Project Britannia is a name that will most likely ring a bell to any Ultima fan that followed the development of the numerous fan projects which emerged during the first decade of the century. It was born from a technological and artistic collaboration between Team Lazarus (Ultima V: Lazarus) and Team Archon (The Ultima 6 Project). Both teams were originally working separately on their respective Ultima remakes, both using the Dungeon Siege engine. Both teams had different strengths, and it became obvious to both that sharing resources would be the best way to ensure that both projects came to fruition. This led in turn to the birth of Project Britannia: a wonderful endeavor that aimed to offer a complete set of game systems — and a complete map of Britannia — to use as a technical basis for other Ultima fan projects. And while it never achieved wide use beyond the two projects that helped create it, Project Britannia is what allowed for Lazarus and the Ultima 6 Project to be completed. If there is a lesson to learn from this, it is that as fans we gain strength from unity and collaborative efforts, rather than by slaving away in our own separate ways.
Alas, as noted above, Project Britannia didn’t go on to serve as the foundation for any other projects. While early plans for Ultima: Return (or, as it was known then, Return to the Serpent Isle) toyed with the idea of using Dungeon Siege and the Project Britannia framework, multiple design issues as well as the engine’s dated feel and controls — not to mention a significant compatibility issue with newer Windows OS versions, and the obvious fact that the project would take many years (meaning Dungeon Siege would feel even more dated) — led to the decision to create Ultima: Return with the Neverwiner Nights 2 engine instead. This decision was partly inspired by the Realms of Ultima project, the team behind which was able to design a mind-blowing ship travel system. Realms of Ultima was intended, from the start, to serve the same purpose as Project Britannia, a sentiment which Team Return shared. This eventually led to the release of the Ultima Return Unified System for NWN2: a set of features and Ultima-like systems for use with Neverwinter Nights 2 modules.
It can’t exactly be said that Ultima fan projects have blossomed around NWN2 either. And that engine, in turn, is beginning to seem a bit dated in its own right, to say nothing of its somewhat user-unfriendly control scheme.
But it also cannot be said that these efforts were all for nothing, especially when collaborations of this nature have led to successfully completed projects in the past. Such collaborative efforts continue to this day, as can be seen in the sharing of art and code between the Savage Empire and Ultima VI remakes for Exult.
And this project aims to continue that tradition of shared, collaborative development.