Richard Garriott Says 'Ultima VII' Was Turning Point In His Vision Of RPGs


Posted May 13, 2009 - By Jake Gaskill

Richard Garriott, creator of the wildly influential and popular Ultima series and 2007's Tabula Rasa, is one of gaming’s more eccentric figures. When he isn’t doing laps in Britannia Manor’s moat (his own personal castle), fitting in time for a little space tourism and shutting down massively multiplayer online worlds, Garriott is…well…most likely doing something nutty.

Richard Garriott OnFortunately, Crispy Gamer was able to wrangle the RPG-titan long enough for a pretty enlightening interview. Garriott makes some incredibly compelling statements with regards to his games, especially in terms of how his approach to design and storytelling evolved during the early Ultima days.

There is a ton of info in the interview for Ultima fans, including a detailed/hilarious discussion about the history and evolution of the “killing children” room (It’s also a fantastic mini-lesson in brilliant game design), as well as a brief mention of his eagerness to pursue more Ultima titles in the future, so I highly recommend checking out the full interview.

But the most telling part of the interview for me is Garriott’s devotion to thoughtful, relevant and layered storytelling. While this approach started to flower with Ultima V, Garriott says the real turning point was Ultima VII.

Ultima VII was the first story of significance, and it was really an outgrowth of my realization of what most people were doing in every other game and what they are still doing in most every [RPG] game to this day … they are pillaging and plundering and clawing their way to becoming as powerful as is required to beat the supposed bad guy who is waiting for them at the end of the game. In fact, the bad guy pretty much does nothing during the game, and what most players do is morally ambiguous at best (and pretty darn evil, often) on their journey to supposedly saving the day.”

Garriott may be seen as a bit of a nut, but I wish more developers shared his view on the importance of nuanced, well-told and meaningfully constructed game stories. Not just because quality storytelling makes for a far superior gaming experience, but because a brilliantly conceived narrative can make decent games great, and great games works of art. Be sure to check out Crispy for the full interview.

Anyone out there remember their first reaction to the original "killing children" room in Ultima IV?


Richard Garriott Says 'Ultima VII' Was Turning Point In His Vision Of RPGs


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