System Shock – Strategies And Secrets

By far the most I’ve ever had to pay for any of the books on this site was the official System Shock guide which is apparently rare enough and in enough demand to put prices through the roof. It was also the only official Origin guide I was missing as I recall and I wasn’t going to be put off. While I was hunting for that at a half-decent price, I ran into another unofficial guide written by Bernee Yee, System Shock – Strategies and Secrets, which by contrast cost next to nothing despite being twice the size:-

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This unofficial guide was published by Sysex in 1995, and clocks in at just over 200 pages. It’s largely written from the point of view of a character construct A.I. that the hacker acquired before being put to sleep for 6 months, although this pretence is largely dropped by the time it gets to the walkthrough stages. The guide is full of original artwork of varying quality with most of the pages being spent on the walkthrough. It also has all the other sections you would expect on the likes of enemies, weapons, general strategies etc.

The original System Shock guide always did seem a little small. The maps are larger and clearer here and the extra pages give a little more room to flesh things out with this guide acting as a replacement for the manuals to some extent. It hardly makes full use of all those pages though so it’s a close run thing as to which is the better. What sways it for me is a brief interview with Doug Church right at the end which is well worth a read for anyone interested in the game.

The pdf is a little on the unnecessarily large side but the guide is now scanned and available with all the others either on the downloads page or from here.

Ultima Online – The Ultimate Collector’s Guide

It’s been about a year since Stepehen Emond released Ultima – The Ultimate Collector’s Guide after a successful crowd funding project on Rockethub. This was followed later last year by another successful funding campaign and a December release of Ultima Online – The Ultimate Collector’s Guide + a 2013 edition of the companion book covering other Origin series. I’ve been meaning to do reviews of these for some time but this has been severely hampered by the speed of international mail meaning that I only got my hands on them a week back. I can hardly complain when I didn’t pay the postage however as I have never seen so many stamps on a parcel in my life. There were so many they wouldn’t even fit on the front and ended up spilling onto the sides – I should have grabbed a photo but you’ll have to make do with one of the books themselves:-

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I’ll have a look at the UO guide in this post although it has to be said that these aren’t the easiest of books to review. It’s the Ultima Online equivalent of the Ultima Collector’s Guide so if you’ve seen that you will know what to expect here which is basically lists of near enough every game, book and collectible pertaining to Ultima Online. There is also coverage of Lords Of Ultima, Ultima Forever and various unreleased Ultima Online games with details and photos for near enough every item. In short, if you are into collecting Ultima Online memorabilia of any variety this is the book for you. Just as with the Ultima guide this is squarely one for the collectors and not something you can pick up and read as such. The exception is the excellent historical notes introducing each section which give a history to the development and/or story of each entry in the series, including those which were never released.

As an incurable collector myself and having lived with the original 2012 Ultima guide for near enough a year, I have found it extremely useful to have on hand if I’m searching Japanese websites for Ultima odds and ends. It’s not something I’d use often but identifying some of these items would be a nightmare without it. Now I know my way around the sections I can usually find whatever I’m looking for in seconds. Also, when I want to know if that item on Ebay really is complete in the box, or exactly which version it is I can find everything I need in the one place. The other major use is that it provides a list of things to put on your collecting hit list. I can probably blame/thank the author for getting me collecting some of this Japanese stuff in the first place. Ultima Online doesn’t fall into my collecting niche so much so I was more just curious in this case which may save me from any additional costs this time.

Having said that there is some nice stuff in here that I wouldn’t say no to. I was fortunate enough to get one of the 10 colour guides on the funding campaign and the photos of all the items look great, much clearer than I expected. There is exhaustive coverage of all the different releases for each game but my favourite items tended to be in the later sections with some of more outlandish collectibles given away at fairs or sold directly. The UO snow globes are particularly cool but I’m a sucker for anything you can drink beer out of so one of these steins would do me nicely :-

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On the flip side, there are some Lord Of Ultima collectibles which I wouldn’t wish on anyone:-

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That has to be one of the worst ties I have ever seen in my life and who on earth thought there would be a demand for Lord Of Ultima aprons? I’ll draw particular attention to the pet shirts which are never a good idea under any circumstances. On the other hand if anyone were to ever sell a Silencer pet outfit complete with helmet I may just consider cat ownership.

There are plenty of other curious items in there, perhaps less so than in the Ultima guide but that just may be my personal collecting preferences showing through. If you want to see the rest of them you’ll have to buy the guide. It’s an incredibly exhaustive piece of work and I can imagine how much time and effort will have been involved in putting it together. It’s clearly got a relatively narrow target audience but if you are one of them the £18 on Amazon is a snip.

Paths Of Destiny Order Card – Design Board

While the pile of Origin ephemera I picked up a year back contained a fair share of obviously collectible items, it also contained a good deal of odds and ends that probably only have any appeal to the more “dedicated” fans such as myself. That doesn’t stop me sharing them however and this is one such item, a design board dated September 7 1988 for the Paths Of Destiny clue book flyer that was bundled into copies of Ultima V.

As with all these design documents, it’s a mosaic of cut out sections glued together. I can’t compare this to the finished version since I haven’t got one in my copy of Ultima V and the Internet has failed me in digging up a photo. I do notice that the clue book cover here contains a full size picture in the arch window framing and no title. The other thing that struck me was the 3-4 week delivery time which I seem to recall being standard for anything mail order when I was a kid. I doubt Amazon would be the size it is now if this was still the case.

Path Of Destiny Flyer - Design Board Scan
Path Of Destiny Flyer - Design Board Path Of Destiny Flyer - Design Board

Wing Commander 3 – Japanese PS1 Guide

As far as I know, this is the only non-English official Wing Commander guide which wasn’t a straight translation of the regular versions. I can’t tell you who the author was but it was published by Locus in 1996 and generously supplied by Loaf for scanning:-

Wing Commander 3 - Japanese PSX Guide

It’s the usual story with these Japanese guides in that I can’t say too much else about it, but it’s well presented and looks to be fairly thorough with wingmen details, ship/weapon stats, mission guides and everything else you would expect. It doesn’t have the interviews that were in the regular English guide but does have the bonus of being in full colour throughout. It’s now scanned and available to download for anyone who wants a look.

Ultima 2 Gamebook

Today is the 30th anniversary of Ultima 2. It’s a game that tends to be regarded as the worst in the series but it gets a hard time if you ask me and needs to be seen within the context of what else was available in 1982. Ultima 2 was where Garriott first learned to program in assembly and gaining the skills needed at the same time as making the game was never going to be ideal. There were impovements over Ultima 1 with better dungeon graphics, characters you could talk to (albeit briefly), scrolling town maps and many different time zones and planets to explore. It did veer away from what is considered canon these days with the Earth/time travel elements but Ultima 2 introduced cloth maps, boxed Ultima games & moongates which were all staples from here on out.

If nothing else, the speed improvement from being in assembly was significant and if everyone had to play the original BASIC Apple II Ultima at the speed it ran on that system, I expect it would be Ultima I that dropped to the bottom of the favourite Ultimas list. I doubt I could ever have made it through that particular game without speeding up the emulator.

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In honour of the anniversary, here is a scan of the Japanese Ultima 2 gamebook. This was published on November 1 1986 by JICC and conveniently has a passage in English on the back cover so to quote:-

These days, this world goes mad! I was in New York city, or at least I believed so. Now I’m in a strange land trapped within time. And many weird things and monsters attack me!

Realizing Minucks, apprentice of Evil Lord Mondine, devised these things, I set forth to destroy Minucks, through the time and the space. But, what a terrible end! How could I imagine it, and Minucks is mad with joy!

Spelling differences aside, that sounds roughly like Ultima 2 to me but as ever I haven’t got the Japanese skills to say much more. A scan is in the downloads for people who have.

For the rest of us, there is loads of artwork scattered throughout the book which I’ve put into a gallery below:-

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