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6/07/2014

A quick look at Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash

The so-called "lost" Ultima game which Richard Garriott had no involvement in creating.  Mt. Drash was long rumored to have been released by Sierra On-Line without his knowledge or consent, but this has been proven to be false; it was actually programmed by a friend of his, Keith Zabalaoui, and Garriott allowed the name to be used as part of a deal with Sierra to get the game published.  Still, as the VIC-20 was an outdated platform by 1983 and the game also required a tape drive and an 8 KB RAM expansion to run, Sierra On-Line had no faith in it being a commercial success.  As a result, the game had only one advertisement run in Compute! Magazine and was given an extremely limited printing run of about 3000 copies - the bare minimum needed to fulfill their contract with Zabalaoui.  Sure enough, Mt. Drash sold very poorly, with most copies of the game being unceremoniously disposed of by retailers and distributors. One shop in Canada even literally dumped its unsold stock off a cliff, which is where at least one surviving copy was eventually found.  Only around thirteen copies of Mt. Drash are known to still exist today, making it an extremely rare title and a holy grail among retro computer game enthusiasts.

In an effort to prevent counterfeit copies from surfacing on auction sites, a full image of the original tape has never been made available.  However, the game is playable through emulation as well as a fan port to the PC platform, so let's take a quick look.



(I did not create this video, but props to Georgc3 for enduring the music long enough to complete the game!)

As a couple extra bits of trivia, Mt. Drash is the name of one of the caverns in Ultima 1.  The name of the game's villains, "Garrintrots", are most likely a corruption of Richard Garriott's last name.

Keith Zabalaoui also contributed to Ultima 2 and went on to become the president of Atomic Games, best known for creating the Close Combat series.