Easter Eggs and Cultural References
Within the Ultima universe appears a large number of Easter eggs and cultural references, which range from often humorous asides to significant influences on the fiction of the series. The list below strives to be a definitive compilation of all such instances.
Similarly, many Ultima characters are inspired in some fashion by real world counterparts.
- 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. Other than the title, there is no similarity between the game's plot and Tolkien's text.
- In the original game, the last monster on the need-to-kill list is called "Balrog", exactly like the demonic mosters from Lord of the Rings, and unlike the later name for the monster in the Ultima games, Balron.
 Ultima I
- 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 second best weapon in the game is the phazor, which is a thinly-disguised phaser from Star Trek.
- 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 landscapewherea 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 castledoorwould 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. 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
- The Stranger can steal food at the take-out window of "McDonalls" in Port Bonifice in Ultima II, satirizing McDonald's, the biggest fast food retailer in the world. The establishment is even occupied by a "Ronall Mc Donall." 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 creators of the then-rival Wizardry series of games, Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead, can be found in Le Jester.
- The entire town of Tommersville (on Pluto) is essentially an homage to the then-popular Apple II magazine Softalk, with the magazine's publishers, Margot and Al Tommervick, appearing as NPCs.
- 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.
- 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 Beast" from the biblical Book of Revelation, 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
- Some shameless self-advertisement. One bartender tip is, "EXODUS: Ultima ]I[, which is next? Now could it be!"
 Ultima IV
- 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.
- Short Round, from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is found in Yew. He says he is working for "Jones" and that "Indy" is currently on an adventure.
- In the Amiga version of the game, anyone who is told the word ojnab (banjo, backwards) will reward the player with the secret number of a person named Banjo Bob by saying, "Hi Banjo Bob! Your secret number is 4F4A4E0A." "Banjo" Bob Hardy is the author of the Amiga version of Ultima IV.
- Two characters in Cove are named Paul and Linda, a reference to Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney. The motto on the title screen, "In Another World, In A Time To Come", is taken from Paul McCartney's 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 video games, 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
- In the city of Skara Brae there is a tombstone that 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 any NPCs are sworn at during a conversation, they will scold the player. The list of recognized swear words is comprehensive and can be found by hex-editing the Ultima V data files: in the DOS version, it is located in the file DATA.OVL. Notably, the final phrase to appear in the profanity list is "ELECTRONIC ARTS."
- When describing himself in conversation, Chuckles claims to be "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent." He is quoting the Scout Law of the Boy Scouts of America.
- The council member Goeth in Jhelom, who says everything backwards, is a reference to German polymath 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. During development, this subroutine was installed on Richard Garriott's computer as a practical joke by composer Ken Arnold, originally to execute automatically after a few minutes of inactivity when the Ultima creator would foreseeably leave his terminal idle. After confounding Garriott, who believed it to be a bizarre program malfunction, Arnold confessed responsibility and the team liked the effect so much they left it in the game.
- 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 he is writing, called Times of Lore. The character is the in-game counterpart of prominent Origin designer Chris Roberts, who created the game Times of Lore before going on to conceive his magnum opus, the Wing Commander series.
- In the Apple version of the Acknowledgments screen pressing Shift-Ctrl-6 will cause Toshi Morita's name to disappear. According to The Official Book of Ultima, this Easter egg was originally programmed in by Morita himself, and would have caused an arrow to appear pointing to his name in the credits. When Morita left Origin prior to the release of Ultima V, the other programmers discovered this and, as a joke on Morita, rewrote the command so it erased his name instead.
 Ultima VI
- The television watched by the Avatar during the introduction sequence can have its channel manually changed by pressing a corresponding number on the keyboard.
- The digital clock above the Avatar's television displays the system time of the player's computer.
- Hanging on the wall of the Avatar's house 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:
- The Pushme Pullyu was taken from a Dr. Dolittle story, identified as a two-headed llama-type creature.
 Ultima Underworld
- On Level 6, there is a small maze where a substance can be gathered simply by walking over it. The location features four powerful ghosts and teleporters on the sides, and is conspicuously 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 dire 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 is, "You cannot defeat the Drakhai."
 Savage Empire
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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:
- Lord John-Paul = Jean-Luc Picard (John-Paul is a bald leader figure)
- Sir Richter = William Riker (Richter is Second-in-Command to John-Paul)
- Sir Horffe = Worf (Horffe, the Captain of the Guard, is a gargoyle raised by humans)
- Sir Denton = Data (Denton is highly astute but emotionally vacant, with a stale sense of humor and perpetually clad head-to-toe in plate armour)
- Lady Leigh = Beverly Crusher (Leigh is a red-haired healer)
- Lady Tory = Deanna Troi (Tory is remarkably empathic and provides guidance to those at the Hold)
- Sir Jordan = Geordi La Forge (Jordan is a blind but perceptive tinker who wears a headband over his eyes)
- In early drafts of Ultima VII, Tasha Yar is also referenced in the form of a blonde, female paladin named Sir Yarina.
- In Cove there is a bard named De Maria, who is named after author and Origin collaborator, Rusel DeMaria.
- 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.
- Everything that an Avatar should know about sex is a parody on Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). This is Woody Allen's fourth film, consisting of a series of short sequences loosely inspired by Dr. David Reuben's book of the same name.
- Gone with the Wisp is loosely based on the novel and movie Gone with the Wind.
- 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.
- The crucifixion of Christ is re-enacted at Stonegate, complete with a cape, a cup full of blood and a spear. However, unlike the biblical scene, there are several more crucified people around.
 Ultima Underworld II
- 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. There is also a goblin named "A. I. Crunchowicz" in the purple zone, clearly a reference to B.J. Blazcowicz, the protagonist of ID's 'Wolfenstein'.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 1967 Star Trek episode, "I, Mudd," in which Spock uses irrational statements such as these to short-circuit a number of androids.
- Persistently double-clicking on some types of animal eventually gives farcical results. Performing this action on a cat will cause it to spontaneously explode, prompting a party member to exclaim, "Bloody cats!" If done to a sheep, the Avatar will stand behind it and appear to engage in lewd behaviour. The party will subsequently scold, "That's baaaad!" and, "Thou art SICK!"
- In perhaps one of Serpent Isle's more infamous Easter eggs, the NFL's Dallas Cowboys are paid tribute in two of the game's cheat rooms. The first, hidden on the Isles of the Mad Mage, is a hedonistic and lavishly outfitted grotto adorned with a painting and lifelike statues of the team's cheerleaders. Another such tapestry is also found in the cellar accessed below the stairway to Pothos' apothecary, which leads further—via a secret passage—to a replica football field, complete with a cheer squad and a "team" of ice trolls and elementals. This Easter egg was created by Ultima VII Part Two artist and assistant designer Steve Powers.
 Ultima VIII
- 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
- 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.
- Addams, Shay. "Unexpected Surprises". The Official Book of Ultima. COMPUTE Publications: 1992. Pages 71-72.
- "Brewmeister's Transcript of Lord British's DragonCon Speech". The Ultima Compendium. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- Ultima VII: The Black Gate - Characters List. July 2, 1991. Page 8.
- “The Night the Directors Left.” – An Interview with Bill Armintrout. Retrieved 2012-03-25.