Updated Tue, Jul 09, 2013 by Dalmarus
Welcome to the third episode in our new “Where Are They Now” series. I’ve been a gamer since the days of Pong, and I thought the time for someone to take a look at famous game developers from days gone by, and find out how (or whether) they're still involved in making the games we love to play, was long overdue. Most of the developers highlighted in this series will certainly have one thing in common beyond video games, and that's the reaction their names evoke with gamers. Today's developer is no exception.
Richard Garriott is most known as one of the creators of the Ultima series of computer games, including being the founder of Origin, which later released the first truly popular MMORPG, Ultima Online. Along with these accomplishments, he was also the designer of a failed MMORPG from NCSoft, Tabula Rasa. Often called by his well-known gaming moniker, Lord British (or General British in Tabula Rasa), Richard is one of the “founding fathers” of computer gaming. For these reasons, he deserves at least a modicum of respect.
Like most of the developers we’ve highlighted, Garriott is a polarizing personality to say the least. Some people love and hail him as an inspiration to both adults and children that have a passion for game development or aspirations of space flight. He has spent much of his life pursuing his dreams in both fields and was the first second-generation American to ever go into space (his father was an astronaut in Richard’s youth).
I’ve worked with a number of individuals who worked with Richard. Some loved him and others did not. While that type of divisiveness is easy to see on the internet, I was surprised to find it within the game industry itself. It just further shows how we’re all human and people come across in different ways to each other. Like him or not, there’s no denying the great things he’s done for the game industry, and for science and education as well. He’s spent much of his time sharing the experiences of his adventures with students all around the world and that kind of potential inspiration for children to pursue their dreams is priceless.
While Britannia Manor may be well known as the extravagant medieval abode of Richard, what may not be common knowledge is that each summer he hosts an event called the Game Developers Picnic. Each year, he invites any employee of a game development company in the Austin area (and there are quite a few) to come to his home for a day of fun and sun on his property. The event is set near a medieval outdoor amphitheater, and massive amounts of food are provided for all. Guests are also welcome to take wondrous paddleboats out on his private waterway, or explore the small village he has set up. Again, people may complain about Richard, but I can attest from personal experience that there are plenty who take advantage of the invitation.
While it would be hard to believe any fan of the Ultima series of computer games could still be unaware, here’s the scoop on Richard’s current game designing activities. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Garriott has been hard at work creating the next spiritual successor in the Ultima universe, entitled Shroud of the Avatar. This may come as a shock to some, but the game looks like it is going to literally be Ultima without the same name. Actually, Richard has stated on occasion that if he were able to attain the Ultima rights back from EA, he would rename the game Ultima Online 2.
As I’ve mentioned before, people are quick to jump on those who find initial success and then fall from grace later. Let’s face facts though – this is something that could happen to anyone. The only difference is that most of our failures aren’t broadcast on every television and web outlet in site. Richard Garriott is one of those designers that people either love or hate – or love to hate. No matter what your personal view is, there is one thing that can be said with certainty. If you enjoyed the Ultima series at all, or want to check it out to see what the hubbub is about, then you should definitely keep an eye on Shroud of the Avatar.
That’s it for this week’s episode. Thanks for joining me! If you have a suggestion for a game designer, art director, creative lead, or any other person intimately involved with a game's completion that you'd like to see highlighted, hit me up on Twitter or send me an email here.