Aside of the delirious ramblings of Electronic Arts, it is fairly clear that Ultima series has always been about innovations in game engine, and depth of the game world and story. Regrettably, I'm not the perfect person to design Ultima games what comes to the game world and stories - I think the games are pretty damn good in that respect already. I can only hope that should EA make Ultima remakes, they'd just refer to the original games, and if they'd have to improve them, they'd just get the original creators on the job.

But I can think of various ways the game engines themselves could be improved. So, if EA, or fans, will ever will rerelease Ultima games with a single, improved game engine, here are some ideas for it. (Being Electronic Arts, however, they'll probably not only ignore the pleas from desperate fans, but also butcher the story in remakes. This is why I hope they'll not listen to me anyway. Maybe fan-Ultima-production people who aren't afraid of the Perpetual Limbo might be able to listen, however...)

What I personally long is a "multiparadigm" engine. This is just a cool-sounding buzzword that can easily be used to convince the evil EA managers. What I actually mean is this: U4 had turn-based combat, U7 has near-real-time combat, U4 had variable map scale, U7 had constant map scale - and the bad thing is, both ideas worked! Even dialogue had their sides: U1-3 told what to do, U4-6 had pseudo-tree that hid some things well until time was ripe, U7-9 had proper dialog trees. Why not let the user choose what map scale they're looking at, what kind of combat they prefer, heck, what kind of dialogue they prefer?

At times, in U7, I find overland travel boring and I just cheat and teleport to the target to save my nerves - but on some days, I find the travel through woods and whatnot fun. Turn-based combat is tactical and interesting, semi-automatic real-time combat is fun, effortless and allows me to focus on story and exploration - both have their sides. People who don't care about plot probably like to be just told what to do à la 1-3, while the plot fans will love modern, full-blown dialog trees - and some hard-core folks might even enjoy keyword guessing in U4 style.

Why not allow people to play the game the way they want the game to be played? Why does no RPG allow people to choose between both of the extremes? Make inter-location travel as detailed as you need. Make combat either tactical turn-based or dramatic real-time. Hell, let's just throw in a simplistic "Fight/Spell/Item/Flee" combat system as one of the options to lure in the Square fans - after all, it's just one of the choices, no one needs to use it...

Likewise the game could even lend itself to "multiple paradigms" in graphics and sound... everything from pixely stuff to full-blown 2D, maybe? Or, at least 2D stuff might be simulated properly with 3D. Music, of course, could be likewise done in appropriate way depending on preference.

I know what you are thinking - letting users to choose how they play the game makes the system easy to abuse and hard to balance. This can be made balanced, however. Yet, strict number-tumbling isn't what the games are about. In fact, it'd be good if the game had hackability - not necessarily changing the actual code, but it should be possible to mess around with the actual game state without the need for a hex editor or something like that. One of the good things about U7 is the fact that cheats, at least in Exult, can be used to make game more interesting as well as the obvious thing of making things easier. If the engine could somehow half-expose the underlying game logic, that would make things infinitely more easier. I don't ask for cheats - I ask that the game is actually hackable. U7 already pretty much is, it would just need to be more so.

More Ultima ideas possibly coming... or not. I don't know yet.