The Madness of Lord British

Oh the wacky things that come out of the mouth of Dr. Richard Allen Garriott de Cayeux!

(Please note/respect his name change)

The first image from the Portalarium site

Now maybe the press is just catching him at the wrong moments, but I am having problems parsing the meanings of his statements of late.  He seems to be all over the map.

About a month ago he was scolding EA and Blizzard for “letting” Zynga have the casual market, which seemed to me to be like scolding Peterbilt for letting Daihatsu beat it in the Kei car market in Japan.  And on thinking about it, since he is all about the whole casual game scene at the moment, he seems to be complaining that EA isn’t in a position to kick him in the ass yet again.

Then he starts talking about his ultimate RPG game, all the while hinting that if only EA would hire him back and give him creative control, (or at least just let him use the name and IP) he could banish elves and ninjas and make the Ultima franchise great again.  But that didn’t sound very casual.

This was followed up by the big interview over at Industry Gamers where, after comparing himself to Tolkien, he goes on to say that gaming consoles are doomed… we MIGHT see one more generation… and that the future is in portable devices, which coincidentally happens to be a platform he is targeting.  At least that seemed to be clearly self-serving in a Bobby Kotick sort of way.  I can grasp that, especially when I recall him saying at GDC 2007 that MMOs were the way to go… because, of course, he was making an MMO. (He’s done with MMOs now.)

On top of that, add in the background noise of one of his manors going up for sale, which includes some stunning amenities, winning his lawsuit with NCsoft, where his last big effort, Tabula Rasa  went live 4 years ago and closed 16 months later, his space faring ventures, which gets played up a lot, the rather limited focus of in his company, Portalarium, with its loathsome twitter feed, the big output from which appears to be online Poker and Blackjack, and how he runs the company via robotic interface… and an appearance with Martha Stewart



…you start to wonder how seriously you should take the guy these days, at least when it comes to computer games.

You cannot take away what he has accomplished.  The Ultima series of games was huge and innovative and influential and in ways remains unmatched to this day.  But even that series seemed to be faltering until Ultima Online came along.  And since then his efforts on the gaming front seem to have dissipated.

Thus while the thought of EA bringing him back and, say, teaming him up with BioWare to produce the ultimate Ultima RPG is a great “What if…” scenario, it seems only just slightly more likely to happen than EA handing Richard Bartle a pile of money to create the ultimate virtual world.

So if he is serious about building his dream RPG, it seems like it will have to be in a land besides Britannia.

All of which still leaves me in kind of a “what the hell?” state of mind.

Would you want to play Mr. Garriott de Cayeux’s ultimate RPG even if it wasn’t set in the lands of Ultima and he had to place himself in game as… I don’t know… Seigneur Cayeux sur Mer?

Would you play it if it was only on Android or iOS?

Would you play it if it involved talking to trees?

Has anybody checked the color of his urine lately?

14 thoughts on “The Madness of Lord British

  1. Sentack

    I really used to admire Mr Garriott back in the days when Ultima was still fresh and UO was the best and most talked about MMO on the market.

    Since then, while I feel like he’s a quite a creative fellow, I think he’s a little too hung up on his Ultima universe. I must agree with the main poster. He needs to start over and create a new fantasy campaign. He doesn’t need to stagnate and reuse the same content he developed over 30 years ago. It’s 2011, time to start fresh. I really wish he would. At least at the time, his games were fairly amusing to play.


  2. Warsyde

    Richard Garriot is one of the great pioneers of RPG computer gaming, but as with many pioneers he doesn’t seem to know what to do now that the wild frontier has become mainstream. I think he’s trying to find new frontiers to be a pioneer in, but is having trouble finding any that really stick for him, and really, the gaming industry as a whole has become so saturated with developers producing everything you can possibly think of that I don’t think he’ll have much luck.

    Like an explorer with nothing left to explore, the world has passed him by while he struggles to find a way to remain relevant.


  3. Carson

    Innovative. Influential. Insane.

    It’s a well-trodden path that plenty of creative people have been down before Lord Dr. de Cayeux, and no doubt plenty more will tread in the future.


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Letrange – It’s blue… but it’s not Kool-aid!

    That last line in the post really, really depends on people having seen and remembered the movie The Madness of King George.


  5. Jay Gischer

    +1 for snark. And yes, I’ve seen TMoKG.

    Richard Garriott should not be trying to pioneer a new frontier, so much as making a game he really, really likes.

    Efforts that begin with the thought, “I’m going to pioneer” rather than “Hey, that would be cool!” are doomed to failure.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Jay – He does look like he could be in the ideal position to make the game he wants to play, the “hey wouldn’t that be cool!” thing.

    But somebody taught him the first rule of Silicon Valley it seems, use other people’s money. And so he has investors in Portalarium to please, since they are paying the bills. One wonders what they were promised as a corporate vision.


  7. Snick

    After reading your post I started making a list in my head of once amazing creatives who have utterly languished (or failed?) in their creativity as the years rolled on. Lucas, Spielberg, Shyamalan, Ridley Scott, John Carpenter and there’s more; once I got started the list kept growing. Dare I say even Terry Gilliam’s efforts have been lackluster since his Brazil hey-day.

    Something happens to creativity in extremely successful people once they crest 50 or so. And while I don’t think it applies to everyone (Kubrick, Cameron) in the entertainment industry I feel it is pretty much the norm to start losing ‘it’ after a certain amount of success.

    I always felt a bit gypped by how the Ultima series turned out, Ultima VI being my all-time, hands-down favorite. Last I checked there were at least five different Ultima remake projects in various stages of activity, some with the effort of a full rewrite, and others with the simple goal of cross-platform emulation of the original games and I seem to recall at least one with the attempt of opening the original game to multi-player support.

    While I never played UO – I heard too much smack about the constant griefing to give it a try – I always wished that Ultima got a serious modernization in a new release if not a bonafide 3D MMO attempt. My only exception to that idea being that studios always tend to do the bogus “200 years later” thing with legacy reboots like Ultima and make some real wacky choices in attempt to access the new, younger market. There’s plenty of examples of that, from Everquest II to Star Wars prequels.

    The hell with that! I want the classic olde English, sprawling landscape with gritty, realistic setting like Dragon Age. Or even what Legend of Grimrock is doing, which reminds me of the original first four Ultima classic dungeon-crawls. Until EA sells off the IP in the next decade, if ever, even then I am not sure I would ever except to see an ‘authentic’ reboot of Ultima. Maybe it’s just best to let Ultima die.

    Whatever the case, I don’t think Dr. de Cayeux has a gargoyle’s chance in Britannia to create another masterpiece before his final flight into the cosmos, regardless the content or premise. Oh well.. C’est la vie!


  8. HarbingerZero


    You seriously think James Cameron is still creative? I think the creative part is limited to picking which Disney movie he is going to plagiarize next.

    I’ve followed Jon Van Caneghem with a similar curiousity. He also seems to be struggling to find a new place in the industry.


  9. saucelah

    You left out the Dr. part of the name. Respect it.


    Krikey on the James Cameron thing. The plot of that Disney movie is older than the (re)discovery of North America, older than Pocahontas herself. There is no such thing as an original plot: between the bible and Greek mythology, most were already covered, and Shakespeare wrapped up the rest . . . by borrowing from older stories and legends and myths just like every other writer. Cameron didn’t steal it from Disney, he stole it from the same cultural storehouse Disney stole it from.

    That’s an incredibly over-simplistic view of “plagiarism” that has nothing to do with what the word actually means and shows a complete unawareness of the history of literature and drama.

    I didn’t even like Avatar all that much. It was ok but didn’t leave me with a need to change my pants like so many I know. But the last criticism I would level was that it was a rip-off as then I would never watch another movie or TV show again — it’s almost impossible to throw a new plot at me.


  10. HarbingerZero


    I wondered who would take the bait and assume I meant Avatar. :-p

    The charge of plagiarism does not have to do with the history of literature and drama. It has to do with the intentionality of the lifting. I agree that every writer borrows from older stories and myths – “the cultural storehouse” (boy and you think I’m being over-simplistic). The question is whether the writer then claims it is an original story, and furthermore, whether they are mistaken or lying about that claim.

    My issue is not that Cameron recycles story ideas, its that he has the brass to continue to claim that these are original ideas of his own with no inspiration from that past that I think you and I both treasure so much …to end this commend with some common ground. (-:


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