March 25, 2013
Lord British: Game Designers Suck
Wow. I’ve seen game evangelists speak out on the quality and quantity of video games for a while, but I’ve never seen a designer open mouth with such harsh words. Richard Garriot seems to think that modern game designers just plain suck, an observation mirrored by decades of terrible game releases and crappy set design. Is he off his rocker? Let’s observe his claims.
Richard Garriot is renowned for his golden years with programming Ultima, an open world fantasy game series originally developed by Origin Systems, Inc. While EA now hold the rights to the series, an Ultima game hasn’t been in development (or mentioned) in the almost three years since the release of Ultima Online: High Seas.
But this has no implication on Garriot’s ability to hold on to a game series. In fact Garriot, who goes by his online name Lord British, has been coding titles such as Lineage, City of Heroes, and City of Villains. He hasn’t developed an Ultima game in over a decade since Ultima IX: Ascension’s release in 1999. Garriot describes modern game designers as ‘Lazy” and exclusive to a single skill when making a game.
Taking from what he mentioned in an interview, Garriot explains by saying that in the gaming industry programmers are the cream of the crop. Ultimately, if you don’t know how to code or lay out the structure of a game’s computer language, than you usually become a designer. Garriot considers this crowd the individuals who have no real skill, but ultimately still love games.
A bit chauvinistic, don’t ya think Garriot?
He describes the ideal game designer as an individual who looks for a challenge; when you’ve found something that works, improve and change it for a sequel. In other words, don’t develop a sequel or add-on for the fact that the game is popular. Garriot regards this as lazy, and thinks that just adding new elements doesn’t necessarily make it a decent game, as opposed to sitting down and asking, “How can I really move the needle here?”
Garriot went on to describe people like Chris Roberts and Peter Molyneux as individuals that he considers equal to his on their skills as game designer. I might be inclined to agree with his selection of Roberts, but Molyneux is a tough one to for me to swallow.
Put simply, I think Molyneux was far too wrapped up in the strategy of the aforementioned ‘Pushing of the needle’ to realize that the enjoyment of the game was soured. For example, the Fable series soared quite well for me after the release of both Fable and its expansion, The Lost Chapters. The sequels that followed were great games on their own, but I thought that its progression with the Industrial Age was far too much movement into the future to appreciate. They piled hundreds of years of story on top of a formula that already worked, effectively burying Avo and Skorm along with the Heroes Guild.
Chris Robert’s development with the Supreme Commander series is legendary. Literally thousands of in game AI’s, all individually behaving on their own accord, topped with great visuals ensures that both games are made to be PC gems, so to speak.
Garriot’s a little late (about six years of annualized Call of Duty releases) to offer any useful feedback. Yes, we’ve all realized that game designers do, in fact, suck.
What do you think of Lord British’s perception of the game industry?
Image Credit: Nikolay Solidcreature / Shutterstock