Ultima Creator Richard Garriott Says ‘Most Game Designers Really Just Suck’

Ultima Creator Richard Garriott Says ‘Most Game Designers Really Just Suck’

The man who revolutionised computer role-playing games with the Ultima doesn’t think much of the talent currently working in the medium when it comes to game design. Who’s good at it? He is. Maybe a few others.

In an interview with PC Gamer, Lord British says that there just isn’t that much status-quo changing talent — like his — in video games right now:

“…other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I’m not saying that because I think I’m so brilliant. What I’m saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there’s a reason why.”

“… we’re leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they’re not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer. It’s really hard to go to school to be a good designer.”

Garriott goes on to call a lot of other designers “lazy” and says that they make only incremental changes to templates for other games that already exist. When I interviewed Garriott two weeks ago, he said that he’s more of a dabbler when it comes to big, AAA PC and console games these days, since he hasn’t been making those kinds of games for a long, long time. He’s managed to sample a handful of AAA games a year and finish a smaller chunk of the ones that hold his interest. The multimillionaire plays mobile games on his tablet more than anything else, he said, which is a key reason he wants Shroud of the Avatarthe new game being built by Garriott’s Portalarium dev outfit to be cross-platform.

There’s no denying the impact that Garriott has had on video games, and in the role-playing genre in general. Shroud of the Avatarthe new game being built by Garriott’s Portalarium dev outfit — just secured a million dollars of Kickstarter funding a few weeks after being announced. And his past accomplishments are what make the potential of his new game so exciting.

However, Garriott’s name is also attached to Tabula Rasa, a game viewed as a colossal failure by many. His points about other game designers aren’t all that different than what lots of disgruntled players say about poorly executed experiences. But wrapping those observations in insults makes him sound self-centered and out-of-touch. Good thing Shroud of the Avatar hit its goal already. Next move is all yours, Lord British.

Richard Garriott on why “most game designers really just suck” [PC Gamer]


    • The ultima series was like the Skyrim of the 80’s and 90’s.

      And he’s absolutely right. AI hasn’t advanced, Gameplay hasn’t advanced – take a look at mechwarrior online and then take a look at mechwarrior 2 (circa ’95ish) – same gameplay just better graphics. Absurd.

      • If you think nothing has advanced, you are an imbecile.

        Ultima was good – for it’s time. Garriot thinks he can still ride the Ultima wave that has long since past, which just makes him sound like an old wanka – like David Brent http://youtu.be/_kROd6JZ98I

        • Planetside 2, went from inventory to classes because “players would be confused” – dumbed down.
          Sup Comm 2 – Dumbed down.
          Mechwarrior – So stringently trying to create the EXACT tabletop stats that they completely missed the fact that people aren’t mechwarriors lol – Zero Game Design just a copy of TT.
          Starcraft – Wow that’s come a long way since SC1… Oh no it hasn’t – but it looks nicer!

          Need I recall some awful games that tried to make copies of good games but totally screwed the game design ?
          Dungeons, Impire, Carrier Command Gaea Mission.

          How many WOW Clones have we seen in the past 10 years ?

          Some games like sins of a solar empire release a new game ON THE OLD ENGINE – it’s LITERALLY just a graphics upgrade with 3 new ships thrown in and STILL doesn’t run multi-core except for sound.

          The list goes on and on and on.

  • Is it surprising coming from someone with such a large ego? He used to hold town meetings in Ultima online as Lord British, talk about attention whore. He even permabanned a player that managed to kill him.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t people love that about the game. The ruler of the fictional kingdom was actually the lead designer, who would come to visit.

      Also, the guy was perma-banned because he’d been using exploits in the beta rather than reporting them. This just drew attention to what he’d been doing.

  • Ofcourse he thinks game designers are all crappy and he’s the best one. Wouldn’t be a game designer of he thought otherwise. Look at project management. Every project manager has his or her methodologies and most of the time disagrees with other methadologies.

  • Thing is, other than the bit where he says he’s amazing, I think he’s pretty much on the money. No pun intended.

  • I’d say the biggest problem (for AAA games in particular), is that there is so much money involved that publishers/investors want minimal risk.
    Minimal risk means less experimentation, less experimentation leads to more of the same.

    • While I agree, I’d make the point that a lot of what the games need isn’t experimentation either – advances in AI and gameplay are at times going BACKWARDS in order to dumb stuff down for the “casual gamer”.

      • I dunno, I love FPS’s but geez, they are so samey now. When something like Deus Ex comes along it feels like a breath of fresh air, and it’s STILL based on a design that’s over 10 years old!

        They’re definitely churning them out to a pattern now.

  • The Man is a Multimillionaire for a reason, I defy anyone to make that kind of money and be in the lime light as he was and not get an attitude of self importance.
    and so what, hackers and script kiddies alike have the same attitude that they are awesome and anyone who is not them, is lame.
    the difference here is that Garriot is qualified to make the observation.
    most games are mere rethinks of a concept already formed and proven.
    sure many advances have happened, but they are mostly in the area of Visual Art.
    AI’s are not as advanced as they could be, most games do not have an advanced AI (shooters are good example, you sniper someone with a silencer and yet the AI knows where you are even if you are successful. few titles can boast this. often the AI can “see” a lot more around them than you can, yet you have the advanced tech or powers they do not.
    Game Level Design, repeated so many times the only difference tends to be the colours of the walls and what side of the hall the table is on.
    even Skyrim lacks compared to it’s predecessors in it’s own story line, with Daggerfall boasting more Virtual Miles to roam, with more Varied buildings and dungeon design, and yet ironically every Dungeon and Building was repeated across the entire game world.

    few game actually push the limits of what Gamers expect, they use trusted formulae that will sell to the gamers because the Publishers know it will sell. and the Designers well they just run with what they know, because they are there to be paid for the work they do.

    Garriot came from an era where Designers did what they did because they wanted to do it, not because they wanted a job.

    • You do realise that one man cannot make Skyrim. It’s interesting to realise, too, that small devs are ‘Indie.’ Which means that all 80’s/90’s were actually indie.

      There is only so much that can be done with 3D/4D games displayed on a 2D plane. (4D refers to Portal).

      And Occulus Rift is coming to change this. Which also means the most important thing for Next-gen consoles is support for Oculus Rift. Easy as – just like official mouse & keyboard support for current-gen is – always been just a driver away… and if MS & Sony don’t. Coders will.

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