Playing Ultima Underworld on a Modern PC

Today we tackle getting Ultima Underworld to run on a modern PC.  Ultima Underworld was really ahead of its time being a first-person openish-world roleplaying game.  This game is not strictly main Ultima canon, but it most likely takes place between Ultima 6 and 7 along with Savage Empire and Martian Dream.  The Avatar was clearly busy in the 20/200 years between Ultima 6 and 7.  This will be the tenth post in my series of how to play all 14 Ultima games on a modern PC.  Once again we will be using DOSBox to get the job done and I won’t get into acquiring the game files, installing DOSBox or justifying why do this myself when I could just get the games via GOG.  See my first post, on Akalabeth, for comments on such things.  For previous posts in the series see: Savage Empire & Martian Dreams, Ultima IX, Ultima VI, Ultima V, Ultima IV, Ultima III, Ultima II, Ultima I and Akalabeth.

Acquiring the Manuals & Maps

The High-Resolution Ultima Map Project doesn’t contain the maps for Ultima Underworld, but does have it hereNext is the manuals.  Ultima Underworld comes with three pieces of documentation:  The Memoirs of Cabirus, the Player’s Guide and the Reference Card.  All three can be found at here, here and here.

Installing the Game

Like most of the newer Ultimas (minus 9) installation is pretty simple.  Copy all the game files to your machine.  Choosing a path that only contains folders with less than 8 characters and contains no spaces will make your life easier in the next step.  For reference, I always choose “C:\Games\uw1”.  Next we need to setup the game.  Launch DOSBox and execute the following commands:

mount C C:\games\uw1

Choose ‘Sound Blaster Pro’ for Sound, ‘Sound Blaster Pro’ for Speech, ‘Animating’ for Cut Scenes and confirm your selections with ‘Yes’.

There one last thing you are going to want to do, but this is actually a DOSBox configuration change.  The default mouse sensitivity is not good, in fact its pretty bad.  While there is no 1 value that will satisfy everyone, I have found 200 to 250 to be pretty good.  The way you change this setting is by opening %AppData%\..\Local\DOSBox\DOSBox-0.74.conf in your favorite text editor.  Your filename may be different depending on your version of DOSBox, but the config file format should be mostly the same.  In this text file find the line sensitivity=100 (or whatever your current value is) and change it to sensitivity=200 (or whatever you would like).  This setting will likely take a few tries to get right since it all depends on your specific setup and preferences.

Patching the Game

The controls of Ultima Underworld are for lack of a better word frustrating by today’s standards.  When it was released there was no standard 1st person game controls and I don’t remember them being that bad when I played the game back in the day.  However, today I struggle playing the game due to the controls.  Luckily there is a mouselook patch available.  The patch has some other features also, but our current priority is mouselook.  You can read all about the various patch features here.  The easiest way to apply the patch is via the “Ultima Hacks – hack applier” website, found here.  Just upload “C:\Games\uw1\UW.EXE” to the website, select “uw1.hack” from the drop down box and hit “Apply hack to file”.  You probably want to back up your original UW.EXE first, but just download the resulting file, place it into “C:\Games\uw1” and rename it to UW.EXE.

Playing the Game

Fire up DOSBox and execute the following commands:

mount C C:\games\uw1

You are going to need more cycles than the default for this one.  I find somewhere around 8 to 9 thousand cycles to be enough.  To increase your cycles use control F-12.  As always Alt-Enter puts DOSBox into fullscreen mode.  To enable/disable mouselook use the back tick key under the ESC key.  Once in mouselook mode WASD moves you around and you look, obviously, wherever your mouse goes.

I did run into one issue on my PC with this game. If I Alt-Tabbed away from the game and then went back my mouse would go crazy and start moving by itself.  I discovered after some messing around that if you just minimize the game and then reenter the game the mouse would start behaving again.

Wrapping Up

Now to summarize when you want to play the game from now on, just do one of the following in DOSBox

mount C C:\games\uw1\
Control-F12 until Cycles is around 8-9000

Any questions or comments just let know.  Thanks!


Something witty! I'm a full-time software engineer, part-time streamer, PhD, RetroSpy developer, bipolar, Ultima fanboy and a video game hardware collector.