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Richard Garriott on Tabula Rasa and Ultima

Richard Garriott

From Lord to General

Richard Garriott aka Lord British of Ultima fame is one of the most accomplished veterans in computer gaming history. Now he is also known as General British -- his brand-new Tabula Rasa is a Science-Fiction MMO.

Richard Garriott began his career with the dungeon game Akalabeth, which he sold in little plastic bags. Today he can afford to travel to the bottom of the sea or into orbit as one of the first space tourists of Earth. The RPG Ultima made him rich and famous, the company he founded with his brother Robert, Origin Systems, was one of the technology leaders in the gaming industry. In 1992, the brothers sold Origin to EA. Ultima Online, the first commercially successful MMORPG, came out in 1997. In 2000, they left to found Destination Games, which quickly was acquired by MMO giant nc Soft (Lineage). For six years, Richard and his old Ultima Online colleague Starr Long and many former Origin developers have been working on Tabula Rasa, which came out yesterday.

GG: Richard, the scenario of Tabula Rasa is quite different from nearly everything you’ve done as a designer in the last decades. What’s the reason for that?

Richard Garriott: You’re right, the medieval fantasy genre of the Ultima series dominated the first 20 years of my career. But what people may not know, if you look back at the early Ultimas, 1 to 3, I was just as inspired by Science Fiction as I was by medieval fantasy.

GG: You’re talking about the space flight sequences in Ultima 2, for example? You could also yield a laser pistol...

Role playing games will be the common thread of my future games, too.

Richard Garriott: Exactly. The reason I chose the medieval fantasy genre, frankly, was that at that time my programming skills were very suited for tile based games, that just made a historical setting technically easier than a futuristic setting. Because that would have required more 3D skills than I had, back in those days. So I always had an interest in Science Fiction, which I couldn’t explore until I moved on from the Ultima series. But I am still interested in historical settings, and hypothetically I could also explore some other fictional genres. But the one thing which is sure is that role playing games – in a very detailed world – will be the common thread of my future games, too.

GG: How big was your involvement in the creation of Ultima Online?

Richard Garriott: The producer and director of UO was Starr Long, who really is the person that deserves the most credit for Ultima Online. However, I was still very involved throughout that project as a designer. And we have a very similar relationship on Tabula Rasa, where it is Starr who’s managing the team, managing the purse and the process of getting the game done. But even as I am the so called spiritual figurehead of the team or in the role of creative director, I am also a designer directly on the project itself. For example, I designed the Logos language that we use in the game. And also some of the main story threads.

Garriotts "Logos" has hundreds of symbols that are used for "spells", but they also form a simple iconic language.

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
November 4, 2007 - 01:14 #

What a fabulous, truly clever, and deep interview, Joerg. Absolutely worth reading it!

Bestman (not verified)
0 EXP -
November 4, 2007 - 01:54 #

Excellent read!

5433 EXP -
November 4, 2007 - 10:45 #

Thanks, guys :-)

163 EXP -
November 4, 2007 - 16:21 #

Great Interview.

In my opinion the most interesting point was Richard Garriott seeing a constant resetting of the art form computer games. I just don't know if I can agree on the point that this will go on for a long time from now.

Waldgeist (not verified)
0 EXP -
November 5, 2007 - 15:08 #

Great interview, very good and deep questions, finally an exception from all those flat one-dimensional g4tv / massmedia interviews!

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
November 5, 2007 - 16:06 #

Even Blue's News names Joerg's fabulous interview with Richard:

General British Interview [November 03, 2007, 3:40 pm ET]
Richard Garriott on Tabula Rasa and Ultima on GamersGlobal is a Q&A with Richard Garriott that talks with the designer formerly known as Lord British about the old day of Ultima and his new role as General British in Tabula Rasa, the new science fiction MMORPG from NCsoft. The past, present, and future of gaming are all discussed, including the pros and cons of some competing games.

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
November 5, 2007 - 22:08 #

In case you want to read on, there is a more than decent interview with Starr Long, the producer of Tabula Rasa (and Ultima Online), over at Massively:

  1. Massively interviewing Tabula Rasa's producer Starr Long

5433 EXP -
November 6, 2007 - 00:00 #

Thanks for the link! I advise everyone interested in Tabula Rasa to read that interview, too :-)

Tom (not verified)
0 EXP -
November 6, 2007 - 10:35 #

It's a good interview. But it would be better if the interviewer had stronger command of the english language.

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
November 6, 2007 - 12:55 #

As "strong" as you?! [just teasing]

Ryam BaCo
20 EXP -
November 6, 2007 - 12:20 #

an excellent interview and not only an advertising-thingy for designer xyz's newest game ;)

Legatus (not verified)
0 EXP -
November 6, 2007 - 12:33 #

An excellent interview...love it much...and i love TR too...play it since EU-Beta and play full version now...

Nath (not verified)
0 EXP -
November 8, 2007 - 01:08 #

I don't really read interviews, but this one really caught my attention, and I have to admit it's exceptional! You asked all the questions I was wondering about, and you might just have nudged me towards buying Tabula Rasa^^

Keep up the good work!

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
November 8, 2007 - 15:02 #

I hope Joerg will also review Tabula Rasa, sooner or later.

5433 EXP -
November 22, 2007 - 20:58 #

I think that won't happen, I'm sorry. Reason is, MMOs just take too much time, and I seldomly play them longer than for about 3 weeks (which I did with Tabula Rasa, but in Beta, and too much has changeed). But perhaps I'll write about TR in an article about various MMOs, or where the genre could be heading...

Leonard McCoy
2459 EXP -
November 25, 2007 - 00:00 #

That's true: reviewing MMOs are long-term projects, and seems to take rather rapid turns in the line of updates, and add-ons - so that a review is never to be up-to-date.

onlinecasinopig.com (not verified)
0 EXP -
August 4, 2009 - 20:58 #

Well the are people who play for living what can you say about that

0 EXP -
August 31, 2010 - 08:14 #

Thanks a lot for this article. I've implemented your code in my project a it saved my deadline. Thanks again