Because my wife has an interest in the obscure collectibles mostly from a medical perspective as an inheritance of her medical training; we also ended up following occasionally the program Oddities on the Science Channel. It is one of those series you watch a bunch in a row on the DVR before moving on. Except for the episode we watched yesterday, that actually got me all excited – which was when a particularly familiar face walked into the little New York City store.
Yes… Mr. Lord British himself showed up!
All Hail To The King!
Yes, here is my inner geek. It hides from reality most of the time, but occasionally it will reveal itself. And this was one of these moments. Because while most people may wonder who Richard Garriott a.k.a. Lord British actually is… there must have been a collection of old-school geeks like me that almost wet themselves.
The reason why I praise the guy here, is because he is probably one of the most influential people in the gaming world of the last 30 years. Because although the concept of role-playing games might have been in table-top RPG’s like Dungeon’s & Dragons – Richard Garriott came up with a more narrative way of creating the role-playing experience, a more natural way. And right now, almost all current blockbuster RPG’s like Skyrim, Dragon Age and Mass Effect are based on the way of playing introduced in concept by Mr. Garriott and his team back at Origin Systems a long time ago.
That the gaming industry became brutal, shows. Origin was immensely successful, and Mr. Garriott also introduced the very first Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) called Ultima Online in the late ’90s.
And Ultima-Online (UO) was again based on the very popular (at that time) Ultima series. What made this series unique was the extensive detail in creating a world out of a fantasy, and have a massive environment controlling the storyline that eventually span over 9 games. True, not all of them were as amazing as the other. But it delivered a huge difference in gaming experience than for example SSI’s Gold Box D&D games, or the Wizardry series.
Don’t get me wrong, both all of those had a huge impact on the gaming world, but Mr. Garriott was able to create the whole concept of epic story telling that was different, and crossed multiple games, that was not yet done before.
Right now it is pretty common, and it evolved into a huge market. For example, based on the concept of UO, Blizzard Entertainment was able to build and exploit the hugely successful ‘World of Warcraft’ MMORPG that grossed $250M in 2005, and is now raking in about $1B annually. Which is one game, for one company. Narrative RPG’s like Mass Effect 3 which sold 2.26 million copies (say on an average of $40 still adds up to $90m) show that this way of presenting games still is hugely successful, even after all that time.
Adventure games, especially graphical ones as introduced by the couple Ken & Roberta Williams in the early ’80s with their software company Sierra On-line, were another benchmark of interactive storytelling, that – sadly – did not last it so much in this time as a popular game type. Although it had its impact on todays games as well, the type of gaming is more now used in indie games (which by the way should not be underestimated) and for a limited base of loyal fans.
My wife had no clue why I got all excited by seeing Richard Garriott in the program, but in the gaming world, which is now one of the top grossing areas of consumer products in the world, he could be considered someone of the same level of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, with the only difference is that his name might not be recognized as much.
Too bad, because although the game boxes of Ultima (even though Ultima Online is still running) might be gathering dust by now, and will not run on most present day computers anymore, Mr. Garriott is still the Lord British of fantasy role-playing.