Origin History

Here is a brief timeline of some of the major events in the intertwined histories of Ultima and Origin. Some of the events may be off by a few months, or slightly out of order in a few cases, but by and large the facts here are correct. Note that the locations of Origin's offices at various times can be a clue to the nature of your collectibles in some instances, as the addresses appear on the backs of most items included with the games (such as manuals, play cards, and so on). A lot of the information, especially before 1990, can also be found in the Official Book of Ultima by Shay Addams.

  • Richard Garriott and some friends start their own computer programming course at Clear Creek High School. Their self-directed project is to write a fantasy computer game.

  • Richard takes a job at the local Computerland store, where Apple II home computers are being sold. He decides to learn about the Apple by writing programs in his spare time at the store. By the end of the summer, he has produced a game he calls Akalabeth, written in Applesoft Basic and read into the computer off of cassette tapes. His manager suggests he make some copies and sell them at the store.
  • Unbeknownst to Richard, the store manager sends a copy of the game to the California Pacific Computer company, a computer game publisher. Richard signs a contract with CPC to distribute the game. CPC distributes the game on 5.25" disks, and it sells over 30,000 copies.
  • Richard enrolls in the University of Texas.
  • Richard begins work on Ultima along with his friend Ken Arnold, working out of his parents' bedroom closet.

  • Richard joins up with the University of Texas chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, meeting several of the friends that would later become integral to the games.
  • Ultima is published by California Pacific.
  • The movie Time Bandits is released. Richard and his friends visit the movie theatres repeatedly trying to copy the maps used in the movie, and use the idea in the design of Ultima II.
  • California Pacific goes out of business. Richard signs a deal with upstart Sierra Online to produce and distribute his games, because they are the only company that will agree to including a cloth map with each copy.
  • The first IBM PCs are sold.

  • Ultima II is released for the Apple II.
  • Sierra makes Richard a less than desirable deal on royalties for a PC port of Ultima II. This leads Richard to begin thinking about a new distributor.
  • Richard drops out of full-time study at the University of Texas, so that he can concentrate on work for Ultima III. He is still working out of his parents' house in Houston.
  • Chuck Bueche does the Atari 800 port of Ultima II for Sierra, and meets Richard.

  • Origin Systems is founded by Richard Garriott, Robert Garriott, Owen Garriott (their father) and Chuck Bueche. Development is done in Houston, and the financial affairs are handled through an office at Robert's house in Andover, Massachusetts. Origin's official address is: PO Box 99, Andover MA 01845.
  • Origin hires its first outside employee, Jeff Hillhouse. Jeff is also Sir Geoffrey in the later games.
  • Robert moves to Londonderry, New Hampshire where his wife has taken a job. Origin's official address becomes: 340 Harvey Road, Mancester NH 03103.
  • Origin releases Ultima III for the Apple II.
  • Origin signes a distribution deal with Electronic Arts Affiliated Labels.
  • Origin moves all of their development staff to the New Hampshire office so that Robert won't have to commute so often.
  • In September, Ultima IV is completed and released for the Apple II.
  • Origin acquires the rights to Ultimas I and II, and begins rewriting them for inclusion in the Ultima Trilogy.
  • Origin moves most of its development staff to Austin and changes its official address to: 136 Harvey Road, Londonderry NH 03053.
  • Origin signs a distribution deal with Broderbund.
  • Ultima V is released for the Apple II. It is the last Ultima for Apple.
  • Origin consolidates all of its offices in Austin, changing its official address again: PO Box 161750, Austin TX 78716.
  • The Nintendo version of Ultima III is released in Japan, amidst a media blitz that sees Lord British splashed across billboards and TV screens.

  • Ultima VI is released for PC, marking the tenth anniversary of the original Ultima.
  • The Official Book of Ultima is published.
  • Savage Empire is released.

  • Martian Dreams is released.
  • Stygian Abyss is released.

  • Ultima VII is released, the last Ultima released independently by Origin.
  • Labyrinth of Worlds is released.
  • Electronic Arts buys Origin.

  • Serpent Isle is released.

  • Ultima VIII is released.

  • Origin creates a patch for Ultima VIII, which includes significant changes to gameplay, plot, and control. The patch is made available for free via the Internet. Shortly thereafter, updated CD versions of the game appear in stores.

  • In April, Origin holds the alpha test for Ultima Online. Thousands of players participate in the largest Internet gaming environment ever seen.
  • Origin starts taking applications for the Ultima Online beta test, scheduled to be held in 1997. Eventually, over 50,000 people sign up and pay $2 to receive a copy of the beta CD.

  • In an effort to get Ultima Online out the door, Origin shifts all development personnel away from the Ultima IX project so they can work on Ultima Online.
  • In April, Origin launches the final version of the Ultima Online web site.
  • In June, Origin finally ships the CDs for the first phase of the Ultima Online beta test. Only a few thousand CDs are sent out.
  • In July, Origin ships the CDs for the second phase of the Ultima Online beta test. Everyone, including those who participated in the first phase, receives new CDs. The test lasts approximately two months and involves thousands of players.
  • In September, Origin ends the Ultima Online beta test and officially releases the commercial version of the game. A great deal of heated debate ensues regarding whether the game was ready for release or needed more development.

  • Approximate expected release date for Ultima IX: Ascension.

  • The 20th anniversary of Ultima!