Unbelievable, but true: Hacki’s Ultima Page has been around for one year. When the site went online at July 21 2001, I didn’t even dare to think that it would develop and grow in size to what it is today, and that it would become so well known and large.
In fact, I’d have been happy about a single e-mail from a visitor...
I hope not to bore anyone now, but anyway: How did it actually begin?
I’ve been an Ultima fan long since; namely, since I played Ultima 5 on the C64 of my older brother. Later, I also got in contact with the other Ultimas. The series was something special, and it fascinated me. It wasn’t only the realism and the maturity of the games’ world, but also to see Britannia’s history grow with each new installment. The land developed from game to game, and the predecessors were never forgotten. Like in Ultima 7, when the game showed the difficulties of the Gargoyles’ integration into Britannian society, which was simply brilliant and lent the story depth.
In other words: I became a die-hard Ultima fan, who was totally enthralled by the series’ love to detail.
Some day, I learned that they were making an Ultima 9. In the game mags, the first screenshots were spread, which still displayed the old isometric engine. That was enough to hype me and many others: Ultima would continue.
After this, there was long period of time without any news, until new screenshots popped up one day. The graphics were complete 3D now.
When I had access to the Internet at school, I typed “Ultima” in a search engine and was hooked on the huge among of Ultima websites. The Ultima 9 hype was at its peak in the meantime. I read the tales of the 8 Virtues on the official UA site and was sure that the game would have the same quality. Apart from this, I avoided to get information about Ultima 9, because I didn’t want to spoil the game for me.
I played the demo and loved it, as the game would apparently continue its predecessors’ tradition. When I found books from Ultima 6 and 7 in the Avatar’s house, I knew I’d kill for the game. It was tested in the German Gamestar mag, received 92% and was called best Ultima ever.
I bought the game before I even had a proper machine to play it, just to get the cloth map and the goodies. I was still hyped. My mind must have been clouded.
The manual, the Gobelin, and the cloth map were full of errors and inconsistencies, but I didn’t see them. Maybe I thought to myself that the game would surely explain everything. Then the game was tested in the German Powerplay mag. 75%, and they complained about the same things I criticize today. Back then, I was only a little confused and thought the game would be the greatest thing ever for every true Ultima fan. Hah! Nevertheless, how was I supposed to know that it’s the other way round?
The day I finally had a powerful new machine, I immediately installed Ultima 9 and played for hours, and I think I regained consciousness after I had left Stonegate and entered Lord British’s Castle. I didn’t want to admit it to myself, but the game was simply crap. So many plot holes, so many inaccuracies, so little dialogue, so little storyline. I finished it only because I thought it would get better at the end. My motivation sunk with each cleansed shrine. In the final dungeon on Terfin, I was sick of the game and used cheats to see the closing sequence. When the credits were through, a feeling of emptiness was left.
I had already noticed many inaccuracies while playing the game, and I had begun to write them down. The more mistakes I noticed, the more I wondered why the developers did answer almost no question left from the previous Ultimas at all. Lord British had broken all of his promises for the game.
However, I got the impression that nobody shared my view. I browsed the web and read online reviews: They all claimed that Ascension had a great plot and such.
Out of defiance, I made my list of inaccuracies a website and planned to put it online as soon as I’d have my own Internet connection at home.
Then a harddisk headcrash destroyed everything. All lost, all work erased. Only those of you who have experienced such a thing yourself know how much it hurts when you have been stupid enough to make to no backups.
But I didn’t give up so easily. I tried to get everything back out of my memory and again wrote down all inaccuracies I could remember (on paper). I was happy to see that the new list was as long as the old one.
Yet time passed quickly, and I soon forgot about my idea of a website on mistakes in UA. However, when I finally got an Internet connection at home, I recalled my old Ultima hype. I was disappointed to see most good old Ultima sites discontinued or down. One result of the Ascension shock.
Nevertheless, I again made a website out of my inaccuracy list and put it online on July 21 2001!
I was a real webdev newbee back in those times. Frontpage, useless animations, frames, mystery meat navigation, and other sins. However, I already had both a German and an English version, which I updated synchronically. (A tradition that has survived until today)
I also posted a link to my site in a number of message boards and wondered what kind of reactions I’d receive. The very first reaction was not positive, but all others were. I was happy to see so many fans sharing my view about UA and that they congratulated me to the site and the idea behind it.
I realized that there were more UA haters among the fans than I expected, but most of them had been giving up Ultima long since out of frustration about UA. Perhaps, my site was even a bit refreshing.
Visitors of the site corrected some of my statements, but also sent me new nitpicks. Hacki’s Ultima Page slowly grew to a small nitpick community.
In the meantime, I had also discovered the Ultima remakes and became proud member of Team Lazarus (as a German translator).
The site grew larger and larger. I changed the structure of the content, removed nasty animations, and added things like the quiz and the forum. (Additionally, if I might shamelessly say this, my English got better, which resulted in fixing many ugly style errors.)
The popularity of my site grew, too. I didn’t expect so much feedback. Even Fans for Ultima posted a link to Hacki’s Ultima Page.
On October 17 2001, I added a page for older Ultimas. I made sure to point out that I’d not compare the older Ultimas with UA in any way. I just found it interesting to search for nits in the older Ultimas, too.
November 28 2001 was the day when I got rid of the frames and transferred the whole site from Geocities to aon.at: Finally, no more ads!
On March 3rd, 2002, I uploaded a complete redesign. The dirty Frontpage code was history when everything was written in HTML by me. Other new features were a flash intro, some small downloads, and a few more goodies.
However, I wasn’t satisfied with the new design. I think the navigation even got more difficult. I learned more about “Web usability” at Web Pages That Suck and decided to redesign the whole site from ground up again.
On May, 26th 2002, it was done: Since then, Hacki’s Ultima Page has had the current look and feel and contained articles, theories, and reviews. I also began to report more general Ultima news.
I’d like to finish this short flashback into nitpicking history with a big Thank You to all visitors of the site and those who contributed something to Hacki’s Ultima Page. I will continue to stay true to my principles in year 2 and update the site with new nitpicking material as often as possible - Because, after all, that’s its meaning and purpose.