If he weren’t so busy peddling his new Kickstarter campaign for Shroud of the Avatar, a romp that harkens back to his golden era, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who Richard Garriott is. A recent space tourist and arguably the creator of the computer RPG with the Ultima series, Garriott’s been pretty quiet on the games front since he left EA, Origin – the company he founded – and Ultima over a decade ago. His only major title in the interim was Tabula Rasa, an ambitious, but unwieldy MMO that served as a crown jewel in NCSoft’s Korean MMO invasion of America. It was shut down within a year and a half. So why is this Garriott guy talking so much smack about game designers? Because, well, he’s right.
In a recent interview with PC Gamer, Garriott showed off a number of relics from his late teens and early twenties, back when he was busy creating the first Ultima games with design documents hand scratched across a series of notepads. When he wasn’t busy praising how excellent he was (and still is, apparently), he explained the role of a game designer in those days was that of the multi-hyphenate, in that you programmed, you did the art for, you did the packaging, so on. His logic has a few big holes: Garriott failed to mention the indie developers that do pretty much that same thing nor the fact that many games don’t need to be exquisitely-crafted and extremely complex role-playing games.
That said, the idea of a game designer as someone who’s merely framing shots and issuing broad strokes, unable to write a line of code or composite an image in Photoshop, is a frightening one. While the game may end up being similar to his ideal, Garriott knows that in handing off many design decisions off to the actual programmers or artists, the role of the game designer is diminished to a cute and important-sounding title. In listing off good designers like Molyneux or Will Wright, Garriott reminds me of my favorite era in PC gaming, the mid-nineties, a time when designers thought really really hard about what went into their games, delivering titles that were incredibly clever (think: X-COM: UFO Defense, Dungeon Keeper, so on) that were satisfying on a variety of levels, rather than being mere six-hour thrill rides.
That doesn’t mean Shroud of the Avatar gets an automatic passing grade, though. You still have to work for that one, Garriott.
Source: PC Gamer