Lord British
Ultima character
First appearanceUltima I: The First Age of Darkness (1981)
Last appearanceNox Archaist (2020)
Created byRichard Garriott
Voiced byRichard Garriott (Ultima VI FM-Towns version, Serpent Isle)
Ev Lunning (Ultima IX)

Lord British, or Lord Cantabrigian British,[1] is the fictional ruler of Britannia, a kingdom in the fictional world of Sosaria, created by Richard Garriott for his video game series Ultima.

Concept and creation

Richard Garriott (left) in his "Lord British" persona, along with Starr Long at the 2018 Game Developers Conference

Ultima series creator Richard Garriott acquired the nickname "British" as a teenager from friends at computer camp who claimed his greeting to them, "Hello", was distinct from the usual American "Hi". The Lord title was later added when he played as dungeon master in his Dungeons & Dragons games.[2] When his first published game Akalabeth was released, the president of the publishing company suggested he use the name in the game, since it was more memorable than his real name.[3] Garriott released Akalabeth: World of Doom and all other Ultima games under the pseudonym, and occasionally appeared in Ultima Online playing as Lord British and meting out justice to his players.[4] He is still known as Lord British. Garriott retained the trademark rights to the name Lord British with its associated symbols, and the character appears in his game Tabula Rasa as General British.

Appearances

Lord British appears in various entries in the Ultima series. Neither the Avatar nor Lord British are born in Sosaria, but come from Earth via the moongates. Numerous plotlines and side quests in the Ultima games revolve around Lord British's adventures or public works projects. In the games, he has a key role in founding the Museum, Conservatory, and other institutions of the Britannian society. He rarely leaves his castle.[5]

Assassination

One of the most famous attributes of Lord British is that he is almost invincible. In every Ultima game in which he has appeared, he is designed to be almost impervious to a player's character predations. However, there are ways for a player thinking outside the box to assassinate him.[6]

This phenomenon is the origin of the Lord British Postulate which states: "If it exists as a living creature in an MMORPG, someone, somewhere, will try to kill it."[7]

Lord British was first killed during an in-game appearance on Ultima Online's beta test on August 9, 1997. A royal visit was conducted as a part of server population stress test. A player character known as Rainz cast a spell called "fire field" on Lord British that killed him. According to Starr Long, it was just a human error: Lord British's character, like others, had been made invulnerable, but by design the invulnerability did not persist over several game sessions. Shortly before the incident, the server crashed, and Richard Garriott forgot to turn his invulnerability flag on when logging on again.[8] Shortly afterwards, Rainz's account was banned from the beta test, though according to Origin, he was not banned for the assassination but for previous complaints against his account.[9] After Lord British was killed, fellow Ultima Online developer Starr Long (also known in-game as Lord Blackthorn) summoned some demons, who attacked innocent bystanders. This led to beta testers protesting both the indiscriminate killing and the banning of the assassin.

He has since been included in other Ultima games, where he is often assassinated despite the developers' best efforts, though some deaths are included as Easter eggs. According to interviewer Shay Addams, "Garriott was less than pleased" that some players had found a way to kill Lord British in Ultima III: Exodus, having taken steps to avoid it.[10][11] In Ultima VII, an Easter egg allows British to be killed. If the player double-clicks the gold plaque above the castle gate when British is standing directly underneath (which he invariably does at exactly noon each day), the plaque will fall on his head. The player can arrange several chairs or crates around him in such a way as to trap him underneath the plaque. This was inspired by an incident at the Origin building: a metal bar, attached to the door by a magnet, fell on Garriott's head, warranting a visit to the hospital. One of the characters says "Yancey-Hausman will pay!", which is a reference to the owner and landlord of the building.[citation needed]

Reception

The famous incident where Lord British is assassinated in Ultima Online

In a 2021 list published by PC Gamer staff, Lord British is ranked among the most iconic characters in PC gaming.[12] GamesRadar+ staff called it an iconic moment in MMOs, and Wired magazine writer Anne-Marie Ostler felt it was an "event reverberated through the gaming world."[13][14] Professor Megan Winget of the University of Texas, coordinator of a project to study the best way to preserve video game history, stated in a BBC interview that the death of Lord British in the Ultima games is something people remember and are affected by.[15]

References

  1. ^ Chuckles reveals Lord British's name as "Lord Cantabrigian British" in Ultima V when he welcomes the Avatar at the entrance of Castle Britannia.
  2. ^ "Inside Ultima IV", Computer Gaming World, pp. 18–21, March 1986
  3. ^ "What is a Lord British "Ultimate" Role Playing Game?". Facebook.
  4. ^ Greg Lastowka (2010), "The Law of Lord British", Virtual Justice: The New Laws of Online Worlds, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-14120-7
  5. ^ Tieryas, Peter (2016-08-29). "The Immoral Morality Of Ultima V". Kotaku Australia. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  6. ^ The Many Deaths of Lord British, Computer and Video Games, 10 Feb 2008
  7. ^ Game It Up!: Using Gamification to Incentivize Your Library. Rowman & Littlefield. August 14, 2015. ISBN 1442253363.
  8. ^ Long, Starr. "Tabula Rasa Team Bios: Starr Long". NCSoft. Archived from the original on 2006-08-25. Retrieved 2006-08-17.
  9. ^ Hawkeye Pike. "Ultima Online Travelogues: Ultima Online Beta". Archived from the original on 2006-06-18. Retrieved 2006-08-17.
  10. ^ The Official Book of Ultima page 30
  11. ^ The Official Book of Ultima page 31
  12. ^ Rick Lane (November 12, 2021). "The 50 most iconic characters in PC gaming". PC Gamer. Retrieved December 10, 2021.
  13. ^ Anne-Marie Ostler (2023-05-15). "Final Fantasy 14 legend Yoshi-P witnessed one of early MMO history's most infamous mishaps firsthand". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  14. ^ Brad King (2002-06-08). "Make Love, Not War Games". Wired. Retrieved 2012-02-16.
  15. ^ "Technology | Writing the history of virtual worlds". BBC News. 2008-08-15. Retrieved 2012-02-16.