Ultima IV - Quest of the Avatar

Ultima IV - Quest of the Avatar

It was 1987 (when I was 7th grade) that my mom bought me my first computer: Apple II+. It had around 300,000 KRW price tag (about $375 at that time). Considering my family's financial status at the time, we could hardly afford it. But I believe it has changed my life; developing games was my dream of life, and I'm still working as a software engineer.

I enjoyed many games with the Apple II, but my favorite one was Ultima IV - Quest of the Avatar. One of my friends in my student computer club recommended it, and it was my first RPG game. It was not a mere game, but another world where I can have my second life. I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the world of Britannia. But at that time, the English in the game was tough for me. Not only archaic words (thou, dost, thy, and so on), many words in the game were too difficult for a South Korean 7th-grade student.

Recently, I've touched some retro games and came up with Ultima IV. I could buy one for my decent macOS at gog.com, and it was free! But It was a wrapping of the MS-DOS version with DOSBox, the game was not smooth and had no sound. I was so disappointed as I could not listen to the BGMs that I had with my Mockingboard - yes, I had a Mockingboard! So, I did some investigation and have found ScummVM.

ScummVM is a VM that replaces the executable parts of games and makes us run certain classic graphical point-and-click adventure games and RPGs. And recently (May 25, 2020), it supports Ultima IV (in a development version, the official support is going to be the end of Sep. with 2.2.0 release).

Step 1: We need Ultima IV.

ScummVM does not provide the game itself. We have to prepare the game data. For Ultima IV, we can have one from gog.com. No problem.

Step 2: Install ScummVM.

Currently, only the daily development version supports Ultima IV (the official support is going to be the end of Sep. with 2.2.0 release). So, we need to download it from https://buildbot.scummvm.org/builds.html. For macOS, please download a version for Mac OS X (x64). I haven't tried it yet, but I believe we can install it on an iPhone or iPad if we have an Apple developer account.

Step 3: Copy the game content.

Once you install the gog.com version of Ultima IV, you can see it in your Applications folder. Right-click at the Ultima IV, then select 'Show Package Contents.' Then navigates to Contents -> Resources folder. You can find the game folder and copy the game folder to your preferred location. For me, I copied it under ~/games and renamed it ultima4, so the final location is ~/games/ultima4.

Step 4: (Bonus) Apply the enhanced version.

There is a fan-based enhanced version of Ultima IV, and you can find it at the Moongates Ultima IV Annex. Download the U4UPGRAD.ZIP file and unzip to your copied game folder. That's all; you don't need to run the SETUP.BAT file.

Step 5: Add it from ScummVM.

Run ScummVM and select the 'Add Game' menu. Then select your game folder. It will automatically recognize your Ultima IV and show it in the list.

Step 6: Run Ultima IV

Click 'Start' to play the game. You can see the nostalgic main screen with the original BGMs (if you had a chance to listen to it)!

Step 7: Configure

The ScummVM version is based on the xu4 version of Ultima IV. It has many options and enhancement from the original version. I tried some configuration, and I have my preference. Select 'Configure' from the menu by clicking the 'C' key.

Input Option

  • Turn Mouse 'Off'

Enhanced Interface Options

  • Ultima V Shrines 'Off'
  • Ultima V Spell Mixing 'Off'
    (You can use Ultima V style spell mixture interface but it always fails at my current version due to a bug.)

Step 8: Enjoy it!

I'm a level 8 mage and collected all party members, all runes and mantras, and one stone (the white stone). Originally, starting as a mage was tough, but the ScummVM version made me begin with full stat (Lv8), so it was a smooth start. My English is no more a hurdle, and I'm really enjoying talking with people in Britannia. I'm summarizing my gameplay in my personal Notion. It was a super useful tool, though this kind of interface should be provided in the game these days.

Notion is awesome!

Many of my old favorite games downed me as I found they did not give the past days' emotion. But Ultima IV is not; I'm really enjoying my weekend journey to Britannia. No, it is not another magic and sword game. You have to seek the eight virtues, three principles, and find the ultimate answer. You cannot defeat evil by becoming the more evil hero; you should become an avatar. Episode 3 of High Score at Netflix has an excellent review of Ultima IV. Check it out! It's my time to back to my journey.