Ultima IV – xu4 Upgrades Consolidation

In much more succinct fashion, here are the fixes/upgrades to xu4 that I cobbled together a while back. . .

Graphics Upgrade and Fixes
Here is the graphics fix and upgrades to the xu4 edition of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. (more info)

Music Upgrade
Here is the music upgrade (featuring Roland Sound Canvas) for the xu4 edition of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. For listening outside of the game, here’s plain MP3 versions. (more info)

Please Note
There are various versions of xU4 floating around. All of this is designed to work with “xU4 1.1svn” (2/22/2013) which you can download from this part of the xu4 website. You should download the latest “snapshot” build and avoid the “betas” since they are actually much older.


Okay. . . so one more Ultima IV (via xu4 engine) fix on top of the Roland (recorded) MIDI music upgrade and the graphics fix.

At endgame, a few months ago, I was disappointed to find that the symbol of the codex was mangled. After answering the second question (Honesty, Compassion, etc.). . . the graphics become corrupted.


Through some trial and error (at first I tried editing the image files themselves), I realized that this is an easy fix. Each image provided for this part of the game should be stand-alone, it’s just a slideshow. Yet the xu4 engine was trying to stack them on top of each other while treating them as transparent.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon what is apparently telling the xU4 engine to treat these (wrongly) as transparent. . .

In the conf/graphics.xml file within the imageset VGA-ALLPNG section, find the “abyss vision images” area, and remove the ‘fixup=”abyss”‘ value from each image entry. Here’s what you’re looking for. . .


‘fixup=”abyss”‘ also appears elsewhere in the file, but if you’re running “VGA-ALLPNG” (presumably along with my fix that restores the original U4 Upgrade visuals) as your video mode in the game, that’s all you should need to do.

Here’s the result. . .


I’ve updated my graphics fix package with the changes outlined above. So, those installing it after today don’t need to worry about fixing the endgame images as outlined above. It’ll be done for you.


In addition to the Roland Sound Canvas Music now available in xu4, I’ve gone ahead and fixed up the Ultima IV Upgrade Pack so that its graphics upgrades now function fully again in xU4. You can download the fix package here.

I’ll let the included README.TXT do the rest of the explaining:

xu4 v1.1 (http://xu4.sourceforge.net/) currently breaks support for the u4upgrad.zip pack (http://www.moongates.com/u4/upgrade/Upgrade.htm) by Aradindae Dragon and Wiltshire Dragon.

Most of that pack’s appearance has been worked into the built-in “VGA-ALLPNG” xu4 video mode. However, there are two issues:

  1. The base terrain is now green instead of black. This can be quite jarring for Ultima veterans since “black with green dots” has been the standard since Ultima I.
  2. The “HUD” has been changed.

This pack restores the original appearance of both. Just decompress this ZIP file and overwrite the PNGs in your xu4/graphics/png/ directory with the ones provided in this ZIP file. Then, replace xu4/conf/graphics.xml file with the one provided. The former step replaces the affected terrain tiles while the latter step enables the old “HUD” from the upgrade pack.

When finished moving around files, the “VGA-ALLPNG” video mode should appear and behave just like Aradindae Dragon’s and Wiltshire Dragon’s Graphics upgrade.

I attempted to make the result of this work its own “video mode” in xu4 so that “VGA-ALLPNG” could be left alone. However, adding another video mode caused inexplicable problems with the opening title screen. So this will have to do.

Okay, now I can actually go play the game!

Addendum (3/30/2014)

Here is the VGA-ALLPNG video mode without these fixes. . .


Here is the VGA-ALLPNG video mode with these fixes applied, restoring the Ultima IV Upgrade pack’s UI frame and classic terrain. . .


Also, as of 3/30/2014, I have updated this pack with a fix for and xU4 bug where corrupted display of the endgame “codex” images occurs. This only affects the “VGA-ALLPNG” video mode but it could easily be done by hand to other modes that “borrow” those PNG images.

One final note. . . there are various versions of xU4 floating around. All of this is designed to work with “xU4 1.1svn” (2/22/2013) which you can download from this part of xu4 website. If you download it from elsewhere on xU4’s sourceforge page, you’re likely to get an older version and none of this will work.


Please pardon the austere appearance of this site. But I had something I was excited about sharing prior to fixing it back up (after our last theme became obsolete).

The most recent update to xu4 did away with MIDI (except for one song that remains MIDI) and instead now plays back music via “tracker-encoded” *.IT files. While they do sound quite nice, in my opinion, they don’t sound quite authentic.

Personally, I’ve always been partial towards Telavar’s Ultima music which seems to almost perfectly preserve the original tempo/timings while leveraging the superior sample/instrument quality of Roland Sound Canvas MIDI devices.

So, my goal was to make xu4 work with Telavar’s MIDI arrangements. Some googling showed that some had requested the ability to use their own MIDI files and/or MIDI devices with no response for the xu4 developers. This was not promising. Nevertheless, I began experimenting. Unfortunately, there’s no way to send MIDI output via xu4 to an external MIDI playback device (which DosBOX allows). And, if you put MIDI files themselves in the xu4/mid directory, and edit the xu4/conf/music.xml file appropriately, it will play back the MIDI files, but with its own internal MIDI player (via “TIMIDITY” perhaps?).

So, what to do if you have a Roland Sound Canvas (or other preferred MIDI device) and some authentic-sounding MIDIs. . . and you want to use that Roland Sound Canvas to play those MIDIs while playing Ultima IV via xu4?

Well, on a hunch, I just put a digital audio file in the xu4/mid directory and pointed the xu4/conf/music.xml to it. . . and it played as background music appropriately (though it sounded strange in that particular case since the file contained a sound effect and not music)! That first file was an OGG file. Then I tried an MP3. And, finally, a raw WAV file. They all played! The ability to play our own recorded tracks of whatever music we preferred was right there under our noses the entire time.

Expect an addition to the Ultima Digital Music Archive (UDMA) of some Ultima IV music as rendered by a Roland Sound Canvas in the next 24-hours! I’m just tweaking the recordings now but need to get some sleep.

UPDATE: Here (8.8Mb) are the digital recordings and already-edited music.xml file, ready to be placed in your xu4 installation.

Some quick notes: Though xu4 will play back just about any file that is put in its “mid” directory and appropriately indicated in the music.xml file, I noticed some issues when using various types of audio formats. For example, using MP3 files with variable bit rates caused some “squirking” sounds during xu4 playback that were not present when played normally in Windows. Also, track looping in-game was delayed and therefore jarring to the listener. Original/raw WAV file in-game playback was better, but the file size was quite large and for some reason xu4 introduced artifacts to the “shopping” track playback (again, not audible during standard out-of-game playback). Eventually, OGG was settled upon as the best compromise since it introduced no delays, had a reasonable filesize, and the “shopping” track has less artifacting than the raw WAV file.

I have decided not to put the MP3 version up within the Ultima Digital Music Archive because that archive has always served as a place to hear Ultima music as it originally sounded in-game on the premiere music playback devices of each game’s respective era (Roland LAPC-I and then Roland Sound Canvas). Since the MIDIs used in this xu4 music update are adapted from Telavar’s MIDIs that were themselves adapted from the Apple/Commodore Ultima IV music, and are played back on a device that would be years away when Ultima IV was released, the inclusion of these recordings in the UDMA would be inappropriate.

However, for those wanting to hear what these sound like prior to giving them a try in xu4 itself, here is a hastily created ZIP file containing the MP3 versions. Again, use of these MP3s with xu4 is not recommended (use the OGG version instead).


If you are in the mood for an achingly beautiful soundtrack, I highly recommend the soundtrack for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”  Perhaps it helps to have seen the movie, but there are some tracks in there that are well. . . haunting seems the proper word.

The Assassination of Jesse James (Soundtrack)

Great movie too by the way.