« NEW RESEARCH: Women and Coding | Main | Armchair Game Designers Piss Me Off »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I find this to be a great picture.. one of his head and a dick.. Twins ????

Dr. Cat

But gee, Stephen, tell us what you *really* think!

Having known Richard since 1983, I don't think his actual opinions are as bad as PC Gamer made him sound. Though there's a good lesson there in "don't say even one or two things like that when talking to the press for a few hours".

I can say it's certainly true that a lot of amazing team members contributed to making Origin's games great. I watched the company evolve from one man products like Ultima 3 (with just a little help on music from Ken Arnold), Caverns of Callisto, etc. to having larger and larger teams over the years. A few people had prominent enough roles to get noticed by the public, like Chuckles, Warren Spector, Raph Koster, even myself to some extent. But other amazing talents from those teams are probably known only to the most diehard fans - John Miles, Glen Johnson, Steve Beeman, Denis Loubet, Dan Bourbonnais, Gary Scott Smith, Martin Galway, Ellen Guon, Marc Shaefgin, The Fat Man, Paul Isaac, Jeff Dee, and hundreds and hundreds more.

I'd rank many of the folks from Origin among the very best I've worked with in my 30 years in the industry, even to this day. I also feel I did some of my best work on games like Ultima V and VI, Savage Empire, and Ultima: Runes of Virtue. If there's one thing I could change, I'd want to see the general public more aware of and appreciative of the contributions of every team member on big triple-A games, not just the lead designer, producer, or creative director.

I know the public often wants one name and face to associate with their favorite hits, whether they're games, books, movies, songs, or whatever. At most two or three names. So game companies aren't totally to blame for fostering that "star" perception. And certainly some of our best designers like Sigeru Miyamoto or Sid Meier do an amazing amount to make games both fun and commercially successful. At the same time, you see exceptional designers like Brian Reynolds come into their own after working on a few major Sid Meier games. And I have to think the public assumes all the quality and fun came from Sid, where a lot of it must have been the result of Brian's work on those titles.

At my little independent company (Dragon's Eye Productions), we try to not only promote ALL the talent on our team, but encourage them to interact with our community in the game, in our forums, live video streaming, etc. as much as they can. But I know I can do this because we're "indies", and it'll always be an uphill struggle to get larger companies to do anything of the kind. I was working a couple years ago on a top-10 Facebook game, where they could have prominently posted "Game designed by John Romero and Brenda Brathwaite". Instead, the game credits were only put in as a hidden easter egg that most players would never see, after the company execs were talked into at least that much.

I do agree with Richard that good game designers are hard to find, and there aren't enough yet to fully cover the number of great games the public would like to see made each year. But even the ones we do have, the public needs to be more aware of, and the industry sometimes needs to make better use of their abilities. The constant stampede of new platforms have often made art skills and programming skills disproportionately valued in relation to "make sure the game's FUN, guys". We're still a few hundred thousand programmers short of meeting America's demand, which keeps my skills at that profession more sought after than whatever game design experience and talent I may have.

I would like to see more education in the field, sure. But we face the twin barriers of it not being taken seriously by a lot of the public - we're like cartoons, comics, candy and toys, right? Just frivolous stuff for kids. And the barrier of "how do you find enough instructors to teach it well, when there's a limited number of people who know the field sufficently to teach it"? That's just going to have to keep bootstrapping for a couple more generations.

Stephen Nichols

All valid points, Dr. Cat.

I think statements like "I think most designers really just suck" aren't being taken out of context. The comment stands alone, regardless of context. Unless, of course, the context was something like: "This is something I'd never say." It's a shitty attitude in my opinion.

Sure, "great" designers are hard to find. So are great programmers or great audio guys. Superstars are rare, thus making them superstars.

Great games come from average developers and superstars alike. And by great I mean profitable games that lots of people enjoy.

This high horsing is just bullshit. I'm also betting that his retraction was posted under pressure from others. But that's just my guess.

Virus Removal

Lets be honest, Garriott had a big head coming off the kickstarter campaign and then showed his true colors and let the world know he thinks he is the man and everyone else sucks.

"I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am."

REALLY! After Tabula Rasa he still thinks this? What a tool.

Nerdy Gamer

I agree that Richard's comments were a little harsh, but none the less I am excited to see Portalarium's release: Shroud of the Avatar.

Pretty much every MMO I have played in the last 10 years has just plane sucked.

Played The Realm Online since 96' and can't bring my self to cancel that stupid account. The same goes for Ultima Online... played it since 97' and I can't bring my self to cancel that stupid account.

I guess what I am trying to say is both of you guy's have contributed awesome games, and I look forward to either one of you developing a successful title. For the PC and not a phone or tablet =p

P.s. WTF happened to Dungeon Runners?

Stephen Nichols

I'm excited to see what happens with Shroud of the Avatar too. Just because I think Richard was way out of line on his game designer comments doesn't preclude me from loving his work and wanting to see his next game. I hope it's amazingly successful!

Glad to see that you like our old school games. You clearly have a soft spot for gaming antiquity. :)

I could write a bunch about what happened to Dungeon Runners. The short story is that it wasn't profitable enough for NCsoft to keep alive. So it was shot in the head.


For starts, the design is the second (the first comes later in this post) most important part of any game. If you have no design, you have nothing for the rest of the teams to do.

That's really a no-brainer.

I think all of the people who are offended and up in arms are just not really confident in their work. RGs statement comes off as a challenge, to me.

Stop sucking. Make the DUDE THAT CREATED COMPUTER RPGS proud of your effort.

The current state of gaming really backs up what he's said, anyway. Most new games I blow money on are complete crap and make me wonder why I even paid for the game.

RG is an excellent game designer. Yes, some things flopped.

However, this is PART of being a designer. You don't always do the best. What makes him so great though, is that he will admit mistakes.

There are some game designers out there who, when confronted with a "dude your game sucks!" just go "NO, YOU SUCK! MY GAME IS AWESOME!".

RG always took into account his hate mail, and used it to improve the next game. He's doing that now with SOTA. Valuing player input is important.

The players are the first most important part of any game. Listen to them, and plan for them.

A lot of game designers are lazy. They really are. Going with what worked before, what's "safe", and what will "make you money", or whatever, is fairly lazy.

Eventually, that stuff stops working and you have to bust your ass to do something groundbreaking again.

Stephen Nichols

Thanks for your post, Arkhan. Although you may find me to be less polite here on my own blog rather on Facebook. Let the poster beware!

First off, Richard didn't invent computer RPGs. Computer RPGs existed nearly 10 years before Akalabeth. Learn your history: http://www.armchairarcade.com/neo/node/1081

But put that aside for now.

I've been making computer games professionally for 22 years. Don't presume to tell me what you think the importance of game design is. I design games. I program them. I know the relative value of the various disciplines. They are pretty much equivalent. If you disagree with me, you're wrong.

RG is a creative director. A damn good one too. Not a game designer as I define it. But, hey, what do I know?

Part of being a professional is to make mistakes and learn from them. Agreed! It's not to verbally disparage virtually all other game developers in the world. That's not cool. Then to blame it on context. It's a dick move.

Players are the most important. I agree! I learned that lesson over 15 years ago when I was making The Realm Online. Yes, yes. All well and good to keep your customers happy. Any business owner understands this!

Unless you've actually worked on a video game and shipped it you have no clue what you're talking about when it comes to innovation. Companies make what customers will buy. End of story.

Indie games break the mold. Most are dismal failures commercially. Some are awesome and start a new commercial exploitation cycle. That's business. Not lazy designers.

Please check your facts and learn something about game development before posting here. You're embarrassing yourself.

Nerdy Gamer

Stephen -

I saw a post on your site with a sprite that you were explaining a graphical problem you were having and you referenced it to an MMO you were working on...

What platform are you developing it for?

Arkhan -

I played a game that Stephen was the developer on, and it was pretty much the first graphical MMO that I can remember. That's pretty fucking ground breaking if you ask me. Yeah it was buggy, but the most fun I have ever had playing an online game hands down.

He had a huge presence with the community... Here we are 17 years later (or maybe 17 years in June) and people still talk about him like he's the messiah that will one day purchase the game back and fix everything Codemaster's and Norseman screwed up.

Stephen Nichols

Ahh, yes, that's "Heroes of Evermore." http://www.heroesofevermore.com

It's an MMO we've been working off and on for a while now. Took a break working on it to poop out Udder Destruction. Hopefully we can get back to it one day.

Nerdy Gamer

Cool - I will start blowing those forums up. Seems a little dead at the moment =p

I'm sure all you need is a few people asking when the hell they will get to see something more.


Great article, Stephen! I had to be careful and omit the thumbnail on FB though...

I had actually pledged to SOTA at first, but I retracted it a day or so before they hit their goal. The primary reason was financial; I decided I didn't really want to drop that kind of money on it and then wait 18 months (or more) to see the results.

RG's comments to PC Gamer, though, definitely didn't make me regret doing so. Someone needs to remind him that humility, not pride, is a virtue. I hope SOTA is a success, but I think he'd have been better off starting with a smaller-scope project to re-establish his credentials... Tabula Rasa and Ultima's 8 and 9 really damaged his reputation.

Stephen Nichols

Thanks for the kind words. :)

Yeah, I'm concerned that Portalarium may not be able to meet their 1 year 7 month delivery date. Controlling scope is a huge problem. If they can do that then they have a good chance of pulling it off.

I'm rooting for them! Even though Richard's comments were shitty, I'm rooting for them. The project is much bigger than Richard.


Why change your politeness based off where you post? That's lame. :)

As for the history lesson. Sure, you can split hairs and bring up those games, which I am in fact aware of, and have been for quite awhile now, given the fact I grew up dicking around with the C64 scene and happened across all of this stuff that predates even that stuff. It's a shame I couldn't play some of them. I did play Oubliette for C64, and it's alright. Nothing to write home about, but, it's OK.

However, the CRPG as we know it wasn't a result of those games. Akalabeth was. It led to Ultima, which led to a lot of things. I'd hardly say Questron or Legacy of the Ancients was inspired by a game like dnd or Moria or whatever.

So, my statement stands.

Not to mention, I'm sure a bunch of cavemen bashed out a bunch of things before one of them finally invented the wheel as we know it today. Sure, the other ones probably rolled, but they weren't very good. It's a simple matter of timing.

Heck, your link even mentions Telengard, which came out after Akalabeth and is significantly less good, based off the boxed C64 version I have sitting here. That's the direct result of what you linked, and it's nothing like Akalabeth or the Ultima series, or any CRPGs really. The closest you might get is Wizardry, which came out after Akalabeth and Ultima 1... and as much as I like them, the Wizardry games are hardly very elaborate when stuck next to Ultima.

"I've been making computer games professionally for 22 years. Don't presume to tell me what you think the importance of game design is. I design games. I program them. I know the relative value of the various disciplines. They are pretty much equivalent. If you disagree with me, you're wrong."

Wrong based off of your definition. Your definition is not the only definition. I always get a laugh when I encounter people who do this. "My self generated definition is correct. Everyone else is wrong because I said so!". C'mon. Get real, dude.

As far as I am concerned, without a game design, you have nothing to program. You have nothing to draw. No music to compose. You have nothing to do except hamfist something together and go I MAED A GAEm!!!1!1

In 22 years, I would've assumed you'd have picked up on that. What do you do if you have no design, in just about any field? You do nothing.

Also, I don't accept "I've been doing this forever" as an automatic license to assert an opinion.

Plenty of old-timers have proven to do some incorrect things. This includes telling everyone else that their opinions are wrong unless they're in agreement with them.

"RG is a creative director. A damn good one too. Not a game designer as I define it. But, hey, what do I know?"

Well, given your last statement, you're right and all who disagree are wrong. So, I think you think you know everything.

However, to say RG isn't a game designer because of your own custom definition of the term is a bit comical.

"Part of being a professional is to make mistakes and learn from them. Agreed! It's not to verbally disparage virtually all other game developers in the world. That's not cool. Then to blame it on context. It's a dick move."

It says "your code sucks. Get wise." at the top of your blog. You are essentially telling all readers who are programmers that their work sucks. What's the difference? That's not professional either, is it? Neither is calling someone out by name and saying they are full of shit.

Especially when that person didn't use any specific names.

"Unless you've actually worked on a video game and shipped it you have no clue what you're talking about when it comes to innovation. Companies make what customers will buy. End of story."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to talk about innovation. The players are your best source for discussing what they think is innovative, considering they are the ones buying/playing it.

and, FWIW, I've worked on and shipped two games. They're nothing major, but I still did it. I've also helped on others. So, *shrug*.

"Indie games break the mold. Most are dismal failures commercially. Some are awesome and start a new commercial exploitation cycle. That's business. Not lazy designers."

It takes non-lazy-designers to break the mold. If the mold isn't being broken, people are being lazy.

"Please check your facts and learn something about game development before posting here. You're embarrassing yourself."

What facts? Real ones, convenient ones, or ones you make up?

I'm hardly concerned with embarrassing myself here, especially when an over assuming know it all is the one stating it.


Stephen Nichols

So, I've done a little research on you tonight. You seem to be "Andrew Darovich." I get this idea from your cross-posting of this info on Facebook and here. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I checked out your games at Aetherbyte. Not too shabby. I'm digging the retro look. Definitely not state of the art, or all that complicated, but not too shabby either. Kudos for that work! :)

So, what puzzles me even more is that someone who has developed a game would make the determination that design is the most valuable skill. Methinks that you're a Garriott fanboy.

But, let's go with your argument for a moment. This'll be fun!

You say that non-lazy designers break the mold. You go on to say that if the mold isn't broken then people are being lazy.

This amazes me coming from someone who is rehashing old game ideas from the 80s. Cool as that is, it's certainly not "breaking the mold." Would you call your team lazy? Just wondering. If so, I wonder how they'd feel about that.

You said: "As far as I am concerned, without a game design, you have nothing to program."

That's obvious. Bravo for making an obvious point. Without a game idea you can't make a game.

So, since you've mastered that obvious fact, why can't you also understand that without programming the design wouldn't advance beyond the idea stage? Ideas aren't video games. Please show me a video game that exists without coding. I'm guessing that you won't come up with much.

Surely this dependency is clear to you. As is the dependency on testing, marketing, art and sound. If not, please help me see why that is.

I'll also take a moment and respond to your assertion that I'm doing the same thing that Garriott is with my blog here. My, oh my, I can't disagree more.

Saying "your code sucks" isn't the same as "you suck." Take a moment and reflect on why that is. It may be hard, but try to. One can be a good programmer that writes suck-ass code. I know I've written plenty of suck-ass code. I'm somewhat of an authority on code suckage. That doesn't make me a sucky coder. It just means that my code sucks on occasion.

Consider this link to my first post here: http://www.codingwisdom.com/codingwisdom/2012/09/yes-your-code-sucks.html

My favorite part is where I explain the point of this blog:

"I started this blog to impart my coding wisdom to you. My code has sucked in every way possible. Learn from my mistakes and leapfrog your way to better coding habits. Or don't. Hell if I care. Just think of me (and this blog) as your own personal Master Kan. Use it to master your craft."

My code sucks just like yours does. Don't take it as an insult, it's just a fact. Realizing that your code sucks is the first step to constant improvement. Ignore that at your peril!

Looking at that same post, you might take this quote and throw it back at me:

"It's a rare day when I meet a coder with similar levels of skill. Maybe I just need to get out more. I don't know. But, for whatever reason, there's just not that many coders out there that can match wits with me. Hey, I'm okay with that because it makes finding work that much easier for me."

Yeah, that sure sounds like a similar statement to Richard's. Can't disagree too much there. Except I'm actually a coder where Richard isn't a game designer. So, I take exception to his claims outright.

The biggest difference though is that I'm generally targeting the work and not the person. That's the distinction. Yeah, your code sucks but you're probably a good coder. I'd never say "I'm the best coder in the world" or "My code is perfect" or "You're a lazy person because you don't push the code architecture envelope."

Richard isn't a game designer in my opinion. He's a creative director that works at a very high level. That's an important job but it's not game design.

Anyway, I could prattle on and on about this. I'll stop now because I'd rather play a Dota game with my kids.

Take care and good job on your games!

Joshua Grant

I am going to try and keep in mind that, "...If I disagree with you I'm wrong."

Premis 1:
You conveniently left out the early Ultima games, which were great. Those were created primarily by Richard Garriott and were revolutionary. Garriott probably is not the "best" designer, but you admitted he is a great one. I am interested to know what the criteria is to be the "best" game designer. Thus, his comment that most game designers suck is indeed valid. I'm not sure about you, but when I think their argument is "full of shit" there is no basis from which it is built upon. NCSoft pushed most of the buttons for Tabula Rasa and released it before it was ready.

Premis 2:
I can actually agree with part of this, a game is created by a team. Absolutely.

Premis 3:
Absolutely, game designers are not lazy. I also didn't see anywhere where Garriott said that. He simply said most game designers suck.

I can agree that most game designers suck. It has been a long time since I have seen an innovative game, especially on the level of the original Ultima series. The fact is Ultima Online established an entire new genre. Before you say, "WELL, there was 'X,Y, and Z before that..." No, there wasn't...

There were MUDs, absolutely. But, a MUD is vastly different than an MMORPG. A graphical MMORPG on the level of Ultima Online was truly revolutionary. I admit I do not know whether Garriott designed or created the idea for that game, but it spawned an offspring of games and is a large part of the current revenue for the video game market to this day.

I have never worked for Richard Garriott, but I think he is entitled to some of what he says. The amount of innovation required to create games like Ultima Online doesn't happen very often. In my opinion, that alone puts Garriott on par with people like J.R.R. Tolkien who was vital to the fantasy genre of literature.

Stephen Nichols

A few things:

1. You can't spell "premise." Thus your argument is invalid.

2. Richard didn't design "Ultima Online." Raph Koster was the main man there to my knowledge. Shame on you for being so ignorant.

3. You obviously can't read. Richard clearly said that most game designers were lazy. Here's the quote again for you: "every designer that I work with -- all throughout life -- I think, frankly, is lazy."

Richard is entitled to say whatever he wants. But that doesn't make him right! Most designers aren't lazy. He's not the best designer in the world. And he didn't invent the computer RPG.

He's a great creative director and front man. But, in my experience, he's not a designer. He should be ashamed of himself for shitting on all the developers that have worked with him over the years like that.




i think these old CAVEMAN rpg games are great !!!F**K all the new sh*t with the fancy graphics and sounds an d sh(t


This game is quite bad in many aspects. Bad graphics, non-existent gameplay, constant delays due to unskilled development team, and terrible combat system. Maybe Richard Garriot, who spent 30 million dollars on travel to a space station, should invest in his own game instead of selling house lots to his fans to fund the game.



Design, design and design... design is law! sucked it down! duuuude!

Richard Garriott is living his John Romero moment, but he is not stupid enough to burn his own company, like Romero, destroying 100+ millions dollars years ago.

I like Garriott, he is just old and need a lot of pills.

Now, Romero sux, he is an arrogant liar for nature.

The comments to this entry are closed.