Every year, thousands of games are pitched, hundreds are released, and just as many... simply vanish. In most cases, we never even hear about them. Sometimes, the code can be on the verge of hitting the shelves, only for the company to fold or the publisher decide to cut their losses. We've been on a nostalgic trip through our back issues to remind ourselves of the ones we were most disappointed not to get the chance to play, both because we thought they were going to be great, and because we just really, really wanted to see what the hell some of our favourite developers were working on.
Here's our list. Share your biggest non-release regrets in the Comments...
Ultima X / Ultima Worlds Online
What we missed:
Ultima X: Odyssey was a completely different game, attempting to merge the single-player Ultima series with the profitable world of online gaming. Instead of its standard world of Britannia, that having been blown to pieces at the end of the game by the player character, the Avatar, it was set in the Avatar's head as he warred with his evil counterpart, The Guardian. (That sound you just heard was a thousand Ultima fans hissing in anger as they remembered how much Ultima IX destroyed the series and its story). The basic idea was that you'd play the game with friends, focusing on personal development - trying to live up to the eight Virtues of Compassion, Honesty, Justice, Spirituality and so on through your actions, and having them tested with in-game choices. Kill a thief and prove your commitment to Justice? Or accept that he was just trying to feed his family, and show Compassion? That sort of thing. Most fans liked this element, but were dubious about the multiplayer angle, and the fact that Ultima's creator Richard "Lord British" Garriott wasn't going to be involved. In the end though, it never happened. When Origin was finally shut down in 2005, EA decided to move development from Texas to California, and the team didn't want to go. Instead of foisting the code on a new team, it simply pulled the plug. Ultima was over.
What we got:
Ultima Online continues to roll along and is still being updated, with the most recent expansion - High Seas - hitting the net only last October. Garriott picked up a couple of the ideas behind Odyssey in his next game, Tabula Rasa, although only on a very basic level, and they were drowned out by the failure of the game. We haven't seen any other Ultima games since the cancellations though. Nope, none. Lord of Ultima? No. There is only one Lord of Ultima, and his name is British . Unless you count Lord Blackthorn. Or Lord Draxinusom. Or the Time Lord. Or Lord Heather. Or... oh, just shut up.
Incidentally, if you're an Ultima fan and you haven't read Nakar's amazing Let's Plays of Ultimas VI and VII starring Steve the Avatar, the most genre-savvy psychotic in the history of the universe, you're officially missing out. They're utterly brilliant. Go check them out. Right now. We'll wait.