The Collectible ULTIMA

ULTIMA IV: Quest of the Avatar

"The one who shall tread the path of the Avatar to full revelation is not only brave, but honest and filled with compassion for all living things. Birtannia needs one who can show how to fight the forces of Evil found both outside of and within the individual. Our hopes and prayers are that thou might be the one..."

-- from The Way of the Avatar

When Ultima IV was first conceived, it was truly unique - who ever heard of a role-playing game where you didn't go and kill the Evil Bad Guy? Rather, the idea is to participate in a program of self-improvement through eight different kinds of virtuous activity, eventually becoming the pinnacle of goodness: the Avatar of Lord British's system of virtues. This may well have been the first true "role-playing" game for computers, since your behavior and actions in the game affect the way the game reacts to you as a player. Kill, lie and steal, and you will still be able to play, even go wherever you want, but you'll never win. It's dated now, but Ultima IV is still recognized widely as a watershed in the history of computer gaming.

Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar Ultima IV:
Quest of the Avatar
  • Platform: Apple II.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1985.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01111. 5.25" (2).
  • Included: History of Britannia book; Book of Mystic Wisdom book; Ankh trinket; cloth U4 map.
  • Original List Price: $59.95
  • Platform: Atari 8-bit.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1985.
  • Author: Conversion by Dave Lubar.
  • Platform: Commodore 64.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1985.
  • Author: Conversion by Chuckles.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01125. 5.25" (2).
  • Platform: PC.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1985.
  • Author: Conversion by James Van Artsdalen.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01210. 5.25" (2).
  • Platform: Amiga.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © 1988.
  • Author: Conversion by "Banjo" Bob Hardy.
  • Characteristics: UPC 17814-01210. 3.5" (1).
  • Platform: Atari ST.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc., © (1988?).
  • Author: Conversion by "Banjo" Bob Hardy.
It has been noted that later runs of the cloth map, distributed with some of the ports, had a more reddish tint. There has also been some debate over the ankh; it's definitely some kind of lightweight, bendable metal, probably aluminum but I'm not sure. Ultima IV is the earliest of the Ultima games that has not been significantly remade by Origin. Even so, it isn't too hard to find copies available over Usenet. I've even seen shrinkwrapped originals, still with the Broderbund distribution sticker on them.

Ultima: Quest of the Avatar Ultima: Quest of the Avatar
for the Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System.
  • Publisher: FCI, © 1990. Developed by Origin.
  • Characteristics: UPC 22909-10011. Cartridge.
  • Included: Instruction book, Hint book (84pp.).
Following on the successful release of the NES Ultima III, Origin wrote this second port the next year through licensor FCI. They followed Nintendo's annoying trend of including full walkthroughs with many of their games. Well, I found it annoying anyway. You can probably find a copy of this game at the FuncoLand web site.

Ultima IV for Sega Master System Ultima: Quest of the Avatar
for the Sega Master System
  • Platform: Sega Master System.
  • Publisher: Sega, © 1990.
  • Characteristics: UPC 974365-635718. Cartridge.
  • Included: Paper Ultima IV map/tables; History of Britannia booklet; Book of Mystic Wisdom booklet; Sega instruction manual (32pp.).
This item has quite a history behind it. As the story goes, Nintendo was very unhappy with Origin for developing this game, as at that time Origin had already signed an agreement with Nintendo. Finally, it came to the point that a CEO of an unnamed "large software company" had a round of golf with some of the management at Nintendo and told them, basically, to get over it. Nintendo relented, and Origin eventually released the Sega version of Ultima IV, but it was the only game they ever developed for Sega. This game was released in English, French, and German (the UPC above, the only one I have, is for the German version). Some English versions of the game came with two sets of manuals: a pink set, written in French, and a blue set written in English. The game seems to have been released in very small quantities in the US, because it took an exceedingly long time to find someone who had bought it here. Whether that was because of Origin's difficulties with Nintendo, who can say.

Ultima IV 'Special' for C64 Ultima: Quest of the Avatar
Special release for the Commodore 64
  • Platform: Commodore 64.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc.
  • Characteristics: Comes in a large, videocassette-like box. 5.25" (2).
  • Included: Same as the original.
Here is an odd product: a "special" release of Ultima IV for the Commodore 64. I really don't know much more about it than is stated here.

Free Release of Ultima IV
  • Platform: PC.
  • Publisher: Origin Systems, Inc.
  • Characteristics: CD and/or online download.
  • Original List Price: Free!
In 1997 Origin released free, complete versions of the PC port of Ultima IV through two publications: the August 1997 issue of PC Games, and the October 1997 issue of Computer Gaming World. Soon thereafter, several other online sites began to offer the binary for download, against Origin's wishes, because they felt it had been placed in the public domain. It hadn't, of course, and there was a great deal of heated debate and angry words tossed back and forth because of it. More recently, Origin has decided to allow anyone in the Ultima Dragons to provide the game for free. Personally, I prefer owning the aforementioned issue of PC Games, because the CD is permanent, and because it also contains a free copy of another great role-playing game, Betrayal at Krondor. But if you'd like to, visit Fortran Dragon's download page, where you can obtain Ultima IV.

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