My name is Aaron, I am a Dad.
His name is Josh, he is a son...of mine...the know what I mean.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Ultima 6 Day 4 - Here be Dragons!

Tuesday night's game started innocently enough with Joshua pouring over the map of the world. He pointed at a dragon symbol and declared that we needed to slay it. Alrighty, we set off. I wasn't entirely sure that the symbol actually meant dragon territory, so it was a learning experience for both of us.

The encounter started innocently as well.
"What is that?!" Came a customary shrieking outburst from Josh.
"That," I began, twisting a finger in my ear.
"Is that a dragon?! It looks like a TINY DRAGON!"
"Calm down, yes I think it's a dragon."
"It's small."
It was. I took a few more steps toward it and turned on combat mode.
"Are we gonna kill it?"
"Yes, I thought-"
"YES! We're going to KILL IT!"
"Calm down, yes, we are going to try."
We attacked. About two swings in, another tiny green dragon came into view... and then another.
When the large winged yellow dragon came into view, it was rather apparent we were in trouble.
"Should we run?"

We awoke later in Lord British's castle. I have no idea how full party kills are going to affect experience gain. I wanted to let Josh drive, but I think I'm going to need to put the breaks on sometimes and take over navigation.

After putting on our equipment and fighting our way past the first shrine, we finally made it to Cove. One issue though: WHO USES A MONSTER AS A GREETER?! I mean, seriously! I want to talk to the mage, and Shamino gets blasted for half of his hit points! We haven't found any more gold and will be running out of food soon, I've forgotten most of this game, the mage is asleep, and now the door mat wants to eat us!

Okay, just need to figure out our next move, the visit to the wounded soldiers wasn't very helpful. I'm writing down keywords, but I think I'm missing something crucial. One more night in the woods, then we get down to business.

     - Dear Joshua,
Don't fret about getting beaten by the big baddies. Now we know we aren't ready, so we are off to save the long as we don't try to take on house sized monsters in our near future.

 - With Love,

Friday, March 17, 2017

U/M Project Entry 3 - Map update 1

And now for some neat stuff.

I only have a few hours to work on my own hobbies each week, but progress has been fairly steady.

I started with the overland map of Britannia and took several running leaps at finding a good starting point. Mistakes were made, but it's been its own kind of adventure.

The first problem was a shallow ocean, I had a small conniption fit when I realized it was only two meters deep. World painter doesn't like to work down, so coastlines were made and remade 3 times until it looked right. The next problem was that UO was as flat as a pancake, I added a lot of hills and took several liberties with mountain ranges. and lastly...


Like, seriously, they were just extensions of the ocean that wound like tendrils into the continent. I am making some improvements to them and may add creeks and streams later.

I'm starting to focus on biomes, but Minecraft's world generation has quirks. I need to keep it from creating random lakes and lava pits. To avoid cleaning up every inch of the world, world painter has ways of painting features like trees. It's slow going, but its turning out well so far.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ultima 6 Day 3 - Not Monday

Well, between a birthday party and spring cleaning we didn't get around to round 3 until Wednesday.

We headed out into the wilderness today in the direction of cove...where we first learned the effects of swamps.
Joshua directed us back to Lord British to be cured.

Off we go again, avoiding the swamps and following a sound. We came across a glowing pedestal, guarded by Gargoyles. The battle was fierce! BROOK JOHNSON!

So we woke up in back in front of Lord British again. Full party wipe-out.

New strategy, we chased the gargoyles away from the pedestal. There was a stone protected by a force-field. I experimented with a spell book we found in the castle and found I couldn't dispel it, so I asked a few leading questions about the stone to Josh. We came to the agreement that the shape of the stone looked like a moon and had something to do with the phases of the moons.

We gave up and headed back to the castle once again. We needed to get to cove, but we'd heal and question British one last time.

A call from the wife prompted a quick save and swift exit from the room. Leftover birthday cake was at stake. The battle was fierce!

During some of the downtime in castle British, I had to re-equip BROOK JOHNSON's armor and the question of the chain mail shirt came up. It was a great opportunity. After cake, I went out to the garage and dug into my old Medieval Fair equipment. As luck would have it, I own one. I brought it out and let the kids feel it.

My wife suggested Joshua try it on and he loved the idea. I had him put on his jacket for padding. He loved it, even though he couldn't lift his arms. Truth be told, it's a bit big on me too. When I bought it, I had to cut some of the chain off to fit me, so I gave him some of the scrap I kept to play with.

All-in all, it was a good night.

     - Dear Joshua
You weren't using the mouse and keyboard, but you kept up pretty well with what was happening, although you lost track during combat. It was your catch 22, you were too excited about being in combat to keep track of what was going on!

- With love,

Sunday, March 12, 2017

U/M Project Entry 2 - Project Goals

Making a map takes a lot of time to do right. I've used a lot of different tools over the years for tinkering with D&D games I'll probably never run. Grabbed a full suite of software from back in 2008 to kill time on deployment. That got a few odd looks from my fellows.

Anyway aside from from recreating a map, I looked into mods for Minecraft. I can't make my own, but I do know just enough about configuration files and specific mods and modpacks to cobble together something Ultima-ish. Thanks to programs like FTB and Curse, a great deal of the work is already done. Now I just need time and an endgame.

The game plan isn't simple, most of the first leg I'll be on my own, and then it gets interesting.

  1.      I need some scale. A couple mods allow for access to other dimensions beyond Minecraft's Standard 3: Overworld, Nether, and End. It could be possible to find a mix of mods that will allow EVERY world of Ultima on a single server instance. How big of a file will that be? What kind of power would be necessary to run it? - I hope to start testing this with my first map by simply copying it several times to different dimensions.
  2.      I need some limits. Sosaria and Britannia are not infinite worlds, I need to determine the size limits and how to handle reaching that limit. Can I use teleporters to send folks to the other side of the map?
  3.      I hope to get help designing the cities and dungeons. I plan to drop some cash on this part. I'd like to have a hosting service run a fairly robust server for as long as I have help. That means I'll need volunteers eventually, and possibly financial support from them, long enough to build the world and drop NPCs in appropriate places. If I can get even more support, volunteers with knowledge of the mods and command blocks in the game could help set up the events, challenges, and puzzles. Others could work on transcribing dialog into NPCs or creating skins and costumes. A great deal of people, limited by the power of the server, could all work simultaneously on this part. I have a rant on that, but I'll save it for a less boring post. :)
  4.      I need to test multiple modpacks. In my test packs, I have several mods just for the use of extra creative tools. A good deal of mods I'm using may be useless, I may need to add others. Opinions of others would be helpful here. If folks could test and experiment with mods they think would be helpful and give me feedback it would all be appreciated. The goal would be Maximum use from the minimum number of mods. It currently takes ages to start the game on my laptop. Access to the mods I use is handled directly by Curse. Which brings me to-
  5.      I need a distribution method. I do not want to host a large server for the entire Ultima fan-base. I hope that this project will be run by smaller groups and families, freely distributed. I understand Curse can do quite a lot with this, grouping a modpack with maps, settings, and tile-sets. However, I'd like there to be a master file with several iterations of the project included so that as updates in Minecraft come out and new mods are written, someone can remix the project as it suits them, using all of the resources at hand. - If anyone knows a good tutorial on torrent file creation and distribution, let me know. I think torrents were made for things like this.
The end Goal(s):
-Best case
I picture a small group running a server and setting out on an adventure that spans several of the original games. Scenarios rewritten to accommodate a small party or a single player as accurately through the story as plausible, with some tongue-in-cheek play with Minecraft references (Lord Brickish anyone?). If possible I'd retell all of the games, maybe even rewrite 1,2, and 3, to have a deeper narrative. I'd like to see others play with the story as well, What if Spark took a more important role and even traveled to Serpent Isle. Four Men and an Orphan. The sky's the limit.

-What I'd settle for right now
I would like a decent UO sized map with scripted NPCs and an economy with which to create stories and scenarios with. A Dungeon Master's Minecraft world to shape and add to.

Ultima/Minecraft Project Entry 1 - Backstory

Some time back, listening to Withstand the Fury Dragon (Seriously thought he was saying that he was with Stan the "Fury Dragon" at first, kept wondering why Stan didn't speak.) I heard his announcement of New project Britannia. I was very interested.

SSSH 14 - New Project Britannia
SSSH 15 - Project New Britannia Goals & Needs

The plan called for the coders and modders among the Ultima Dragons and other fans to unify. Using a forum and any resources they could cobble together and share, they could create a library of assets and a framework within the Unity game engine. As the engine is well maintained, effective, efficient, and widely compatible with many types of computer system, it would be an ideal choice to create fan-based Ultima remakes, re-imaginings, or inspired works.

If you haven't heard of it, there's a reason.

It kinda fell flat. (Sorry WtFDragon)

The web site and forum that was to be used as a web-base of operations is still around. No updates for quite some time.

I wanted to help, but my computer knowledge is mostly hardware, I don't know enough coding to claim the the title script kiddie, much less programmer. Just enough Javascript and Lua to be dangerous.

But I really wanted to help. Like REALLY... Seriously, he had me at the tag-line "Strive for Unity." If that don't crack you up, you haven't played 7.

Then I saw a video of someone making a map in Minecraft and something clicked. I searched for already made maps through WtFDragon's Codex and other map hosting sites. Links were dead. Servers were shut down or unresponsive. Forums hadn't been updated in years. The one map of UO I found was dismally incomplete. Nabbed it anyway, it has some good work that shouldn't be lost IMHO.

Time to put up or shut up. I researched Minecraft map making tools, grabbed WorldPainter and got to work.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ultima 6 Day 2 - A casual stroll

I arrived home from work to the sound of demanding children and a look from the wife that seemed to say, "oh good, they're yours now."

She gathered her things and left to care for her horses and I settled into Joshua's bean bag chair. Josh pulled up a large stuffed animal and his sister, Isabella, made a small nest on his bed and settled in for some intense iPad poking. I took stock of what we needed for this adventure.

  • Notebook - check
  • Pen - check
  • Map… todo
  • Pink panther theme song - todo, todo, todo todo todo todo todooooooo todo do do - check.

I was a bit apprehensive as we started started to play, the slow pace of the game is my greatest fear for Josh to lose interest. But, as we strolled around the courtroom, looting the bodies of the creatures that had followed our party during the escape, he got excited to see what conversation was like. Once again, I narrated, reading the painfully old-fashioned dialog.

Side note: Imagine learning English using games like this. This used to happen! Might still be happening! Gradilla Dragon, a frequent contributor to SSSH, an Ultima Podcast, once talked about the influence of rpgs on his understanding of English growing up in Mexico. Too cool.

We spoke to Lord British, and his court, learned about these monsters known as Gargoyles, and received a key to the castle and a bed chamber. After searching the castle, Joshua insisted we take the potions off of the shelf. I'm pretty sure we took a hit to our karma there. I can't remember all of the consequences, but the game does get significantly harder if you do that too much. Wandering about town and learning about the shops, he perked up again in alarm,
"What's happening?"
"What do you-"
"Are we going BLIND!?"
"Wha-" He was seeing the dark and black shading that simulated night-time and dark places, "No, buddy it's just nightfall."
I kid you not, "A knight FELL?"
I lost my ability to speak, not laughing mind you, just unsure of how to respond.

He eventually got the idea and we decided to head back to the castle and sleep for the night. Unfortunately, this is where I lost him. His attention was fully breaking as I tried to use the bed and only got errors and a message stating I had to do that in the wilderness. Luckily, the return of the wife and dinner prep signaled a stopping point.

I need to figure out how to use a bed, of all things, I should know this one. My mother believes me to be an expert in that department. Can't let her down.

     - Dear Joshua,
I know you were getting antsy, the plan is to head into the wilderness and get to the action ASAP!

BROOK JOHNSON, is about to show his might!

With Love,

     - Dear Izzy
You were quiet, well behaved, and didn't interrupt our game once. Are you TRYING to get me killed by your mother?!

With Love,

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ultima 6 Day 1 - BROOK JOHNSON!

And so it begins...begun...began? Anyway, we got started two days ago.

I've decided to keep it to one day at a time with these posts. Hopefully, these first two will be the only ones made more than 24 hours later.

So we started the game up and watched the intro, I read it all to him in my epic dad voice and he was thoroughly impressed. His mother had an impressive eye-roll. Josh's reactions were pretty neat, the storm and lightning got him excited as did the portal. The hardest part was stopping him from asking what was happening and what the story was long enough to tell him what was happening and what the story was.

Next we created his character, which, with very little hesitation, he shouted out the name, "BROOK JOHNSON!" My wife and I exchanged a shrug, and I typed it in. I cycled through avatar portraits and he chose the red-beard and helm image.
That guy

To which Josh yelled,"YEAH! BROOK JOHNSON!"
That guy

With that out of the way, we proceeded to the final character creation step, virtue. In Ultima 6 a scene, somewhat unrelated to the rest of the game, occurs where the player is asked a series of questions. Each question contains a scenario that illustrates a conflict of virtues in which the player must decide the course of action that they believe is more important to them. With no true right or wrong answers, Joshua surprised me again. He seemed to understand each question very well and made his decisions himself, though he was concerned that the gypsy woman ran out of blue (Honesty). He loved the animation of the mingling waters, and seemed a bit upset that he had to drink it (Talk about getting into character).

Then came the final opening cut-scene. He became visibly creeped out. The red, evil-looking figures tying the Avatar to the alter, "Hey! That's not Brook Johnson!" And the big winged-one with the evil-looking book about to kill him, "OH NO!" The daring rescue,"HEY! Who are THOSE GUYS?!"

"Joshua! I'm trying to read it to you! Calm down!"

Okay, the limits of the old game's story telling ability didn't allow for his specific character image to be the one on screen, almost lost his interest right there. Modern games spoil us sometimes. He settled down and watched the exciting escape. I had forgotten that the writers were careful not to name the gargoyles for what they were. It left that demon first-impression that brilliantly prejudices the player against them. I look forward to watching Joshua, hopefully, develop some empathy for them later in the story.

After the throne-room battle, we saved the game and quit for the evening. It was a short first session, but Joshua's energizer-level ADHD could not be contained further. He was literally running in and out of the room with his excitement, trying to get him to sit still and look at the screen...nope.

The opening to the game is really exciting, I hope the overall pace of the game isn't too slow for him.

     - Dear Joshua,

With love,


My name is Aaron, I am a Dad.
His name is Josh, he is a son...of mine...the know what I mean.

I also have a wife and daughter, they rule the house...but not my BLOG! HA!

FREEDo-...oh hi honey...


As I was saying, I have been attempting to bond with my son over gaming. This includes a simple tabletop RPGs and a few video games.

Josh has a lot of energy. I do not.
I enjoy slow and steady. Josh does not.

I work two jobs, so time is at a premium, but I have really felt that Josh and I could use a center, something we both can enjoy without frustrating each other. So, as an experiment, I have installed Ultima 6 with dosbox on a raspberry pi and we are currently playing through together. The idea came to me both from a side project in Minecraft, involving creating my own maps of Britannia, and from an anecdote of Spoony's about his childhood. If you haven't seen his retrospective of the Ultima series, it's highly recommended.

With the success of the first two nights and other hopeful ideas to come, I have decided to chronicle our adventures and projects. I'm also going to be posting my own projects I hope to finish for myself, my children, and fans of Ultima, Minecraft, and Tabletop Games.

     - Dear Joshua,

If you read this one day and I have embarrassed you in any way by posting funny bits of your childhood on the internet. HA! HA!

With Love,

Spoony's Ultima Retrospective