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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