This night, I had my first look at Ultima V for a long time.
Ultima V was the first computer role playing game I played. It was the Commodore 64 version. Okay, it was a warezed copy and the disk was actually broken, but I played it more than I played the warez copy of Pool of Radiance, which had copy protection questions I couldn't answer. I did get to move around, and apparently got stuck to something called combat.
But with Ultima V, I also had what could be described as a "zen moment". Most of the Commodore games weren't particularly in-depth. I remember being confused around the time when I first tried the game. First of all, the game loaded from disk for a very very long time. Then came the mysterious intro about some guy called Lord British and the game been "translated" by "Dr. Cat" - well, my friends thought that was the clever pseudonym of the warez team guy. (A hint for latter-day researchers: It wasn't.)
After the long load game the "graphical amazement" phase. There was this amazing-looking metallic "Ultima V" logo. And underneath it, a breathtakingly neat graphical trick: "Warriors of Destiny", fading in in fiery letters.
And then came the intro sequence. It took me a while to make sense of it. There was this non-interactive movement. Then my feeble brain started to understand something:
This was a story.
I didn't know what was happening in the story. This guy moves around, then he goes through this blue door thing... then there's this another guy. I was confused. Confused.
Then there were these scary black-cloaked things. (where the heck did they come from?) They... shot this one guy here? That stick figure that represented the fallen guy was so sad. Then these black-cloaked people left. And I was positively joyous as this sad-looking lying stick figure got up, and together, these two men went to the hut.
Sat down. Obviously discussing something.
Then I found out that the game actually had a written version of the story, that described all of this in detail. It is still, I think, among the best graphical introductions in Commodore 64 games. It got me to the proper mood, even when I didn't know English too well at the time, so I was confused about a lot of things. I could decipher many things. I still remember being amused about Shamino's comment to Iolo: "Open the door, thou son of a goat, before I donate all my blood to decorate thy doorstep!" That goes right along with Maniac Mansion's "Don't be a tuna head!" line to the Most Mysterious Lines a Young Student of English Language Can Encounter. =)
That all was in late 80's, I think. Fast forward years and years and years.
Somewhere around 1996. Some summer around there, I had finally got a legitimate PC version of Ultima V, and I felt the game was awful. Well, this was from the infamous Encore "Ultima 1-6 Series" CD-ROM which was among the most evil things Electronic Arts ever cooked up. The perfect testament to shovelware. But all that is irrelevant - the PC version really was awful-looking with its rasterized graphics! It was also nearly unplayable due to lack of frame limiting, and the keyboard problems. (Year or so later, I found the technical notes about the latter, it now works just fine...)
I goofed around the game a lot. I didn't know much about what the hell was happening, because I didn't bother to re-read the awfully-dithered intro that hurt my eyes, and there was no documentation with the game. I apparently found out that you can escape the conversations with just enter key.
And then came the second zen moment.
I got some distant and desolate place. Some kid was there. We talked. I tried to escape the conversation with enter key. The kid thought I was not polite.
I tried to meta-game.
The game didn't like it.
Somewhere deep in my soul, the seeds against playing the games on game's terms were planted. Nowadays, when I'm following a story-based game, I don't even try to "meta-game". I know that if I run away, that kid will think I'm rude.