Tripping Over Memories Lame

Superman had his kryptonite.  Birdman (like Superman) needed to be recharged by the power of the sun.  Even the Green Lantern had the color yellow... up until it was retconed out for being a silly weakness.   Me, my weakness is being forced to socialize during my free time.  I need my "me" time like a desert maroon needs his water.
Running away?  Well, I suppose I basically am. (Source)

It has been almost a week now since I cut off the lead interruption to my solitude, and I feel little different.  A little more self-actualized and confident.   I almost feel as though my sense of humor might be returning.

At the same time, though, I feel a bit weird because I had grown so used to being put down regularly that I am not used to being on my own person again.  I am not sure if I will ever be able to shift gears back to being the individual I once was... I am older now.

Perhaps I had almost grown to like the constant socialization on some level... but, how should I put this?  There is so much more "me that likes to be alone" than there is "me who likes to socialize."  I do not think I was ever going to actually thrive from frequent interruptions to chat.

In any case, while I can say I feel slightly more optimistic, I still do not have much energy overall.  I am still recharging, and so I largely just watched videos.

A significant amount of what I watched was GameGrumps, a massive set of YouTube videos created by Internet personalities JonTron (a video game critic) and Egoraptor (a flash animator).   (A series that might be dissolving... but hey: nothing lasts forever, and when they have put out 737 videos (and counting) who can complain?!)

I think the interesting thing about the average GameGrump video is that it's really not about whatever game they might happen be playing; the game is just a semi-interesting backdrop.  No, the real attraction is the awesome banter that happens when you put two creative people in the same room and let them speak whatever comes to mind.  If any of that was rehearsed, they sure stuck their neck out about some of the racy stuff they say at times, a lot of it pretty blatantly irresponsible in what it promotes, but it's always entertaining, and it's what people on the Internet want.

God, I wish I could do that.  Deep down, I think there's this sense I could be the guy who comes up with hilarious stuff all the time.  At times, I even do that.  Instead, I've just been too depressed.  I was somebody fresh out of having completed a four year course only to encounter an extremely unforgiving job market, and it took its toll on me for over two years.  Now, I am actually working for an organization I really like, but I am not out of the woods yet because I am not making enough to live on.  I am a 36-year-old basement dweller, and not particularly proud of it.

See?  Depressing.  Moving right along, then...

Something I just finished watching today was the entirety of The Spoony Experiments' Ultima Retrospective: a great informal comedy review of Richard Garriott's pioneering computer roleplaying games, the Ultima series. I watched the whole dang thing in one sitting, from "Ultima 0" to Ultima 9, and it was a great little trip down memory lane.

I definitely learned a few things about the series, despite being there to play the greater bulk of those games when they were freshly released.  For example, I learned that, even if I had played Ultimas 1 or 2, completing those games would require help from somebody who knew things the games neglected to tell you (and this was long before the Internet).

It is an interesting coincidence that Ultima 3 was the first Ultima game for both me and Spoony.  Perhaps that was when the series really started to get attention among home computer users?  Ultimately (heh) I had completed Ultimas 3, 4, 7, 8, and even 9 and played the rest except for those weird Ultima 6 spinoffs.

While Spoony was extremely angry about Ultima IX: Ascension and how it disrespected the lore of the earlier games, I can't say it was quite that bad for me.

The thing is, Ultima VIII: Pegan was out in March of 1994, and already largely murdered the idea of The Avatar (the central protagonist of these games) as being virtuous while simultaneously foisting terrible (even broken) gameplay on us.  Ultima IX was massively delayed; it came out in November of 1999.  Consequently, I had over five years to get used to the idea that The Avatar's virtues had been thrown out the window, he was flying solo now, and that modern Ultimas had sub-par gameplay.  It was hardly a shocker when Ultima IX just stayed the course.

Despite that, I thought IX was actually a step in the right direction versus VIII.
  • Sure, the architecture might have changed, but at least we're back in Britannia again, and since when did any game in the Ultima series work to preserve the look of the previous one?  They had some really cool ideas about how to represent the different cities in Britannia, and they never felt as distinct as they did in Ultima IX.
  • Ultima IX was the most virtue-centric game since Ultima V despite The Avatar acting like an virtueless douchebag sometimes.  Face facts: the Avatar was stealing whatever was not bolted down and even sleeping with loose women since Ultima VII.  Yet, Ultima IX actually brought back the shrines and had the avatar meditate at them, something we had not done since Ultima VI where it was really more of a tertiary feature.
  • Yeah, Dupre came back from the dead and this undermined the core idea that he committed to a massive sacrifice, but at least we were getting the gang back together again.  The avatar's eight companions were well-represented in Ultima IX, something that had not happened since Ultimas VII: Serpent Isle, a game released 6 years before.  There was even a really great plot point that Julia (the companion of sacrifice) always had a romantic interest in The Avatar but kept it to herself for centuries for the good of the mission - talk about self-sacrifice!
  • I know, the game was crash prone, even when patched, and that was annoying.  But it was still the most technically advanced Ultima game and actually held together reasonably well.  As annoying as the kludgy gameplay was, it was really no more kludgy than Ultima VIII... I think I would rather play this shoddy Ocarina Of Time than succumb to the constant cheap deaths in Ultima VIII.
Spoony was either way more the Ultima canon fanatic than I was,
or he was overreacting just a bit at the end of the series.
Thus, when I completed Ultima IX, I really did have a bit of that sense of Ultima series catharsis that the developers were going for, despite it not respecting the canon much at all.

In his entire retrospective, there was one Ultima game that Spoony did not talk much about.  Released between Ultima VIII and Ultima IX was a game that is still releasing expansions to this day.  It was a game whose success took Origin's bosses at EA by such a massive surprise they eventually told Origin, "You don't 'create worlds' anymore, you are just the 'Ultima' company now."  (It was a move many of us still won't forgive EA for despite their renaming themselves to Origin.)

That game was Ultima Online, and it was incredibly successful because the MMORPG genre was a very exciting concept back then (and probably would be today if MMORPG development philosophy had went in more exciting directions than it did).

I'm not surprised Spoony barely gave it a token mention because, despite its success, Ultima Online sucked at being an Ultima game.  I apologize if you're a nostalgic fan of it, but it's true.  You can tell me the game was a fantastic virtual world sandbox, I agree, but still, Ultima Online played nothing like any Ultima game before it, it just stole a bit of the world lore and ignored the rest.  The most important fixture of Ultima, the virtues, was completely removed and would not be added (in an unsatisfactory manner) until an expansion that came out too late for anyone to care.  This lack of a hard-coded virtue system may have come to bite them in the rear, as Ultima Online ended up a cesspool of player killing, griefing assholes so out of control that eventually the developers had to put the kabosh on open-PvP entirely, splitting the world into PvP and non-PvP copies of each other, and it has been downhill ever since.

Despite anything sacred about Ultima lore having been disowned over for the past 15ish years, there is still a glimmer of hope for the Ultima series.  Richard Garriott is free of the yoke of Electronic Arts, has re-secured the rights to Ultima, and just finished raising 1.9 million dollars to make another.  I like to think he is more of a creative innovator than he is an eccentric, despite any evidence to the contrary.  Sure, Tabula Rasa, Garriott's last game, did not go so great, but it was largely because it threw its hat in the ring against World of Warcraft, and World of Warcraft annihilates all that oppose it.

This new Ultima could actually end up pretty awesome.  In fact, while watching Spoony's Ultima retrospective, I could not help but think it would not be all that hard to come up with a more entertaining and lore-faithful Ultima than EA did with Ultima VIII or Ultima IX even if it ended up looking like Ultima V and was made in BYOND.   After that, I'll be crossing my fingers Garriott and crew know what they're doing, but I feel it likely they will succeed in rekindling some of that old Ultima magic.

Now, I want to go play some Skyrim.  This is because I just finished watching Ultima 9 footage and realized just how good Skyrim is in comparison to that.  I completed Ultima 9, what's my excuse with Skyrim? (Oh, reading my old entries, I forgot that Bethesda was the one lacking excuses for Skyrim... maybe I'll finish Kingdoms of Amalur or Risen instead.)

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