Reprinted from my LiveJournal blog of Nov 24th, 2009
Thank you for the nice responses to my 20 years post. I figured I’d go ahead and post some more. This one will probably have mostly to do with Ultima VIII and Lost Vale.
I’m always amazed at the responses I get when I mention Lost Vale. So many fans want to know all about uit! Yet.. at the time.. it was such an unpopular product at Origin plus the environment it was being produced in was atrocious.
We has just come off the Ultima 8’s death march, crunch. It had been 10 months of mandatory 12 hour minimum days, 7 days a week. Only in the last month or two did they start to give us a Sunday off every other week or so.. so we could do laundry.
They would bring dinner in for us so we wouldn’t leave, cuz they knew if we did, we would likely not come back. Toward the end I was pulled in to my lead’s office and told that I needed to find someone else to go to my house each night to feed my dogs – because it was taking me away from the office way too long in the evenings after dinner. ….but.. enough bad memories…
Anyway… Lost Vale.. let’s see.
* It was after Ultima 8 shipped and we were exhausted. Warren Spector called me, Lisa Smith, Rob Corell into his office to tell us we were on the U8 add on. I will be honest and say we were NOT thrilled. We’d all had just about enough of U VIII and wanted to move on. But, it was a chance to do stuff, so we did it.
* the premise behind Lost Vale was a group of people had been locked away from the rest of Pagan and were still following the “old gods.” These gods , the villagers believed, lived in a city at the top of a cloud shrouded mountain. It was forbidden to attempt to climb the mountains to see the gods. Two young boys, however, decided to see if they could do it, and attempted to climb the mountain. They fell to their deaths. At the same time, the Gods seemed to stop answering the prayers and withdraw their support for the people of the valley – taking away the seasons and causing crops to wither. The two families each blamed each other and a schism occured with the two sides blaming each other for the absense of the gods. They abandoned their town and seperated into small villages on either side of the valley..and a cold war was begun. Into this the Avatar arrives.
* I can’t remember the name of the two “tribes” but I think they were based around the boys’ names. One of the tribes, we (and … actually I’ll admit it.. it was my idea.. ) decided to make them talk like Yoda. This seemed like SUCH a funny, good idea … in the beginning. After three months of writing the dialog.. Lisa gave up and said “Here.. YOU translate it…” so I ended up having to go through all the conversations for that tribe and making them all sound like Yoda.. OMG.. SUCH a bad idea!!!!!!
* One of the characters was a long time veteran of this war and we decided he was a PTSD victim. He had nightmares and flashbacks and was uable to work… one of the Avatar’s quests was to help him.
* There was a woman who was the “wise woman” of one of the tribes. She wanted you to help fix this problem … she’s the one who sends you to “wake up the gods” and climb to the top of the mountain. But.. before she does that.. she sends you to get a particular plant from her garden. When you walked in to the garden. When you entered the garden, the gates slammed behind you and the plants attacked. They were also very poisonous. You were poisoned.. on a timer… and only had so long to get the antidote (which.. unfortuantely.. escapes me at the moment.) Come to find out.. she didn’t trust you would actually help the people of the valley and so to make sure you will, she holds the antidote as a way to ensure you will finish what you start.
* When you finally work your way up the mountain (a jumping game) you find the cloud city is actually abandoned. There are no sleeping gods. The player must try to figure out what happens. Now. .. when you first entered the city.. you were hit by a magic spell. This magic spell pulls ALL your equipment from your body and sticks it to an obelisk in the center of the city. You have to figure out how to get it loose. The answer was in a room full of candlesticks. You had to light the candlesticks in the shape of an ankh to get it to release your equipment. (And.. I might add.. that was my work.. and probably the LAMEST design I’ve EVER done!!! LOL!) ANyway.. you finall figure out that the gods aren’t asleep.. and they aren’t gone.. they’ve been trapped.
* there were a ton of small side plots that I don’t specifically remember.. but I do remember that to get to the room where the gods were sealed in amber, you had to use the TinyTar spell.. a spell which shrunk the avatar down to a tiny little miniature version of himself. This started as a joke. John Watson figured out how to do it and showed it to us. We all thought it was really funny.. so decided to make it an important part of the plot for Lost Vale. You had to cast it and enter the ruins of the temple there in protest. Seems to me you had to reassemble the two halves of a shield there to free the gods.
* Lost Vale was finaled and gold mastered. The eve of it being sent to the publisher to be reproduced, Warren told us the decision had been made to not release it because U8 had just not sold enough copies. We were also told at that time that they didn’t really have anything else for us to go to and that we had better start talking to other projects to see who might want to pick us up.
Some of the Lost Vale memories.. more from 20 years of games in future posts!