Richard Garriott, RPG Legend, on ‘Ultima,’ Creating Games, Visiting Space

Richard Garriott is kind of a big deal in the world of games. Back in 1981 he created Ultima, a role-playing game that spawned a series that is still considered a touchstone for developers and players. Right now he’s at work on a spiritual successor to the Ultima games, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, but in his spare time he’s also visited the International Space Station, performed the first zero-G wedding and turned his home Britannia Manor into a haunted house and museum.

Garriott’s memoir, titled Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers, Hidden Worlds, and the Creative Spark, covers his career creating games, his interest in space travel, visits to the Titanic and Antarctica as well as offering readers insights that might apply to their more earthbound lives.

From Chapter 7: IV-Play, Or The New Rules of Engagement
“When I wrote Ultima I, I wanted the game to be something more than players wandering around 3D dungeons killing things. But while we had successfully added some pretty cool visual elements and interactions for the era, these fan letters made it clear the game hadn’t progressed as I’d hoped. Two things became obvious to me: First, if there is going to be a bad guy, he needs to actually be bad in a way far beyond what the player is told in the introduction. He has to be an active presence. If I am a player seeking advice from confidants throughout the world, the bad guy should be looking for these people and killing them. He should be responding to my actions and making my journey far more difficult. Rather than simply existing and waiting for me, he should be trying to do terrible things to me and the people I care about as I progress toward a final confrontation.

Second, I was surprised that the people playing these games did not play with the moral compass they followed in the real world. Presumably, they were law-abiding, kindhearted people in their day-to-day lives, but in this fantasy world they enjoyed being someone else. That was understandable, as my games didn’t respond directly to their behavior; there were no rewards for being a moral person and no particular penalties for being an evil wizard.