Name: David Watson
Character Name: Iolo FitzOwen
Role: Composer of the iconic song, “Stones”
No song transports Ultima Online players into the past faster than “Stones,” the iconic tune that has played on the game’s login screen for more than 20 years. David Watson, the tune’s composer, remains endlessly fascinated that a song that took little mere hours to create has became the theme for an entire generation of MMO players.
During one evening of merrymaking, Watson reached for his lute and started plucking away. Finding the in-progress melody catchy, his wife Kathleen started writing impromptu lyrics about Stonehenge. Suddenly, “Stones” was born.
“Stones came together very fast,” Watson said. “We had it down in perhaps two hours.”
For Watson, “Stones” was simply another arrow in his quiver, ready to be nocked and released at whichever SCA campfire audience he was near. It wasn’t until years later, while working on Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny, Richard Garriott asked Watson if he had a piece of music he might be able to work into the game. Watson liked the idea, but wanted to give Garriott options.
“I offered Richard a choice between ‘Stones’ and the ‘Baron of Eastmarch,’” Watson said. “He chose ‘Stones,’ so I recorded a rough copy for his in-house music gurus … and ‘Stones’ went on to become famous.”
In addition to Watson’s original composition, adaptations of “Stones” were featured in the single player games Ultima VI: The False Prophet, Ultima VII: The Black Gate, Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle, and Ultima IX: Ascension.
In fact, “Stones” has become so popular that there are multiple websites dedicated to collecting official recordings. “The Stones Archive” and YouTube are both home to hundreds of versions of the song, covered by amateur and professional musicians on just about every instrument you can imagine.
While many who hear “Stones” are instantly transported back in time to Ultima Online’s version of Britannia, Watson can’t hear the song without thinking of his wife, who passed away in 2000 after losing her ongoing battle to cancer.
Read more of David Watson’s story in Braving Britannia: Tales of Melancholy, Malice, and Peril in Ultima Online!