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Ultima IV — EA Takedowns Precede Official Reboot

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the textbook-evil-empire dept.

Classic Games (Games) 194

Kevin Fishburne writes "According to posts at the Ultima fan site Ultima Aiera, both the browser-based Ultima IV Sega Master System emulation at Master System 8 and the IBM-PC port at Phi Psi Software have received cease and desist letters from Electronic Arts, the current IP holder of the Ultima franchise. The post states that despite the widely held belief that Origin had allowed the Ultima Dragons to distribute Ultima IV freely in 1997, in fact that is no longer the case. It further suggests that the EA takedowns are preceding an upcoming browser-based Ultima IV reboot by Bioware Mythic. Has EA lost an eighth, or are they well within their rights by going DMCA on a 26-year-old game they had no hand in developing?"

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If they own the copyright... (5, Informative)

Derekloffin (741455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649802)

As far as I know, doesn't matter that it is older, or that they didn't personally develop it. It is still copyrighted, and unless someone can show it was given to public domain, EA is within their rights to do this.

Re:If they own the copyright... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35649820)

yup

Re:If they own the copyright... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35649888)

It being within their rights certainly doesn't make it right, though.

As for Mythic making an Ultima reboot, yeah, no.

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

mikaelg (2028366) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650054)

They are still being quite reasonable about it. They just sent a cease & desist letter, while they could have outright sued them or send some killing robots to take care of the programmers.

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650626)

Come with me if you want to live!

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

TheCRAIGGERS (909877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652306)

It has nothing to do with being reasonable. The simple fact of the matter is that it's not worth their time / money to sue them, considering lawyer time is expensive and they're unlikely to even get their court costs covered even after they win their case.

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

SuperDre (982372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650858)

Well, why wouldn't it make it right? the not being right was putting up the current versions at all without a written permission from the copyrightholder (at least I think they didn't).. Because it's old doesn't make it right to just publish it using an emulator or something, even if you do not make money off it (but remember, most of those sites are filled with advertisement, and that's how they make their money).. Be original, and go out and create your own game if you really want to publish something and make money..

Re:If they own the copyright... (3, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651170)

Because it's old doesn't make it right to just publish it using an emulator or something

Of course it does. Copyrights aren't supposed to be eternal for a very good reason, despite the best efforts and desires of culture vultures who believe that they should have a license to get paid forever for work someone else did.

Re:If they own the copyright... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35651838)

No, it doesn't. Just like I can't just take a 20 year old version of GCC, relicense it as I see fit and then re-release it. But you're probably one of those GPL zealots that think that only copyrights on proprietary software, music and movies are the only things that shouldn't have eternal copyrights otherwise you'd be pushing for the public domaining of lots of old and abandoned GPL code as well.

Re:If they own the copyright... (2)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652126)

Ironically it's probably the emulator crowd that's helped to keep many of these old games alive in people's minds. If it wasn't for people preserving and giving an avenue for others to carry on playing said games, a load of them would have fallen into obscurity - now there's a demand for fun but technically unchallenging games for mobile devices, or browser-based play it's suddenly a revenue stream. Once money re-enters the equation all bets are off, but the industry should be giving a big thank you to the emulator crowd, not sending out threatening legal letters.

That's correct from a legal standpoint (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649896)

Though one can ask if it is correct from a moral one, and also if it SHOULD be correct from a legal standpoint.

My feeling is no. Copyright is far too long. The idea of a limited time copyright is to keep people creating new works. You make a work, you get to make money off of it, but only for a little while. After that it belongs to the public and you need to make new works if you wish to keep making money.

Seems fair to me as that is how most professions work. If I fix a computer, I do not continue to receive pay for that computer so long as it is in use or functional. I am paid for doing the job. If I want more pay I need to keep working.

Personally I'd do copyright something like this:

You get 10 years, upon the creation of the work, no registration needed. That way everyone has a chance to profit from a creation of theirs that is valuable. Once the 10 years are up you've three choices:

1) Do nothing and allow the work to fall in to the public domain. If you do this there are, as they say on the playground, "no taksies backsies." The work is public now and forevermore.

2) Register and renew the work with an exclusive license for another 10 years. You get to dictate everything about its usage, just like the first 10, you've complete control. After that, it falls in to the public domain, no further extensions permitted.

3) Register and renew the work with a mandatory license agreement for another 20 years. In this case you get to keep copyright longer, however part of the terms are that the government mandates a reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing of it. People can make derivatives and pay you a set fee for that and you cannot stop it. You can still profit from your work, but on fixed terms. After that, the work falls in to the public domain.

This was people still have plenty of time to profit from their works, but they can't hold on to them forever and ever and just milk a single gravy train. Also, if someone abandons a work and doesn't bother to register, it falls in to the public domain quicker. After all, if you are still making money 10 years later, you can take the time to register. If you can't be bothered, obviously it isn't that valuable to you.

So while under current law they are 100% in the right, I feel they are being dicks and I feel current copyright law should be changed. You shouldn't be allowed to just hold on to something forever. Many of our more modern favourite works are directly possible because of the use of public domain earlier works (like most of the famous Disney cartoons). That needs to continue.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650060)

Thats exactly how the first Copyright law in the United States worked(well the period was 14 years and another 14 years if the author was still alive and wanted it extended). Every other copyright law after that should be repealed.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (2)

MPolo (129811) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650674)

I could even see allowing additional extensions beyond the first, but the cost of these should increase exponentially. If Disney is convinced that derivatives of Steamboat Willie are going to drive them into the ground, they can pay an ever-increasing fee to protect it. Something like first renewal costs $10,000 (or more), second is $20,000, third is $40,000 and so on. At a certain point, even Disney would be moved to let things slip into the public domain... The reason for the high renewal fee is that if the work isn't generating serious income, there is no point in renewing the copyright, and if the work is that valuable, the public has a vested interest in getting it into the public domain

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650818)

The renewal fee should be a percentage of the gross income from the protected work, not a flat fee. Otherwise it hurts the small copyright holder and is ineffectual against the large copyright holder.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651334)

Gross income? Look up Hollywood accounting.

The Corporations will just structure it so that the copyright holder earns nothing.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650836)

This is a disaventage for small authors that can't afford renewal. Instead, to renew, the original author could simply demonstrate that income from the copyrighted work generate a significant portion of his income. This could be demontrated ever 5 year or so after the initial limited time copyright and allow the original author to renew copyright for his entier life.

What is a significan portion of the income will be different from a small author and a large corporation. In the case of Disney, for as long there are good sales of 'Steamboat Willie' DVD, they should be able to renew the copyright. If no one is buying it, it is public domain.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

malkavian (9512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650906)

0.5-1% of the cumulative gross of the work would be more like it. Cumulative being the vital thing (otherwise, if something just doesn't sell after the 'big hit few years', then you effectively get the extension almost free as a big studio. Steamboat Willie not selling much? Well that renewal is $50 for the year; go for it!). This won't affect the small time authors much either; will cost a pittance for a work that doesn't sell much, but at some point, they'll just not care enough to keep it going, especially if they're doing other things that also need protecting).

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652410)

Of course, it becomes a point when they tell some friendly republicrats something like this...

"You know 1.28 million dollars, I can either pay that to the copyright office, and keep my copyright, or I could contribute that to someone's campaign fund, and with their help making one or two slight alterations to the law I will keep my copyright... so it's up to them, do they get my money or does the copyright office get my money? hmm..."

And of course, you know what 99.99% of the republicrats will do...

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650808)

Fourteen years is still far too long in today's world (and twenty-eight years is beyond an eternity).

According to typical sales records, maybe two or, at most, five years is more than enough protection.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650982)

Two years? Given that time frame, the copyright on a movie script would expire years before the movie was released. A typical author takes 3-5 years from completion to sell their first novel. Self published albums can take 5 years or more to make back their investment. Video games take 2+ years of development, and then typically another 1-2 years to turn a profit. How would TV shows work? After season 2 every other network just takes your characters and starts making episodes of the same show?

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651576)

How would TV shows work? After season 2 every other network just takes your characters and starts making episodes of the same show?

While I certainly agree with you, I feel the need to point out that TV networks have been doing exactly this for decades, they just rename the characters and add in a random quirk the original show didn't have.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652200)

I think 2 years is too little - about 5-7 feels right - but if the protection ran for the entirety of develpoment/production plus two years it would protect movies/games that take a long time to be released and still give them the same opportunity to generate a profit. I'm not sure the TV show example works, after all, most shows are incredibly formulaic already, there's not much originality - the selling point is the quality of the production and the writing. I'm all for more competition in this arena (if another channel can write the same show better then it's clearly in my interests as a viewer to see that happen).

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651562)

Why would you buy any form of entertainment new if you knew you would be able to get it legally for free in 2 years?

I sure wouldn't. Any book, movie, video game, tv show etc, can wait. I'll just watch/read whatever was the big deal in 2009 while I wait.

Popular culture moves quickly, but not as quickly as you think.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652226)

For the same reason people pay a premium to see a movie in the first run at the cinema instead of waiting for the DVD, or that they buy the DVD at release price instead of waiting 18 months and picking it up in a bargain bin? People like to see the latest movies, play the latest games, read the latest books, just because a few people are willing to wait to save money doesn't mean the majority won't continue to pay a premium to experience it early.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652470)

I don't mind paying for content.

I'm already 18 months behind the curve on (most) computer games. I'm buying them at a quarter of the price on Steam instead of paying the 'brand new game' premium.

Some games (online ones and FM2011) need immediate purchase, but a lot don't - last week I put 43 hours in Dragon Age, while on steam my friends are playing Dragon Age II. I'm playing the Ultimate Edition of the original, with all the DLC and expansions, which I paid a lot less for than they've paid for less of a game in the sequel.

If the games became free after 2 years, that would hurt sales. Making them free after 5-10 years would not. Making them free after 5 years and charging me a nominal fee to add them to my Steam account (and keep them running on 'latest' Windows version) would be very worthwhile.

C&Ding a 26yo game does feel rather excessive though, even if it is legally still under copyright.

Re:That's correct from a legal standpoint (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652488)

Relevant
http://xkcd.com/606/
Also
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2005/12/5/

10 Year Copyright? That's Fine... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651828)

...but then the government needs to police and prosecute like friggin' Elliot Ness on steroids the torrent seeders and other violators. Root 'em out and hang 'em up to dry. Every kid, every grandma, every wise-ass college nerd pleading poverty: shut 'em down and cleanse their hard drives clean of any content they did not pay for that is not in the public domain. Everyone needs to understand that they have three choices for possessing entertainment content:

1. Pay Now and Get It Now
2. Wait 10 years and Get It For Free
3. Take it before 10 years and suffer a steep fine

Then the abbreviated copyright term works.

So... call me when y'all got that set up...

Re:10 Year Copyright? That's Fine... (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652278)

The problem is they seem to be working on steps one and three and ignoring step two. It's like the chicken and egg situation with public transport (in the UK) - the government want more people to use public transport instead of cars, but instead of investing in good public transport, they focus on punishing car drivers. The car drivers have no real alternative so they continue to use their cars while fostering resentment. Give us sensible copyright laws first and then focus on punishing those who break them.

Re:10 Year Copyright? That's Fine... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652526)

Give us sensible copyright laws first and then focus on punishing those who break them.

No.

Law enforcement cannot adequately police the torrents now. Songs are merely a dollar on iTunes -- less other places -- yet the latest pop music album is but a two-minute download via Vuze or some other client within a few days of its release. How will diminishing the copyright term -- which at least assures the artist of some revenue from reputable distributors and honest consumers -- increases the technical efficacy of the forces policing copyright?

Demonstrate how the consumer genie can be placed back in the bottle and then we can have a discussion about attenuating the creators' term of copyright.

At the same time... (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649966)

...this kind of dick-ish move is the same sort of thing we've come to expect from EA. Remember the takedowns sent from Fox to Simpons fans in the 90's? This seems fairly similar.

Being anal about the distribution rights of a 14 year old video game seems like it's an issue of screwing your most dedicated fans, the very people that the company should be catering to.

Re:At the same time... (1)

Golden_Rider (137548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650336)

Being anal about the distribution rights of a 14 year old video game seems like it's an issue of screwing your most dedicated fans, the very people that the company should be catering to.

Actually, the DOS version of the game is about 26 years old.

Re:At the same time... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650484)

EA does not give a rat's ass about hardcore RPG fans.

EA cares about consoletards and Madden.

Actually that's probably a good litmus test, if you know what Ultima was EA doesn't give a rat's ass about your kind of game.

Re:At the same time... (1)

Ltap (1572175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651550)

Personally, I would have released it on the same disc as the reboot and called it the "authorized emulation release" or something similar. Id re-releases its older games, and so does Bethesda. I even recall games like Bloodrayne being re-released on the same disc as their movie adaptation. The fact is that it is against EA's ideas of what business should be: they want gaming to exist like the world of 1984, with everything in the present and where the past can be erased or altered based on their whims. After all, if people played older games, they might not be constantly buying new ones. Better to try to force people nostalgic for the original game to buy the new version instead of playing the old one with an emulator, at least for EA.

Re:If they own the copyright... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650352)

Hmm? It has been more than 14 years since it was first published, so basicly it is in the public domain regardless of some temporal rent seeking one sided "agreements".

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650746)

IANAL but this brings up an interesting point: would not any EULA for Ultima IV have been between me and Origin Systems (the original publisher). Since when can EA assume that I agree with their (new) terms just because they bought the company? They bought the company and the property owned by the company. They didn't buy my rights. However they may do so for the low low sum of $15 million.

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

Bobakitoo (1814374) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650882)

However they may do so for the low low sum of $15 million.

Personally, i would agree to EA's new EULA for only $1 million. Not that i play the game, but i would click the 'accept' button for that low amount!

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651216)

I've read plenty of EULAs claiming to be between the end user and the publisher "or its successors in interest" or something like that.

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

.sig (180877) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651342)

I've read plenty of EULAs ...

You're too early, save that one for Friday...

Re:If they own the copyright... (1)

AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651646)

I can't even remember there being EULA's with those games back in those years....

they just blew anyone playing it for doing this (1)

chronoss2010 (1825454) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650936)

ya think after letting al the development and fun for free people will now just pay screw them. THIS ip bullshit is getitng seriously out of hand.

Who developped does not matter (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649846)

Who hold the copyright matters. And hate it or not, they are perfectly in right to remove a distribution right they have given before. That said, after having bought ultima 4 to 9, UW1 and UW2, and having felt the pain of playing thru ultima 9, I think I can imagine that any browser based U4 will be about : a very basic strategy / rpg game , with the possibility to buy for $$$ a few useful item. "buy 30 karma for 0.99 $ !". YURK.

Re:Who developped does not matter (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650084)

>>buy 30 karma for 0.99 $ !"

Brings new meaning to the dungeons in Ultima IV:
Deceit
Despair
Despise
Wrong
Covetous
Shame ...all apply equally well to the developers of microtransaction, spam-based social games, and the players that play them.

(Pedants: Yes, I'm ignoring Destard and Hythloth. Whatever.)

"thou hath lost an eighth" (3, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652120)

I seem to recall if you were stupid enough to attack a villager in a town, you'd not see that once, but about six times over. (I don't recall which few virtues you didn't lose)

But EA probably is within their rights to do this. It does no good to get upset at them because they're playing by the rules. As we all know, it's the rules that are broken.

BUT, the reason the rules are broken are because companies (like EA) have brib...er lobbied congress critters to write those laws. But again, that's still them playing within the rules, and again leads back to the rules being broken. It's a problem that's two levels deep, and in both cases comes down to a defective legislative system. Defective, not malfunctioning. It's working as designed, it's just designed wrong. Unfortunately certain aspects of its design (such as lobbying) make it a problem that's self-perpetuating to a large degree.

Never understood why ultima IV was so great (2)

quietwalker (969769) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649862)

I remember abandoning it for Might and Magic (I & II), and then returning to the series when I got a hold of Ultima V. Ultima V kicked serious butt!

How come no one ever wants to remake/re-release/re-whatever that one?

*goes in a corner and plays the stones song*

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (4, Insightful)

Tapewolf (1639955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649920)

You might want to look up Lazarus. It was a total conversion for Dungeon Siege - fan made, but very well done. I was one of those folks who couldn't really get into anything pre-Ultima 6, though I did play Ultima 4 end to end.

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (0)

marsu_k (701360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649998)

Seconded, Lazarus [u5lazarus.com] (considering it is a fan-made effort) rocks. You'll need a copy of Dungeon Siege though, but you should be able to find one from the likes of eBay (or just get a torrent, if you're so inclined).

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650106)

I can still feel the soul-crushing boredom of Dungeon Siege pressing down on me as I view those screenshots.

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651186)

Assuming one is still on winxp of course. DS wont run on win7 for instance :p

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (1)

Tapewolf (1639955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651414)

Oh, I haven't tried it recently. There is also a mac version, but I don't know whether that will still run either. I do remember that Lazarus wouldn't run under WINE at the time, but again, I haven't tried it for a while.

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652098)

For classic games, you can beat the Amiga versions. The way I play them is via Win UAE on Win XP inside VirtualBox on my ArchLinux host. Sounds a bit circuitous, but it works well.

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (1)

pinkstuff (758732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649970)

Two major things, 1) it came out before M&M I (albeit, just before), and 2) you couldn't get M&M on the Sega Master System ;). Ultima IV is one of the games I have the fondest memories of, it introduced me to RPG's and had a fairly good story line.

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650142)

there's many remakes of all ultimas before 6.

6 is the bee's balls superduper though. the world in it is far bigger than in dragon age, or anything hand done. ultima7 feels like a kid's park compared to the size(ultima7 has no caves, for example, just those pseudo caves).

also, ultima ix isn't half bad. no computer could run it when it came though.

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652010)

And no computer can run ultima ix well now given its reliance on voodoo/glide instead of OpenGL.

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651524)

In the context of what came before, it was the first game I can recall where the ultimate victory was not based on killing a bad guy, but rather a personal quest. It was also the first time we got the world of Britania (Ultima ]I[ had been Sosaria, ][ was earth through time, and I... I dunno, something like Alkabeth I imagine, never played that one). It was the first time we got to journey with Iolo Fitzowen, Dupre, Shamino, et al.

Yes it was over the top in its morality, and Ultima V was directly a response to that. But the role of Ultima IV should not be ignored or minimized. It advanced the bar in terms of these games beyond anything else at that time.

(dusting off old sig)
Asgrim Dragon, UDIC

Re:Never understood why ultima IV was so great (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651872)

Story depth and complexity of the interwoven virtue "formula."

Games used to be about story, plot and themes and not simply hack and slash. While I've enjoyed all of the Ultimas (even 8, /shudder), 5's combat system, while allowing plenty of control, took too long and slowed down the flow of the game. It was almost as cumbersome as the Times of Lore combat system where one battle of a group of 6 against 6 monsters took a good 20 minutes.

I am, of course, talking about playing on the Apple/PC. Combat on consoles was simplified because consoles require simple interfacing.

U4 to this day ranks as one of the best games of the past decades due to the seamless integration of quest objectives with free form world interaction.

I'd say it's more a case of... (1)

Tomsk70 (984457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649864)

....they're desperate to not have to pay anyone to develop original titles, so they're trawling their back-catalogue to recycle anything that might even partly make money.

Kind of like Sony with Blues Brothers 2000.

Just so long as it remains readily playable (5, Insightful)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649870)

If EA are sending out takedown notices, then they really had better have an official port in the pipeline. I'm going to leave aside the moral dimensions of copyright law for a moment and focus on something else - the fact that this is a game that needs preserving in an accessible form.

Ultima IV is, to my mind, one of the most important games in the history of computer and video gaming as a medium. While the first three Ultima games (and Akalabeth) had been relatively straightforward "hack and slash" type RPGs, Ultima IV was revolutionary. It was a game based around morality, where the objective wasn't to defeat the big bad and save the world, but rather become a paragon of virtue. It was an early sign that the medium was capable of "growing up" and its influence over the years has been immense. While hack and slash still predominates, you can see the influence of Ultima IV underpinning pretty much every Bioware RPG, as well as a whole host of other games which attempt to tell more sophisticated stories or allow the player a degree of freedom in how to accomplish objectives.

In terms of significance to the development of the RPG genre, I'd rank Ultima IV as sitting alongside the second installments in the Final Fantasy and Baldur's Gate series - the former for its development of what we now recognise as the standard model for Japanese RPG storytelling and the latter for re-popularising the genre in the West following a major period of decline in the mid-90s.

It's a sad fact that because people at the time saw them as ephemeral, many of the significant early works in film and television have been lost forever. It would be nice - and no doubt welcomed by future generations - if we could actually preserve the most important early gaming titles in a readily playable form.

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (1)

the_enigma_1983 (742079) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649904)

Where's my upvote ... I mean mod points when I need them.

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650004)

The game is in no danger of being lost to time. And a copyright violation notice has nothing to do with whether or not it will be lost to time.

The game was based around wandering around a fantasy kingdom killing monsters. That made up approximately 100% of gameplay. They mentioned morality in the parts nobody cared about. It's no more deep than the cut scenes in Mario, where the Princess is in another castle.

The morality system of Bioware games is so incredibly trite, who cares what its inspirations were?

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (1)

dinadan (32940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651760)

"They mentioned morality in the parts nobody cared about."
Sorry, but this is bullshit. You could not complete the game without complying to the eight virtues.

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650010)

On the contrary, I think it's a sign of how little the RPG sector has grown up that you think Bioware is a good example of sophisticated story telling. There's more emotional involvement in a run and gun survival horror like Dead Space 2 than yet another "bring items X, Y and Z to the generic character in your party so you can have TEH NOOKIE". That's not a dig at Ultima, by the way, I think IV genuinely did try and move the genre on, but the likes of Dragon Age don't add anything but a bit of spit and polish to what's been a stagnant sector for a long time.

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (1)

MareLooke (1003332) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650160)

You are probably referring to the recent Bioware games (judging from your reference of bringing items to characters, which is something that only really happened in Dragon Age: Origins a game you also refer to), which are very shallow reflections of the games most people refer to if they talk about story telling in Bioware games (in other words, Fallout 1 & 2, Baldur's Gate 2 and Planescape: Torment, a few others can be argued about I guess).

I still feel more affinity with my BG2 companions than with any of the newer Bioware games (say, anything starting from Neverwinter Nights onwards, incidentally this is also when EA took over, coincidence?), you also spent way more time with them since you picked a group and stuck with them, unlike the trend to keep group members around in some compound and swap them around at will (Mass Effect 2 was horrible in this respect, so many companions that you barely could take all of them somewhere before the game ended). RPGs also have become way too short to put in any form a meaningful character interaction with NPCs. The newer games have fun companions, but nothing as memorable as some of the ones in the old games.

This is possibly due to the focus on graphics and voice overs instead of great writing. Needing to have every line voiced obviously doesn't help the writing, things need to be shorter, more concise because hiring voice actors for a game with as much dialogue as PS: T would be horribly expensive I imagine (and possibly horrible to sit through, I still read way faster than most people talk) and the arguably more (graphically) detailed environments make for longer development times and thus less time for more content.

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650322)

You're confusing Bioware with Black Isle Studios.

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35651324)

AMEN TO THAT BROTHER!!! Ultima IV was a GREAT game!

Re:Just so long as it remains readily playable (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651962)

Don't worry, Ultima IV will always be readily available on the internet. I can assure you that.

Has EA lost an eighth (2)

deniable (76198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649898)

Um, what?

It's an 'in-joke' (5, Informative)

Tigger's Pet (130655) | more than 3 years ago | (#35649912)

Quote from http://everything2.com/title/Thou+hast+lost+an+eighth%2521 [everything2.com] - to stop me wasting my time re-wording;-

A warning that first appeared in Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. Earning all eight pieces of the ankh is a major part of the aforementioned quest. You have to act in harmony with all eight virtues in order to earn each piece. If you act unvirtuously, by cheating a blind herb-seller, attacking a peaceful citizen, etc., you will lose that virtue. If you've earned that virtue's piece of the ankh, you will also lose that eighth.
On the Ultima-related newsgroups, "Thou hast lost an eighth!" is used as a rebuke when someone asks a stupid question.
"Thou hast lost an eighth" also appears in Doom II -- when you want to quit the game, the confirmation dialog occasionally warns you that "Thou hast lost an eighth" for wanting to quit!

Re:It's an 'in-joke' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650222)

And here I was thinking that it was a reference to smoking drugs which was screwing up their brains.

Re:It's an 'in-joke' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652280)

It was always fun to wander into a town and use the Skull of Mondain and watch all eight eighths disappear instantly. :)

Re:Has EA lost an eighth (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651952)

I'll expound Tigger's Pet's excellent explanation.

In U4 you gained "skill" in each of the eight virtues. Once you "ascended" in each virtue you gained an eighth of an ankh. If you took any action counter to that ascended virtue, you lost it and had to again work through regaining it. Even if you were fully ascended (all eight pieces of the ankh) and did something that went against honesty and the other three virtues based upon the axiom of Truth, you might see...

"Thou hast lost an eighth!!!"
"Thou hast lost an eighth!!!"
"Thou hast lost an eighth!!!"
"Thou hast lost an eighth!!!"

...and half of your ankh just disappeared.

All they need to do is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650012)

Ring up EA, ask to speak to Iolo, then say "SPAM" "SPAM" "SPAM" "HUMBUG".
Situation should easily be sorted out soon after that.

Virtues (2)

alephnull42 (202254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650158)

EA fails on Humility, Honor and Compassion at least.... off to the dungeons!

Re:Virtues (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651906)

Not to mention Honesty, Justice, Sacrifice, Sprituality...

I guess they have Valor because they never seem to stop or back down from anything especially where money is involved.

Aw hell, I'm quite certain EA as a whole *is* The Guardian, Mr. Muppet himself.

I haven't enjoyed an EA game since... (1)

Unka Willbur (1771596) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650494)

They published Archon II: Adept.

Re:I haven't enjoyed an EA game since... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650682)

Mass Effect was good. Of course they had to ruin the sequel with their usual lots-of-DLC-and-little-actual-game money-grab.

Re:I haven't enjoyed an EA game since... (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652560)

I need to retry Mass Effect. Bought it, tried playing it, kind of ran out desire to go back to it.

I loved SW:KOTOR, enjoyed SW:KOTOR2 (despite the negative comparisons everyone made to KOTOR) and I'm currently having a lot of fun with DAO, so the genre/approach clearly works for me. Just Mass Effect didn't..

(I do still consider Baldur's Gate as one of the top RPG games though, having had surprisingly few good RPG experiences prior to that)

Asking Slashdot (1)

metacell (523607) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650556)

"Has EA lost an eighth, or are they well within their rights by going DMCA on a 26-year-old game they had no hand in developing?"

Asking this on Slashdot... I wonder what the answer's going to be? ;-)

Can still be downloaded legally (5, Interesting)

no known priors (1948918) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650594)

You can still download the Ultima IV legally [thatfleminggent.com] . Or, at least, according to both that page and the first article linked to from the summary. And, from that page there is a link to a Usenet post with the permission:

>I've been the recipient of a forward from Edward Franks (Fortran)
>regarding the distribution of Ultima IV and I'm mighty confused..

sorry for the confusion... let's see if I can clarify

1. the U4 distribution in the magazine was intended to be an 'exclusive'
for the mag.
2. Once the mag distribution was over, it was felt nothing much could be
done to stop redistribution of U4 after that
3. KickAss was offering U4 for d/l, but the Dragons couldn't (per a
previous 'restriction' by Origin?)
4. I said, that's not fair to the Dragons... They've been honest about
this. Why not let them offer it as well.. Answer: Your absolutely right..
5. Ergo: email to Fortran Dragon 'OK'ing' the ability to offer U4 for free
d/l by Dragons

So, I just went and downloaded the game. Go me!

As far as I can tell, EA is only going after those who didn't have permission in the first place. Which, is perfectly legal, and not even that dickish when considered from that perspective. (From another perspective, that copyright is shit, and/or that copyright for a 26 year old game is shit, it is dickish. Whatever.)

But yeah, to bad nobody reads the article around here hey. Too bad the summary didn't mention this little point about the game still being available from some places.

Re:Can still be downloaded legally (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652484)

It's not even that the summary doesn't mention this - the summary does mention the Dragons' distribution rights explicitly - it says EA claims they're revoked. So either the page you linked to can expect a letter soon or the summary is just plain wrong or some spokes person for EA spoke out of terms.

I hate to say it... (1)

pyster (670298) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650608)

First one could argue that since they did not enforce their copyright on it all this time that they abandoned it. This is often the reasoning used when companies enforce their copy right on things they no longer care about. I do not know what the legal precedent for such is. It sucks for those who spent all that love and energy creating the work... but I feel that EA making an official release of a reduex will bring one of my favorite games to a new generation. Right now ultima's are a niche market, but with new advertising and buzz its sure to reach a new generation. But EA is often full of dicks only concerned with the bottom line. This is clear in how they treat their sports game fans. I'd avoid buying any EA shit except that Alice in coming out soon.

I really don't understand (2)

yamamushi (903955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650680)

Why do people keep spending money on EA Games? They treat the gaming community like utter crap at every opportunity, yet people continue to keep eating it up constantly. I refuse to spend a dime on any EA product, and I have no doubt many /.'ers share my sentiments.

Re:I really don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35650796)

Haven't bought an EA game since they killed 'Earth & Beyond' (IMO way better game than WoW...)

Re:I really don't understand (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651716)

Why do people keep spending money on EA Games?

EA publishes the games they want to play.

Dragon Age
The Sims
Madden NFL
Medal of Honor
Crysis

Re:I really don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652434)

I cringe a little whenever the EA logo pops up, but they publish some good games.

Series going forward (1)

fervus (1841214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35650932)

Well, in my point of view, as long as they got their hands on the license (which I have no doubt they did) it's their license now. If you love the Ultima universe then you'll at least be glad there is somebody with enough resources to continue the series in a dignifying manner. At least they are obviously going to get out at least one more game (browser or not) as opposed to other licenses they got their hands on and just killed.

Re:Series going forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35651672)

Such as the utter crap game called wing commander on the 360? The ultima underworld series, strike commander (the strike begins summer 91!), the system shock games, and dozens of other properties from Origin that they utterly ignore.

Origin got sucked into making 1 MMO (one of the early ones) and everything went into that. They stopped making worlds. The owner got bored and left.

That being said they (mythic) have been pretty cool with some sites. Such as http://www.wcnews.com/ and letting them host some of the wc games (you have to dig for it though).

The eight virtues: (1)

aapold (753705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651112)

COMPression
HUMIdity
SACRilege
HONEy
SPIRals
VALOrem
HONOlulu
JUSTico (these days you could use JUSTintimberlake or JUSTinbieber... but I did not know who the former was back then and the latter did not exist back then).

(the Ultima IV language parser only read the first four letters of any word) you could pass all the challenges where they asked you questions about the virtues by answering with thse...)

Re:The eight virtues: (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652064)

Hahaha! I knew of the parser limitation, but I never considered you could enter other words.

Of course, the purist that I am, I cursed my friend for using my U7 save game and killing Lord British with the Blacksword. :-)

An eighth? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651394)

More than an eighth. They've USEd the Skull of Mondain (losing an eighth in every category).

Why Ask Moronically Stupid Questions? (0)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651548)

Has EA lost an eighth, or are they well within their rights by going DMCA on a 26-year-old game they had no hand in developing?"

If they own the IP, which according to the post, they do, why are you asking moronically stupid questions to which we all already know the answer. Yes, absolutely, if they own the IP, they are absolutely within their rights.

Why are so many stupid people attracted to slashdot these days. The fact I keep coming back seem more and more evident I now fall into such categorizations.

Re:Why Ask Moronically Stupid Questions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35651680)

One of the arguments companies have used over time is that if they do not police their copy right they somehow lose it legally. Do you have citation where this is not the case? They have not enforced this copy right for a very long time and have allowed clones to flourish and copies to be freely distributed. While I agree most of the comments here are by crack smokers this is still something that needs explored in the topic.

Re:Why Ask Moronically Stupid Questions? (2)

GooberToo (74388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651746)

One of the arguments companies have used over time is that if they do not police their copy right they somehow lose it legally.

Wrong. That's trademarks. You must actively defend your trademark or lose it. You are confused. Copyright is commonly ignored until market reasons can justify otherwise. This behavior is actually pretty common.

Moral rights (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35651684)

IANAL, but I do know the original maker still has moral rights over this IP.
I think he can contest the takedown from EA since it might not be what he wished. Say, because of multiple passing rights (EA bought a company that bought another company that bought Origin, dunno if that was the case)

Anyway that would be an interesting venue to check.
"No EA! You're gonna stop your shit! Right now!"

cap: botches
Do what you will about it.

Abandoned Ware Realities (1)

pyster (670298) | more than 3 years ago | (#35651922)

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Abandonware [wikimedia.org] Looks to me that EA is being uncharacteristically non-dickish here and is following the spirit of Abandoned Ware. During the time they believe they would not be developing the product they let fan enjoy many many freedoms with their IP. Now they have decided that they want to do something with their IP and have sent cease and desist instead of filing a copy right infringement case. Anyone who thinks EA is out of line here is a crack smoker.

EA has done some really crappy things to gamers as of late, but sorry, this isnt one of them. If they are seriously going to release a redeux of Ultima IV it is one of the best things they have done for a long while. It will breath new life into one of the best games that has ever been produced. They have the advertising and promotion clout to bring this tale of greatness to a new generation... and one that I think is sorely in need of finding some kinda moral compass.

I wonder how Skittle the Skeleton has fared after all these years. A very close friend of mine passed away last friday. One of the only possessions of his I deemed of value was his Ultima IV Ankh, and thusly I snagged it to save it from the trash. It sat on his desk, under his monitor, for 25 years. (I lost mine at the beach in the 80s). This game was seriously important to many of my generation. Not only because of the great story, the morality, that demanded an emotional response, and left with something we would reference for the rest of our lives, But because Lord British was one of us. He was our age and way too in love with technology. Lets hope that EA's resurrection rises from the ashes like a phoenix.

xu4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35651950)

What about xu4? http://xu4.sf.net

Abandonware (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652046)

I'm sure someone with more time to research than I will come up with this answer, but what is the limitation of IP? When does software become "abandonware" as so many products out there are? An Ultima 4 port to Windows was given away with a magazine in the mid- late 90s.

Just because EA plans to re-release (and likely ruin) a title, does that mean they have the right to stop all the independent, original and to the best of my knowledge *non-profit" work? If people were making money off of it, I could understand, but how does freeware harm EA? Oh, yeah, because a handful of independents will do much better work than EA and their legion of slave coders.

EA will never get another dollar of mine. They've ruined enough games and there are plenty of other developers taking the time to deliver quality.

Lose an eighth? I don't think EA as an entity would ever get past "Name? Job? Join?"

Re:Abandonware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652404)

When does software become "abandonware" as so many products out there are?

"Abandonware" doesn't really exist. It's just an unofficial term for old, otherwise unavailable software. All abandonware titles are actually still under copyright. There's just no one enforcing that copyright, although sometimes people refer to software as being abandonware simply because it's old, even though the copyright actually is still being enforced.

Oh, crap - they own me? (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652116)

So if my character name, "Phaltran Pogammon," is on a gravestone in Skara Brae in Ultima VII, does that mean EA now owns my character name and I no longer have the right to use it?

Guess I'll get the GMs in WoW to change it to "Phuquea" (phuq you EA)

You don't have to develop something to own IP (1)

skrowl (100307) | more than 3 years ago | (#35652266)

Owning the IP to something has nothing to do with if you actively developed it or not. There are companies that do nothing but buy/sell/manage IP without actually developing anything.

Why not reboot the whole series? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35652414)

Seriously, it would be great to see them do 1-6 as modern PC games. Get someone like Bethesda to do it with the oblivion engine or a modified/upgraded version that adds party support.

No need to reboot from 7 onwards because 7 was excellent in it's own right and 8 and 9 are really not worth rehashing.

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