Garriott: “Most game designers just really suck”

Wednesday, 20th March 2013 00:57 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Richard Garriott, the creator of Ultima, has only a few exceptions to his opinion that most game designers are lazy and talentless.

“I think there’s really very few great game designers. I think Chris Roberts is one of them, Will Wright’s another, Peter Molyneux is another. They clearly exist, but on the whole, I think that the design talent in our industry is dramatically lower than we need, as an industry. It’s a very hard skill to learn,” Garriott told PC Gamer.

“Other than a few exceptions, I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. I’m not saying that because I think I’m so brilliant. What I’m saying is, I think most game designers really just suck, and I think there’s a reason why.”

Garriott said that people who like games eventually think about making one. If they have skill with art or programming, they can study, gain qualifications, and get a job. Pure designers, on the other hand, are gaming fans who can’t do anything else, and often make their way into the field via related disciplines like QA.

“In my mind, most artists and programmers are just as much of gamers as the designers, and I usually find in my history that the artists and programmers are, in fact, as good of designers as the designers,” he added.

“They’re often better, because they understand the technology or the art. So we’re leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they’re not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer. It’s really hard to go to school to be a good designer.”

Garriott later said that even talented designers have one other fatal flaw.

“And every designer that I work with – all throughout life – I think, frankly, is lazy,” he said.

“But if you follow, they generally say, ‘You know, I really like Medal of Honor, but I would have bigger weapons, or I would have more healing packs, or,’ you know. They go to make one or two changes to a game they otherwise love versus really sit down and rethink, ‘How can I really move the needle here?’”

Garriott said that even when it come to simple tasks like designing a map, he pushes himself and his peers to do more.

“How do you really think about the whole thing holistically, to go, ‘yeah, it’s fine to wander through and kill a few things and get a treasure at the end, but why? What’s your motivation for being into it? What are the side stories? If you have these characters in there, what were their lives before they showed up on this map? If you didn’t think of one, go back. Do it again. I want you to know it.’”

Lord Biriths’s latest project is an RPG with unusual multiplayer elements, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, currently being Kickstarted.



  1. DSB

    So, Tabula Rasa.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Erthazus

    ” Peter Molyneux is another.”

    :D LOL

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Richenbaum

    Meanwhile out the other side of his ass comes yet another Ultima sequel…

    #3 2 years ago
  4. yeoung

    Tim Schäfer
    Fumito Ueda
    Platinum lead des
    CD Projekt lead des

    There is talent yet, moreso than can be clouded by the pompous mutterings of a relic from a day gone by. If he wishes to revel in ye olde glory that grows ever fainter as he ostracizes 99% of the industry, he should at least have the “lordly” decency to create something interesting.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Kabby

    He should have went the whole 9 yards and called Cliffy B a talentless prick.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. redwood

    but cliffy IS a talentless prick :D

    #6 2 years ago
  7. redwood

    just kidding just kidding :D i dunno what garriot is talking about here but the industry has a lot of talented people and the fact that he didn’t even name kojima shows his bias.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. The_Red

    “Other than a few exceptions, I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am”

    Wow. Just… WOW. I can’t be. Really. Even with his followup clarification, this still sounds like the douchiest comment I have EVER seen from a known designer. Wow.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Richenbaum

    notice he waited until it was too late for kickstarter supporters to pull their pledges to say this too

    #9 2 years ago
  10. roadkill

    You being on of them.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. GrimRita

    The guy has a point but I dont think its just designers to blame. Its publishers who think they know best. I know of a few games that had huge ambitions, only to be ‘dumbed down’ by the publisher.

    Who remembers Codemasters ‘Fuel’? It essentially turned into a dirt track focused raceresq affair when the brief was an online world where gangs would compete for locations on the map to secure the rare source of oil for fuel.

    However, cost decisions about running servers, timescales etc ensured that it just turned into another generic game.

    Either way, I just love how big name failures like Garriott continue to ruin publishers and now, looks like, blowing a small fortune on a game that probably will never see the light of day

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Dr.Haggard

    How his Kickstarter funded I’ll never know – too many old Ultima fans with rose tinted glasses helped I guess – but it has to be one of the worst gaming pitches I’ve ever seen on KS. Genuinely awful.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. roadkill

    @12 Who knows? Maybe he funded it himself. After all, the guy has a castle. :)

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Samoan Spider

    We lament the times gone by, how things used to be, then people like this guy try and make a come back only to be shot down by people. I think his comments are massively unfair, given that there is a massive amount of talent out there. Not to mention how accessible game creation and marketing is, almost anyone can make something these days and the crap sinks as always so the balance is maintained. That said, the old guard of games design just can’t seem to cut it these days. Anyway, who cares, I’ll buy and play his game, along with Planetary Annihilation, Star Citizen and several others from old names.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Gheritt White

    No mention of Ken Levine? Shameful.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Dr.Haggard

    There have been plenty of brilliant KS pitches by ‘old names’ and established developers trying to bring back genres or IP that have been left behind by publishers, and I’m all for that.

    I’ve backed Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, Grim Dawn, The Banner Saga, Project Eternity and Torment among others, and I’m excited about every single one. I’m also gutted about some of the others that failed to get funded.

    Garriots pitch for Shroud of the Avatar though, that just comes across as poorly planned, with horrendous placeholder art (why not wait until you could show some decent art?) and an air of ‘Look it’s me, Lord British! Aren’t I awesome? Back my vague idea for a game’.

    Nevermind that his name these days is synonymous with bad games and tacky, twee fantasy stylings that bring to mind renaissance fairs and LARPing. Don’t get me wrong I love high fantasy, just not the kind with tights, frilly shirts and silly pseudo-medieval language full of thees and thous.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Ireland Michael

    In his defence, the man did essentially create the groundwork for the *entire* RPG genre.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Gheritt White

    @17: That doesn’t excuse him from not mentioning Ken Levine, IMHO.

    #18 2 years ago


    Look who’s back!

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Gnosis

    @17: Well yes… based on the already existing PnP games. I’m not saying that he copied them, I just wouldn’t give him THAT much of a credit, since he didn’t “invent” it.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. DSB

    @17 You can kinda debate that until the cows come home, but Rogue beat Ultima by about a year, even if Ultima set a lot more standards.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. DrDamn

    Possibly 1979, definitely 1980.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. DSB

    @22 And that’s why you can debate it forever. It’s always gonna be the case when trying to find a “first” at anything.

    There were a lot of text rpgs before that as well, so you can always debate who “really” invented it.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. DrDamn

    Oh yeah, I’m not saying he did or didn’t – I don’t think you can really pin that to one person or team. Akalabeth was Richard Garriott though, that was more my reason for pointing it out. It was what he did before Ultima.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. zinc

    Every now & then, some long forgotten luminary, trots out some guff in the hope of ruffling feathers & praying people still think their relevant.

    I bet his scouring the comments threads & stroking his ego. Reminds me of Noel Gallagher slagging of the Brit Awards.

    You were good once guys. Let it go.

    #25 2 years ago
  26. DSB

    @24 Oh snap, I totally missed that. Good point.

    But then you also had graphic multiplayer RPGs going back to 1975. I don’t think there’s any pinning it unless you do a university level investigation.

    #26 2 years ago
  27. Cobra951

    The man’s trailblazing is undeniable, regardless of who else did the same. He also has a point which is getting shouted down here with disrespectful sarcasm. The people who contribute the most to what ends up in your hands, those who worked the hardest to get there, are the ones with the least input to its creative direction. Techies and artists are treated like grunts now. They used to run the show (particularly the techies). The suits have taken over, and gaming, for all its audiovisual advances, has suffered. This is why indie development is crucial. It brings back small teams, with creative ideas and direction coming from the same guys doing the actual work.

    #27 2 years ago
  28. DrDamn

    Yeah, regardless of discussions around how he made the point I think it’s fairly valid. Loads of games would be a lot better with some better design decisions.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. Gnosis

    @27: I think it’s a pity that the valid points are buried under a huge pile of self-adulation. He basically shot himself in the foot. There will surely be a backlash, which, if you ask me, will completely ignore every single valid point specifically because of that very pile. You gotta admit, it’s hard to take arrogance seriously.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Ireland Michael

    I think you are severely underestimating the influence of Garriot’s work.

    Yes, they were inspired by PnP RPGs, but we’re not talking about PnP here, we’re talking about video game RPGs.

    Whether it was the design of party based gameplay, morality systems, or open worlds with immersive gameplay, the entire Ultima series either pioneered it or very, very heavily influenced it. The entire JRPGs genre was invented off the back of traditional Ultima design, for crying out loud.

    #30 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.