Ultima Creator Says His ‘Game Designers Suck’ Comment Was Taken Out Of Context

Ultima Creator Says His ‘Game Designers Suck’ Comment Was Taken Out Of Context

Yesterday, game makers and fans were all up in arms over comments made by Richard Garriott to PC Gamer, where he said among other things, that “most game designers really just suck”. Now the man best known for his ground-breaking work on the Ultima games has issued a clarification.

On the website for his Portalarium dev studio, Garriott says that his remarks were taken out of context:

By no means did I intend to disparage others who have led the many great games of each era in gaming history. I was trying to say, and show why finding or growing NEW great game designers is hard!

… I really do see a major challenge to our art form, specifically in the area of design. The design of a game is simultaneously 1) the most valuable aspect when it comes to the potential of success of a game, 2) the hardest part of game development to improve over previous efforts because of competition, and 3) the skill set with the least formal and informal training available to game developers.

Garriott goes on to acknowledge that he could’ve phrased things better and, just like so many of the people who went at him in the last 24 hours, nods at the bumps in his own design career:

Perhaps my statement that has been quoted so often in recent days could have been presented in a more eloquent fashion. But I stand by the point I was making, that game design is the hardest profession in our business to understand and to learn.

And I certainly am not trying to put my own career on some sort of game design high ground. While I have hit occasional home runs, I have made plenty of unforced errors. I was not attempting to prop myself up with these comments, but rather lament my need…our industry’s need for proper training in the most important skill required to make a good game. I never had any formal training either; I have just had more time to learn from my mistakes than most. If what comes from all this is a frank discussion and lively debate on how to best address this issue, then hopefully I’ve accomplished something.

Words Taken Out of Context


    • He did say that he wasn’t perfect and he’s also made errors of his own. Quite frankly, I partially agree with him that MOST game designers suck. However, I do believe that it isn’t entirely their fault that they suck. They have to cater to more “Casual” gamers who don’t want to have to bother with the intricacies of something or the other.

      More often than not, this means that the designer needs to make a game basically idiot proof. This has the effect of not letting them learn more by forcing them to make basically a simple game. Of course these means that the more “hardcore” gamers who appreciate good mechanics, story, etc, view such designers as idiots.

      One way to alleviate this is to revert to the old style of games (not in all respects mind you) where we’re not prompted a thousand freakin’ times to pick up something that might be important, not have our progress impeded until we do or get something that may be critical or helpful for the next part (Of course it’s understandable if say, the impediment is a door and you need the key for it, however, it isn’t understandable why the key needs to be highlighted and whatnot). Stuff like that would go a long way to making gamers and the older breed of designers not think that the more modern designers are idiots.

    • What was wrong with Tabula Rasa? It was actually quite a good game killed off by NCSoft (… you know … the guys who have killed several profitable MMOs).

      The fact is that he was pretty much right. The basic design behind games have not changed radically in ages. They are just getting graphically better. Nobody apart from the indies are taking risks when it comes to game design.

      But it’s not entirely the fault of game designers. Big publishers are not willing to fund risky projects. That’s why some of the indies can make some breakout titles.

      • Yeah that’s why he’s gone to kickstarter in the first place – in order to not be beholden to any more publishers.

        And you’re right, the design of games is getting WORSE if anything.

    • You know TR wasn’t really his fault – he was designing it, sure – but the designing of the game wasn’t what made it launch early.

      NCSoft made that call.

  • What other context could “most game designers really just suck” be interpreted in?

    I guess it must be like saying “Man, that Michael Jordan is so phoney!”

  • This is totally the media’s fault and he was quoted out-of-context. I actually read his first comments and totally understood what he was getting at. Unfortunately the journalists decided to title these articles “Richard Garriott says most game designers suck” instead of “Richard Garriot says most game designers suck thanks to the fact that game design is not a well defined field with appropriate training.”

  • “I was trying to say, and show why finding or growing NEW great game designers is hard!”

    It’s easy to be a trailblazer when there’s so much unknown. Coming up with an original idea is much harder today, when the mine has been plundered, than when Ultima was created. His last contemporary game was Tabula Rasa, a by-the-numbers sci-fi MMO if I’ve ever seen one.

    He (and Peter Molyneaux) doesn’t seem to understand why Kickstarter exists. The service allows people to pitch their ideas direct to consumers and make products that otherwise could not be greenlit via the conventional channels. Garriott has enough wealth, clout and contacts to ensure whatever he makes can be published, he doesn’t need to go through Kickstarter other than making a few headlines by riding the coattails of Double Fine.

  • “You didn’t let me finish! I said most game designers suck harder than a Vax swallowing bowling balls.”

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