Once, long ago in the history of the blog, I wrote a post about how people seemed to be picking on Richard “Lord British” Garriot de Cayeux, largely because the fashion at the time seemed to be to use the silly space suit picture of him whenever he came up in a news cycle.
Of course, he seemed to be headed towards self-parody with his own photographic choices, like this image used on his Portalarium site
I cannot explain that moment of sympathy. It certainly evaporated quickly enough when just a few months later I wrote a post with the title The Madness of Lord British.
There was a lot going on in that post, with lots of links out (some dead, you may need the Wayback machine to find them) to his dubious behavior, strange ventures, and odd ideas, including comparing himself to Tolkien or declaring consoles dead or how he was even back then running his company remotely with some sort of wheelie robot video presence.
It was also the kickoff point for his “ultimate RPG,” something he went on about for some time, trying to wheedle permission to use the Ultima brand from EA by saying nice things about them in the press (but not by, you know, actually talking to EA, who were busy tarnishing the Ultima brand with some garbage called Ultima Forever.)
Then he tried to get into bed with Zynga because Farmville and Facebook games were in the middle of imploding. He eventually left that behind and jumped onto Kickstarter and used that trend to fund Shroud of the Avatar based largely on his reputation, work, and goodwill left over from the Ultima series of the 1980s and 1990s.
The Kickstarter was a success in that it met its funding goal, but as we knew even then, for a project trying to be an MMO that is just a marketing campaign, a publicity stunt to try and bring in more funding from other sources.
There was an attempt to emulate Star Citizen‘s successful ongoing crowdfunding by selling virtual land and castles as well as actual blood and other Lord British related items. That was modestly successful at best.
Shroud of the Avatar did eventually “ship” in March of 2018 after some time as an “early access” title, however it was rough to the point of primitive for a game in the second decade of the 21st century, a strange mixture of awkward design and poor aesthetics, that I described as “retroist hobbyism” for lack of a better term when I was playing it.
It wasn’t a failure, but it also wasn’t what many people expected or wanted to play. Lord British walked away from the title before it was done, transferring it to Catnip Games, though it wasn’t really clear he was all that in involved for quite a while before that. It carries on as a dubious, low key title, a disappointment to many who expected a revival of the Ultima series, with a small and defensive team trying to eke out a living from the title and its connection to Garriott.
When Lord British walked away from his then flailing “ultimate RPG” I figured that was his last hurrah. As I commented elsewhere:
This is a man who had the wealth and status to rest on his laurels, consult, speak on panels, and otherwise be a developer emeritus of great regard.
He made video games, got rich and famous doing that, got even richer by selling out to EA, lived in a castle, and got to be a space tourist. He could have called it a day 20 years ago and just spent his time being Lord British for fans now and then and we would have envied him, we would have aspired to be him.
But, as with pro sports stars, if something has basically been your whole life, it is hard to walk away. So he has carried on, trying to recreate the success of his youth and living off of the reputation that gained him.
And that has been his downfall. I have no idea what he is like in person, but his public persona has been one of self aggrandizement… he set himself up as the “father of the online gaming industry” at AGDC in 2004 back when he was promoting Tabula Rasa, much to the chagrin of Mark Jacobs and others who had online titles in production long before people like Raph Koster helped make Ultima Online a thing.
He has a history of badmouthing EA for all the problems that occurred after he got richer by selling Origin Systems to them. (Except when he was briefly praising them.) And he also blames NCsoft and the people there for the failure of Tabula Rasa. (There was an Ultima 8 and Tabula Rasa double blame feature.)
He believes he is the best game designer around, calling the ones he worked with in the past “lazy” (remember, that includes Raph Koster), and takes all the credit for anything he has touched. He only made an exception for Chris Roberts when it comes to game designers, and that was clearly because he wanted to draft off of Star Citizen‘s crowdfunding success, a cringe worthy “notice me senpai!” moment.
And all along the way he has been a font of bad advice. He has a history of grabbing onto a trend in gaming and telling people that is the best way forward just as it tanks.
Still, I foolishly thought he was done, so was both surprised because of that… but not surprised because of his history… when I saw the announcement yesterday that he had thrown his hat into the ring and declared he is making a blockchain MMO.
This is doubly ironic in that this follows on UbiSoft backing away from its NFT schemes and CCP declaring that NFT stands for “Not For Tranquility” when it comes to EVE Online. Even as gamers are pushing back hard against crypto monetization and studios are realizing that they are alienating their core customer base by attempting to embrace it, Richard “Lord British” Garriott de Cayeux has decided to open his mouth wide and piss straight into the wind.
Words fail me.
Well, except for expletives. I had plenty of those.
I have, for the last 20 years, found a way to excuse everything he has done based on fond memories of games he coded himself back in the 1980s.
This is the most contemptible, tone deaf, obvious cash grab in an industry long accused of cash grabs. This raises the bar on cash grabs. For years to come I predict I will be saying, “Sure, this move by X was bad, but was it as bad as the Lord British blockchain MMO?”
I am not a fan of Star Citizen, but this announcement has made Chris Robert palatable by comparison. I don’t believe CR will ever be able to deliver on all, or even most, of the promises he has made, but he is selling a dream and has something tangible in alpha and has managed not to get bored and wander off mid-project. If you were to ask me if you should buy a spaceship in Star Citizen or give money to Lord British, I’d say knock yourself out with the spaceship.
With other celebrities, I might suspect that somebody had just promised them a dump truck full of money to use their name. But here we have somebody who has had an independent existence of bad ideas over the last two decades, a history that looks like a series of attempts to cash in on his name and whatever the latest trend was.
He has shown us who he is enough times already to know that this is authentically him trying to get back in ahead of another trend hoping to recreate the fame and fortune of his youth. I am sure he is using somebody else’s money, but I am equally sure he sees glory and riches for himself in this move. He is not being used, he believes he is using the investors.
Lord British is dead to me from this point forward. In the hierarchy of people and companies whom I have vowed never to give money to, anything associated with Richard “Lord British” Garriot de Cayeux is now at the top of the list.
Seriously, I am now willing to give EA the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their history with him. It makes me think of the Churchill quote about the devil:
If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.
That is where Lord British stands with me today. He has now shit on his reputation so thoroughly that he is beyond redemption in my eyes. Everything he has touched since Ultima Online has been a trainwreck.
- Massively OP – Richard Garriott is building a blockchain MMO following the failure of Shroud of the Avatar
- PCGamesN – Ultima’s creator is making a new MMO, and it’s built on NFTs
- WCCFTech – Ultima Creator Richard Garriott is Making a New Blockchain and NFT-Focused MMO
- Massively OP – Stop giving rich people money to make failed MMOs