In order to get Ultima IX out in time, expansive cutscenes had to be reused at all cost, NPC models were attached to different characters, and Britannia was squeezed together by the worldbuilders. It was a futile attempt to save the game, but it’s very interesting to see how much of the final Ultima Ascension had originally been designed for a different plot, and how the developers tried to implement it into the game.
In the last phases of development, much was cut out to get the game out before Christmas, but even more was recycled from the original plot to save time and money. A lot of things also might not become obvious until you have explored the unused maps.
You will find several examples of these remnants here. I must note that some of the theories presented here are based on personal assumptions.
Many of the examples relate to rendered cutscenes in the game. You need not start the game to view them. Just open the respective .dat files from the movies directory on your CD in any mediaplayer. Those files are nothing but disguised MPEGs.
Armageddon and Stonegate
In the original plot, the Avatar and Lord British cast Armageddon at Stonegate’s roof in the end of the game, in order to destroy Britannia and the Guardian, followed by the closing cutscene and credits. In the official plot, part of that video (armageddon.dat) was reused for the prophecy in Minoc. (It will also play when you give Blackthorn the lenses.)
You normally don’t get to the roof of Stonegate in Ascension, but when you go there using the fly cheat, then it will become quite clear that it originally served some purpose.
Blackthorn fools the Avatar by betraying Samhayne. This is shown by a video cutscene, in which Blackthorn appears at Samhayne’s house and the Avatar is thrown into a dungeon cell at the end. One cutscene? No, there are two of them, with the second one (prison.dat) played immediately after the first (samhayne.dat).
In the original plot, the Avatar was thrown into the prison of Wrong. That was the actual purpose of prison.dat. The other video was in fact made for the official plot. However, the designers didn’t take the trouble to adapt the cell’s appearance in the game to the video.
Cathedral of Love
The reason why there is a huge building with unique glass stained windows in Britain aren’t some unimportant subquests. The building served another purpose in the original plot. In fact, this was the original place to save Shamino’s spirit, and Amoranth was one of the main players in the Britannian civil war.
The Pyros video (pyros.dat) demonstrantes the designer’s method of setting up the game according to the videos.
In the original plot, Lord British should have watched that scene in a dream sent by the Guardian. It should have shown him how the Avatar had summoned Pyros in Pagan and almost destroyed an entire world.
In the official plot, all visions of the Guardian were scrapped, but the expensive videos had to be reused at all cost nonetheless, so they had the mad idea to have the Avatar summoning Pyros to get into the Abyss. To this end, they also designed the in-game surroundings of the Abyss’ entrance to look exactly like the respective area in the Sorcerer’s Enclave on Pagan.
The dungeon of Hythloth (map 24, see unused maps) was originally meant to be the sewers of Britain. At the final production stage, they probably didn’t have enough time to design Hythloth from scratch, so they just used the design of the Britain sewers. That’s the only reason why Hythloth looks like a canalization now. The Journal’s claim that Hythloth once was the sewers of ancient Magincia was most likely included as a last-minute pseudo-explanation.