by Carly A. Kocurek and Matthew Payne
Amherst College Press, 2024
Paper: 978-1-943208-65-4 | eISBN: 978-1-943208-66-1

Ultima and World-Building in the Computer Role-Playing Game is the first scholarly book to focus exclusively on the long-running Ultima series of computer role-playing games (RPG) and to assess its lasting impact on the RPG genre and video game industry. Through archival and popular media sources, examinations of fan communities, and the game itself, this book historicizes the games and their authors. By attending to the salient moments and sites of game creation throughout the series’ storied past, authors Carly A. Kocurek and Matthew Thomas Payne detail the creative choices and structural forces that brought Ultima’s celebrated brand of role-playing to fruition.

This book first considers the contributions of series founder and lead designer, Richard Garriott, examining how his fame and notoriety as a pioneering computer game auteur shaped Ultima’s reception and paved the way for the evolution of the series. Next, the authors retrace the steps that Garriott took in fusing analog, tabletop role-playing with his self-taught lessons in computer programming. Close textual analyses of Ultima I outline how its gameplay elements offered a foundational framework for subsequent innovations in design and storytelling. Moving beyond the game itself, the authors assess how marketing materials and physical collectibles amplified its immersive hold and how the series’ legions of fans have preserved the series. Game designers, long-time gamers, and fans will enjoy digging into the games’ production history and mechanics while media studies and game scholars will find Ultima and World-Building in the Computer Role-Playing Game a useful extension of inquiry into authorship, media history, and the role of fantasy in computer game design.

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