The Collectible ULTIMA


"The evil wizard Mondain was slowly strengthening his magical powers and increasing his hordes of foul denizens - patiently awaiting the proper time to size the lands. Through subtle exertions of his magical power, Mondain was able to stir dissent among the Lords of the land and render them ineffective by factional wars. Then, he did release his minions upon the land and crush the people beneath his evil will. And thus the First Era of the Dark Ages came upon the Lands of Britannia..."

-- from The First Age of Darkness

With such words were unsuspecting Apple ][ users of 1980 drawn into a fantasy world that became legend. The Ultima series begins with the quest to rid a magical land, Sosaria, of the evil wizard Mondain, whose iron grip and endless hordes of monsters held that world in terror. Richard Garriott wrote Ultima (not Ultima I, of course, who knew there would be more?) in 1980, primarily in the bedroom closet of his parents' house in Houston, Texas. He was 18 years old, living at home, not yet even having a college degree. He and his friend Ken Arnold essentially created the technique of "tile graphics" for Ultima. They made graphics by tracing their hand-drawn pictures on graph paper, changing the graphs to hexadecimal data, and typing them into the computer. The game sold over 50,000 copies, in a time before the first IBM PC had ever seen the light of day. Pretty impressive, when you think about it.

Ultima Ultima
  • Platform: Apple II.
  • Publisher: California Pacific Company, © 1980.
  • Characteristics: 5.25" (1).
  • Included: 8.5 x 11 "cover art" page; Player Reference Card; Ultima Playbook (12pp.).
  • Original List Price: $39.95
This is the original version of Ultima. It is of course extremely rare and very expensive.

Ultima 1: The Original Ultima 1: The Original
from Sierra Online
  • Platform: Atari 8-bit (others?).
  • Publisher: Sierra Online.
  • Author: Converted by Sigma Micro.
  • Characteristics: 5.25" (1).
  • Included: Atari reference card, Manual (12pp.), Errata flyer.
  • Original List Price: $39.95
After California Pacific went under, Richard sold the rights to his first game and his second, as-yet unwritten game to Sierra. His relationship with Sierra was fairly brief, though, and Origin later obtained the rights to both games.

Ultima I Ultima I
Remake by Origin
  • Platform: Apple II.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1980-1986.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01181. 5.25" (1).
  • Included: First Age of Darkness book; player reference card; four cardboard maps; cloth bag containing five coins (1 "gold", 3 "silver", 1 "copper").
  • Original List Price: $39.95
  • Platform: Commodore 64.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1980-1986.
  • Characteristics: UPC ???. 5.25" (1).
  • Platform: PC.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1980-1987.
  • Author: Conversion by John Fachini.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01294. 5.25" (1), 3.5" (1).
In 1986, Origin decided to rerelease the early Ultima games, starting with the first. They rewrote Ultima I in assembly language and updated the graphics, in addition to changing some of the towns, names, and puzzles in the game. (For example, "Dav's Pub" in Grey is named for remake project director Dav Holle.) They also ported this version to several platforms besides the Apple. This is the version that made its way into the Ultima collections that Origin released. Finding a separate copy of the Ultima I remake is difficult, but not nearly as much so as with the original versions. And it has nifty maps and coins that the original did not.

Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness
by Vitesse Inc.
  • Platform: Apple IIgs.
  • Publisher: Vitesse Inc.
  • Author: Bill Heineman.
  • Characteristics: 3.5" (1).
  • Included: Play manual (27pp.); Reference book (7pp). No box; the game is shrinkwrapped around stiff cardboard.
  • Original List Price: $29.95
This is a commercial product by Vitesse, and may be ordered by calling (800)777-7344, or through their web site. Beware, though, the web site is poorly designed and very slow to download. Look for the tiny "Apple Stuff" button to proceed.

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Ultima is a trademark of Origin Systems, Inc. Much of the artwork and music found on this site are copyright Origin Systems, Inc. All contents of this site are copyright © Underworld Dragon, 1997. All rights reserved.