Ultima Game Developer: A Game Developer Skillset

Created Worlds

Created Worlds

There is more to being a game developer than the tools you use to build the game. To be a successful game designer, you have to be willing to work on yourself, as your personality, drive, and knowledge are what will lead your team.

The Mind of a Game Developer

Game developers have to have a three-part brain: an analytical mind, a strong creative drive, and willpower.


By bring able to solve problems, troubleshoot issues, and find solutions to things you come up against in games design you can help smooth those unexpected problems that will pop up during development. Additionally, you can apply those same skills to help generate puzzles and logic problems to confound your players. Being devious pays off in this job.


Being the mind behind a game takes lots of creative thinking. Ultima is a lush landscape, rich in history and atmosphere, which any developer would be amiss to exploit when developing a spin-off. But this is only the foundation for the game, not the game itself. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Your giant stands, but you need to see what is beyond in order to make it your own.


Like any creative writer, if you can’t take criticism, are easily stymied by rejection, or aren’t willing to take risks, game developing is not for you. Dealing with rejection can be the hardest of these; the first ones are tough to hear, but you go on. The twenty-first makes you feel as though everything about your art must be wrong. Remember, you once felt that what you did was worth publishing, and it likely still is. If you were given specific feedback, rejoice and see what you can do with it; if not, which is far more likely, simply carry on. Do not despair. This is one of the hardest things to deal with in any creative enterprise, and games are no different.


If you have the right sort of mind to be a developer, you also have to cultivate the skills you will need to actually do development work. Some can only be learned by performing them, while some can be studied and refined before you get there.

Programming Basics

Even if you are not going to be doing any programming, it is a good idea to be familiar with the basics of computer system design. Having a working knowledge of Object-oriented programming basics is very useful, especially if you will be needed to help fill in gaps during production.

Scripting Knowledge

Knowledge of whatever scripting language used for your engine is also an essential. Whether its Exult’s Usecode or UnrealScript, being able to throw together scripts in a pinch will eventually be necessary. Learning it up front will allow you to help enter, run and test scripts during the early design phases, where guidance will be most useful to the team.

Artistic Evaluation

Having a keen ear for music, and eye for art, can assist you with picking objects and styles that will complement your game. Seeing a production game is one thing, but picking out models with no context, and getting them to mesh with those already created requires looking at fine detail, and being able to sense when something is off. Similarly, being able to hear what piece of music fits a scene, or what sound is appropriate for a given action, can be difficult without context. Developing these skills can make you a better asset to lead a team.


In a lead developer role, you are in charge of making sure the team operates together. You have to be a good leader, and make sure that not only are your team members contributing their own work, but are cooperating to ensure that their work meshes with that produced by others. In mainstream studios, its said that a lead developer is very involved in the planning and storyboard process, and then becomes a facilitator for the team once production begins. They can be in charge of making sure everyone has the correct tools, that milestones are hit, and that the senior programmer has his favorite keyboard. In short, you are the one everyone turns to for everything they need. Make sure you are up for it.


Once you have the skills you need to succeed, you will need to refresh the information you have about your subject. After all, even though you have played Ultima IV countless times, you could not have encountered every NPC, done every side quest, and know the repercussions of every action in the game. In order to reimagine that classic on a next-generation platform, you will need to do research.

Fortunately, the Codex of Ultima Wisdom right here on Ultima Codex is one of the best resources for game information, from details about individual NPCs, walkthroughs for each dungeon, maps and details about each location, and transcripts for the games. As a wiki, the Codex is in a constant state of revision and expansion, so as you do your
research, feel free to add information to the Codex.

For most research, however, you are going to have to look into some books. Here are the ones I can definitely recommend, as excellent sources of Ultima information:

Other places for information on the Internet about Ultima games include:

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2 Responses

  1. December 2, 2011

    […] A Game Developer Skillset […]

  2. December 13, 2011

    […] A Game Developer Skillset – a look at the skills, technical and non-technical, that the successful game developer (and especially the successful Ultima developer) will require. […]

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