Update: Richard Garriott: "Most Game Designers Really Just Suck"

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Update: Richard Garriott: "Most Game Designers Really Just Suck"

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Garriott thinks the system is failing game designers, by funneling everyone who isn't clearly talented at either programming or art into design instead, leading to "lazy" designers.

"Other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am," Richard "Lord British" Garriott, creator of the Ultima series tells PC Gamer. "What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there's a reason why," Garriott says, going on to explain that he thinks the system is failing would-be game designers.

"It's really hard to go to school to be a good designer," explained Garriott. He thinks that the majority of game designers only fall into the job because they are passionate enough about video games to want to develop them, but don't have any real skills as an artist or programmer. "We're leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they're not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer." He thinks that training options for would-be game designers are much rarer than those options available for artists and programmers.

"And every designer that I work with...I think, frankly, is lazy." Garriott says that for someone to be a "good" game designer, they have to really put in the hard yards like he did when he first started out, something that a lot of modern game designers just aren't willing to do. "They generally say, 'You know, I really like Medal of Honor, but I would have bigger weapons, or I would have more healing packs, or,' you know. They go to make one or two changes to a game they otherwise love versus really sit down and rethink, 'How can I really move the needle here?'"

"I think there's really very few great game designers," he continued, adding Peter Molyneux and Will Wright to his list of good designers. "They clearly exist, but on the whole, I think that the design talent in our industry is dramatically lower than we need, as an industry. It's a very hard skill to learn."

Very provocative words from Lord British, but if anyone is entitled to them, the man who practically invented the computer RPG is. Garriott's latest project, Shroud of the Avatar is currently in the early development stage, after recently reaching its Kickstarter goal.

Source & Image: PC Gamer

Update: A poster identifying himself as Garriott has clarified his comments, claiming that articles posted about them were written with a "sensationalist slant" and that his main point was that game design the hardest, yet most valuable skill in the industry.

"Thanks (NOT!) for the sensational headline! While I appreciate those of you who read the whole thing, to see better the whole context, even still, this article is skewed to make a sensationalist slant. My point was, that game design is the hardest, but also the most valuable skill to build in the industry. That every company lives and dies based on the talent of its game design team, and that as an industry we are not doing so well creating the talent we need in this industry, because educational systems have not caught up in this area as well as programming and art. I was not trying to toot my own horn, rather state that game design is hard. Ah well. :)"

Source (Update): Gamasutra

Permalink

No need to mince words Mr Gariott, say what you really mean.

Something tells me he won't be getting many party invites this year.

Lord British is such a humble and level-headed human being.

Also, the sky is green, the water is neon pink, and we are working for our giraffe overlords.

He's such an amazing game designer, in fact he's so good that I don't actually recall ever playing one of his games.

That's talent right there.

Fair enough. Just remember, Richard; if the design of Shroud Of The Avatar is bad, the internet will never let you live down what you have just said. That includes myself.

What was that? That sounds an awful lot like me pulling my Kickstarter pledge. Ah well, more money to spend on games made by game designers that 'suck'.

Legion:
No need to mince words Mr Gariott, say what you really mean.

Something tells me he won't be getting many party invites this year.

Lord British doesn't need party invites. He can just buy his own party. In space.

Well thats one way to admit your egomaniac. You are such a good game designed that i have never played any of your games. i must suck that much right?

He makes a good point, pity he had to be so egotistical about it. Proper design takes a knack that most people just don't have, and we see horribly designed games all the time.

Steven Bogos:
"I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am"

So Richard, tell us what games you've actually designed in the last, say, 23 years. What's that? Only Ultima and the massive flop that was Tabula Rasa? As the greatest game designer who has ever lived, I kind of expected there to be a bit more, you know, designing of games. Preferably great ones, but any at all would be a good start.

I think the creativity of the gaming industry has been Garroted for some time now.

V8 Ninja:
Fair enough. Just remember, Richard; if the design of Shroud Of The Avatar is bad, the internet will never let you live down what you have just said. That includes myself.

I'm sure we'll just be too uneducated to understand his masterpiece!

His possible cockiness aside, I do think that he's right about the large majority of game designers today being incredibly lazy (or at least giving the appearance of such).

When was the last time you saw a company doing something NEW in a video game, something really unique?

As an example of what should be done, take FROM Software. In Demon's Souls, each world's end boss had a completely different mechanic, with a environmental boss, an aerial boss, a PVP boss, and a purely atmospheric boss. Beyond this, you had a blind boss, numerous giant bosses, and a multiplayer system really only replicated in its spiritual successor.

Yeah, some of those bosses ended up sucking (I personally loved the Dragon King, but many others hate environmental puzzle bosses), but they took risks that most developers just don't anymore.

How much of this is because of shitty designers, and how much is from publisher pressure, remains to be seen.

Sadly, most of the few instances I can think of in recent memory where the design was fantastic (or at least something a gamer would normally only dream of) generally had some other major flaw. BRINK, for example had massive potential, but horrendous execution. Those designers could work wonders at competent developer studios.

Even without context, I'm inclined to agree. With the sentiment, not the self-praise.

put your money where your mouth is, richard, anything less and you'll end up looking like a dumbass.

Daystar Clarion:
He's such an amazing game designer, in fact he's so good that I don't actually recall ever playing one of his games.

That's talent right there.

Yes, because how can a game be good without your divine blessing. He basicly invented computerized RPGs. And hes kinda right, there are alot of shit game designers out there.

I agree with Richard, there just aren't that many good designers in the world and it becomes really clear when someone takes graphic / ad design and illustration. Good design ideas don't grow on trees: they are literal brain dumps that can take an hour or more of ones time. For example, try drawing 100 different ways to symbolize some kind of object. You'll probably notice that the first 75 or so are complete rehashes of existing ideas. That is the problem with the game industry at the moment: people are lazy and only instantiating those first three quarters of ideas thinking they are just that darn clever.

A good design should make people see at least some aspect of an existing theme in a new light, or even create a relation that didn't exist before. This is pretty much a constant regardless of what kind of design field one goes into (unless it's architecture or clothing design, but those have some pretty obvious mechanical limitations to take into consideration).

See, this just doesn't get the conversation moving.
Most people who should be interested in his argument will ignore it because he has just insulted them.
And most people who agree with him, hook-line-and-sinker, most likely are fanboys.
The point about how it is difficult to learn to become a game designer, will most likely drown in the pro-Garriott, anit-Garriott debate.
Also, I would not only say that it is difficult to aquire the skills of a game designer, but I would put the blame for it squarely on the current system.
It's not that there are "unqualified people" being put into those jobs. Whatever the industry does, it damn well makes sure you have some form of qualification before giving you top positions. They can check references.
Isn't it more likely, that even good game designers have to work in an industry that stiffles their game development on every new idea? Like, the game designer can be a complete genius - if all his new, good ideas get rejected by the top brass because they just want him to make a non-controversial knock-off version of a previous game his genius will not amount to much, will it?
And maybe that way new talent is conditioned to become what they loath: Office drone by day, extended propaganda machine in interviews and alcoholic by night.

Daemascus:
Yes, because how can a game be good without your divine blessing.

I know right?

He basicly invented computerized RPGs. And hes kinda right, there are alot of shit game designers out there.

*cough*TabulaRasa*cough*

All talk and no trousers, what has he done recently?

Whatever happened to the days that lordships were associated with outward humility and... you know... weren't self proclaimed?

Daemascus:
He basicly invented computerized RPGs.

Yes, and Newton basically invented gravity. That doesn't mean he was right about energy.

Daemascus:
And hes kinda right, there are alot of shit game designers out there.

There are also a lot of really good game designers out there, many of whom surpass Garriott. But some people reading this article might miss that perspective, because Garriott's arrogance is blocking the view.

Steven Bogos:

"Other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am,"

So either he didn't met a lot of designers, or he is extremly cocky.
He does have a valid point though. A lot of games nowadays are 'copies' of older games with extension to the same mechanics the 'copied' games extended/invented/redefined.

But imo there are various reasons for this, not only laziness of designers.

eg.

- pressure from publishers
- big team size (yep thats a problem, mixing many visions can result in problems)
- personal preferences (designers tend to make things they like, thats not necessarily lazy)
- keeping the core feeling of a franchise. (doing this and changing enough to make it feel fresh is a hard task)
- etc.

These are mostly reasons that can be found in mid to big sized companies.

For smaller companies or starters the problems can get bigger!
Sure every indistudio/gamedesigner should try creating a great game first!
But those smaller groups need a point to start, to learn from. And they want to make games in a way they are played!
This is what will enabe them to make more games!
I think there is nothing wrong with using well known things and just flavoring them up a bit.
Especially when they are good! There is no need for innovation for the sake of innovation. (Didn't Jim Sterling post a video about this lately?)

I hope my first post isn't to bad.
Just signed in after a long time beeing a silent visitor to this site just for answering this.
Oh and I hope my english is at least understandable.

As someone who is fairly unversed with Mr.Garriot's shenanigans, has he always been that much of a pretentious dick?

I mean yeah I can agree with the base idea of what he means as sometimes I too believe a lot of the designers out there must be dead in the brain or at the least asleep on the job.

But this just doesn't seem like a good way to present yourself.

Peter Molyneux is good now?

Well he officially earned his Old Man card right there.
"Did you haveto crawl to school 50 miles every day through a blizzard wearing nothing but a loin cloth?! Well then you suck!", said every grandpa who ever lived.

He has a point on most just repeating an old formula but he also hasn't brought anything of value for about 15 years now, not to mention where Peter Molyneux and Will Right ended up...
Got to have something to prop that high stool of yours up before you call everyone a schmuck.

Delusions of grandeur aside, he might have a point

Mainstream gaming gets bigger & shinier pretty much daily, where as the actual quality of games steadily declines, to the point that games barely/don't even function (lookin at you, EA)

Could be that publishers push for more resources being put into engines & textures, while the design department takes cut-backs

Mr Garriot, it is my great sadness to inform you, most people Really Just Suck in general, its not only game designers!

Mirthen:
[...]Oh and I hope my english is at least understandable.

It was fine; a very good contribution to the argument and actually quite a lot more outlined than Garriott's off-the-cuff remarks. However, you might want to hesitate when quoting Sterling. He's not exactly an authority on being right either.
Oh, and welcome to the Escapist. ;)

just because he's the father of rpg's or whatever people want to make of him, it doesnt excuse 2 simple facts:

1. you just don't act like that, it's extremely douchey.
2. if he is so much better than anyone out there, why hasnt he made anything notable since his early years?you don't just get a free pass to claim godliness because you did something 20 years ago.

where is his mention of Sam Houser (or is it Dan?) or Ken Levine or Brian Fargo, or hell, even Suda51. in fact Suda51 is a perfect example of maybe not technically perfect game design, but an attempt at tackling game design in a new way. if nothing else, he deserves credit for trying something new.

i don't like this guy, and won't buy his products. you've made the list Lord Douche. on that list is also the Fez guy, Phil Fish or something. or EA, ever since Colored Space Magic.

Oh... oh dear.

Hey, Mr. Garriott/British? Remember that Ultima series you created? Wasn't humility included as one of them virtues that, you know, the ENTIRE GAMES were built around upholding?
Yeesh. I've heard some crazy-provocative things in my day, but this just has to take the cake. Seriously, whatever thoughts you might have need to be couched in such a way to not make you look like you're giving everyone in sight a right hook across the snout! He just looks... well, so pretentious it isn't funny.

Daystar Clarion:
*cough*TabulaRasa*cough*

So... what was actually bad about Tabula Rasa from a design perspective? I've not played the game and heard rather little about the mechanics and core concept, so I would appreciate some clarification.
Remember, screwed by the execs or such isn't bad design. I think waaaay too much of that happens nowadays (SimCity server debacle, Darksiders not being produced anymore etc.) to be able to blame someone for it happening to them.

Oh, by the way, Ultima Online's still turning a pretty penny for EA, I hear. last check, a conservative estimate was about 100,000 accounts held in 2011. That ain't bad for the first popularly-received MMO, particularly in this day and age.

Farther than stars:

However, you might want to hesitate when quoting Sterling. He's not exactly an authority on being right either.
Oh, and welcome to the Escapist. ;)

Well I didn't thought of it as a backup for my argument. It was more like: 'Hmm I recall hearing this sentence lately.'

@ksn0va:

Well he was good once. Later he was good, but promised to much to fans. Lately he is imo not as good as he used to be, but at least he is a decent game designer.

I think the biggest problem Gariott, Peter Molyneux and Will Right have is, that they are sort of veterans. They are game designers for a long time. It's hard to tie in with former glory. And in case of Richard Gariott it seems he is still thinks he is as glorious as he used to be.

While I do agree with his sentiment, it's not helped by the way he puts it:

"Other than a few exceptions, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am,"
-Lord British 2013

image

But seriously... some way too many games I wonder if they even HAVE designers, there only seems to be any kind of significant design in the programming (pushing pixel performance) and art (make a 3D render of the latest gun they saw at an NFA gunshow), the actual core structure of the game seems to be wholly lifted from other games (often from completely different dev teams) with no gameplay vision at all.

Even bioshock, as much as I appreciate that game, it didn't do enough to pioneer on gameplay.

All to often variety is purely superficial. I'm much more impressed by a game with bland art, poorly coded graphical performance but a really lever and engaging gameplay design and pacing.

Old games seem to have ideas that seem to have been completely forgotten today:

Still not as big a cunt as Mr Blow.

To give him his credit, he is a good game designer just implementation tends to wobble a bit. Coming out and slating other designers though is a bit of a shitty thing to do though.

Daystar Clarion:
He's such an amazing game designer, in fact he's so good that I don't actually recall ever playing one of his games.

That's talent right there.

Ultima, pre-VIII, were actually the standard to which games were held and actually laid the foundation for games of its type on the PC. That was through the 80s and early 90s, though.

There is no dispute of his ego, however.

I do suggest going to read the entire PC Gamer article, as it's a very interesting read and he's got a lot more to say. Of course, there's no getting around sheer arrogance, which even if you can back it up still makes you sound pretty unlikable. Yes, I grew up playing all his Ultima games and I really enjoyed them, so there's no question that he was the first designer to do so much of what we now consider part of the CRPG standard. I just wish, as other posters have noted, that he remembered one of the virtues of the Avatar was humility.

The full quote does help soften the blow a bit:

"But other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I'm not saying that because I think I'm so brilliant. What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there's a reason why."

And really, the fact that The Escapist left out part of the quote, without indicating it, is pretty bad form.

"I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I'm not saying that because I think I'm so brilliant. What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck."

I feel like the second sentence will hopefully piss people off less about this whole thing.

Regardless, it was a bold statement. That being said, I do wonder if designers really just suck in the industry. The gaming community blames a lot of stuff on publishers and big teams, but what if a lot of designers are absolutely terrible to begin with?

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