The “Ultimate RPG” – Again?

A screenshot taken from my recent adventures in Ultima Online.

The consensus seems to be that Dr. Richard Garriott has lost his marbles.   Some call(ed) him the father of online gaming.  Some only know him for the failure of Tabula Rasa.  Some know him as Lord British, the creator of one of best (if not the ultimate) massively multiplayer online role playing games.  Despite thinking he may have been replaced by some alien (hence his reasons for wanting to go into space), I feel some loyalty to him; some inexplicable duty to respect him, to tip my hat, and to pay attention when he actually writes something that makes sense.

I read Richard Garriott’s ‘Ultimate RPG Definednovel biography article.  He basically walks the reader through the history of Ultima.  Throughout the piece are these nuggets of wisdom that read like a list of ingredients for what makes the ultimate RPG.  Some of them are out there; actually, some of them are crazy and made me chuckle.  But some of them are truisms and some are statements that I believe are not given enough thought from the industry at large.

I’ve included almost all of them below.  Read on!

Graphic style is not the essential element of an Ultimate RPG.

Participating in the world alongside you, is a valuable part of an Ultimate RPG.

Detailed world interactions are part of the essence of Ultimate RPG.

Cultural history, unique languages and writing are part of the Ultimate RPG.

The Ultimate RPG can live in many worlds and settings.

Physical game components can deeply enrich a virtual world.

Connecting with the audience is essential in crafting the Ultimate RPG.

Living and playing through detailed realistic worlds with stories about virtue and social issues, became the central essence of my Ultimate RPG.

Holding a mirror up to yourself is part of an Ultimate RPG.

Fiction supporting your journey from Earth to the new world is part of The Ultimate RPG.

An original deep and consistent world is a critical part of the Ultimate RPG.

Logically constructed internally consistent fiction is part of an Ultimate RPG.

Multiplayer is desirable and very challenging in any Ultimate RPG.

Yet I remain convinced, the Ultimate RPG can be made in the MMO medium.

Most MMOs, like most solo player games, are not Ultimate RPGs, they have devolved into level grinds in beautiful but generic fantasy or sci-fi settings. While sales may be great, the Ultimate RPG is far from these examples.

Overused, irrelevant & reused RPG elements are not the essence of my Ultimate RPG.

It is clear to me that I, Richard Garriott, am an essential ingredient of at least the Ultimate Ultima, if not more broadly the Ultimate RPG.

Reading the list went something like this for me: “Amen! mmhmm! Yep! Uh huh.  Right on! … urr .. okay I can see that … what the… *sideways look*.”

The last point on that list is how Garriott essentially turned the whole thing into his leverage to get back into the game, so to speak.  He wants to try again.  He wants to make the Ultimate RPG.  He concludes by saying:

Lord British’s Ultimate Role Playing Game, which may be called “Akalabeth” or may be called “New Britannia” or may be called “a name I cannot yet say as it describes the setting I am considering and think I should keep secret at least until I know if it’s likely true,” will be an Ultimate RPG. You will have customized Avatar homesteads and real roles to play in a deep, beautifully realized highly interactive virtual world. It will have virtues and the hero’s journey reflected back to the player. It will have the best of synchronous and asynchronous features in use. Fiction will support your arrival from earth into this new world. I even hope to make maps, coins and other trinkets available to players of the game.

Come play with us in the brave new world. Help us grow it. Teach us about what you have learned in your years of playing.

Yes, m’Lord.  Ahem, I mean.  Okay, I’m willing to give it a shot.  Why not?  I respect Ultima Online for what it was — before Garriott was tossed out and Ninjas were added.  I recently went back to UO and felt the same burning passion I have for the true virtual world.  I may not swear fealty to Lord British, but I am loyal to the idea and will answer his call.

[Thanks to The Merovingian for showing me the article.]

  • “I may not swear fealty to Lord British, but I am loyal to the idea and will answer his call.”

    If you don’t swear fealty to him, does that mean you reserve the right to gank him if he appears at an in-game event and forgets to turn on his GM invulnerability? Hoho!

  • Good find, great write-up. I really feel like the MMORPG genre (and its RPG mother) is at a turning point. We see the flop that is/was SWTOR, declining WoW numbers… the fanfare for Skyrim, Amalur joining the mix… Pathfinder MMO (mini-multiplayer online =P), GW2…
    Mini-ramble complete: good find, great write-up, as said at ze top.

  • I really miss UO. It was a living breathing virtual world and virtual society that I haven’t experienced since. The players in UO did a great job of creating a unique society on each shard. I hope one day we get another mmo that can allow for the player base to create that again.

  • I didn’t find any of those points to be too bad, in fact I agreed with them all, except the last one.
    such egotistical BS quickly turned me off the fellow

  • I personally remember him mostly for making some of the best single-player RPGs of their times.

    I wonder whether his more limited media coverage during that time might’ve been a good thing. He sounds more and more like John Romero from the time he ran the infamous magazine ad. Trying to make us all his bitch. And we all know how _that_ ended… not with “sucking it down”.

  • From what I have heard, Richard Garriot might have gone insane…his last statement would support that…

    Most of his statements seem to be naturally true and arent anything new or exciting. A bunch of them are too vague to get excited about. The most important statement may be this one:

    “Most MMOs, like most solo player games, are not Ultimate RPGs, they have devolved into level grinds in beautiful but generic fantasy or sci-fi settings. While sales may be great, the Ultimate RPG is far from these examples”

    Despite all of this – if he makes another run at an ultimate RPG – sign me up.

  • Glad I got you interested in that article, Keen 🙂

    Yeah, it’s the same old arrogant (but rightfully so? maybe…) Lord British writing, but I think he still got many things right.

    And about “who is Garriott”… I know him from way before UO, when he was a pioneer in computer RPGs, and was making AWESOME games. Many of the games we enjoy today (Skyrim, etc…) have their roots in Garriott’s work on the Ultima series.

    So yes… while I don’t hold my breath, I will be watching this closely. Because a MMORPG with the “Lord British” signature is definitely something worth attention. Now I really wish the idiots at Electronics Arts would agree to make Ultima Online 2.

  • It would be nice if he explained how he plans to avoid the pitfalls that beset him in his last ultimate game attempt TR, which failed. I like TR a lot, but it was incomplete/broken.

  • TR failed but in a lot of ways it was a better and more interesting game than a lot of what has come out recently.

    There were a lot of unique concepts and different things to do. I could spend hours just taking and defending bases over and over, regardless of the loot or xp.

    What is amazing is how radically different the final TR was from some of the early gameplay videos. They pretty much started over from scratch at some point. I’d like to see what TR could have been if they’d worked on it from the beginning like that and actually finished/polished it.

  • TR was actually a fun mmo to play. Can’t say that about very many any more. Too bad they didn’t finish it, from about lvl 35 on the content got thinner and thinner.

  • UO was and likely will be my favorite game ever. The sense of freedom, exploration, danger and achievement has never been properly duplicated. Some games have improved on certain aspects, but NO game has successful encompassed everything UO did right, and even some of the things they did wrong.

    Their crafting and housing system has not been successfully duplicated since. Which is a crying shame.

    I am hoping the failure of SWTOR, which make no doubt has already failed, will be a lesson for devs. People don’t want cookie cutter quest grinds. There are a zillion of those out there today, one of which is called something like WoW.

    Create something with real freedom. Where players establish the rules, via pvp, set pricing, with crafted equipment that is as good as drops, and play together not just solo.

    I had more fun sparing with guildies in UO than I did grinding boars, no joke!

  • I agree with the TR love of certain aspects of the game. I felt I could always log in and get an adrenaline rush by defending a base. Their use of the progressively building kill bonus meter was brilliant; I always was frenetically running around looking for another evil-doer to tag before my meter ran out. Also I liked their use of cloned characters that allowed for different character progression. Unfortunately I played a broken class, the Biotechnician…

  • Have you ppl checked out Mortal Online? Worth a try atleast. They have a free trial.