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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Jul 12, 2012

EA Announces New Free-To-Play Ultima MMO

A new Ultima game has been announced by EA and it’s being developed by BioWare Mythic. The game is titled Ultima Forever and it’ll release as a free-to-play MMO. There isn’t a release date for the game yet, but we know it will launch for both the PC and iPad according to EA. Some first details have arrived about the game and speaking with IGN, Senior Creative Director for BioWare Digital Paul Barnett fills us in on what we’re itching to know.

Ultima Forever will be a title that pays homage back to the old Ultima games. Its mechanics will be firmly placed and centered around the gameplay and structure found in Ultima IV. Players will have the choice to start off as either a mage or fighter (with druid and paladin classes coming at a later date once the game is released). The goal in the game is for your character to become the Avatar, a celestial being that embodies the eight Virtues. Ultima Forever will be a MMORPG that acts as somewhat of a top-down dungeon crawler. It’s being set up so that once you attain the role of the Avatar you can start a New Game Plus that will allow you to run through the game again on a harder setting.

The eight Virtues are really the backbone of Ultima Forever. Think of them as attributes that you can level up through the course of the game. Some of the Virtues encourage certain things, for example, the Sacrifice Virtue focuses on selflessness and helping others. This means that multiplayer will play a key role in leveling this Virtue. Something that’s really cool is that when you’re thinking of working on this Virtue, if you’re a higher-level player you’ll be able to lower your level just to help lower-level players. When running through an instance or dungeon the higher-level player won’t earn nearly as many rewards as the lower-level player, but they will instead earn progress in their Sacrifice Virtue. This is a great idea because it will encourage players to help each other no matter what their level is. It also can help build bonds and create friends, which helps make MMO titles more playable.

When it comes to combat Barnett compared the combat situations in Ultima Forever to Diablo. “You’re clicking around to move, you’re clicking on monsters, and you’re selecting your abilities a la Diablo. It isn’t the timer based ‘1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3’ combat you see in MMOs.” The gameplay style of games like Diablo and Baldur’s Gate have become popular over the years, and there’s no doubt it’s successful. This will definitely make Ultima Forever set apart from the other MMOs out there.

When talking about the game being free-to-play Barnett had a lot to say. “When we looked at a lot of free-to-play games, a lot of them were using the very simplistic early mechanics we saw in Facebook games…just charging you money and grinding and making you very unhappy,” he explained. Because of this the development team decided to make the game entirely free-to-play. Players will never be prevented from playing because you don’t have enough of a resource, nor will you have to wait for things to recharge before you can continue through the game. All the game’s monetary transactions instead will be for optional items like appearance changes and the ability to get through the game quicker.

We don’t know when the game will launch, but Barnett did say that “it’s mostly finished. We’re in the polished phase.” With a new, fresh game hitting the market it could send a spark through the MMO field. It will offer cross-platform play, which will allow PC players and iPad players to sync up. If you’re looking to get into the game you can sign up for the closed beta, which wouldn’t be a bad idea.

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