Richard Garriott on Tabula Rasa and Ultima
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.
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