An interview by Eric Kinkead:
As a game developer, my game development has been greatly influenced by the work of Richard Garriott. When I was young, seeing Ultima III at a local Babbages (computer retail store) was a life changing event for me. I collected newspapper clippings, computer articles, everything I could about Ultima and its creator who went under the alias Lord British. It changed how I fundamentally think about games as an experience. My recent game QuestLord was even born out of my fondness for the dungeons, the expansive outdoor terrains and the interactive NPCs that filled the world of Ultima III.
Recently I was lucky enough to meet Richard Garriott de Cayeux and ask him a few questions about Game development, Houston, Space and a few other ins and outs any fan of his work would should find interesting:
HGD: Your first released game, Akalabeth, was created as a teenager and it was self-published in Ziploc baggies before being released by California Pacific Computer Company. At that young age, did you know that this was a medium you wanted to pioneer?
Richard Garriott: All I knew at that time was that I was compelled to make something with this magical machine. I had no idea how far it would go!
HGD: You had also mentioned that some of the code from Ultima 1 & 2 was originally created in Houston, care to explain more of that?
Richard Garriott: I wrote 28 “D&D” games on my schools “teletype” in Houston. Then my first published game “Akalabeth” and most of Ultima I, were also written in Houston. I did some of that work in Austin as well, when I started to attend UT.
HGD: In many of your games, from Ultima I to Tabula-Rasa, space makes an appearance as part of the theme. Having astronaut Owen Garriot as a father and being surrounded in Houston with the NASA community, did you always feel that space would one day be your destiny?
Richard Garriott: At the age of 13 a NASA doctor told me that my poor eyesight would prevent me from being a NASA astronaut. Having grown up with a father and neighbors who were astronauts, I assumed we would ALL go to space. Thus, I decided to “Start my own space program!” At the age of 13, you don’t realize how hard that will be… it was… but I did!
HGD: Your mission on the ISS was to study and analyze how private citizens could contribute to the success of humans in space. Have you reached more thoughts on this as an experienced private space explorer?
Richard Garriott: I am now a devout believer in the new golden age of space travel that is starting now! The cost of access is about to drop from $250M per shuttle astronaut to something on the order of $25M on the new ships, and potentially $1M in the long term. With this happening, the few millions I made with my time on orbit, could be profitable. When this happens there will be an explosion of activities in space. This will still be justified mostly by science and research, but ultra high end travel as well.
HGD: Much attention seems to be given to the landing of American space crafts. Can you explain what the landing process was like aboard the Russian space craft?
Richard Garriott: A winged craft can land softly, like an airplane. Capsules land with a thud under a parachute, regardless if on land or water. In my case, the Soyuz lands under a parachute on land. Its basically like a car crash at about 30 MPH. You are strapped in tightly and the seat has shock absorbers, so while it’s a big jolt, it’s very safe! And safety is obviously a big priority!
HGD: Going forward you have created a new company, Portalarium. Can you share your goals and aspirations for this new company?
Richard Garriott: I have built a new company for each “grand era” of games. Origin, formed in Houston in 1982, for solo player games, eventually sold to Electronic Arts, Destination Games for Massively Multiplayer, sold to NCsoft, and now Portalarium for social games and the new delivery methods of PC. We believe that we can re-invent games, and for me especially role playing games, in this new era.
HGD: Thank you SO MUCH for your valuable and limited time.
Richard Garriott: My pleasure! Thanks,