Overview and Instructions

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After your departure from the world of Pagan, you, the Avatar, find yourself stranded in the middle of a wasteland. The hideous monument leering before you testifies that your worst fears are true: The Guardian has overthrown Britannia in your absence. Isolated on a crag thousands of feet above the earth, you can only ponder about what can happen next. . .

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What is Ultima: The Dark Core?

Interactive ficition for Ultima fans by an Ultima fan, but designed to be playable for just about anyone who has a taste for interactive fiction or enjoys a good adventure game like Myst. In summary, Ultima: The Dark Core blends interactive fiction's tradition of text, graphics, sound, and puzzle-solving with the themes and story-telling excellence of the Ultima saga. Obviously, I cannot claim that The Dark Core surpasses or even comes close to reaching the standards of any of these games, but in my humble opinion, it ain't a bad piece of work.

The Dark Core continues where Pagan: Ultima VIII left the Avatar stranded upon a crag in the middle of the devastated world of Britannia, and thus takes place just prior to the events that will (hopefully) occur in Ascension: Ultima IX. If all of this sounds unfamiliar, then try reading Exploits of an Avatar to get a little background on the Ultima saga.

As is the tradition of Ultima, The Dark Core was designed to be the first of its kind and to take advantage of the latest technology; specifically, web browser technology. Make no mistake, The Dark Core is not your ordinary set of dynamic web pages. Its extensive use of Javascript, layers, event capturing, image maps, sound effects, and music sets The Dark Core apart from your average page and, as an unfortunate side effect, your average web browser. Simply put, The Dark Core requires Netscape Communicator (Navigator) 4.0, or Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0

The Dark Core is available for downloading and playing off your hard drive. In fact, this is recommended since the The Dark Core will at times load large sound files and image files. I also would like to avoid overloading our server, which, after all, is primarily here for educational and research purposes.

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Starting The Dark Core

To start the game, select "Sound and Music" or "Without Sound and Music". Note that if you are using Netscape, sound effects require that you have LiveAudio enabled and music requires the Crescendo plug-in (see Optimizing Your System for details). Internet Explorer users can play sound and music without any additional controls. Also note that no matter what your initial choice, activating and deactivating sound effects and music can be accomplished in the control panel.

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Overview of The Dark Core Interface

A screenshot of The Dark Core interface is shown below. A description of each component is provided in text after the figure. If your browser supports client-side image maps (and it ought to if you want to play the game), clicking on the map will also take you to the appropriate information:

View Screen
The view screen displays what you, the Avatar, are currently seeing. It also provides a means of maneuvering around The Dark Core and interacting with objects within the game. See Maneuvering and Interacting with Objects for more details.

In the tradition of Ultima VII and up, The Dark Core features a backpack to store any objects you find in the game. Unlike Ultima VII and up, however, items in The Dark Core are stored neatly so you will not have to waste time rummaging through your backpack. Please note that not all objects that you encounter in The Dark Core are capable of being stowed in your backpack. In fact, a majority of objects can merely be manipulated or examined within the view. Therefore, if you can carry an item, chances are it will be important for completing the game. Refer to Interacting with Objects for more details.

Text Window
The text window presents a verbose description of the region in which you are currently exploring. It will also display descriptions of special events, show the text of books that you may read, and serves as the interface for conversing with characters ( See Conversing with Characters). Read the descriptions carefully because they often provide clues that cannot be discerned simply by examining your current view. Also note that a text description describes the region that you are currently exploring, while the view displays your present perspective of that particular region.

Control Panel
The control panel consists of the following icons:

If you are using Netscape, the control panel will also contain the Crescendo Plug-In (if music is playing), which is recognizable by its own icon, but not always (See Just Another Bug Hunt for further elaboration.)

Status Bar
Certainly to be overlooked and yet a very important feature of The Dark Core is the status bar. The status bar indicates the progress of the game as it loads images, sounds, and other contents in its files. It is a general rule of thumb that with any Javascript application, you should wait for the browser to finish loading its page content before performing any action. If you are playing off the hard drive, waiting will take a few seconds at most, and in doing so, you decrease the chance of Communicator crashing on you and unnecessary Javascript errors.

For players who own Internet Explorer 4.0, the status bar also displays the action accomplished when clicking on the view, or it might reveal additional information. For example, passing the mouse cursor over a book might reveal the book's title while passing the mouse cursor over a door will reveal the action 'Exit Gazebo', suggesting that if you click on the door, you will leave the gazebo.

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Maneuvering within Ultima: The Dark Core

Movement in The Dark Core is a matter of clicking on a destination. If you click on an object of interest and it is too far away to take or examine, you will move closer to that object. As another rule of thumb, the bottom quarter of the view is usually reserved for turning around or, in some cases, taking several steps backward to "Stand back!" from an object. For example, clicking on the arch in the figure above would take you to the hallway outside the room. Clicking on the bottom of the view screen would turn you around and face the rest of the room.

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Interacting with Objects

Learning how to interact with objects and how these objects interact with one another is imperative to completing The Dark Core. In general, clicking on an object within your view will accomplish one of the following: Clicking on an object in your backpack will allow you to drag it to the view or over another object. Some objects will interact if you drag one on top of the other and then release the mouse button. For example, in the figure above, if you wanted to try putting the hourglass on the table, you would drag the hourglass over the table and release the mouse button. If nothing happens or the action is irrelevant to the course of the game, the hourglass will return to the backpack.

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Conversing with Characters

There are a few characters that you will encounter within The Dark Core. Once you meet them, the game will enter its conversation mode by disabling the view window and loading the conversation interface within the text window. The conversation interface is a modified implementation of the routines found in Ultima IV, V, and VI: That is, a character's response or description will be followed by a text box in which you can type an inquiry. An inquiry consists of a single key word, usually found within the text of the character's conversation. "Name" and "job" are two key words that most characters will respond to.

After you type your inquiry, press enter, and the text window will reload and display the character's response. For your convenience, some key words (and even some phrases) are underlined. Clicking on these words acts as if you typed the word in the box. Remember, however, that NOT ALL key words are so easily deduced. Speaking with other characters is certain to provide clues for what might be an important key word.

Continuing a conversation with a character is a matter of typing different inquiries. If you wish to leave the conversation and return to exploring The Dark Core, type "Bye" in the box and press enter.

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Saving and Reloading your Game

Saving and reloading your game is accomplished by first clicking on the disk in the control panel. A separate window will appear with the options "Save Game" or "Load Game". Select the appropriate option. Only one game can be saved per session or per Communicator profile. Warning: Due to cookie implementation, a saved game is not always a saved game. Refer to Dark Cookies for more information.

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