ul­ti­mate’s ul­ti­mate

Gregg ex­plains the de­sign mas­tery be­hind Sabre Wulf


We were cu­ri­ous to know which of Ul­ti­mate’s games Gregg liked the most. “out of all of them, Sabre Wulf’s al­ways been my favourite,” he ex­plains. “A lot of peo­ple plump for the 3D stuff, but it never re­ally grabbed me – I al­ways felt it was a lit­tle bit too fid­dly for me. I ad­mired the tech­ni­cal achieve­ment but Sabre Wulf was an ar­cade-style game, and I just loved the jun­gle set­ting and the fact that this wolf was chas­ing you around the jun­gle.”

It’s no great sur­prise, given that the game still holds up well – Dar­ran spent a cou­ple of weeks play­ing through the game when Rare Re­play was re­leased in 2015. In­ter­est­ingly, it was that com­pi­la­tion that led Gregg to a deeper un­der­stand­ing of the game’s de­sign. “I think at the time some­one showed me the map of the jun­gle, and I was stunned at how small it was. When I was a kid play­ing those games, I just imag­ined it to be ab­so­lutely colos­sal – it was re­ally easy to get lost and you kept won­der­ing where to go. And then some­one showed me the print­out of the map, and it’s ac­tu­ally a bit dis­ap­point­ing see­ing how small it was, but it was just so clev­erly put to­gether.”

So how is the il­lu­sion of size achieved? “I think it’s the samey­ness of the graph­ics, ac­tu­ally, that do it,” Gregg ex­plains. “It’s a pos­i­tive thing, in that a lot of the lo­ca­tions kind of look fa­mil­iar, so you feel like ‘have I been here be­fore? I’m not quite sure.’ So I think it ac­tu­ally worked quite well, but then you had these oc­ca­sional flashes of the moun­tains at the bot­tom or the top, where you got the ref­er­ence. And then they in­tro­duced new bad­dies as well, so the fur­ther you got you started to see that ro­dent-type thing, and even though the lit­tle ro­dent wasn’t that spe­cial, the fact that you had to be that far to see it. In many ways, the fore­thought – ‘oh, the player’s got this far, let’s show them a new thing, now they’re this far, let’s show them a new thing’ – has stuck with me un­til today.”

[ZX Spec­trum] Gregg points out Sabre Wulf’s jun­gle de­sign as one of his favourite el­e­ments.

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