Feed the Gamer looks at this very question and comes away with the conclusion that Looking Glass — the studio that developed both Ultima Underworld games — was very, very awesome indeed.
Founded in 1990, Looking Glass was not only responsible for some of that decade’s most innovative and memorable games, but was also a place where people like Ken Levine (BioShock), Warren Spector (Deus Ex) and Seamus Blackley (Xbox) all worked under the one roof.
The product of a merger between two companies, Blue Sky Productions and Lerner Research, Looking Glass Studios was based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Developing mostly for the PC, Looking Glass’ first few games were published by PC gaming giant Origin (Wing Commander, Ultima), but by 1995 the studio was developing and publishing its own titles.
Looking Glass’ first game (well, while its development side was still known as Blue Sky) was 1992′s Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, a first-person role-playing game that not only broke from the traditions of conventional Ultima games, but in many ways blew right past them, its immersive setting and (for the time) amazing 3D graphics making it a critical success.
The games which came next read like a “greatest hits collection” of PC gaming in the 1990s…
Eidos — massively in debt at the time — shut Looking Glass down in the year 2000, a rather ignoble end for such a talented development house. One could almost argue that such was the curse that afflicted all developers who published Ultima titles, I suppose. But in their short span, the did produce some genre-defining — and genre-shattering — games, which frankly still hold up very well today.