Richard Garriott Would Like to do More Ultimas with EA

I never know what my news reader will turn up, and I’ve got to say this one really surprised me.

But don’t get your hopes up too much, as Garriott explains why.

In an interview with Industry Gamers, Garriott actually brought up the Ultima franchise first, and mentioned that he found it funny that EA was using the Origin name for its online services. He then went on to mention that he’s actually had talks at “very high levels” about collaborating with Electronic Arts.

“I find the use of the word Ultima to be more interesting as they’ve tried to give that legs again. I hope that Ultima does survive forever, yet I also, of course, have my own very particular ideas for what Ultima can and should become over time and so we’ll see if they do things quite the way I would do them… since I’m not there at the moment,” he commented.

IndustryGamers asked Garriott if he could still collaborate with EA. “We would be open to that. In fact, we’ve had some discussions at what I’ll call very high levels, but the individuals who are currently shepherding the property don’t seem to be particularly interested in that, so we’ll see,” he replied. “Who knows? You never know what’s going to happen in the future… the doors always open if they were ever interested.”

As for those individuals who are “currently shepherding the property”, that would probably include Paul Barnett of BioWare Mythic. He is a big fan of Origin and Ultima titles, and is rumored to be working on an Ultima project of some sorts, as his so-called “secret project” that he tweets about. This week for instance, he’s posted this:

Earlier Today

Ultima 4, free, on , it’s a miracle. It’s like there is a plan to re-release all the great old origin games…. What can it mean?

And a few days ago

Will be testing the secret project in London this week. Hoping for positive feedback. Latest build will be sent via dropbox!

I have a hard time believing that Barnett would turn Garriott down, so I’d be willing to bet that other personalities are at play, probably outside of the BioWare label.

Full article: IndustryGamers


Richard Garriott Discusses Ultima, Ultima Online at GDC Europe

Richard Garriott gave the final keynote at this week’s Game Developers Conference in Europe, using the Ultima series, Ultima Online, and his upcoming Lord British game as examples for the three phases, aka the “Three Grand Eras of Game Development” as he calls them. They move from single-player to MMORPGs to social gaming.

He discussed a bit of what helped him succeed, while making it clear that he felt it was time to move on.

“One thing that I really lucked into was creating storylines with what I will call ‘social relevance’,” he said, pointing to the moral choices inherent in the Ultima games.

The “save the kingdom” story of the original games in the series is no longer enough, though it still has traction in the industry, he said. “The first Ultimas were very simple stories… And if you look at most games today they still are. Personally, I don’t know about you, after I told that story a few times I was done with it.”

He also discussed the very early days of UO when it wasn’t always a sure thing, and he even discussed that the graphics were outdated in the 1990s:

When he launched the Ultima Online project, EA’s “faith in the team and faith in the project was so low,” he said, that “projected sales were 30k lifetime.”

“Sales and marketing were not in favor of us working with the game,” he said. “It wasn’t until we put up a prototype and put up a web page… 50,000 people signed up to be beta testers in the first couple of weeks. When it finally did ship it was the fastest selling PC game in origin and EA history at the time. Within about two years had outsold all of the other previous Ultimas combined.”

Even so, he said, “Despite the success, lots of people were not convinced that this was a good future for gaming in general.”

This is because the game had dated graphics and a lack of story — putting it behind the current state of the art of single player games. “When a new era starts with graphics that are five or 10 years behind the state of the art, very quickly that changes.”

One thing I found very interesting and agreed with, is Garriott’s take on mobile gaming:

“I am now much more of a gamer than I ever been been in my whole life, but the vast majority of the gaming I have played has been on this machine,” Garriott said, while holding up an iPhone.

“I’m a devout believer that this is the current and near-term future of games.”

I agree with that – I’ve played far more games on my iPhone and have been impressed by how far it’s come in such a short time. I’m playing the Ultima IV beta on the iPad as well and it’s very impressive and makes for a good platform for older games.

This is just a general comment, but I wonder at times if he’s got a case of sour grapes when it comes to certain things. He’s had some really bad experiences that weren’t his fault, especially with MMOs – Ultima Online 2, Tabula Rasa, but also with Ultima 8, which he mentioned:

“There are only two games I look back with some sense of regret… They happened under similar conditions and I made the same mistake twice,” said Garriott.

They were both the first games he worked on after selling his company to a new publisher. Ultima 8 was rushed to hit a holiday release window, and it’s his biggest regret.

“Tabula Rasa — the original vision we had for the game, I wish we had stuck by… The vision was seen as too strange and far out by sales, marketing, and international concerns… It put us further and further behind before we even really got started.”

He had very little to say about Lord British’s New Britannia, other than it wasn’t ready, but he did mention that MMOs are changing to suit the many playstyles out there and used UO as an example:

One important problem with today’s MMOs is that “every player is a combatant”, he said. “In Ultima Online, that was not true.”

It is easy for me to say that you should judge his comments in light of the bad experiences he’s had with some large companies when it came to both his Ultima and Ultima Online games and other properties later on, but some of those experiences ended in court. I think it’s especially telling that more and more MMORPGs are being released all the time – when you visit sites like or, the selection of MMOs now versus even just five years ago is staggering. Some of the largest and most anticipated games in the next two years are MMORPGs – Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare’s Titan, just to name two.

On the other hand, he always had a thing for trying to be cutting edge, whether it was pushing the boundaries of computer hardware with games coming out of Origin, or helping take the MMORPG genre into the mainstream when companies and players weren’t sure what they were or what they were capable of. And let’s face it, some of the social games he talks about have 5-6 times the players that games like World of Warcraft have. Just because those social or Facebook games may appeal to a broader audience than MMORPGs doesn’t make them any less of a game and they are still making their developers 100s of millions, even billions of dollars.

I’ll still take single-player games and MMORPGs over 95% of the social games out there though. And the games I play most on my iPhone – mostly single-player, especially “retro” games that just aren’t being made on the Mac or PC platform. I’m still not sure why EA hasn’t started releasing Origin’s back catalog of Ultima and Wing Commander games on the iPhone. That’s a lot of money just waiting to be made.

It’s a very entertaining read, and while Gamasutra has highlights, I will try to find a transcript or video.

Source: Gamasutra

Richard Garriott Gives LOGIN 2011 Keynote

Richard Garriott gave the keynote speech at the LOGIN 2011 Conference that’s being held this week.

He discussed what he perceives as three eras of gaming, with the third era currently happening, while the second era was kicked off by MMORPGs such as Ultima Online:

Later, online games started to take the market. Massively Multiplayer games are gaming’s second era. Ultima Online–originally called Multima– paved the way for these games, but Garriott notes that it was a project no one initially believed it. “This is the hardest game I’ve ever had tried to get going,” he noted as he described the trouble. He later had to go over-budget on Ultima IX, and used that extra money to start creating the game. This gamble eventually paid off because Ultima Online sold more copies than Ultima 1-9 combined, according to him.

Garriott notes that his is an era because it was pioneered by multiplayer games. In the keynote, he shows examples of how Ultima Online (made in 1999) looked most like Ultima 6 (from 1990). However, press allegedly still praised about the game because of the online component. In the next decade, online games and virtual worlds would become a major force in the industry.

Read: Full article at LOGIN News

Why do You Love Ultima and What Makes an Ultima?

WtF Dragon over at Ultima Aiera has expanded on a comment made by an Ultima fan, and is asking for stories about what Ultima means to fans, and what constitutes an Ultima game. It was based on this comment:

I think a thread should be started where we can all tell stories about why we love Ultima. Testimonials, basically, so we can gain greater insight into each other’s understanding and perception of the series, and perhaps in some way begin to understand what we as a collective define Ultima to be.

Good idea or nay? It’s been touched on here and there, myself included, but I’d love to see everyone’s experiences in one place. It’d be hella inspirational and maybe bring us together a bit more. This is a very fractured community at times.

and he went on ask Ultima Aiera visitors this:

So, here’s the deal. If you’re already registered at Aiera and would like to contribute, let me know and I will enable your user account with post-drafting rights. (I’ll still have to approve all the articles, thanks to the WordPress security model, but don’t worry…I’ll publish almost anything!)

If you’re not registered (how come?) and would like to contribute, send me your thoughts via the contact form and I will figure out how to post them under your name.

While Ultima Online has diverged from the original Ultima series a great deal, there have been efforts to bring the original Ultima stories and lore back into UO, and some of those efforts continue up through today, as we look towards the expansion of the Ter Mur storyline from the Stygian Abyss expansion. If you have some thoughts and time, head over there and post them. Even though it’s been many years since we’ve had a true stand-alone Ultima game, if you look through the Ultima Aiera site, you’ll find that people are just as passionate about it today as they were two decades ago, with fan remakes and updates still coming out.

Read the article and comments: Ultima Aiera

Lord British’s New Britannia is Announced

Back in February, Richard Garriott discussed plans for a spiritual successor to Ultima and we now have more details, including the working title you see.

He is actually planning on two games with a focus on social networking. One is called Ultimate Collector, and the other, the one that’s of interest to us, is called Lord British’s New Britannia. The two games were unveiled at this week’s South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, which happens to be Garriott’s home, and where he is seeking funding for both games. Ultima Collector is a social networking game with a TV show tie-in. The other is obviously based on Lord British.

Garriott does own the right to use certain aspects of his past work with Origin, which was sold to EA, namely the Lord British character, and Lord British has appeared in other games outside of the Ultima and Ultima Online series.

Lord British’s New Britannia is not simply an MMO tossed onto a social gaming platform. In Garriott’s words:

the virtual world game is not just an ultra-light MMO shopped on social media. I think that would be a failure.”

Unfortunately, very few details were released.

Full story: Gamasutra