No, it’s not the actual installable, playable expansion. As far as anyone knows, that still doesn’t exist…not anymore.
But, it’s the next best thing. Courtesy of former Origin programmer Bill Randolph, and thanks to the tireless efforts of Joe Garrity of the Origin Museum, the Ultima Codex is pleased to present three separate revisions of the plot document to Ultima 8: The Lost Vale, plus several more supporting documents, which have been broken out into over thirty (30) images.
Have a read, Dragons and Dragonettes, and behold what would have been!
A set of plot and design documents for the unreleased Ultima 8 expansion, The Lost Vale.
As usual, there is a lot of great content here, and more than a few fascinating historical details that can be teased out. The pitch document, for example, contains a short line confirming the high sales of Ultima 8, and argues that this is good evidence that the expansion would do well. Of course, we all know that line of reasoning ultimately didn’t pan out…but it’s neat to see some semi-official confirmation that Ultima 8 did indeed sell very well.
The various art list revisions are similarly interesting. They confirm, for example, that Lord British was to make an appearance in the game (the plot synopsis documents suggest he would have appeared in the introductory sequence), and that the bonus item that the NPC would have received at the completion of The Lost Vale would have been a (bottomless?) “bag ‘o reagents”. Zealan men and women, as well as at least three of the Titans, would also have made appearances.
Much of the above is also confirmed by the character list, another of the documents included in this set. The Zealan community — divided into two camps, apparently — would have been small, comprising a few men and women and one or two children. Some religious strife would have been present in the community as well; a zealous (heh) Zealan farmer and an atheist Zealan inventor (both female, interestingly) would have been at each others’ throats in the plot of the expansion. Another Zealan with a very odd speaking manner — Ezrekel — would have been an outcast from the community, and the main Zealan character that the Avatar would have interacted with.
The resource schedule document is basically just that: a list of people working on the project and the tasks they were charged with over the course of its short development (which, according to the schedule, was from April 15th to August 1st, 1994). What’s funny — to me — is that this schedule obviously began as the schedule for the “enhanced CD” version of Ultima 8; that label has literally been crossed out and replaced with an “LV”, which to me suggests that the Lost Vale team were pulled off the ehnahced CD project. The list contains names that won’t surprise anyone; Sheri Graner-Ray and Jason Ely are both there, among others.
The plot synopsis documents — and the walkthrough document which is also included in the set — detail the plot of the expansion, as one might as expect. Many of the speculations made by Ultima fans over the years are confirmed. Here, for example, is how The Lost Vale would have begun:
- Upon installing the disk, the PC sees a vision of Lord British. LB tells the PC that Nystul, his magician, has managed to break through the Guardian’s veil of magic to send a message to the PC. LB tells the PC that there is a race of people on Pagan who can help the PC. LB sends the PC to Mythran for more information about these people.
- The PC goes/returns to Mythran and asks about the ancient race. Mythran explains that he had a vision of a strange man from another world. The man in the vision told Mythran of one who would come seeking knowledge of the Zealans. This vision convinces Mythran to tell the PC about the Zealans despite the fact that doinq so might possibly incur the wrath of the titans.
- Mythran tell the PC about a man named Galjeron who had been searching for the Zealans. Mythran had not see this man in a very long time. However, Mythran tells the PC that Galjeron could most likely be found on the other side of a huge set of double doors which are in a cavern in the Plateau. Mythran tells the PC where the key that unlocks the doors can be found. The PC must solve some damn puzzle to get the key.
A certain cheekiness and humour permeates much of the rest of the plot as it is described. To convince the people that he isn’t a Pagan, the Avatar would have had to undergo the “Test of Rutabaga”, obtaining a delectable fruit from a particularly hazardous plant. He evidently would have failed this test resulting in his being poisoned with a slow-acting toxin that only the Zealan gods could cure. Of course, the Zealan gods are no longer speaking with the local priestess, and the Avatar must (of course) attempt to find them.
To do this, he must find both halfs of the Shield of the Ancients (referred to as the Magic Frisbee in some documents), scale the Cliffs of Insanity (yes!), find the abandoned Cloud World (where the gods dwelt), and discover that the gods are imprisoned in the Shrine of Wheaties (yes…). The Shield of the Ancients is repaired at the Sacred Smallish Unusual-Colored Rock (yes…), which the Avatar can use to break the structures in which the Zealan gods are contained.
The images above are JPEG copies of PDF scans. They’re not particularly high-resolution, and are probably unsuitable for printing. Download the ZIP archive (which contains the PDFs) if you want to create your own hard copies.
Most importantly: as usual, Dragons and Dragonettes, enjoy! Have a look at the documents; download and pore over them. Ferret out every little detail, and take a good, long look into the design process of the Ultima 8 expansion that never was. The Ultima Codex is deeply indebted to Joe Garrity, Bill Randolph, and everyone who worked at Origin Systems for this glimpse into Ultima history.