He's one of the few game designers that can truly be called an innovator, first with his fantasy RPG series Ultima and then the driving force behind the first successful MMORPG Ultima Online. So Richard "Lord British" Garriott is the perfect choice to win the latest Lifetime Achievement Award during the Game Developers Choice Awards during the Game Developers Conference this week. Firing Squad got a chance to ask some questions of Garriott about his past, his present with the upcoming NCSoft MMO Tabula Rasa and other topics.
FiringSquad: First, this week you are receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award during the Game Developers Choice Awards at GDC. How does it feel to receive such an honor from your fellow peers in the industry?
It’s very nice of course! It’s funny that for my whole career, I have been one of the oldest people in the biz. It’s fun to look back and think of the ride I’ve had growing up with an industry.
FiringSquad: The PC game industry has changed so much since your first Ultima game. Overall what has been the most surprising thing you have encountered since you began creating games?
The pace of progress! It is so very hard to keep pace with the changes in capability of the platforms. Just when you figure out how to make a game at one level, the next level is upon you! Keeps the biz fresh and challenging, but it can be scary too!
FiringSquad: Even though you haven't been involved in the Ultima franchise for several years now your name and your "Lord British" persona will likely be linked with that franchise for a long time. Did you ever think that the RPG series would have evolved into one of the most well know game series ever made?
No. For the first few Ultimas, I did not expect there to be a sequel, or perhaps even an ongoing industry. After a while, I figured that I could keep doing this for a few years. It was only late in the series that I realized the power Ultima had and Ultima Online really proved that well.
FiringSquad: Electronic Arts has tried and failed twice to launch a sequel to Ultima Online. Does this illustrate how hard it is to follow up on the success of the original MMORPG?
Oh yes! Even NCsoft’s Lineage II, which is doing great, has not slowed down the original Lineage at all. Most MMO sequels have proven to be tricky!
FiringSquad: Most massively multiplayer games do not reveal their subscription numbers but Blizzard recently revealed that World of Warcraft has over 6 million subscribers worldwide. What do these numbers mean for the MMORPG genre in general and how does World of Warcraft's success affect how you develop your MMO games?
Wow’s success brings millions of new players into online games, so we think it is GREAT for everyone in the MMP biz. Players normally churn out of an online game after about nine months, and so many other games are already seeing subscriber increases due to this effect. We have always said, “The only bad competition is a bad game.” If players have a poor MMP experience, they may not try another. Right now the number of games out there is so limited, we all benefit each other.