Youíve discovered a new nitpick and would like to submit it to have it listed on Hackiís Ultima Page? Wonderful! (First, you should obviously know what nitpicking is all about.) I just ask you to stick to some rules, Ďcause nitpicking ainít an easy business. If you showed off and took apart every single small flaw in every part of the Ultima series, then youíd quickly get lost in boring and uninteresting details and extend Hackiís Ultima Page by many Megabytes. This is something we want to avoid, of course, and so we have to restrict our nitpicking a bit.
The following rules are the intellectual product of dealing with nitpicks in the Ultima series for more than two years, having received hundreds of mails and comments on this topic and having collected a lot of experience with it. Iíve altered or rearranged the previous rules a little, as I believe some are much more important than others.
Nitpicking is fun
This is the main rule. We do this just for fun. Iím certain everyone is aware that Ultimas are just computer games, which are ultimately supposed to be entertaining. Nitpicking is one way of getting some extra entertainment out of them. Donít take the whole thing too seriously.
Donít try to explain nitpicks
This rule is almost as important as the previous one, mainly because itís violated all the time. Thereís hardly a nitpick on Hackiís Ultima Page that Ultima fans havenít already questioned and tried to explain. The problem is that those explanation attempts were based on all sorts of assumptions and guesses. Once you as a player have to invent theories to explain story weaknesses or plot holes, the game has obviously failed to explain them - which was the reason for the nitpickís existence in the first place. The game must explain things, not the players.
You could easily explain everything by pretending things we donít see in the game. In the light of the introduction on Earth in Ultima IX, the ending of Ultima VIII with the Avatar standing in front of a big Guardian fortress could just have been kind of a vision, right? However, thatís not what a nitpicker is after.
This has to be emphasized: If the game doesnít explain it, then itís a valid nitpick. Letís say I wonder why Sentri doesnít appear in Ultima IX and nobody even mentions him. Of course, Sentri could have died exploring a dungeon, killed by the Guardian, or whatever. That would even be plausible. However, why does the game ignore it? Why doesnít the Avatar ask Lord British what happened to Sentri? Why does nobody tell you that Sentri died? (While weíre on the subject: The dialogue patch deals with Sentriís absence the right way.)
So please donít try to explain or disprove nitpicks, if possible, but rather search for new ones! To point out plot holes and flaws is one thing, to rationalize them is something completely different - thereís not enough room on Hackiís Ultima Page for both.
Sure enough, there have been cases when I had to remove a nitpick simply because it was not based on facts. If me or someone else complained that the Avatar asked Vasagralem what the Codex was, then it would naturally be a wrong nitpick, because such a dialogue doesnít exist in Ultima IX. Be warned, though, that this happened only on very few occasions.
Show leniency towards those who deserve it
In particular, I am talking about the very old Ultimas. At the beginning of Richard Garriottís career as a game developer, he still experimented a lot, and it wasnít until Ultima IV that he found his own style. Because of this, weíll just smile and ignore that Sosaria in Ultima III has little in common with Britannia in Ultima IV, that you can easily kill Iolo and Gwenno in Ultima I, that all Science Fiction elements disappear in Ultima III, and other weaknesses in the seriesí early years. As far as the first trilogy is concerned, Richard Garriott and his team corrected their own mistakes later on. For example, thereís no trace of spaceships and laser guns from the time of Ultima I on Serpent Isle. Likewise, brainless episodes such as Dupreís appearance on Mars in Ultima II were fortunately never mentioned again later in the series. Same for the “Lord of the Rings” races. Letís just say all this never existed.
However, even when dealing with later Ultimas, you should keep looking at yourself and make sure you arenít a too picky nitpicker. If, for example, you complained that there are certain fruits in Ultima VII, while the game doesnít show proper trees where they could grow, then youíd already cross the critical line.
Among Ultima fans, thereís not exactly agreement on which installments of the Ultima series are canonical and which are not, i.e. which sources are valid for a nitpicker. In order to avoid chaos, Iíve decided on the following separation:
- Ultima I
- Ultima I remake from 1986
- Ultima II
- Ultima III-VI
- Ultima VII Part 1 and 2 + Forge of Virtue and Silver Seed
- Ultima VIII and IX
- Ultima Underworld I and II
- Savage Empire and Martian Dreams
On Hackiís Ultima Page, the manuals and maps of all these games are considered canon, too, along with the official hintbooks, as they often contain additional background information. The main reason for me to consider Ultima IX canon is so Iím allowed to nitpick it. I want to treat it in a just way, so you see there are fair and honest reasons for me and many others to dislike it.
Where there are discrepancies between different versions of the same Ultima title (e.g. differences in the NES version of Ultima V), the highest instance is always the PC version, while the rest can be ignored.
Should there be different and optional plot branches and dialogue choices in a game, then you may take apart all of them. For example, you need not hesitate to make fun of the Avatar asking Vasagralem what Gargoyles are in Ultima IX, despite of the fact that most players unquestionably do not click that dialogue option.
In certain cases, the translators of certain Ultima games screwed it up. For example, the Bell of Courage became a “Bell of Valor” in the German version of Ultima IX. As funny and stupid as it is, nitpickers should ignore inaccuracies in non-English Ultima versions.
- Ultima Online
- Runes of Virtue I and II
- Escape from Mt. Drash
- The Lost Vale
- Fan remakes and Ultima IX dialogue patch
- Ultima books
- Unused maps, dialogues, and usecode
- Original designs for Ultima IX
- Ultima X
Nitpickers just ignore these sources. Those games, stories, and dialogues never happened “in reality”, so to speak. If you attempted to pick a nit by pointing out that Mt. Drash doesnít appear in any other Ultima, then youíd break this rule.
No bugs, please
The heading says it all: Bugs are not nitpicks, because they are certainly not the developersí intention. Granted, there are some borderline cases, but overall, the difference should be clear.
Examples of bugs are that you can have more than one magic carpet in Ultima V, or that you can get through the gate on Terfin with a trick at the end of Ultima IX. Those are just programming errors and mistakes, which a true nitpicker isnít interested in.
Since weíre just on this subject: Cheats belong to the same category. If you get to Yew with the fly cheat right after arriving at Castle British in Ultima IX, then itís no surprise the plot doesnít really work anymore. Thatís quite logical anyway; I mention it for the sake of completeness.
As a final point, note that nitpickers donít care about “Easter Eggs” either. The developers put them in the games just for fun, and nitpicking them would defy their whole purpose. So please donít ask for an explanation as to why Smith knows about Mars in Ultima VII - itís just a small gag.
As you would expect, you canít exactly say which nitpicks are OK and which are not. If thereís doubt, then you should check the numerous existing nitpicks to get a better idea of what Iím talking about. If youíre still unsure now, then just send your new nitpick to me and Iíll decide if it meets the rules.
Needless to say, youíre also welcome to discuss it at the message board. (Hey, thatís its main purpose, after all!) I wonít condemn anyone for submitting a “wrong” nitpick. Remember, nitpickingís just a fun business.
Thatís it - Happy and successful nitpicking, so that Hackiís Ultima Page may grow and prosper and entertain many more fans of that splendid role-playing game series!