The Ultima Underworld Press Kit

This comprehensive press kit was sent by Origin to various gaming media outlets, presumably just prior to the game’s release. Despite being only four pages in length, the document offers a sizeable amount of detail about the game, its features, and its team.

It’s worth noting the fludity of technical language; the second page of the press kit speaks of the game’s “virtual reality” technology; the term meant quite a different thing in 1992!

It’s also worth highlighting, I think, the brief interview with the Underworld designer Paul Neurath, also on the second page:

How did ULTIMA Underworld get started?

All Ultima games prior to ULTIMA VI had 3-D dungeons, but in ULTIMA VI they were replaced by overhead views. Why? Two reasons. First, Richard Garriott [Lord British] wanted the game to have a single, consistent view. Since the bulk of the game was already overhead, its dungeons were adapted to that standard. Second, when ULTIMA VI was programmed, the technology did not exist to support 3-Ddungeons detailed enough to do justice to an Ultima world. Nevertheless, Richard missed the 3-D dungeons of the early Ultimas. That’s where we cane in: to create a detailed and realistic dungeon environment that is a complete game unto itself. This is the perfect complement to the “above-ground” ULTIMA series.

What’s the connection between Blue Sky Productions and ORIGIN?

Richard and I were well acquainted from ORIGIN’s days in New Hampshire, before the company moved to Texas. Prior to founding Blue Sky, I created Space Rogue for ORIGIN and was a design consultant on a number of ORIGIN’s in-house games. In the process I became familiar with the Ultima design crew, and they with our 3-D technologies. Richard saw at once the possibility of doing a “3-D Ultima” — we had the tools to bring the underworld to life in true Ultima style.

Is ULTIMA Underworld a real Ultima?

Yes, it is. Ultima fans should feel right at home. ULTIMA Underworld takes place in a dungeon made infamous in earlier Ultimas. You’ll fight Ultima creatures, cast Ultima spells and talk with descendants of characters from ULTIMA VI. You’ll also follow a serpentine plot rich in the tradition of past Ultimas.

So what makes ULTIMA Underworld different from other Ultima games?

Well, the most obvious difference is that there’s no top-down view in ULTIMA Underworld. It’s all first person. The first-person perspective is perfect for dungeon games. You can really capture the claustrophobic, “you are there feeling.” There’s no way of knowing what’s lurking around the next corner or what might be swooping down on you from overhead.

Any other differences?

ULTIMA Underworld is faster paced than a traditional Ultima, with real-time sword dueling, leaps across chasms and other heroic deeds. The scale of the game is tighter, too. You won’t be traversing continents in ULTIMA Underworld, but with nearly 25 miles of corridors and rooms to explore, there’s still a lot to see.

The third page of the press kit talks about the game’s features, including the creature AI, the magic system, the combat, and the (really quite excellent) automapping system. The last page of the document is an introduction to the team that developed the game, and is itself a very interesting catalogue of names: industry veterans of the day such as Paul Neurath, Warren Spector, Richard Garriott, and Denis Loubet grace it, as do names like Dan Schmidt and Doug Church…both of whom have gone far in the game development realm.

Image Credits: Joe Garrity/Origin Museum, and Stephen Emond for forwarding.

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