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Default Gamasutra - Richard Garriot Interview

February 9th, 2008, 18:22
Gamasutra has a Q & A up with the creator of the Ultimas, Richard Garriot, discussing his views on games as art, consoles, mobile game platforms and his lack of time spent actually gaming:
Many people in the industry feel strongly, like you do, that games are art - but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

RG: Well, no. If you think about the purpose of most people in this business, I think most of them are … here to make money. They're here to find something that becomes popular, and therefore sells well.

However, I think if you look at the measure of what it takes to become popular…I think it takes a combination of things. For example, addictive game mechanics. The kind of "pull the lever on the slot machine and occasionally get a return," which I would not call art, as much as a science.
But another thing that can create popularity in a game is to be attractive — which could just be nice aesthetics. But another one would be to be compelling. I think what makes this compelling at a more human level is when you can touch people at an emotional or psychological level — which I would consider art.
On consoles:
You've been able to side-step the console issue, for at least the past ten years.

RG: I have. But what's fun is… even when I was doing work back on the Apple II, there were already the Atari 8-bits, and the Nintendo cartridge machines and things, too. Even back in those days, people were talking about "the death of the PC," and "the rise of the console." And today, people are still talking about the death of the PC and the rise of the console.

But I must say, though, that the line between the two continues to blur, especially now that a lot of consoles are online and now a lot of consoles have pretty sophisticated input devices.
On mobile gaming platforms:

What about mobile games? Do you ever play with cell phone games?

RG: Absolutely. In fact, that's actually the area that, other than PC games, I'm actually most enthusiastic about. The problem is that I'm also a skeptic.

I wish that it would come true, I want it to come true. My favorite Ultima, other than a PC Ultima, was the Runes of Virtue we did for the Game Boy, which was only a shadow of a full-blown Ultima, but was a really good game — and on a Pocket PC, I [have] it [here] in my bag. I carry a Pocket PC, I've owned pretty much every Pocket PC, looking for the optimal, the ergonomics for me personally, as well as pondering gaming on these devices.
On his own gaming:
… RG: As a gamer, I'm actually surprisingly ignorant of what's going on… many of the popular products I've of course heard of, a few of them maybe even purchased the box, like I have a BioShock box on my desk, that I've never installed for about three months now.
Does that concern you? And this is the story for developers across the board — they never actually have time to play games, they only have time to make them?

RG: Not really…
When I do play games — with the exception of the ones I already mentioned like Myst, and Abe's Oddysee, and American McGee's Alice, which I played because I really enjoyed them, and I played them to completion — most of the time when I play a game, I play it for like two hours.
And I play it to really get the gist of "what is their big advancement," UI theorem, what's their render pipeline operating like, what is their mission cycle organized like. And so I'm studying it. As soon as I think I've got the gist of it, I'm done, I move on.
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February 9th, 2008, 18:22
Damn. Why don't these interviewers ever asks really important questions like, 'when the hell are you gonna make a single player CRPG that is the spiritual successor to Ultima????'

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February 9th, 2008, 18:28
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
Damn. Why don't these interviewers ever asks really important questions like, 'when the hell are you gonna make a single player CRPG that is the spiritual successor to Ultima????'
Heh indeed, tharts a question I'd like to know the answer to as well. Why he is wasting his time with dubious shooter MMOs I dunno.
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February 9th, 2008, 19:01
Originally Posted by TheMadGamer View Post
Damn. Why don't these interviewers ever asks really important questions like, 'when the hell are you gonna make a single player CRPG that is the spiritual successor to Ultima????'
I agree. but I think he's turned his back on the single player CRPG genre for good, unfortunately.
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February 9th, 2008, 20:27
I thought it was a great interview. Garriot gets what's going on and did a good job describing it.

Game makers have stayed determindly focussed on developing for the cutting edge and watched it change at an ever-increasing rate to the point where it's becoming impossible to keep pace. It's just too expensive.

It's inevitable, IMO, that consoles should spin off in one direction and computers in another. Consoles should continue down the arcade-game path while computers should become the platform for games with less simulation and more imagination and sophistication. Same ideas, different interpretations.

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February 9th, 2008, 20:30
Originally Posted by Squeek View Post
Game makers have stayed determindly focussed on developing for the cutting edge.
What cutting edge? There's not just "one" cutting edge.
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February 9th, 2008, 20:41
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
What cutting edge? There's not just "one" cutting edge.
I guess you must be in the mood for fighting, Brother None. Point taken, but….

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February 9th, 2008, 21:50
No, them was not fighting words. It just seems odd to say "determinedly focused on staying on the cutting edge" when all designers have done over the past decade is push graphics forward.

And hell, Garriott would be one of the best examples of that, with his "revolutionary" MMO ending up being "just another" MMO.
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February 9th, 2008, 22:49
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
No, them was not fighting words. It just seems odd to say "determinedly focused on staying on the cutting edge" when all designers have done over the past decade is push graphics forward.
Other than the CPU, graphics chips are, far and away, the most cutting edge technology in a PC. You just about need an advanced degree in electrical engineering to even begin to understand them. In other words, they're pure black magic to most of us.

And that's clearly what Garriott was referring to as well. He was talking about the periodic technical advances of graphics chips and how software companies develop to take advantage of them.

It's because everyone thinks that's what gamers want to buy — if your customer orders an omlette, you don't serve him scrambled eggs, that sort of thing. That's how I took it, anyway.

Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. But it don't snow here. It stays pretty green. I'm going to make a lot of money, then I'm going to quit this crazy scene. — [Joni Mitchell]
Last edited by Squeek; February 9th, 2008 at 22:57.
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February 10th, 2008, 02:49
Garriott's motivation has always been cutting edge, and mostly because he could afford to. He's had spectacular failures but even more successes. Even some of his successes are suspect IMO as they required HW that almost no one had at the time in U6, U7 and the UU's.

But its no surprise he's been focusing on MMO's because he invented the business model.

But he's been known to play safe too. He cashed in on the Ultima name with the U6 engine spinoffs, U8, the UU's and had 15 Wing Commanders. Until the paycheque is more steady only then can he risk bankrupting his company again.

Oh, and a spiritual successor to Ultima would be grand. If Lord British' world has another tumultuous collapse and he reverts back to his youth in "our" world that would start a good premise. He could teach another world in turmoil the virtues to try to stabilize it.

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February 10th, 2008, 09:48
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
Oh, and a spiritual successor to Ultima would be grand. If Lord British' world has another tumultuous collapse and he reverts back to his youth in "our" world that would start a good premise. He could teach an other world in turmoil the virtues to try to stabilize it.
I'm hoping he'll return to his roots after he's done messing around with MMO's and other technologies of fancy.

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February 10th, 2008, 10:34
He sounds remarkably informed and reasonable for a person who makes mediocre games. He used to make great ones, but that time is long past.

It's interesting to note, however, that he doesn't have time to play that many games. That tells me that even if he thinks he can catch "the gist" of current games, he's still stuck in the past in some ways when it comes to innovative and creative game design. Tabula Rasa was a huge letdown and the last time I expected anything from Garriot. Here's hoping he'll one day return to being a quality developer.
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February 10th, 2008, 21:45
I must admit that I'm mildly surprised he liked Abe's Oddyssey.

I think I should begin this game again.

Sad that this game was "franchised to death", so that the inventor (I think) left and the development of this series was closed down.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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