Update: Richard Garriott: "Most Game Designers Really Just Suck"

| 21 Mar 2013 11:01
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Garriott thinks the system is failing game designers, by funneling everyone who isn't clearly talented at either programming or art into design instead, leading to "lazy" designers.

"Other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am," Richard "Lord British" Garriott, creator of the Ultima series tells PC Gamer. "What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there's a reason why," Garriott says, going on to explain that he thinks the system is failing would-be game designers.

"It's really hard to go to school to be a good designer," explained Garriott. He thinks that the majority of game designers only fall into the job because they are passionate enough about video games to want to develop them, but don't have any real skills as an artist or programmer. "We're leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they're not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer." He thinks that training options for would-be game designers are much rarer than those options available for artists and programmers.

"And every designer that I work with...I think, frankly, is lazy." Garriott says that for someone to be a "good" game designer, they have to really put in the hard yards like he did when he first started out, something that a lot of modern game designers just aren't willing to do. "They generally say, 'You know, I really like Medal of Honor, but I would have bigger weapons, or I would have more healing packs, or,' you know. They go to make one or two changes to a game they otherwise love versus really sit down and rethink, 'How can I really move the needle here?'"

"I think there's really very few great game designers," he continued, adding Peter Molyneux and Will Wright to his list of good designers. "They clearly exist, but on the whole, I think that the design talent in our industry is dramatically lower than we need, as an industry. It's a very hard skill to learn."

Very provocative words from Lord British, but if anyone is entitled to them, the man who practically invented the computer RPG is. Garriott's latest project, Shroud of the Avatar is currently in the early development stage, after recently reaching its Kickstarter goal.

Source & Image: PC Gamer

Update: A poster identifying himself as Garriott has clarified his comments, claiming that articles posted about them were written with a "sensationalist slant" and that his main point was that game design the hardest, yet most valuable skill in the industry.

"Thanks (NOT!) for the sensational headline! While I appreciate those of you who read the whole thing, to see better the whole context, even still, this article is skewed to make a sensationalist slant. My point was, that game design is the hardest, but also the most valuable skill to build in the industry. That every company lives and dies based on the talent of its game design team, and that as an industry we are not doing so well creating the talent we need in this industry, because educational systems have not caught up in this area as well as programming and art. I was not trying to toot my own horn, rather state that game design is hard. Ah well. :)"

Source (Update): Gamasutra

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90% of everything is crap, there are no more bad game designers than authors or directors. Quality is uncommon, that's why we use "Average" as a synonym for "Mediocre".

So the man responsible for the mutant MMO abortion that was Tabula Rasa is criticising game designers. This somehow smacks of a 42stone man lecturing children on portion control.

Treblaine:
After Update:

Maybe what he said in tone didn't transcribe so well in text. The point is this is his "Shtick" he went by the name Lord British for a while, it's expected for him to make grandiose statements about himself, not in total seriousness. PC gamer magazine is used to this sort of humour, it's where Charlie Brooker started his deadpan writing style.

I can't really fault Escapist for having sensationalist headlines, it's kind of their job, but maybe some context, and I appreciate them adding the update.

I will keep this in mind for the future!

V8 Ninja:
Fair enough. Just remember, Richard; if the design of Shroud Of The Avatar is bad, the internet will never let you live down what you have just said. That includes myself.

I definatly got a whole "John Romero is going to make you his bitch" vibe from this as well, right before Daikatana wound up blewing chunks.

http://www.somethingawful.com/d/game-reviews/daikatana-demo.php

That pretty much covers it.

That said, understand a big differance here is that Lord British is one of the all time great game designers who had a lot more under his belt comparitively speaking than someone like John did. Without him we probably wouldn't have seen video games return the way they did, or see RPGs develop. Innovations Garriot largely pioneered are still pretty much boilerplate for industry game design right now... and the guy made enough money where he not only built himself a couple of crazy mansions where he threw apparently wild theme costume parties, but also was able to afford having himself shot into space.... that DOES put Lord British into a league all his own, and give him some right to talk crap.

That said, whether he succeeds or fails, I think he's right. A lot of what he's said is very similar to what I've said in some of my other posts which have generally gotten negative reception for picking on the game developers rather than just the publishers.

Truthfully I don't think he should have backpedaled, and honestly when the guy who pretty much invented the modern MMO as we know it says something, you should pay attention (and the key term here is "modern", "Ultima Online" was not the first MMO out there, before that we had things like "Meridian 59", "Kesmai", "Club Cairbe", "Dark Sun Online: Crimson Sands" and others, including some very elaborate text-based MUDs, but Richard was the guy who had the vision and skill to put it into the current persistant world scale that we see now, without UO it's doubtful other, now vastly superior MMOs ever would have existed). Ideally I'd love to have seen Richard's statements create some massive shake ups and firings within the game design community, with a lot of people going "you know, these designers we've got do kind of suck and don't do much new" and handing out pink slips while more talented people are sought or trained to replace them, but I doubt it will happen. Mostly all we're likely to see is an industry-wide circling of the wagons (if people even remember this) and people getting ready to counter-attack Lord British, rather than accepting that he does kind of have a valid point, and as gamers we've noticed EXACTLY what he's talking about, with the same games being constantly re-released with a few tweaks here and there.

That said, I do wonder what Richard would say about the designers involved in some of these kickstarter projects like say the "InXile" team who I have my eyes on to pretty much spearhead the return of quality RPGs with "Wasteland 2" and "Tides Of Numinera".

I'd also sort of suggest to Richard that he might want to see about hiring Cleve Blakemore for his design team. They guy managed to stick with a vision of creating an epic single player RPG for 17 years, which he's finally just now producing himself. Seems like attitude-wise he'd probably be a good fit. The lack of success on the "Indiegogo" campaign for the finishing touches (even if the game will come out anyway in May apparently) kind of makes me sad, as does the fact that the guy who did this claims to be employed as a Short Order cook. :P

CrossLOPER:

Quellist:

CrossLOPER:

I am pretty sure he had minimal control over things starting around Pagan since that was when EA took over. They have a habit of wrongly guessing what customers want. Tabula Rasa was an MMO released when WoW was still completely omnipotent; TR didn't stand a chance.

But does he say this? does he come out, hold up his hands and say "yeah, Ultima 8 and 9 were a mess, its really EA's fault but i let down my loyal fans and i'm sorry" no he bangs on about how wonderful he is. The day the guy apologises for how badly he let down his fans is the day i start taking a non-negative interest in him.

That's not how he feels at all:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-12-12-garriott-what-went-wrong-with-tabula-rasa
http://ultimacodex.com/2013/02/richard-garriott-proud-of-ultima-8-and-ultima-9/
http://ultima.wikia.com/wiki/Development_History_of_Ultima_IX

His admitted to mistakes, but states that there were factors beyond his control.

Thank-you, some interesting info there. I knew about the tortured production of U9 but not how he has the gall to be proud of it! Garriot made some spectacularly bad decisions after EA acquired Origin, taking on too many staff, starting too many projects at once. He practically forced EA to reign him in. I'll give him that he apologized for Pagan, but he didn't learn from it. He kept U9 in limbo too long with multiple redesigns just like he did for TR. If he wasn't such an auter and so obsessed with his own percieved genius perhaps he would make better games...

Richard had beautiful laurels thirty years ago, and having played nearly the whole series, I feel he certainly earned them. They're still quite nice because he's been sitting on them for the last twenty.

Okay, I read the update and it certainly isn't as inflammatory as the headline. On the other hand, I'm still sticking to my comment.

I don't see the problem.
A lot of you don't seem to understand the difference between game design and game PRODUCTION.
On paper, Ultima, Fable, and others are BRILLIANT. Then you put them in the machine, and the paper catches on the internal mechanisms and wrinkles, jams, tears a little bit, then we get Ultima 9 and Fable 3.

On the other hand, A LOT of games lately have been incredibly unimaginative and, yes, lazy.

I agree with him, although I don't think Ultima was that fantastic. I used to play it a lot but never finished any of the games, nor really got anywhere in them. I don't know if that's design or me being terrible at them. Probably the latter.

Daystar Clarion:
He's such an amazing game designer, in fact he's so good that I don't actually recall ever playing one of his games.

That's talent right there.

That's because they were obviously too good to be remembered by any mere mortal.

As others have said in various ways - Tell us how you really feel, Lord British.

KriticalKiwi:
As someone who would like to one day work as Designer, I've come across hundreds of courses for art and programming, yet not one for actual game design. I think, in this regard at least, he really has a point.

EXACTLY. Yes, he communicated his point poorly and comes across as a tad arrogant, but this still holds true. It's a field that doesn't get enough attention, and it would be a good idea for the industry/academia to correct this.

In response to Mr. Garriot's response;

It's hard to blame a headline of being "Sensationalist" when the headline in question is basically A DIRECT QUOTE OF WHAT YOU SAID.

A lot does seem to rest on the decisions of the guy who says "So *this* is how it's gonna be."

Pedro The Hutt:

Akalabeth:

Pedro The Hutt:
Well, now I know why I always thought that the plot of Ultima felt like it was written by a high schooler. It's because it was!

Uh, you do know that Ultima IV was one of the first games, if not the first, that wasn't about just killing stuff? But was instead about knowledge and having a high morale character.

I was talking about the plot of Ultima I. And Ultima IV's virtues are at the least a bit weird considering the virtues are pitched by the same guy that kept a princess locked up in a dungeon to keep the location of his time machine a secret. And who gladly let you stab an unarmed jester to get his keys... Seems a bit hypocritical. (Guess it's an accurate representation of Lord British then!)

Well, plot of Ultima I isn't exactly ground breaking no. And the whole progression in the first trilogy is just weird.
A lot of those games at the time where made by random dudes in their basement and sold in zip-lock bags from what I understand.

Though disappointingly this new project sounds like an online multiplayer game unless i'm much mistaken, which is what he detailed in his treatise so . . . can't say I'll be supporting. Maybe should get behind Tides of Numeria though

Akalabeth:

Pedro The Hutt:
Well, now I know why I always thought that the plot of Ultima felt like it was written by a high schooler. It's because it was!

Uh, you do know that Ultima IV was one of the first games, if not the first, that wasn't about just killing stuff? But was instead about knowledge and having a high morale character.

I was talking about the plot of Ultima I. And Ultima IV's virtues are at the least a bit weird considering the virtues are pitched by the same guy that kept a princess locked up in a dungeon to keep the location of his time machine a secret. And who gladly let you stab an unarmed jester to get his keys... Seems a bit hypocritical. (Guess it's an accurate representation of Lord British then!)

Daystar Clarion:
He's such an amazing game designer, in fact he's so good that I don't actually recall ever playing one of his games.

That's talent right there.

Ultima was a pretty mind blowing, inspiring and strong IP. It sold so well he got to build himself a castle and do lots of rather odd things.

Then, things changed. I don't think I played a game of his since... 1995. Yeah, I missed out on gems such as Tabula Rasa.

Doesn't mean he's completely lost it, though. I'm absolutely interested in seeing what he comes up with now. If we're all lucky, it might be brilliant.

If only there were someone with, say, $30 million to blow, knowledge of game design, and the belief that the state of education for game designing who could step up and create classes in game design... To bad there's no one out there like that... Richard Garriott.

Just saying, rather than throwing stones around your glass house, you might instead put your money where your mouth is and try to improve the state of game design education.

Quellist:

CrossLOPER:

Quellist:
*falls off chair laughing* "good game designer?" *splutters*

Oh mr Garriot, what an arrogant dick you are, no doubt fapping away while you remember your old successes, but wait, after those successes were some less liked games, remember? First there was Pagan and wasnt that a fantastic new way to take the series? oh wait, no it wasnt! you turned Ultima into a single player platformer! oh deary me....then there was Ultima "whats a paladin?" IX with its juvenile plot and dialog (i wont blame him for the 3D, i will blame him for the story), sorry bug-ridden mess that it was. Then Tabula Rasa and didnt that set the gaming world alight....oh wait a minute, NO it didnt!

Personally i hope SotA is going to be a trainwreck that only succeeds in Garriots fevered imagination, sorry if thats mean but as far as i am concerned Garriot is so high on the smell of his own crap he's in another dimension and this article proves it.

I am pretty sure he had minimal control over things starting around Pagan since that was when EA took over. They have a habit of wrongly guessing what customers want. Tabula Rasa was an MMO released when WoW was still completely omnipotent; TR didn't stand a chance.

But does he say this? does he come out, hold up his hands and say "yeah, Ultima 8 and 9 were a mess, its really EA's fault but i let down my loyal fans and i'm sorry" no he bangs on about how wonderful he is. The day the guy apologises for how badly he let down his fans is the day i start taking a non-negative interest in him.

That's not how he feels at all:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-12-12-garriott-what-went-wrong-with-tabula-rasa
http://ultimacodex.com/2013/02/richard-garriott-proud-of-ultima-8-and-ultima-9/
http://ultima.wikia.com/wiki/Development_History_of_Ultima_IX

His admitted to mistakes, but states that there were factors beyond his control.

Treblaine:

Uhh, the original quote:

But other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I'm not saying that because I think I'm so brilliant. What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there's a reason why."

Escapist kind of left out the middle part of that quote when they cut it in half. As is standard journalistic practice if you cut a quote in half you don't have to include everything from in between. Even omit an entire sentence.

Changes nothing. He is not brilliant. everyone else is still above them. therefore everyone sucks and he is still better than everyone else.

Strazdas:

Frozengale:
Here's a little bit of clarification from Garriot himself. He posted a rebuttal on Gamasutra's article about this

Richard Garriot:

While I appreciate those of you who read the whole thing, to see better the whole context, even still, this article is skewed to make a sensationalist slant. My point was, that game design is the hardest, but also the most valuable skill to build in the industry. That every company lives and dies based on the talent of its game design team, and that as an industry we are not doing so well creating the talent we need in this industry, because educational systems have not caught up in this area as well as programming and art. I was not trying to toot my own horn, rather state that game design is hard. Ah well. :)

SO he apperently has no logn tern memory and catn even remember what he said in the interview?

Uhh, the original quote:

But other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I'm not saying that because I think I'm so brilliant. What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there's a reason why."

Escapist kind of left out the middle part of that quote when they cut it in half. As is standard journalistic practice if you cut a quote in half you don't have to include everything from in between. Even omit an entire sentence.

See this is what Escapist posted:

"Other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am," Richard "Lord British" Garriott, creator of the Ultima series tells PC Gamer. "What I'm saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there's a reason why," Garriott says, going on to explain that he thinks the system is failing would-be game designers.

Missing out the "brilliant" qualifier, as they are well within their rights, this is all above board, journalistic integrity, everyone does it, yadda yadda yadda.

Escapist DID give a link to the original article, it's the done-thing to click through and give PC gamer the page view for the story that Escapist reported on.

Also, any regular PC Gamer Magazine reader would know Garriott regularly uses hyperbole for humour not narcissism. He didn't go by the name "Lord British" for a long time because he really thought he was and wanted others to believe he was a Lord and Lord of Britain. It's bluster, it's all part of the fun.

If there's any shortcomings with Garriott, it's not with how he describes himself.

After Update:

Maybe what he said in tone didn't transcribe so well in text. The point is this is his "Shtick" he went by the name Lord British for a while, it's expected for him to make grandiose statements about himself, not in total seriousness. PC gamer magazine is used to this sort of humour, it's where Charlie Brooker started his deadpan writing style.

I can't really fault Escapist for having sensationalist headlines, it's kind of their job, but maybe some context, and I appreciate them adding the update.

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