The Personal ULTIMA

RAMBLE for the Week of November 24, 1997

Well I don't know about you, but I think this is big news. This week, I spoke with the author of the game Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash. Really.

What is Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash? For those of you joining late, it is an Ultima game.. well, sort of.. that was written for the Commodore VIC-20. But it was published in 1983, just as the videogame industry was beginning to crash. Many cartridges from that era just never made it to market. Now, almost 15 years later, the game is practically impossible to find - so hard to find, in fact, that many people began to doubt that it had ever really existed. To this day, none of the Internet archives of VIC-20 cartridges has a working copy of the ROM for this game; few even know it exists. But since it bears the name Ultima, its story bears repeating.

How, you may ask, can an Ultima game fit into a computer that only has 4K of memory? An excellent question. The answer: it used the 8K extender. :-) Hey, you asked...

In any case, the author was one Keith Zabalaoui, a childhood friend of Richard Garriott. He helped do the graphics for the original Akalabeth, and also did a little bit of work on Ultima II. He never made much money off of Escape from Mt. Drash, but he did make some, and Sierra *did* release it. Today Keith is doing a little better for himself; he's the president of Atomic Games in Houston, creators of Close Combat and the V for Victory series.

Mr. Zabalaoui's role in the history of Ultima was "really minor", in his words. In fact he went so far as to say of Mt. Drash, "It isn't REALLY an Ultima", which of course is true; it's just a simple maze game, with some combat. What else are you going to do in 8K? Sierra just wanted to call it that as a marketing tactic. Still, Mt. Drash is an interesting footnote in the history of our favorite series. And if anyone can ever come up with a copy, it would make a nifty little collectible as well. I've summarized the story of Mt. Drash under an entry on the "Other Titles" page of my web site.

What? You haven't seen my web site? Well, that may be because you haven't heard of it. So let me take this opportunity to plug my webbish creation. The Collectible Ultima is its name, and it's chock full of stories and anecdotes just like this one, as well as information not only about every Ultima game, but about ever version of every Ultima game ever released. If you like to collect Ultima, or even just play it, there's something there for you.

The Collectible Ultima

And that's just one section of my main Ultima site, The Notable Ultima:

And when you're done reading all of that, write me and we'll talk some more.

Underworld Dragon's Notable Ultima
The Collectible Ultima The Historical Ultima The Literal Ultima The Rhetorical Ultima The Trivial Ultima The FAQtual Ultima The Personal Ultima

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.