Easter eggs and cultural references – the codex of ultima wisdom, a wiki for ultima and ultima online

• In the Apple version of Ultima I’s 1986 re-release, programmer John Miles included a routine whereby waiting for the title screen’s animated sequence to loop a number of times causes two alternate events to occur. With every fourth repeat of the sequence, an armoured knight rides along the medieval landscape’s horizon; however, every fourth time this knight is scheduled to appear (i.e. after sixteen loops), a red Lamborghini is instead shown approaching the depicted castle and entering through its open door. Each of these animations can also be manually triggered when the small white Origin logo is shown against the landscape: pressing Control+K causes the knight to appear, while pressing Control+Shift+P on the Apple version or Control+Shift+2 on the Apple IIe introduces the Lamborghini.


It is possible to perform each command in quick succession to display both the rider and sports car simultaneously. [3]

• John and Geraldine "Gerry" Mayer , the married part-owners of the ComputerLand store where Garriott worked while coding Akalabeth, [4] [5] [6] appear in Towne Linda’s Transport shop. The Mayers were instrumental to Garriott’s early success in the video game industry, as their suggestion that he self-publish Akalabeth and sell it at the store quickly led to California Pacific approaching the young developer with a nationwide distribution deal.

• The farmer Christopher in the Britannys talks about a fantasy work he is writing, called Times of Lore. This character is the Britannian counterpart of prominent Origin designer Chris Roberts, who created the company’s 1988 action role-playing game, Times of Lore, before going on to conceive his magnum opus, the Wing Commander series. Cross-promotion of other Origin titles would continue in future Ultima installments.

• If any characters are sworn at during a conversation, they will scold the player. The list of recognized obscenities 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 this profanity list is " ELECTRONIC ARTS", a pointed response to founder Trip Hawkins’ refusal to address Richard Garriott’s allegations of plagiarism against their 1987 CRPG, Deathlord. [11] Hawkins himself appears as a shipwright in East Britanny, and would later inspire a prominent role in the mythology of Ultima VI.

• 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. [12]

• In the Apple version of the Acknowledgments screen, pressing Shift+Ctrl+6 will cause Toshi Morita’s name to disappear. This stems from a subroutine inserted by Morita himself, in which the command would trigger the appearance of a flashing arrow next to his name in the list of credits. When Morita left Origin prior to the release of Ultima V, however, his colleagues discovered his surreptitious code and, as a joke, rewrote it so his name would be erased instead.

• The paintings hanging to either side of the entertainment center are depictions of two real pieces: the first is a 1986 airbrush painting by Ultima VI artist Keith Berdak, [13] while Denis Loubet’s Ultima V cover art is shown when the view pans to the back window. Berdak’s work replaced an illustration of a woman by Patrick Nagel, which can be seen in a screenshot on the back of the Ultima VI box.

• Terran books Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol, Hubert’s Hair-Raising Adventure by Bill Peet, and The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum appear in Britannia. Asking Lord British about books will reveal he has long sought a copy of the Baum classic; should it be obtained from the Lycaeum and presented to him, he will reward the Avatar with a number of peer gems.

• By 1990, Richard Garriott held a caustic view of Electronic Arts and founder Trip Hawkins, accusing the corporation of plagiarizing the Ultima series before finding himself targeted by a frivolous lawsuit designed to force Origin into paying an out-of-court settlement. [11] [14] This incident inspired Garriott to include a sardonic tribute to Hawkins, and other senior Electronic Arts personnel, in the form of reviled pirate Captain Hawkins—who stole Captain Johne’s Silver Tablet before being murdered by his own crew—and three of his crewmates: Alastor Gordon ( Bing Gordon), Bonn (Stewart Bonn), and Old Ybarra ( Joe Ybarra).

• Burma-Shave, a defunct American brand of brushless shaving cream, is lampooned with various rhymes typical of the sequential highway signs with which the company advertised itself from the mid-1920s to the early 1960s. Three such poems appear on tombstones in the Empath Abbey graveyard, while Horance will respond to the input "Burma Shave" with one of his own.

• In the purple zone of the Ethereal Void, there is an homage to the early entries in the series where dungeons are displayed with vector lines (such as in Akalabeth), complete with primitively drawn enemies. There is also a goblin named A. I. Crunchowicz in this zone, a reference to the protagonist of id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D, B. J. Blazcowicz.

• Deep within the tunnels that access the Ice Plains is the tomb of Gannt the Bard, atop which sits the key to a small, two-level dwelling in Knight’s Forest known as the House of Wares. The lone resident of this facility is Captain Stokes, a software pirate who appears to be occupied with making copies of various Origin titles. Double-clicking his "glowing cube", "humming box", or "rune buttons" plays advertisements for Strike Commander, Privateer, and, much to the Avatar’s trepidation, Ultima VIII. Attempting to use this computer a fourth time will cause it to explode.

• 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.

• 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. [20]

• 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!"

• The "cheesy book" hidden on the Ethereal Plane is the work of programmer Jason Ely, who coded the pop-up element for in-game books and wrote this to test multi-page varieties. Containing a farcical short story about protagonist Jely’s (as in J. Ely) discovery of cheese, the book was eventually noticed by colleagues Richard Garriott and John Watson, who found it so amusing they elected to keep it in the game. [21] The Jely character further appears in another book, Stories to Make Children Sleep by Brother Grim (itself an overt reference to Children’s and Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm), where he refuses to eat anything but cheese.

• Using some levers in the Catacombs inverts the screen upside-down, including the controls. Using the same lever again restores everything to normal. This is a reference to the "FLIPFLOP" easter egg found in Ultima V. Problem is, that due to the controls being flipped, sometimes it’s impossible to turn everything back to normal (or the player simply panics).