Richard Garriott: Ultima IV is "My Most Important Work"

Richard Garriott: Ultima IV is "My Most Important Work"

richard garriott

RPG pioneer Richard Garriott hopes to recreate the magic of games like Ultima IV with his new MMO Shroud of the Avatar.

Videogames have a lot of legendary figures, but one of the biggest is easily Richard Garriott. The man behind the Ultima franchise, the groundbreaking MMO Ultima Online and, most recently the still-in-development Shroud of the Avatar, he is, in many respects the father of the electronic RPG. That being the case, of all his many works there is one that often stands out in the memories of RPG fans: Ultima IV. Even to Garriott himself, it's not hard to see why.

"I do believe Ultima IV is my most important work," said Garriott, responding to questions from The Escapist. According to Garriott the game represents "a clear milestone in RPGs" that saw a number of firsts both for the series and the genre. "The introduction of the term 'avatar' which is now pervasive, the introduction of virtues, and "role-playing" versus level grinding," all of these, according to Garriott can be traced back to Ultima IV.

That being the case, Garriott acknowledges that the game isn't perfect, even with its prominent place in the history of RPGs. "As highly as I think of the high concept of Ultima IV, it still has lots of rough edges, and I think that Ultima's V-VII have better told 'stories' in general," he said. "The game is too "black and white" once you know to be virtuous. Its relatively easy to 'walk the line', I think Ultima V made a better case for questioning what is right and what is wrong."

Even so, he still hopes that Shroud of the Avatar will be able to channel some of the spirit and mechanics of older games like Ultima IV. For instance, the game will see the return of typed dialogue, a mainstay of earlier RPGs. He likewise hopes to see the new MMO do away with many of the conveniences of modern role-playing games. "The push for ease of use to bring in new players had us go to simple conversations, auto-mapping and quest logs with arrows. The result has been brain dead clicking to follow instructions. I am happy to get back to needing to think to play!"

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+1 to that sentiment, Milord! If there's one thing Dragon Age 2 did right in my book, was giving me a reprieve from "ZOMG save the world". I mean, epic quests like that are fine and all, but smaller, more personal quests are easier to get into for me.

Well it better turn out a lot better than Tabula Rasa did... Seriously that game was crap and makes me think Garriott is out of touch with the modern gaming era. Plus sometimes I feel the dude is living up his status as the inventor of the MMO thanks to Ultima Online.
Maybe I'm a little harsh, something to do with a guy who is rich enough to fly into space without having to go through the rigorous astronaut selection program only to get rejected...

amaranth_dru:
Well it better turn out a lot better than Tabula Rasa did... Seriously that game was crap and makes me think Garriott is out of touch with the modern gaming era. Plus sometimes I feel the dude is living up his status as the inventor of the MMO thanks to Ultima Online.
Maybe I'm a little harsh, something to do with a guy who is rich enough to fly into space without having to go through the rigorous astronaut selection program only to get rejected...

That would probably have more to do with NCSoft than Richard Garriott.

they wanted to push their arena and more casual MMO's that they could shut down in a few months after people already payed for a years subscription rather than keep a potentially great MMO running for years.

of course, this is just me talking out of my ass, after all, it isn't like NCSoft forged a resignation letter from Garriott and started shutting down the game without him even knowing.

nope, never happened.

OT: saw the very early alpha preview and the only thing I'm not liking is the overworld traveling system. reminds me too much of the older Final Fantasy games. But seeing that you actually have to talk to NPC's instead of spamming ACCEPT QUEST, does add a bit more flavor.

hell, you dont even get a quest log. I have been waiting for a game that treats you like an adult instead of holding your hand the entire way.

Just....... just please. If there is a paladin 'class' or archetype...... make it a bannable offense to ask "WHATS A PALADIN" in the chat.

for sanity's sake.

Kalezian:

That would probably have more to do with NCSoft than Richard Garriott.

they wanted to push their arena and more casual MMO's that they could shut down in a few months after people already payed for a years subscription rather than keep a potentially great MMO running for years.

of course, this is just me talking out of my ass, after all, it isn't like NCSoft forged a resignation letter from Garriott and started shutting down the game without him even knowing.

nope, never happened.

Not going to defend NCSoft on this part but...

Get yer head out of your ass. Tabula Rasa was screwed over well before Richard Garriot decided to fly around the proximity of earth like some irresponsible git instead of doing what he should of done and stayed down on terra firma to help the group he abandoned fix his mess.
For the ignorantly initiated, Tabula Rasa as a sci-fi game was last minute. Garriot had made a huge stink about getting all the "big names" he could from every walk of life to make his dream team. Said big names couldn't jive at all together, and for the first 3-4 years they did nothing but elementary design on whether or not they wanted it to be a fantasy title (screenshots of it exist around the net and in magazines) or what have you. It was only when upper management put their foot down on Garriot and told him to stop wasting money, that the Tabula Rasa we came to know was thrown together.

It wasn't in development for long. The game was released in a buggy, mucky state. And Garriot decided that since he had already been paid for it, he had no reason to stick around and fix his mess. NCsoft may of forged his resignation letter, but he knew the game was utter shit and was going down, and decided to walk away instead of helping to fix it. He's been quoted countless times that one of the biggest reasons he even agreed to do Tabula Rasa (or get back into games) was just so he could pay for his little space trip, nothing more.

Kalezian:
saw the very early alpha preview and the only thing I'm not liking is the overworld traveling system. reminds me too much of the older Final Fantasy games. But seeing that you actually have to talk to NPC's instead of spamming ACCEPT QUEST, does add a bit more flavor.

hell, you dont even get a quest log. I have been waiting for a game that treats you like an adult instead of holding your hand the entire way.

Just....... just please. If there is a paladin 'class' or archetype...... make it a bannable offense to ask "WHATS A PALADIN" in the chat.

for sanity's sake.

Agreed. It's why I like Morrowind over Oblivion and Skyrim - no 'GO HERE TO SOLVE QUEST' arrows, limited quick travel... reason to properly think through solutions and explore rather than streamlined 'get quest-solve quest-get reward.'

And also agreed on the WHAT'S A PALADIN schtick. Good grief, that's been run into the ground so far it's come through the other side of the planet by now.

I dunno, I think this article oversells this wingnut. He WAS important in gaming, but lately, his contributions have been bizarre persona-stroking. He's like a less influential Peter Meowlinuex. Cuts deep don't it, Dr. Lord Spaceman English, don't it?

although, if Shroud of the Avatar delivers (how Mollynew is THAT phrase??) I will eat my still equipped Boxers of the Three Day Swampass. Then play it, and create an in game version of them. ➕5 AoE Aura Defense, -15 Charisma.

amaranth_dru:
Well it better turn out a lot better than Tabula Rasa did... Seriously that game was crap and makes me think Garriott is out of touch with the modern gaming era. Plus sometimes I feel the dude is living up his status as the inventor of the MMO thanks to Ultima Online.
Maybe I'm a little harsh, something to do with a guy who is rich enough to fly into space without having to go through the rigorous astronaut selection program only to get rejected...

Agree 100%. I followed TR closely and when I finally logged into the Beta I lol'd played 30 minutes just to be sure it was as bad as it seemed then uninstalled.

On the other hand I played UO for 6 years from Beta.. Its still one of the best games I have ever played.

So it depends on which Richard Garriott shows up to do this game.

amaranth_dru:
Well it better turn out a lot better than Tabula Rasa did... Seriously that game was crap and makes me think Garriott is out of touch with the modern gaming era. Plus sometimes I feel the dude is living up his status as the inventor of the MMO thanks to Ultima Online.
Maybe I'm a little harsh, something to do with a guy who is rich enough to fly into space without having to go through the rigorous astronaut selection program only to get rejected...

Oh my goodness, the second post and that abomination is already mentioned. I really can't blame him for it though, one glance at NCSoft's track record shows a history of creating games and subsequently shutting them down (Auto Assault anyone?).

I do like the idea of a departure from some of the ideas that have been deemed necessities for modern MMOs. That said, quality of life can also be a concern. I would imagine that writing deep and meaningful dialogue for every single quest and interaction is an extremely challenging task.

its rare to see a developer addressing quest arrow blindness. watch people play somehting like oblivion or skyrim and you can see them blindly following the arrow and actually get completely lost if there isnt one in a quest mod even if they are specifically told what to do

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqoywXtDXW4

Also.. isnt shroud of the avatar an offline game? I think the reason he spoke of mmos is because they pioneered most of the RPG 101 stuff we know today... like exclamation marks over peoples heads... fast travel... quest texts.. etc etc.

Thought im still dubios about his "role" playing idea.

If the story is still linear then its not really role playing just because you have to type in stuff to get info from npcs.

Fallout 1 + 2.. that was good role playing.

Also im not sure why hes comparing his single player game to mmos... has he been completly ignoring what other offline RPGs have been doing?

Like the fully voiced games from bioware.. heck Baldurs gate has more role playing in it then any ultima game i can think of.

I mean in every ultima you ARE the avatar and you HAVE to solve the game a certain way if you want to finish it. Having to type questions out with your keyboard is not gonna change the fact that the games so linear you could put a ruler against it.

Meanwhile in Fallout 2 i can be a slaver, a member of one of three mafia famalies. I can help bunker town to eradicate the ghouls or help the ghouls fix their reactor.. or you know.. totaly ignore both factions.

Meanwhile in ultima.. i play the avatar.. forever and ever and ever...

Razorback0z:

amaranth_dru:
Well it better turn out a lot better than Tabula Rasa did... Seriously that game was crap and makes me think Garriott is out of touch with the modern gaming era. Plus sometimes I feel the dude is living up his status as the inventor of the MMO thanks to Ultima Online.
Maybe I'm a little harsh, something to do with a guy who is rich enough to fly into space without having to go through the rigorous astronaut selection program only to get rejected...

Agree 100%. I followed TR closely and when I finally logged into the Beta I lol'd played 30 minutes just to be sure it was as bad as it seemed then uninstalled.

On the other hand I played UO for 6 years from Beta.. Its still one of the best games I have ever played.

So it depends on which Richard Garriott shows up to do this game.

Raph Koster mainly responsible for Ultima Online Success, and less Garriott.

Kalezian:

hell, you dont even get a quest log. I have been waiting for a game that treats you like an adult instead of holding your hand the entire way.

I used to play games like Wizardry and Bards Tale back in the day and I, for one, do NOT miss having to make my own maps and write down every little thing. Man...my copy of Wizardry for my old 1984 Mac even came with a pad of graph paper.

I remember trying to find some wizard or something in Bards Tale 2. He was out in the middle of nowhere and I had to count the squares and turns so I could get to his place and back to the city without getting lost. [shudder]

I'm not a fan of the hand-holding technique, but I don't think giving you a map and a quest journal is too much. It just cuts down on the busy-work (and frustration in the case of map making) of playing the game. What I DON'T like is when they essentially just solve puzzles and quests for you. I remember playing a sci-fi game called Hard Nova back in the early 90's. I had this one quest to find some way to disable a planet's mad AI governor and I just couldn't seem to do it. Then I remembered some guy I had met way back in the beginning of the game who said he used to have fun messing with his home's AI systems and even made one of them commit suicide! It seemed like just a casual conversation worth a laugh at the time, but it was what I needed to solve that puzzle. It's a cool feeling when you figure stuff like that out on your own without a guide or the game just showing you what to do. I think that's why games like Portal and Quantum Conundrum are so good - each level is another "WOOHOOO!" moment. I miss "woohoo" moments in my RPGs :(

Karadalis:

Like the fully voiced games from bioware.. heck Baldurs gate has more role playing in it then any ultima game i can think of.

I mean in every ultima you ARE the avatar and you HAVE to solve the game a certain way if you want to finish it. Having to type questions out with your keyboard is not gonna change the fact that the games so linear you could put a ruler against it.

Uhm, your criticism is equally applicable to your allegedly better game. You are the son of Bhaal in BG, you must follow the very exact path (with areas literally not existing until the story deems so, unlike in Ultima when they usually existed, and were at most, locked somehow). Are you equating Biowares token 3-option dialogue of Good/Mercenarily neutral/cartoonishly evil with roleplaying and freedom? Or the ability to casually slaughter NPCs with less repercussions (of course, after Ultima 4 you basically could kill people, as your "goodness" had less bearing on the story as a whole)

Seth Carter:

Karadalis:

Like the fully voiced games from bioware.. heck Baldurs gate has more role playing in it then any ultima game i can think of.

I mean in every ultima you ARE the avatar and you HAVE to solve the game a certain way if you want to finish it. Having to type questions out with your keyboard is not gonna change the fact that the games so linear you could put a ruler against it.

Uhm, your criticism is equally applicable to your allegedly better game. You are the son of Bhaal in BG, you must follow the very exact path (with areas literally not existing until the story deems so, unlike in Ultima when they usually existed, and were at most, locked somehow). Are you equating Biowares token 3-option dialogue of Good/Mercenarily neutral/cartoonishly evil with roleplaying and freedom? Or the ability to casually slaughter NPCs with less repercussions (of course, after Ultima 4 you basically could kill people, as your "goodness" had less bearing on the story as a whole)

We are talking about the old bioware here

Yes you have a pre determined "destiny" but you can solve the game or rather the stories in the game in different ways wich result in different outcomes. In ultima there was exactly 1 ending and exactly 1 storyline that brought you to that ending that you had to follow. You couldnt even decide as to what to do first. Final fantasy titles had about the same freedom of choice as Ultima and i wouldnt call them "Role" playing games.

There was no role playing involved in the ultima games whatsoever. In Baldurs gate 1+2 and throne of bhaal you could still decide what kind of bhaalspawn you are. Your persona had no character whatsoever.. that is untill the last part where he was a clueless dork.

Anyways what i wanted to point out is that "Lord british" has no clue what hes talking about when he talks about playing different roles in games. Because there is no "role" play in ultima period

He made Adventure games with RPG rule sets but he never really created a game where you actually are able to decide what kind of person the player character is. Is he good? Is he evil? Ultima games dont support even this basic choice because it simply breaks the game (see the armageddon spell or killing lord british.. after you do either the game is unsolvable)

In baldurs gate i can be a beacon of goodness... or an evil bastard who wants to become the next god of murder.. or you can gather a bunch of evil characters around yourselfe and try to turn them to good.. or rather less evilish... like i did in the new enhanced edition.

Even thought gay halforks demanding i spar with them butt naked makes me a bit uncomfortable...

In ultima thought you where the avatar... the end.

Sigh. I got no idea why is he even relevant to RPGs. He didnt invent RPGs, he didnt invent computer RPGs and he didnt even (altrough sometimes wrongly labeled) created first graphical RPG either. Nor did he created the most popular ones. While this guy had one good game under his belt, its been 15 years give it a break.

I don't think, that he understands himself, why the Ultima Series (and Ultima IV in peticular) was so popular.

He thinks that a text-parser-based dialogue system will give the player more choice, but in fact it is just a more convuluted branching dialogue tree system. So it is the same as in other games, just more shitty to use. Well...

Regarding the roleplaying part, I think there are not really many games where you can actually play a role. I think, choice is important, so the most obvious games are ones like Deus Ex, The Witcher or Dragon Age. Games where your choice represents a type of person, which you are. Games where your choices affect the world.
In Ultima IV, you swamp a random homeless guy with gold to get your precious virtues up. In Knight of the Old Republic II, you see the negative repercussions of you seemingly good action to give a homeless guy some money; he get's murdered for the money. There is a life lesson in KotoR II, but not as much in Ultima IV.

I don't think that Shroud of the Avatar will be any better than any mediocre RPG you can play today. You are better of playing something like Dishonored. Yeah, you have quest arrows, but why is this a bad thing? You have a ton of choices to get there, and each approach is fun. In the Shroud of the Avatar game, it seems like they plan to hide their lack of interesting gameplay behind the artificial obstacle of missing convenience features.

 

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