The Collectible ULTIMA


"From the ruins of Minax's castle have come several fragments of a manuscript which hints at a dark secret. There appears to have been an unholy alliance between Mondain and his young apprentice, Minax. Their union bore fruit... Lord British sent his most trusted and talented advisor out to uncover the facts behind these wild rumors. Weeks passed, then a shattered man was found wandering in the groves outside the castle. Some terrible sight had blasted his reasoning. He just kept repeating, 'From the depths of Hell... He comes for Vengeance!'..."

-- from the writings of Roe Adams, scribe of Lord British

In 1983, Richard Garriott and his brother Robert, their father Owen, and their friend Chuck Bueche, put up tens of thousands of their own dollars to start a new company which they named Origin Systems. Chuck had been working for Sierra, writing the port of Ultima II for the Atari 800, when he first met Richard. In the process of creating Ultima III, the new entrepeneurs did everything themselves: their own development, production, even distribution. Even Richard's mother got involved - she drew the cloth map and most of the illustrations for the original manuals. Their exodus from the mainstream software industry and into the land of self-publication lent an ironically appropriate name to Origin's first game: Exodus, the third Ultima.

Ultima III: Exodus Ultima III:
  • Platform: Apple II.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1983.
  • Characteristics: 5.25" (1).
  • Included: The Book of Play book; Ancient Liturgy of Truth book; Book of Amber Runes book; Ultima III cloth map; advertisement for "Secrets of Sosaria"; Player Reference Card.
  • Original List Price: $59.95
  • Platform: Atari 8-bit.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1983.
  • Author: Conversion by "Banjo" Bob Hardy.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01110. 5.25" (1).
  • Platform: Commodore 64.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1983.
  • Author: Conversion by Chuckles.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01109. 5.25" (1).
  • Platform: Macintosh.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1985.
  • Author: Conversion by James Van Artsdalen.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01108. 5.25" (1).
  • Platform: Amiga.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1986.
  • Author: Conversion by "Banjo" Bob Hardy.
  • Characteristics: 3.5" (1).
  • Platform: Atari ST.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1986.
  • Author: Conversion by "Banjo" Bob Hardy.
  • Platform: PC.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1983-1987.
  • Author: Conversion by James Van Artsdalen.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01107. 5.25" (1).
This was Origin's first big game, and it was ported several times over the next four years after its release. In later editions, the map printings were given a more reddish-orange tint. They also did not have the same stiff cotton backing sewn on that the original did, giving the map a thinner, flimsier feel. A couple of notes: the PC version was probably completed and released around late 1985. Earlier versions have the same disk labels (with a blue line drawing of Exodus), map, and 1983 copyright date that the Apple version has. Later copies have newer disk labels and fliers, and a 1987 copyright date, as well as the thinner map. I also think the copyright date on the Atari 8-bit version must be wrong, since Bob Hardy didn't join Origin until much later than 1983. I suspect the port was done closer to 1986.

Atari / Commodore 64 combined version
  • Platform: Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1983.
  • Characteristics: 5.25" (2).
  • Included: Everything from above.
As with the Ultima II combo, here is an odd item: a single game, sold for two different platforms at the same time. The box includes two disks. The "A" sides contain the Commodore 64 version of the game; the "B" sides contain the Atari 800 version! I have no idea why Origin would market distinct copies of the game for each platform, AND this version for both at the same time. I'm not sure who would have wanted to buy it, either! Other than the weirdness with the disks, this version is exactly the same as the original.

Ultima: EXODUS Ultima: EXODUS
for the Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System.
  • Publisher: FCI, © 1989.
  • Characteristics: UPC 22909-10004. Cartridge.
  • Included: Instruction book (36pp.).
In 1989 Origin developed a Nintendo version of Ultima III, which was released in Japan (to a huge media campaign, which produced collectibles of its own) and the United States. This led to a series of Nintendo games, including a pair of titles developed solely for Nintendo. Because of Nintendo's developer licensing restrictions, Origin needed to go through a third-party licensee to obtain the rights to develop for the NES. They chose Fujisankei Communications International (FCI), who did a large number of their own Nintendo games. Hence all of the Nintendo Ultimas have FCI (or FCI/Pony Canyon) on the label, but all were actually developed by Origin's own staff in Austin.

by LairWare
  • Platform: Macintosh.
  • Publisher: LairWare.
  • Author: Leon McNeill, © 1995.
  • Original List Price: $25 registration fee.
This is a commercial shareware product, available directly from the author on the Web. It has vastly improved graphics and sound, though it isn't fully playable unless you register it. Incidentally, some people have reported "other" shareware versions of Ultima III for the Mac floating around. Most notably, Crazy Irving's (a Canadian chain of computer superstores) has been distributing such a product with their logo instead of Lairware's, but with Lairware's tile graphics on the package cover. This is probably okay - under Lairware's "shareware" license, any outside party is allowed to redistribute the program at no charge, as long as the original archive is left intact. So any shareware Mac U3's you see floating around are probably the Lairware game, just with different local packaging.

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