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Ultima IV — EA Takedowns Precede Official Reboot 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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Ultima IV — EA Takedowns Precede Official Reboot

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  • by RogueyWon ( 735973 ) * on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:12AM (#35649870) Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:16AM (#35649888)

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

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

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:18AM (#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.

  • by Tapewolf ( 1639955 ) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @04:23AM (#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.

No extensible language will be universal. -- T. Cheatham