Lord British has a Great Fondness for EA

“I have a great fondness for Electronic Arts – I still think they’re one of the best, most powerful and competent sales and marketing and distribution companies in the business.”

Dr. Richard A. Garriott de Cayeux at EuroGamer

You will note that he doesn’t say anywhere that interview that EA can make a decent game.

In yet another interview over at EuroGamer (is that the only gaming site that will talk to him lately, or does he just have a “great fondness” for them as well?), Garriott de Cayeux continues to pour out his man-love for Electronic Arts in the hope that they will work with him by letting him use the Ultima franchise for his Ultimate RPG.

The sign of the Ultimate Ultima?

And, well, I am already two posts into this story, so why not carry on quoting for truth I guess.  I am sure that this will all seem worthwhile when I sum it up again in a year.

Unfortunately, according to Garriott de Cayeux, not everybody at EA is happy to see him.

“Electronic Arts is a big company,” he said. “There are some parts of the organisation that would love and embrace and clearly understand the logic of ‘wouldn’t it be great to work together on an Ultima’.

“And then there are other parts of the organisation who – I’m actually not sure where the resistance comes from, but it must be people who either have their own ideas about where the product should go, or have their own ideas about whether or nor I should be involved in it. And I don’t know where the counter-forces come from.

“So far we’ve not put a deal together, but of course, yeah, I would be very open to it.”

Ah well, life in the big leagues.  I am going to guess that maybe EA thinks that they have some RPG muscle in their BioWare division.

Still, EA is not the critical ingredient in this project.

“What essentially makes an Ultima an Ultima is the principles of design,” Garriott explained. “And I’m very confident that when players sit down with this new world they will very quickly recognise that, whether or not we end up doing any deal with Electronic Arts.

“This is clearly the spiritual successor of the Ultima series,” he said.

I do have to admit that his message is a bit more focused of late after recently spending some time all over the map.  I don’t know who reigned him in, but good job on that!

Anyway, the interview goes on speak of a Minecraft-like development process, getting the game into the hands of players as soon as possible, being platform agnostic, and allowing for both synchronous and asynchronous player interaction.

Now if they could just hook up an RSS feed on the Portalarium site so I would get notifications automatically, all would be right with the world.

5 thoughts on “Lord British has a Great Fondness for EA

  1. Stabs

    He’s being rather silly. If EA decide to sue him for breaching Ultima copyright when he produces his game he’s given their legal team a lot of ammo. He’s clearly implying he will be making another Ultima game and he does not own the IP.

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  2. Snick

    That’s interesting, because he / Origin was anything but fond of EA prior to the sale. I guess millions of $ and a trip to space will make anyone change their tune. From the wikipedia entry on Ultima VII:

    “Elements of Ultima VII are inspired by game creator Origin Systems’ conflicts with competitor (and later owner) Electronic Arts. Origin Systems’ corporate slogan was ‘We Create Worlds’, while the main antagonist of the story – The Guardian – is presented as a ‘Destroyer of Worlds’. The three evil ‘Generators’ created by The Guardian in the game took the physical shapes of the contemporary Electronic Arts Logo: a cube, a sphere, and a tetrahedron. Elizabeth and Abraham, two apparently benevolent characters who later turn out to be murderers, have the initials “E” and “A”.”

    In the 2007 source article that quote is from, Lord British sort of gives props to EA saying: “There are people at EA to this day who I respect either as brilliant or at least well-intentioned.” And then proceeds to list the people he had conflict with at EA. Funny guy.

    At any rate, it is hard to be sure exactly what IP was transferred with the sale of Origin to EA. It is not uncommon for authors to retain rights to use ‘creative’ property and just sell off the technology and pre-existing content rights. I am pretty certain Garriott retained the use of his pseudonym Lord British, although he largely stopped using it after his departure. So it’s not inconceivable he retained usage of other characters, place names, and possibly even the name Ultima itself, although I bet EA gets first refusal as publisher and/or percentage of royalties if he ever tries to profit from it again. No doubt that deal flows both ways; if EA decides to ever profit from the Ultima line, I am sure Garriott gets a cut. This is a very common if not defacto practice in the publishing industry at large.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Well, I am guessing that if he is praising their sales, marketing, and distribution as competent and powerful, he probably needs something from EA to do what he wants.

    Meanwhile, I would have to guess that the rights to software and intellectual property was vested in Origin not with Lord British, and thus became part of EA when they scooped it up. That is the way it tends to work in software, even with founders. Once you incorporate, that stuff belongs to the company, and goes with the company when it has been bought. I’ve been through a series of such acquisitions. In fact, if my experience is any indication, Origin might still be a legal entity due to contracts and the like. My old company, 4 acquisitions in since 1999, is still a legal entity and contracts were getting signed on that “paper” until the day they shoved me out the door.

    Anyway, the saga goes on.

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  4. Snick

    That makes sense. Which means Chuck Bueche and Owen Garriott among others, would also benefit from any new Origin works revival, unless they sold their interest off years ago.

    These guys were my heroes back in the 80’s – I had most of their PC game ports, they were but a state away in Manchester NH at the time and even directly refunded an Ultima III purchase that would not run on my LeadingEdge ‘compatible’ PC because of arcane copy protection that required the authentic IBM PC disk controller.

    It’s almost ironic that the game that doomed the Origin label, Ultima IX, was one of the funnest Ultima’s I almost finished, but didn’t because of the bugs. Me and my girlfriend at the time had a blast with that one, and I remember thinking “this should be multiplayer!” at the same time Everquest was debuting. It had arguably superior graphics for the time, but just like many games then, was released ahead of schedule with insufficient testing and doomed the francise. Say What?

    Still, I would truly love to see a genuine Ultima remake, MMO or single player – I don’t care! especially if helmed by the big LB.

    Maybe he’ll throw us a decent astral plane, at least something better than Ambrosia.

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  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    I’d forgotten about that Ultima VII thing. But it wasn’t like Lord British didn’t go after other people. As I mentioned in a previous post, he went after the Wizardry duo in Ultima III because they copy protected their software.

    Then Origin changed its mind and started copy protecting their own software, including the all time classic dick move, the empty sector trick. If you copied the disk and the sector got filled in, the game would still play, but you would lose every fight. A pity they didn’t tell their partners, who duplicated and shipped a bunch of “no win” copies of the game in Europe. Nice!

    In the end, I hope this isn’t all talk. I’d like to see something in the vein of Ultima. But we’ll see.

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