The guys at gameSniped have compiled a list of the ten most valuable collectible video games of all time, with an obscure Ultima snipoff for the Commodore VIC-20 making the list. And here I thought I had played every Ultima game in existence...
Ultima: Escape from Mt. Drash
Copies Produced: ?
Estimated Price: $,2500+
While having a much higher production run than many of these games on the list (in theory), few copies have been found and the game holds the distinction of being one of the highest priced PC games ever. If that last part sounds confusing, I understand. I too frequently forget that the Vic-20 was a home computer, not a console.
In the game, creatures called (garrintrots) have imprisoned the player in Mt. Drash, and the player's task is to escape the dungeons.
The game itself is a very simple series of three-dimensional randomly generated dungeons, and the idea is to destroy all monsters that stand in way and exit to the next level. There is a time limit as well. The game doesn't employ custom graphics, but rather uses VIC-20's graphical characters to draw the game scene.
The game itself doesn't tie to Ultima series in many ways. Mt. Drash is actually a location in Ultima I.
The game was originally written by one of Richard Garriott's friends, Keith Zabalaoui, in Coarsegold, California, for Sierra On-Line, Inc in 1983. Sierra, who had just successfully published Ultima II, named the game an Ultima in hopes that it would sell better. They did this without Garriott's permission - Garriott held the rights to the Ultima name - and due to the relative obscurity of the game, Garriott didn't hear about the incident until much later.
Sierra originally intended to publish the game as part of the SierraVenture series of games. However, it seems that someone at Sierra had noticed that the game was not going to sell well. Only one advertisement was published (in Compute! magazine), but aside of that, the game was never distributed very widely. Sierra even denied the game ever existed, until Zabalaoui confirmed it actually was finished and was actually shipped to retailers. Approximately 3000 units were made, though exact numbers are not available.