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Richard Garriott on Tabula Rasa and Ultima

[Tabula Rasa]

GG: If that is the case, why are most games still addressing non-serious topics? Which is different from many books and a good part of the movies.

Richard Garriott: I have given this a lot of thought. The art form of books is both mature – writing has been around a long time –, and stable, by which I mean that the technology of writing and printing doesn’t change much. A side effect of that is that if I want my book to be noticed out of all the millions of books written, the content of the book is key. Every book is judged on its content alone, there’s no technical innovation or difference between them.

GG: Well, the covers can be quite diverse, they can have very big letters or colors that cry out loudly.

This constant resetting of the art form computer games to its lowest denominator limits it in terms of depth and serious topics.

Richard Garriott: True, but they still use the same technology. Computer games, on the other hand, have an interesting problem. Every time there is a major technical advancement in the hardware, the games that are popular reset to that newest lowest common denominator. Let’s use a first person shooter as the case study. The closest thing to a first person shooter you had 20 years ago was a top-down game like Space Invaders. And then there were top-down shooters, where you could run around in a maze and shoot monsters. So if you wanted to compete with such a shooter, you had to give the players more features and more story. But as soon as there was simple software 3D, you could say: “Skip the story, let’s just make a 3D version of the shooter”. And because it looked so much cooler, that was enough reason for gamers to buy it. And to compete with that software 3D game, you had to add depth. But as soon as you had 3d hardware, it went back to its simplest form. And as soon as you had internet, where you could play against other people across the country, again it set back the genre to its simplest form. This constant resetting of the art form computer games to its lowest denominator limits it in terms of depth and serious topics.

[General British]

Richard Garriotts Alter Ego General British, as he appears within Tabula Rasa.

GG: I’m getting your point. The question is: Do you think that resetting will ever end?

Richard Garriott: I don’t think it will end anytime soon, because I can’t see the rapid advancement of technology ending soon. I think you’ll always gonna see certain people – and I would like to believe that I am one of those people – who try to add significantly more depth to the games that they create. However, that’s not proven by any means: Although my games have always sold very, very well, they were not seldom outsold by the latest simple shooter using the newest technology. So it’s clear that there is still a huge amount of players who are interested in very simple gameplay which is beautifully presented. I think there’ll always be a few of us who are at least attempting to bring depth into the content of these games.

If anybody [would] give the Ultima license back to me, I’ll be more than happy to do another!

GG: Richard, let me end this interview by asking you the question I'm sure every Ultima veteran wants to ask you: If you would have the time, the resources, the license, would you do another Ultima? Or are you finished with that series for all time?

Richard Garriott: Unfortunately, as you've just stated, I don’t have the license anymore, because I left it with EA and Origin. But if by some miracle or another it should fall onto my slate again? Absolutely! I have a great fondness for the Ultima universe, and if anybody at Electronic Arts can ever commence to give the license to me, I’ll be more than happy to do another Ultima!

Interview (c) 2007 Jörg Langer

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 it much...and i love TR 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. (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