had stayed longer.
  6. Runes of Magic – called by some a clone of the most popular MMORPG, World of Warcraft, but personally found it had better character creation and liked the dual class skill track using parallel areas. Great houses too.

Deutsch: Pjotr I. Tschaikowski

Top 6 Music: this will be far-ranging as music has been around since our distant ancestors expressed themselves on a piece of wood or by singing. Not going back that far but far enough.

  1. Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin – one of the first operas that I ever saw (at Glyndebourne) and which moved me and still continues too. Wonderful arias.
  2. Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor – very personal as well as moving music. One of the classic recordings being by Jacqueline du Pre, who tragically suffered and died from multiple sclerosis.
  3. Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – ballet music that evokes so many images from the primitive to those from Disney’s Fantasia.
  4. The Doors’ L.A Woman album – included the track Riders On The Storm which is my favourite Doors’ song as well as the name of my guild in LOTRO.
  5. Queen’s A Night at the Opera – favourite track is of course the classic Bohemian Rhapsody But there are other great hits on this album such as You’re My Best Friend and Love of My Life.
  6. Howard Shore’s Lord Of The Rings Symphony – last but not least has to be this symphony edited down from the soundtrack to the Peter Jackson movies. Full of familiar themes and leitmotifs that continue to send tingles up my spine. Essential element of movies that works on its own too.

The artist and poet William Blake, who lived i...

Top 6 Poems: probably as old as music so the choice is extensive. I have to admit that my interest in poetry has lagged behind other art forms, but there are ones that stand out either individually or as collections.

  1. Thomas Babington Macaulay’s Horatius at the Bridge – a part of my education that still lives with me as it had such a fundamental effect.
  2. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – another classic poem that caught my imagination while growing up. The words are so powerful and often lines come to mind like:   Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where,Nor any drop to drink.
  3. William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience – a collection of poems that I studied for English Literature and loved, especially as Blake even illustrated with richly illuminated plates.
  4. Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven – a poem with dark images and wonderful use of words. Another classic.
  5. Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias – far briefer than most of the other poems but in its few short lines as evocative and epic, stirring thoughts as endless as the sands.
  6. Beowulfthe longest and for many one of the greatest epic poems, but with no specific source for this Old English masterpiece. Yet so much derives from this amazing work including much of our great literature. I read it in English, not Old English, when I was 17 and it was and still is an emotional experience of unbelievable depth.

The Old English epic poem Beowulf is written i...

There is a notable absence of Lord of the Rings from the last list. An oversight, perhaps? I could have cheated and included one of the many verses that J.R.R Tolkien included in his great work, many of which are fine works of poetry. In fact there is a crucial poem at 6 – Beowulf. The Professor wrote an essay “Beowulf and the Critics” – which I have incorrectly in the past inserted the word monster in with Grendel in mind. I read the essay before I had even heard of Lord of the Rings, but it was the turning point, the beginning of my journey down an unbelievable road… a road which goes ever on.

 

Inspirational Links that might lead to more lists being created:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muse

http://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/The_Muses/the_muses.html