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"I'm going to reinvent roleplaying games again": Richard Garriott Interview at Gather Your Party

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"I'm going to reinvent roleplaying games again": Richard Garriott Interview at Gather Your Party

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Sat 9 June 2012, 22:13:14

Tags: Portalarium; Richard Garriott; Ultima Online; Ultimate RPG

Gather Your Party has interviewed Richard "Lord British" Garriott about his forays into social gaming, plans for the future, and related matters. It's a really lengthy interview, and pretty gripping in its own way, demonstrating just how far the emphasis on storytelling in role-playing can get you. I'm going to quote a small bit for you, but I encourage you to check it out in full (and weep):

Why did you decide to make the change from developing hardcore RPGs and then transition over to social and mobile games?

Fundamentally I’m trying to constantly refresh what I think are really the best possible roleplaying games. If you go way back to the beginning, I was one of the first players of Dungeons and Dragons. Which I’m sure a lot of role-players, even computer-based role-players are. If you think of those earliest days, the first few people who picked up the monster manuals and such for Dungeons and Dragons were pretty good interactive story tellers and the manuals and instructions were largely meaningless. As it became more popular, the game, in my mind, degraded into being more a game about numbers and statistics than it was about storytelling. But if you look at the earliest Ultimas, the first computer-based based roleplaying games, they were absolutely nothing but statistics if you know what I mean. There wasn’t much storytelling at all. The quest of those early games was to capture some of the best aspects of group-based, interactive storytelling as was possible. For the first twenty years, the best way to do that was in, the only way to do that really, was solo-player Ultimas. Solo-player Ultimas constantly strived to be these deep, immersive, story-based worlds. I think that’s even set them apart from the competition. You know, Wizardry, A Bard’s Tale, Might and Magic, which were all fantastic roleplaying games, but those were generally more combat-based and less story-based than I tried to do with Ultimas.

Then we discovered Ultima Online which was right with the emergence of the internet. We were the first to cross the bow, to really take a major effort behind creating multiplayer game. Ultima Online is credited with being the first Massively Multiplayer game. That became the best place to try to do the best place to do interactive storytelling. With that preamble, here is what compels me about the new era. If you look at why each of these eras became bigger than their predecessors, solo player Ultimas, and solo player games in general, sell to millions players. Always have. But the bestselling MMOs sell to tens of millions of players and ten times the people are willing to play it, not because it’s cheaper, because it’s not, it’s more expensive. Not because it’s easier to get into, because it’s not, it’s actually a lot harder to get into and figure out how to play it. The reason why ten times more people are willing to play it or want to play it is because you get to play with other real people. That’s the power of playing with other people. But in MMOs, the other people you play with aren’t the same people you go to the movies with and out to dinner with generally speaking. You’re playing in an MMO with people you met online in that game who are equally devoted to logging in every night and six-o-clock and going on raids with you, which is still very powerful compared to playing alone. But the magic of new social media and these casual games, I don’t even like the word “casual”, is really games that operate on top of a “friends graph”, is that now everyone’s real friends are online with some digital identity, with Facebook or whatever.

The best games I think are being generated right now are building not only synchronous play, where we go on a raid together, but also asynchronous play to where if you are a farmer, you can sell your fruit at your fruit stand and if I run a café, my chef can go buy his fruit from your fruit stand and your farm. So we can make the best of all worlds, I believe, by allowing players to play with not random people equally devoted to a certain game, but with the people who they go to dinner with who hang out all day together anyway, who may not have the same life schedule as each other. I don’t think I’m going to create a game that is lesser than Ultima Online or lesser than a solo player Ultima. I think I’m going to reinvent roleplaying games again by respecting the “friends graph” and leveraging what we’ve already done and done so well with Ultima Online from a multiplayer standpoint, that we did so well with Ultima numeral versions from a storytelling standpoint, and now wrap it with both synchronous and asynchronous features that leverage the “friends graph” and social media to present a powerful new game.

With your previous work, you were met with a lot of skepticism. People said Ultima IV had too much philosophy. People said that Ultima Online was just too big. It would never happen. Have you been met with the same kind of skepticism as you are transitioning not only to social games, but with making Ultimate Collector and Ultimate RPG multiplatform? Making the exact same game on the computer as you are on a smart phone?

You hit the nail on the head on the subject. Almost universally, the time that people give me the most resistance, oddly turns out to be the times that turn out to be the best. [...]​

I'm not sure I'd call it "resistance," more like disappointment or plain disinterest, but maybe that's just me.

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