Richard Garriott: game designer, astronaut, master haunted house maintainer.
So when we were looking for a good interview to start off a new video series on developers who faced down interesting technical challenges, it was hard to come up with a more suitable candidate than Lord British himself.
Fortunately, Garriott was reasonably familiar with Ars and was happy to invite us to his New York home—because for Lord British, telling war stories involves talking about and talking about is a lot easier if you actually have all the games at hand. On their original platforms. In Richard Garriott’s freaking house.
No plan survives contact with the users
If we sound a little starstruck, it’s because… Our Apollo series represents one kind of huge video project: huge, multi-part, taking a year to pull together. By contrast, this video is the kickoff to a different kind—one we can do a lot more easily and regularly but which still benefits greatly from being done in video format (still pictures don’t do justice to how awesome it is to have the creator of tell stories about ).
And the specific war story being discussed? It’s about the launch of and it has a familiar refrain: the best laid plans of devs and men gang aft agley as soon as the users show up. The launch of in 1997 saw Garriott and crew scrambling to implement the basic systems of one of the founding MMORPG titles, and twenty years ago, the rules and conventions of the genre as we know it today were still very much up in the air. Garriott had to make a lot of guesses about what exactly players might want to in the game and spent a considerable amount of time building what he thought was the perfect “virtual ecology.” Of course, the game’s players had different ideas—users rarely tend to go where you want them to go, especially in games.
We sincerely hope you all have at least a fraction as much fun watching this as we had making it, and we can’t wait to bring you more of these.
(As an aside, if anyone is looking to pick up the games for some nostalgia, they’re currently on sale at GOG.)