Richard Garriott is best known as the creator of the Ultima RPG series, and he says that his experiences in the early days of game creation give him the multidisciplinary oversight into major content problems that today's designers often lack.
He's turning his attention from major MMOs, in the wake of the closure of his long-in-the-coming, short-in-the-operating Tabula Rasa, and instead joining the ranks of developers moving into the social gaming space -- a place where he sees not just business opportunity, but also a place to aim expertise honed both in the early days of gaming and at the onset of the MMO revolution.
His new company, Portalarium, will be a test of his ideas about game development, which he shares freely in this wide-ranging interview.
Conducted at the DICE 2010 summit, where he delivered a lamentation on the state of games writing, this in-depth Gamasutra interview with Garriott takes in his view of the mainstream games industry of 2010 and where the real opportunities lie -- and why.
Richard Garriott: Well, the target is not specifically Facebook. The target is really what I would call broadly the explosively growing market -- the new market of players -- which I'll call broadly casual and social network players.
You know, I kind of look at it and go, "I feel like I've now lived through three major shifts in the gaming industry." Number one is the beginning of the industry, [laughs] you know, where I was lucky enough to be one of the first developers of games. And so, with that came great opportunity and revolutions.
The second one was the emergence of online gaming. Now, I would argue that Ultima Online was a major stepping-stone in convincing people that online gaming was relevant. At the time I was trying to get it going, no one supported it. It was very hard to get going, but when it finally shipped, it ultimately ended up making ten times the revenue of all the previous Ultima games combined.
That has now for the last decade been by far the dominant growth area of gaming at all. I mean, look at things like World of Warcraft, and it's now ten to a hundred times bigger than Ultima Online. But if you look at this new casual and/or social media gaming, a lot of people in this building still either pooh-pooh it or don't get it or don't understand it, yet already the number of players on these games is dramatically in excess of even things like World of Warcraft.
The amount of money flow on this side of the fence is already dramatically in excess of almost any game anybody in this room ever develops. And yet, you know, people still here are still in the mode, just like in my mind they were with online gaming before the models were proven, thinking, "Oh, you know, the quality level is not there yet," or, "Oh, the types of games offered really aren't interesting to me yet."
And I'm going like, "Well, yeah, that's true -- it might not be yet, but I assure you it will be and very soon. And it's one of these coming juggernauts that you either need to learn to understand and participate in the evolution of or you're left behind, just like online gaming."
What is your ultimate goal for your company right now?
RG: So, I believe the casual gamer and the social gaming platform represents the largest ever yet seen emergence or change within the gaming industry. And all of us in the development community have a choice to either participate and lead in this journey or get left behind.
I believe that my group, which helped start gaming back in the early days of Origin and Ultima that helped begin and grow the online gaming space, which has been the main motivator for the last 10 years, is perfectly suited to also jump in to contribute here with this new emergence. And so I believe we'll be able to bring very high quality play experiences to a consumer base that is growing the fastest and demanding play options faster than any previous group has had.
It's interesting to me -- it seems a lot of people from that era that feel the same.
RG: We were just talking to Sid Meier.
Sid Meier. Steve Woita. All these people are getting back in there because...
RG: Because we did it. And I think everybody else is still a little too egotistical to realize it.