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$200 worth of Ziploc baggies and photocopied cover sheets. Even the greatest empires are built from humble beginnings. Richard Garriott's empire is Ultima, one of the longest running computer game series of all time. The series began when Garriott, then a high school student, transformed his twenty-eighth text-based Dungeons & Dragons computer game, modestly called D&D28, into D&D28b by adding graphics on the then-new Apple II. The game became a hit among some friends, and was later named Akalabeth.

The Plot

Many years ago, while the land was under the cumbersome name of Akalabeth, there was a young mage named Mondain whose father had promised him the secret of immortality when he completed his magical studies and proved had his worth to society. But the impatient Mondain would have none of it, so he slew his father and stole the ruby of power, which was the actual source of immortality. With this ruby, Mondain attempted to conquer the realm, but was thwarted by Lord British, master of white magic. British then summoned a stranger to our land to become a knight and fought the evils that still roamed the land. After doing so, the Stranger left the world, which was then renamed Sosaria, in honor of the sorcery used to combat Mondain.

Why D&D28b?

Back in high school, when I was first exposed to computers (back in those days, there weren't even computer programming classes you could take, so everyone was pretty much self-taught), I would write a lot of little games for myself. In fact, throughout high school, I wrote games that I would generally write out on paper first, because access to a terminal was so hard to come by. So I would literally write out lines of basic code in a notebook, and being a big D&D fan, I used to call (the codes) D&D1, D&D2, D&D3, and eventually I did one called D&D28. (This was my personal enumeration, because none of these games were meant for public consumption; they were really just for myself.) That was around the time when the Apple II computer came out, and I immediately thought, "Wow! Graphics! If I could just take these old D&D programs I've been writing and bring them over to the Apple II, it would make for a much better game." So Akalabeth, for me, is really D&D28b. - Richard Garriott

Witnessing Akalabeth's unexpected success, Richard Garriott set off to create a game with a superior story, visuals, and interface that was specifically created for public consumption. That's where the Ziploc baggies and photocopies came in. And the game contained in said baggies? Ultima I. Richard Garriott produced this game under the pseudonym Lord British, knighted as such by his college cohorts for his polite manner. Captivating millions of role-playing gamers around the world with its unique characters and fantastic settings, Ultima (and Lord British) went on to become some of the best known names in electronic gaming.

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