I recently had the opportunity to chat with Richard Garriott about his new MMO project, Effigy. Garriott came into the project with an incredible RPG heritage, and one that might be a bit underrated in the contemporary scene. His first game, Akalabeth, wasn’t intended for commercial release, but he was persuaded to sell it by an enthusiastic shopkeeper, making it arguably the first video game role-playing game. Its successor, Ultima, was also the foundation of earlier RPGs, and in the 1990s, Ultima Online was one of the MMOs that set the direction for the entire genre.
Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar was my first RPG, as a port of the Master System, and I remember it well because I couldn’t read it very well when I was four or five. This character will always get poisoned somewhere near the start of the game and end up dying, I don’t know how to cure him. Only later did I find out what the word “antidote” meant.
Garriott’s legacy, and his list of personal accomplishments, makes me wonder what drew him back to Effigy: he started his career as a solo developer selling games in plastic bags, and now lives in a world like this , how strange this must be. Loaded with tools. We also touched on some minor controversies about the naughty things you can do in Ultima, as well as his early favorite regular correspondent.
The other half of the interview, which discusses the game in more detail, can be read here.
PC Gamer: You’ve done a lot of amazing things in your life. Why return to the game?
Richard Garriott: Let me talk a little bit about the past and go back to the beginning: you know, the teletype and the paper tape were the basis for my first game. The first game I released was Akalabeth, the predecessor to Ultima, then 9 single player Ultimas, Ultima Online, Tabula Rasa, Shroud of Avatar, so spanning over 40 years. But it also goes back to a time when games were easy to do on their own, and now they require sizable teams and sizable funds to complete.
What I find interesting about the whole 40 years, though, is that we’re changing, and I’m going to describe a problem that would otherwise have persisted throughout my career. That’s Moore’s Law, making machines faster and faster, obviously a good thing in the full sense of what machines can do. Interestingly, it also adds depth to the game, which is what I mean. I’ll use Doom and Quake as an interesting marker, if you think of Castle Wolfenstein, it’s software rendered. Then when the first Doom came out, suddenly the first 3D hardware came out, and then Quake really came out with another generation of 3D hardware. If you think about all these moments in the development process, there’s also the time when the hard drive is there, there’s also the time when the internet is there, and every time there’s these big advancements, I look at the gameplay, and it’s usually reduced to a relatively simple first One-person shooter. Only in stable times do games get to where I really enjoy writing and playing them: they get deeper.
Until the next big breakthrough, you know, from the massive scale of computers, where it’s simplified again in this case, we’re at a point where machine speeds and rendering pipelines are so powerful and the tools for making games are so powerful now Powerful, we’re no longer stuck in a “game has to get easier” loop. There are tons of visually retro games that are sold as-is and sold as well as anything graphically realistic so it has very little impact on the player’s perception who has the best visuals in a treadmill race. So this allows us to really dive in now Digging and making games with meat, I now find it fun to be involved in making it again.
What does depth mean in this context? New narrative structure, new system?
To me, depth means the opposite of simplicity. Let me go back to the first-person shooter analogy and analyze it. [Shooters drive hardware advancements], but only after that you start saying, “Okay, now I want characters with dialogue.” After that, I want my NPCs to have roles and responsibilities. After that, I want my reason for being in the virtual world to be meaningful to me as a character, as a human, not just because it’s fun action, but because it’s good art in my mind, great Art.
This goes beyond games. If you’re talking about music or painting or anything, a great work of art is one that holds up a mirror for you or the human condition and tells, tells something about life – how you feel after the experience participates and participates in a A great work of art, and I have had meaningful and valuable experiences as a participant in that art.
And I think we’re at the stage of the game right now, where it can be solved in a way that’s been harder to do for most of my 40-year career.Todd [Porter] I’ve actually worked together and we’ve known each other for most of our careers, so when Todd called me and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about this particular game and this particular strategy. How do you want to be Part of it?” I was like, “Of course, yes”.
One of the things I said when you said “finished the game” was, for example, I was talking to you at the headquarters of the Explorers Club. I’m actually the president of the Explorers Club, which was formed in 1904 by the great explorers who got to the North Pole, the South Pole, the top of Mount Everest, the bottom of ocean space, all of which I’ve done except the top of Mount Everest. I’ve done these things throughout my career, even if you know, back in the early days of Ultimas, I was canoeing straight down the Amazon, hitting North Pole, South Pole or submersible targets. I even wrote a book called “Explore and Create,” and here’s my take on how I think that only if you’re going to be creative and do something important, you have to draw from a broad field beyond your direct competitors Inspiration essay. possible. So I actually draw inspiration from exploration, so I don’t think these lives are any different. I think they’re all, you know, what makes you know, a project with the creative input of Lord England.
In the early days of the game, the content of Ultima’s game caused some minor controversy. Did you realize these things? how do you feel?
Ultima 3 was the first game my brother and I made as Origin [Systems], that was the first time I got fan mail. I got fan mail from my favorite love-hate fan, Donald Blinky, who played all of Ultima. And every Genesis, when he starts playing, he writes hate mail at the top that says, “This game stinks: I’ll never understand why you let a fool write this crap. Why don’t you Let the guy who wrote Genesis 2 write this?” Of course I did.
Then what happened was after Donald complained, he would finish one and then email me more when he was done, “I love it, it was a great game, here’s my check for the next one!” and we Will restart the hatred cycle. But the point is, that’s what I thought when I first saw people playing it. My game was small at the time. So I would talk to my mother or my brother about these things. They worry that certain scenes might spark outrage or turn against us in some way like Good Housekeeping Magazine!
But the game in my mind is still too small, you know, to be worth that level of consternation anyway. I just think this is the right thing to do. Because I’m a bit blissfully ignorant. That’s when I get to where I can go to the back of the store to steal food or something, sometimes it works, but sometimes the guards are called. I just think it’s cute, right? I’m really, you know, 19-20 years old. I just think it’s cute. I didn’t know until I got fan mail saying everyone did.