Todd's Foolery

EA and the Ultima IV Crackdown

If you’ve been on any gaming news site this week you’ve probably seen a story about EA cracking down on people hosting free downloads of one of the all-time greats, Ultima IV. Combine this with long-running rumors about a mystery project at Mythic that may or may not be Ultima-related and speculation about an Ultima IV remake is running high. Although personally I’d like nothing more than a quality re-do of one of my favorite games, I remain firmly in the wait and see camp. What upsets a lot of people, though, is the notion of EA issuing mass take downs on ancient game code that interests relatively few people. The corporate monster, fresh off banning users from playing their games for being jerks on official forums, is at it again, right? But before you run off and send some hate EA’s way -it is, after all, a national past time- make sure to stop on by one of the better remaining Ultima pages, Ultima Aiera, for a few corrections and clarifications at the core of this story.

If you don’t want to make the jump (over to Aiera), here’s the most important take home: EA has not issued takedown notices to every site featuring an Ultima IV download. Sites (two of them) that long ago obtained official permission to host that version of the game (which came from a PC Games/Computer Gaming World pack-in CD from way back) still have those downloads available. It’s anyone who came in after and just decided to throw it up there that received the take down notices; at least, according to Aiera. (I’m not interested in fact-checking the assertions, but there’s no reason to doubt them.) Whether EA’s action is necessary or not (I’d lean towards not), there’s not really a villain here, so good news! We can all move on to the next outrage. How about this: The family house cat: Friend or foe?

EDIT: One group not mentioned in my post are the Ultima IV remakes, of which two Flash-based efforts (that I presume re-use copyrighted code) received takedown notices. Situation sucks considerably more for them and I do think EA’s action here is unnecessary and counterproductive. But whatever. It’s not like EA has been a friend to Joe Gamer lately. It’s just par for the course.

Dissecting Dragon Age 2: The Story

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As I went about playing Dragon Age 2, which I finished late last week, I’ve compiled on the order of ten pages worth of notes, thoughts, diatribes, and fan fic (erotic). (I’m lying about one of those items.) Way too much to put into a single post, but all stuff that I think worth discussing about the game, so I’ve been trying to decide on the best way to present it. After a couple days of banging my head on my desk until it suddenly got dark I settled on this Dissecting idea, in which I break up the game into some logical segments and talk in greater detail about them than what a single review or general impressions post would allow. If you all like it enough I’ll look at doing something like this for future games. The goal with this isn’t to lampoon Dragon Age (or any other game) for everything it’s not. The Intertubes are loaded with people ranting and raving over DA2. No, the goal here is to look at where various components of the game succeed and fail. Where did Bioware make interesting choices? Where did those choices fail or not live up to their potential? How could they have been done better?

For this initial post we’ll talk story. I’ve avoided straying into extreme spoiler territory here, but if you absolutely must know nothing about the game, you best skip this post. Some discussion of the story structure and narrative is inevitable. This post also overlaps some with the one I’m writing on dialog in terms of talking about characters and the sense of choice and consequence in the game. With that said, let’s roll…

Writing About Talking: Jumping the Shark Podcast #62

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just another ho-hum week of Jumping the Shark this week. Except not really, because EA2D’s Soren Johnson joins us to talk about his latest project, Dragon Age: Legends. Woo! If you’re not familiar, Soren’s past credits include Spore and a little gem we’re fans of around here, called Civilization IV. We skipped the what we’ve been playing portion of the show this week to keep the dialog focused on Legends. In the process we also talk about the past and future of social gaming, the development challenges and perks of trying to make an actual game in an arena largely known for Farmville knock-offs, and maybe, just maybe, a little Civ IV chatter too…


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Writing About Talking: Jumping the Shark Podcast #61

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Danielle is back in the hizzy for this week’s episode of Jumping the Shark, and it’s a darn good thing given our topic segment is devoted to the goings on at PAX East and she’s the only one of us to go to the big show. This week also takes Brandon off the leash to talk about what he’s been playing (Bulletstorm and Homefront), I chime in with some further refined thoughts on Dragon Age 2 (I’ll be posting more on it this week), and Bill analyzes Shogun 2 and why the Oda clan can’t seem to stay alive.


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A Weekend Unplugged: Boardgames, Boardgames, Boardgames!

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This past weekend featured a long-planned venture by The Abner clan to spend the weekend with me and mine for a couple days of some quality boardgaming in Indy. After kevetching over Dragon Age 2 for over a week, it was rather nice to unplug and get back to basics. Bill brought a boatload of titles with him, far more than we would ever make time for, but we definitely gave it our all. Here’s a breakdown of what we played and, most of them being games I’ve experienced for the first time, what I thought…

Writing About Talking: Jumping the Shark #60

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s a busy, busy week for Jumping the Shark 60. We were missing Danielle, who had a work function, so that sucked. But Tom Chick was back with us after an extended absence and it’s always great to have Tom on. This week we had an extended discussion about Tom’s GDC encounter with Starcraft II lead designer Dustin Browder as well as a pretty detailed look at the Rift MMO. With spring training finally here, that means baseball games, and Bill got deep into The Show. I wrapped up my red ringed 360 saga and spent a fair chunk of time talking Dragon Age 2. By this point Brandon gave up any hope of having time to talk about what he’s been playing, so we dove into our topic segment: DLC.


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Victory! The Red Ringed 360 Saga’s Dramatic Conclusion

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Image: posterize / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A couple days ago I posted an update regarding my red ringed 360. It’s possible I was a weee bit tweaked at the time (and justifiably so). You can follow the details and links from that post back through to the beginning, but the short version: 3 weeks of no 360, severe communication issues from Microsoft support, and me being unhappy about the prospect of paying a second out of warranty fee w/o guarantee of some kind of updated hardware (I’m on my third original gen chipset; I’m done). But then I got The Email….

Dragon Age 2: Importing Origins Savegames

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Yes, I know I keep re-using this shot. I’ll get some more screen grabs soon. For now, you’re stuck with Flemeth the Dominatrix.

On the off chance you didn’t already know this, although Dragon Age 2 does not continue the story of The Greywarden, Origins’ protagonist, it does let you import the state of the world you left behind from the first game. I’ve just gone through the process and thought some of you would like to know exactly what choices you made in that game are imported. I don’t necessarily know all the variations on these choices, as the list I got only shows what I specifically did, but you ought to be able to extrapolate from the following list, which does include heavy Dragon Age: Origins spoilers…