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Appeals Court Upholds Garriott's $32 Million Case Against NCSoft
Appeals Court Upholds Garriott's $32 Million Case Against NCSoft
October 25, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

A three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $32 million judgement against NCSoft in a contract dispute with Ultima creator Richard Garriott that dates back to his departure from the company in 2008.

Garriott filed suit against NCSoft in 2009, saying he had been forced out of the company following a 2008 space flight, contrary to NCSoft's earlier public statements that he had left voluntarily.

The distinction had significant implications for the flexibility of Garriott's stock options in the company, which were only valid for 90 days if he left of his own accord, but would last until June 2011 if NCSoft terminated him.

A federal jury awarded Garriott $28 million in lost profits last July after a three-and-a-half day trial followed by three hours of deliberation. The $32 million appellate court ruling adds interest and attorney's fees accrued during the trial period.

"NCSoft schemed to avoid its obligations to [Garriott] at the trial court and on appeal, and neither the jury nor the 5th Circuit bought any of it," said Stephen E. Fox, Garriott's lead counsel in the suit. "Contracts have consequences, and as the Court of Appeals explained, the trial court is not a trial run."

An NCSoft spokesperson said the company was "disappointed" with the decision.

NCSoft acquired Garriott's Destination Games in 2001 and released his much-hyped MMO Tabula Rasa in 2007. That game shut down in early 2009 after disappointing performance that failed to meet NCSoft's financial targets.

The designer's newest venture, social gaming outfit Portalarium, recently secured $3.6 million in funding ahead of the launch of its next game, Ultimate Collector.

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Lo Pan
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Looks like Lord has enough for another Space trip!

Kale Menges
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I was thinking the exact same thing...

Maria Jayne
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You know, I don't know all the details and I'm easily not in a position to judge but still...this is the internet so....

I can't help feeling this is a reward for a bad job. He was let go because he was off in space as the game with his name on it took a dive, and now he's been awarded more money than most of the people employed to work on Tabula rasa will ever see in their lifetime. Some injustice there I feel.

Benjamin Quintero
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yes and no. technically those stocks had nothing to do with his performance on tabula rasa, they were part of the sale of his company which developed ultima online. the law suit basically said that, if he had sold his stocks he would have earned that much money. it's a little shady because it assumes that he sold at the ideal time, before a drop in the share value, but that is how the court system works. if you screw over your employees they can screw you back 10x fold, provided they are already a millionaire and can afford a good lawyer.

It is sucky that he sort of smash and grabbed his money but that money never really belonged to the tabula rasa team, it was RG's company and many of the original people (i think) were not there after the sale of the company, so it's hard to say if those people made their money and ran long before this mess.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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Yeah, I kind of agree (same with the Activision vs West/Zampella lawsuit); at some point, you're just looking at full grown adults acting like children so they can get more imaginary numbers put into their bank accounts oblivious to the remaining -- let's stick with popular rhetoric and say 99% -- of the population struggling to pay off debt and keep homes in first world countries or struggling to eat in third world countries. It's pretty disgusting, like... I mean, there is no way that twenty five million dollars worth of value was generated by one person, but that's not how money works anymore. Money is not about equivalent exchange or keeping balance, it is just some fucked up mix of mysticism, market destroying gambling, over-opportunistic lawsuits, and over-applied Economics 101 where any financial outcome can be "ethically" justified if you've memorized the right tidbits in your text book (usually involving the phrase "free market" for defense and "socialist" for offense).

Man, I don't look up to anyone anymore :/.

Harry Fields
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How does this guy still have so much money? He hasn't made anything decent in since 1996.

Benjamin Quintero
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When you have $30M in the bank and your assets are bought and paid for, you don't need to make anything for the rest of your life. This new venture of his is just a sandbox to put his toys into. That's what rich people do =) they make $4M sandboxes. To his credit, he sort of invented that whole little MMO thing, so I guess we can cut him some slack.

Vohtrake Ter
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Benjamin has excellent points! Garriott not only started online gaming but obviously made the best games that also influenced many other games, Ultima 1-7, 7 part 2, 8, 9. Ultima Underworld 1 & 2 (first full 3d games at the time), Worlds of Ultima 1 and 2..etc... Another big thing he doesn't get enough credit for is the whole SANDBOX thing like Grand Theft Auto and many other games use. Also actual able to manipulate and pick up most objects you see in the game world and object interaction (lighting candles in games, opening and closing doors, laying in beds, sitting down in chairs, logs, actually using wells to get water, turning winches..etc..) (as far back as 1988 in Ultima V, 1990 Ultima VI, bigtime in Ultima 7 1992)