Exult is a Free Software reimplementation of the Ultima VII game engine. It enables play of Ultima VII: The Black Gate and Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle, and their corresponding expansion disks Forge of Virtue and Silver Seed, on modern machines. In order to play these games, data files from the original games are needed. Exult itself is distributed under GNU General Public License.
Before the project came to fruition, there was a demand for a new implementation of Ultima VII. Original Ultima VII executables started to show their age: they were rather difficult to get working on the systems of even their own era due to their memory management configuration, and in new versions of Windows, the MS-DOS support in general is getting less and less viable. According to an anecdote by Serpent Isle project leader Bill Armintrout, Origin Systems has lost the source code to both "Serpent Isle" and its add-on "The Silver Seed, and Electronic Arts is not planning on any kinds of rewrites for modern systems. The game, however, still has many fans who would like to play the game on their current systems.
Exult also includes a comprehensive cheat system, similar to the original Ultima VII.
Exult team members have contributed a large number of custom artwork for the game, primarily to make it possible to use all of the items in Black Gate in a consistent way with the Serpent Isle paper doll graphics.
The upcoming release may also include gameplay fixes to the game usecode itself; effort is underway to fix some of the most troublesome originally unimplemented things in Serpent Isle.
Exult also optionally includes Exult Studio, which is slowly growing into a very complete and complex tool for modifying the game - even while the game is running. Also included are many command-line tools for manipulating game files.
The editor is built as a separate program that can interface with a running instance of Exult. Changing data files is done in Exult Studio window, while the game world - everything from terrain to objects, creatures and their schedules - can be changed directly through game view.
Also included are compiler, assembler and disassembler (the latter is not built by default) for the "usecode" script file. This file drives the actual game logic. There are also tools that can be used to 'rip' data sections from the file; this is particularly of interest for people who wish to change the name and dialogue sections of the game.
In theory, it would be possible to create, from scratch, a new game based on Exult engine; however, it is not entirely practical yet. It is quite possible, however, to create a game that is at least in large part based on original Ultima VII data files.
There are currently two such 'modifications' in development by the Exult community. The first is the Keyring modification by Marzo Sette Torres Jr., which adds a new quest to the main storyline, new characters and new features, including NPC spellcasting. The second is The Feudal Lands, a much more ambitious mod based on the Keyring Mod which seeks to merge Ultima VII: The Black Gate and its sequel Serpent Isle, as well as adding a whole new world to the game. Neither mod is at a full release state yet, but the Keyring mod has a public beta release available on the Exult Forum.