That was one of our chief questions, too, and the answer is basically convenience and vanity items. "We don't put silly glass walls up, and we don't keep poking you for cash; we just leave you alone," Barnett said.
Most of the game's content is free, Barnett says, and it will be supplemented by the sale of fluff like golden galleons, bigger hot air balloons, and so on. "It's sort of like Kickstarter," he explained. "The more people who back it, the more stuff we can put into it."
And what about the gameplay? Is Ultima Forever
No, though Barnett says it has "a lot" of players in it. "It's very tribal in the way we're building it," he explained. The game is a small-group affair, with "tactical, positional" combat that is less about hotbar abilities and more about where your characters stand, what kind of equipment they have, and how you use your abilities together.
"It's very much a classic RPG adventure. It's more in Dragon Age's territory than that of an MMO."
Barnett compared the game to the hunting areas in older BioWare titles like Baldur's Gate
, and he pointed out that the essence of Ultima Forever
is focused on improving your virtues through a BioWare storyline and plenty of dungeoneering. "It's very much a classic RPG adventure. It's more in Dragon Age's
territory than that of an MMO," he explained.
And how does BioWare think classic Ultima
fans will respond to a new, casual-focused take on their favorite universe? "We've kept in close contact with a group of hardcore Ultima
fans; they're in the alpha, actually," Barnett said. "We can't replicate the original game, and I don't think they want us to. The original game is lauded as very important, and it is, but if you give it to a modern gamer, it's sort of like trying to read Chaucer. You're told it's worthy, but it's sort of incomprehensible."
So what's the impetus behind the project? It's basically BioWare's attempt to reboot the franchise. "You would put it on a mass media console -- that's what the iPad is," Barnett explained. "You would make it free-to-play and allow people from any age group to play it. You wouldn't need to be an RPG-head or remember 27 different combat controls, and we've made those adjustments."
Is it still about the virtues? Is it still about Britannia? Does it still have the towns, NPCs, the core story about being the avatar? "The answer to all these questions is yes. We look at it like how Peter Jackson had to re-imagine Lord of the Rings for the screen, or how Christopher Nolan had to imagine Batman. We're not going to please everyone, but hopefully when players finish kicking the tires, they'll come back and go, 'OK, that's pretty cool,'" Barnett said.
is currently being prepped for closed beta testing. You can register at the official site