2001-04-09: Richard Garriott Interview by Tina "Cassandra" Haumersen at GameSpyDaily

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Richard Garriott Interview by Tina "Cassandra" Haumersen at GameSpyDaily

GameSpy: What lead to your departure from Origin Systems, the company that you co-founded with your brother 20 years ago?

Richard Garriott: After 20 years of Ultima Next, I was extremely motivated to do something NOT called Ultima. The success of Ultima Online meant that all spending growth went to grow the online support of UO1 and UO2 which EA felt we must do ASAP. Soon it became clear that Origin would be only an Ultima company. That combined with my lack of shared vision with the EA placed GM, Jack Heistand, meant that it was time for me to move on.

GameSpy: How much creative control did you have after Origin was purchased by Electronic Arts?

Richard Garriott: I was still the creative leader for the Ultima's I produced, but overall company direction and spending was highly influenced by EA corporate directives.

GameSpy: Thinking back on everything that has happened since then, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Richard Garriott: Regrets? Some. When we joined EA as EA's hopeful savior of their PC strategy, we grew the company very fast. That was a huge mistake. We did not have the management bandwidth to grow intelligently. Soon after we began the slow downhill yearly EA layoff cycle that has never stopped.

GameSpy: When Ultima 9: Ascension shipped, it was, shall we say, slightly buggy and seemed as though it had been rushed out the door. What happened?

Richard Garriott: U9 only survived at all as a project, by shear force of will. Few if any exec's within EA, and even Origin supported it at all. I had a very hard time keeping funding and staff to do what we did. I am proud of the results, yet also aware of the shortcomings.

GameSpy: What's going to happen to Lord British now that Ultima Online 2 has been cancelled? Is EA going to be able to continue using actors to play His Lordship in UO?

Richard Garriott: Upon my exit, I agreed to leave my character in UO1, but no future Ultimas. I guess that won't be a problem now.

GameSpy: What did you think of the direction Ultima Online 2 was going as far as the complete change to Britannia and the cyberpunking of the world we all loved so much?

Richard Garriott: I had mixed feelings. It is not what I would have done, but it was not "my" project, per say. I believed in the team who took control of the game. I was interested to see what they would do with it.

GameSpy: What did you think of the creature concepts of Todd McFarlane?

Richard Garriott: I think Todd's work is great! They fit well with the direction the game was evolving.

GameSpy: How do you think the long-time Ultima fans (fans of Ultimas 1-9) would have reacted to Ultima Online 2, had it reached completion and opened for business?

Richard Garriott: At first, I was very concerned, as the departure was great. However, the team began to develop the proper Ultima story crafting that is essential to an Ultima. Over time, they were getting it down. Ultimately, it would have worked and been accepted I think.

GameSpy: What are your greatest sources of inspiration?

Richard Garriott: Early on it was fantasy work like Tolkien and D&D. Over time I went from a young kid stabbing in the dark, to a student of the craft. I now read more and study the issues more, like: Joseph Campbell's work on mythology, and Amy Jo Kim's work on Online Communities.

GameSpy: What are your plans for the future? Would you still like to create Project X, which you spoke about a little over a year ago, or have you abandoned that idea for something else?

Richard Garriott: Well, until recent OSI news, I was expecting to hang my hat with a California company, and start to rebuild slowly. Well, now it appears that I can hit the ground running with all my old team mates. So, last month, "X" seemed a remote dream, this month, very likely!

GameSpy: If it were possible, would you continue making Ultima games?

Richard Garriott: Sure! Ultima like world games, but not Avatar in Britannia experiences.

GameSpy: For years, Origin has been known as a spring board into the industry. How do you feel about having been a part of "seeding" the industry with extremely talented people like Harvey Smith, Warren Spector and Chris Roberts?

Richard Garriott: Very proud to help them learn and grow and yet also often sad to see them leave the fold.

GameSpy: You changed the world as we knew it when you created Akalabeth, and then again with the subsequent Ultima games, and set the standard for all other RPGs that followed. I think its safe to say that the Ultima games touched many people, even if they didn't know why. What's it like to have played such a pivotal role in so many people's lives?

Richard Garriott: I feel very lucky. There are lots of people just as smart and creative as I am out there. I was at the right place, at the right time, with the right idea. Then I was bold enough to go for it! Fortunately, it worked. By the way, I believe that I have the right idea, right time, right place again now. And I'm still just as bold. We will see if fortune smiles again. The odds look good.