In the early years of Origin, the Ultima’s were released to several different platforms – the Atari, Apple II, Commodore, and the IBM PC. As the IBM PC was not the greatest gaming platform of the day, boasting only 4-color graphics and PC-speaker sound effects, not too much effort was put into it as a serious system for running games. Besides, as far as PC games were concerned, Apple was king. That was until about the mid-to-late eighties, with the evolution of standards like EGA and VGA and the emerging Roland and Adlib series of home PC audio products. While Sierra made use of the then-full potential of the IBM PC as early as 1988 with King’s Quest IV, Origin did not do so until 1989 with Ultima VI. (Ultima VI was also the last in the series to run on another PC-type platform — the Commodore 64/128.)
Sadly, due to the late switch to the IBM PC as the gaming platform of choice, the early Ultima’s do not support all the features that the other platform releases had. It appears that Origin made some effort to upgrade the older Ultima’s with it’s enhanced release of Ultima I, and a rare enhanced release of Ultima II only available for the Apple II. Here is a brief list of what is missing from the PC version:
- Ultima II lacks full color and enhanced interface
- Ultima III lacks full color and music
- Ultima IV lacks music
- Ultima V lacks music
In fact, in NONE of the games from Ultima’s 1-4, can you actually return to DOS or even restore a game. Ultima 5 allows you to exit in a limited fashion in only certain parts of the game. Many of the faithful Ultima veterans requested that Origin make these much-desired updates to the game or at the very least release the source code. Sadly, most of these early games were written in assembler or the code had been lost over time. Neither was it prudent for Origin to waste valuable resources on 10-20 year old games.
This all changed in 1997 (?) when there was a package floating around the ‘net called the Ultima IV Music Patch by Aradindae Dragon. The project later merged with Wiltshire Dragon’s U4 Graphics Patch to form the Ultima IV Upgrade. This was the first such Ultima upgrade to be made available for download to the greater Ultima fanbase.
In the same spirit of keeping the classic Ultima’s alive, on August of 1999, the Ultima 3 Upgrade Project was announced. On this first pre-release, only the first few intro screens had been transformed to EGA (16-color) graphics, and over time, the rest of the game followed suit. Other features were eventually added, until ultimately the traditional MIDI score that was previously unavailable for the PC version had been rightly reunited with game.
In the aftermath of completing two phases of the Ultima 3 Upgrade, I took some time to tackle some similar problems with Ultima 2 that were also once issues with U3; for example, the lack of “quit” keystrokes, the 4-color video, etc. It soon became apparent that I would not want my debugging foray into each game in the series to be accompanied by a new web site. Thus, The Exodus Project was born.
“Exodus” is Greek for “going out” or “crossing over”. Each game that is added to the list of upgrades on this site is said to have taken the “Exodus”. (in this case, to newer gaming technology – if you can still call it that). It is my goal to bring the earlier Ultima’s on the IBM PC up to newer standards, perhaps even surpassing the capabilities of their original Apple II / Commodore 64 counterparts. The Exodus Project distinguishes itself from other Ultima projects in that it does not make remakes — it makes technical upgrades (released as patches) whilest preserving the original 1980’s feel of the games.
Last word: There are music and images on this site that are from the Ultima games and documentation. This work has been produced by Origin (now EA Games) and is hence copyrighted material.