Origin Systems ad from Computer + Video Games (UK, 1988)

It's 1988 and Origin Systems was on the rise thanks to Richard Garriott's Ultima series.

It’s 1988 and Origin Systems was quickly growing well beyond the worlds tapped by Garriott’s imagination, aiming to show everyone what it was planning next.

A quick one for today! This ad shows off the personality of both the games and the company in one shot. The runes along the edges and the ankhs in the corners, though, play favorites with Richard Garriott’s Ultima — the land of Britannia, where the game takes place, uses runes as its alphabet and the ankh is the symbol of its hero, the Avatar.

But it also shows off Moebius (a role-playing, martial arts action title), Auto Duel (an adaptation of Steve Jackson’s Car Wars tabletop game that pits player in vehicles dueling it out on the lawless roads of the America in a dystopian future),  and Ogre (a boardgame adaptation where one player is a super tank — the Ogre — and a second player commanding a small army must find the right tactics to defeat it).

Origin was eager to spread its creative wings outside the Avatar’s shadow, a direction that would lead it into experimenting with a number of different genres from games touted as ‘interactive movies’ like BioForge to epic space sims like Wing Commander in later years, examples living up to its better known motto — “We Create Worlds”.

Update (5.5.2016):

unwashedmass in the comments suggested that there might be a message hidden in those runes in the ad above so I took another look and there was something there!

I used a copy of the runic alphabet from the Ultima Wiki as a reference in translating the runes.

I started with the top bar (I flipped it vertically and then reversed it horizontally) and this is what it translated to as best I could figure out:


Then I took a look at the left side bar (I rotated the ad clockwise from its starting neutral position and translated it from there) and this was the result of that one:


The right bar is the same as the left, and the bottom bar is the same as the top.

I’m not sure what these mean — they seem like fragments of something else but I’m not sure what. Putting the broken phrases into Google had yielded links to toxicity studies but I’ll hazard a guess that’s not quite what Lord British had in mind for his Avatar. If anyone has anything else to add, please do!


4 responses to “Origin Systems ad from Computer + Video Games (UK, 1988)

    • That’s a good question. So I went back to see if there was one and the results are a bit strange! I updated the article with what I discovered. Thanks for suggesting in taking another look at those runes!

      • My first return for the translated fragments was http://wiki.ultimacodex.com/wiki/The_Book_of_Mystic_Wisdom which reveals the complete phrase: “Being a compendium of the processes and effects of combining human will and natural forces as discovered and recorded by the greatest sorcerors since the beginning of time.”

        I guess this ad was just using excerpted text from the U4 manual!

      • Oh wow, nice! Thanks for sharing this! Very clever, Origin, very clever indeed. And a great treat for Ultima fans going that extra mile.

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