Celebrity game designer Richard Garriott told PC Gamer that he’s better than most other game designers, you know, those whom he believes to suck. No, it is not out of context; a good amount of direct quotes should be evident enough. Although lack of professional courtesy his statements can be, I think he actually believes what he says.
Mr. Garriott’s name has been popping up a lot ever since I make reading gaming news articles a daily habit. Well, Ok, by “a lot” I mean maybe about once every month, until recently for the reason I will mention later. On the other hand, there’s a good reason why games usually don’t market themselves as the “creation of John Doe”. Games like Cave Story and Touhou series being the exceptions, most good and successful games achieves their status not because of one person’s work, but a team of people whose expertise are from different fields: artists, coders, composers, marketeers, etc.
Mr. Garriott’s wikipedia page provides some insight on why he is being treated like a celebrity by the gaming media. He designed the Ultima series, and coined the term MMORPG. I don’t deny Mr. Garriott has contributed a lot to the gaming industry in the past, but it seems that his career as a game designer has not been very successful lately. Out of the few games Mr. Garriott associates with that came out in the 21st century, only Tabula Rasa contributes to him as the designer.
Tabula Rasa is a curious case. The MMORPG received decent reviews, but the publisher, NCSoft, citing the game’s lack of popularity, discontinued its service after it went live for a year and four months, shortly after a legal drama between Mr. Garriott and NCSoft has taken place. Many people may believe NCSoft is one of the evil publishers within the MMO industry, but there is little room for conspiracy theories when it comes to determine its own games’ profitability, and the decision of closing the games down.
I believe Mr. Garriott’s public attention comes from being one of the first few private citizens to fly into space. I have nothing but respect to a man who spent $30 million of his fortune for the ticket to the space shuttle, and then underwent life-threatening surgery to achieve his dream. It’s not something I understand, but I assume the gaming media has reasons to like him enough to keep his name a recurring theme, even though Mr. Garriott doesn’t appear to work in the industry anymore.
Actually, that might not be true anymore. Just this month, Mr. Garriott started a kickstarter campaign for a game named Shroud of the Avatar, a spiritual successor to the Ultima franchise.
Anyway, I won’t be personally confirm whether Mr. Garriott is a good designer by play his old games, so I’ll wait for Shroud of the Avatar to make that call. A good designer does not guarantee a successful game, but for all games that are good, I am confident to say that every one of them has at least one good designer. It’s no mystery that a good designer knows what player wants, but I’d only call someone a “better” designer if he knows what I, the player, don’t know what I want yet.
I hope Mr. Garriott lives up to his words in his next game, and ones after that. And despite my skepticism on Mr. Garriott’s assessment on himself, I do hope his statement on how to become a game designer has some accuracy in it… I have no artistic talent and not entirely good with coding, so I guess that makes me an ideal game designer, right?