I am a terrible person, you know.
Some months ago, Darren “Time Machine Dragon” Janeczek — whom most of you will probably know from the xu4 project — alerted me to another little pet project of his, which he had tentatively named VAGUE. You can see the (somewhat arbitrary) expansion of that acronym in the title of this post. Here’s how Darren described it:
I decided to start working on a multi-platform (desktop and mobile) game engine with sufficient capabilities to recreate Ultimas 1 thru to at least 6. And of course do a few of its own unique things that I want to see in my original games.
I decided that I would start by implementing Ultima 1.
Ultima 1 is very much an action RPG that can be picked up and played casually. Go into dungeons, slay monsters, collect gold and hit points, rescue the princess, launch a space shuttle, rent a starfighter, shoot down alien craft, crash and burn upon re-entry because you can’t afford the space station docking fee, enjoy free resurrection, then rob the weapon and food store so you can buy hitpoints from the king and hop aboard a time machine to prevent the evil wizard from crafting the evil gem that has motivated you to quest back through time after him. All good wholesome stuff. I played through the classic recently on DOSBOX. It was pretty fun!
Naturally, he posted a video of VAGUE running Ultima 1:
Darren continued his analysis of Ultima 1 and VAGUE thusly:
- Lots of random U1 monsters moving around, at various speeds per tile.
- No ‘pause’ for turn-based action (ie: instant pass)
- Cheesy 3D billboard effect for solid landmarks and creatures.
When I’m at a satisfactory point in development, I’ll have something that I can use to make all sorts of interesting games that fall in line with what makes an Ultima. Until then however, this is just a dinky little map wanderer program implemented with OpenGL designed to be completely portable between iOS, Android, PC, Mac, etc.
Even so, Dragons and Dragonettes, there’s a measure of promise there. Not a month goes by in which I don’t see someone on Twitter pleading for EA to release this or that Ultima game for one mobile OS or another. The possibility of creating a dedicated engine which could run many of the Ultima games and easily publish to a variety of desktop and mobile platforms is a tantalizing thought indeed.
I spoke with Time Machine Dragon briefly by email today, and he reported that he hasn’t actually had much time to work on VAGUE since he first told me about it. Switching jobs and buying a house do, admittedly, exert such pressures on a person. Hopefully he will find time in the near future to pick up where he left off!
I’ll put up a project entry for it in the next day or so, but for now I wanted to actually get the news out about it…because it’s been too damn long already.