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There are a number of real-life references and Easter eggs throughout the Ultima series. Completeness is strived for in this list, although it is possible that some subtle ones have slipped under the radar up to now.
See also Real-life equivalents of the characters.
- The name "Akalabeth" probably derives from Akallabêth, which is the title of a section of The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, detailing the downfall of the continent of Númenor in Tolkien's Middle-earth universe. The Silmarillion was published only a few years prior to Akalabeth's release.
- In the original game, the last monster on the need-to-kill list is called "Balrog", exactly like the demonic monsters from Lord of the Rings, and unlike the later name for the monster in the Ultima games, Balron.
Ultima I Edit
- When the Stranger uses a spaceship to become a Space Ace in Ultima I, the starfighters that have to be shot down look suspiciously like the TIE Fighters of the Empire in Star Wars.
- The Pillar of Ozymandias is a direct reference to the famous poem by Percy Shelley. The inscription on the pillar ("I am Ozymandias, King of Kings / Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!") is a direct quote from the poem, as is the "Nothing beside remains" comment.
- The Dark Knight from the manual looks a lot like the Black Knight form Monty Python and the Holy Grail, while the illustration from the original Apple II manual looks like one of the Knights of Ni from the same movie!
- The second best weapon in the game is the Phazor, which is a thinly disguised phaser from Star Trek.
- The aircar looks very similar to the landspeeders from Star Wars.
- The boot-up sequence for the Apple rewrite of Ultima I (done by John Miles) consisted of a series of animated scenes that looped endlessly until the player started the game. Miles sketched a medieval landscape where a castle rose from the forest beside a pastoral lake; a bird would fly past and perch in a tree, and the word Ultima would descend while a hand gripping a sword rose slowly from the lake. There is a routine that would count the numbers of time it had been repeated, and then every fourth time send a knight in shining armor riding past on the distant horizon. Every fourth time the knight was scheduled to ride by, he was replaced by a red Lamborghini. The sports car would zoom up to the castle and race through the door that opened as it approached, then the castle door would slam shut.
- With the use of the Control key you could make the knight appear at any time, and another that would launch the Lamborghini into action. (To activate Miles' hidden features on an Apple version of the game, wait until the white ORIGIN logo, the smaller one set into the picture, comes up on the screen. If you're using an Apple IIe, simultaneously press Control-Shift-2; on an Apple, Control-Shift-P; these start the Lamborghini's engines. A Control-K brings up the knight. Miles says it's tricky, but you should be able to get both the knight and the sports car onscreen simultaneously and watch them race.)
Ultima II Edit
- The Stranger can steal food at the take-out window of "McDonalls" in Port Bonifice in Ultima II, a cocograph of McDonald's, the biggest fast food retailer in the world (meaning that you actually stuff yourself with fast food in Ultima II). You even meet "Ronall Mc Donall" there. In a similar vein, the town of New Jester (on Uranus) features a restaurant called "Jack in De Box."
- Owen K. Garriott (Richard's father) can be found in a town on Mars, while Richard Garriott himself can be found on Neptune in a Computer Camp.
- The concept of the Time Doors (the precursor to the moongates) as well as the cloth map showing how they interconnect are both ideas taken from the film Time Bandits.
- Planet X might be a reference to the classic Looney Tunes short Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century, or to a theorized planet in the solar system, disproved later in the 80s.
- Close inspection of the town map for New Jester reveals the shapes of Pac-Man and a ghost in the trees.
- New Jester also contains an area called Monkey Ward, which was a common nickname for the (now defunct) major American retail chain Montgomery Ward. As this is located next to a collection of "seers," this is probably the intended reference. "Seers" being a cocograph of the name Sears, another major retail chain.
- There is an NPC named Sister Sledge, a cleric whose only response is to sing "We Are Family!" This refers to a popular disco song perhaps best known as the unofficial anthem of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.
- 666, the number of the Devil, is found two times in the game. The first is in Pirate Harbour, where they are visible on the map. The second time they are the coordinates of Earth.
- A Commander Decker appears and screams something inscrutable about soup. This might be the same Commander Decker who appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture a few years earlier.
- You can find a hotel in New San Antonio with the name "Hotel California". That's a tribute to the Eagles' album Hotel California and the title track of the same name.
Ultima III Edit
- Some shameless self-advertisement. One bartender tip is, "EXODUS: Ultima ]I[, which is next? Now could it be!"
Ultima IV Edit
- Buddha and Michelangelo are met in Skara Brae. Buddha is described as a great philosopher while Michelangelo says, "May thou always desire more than thou can accomplish," which hints at his real-life perfectionism.
- Charles Dickens can also be found in Skara Brae and is described as a bard who loves to write stories and thinks they are good for the spirit.
- You meet Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in Yew. He says he's working for Jones and that Indy is currently on an adventure.
- In the Amiga version of the game, talk to anyone and tell them "ojnab" ("banjo" backwards) and they will reward you with the secret number of a person named Banjo Bob by saying, "Hi Banjo Bob! Your secret number is 4F4A4E0A." Banjo Bob was the author of the Amiga version of Ultima IV. The hex value 4F4A4E0A can be interpreted as the letters "OJN" followed by a newline.
- Two characters in Cove are named Paul and Linda, a reference to Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney. The tagline appearing on the game's title screen, "In Another World, In a Time to Come" is taken from the lyrics of Paul McCartney's 1982 song "Tug of War".
- The need for a "Bell, Book and Candle" in order to open the Abyss is a reference to the bell, book and candle method of excommunication of the Catholic Church. Other videogames, such as Zork and NetHack also make use of these three items in order to access evil or hell-related places.
- When you press Control-S it will reveal all the player's values for Honor, Justice and the other virtues. This spared the designers and the playtesters invaluable time during the game's development, since they did not have to return to the castle and ask Hawkwind about their status in each virtue, one at the time (whether it was left in the game intentionally or through a last-minute oversight is one of the mysteries of Ultima that remains unsolved).
Ultima V Edit
- In the city of Skara Brae there is a tombstone which reads, "Here Lies the Tale End of a Bard," a reference to the game The Bard's Tale. Notably, The Bard's Tale is primarily set in (and underneath) a large city that is coincidentally also named Skara Brae.
- If you swear at any of the NPCs during conversation they will scold you. The list of accepted swear words is actually quite long and can be found by hex-editing the U5 data files. In DOS version, it's located in the file DATA.OVL. Last but apparently not least in the swearword list is "ELECTRONIC ARTS."
- The council member Goeth in Jhelom who says everything backwards plays on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
- Aside from getting a horse by stating this wish after dropping a coin into a well, the Avatar can also wish for "corvette," "ferrari," "lamborghini," "lotus" or "porsche." The horses created are a lot faster than normal ones.
- Yelling "FLIPFLOP" in the Apple II version of the game causes each tile on the screen to invert itself, top to bottom. Yelling it again restores the view to normal. Note: this doesn't work in the 16-bit ports.
- Tika from the Wayfarer Inn in Britain is a reference to Tika Waylan from the Dragonlance novels. Also, in Buccaneer's Den there is a shopkeep at Buccaneer's Booty armory called Kitiara who is named after Kitiara Uth Matar of the same novels.
- The horse keeper in Trinsic is named Hettar. Hettar is one of the companions of Belgarion in David Eddings' novels.
- Emilly in Stormcrow will mention that her husband's dead friend was named "Scotty" and he'd spoken about a "beam," in reference to Star Trek: The Original Series.
- The farmer Christopher in the Britannys talks about a fantasy novel called Times of Lore he is writing. He is the alter-ego of Chris Roberts, a long-time employee of Origin, who really created the game Times of Lore and who is most famous for Wing Commander.
Ultima V: Lazarus Edit
- Britain graveyard has a tombstone with the text "Here lies Kefka. The world hast not heard the last of me! Wha hoo hoo hoo hoo!" This is possibly a reference to Kefka Palazzo, the antagonist of Final Fantasy VI with an infamous laugh.
- In a graveyard near Cove and the Bloody Plains there is a gravestone that reads "Norma Bates, Beloved Mother", in reference to the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho. There is another that reads "Here lie the inhabitants of Vault 13, I got distracted for 151 days. Sorry", which is a reference to the videogame Fallout, and its 150 days limit to complete the game.
- In tombstones scattered through the Deep Forest is a gravestone that reads "Origin, We Created Worlds" with the dates of the real world Origin Systems' founding and disbanding.
- The portrait of the NPC Hazael, who is in Skara Brae, is based upon project leader Ian "Tiberius" Frazier's face, who is known to have an uncanny resemblance to Richard Garriott. As such the in game characters will comment upon this, Shamino wondering for a second if he is seeing Lord British. In addition, coming to Hazael with a party consisting solely of women will make him collapse and die due to the presence of so much femininity, which was known to intimidate Tiberius.
- Christopher's portrait in the Britannys is based upon a photo of Chris Roberts, since he was the original inspiration for the character.
- In addition, multiple other characters throughout the game have character portraits based upon other members from Team Lazarus.
- The characters of Xela and Gabrienne in Serpent's Hold are obvious puns on the characters of Xena and Gabrielle from the TV series Xena, Warrior Princess.
Ultima VI Edit
- Hanging on the wall of the Avatar's house during the intro is a painting of the box art from Ultima V.
- The pizza box in the Avatar's house greatly resembles the distinctive box style used by Domino's Pizza at the time this game was made.
- Asking Lord British about books reveals that he loves to read The Wizard of Oz. If the player should obtain that book from the Lycaeum and present it to Lord British, he will reward the player with a lot of Peer Gems.
- The tavernkeeper Amanda in Serpent's Hold bears a resemblance to Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The programmers of the series are proven Star Trek fans, having elaborated upon the joke in Ultima VII, as seen below.
- By 1990, Richard Garriott had a caustic relationship with Trip Hawkins, the founder of Electronic Arts. Garriott felt that EA's practices were bad for Origin. This caused him to name Captain Hawkins—the murdered bloodthirsty pirate who stole the Silver Tablet—after him.
- This joke at EA's expense went even further; a number of the Ten Pirates of Hawkins are modeled after senior employees of EA. They include:
- An phonetic translation of the Gargoyle Book of Prophesy appears as a necromancer's chant in the 2011 PS3 game, Medieval Moves: Deadmund's Quest.
- On Level 5, there is a small maze where you gather a substance simply by walking over it. It features four powerful ghosts and teleporters on the sides and is suspiciously similar to a Pac-Man level.
- The Book of Honesty by Ravenhurst of Moonglow is a reference to the Honest Book of Truth that (in the Principia Discordia) was given to an Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, a pseudonym of Kerry Wendell Thornley.
- There is a non-hostile ghost in the southwest of the sixth level which, upon examination, is revealed to be "A spectre named Warren." This is a pun in reference to Warren Spector, producer of a number of Ultima games.
- On the eighth level, a plaque reads, "Thou canst not defeat the Drakhai." In Origin's Wing Commander II, an oft-repeated battlecry of the Kilrathi was "You cannot defeat the Drakhai."
Savage Empire Edit
- The Three Stooges appear as members of the Disquiqui Tribe. Chafblum has a specific response if the player mentions the word "nyuk" to him.
- Denys the Urali outcast painter is the alter ego of Denis Loubet, creator of the majority of Ultima art.
- When looking at the cave maps in a map viewer, the initials "SMB" become visible in a non-reachable location. They are the initials of worldbuilder Stephen Beeman.
- The Avatar finds a parrot named "Cleese" in the palace of the Nahuatla Tribe. Cleese is named after John Cleese of Monty Python fame, who is famous for a skit involving a dead Norwegian Blue parrot.
Martian Dreams Edit
- In the introduction sequence there is a poster of the Ultima VI game box art hanging in the Avatar's room, complete with the title.
- If the player goes into solo mode with Spector and attempts to make him repair the wiring at the power station, Spector will shout Avon's "I am not expendable" tirade from Blake's 7.
- Chsheket's pure robot form looks a lot like the Maschinenmensch robot from the movie Metropolis.
- A pair of Ruby Slippers are hidden within the game. Well-worn, they offer the player the chance to view the ending series of cut scenes out of sequence. If the player chooses not to view this, they see a brief view of a Kansas wheat field. These are clear references to The Wizard of Oz.
- If the player asks Spector about spam, he will say that he enjoys eating it. This is in reference to a cheat code in Ultima VI.
- Using a map viewer reveals the name "GRYPHON" in the northeastern ice shield, normally unreachable. It is the nickname of Philip Brogden, the main map designer of the game.
Ultima VII Edit
- The plot of the game centers around destroying the old logo for Electronic Arts (Cube, Sphere, and Tetrahedron). The founders of the Fellowship are Elizabeth and Abraham (Electronic Arts). These are not coincidences; there was much bad blood between Origin and their publisher in the 90's.
- There is a dead crocodile in Hook's hideout on the island of Buccaneer's Den. Further examination reveals a pocketwatch, in reference to Captain Hook's encounter with a crocodile in Peter Pan.
- Northwest of Cove is a flower field. As soon as they walk over it, the Avatar and all companions will fall asleep. This is a re-enactment of a scene from The Wizard of Oz.
- East of Britain, a Kilrathi starfighter is hovering in the corn field of the farmer Mack, who tells of the cat-like being that emerged before he killed and ate it. This is an actual Kilrathi starfighter from Wing Commander. Clicking on it prompts a performance of the Kilrathi Theme from Wing Commander II.
- The Fellowship's procedures and practices emulate many new age religious movements, not least of which being Scientology. Batlin resembles founder L. Ron Hubbard both in appearance and in being a self-described polymath.
- At the start of the game, the Ultima VI game box and the cloth map can be seen sitting beside the Avatar's computer, along with the ankh amulet and Orb of the Moons beside the mouse.
- In Dungeon Covetous, the Avatar meets Malloy and Owings. Their appearance and behavior are a satire of Laurel and Hardy.
- In Serpent's Hold, many of the inhabitants are modeled after the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The list includes:
- Sir John Paul = Jean-Luc Picard (The bald leader figure)
- Sir Richter = William Riker (Second-in-Command)
- Sir Horffe = Worf (Horffe is from another race, raised by humans)
- Denton = Data (Looks like the tin man and makes jokes that aren't funny)
- Lady Leigh = Beverly Crusher (Leigh is a red-haired healer)
- Lady Tory = Deanna Troi (Tory is an Empath and good at giving spiritual help)
- Jordan = Geordi La Forge (Jordan has black skin and is very blind)
- In Cove there is a bard named De Maria, who is named after game writer Rusel DeMaria.
- In Jhelom the leader of the Library of Scars is named De Snel, in reference to the Executive Producer Dallas Snell.
- In Skara Brae there is a homage to J.R.R. Tolkien on the cemetery. The plaque beneath the statue near the crypt reads: "JRRT - a great man - a great writer."
- Parody references in books:
- Struck Commander is a play on Origin's Strike Commander.
- Mandibles is a parody of the novel and film series Jaws.
- Magic and the Art of Horse-and-Wagon Maintenance is the Britannian version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
- Among the books, there are references to several real-world literary works:
- Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure by Bill Peet
- Ringworld by Larry Niven
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
- The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
- Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang by Ian Fleming
- Play Directing: Analysis, Communication and Style by Francis Hodge
- On Acting by Laurence Olivier
- The Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon
- There are a few books by authors whose names are puns:
- The Silence of Chastity by I.M. Munk (I am monk)
- What could be left but the ashes by N. Flaims (in flames)
- The signpost method for killing Lord British alludes to an incident in which a metal plate fell and struck Richard Garriott on the head. The line 'Yancey-Hausman must pay!' refers to the company responsible for the maintenance of Origin's office building.
- In the SNES version only, there is a character in the guild hall of Minoc named Lucas. He looks suspiciously like George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars.
Ultima Underworld II Edit
- In Killorn Keep, the Avatar finds the Trilkhai, cat-like creatures with an apparently glorious past. The Wisps later confirm this, revealing they were once a space-dwelling race. This is in clear reference to the Kilrathi of the Wing Commander series, with the word "Trilkhai" also being an anagram of "Kilrathi."
- Also in Killorn Keep, male Avatars can tell Mystell that their name is Abraham Lincoln.
- In the purple zone of the void, there is an homage to the early entries in the series where dungeons were displayed with vector lines (such as in Akalabeth), complete with primitively drawn enemies.
- The sequence where the Avatar has to recolor a pyramid in the Void five times by jumping on each step once is an exact replica of the puzzle-game Q-Bert. Even the pads for getting back to the top are there.
- A number of paintings in Castle Britannia are box art from previous games.
- Nystul holds a secret. Should the Avatar manage to open his chest, it reveals the book Sex by Madonna. Likewise, Lord British stores spare eyeballs in his chest. Nystul also owns a copy of The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.
Ultima VII Part Two Edit
- In the caves on the way to the ice plains of Serpent Isle, the Avatar finds a key that opens the door of a tower in the Knight's Forest. Inside, the Avatar finds Captain Stokes, a software pirate who is occupied by making copies of Ultima VIII. Using the different parts of the computer also reveals hidden advertisements for Strike Commander and Wing Commander, both Origin products.
- The face of Jim Hammons (a.k.a. Umbrae Dragon) was used for the character Ensorcio, a mage lodging at the Inn of the Sleeping Bull.
- In the town of Monitor, there is a woman named Lydia who specializes in tribal tattoos. Although not conclusive, it is possible that her name is a reference to the 1940s song, "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," once popularized by Groucho Marx.
- Also in Monitor are two characters, Simon and Templar. Simon is secretly a Goblin spy, while Templar specializes in studying Goblins. Their names are likely a reference to Simon Templar, the protagonist of the 1960s TV show The Saint.
- In the book "The Structure of Order," there is a passage that reads "Some will tell thee that Logic is 'a little bird chirping in a meadow' or that it is 'a wreath of flowers which smell bad'." This is a reference to the Star Trek: TOS episode I, Mudd, in which Spock uses irrational statements such as these to short-circuit a number of androids.
- Persistently double-clicking on animals gives strange results. Performing this on a cat will cause it to explode, prompting a party member to exclaim, "Bloody cats!" If done to a sheep, the Avatar will undress and the two will lie down on the ground together. When this occurs, someone in the party will scold, "You're a baaaaaad Avatar."
- One of the pictures in the cheat room on the Isles of the Mad Mage shows a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. Many more of these cheerleaders can be found in person in secret locations.
- Under Pothos the Apocethary's house (key hidden under chair inside, secret door under bridge start outside) you can descend into a hidden chamber. There is a football field hidden here with several cheerleaders. Ice trolls are fighting ice golems, reminiscent of a football game, and the field is marked with a blue star. At the "goal line". there is a blue chest containing a rare lightning whip, followed by a teleporter out of the area)
Ultima VIII Edit
- There's a reference to the "Doom Insanity" section of the official Doom FAQ in the game quotes section. One of the reasons cited for why Doom shipped late was "if Origin can do it, so can we"; conversely, the Ultima VIII team responded with, "if id can do it, so can we."
- The Eye of the Boulder: The Runes of the Myth Drainer book is a jab at the Eye of the Beholder game series and the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, The Ruins of Myth Drannor.
- The Ear of Arricorn books refer to The Eye of Argon, a notoriously bad fantasy novella.
- Jely, author of the Cheesy Book, is none other than Jason Ely, the programmer who wrote the code for books in the game. He wrote it to test multi-page books and the other developers found it amusing, deciding to keep it in the game.
- The morphing object (cube, sphere, tetrahedron) is a reference to Electronic Arts' old logo.
- When listening to Mordea ranting in her throne room and throwing out orders to Salkind, one of her commands is, "Off with her head!" This could be in quotation of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.
- One tombstone in the cemetery reads: "ARNOLD HASTA LAVISTA BABY." It seems the programmers were also fans of Terminator 2.
- Looking at the Pagan Calendar reveals a pattern: Six times of the day, six days form a week and six months form a year. This could be interpreted as representing the Devil's number 666, befitting the dark nature of the world of Pagan.
- One of the puzzles in the Shrine of the Ancient Ones is clearly the popular real-world puzzle, Towers of Hanoi.
Ultima IX Edit
- The paintings in the Avatar's house on Earth are taken from the box art of previous Ultima games.
- Several real-world books are in the Avatar's house: The Wizard of Oz, Stranger in a Strange Land, and again, Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure.
- Turning on either of the TVs in the Avatar's house will reveal an EA Sports commercial, complete with announcer.
- Turning on the Avatar's computer will reveal a "coming soon" plug for Ultima Online 2. The game was ultimately cancelled.
- The prisoner in Lord British's dungeon is clearly Richard Garriott, of whom British is an alter ego. The prisoner claims to also be Shamino, Garriott's other in-game persona.
- In the optional part of Hythloth, there is one sequence where the Avatar must shrink down to enter a small passage, which is done by drinking some special water. This is in reference to Alice in Wonderland.
- In the mountains near Yew is a large, decorated tombstone dedicated to Phyllis Jones, the late mother of lead artist Scott Jones.
- Nimrond telling everyone to bring out their sick and poor could be a reference to a similar scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
- At the beginning of the game in the Avatar's house on Earth, opening and closing the refrigerator in the kitchen eight times will reveal severed human body parts.
- Looking at the stove in the Avatar's house will reveal the reflection of the artist who designed it.
- In the Britain cemetery near the haunted house is a grave for Lord Brinne. "Lord Brinne" was the screen name of Bill Iburg, a prominent and vivid member of the Ultima Horizons community who died mere months prior to the game's release. Touched by his passing and the outpouring of grief online, Richard Garriott and the Ultima IX team created this in-game memorial for him. Lord Brinne also received dedications in Might and Magic VIII, Deus Ex and Morrowind.