"VR is a fad" was the pull-quote which propagated through the internet when Warren Spector made the comment last year, reinforcing it at ECGC a few days ago. The veteran designer indicated a belief that virtual reality could generate "interest among hardcore gamers," but remained cautious to grant too much early praise given personal experience with earlier VR attempts. Spector's decades-long industry experience grants weight to the statement, and made us curious what some long-time colleagues of Spector's might believe. Richard Garriott is one of those – friend and former employer of Spector – and has previously spoken to us about a history of effectively inventing MMOs, new graphics techniques, and more.
Richard Garriott joined us at PAX East 2016 for an impromptu discussion on the viability of virtual reality. The conversation started as small talk – "what do you think of VR?" – but evolved into an in-depth look at the challenges faced by the emergent technology. We rolled with it; you can find the video and some of the transcript below:
Industry luminary Warren Spector helmed the keynote at the East Coast Game Conference yesterday in Raleigh. Readers of our Star Citizen (Chris Roberts) and Shroud of the Avatar (Richard Garriott) content are already familiar with Origin, the studio responsible for effectively inventing MMOs, early game graphics technologies, and pioneering PC mechanics. Spector was employee number twenty-six at Origin Systems – a self-described “old-timer” when compared against the studio's maximum 350 employee count – and has a history developing seminal games.
Spector worked at Origin with Richard Garriott, Chris Roberts, Dallas Snell, Starr Long, and other recognized industry veterans. In our interview with Warren Spector, we talk about what it was like working at Origin, behind-the-scenes stories, and throw-in a brief question about System Shock 3.
The term “MMORPG” did not always exist in the games industry; something had to catalyze the word's origin, and as legend tells it, that catalyst was the team behind Ultima Online. Renowned game designer Richard Garriott and his team at Origin Systems – the industry's most successful PC games company of its era – contributed substantially to the modern world of role-playing games. Had Garriott not instituted his vision of fantasy role-playing games in the form of Akalabeth and Ultima, there's no doubt that RPGs could have “grown up” vastly differently.
It's like watching a pair of kids excitedly explain their make-believe games to one another, but in this instance, the kids are veteran developers and the games are real. We managed to get Richard Garriott (SOTA) and Chris Roberts (Star Citizen) in a room together to discuss the early days of the industry, and during camera setup, the two talked space.
Richard Garriott is one of the industry's most experienced designers, and that's doubly so for RPGS, a genre he's managed to remain in for nearly the entirety of his career. Having started the Ultima series after inspiration from tabletop D&D games, Garriott is now focusing on Shroud of the Avatar under Kickstarted developer Portalarium. The team, which is independently publishing, has managed to sustain 24/7 uptime since November. That's an impressive feat.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Richard Garriott de Cayeux, known to his fans as "Lord British," and Starr Long about the current designs for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. One of the design aspects I found truly fascinating was their player-driven economy model. This shouldn't sound that strange, as almost everyone MMO appears to hype such ambitions, but few actually manage to produce an economy that doesn't self-destruct.
The ability to hook players into a game -- ideally without requiring a never-ending grind to get to the "fun part" -- is an ever-challenging quest for companies. This problem is one that actually benefits the modding community, which is probably one of the ultimate forms of complimenting a game's developers. Modding communities show that players are so committed to what they were given that they want to keep it alive as long as possible. Morrowind is a prime example of this; even after a decade, players are still keeping the game alive by porting it into newer engines -- even the game's Lead Designer acknowledges this, 10+ years later.
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