Richard Garriott on Unity and Crowd-sourced Development Interview

Role-playing veteran Richard Garriott, father of the Ultima series and currently hard at work on Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues with Portalarium, has chatted with GamesIndustry on the benefits of crowd-sourced development, a method Garriott himself has wholeheartedly embraced with Unity. Here's a snip:
From the perspective of a developer, Unity makes an even more compelling case. For Garriott, any audio-visual deficit pales in comparison to the advantages offered by Unity's vast support-network of developers. This is exemplified by the Asset Store, which has grown from a fanciful concept to a thriving marketplace selling more than 8,000 packages of production tools and assets to more than 400,000 users. The Asset Store's top sellers now make up to $90,000 every month, with 10 per cent of sellers making more than $1,000. For Unity users, sharing content is now both a philosophy and a potentially lucrative revenue stream.

And Shroud of the Avatar will be made with no small amount of help from the Asset Store's sellers. The rocks, the trees, the grass, the animals, and many other details of the game's world will be modified versions of models and textures purchased from or freely given by Unity's users. And once Shroud of the Avatar has been released, Garriott will make the improved models available to their original creators.

"We twiddled our thumbs a bit at first," he admits, "but it just seemed inconceivable that people would, A, notice, and B, care. It's perfectly fine for every game to decide what handful of things it wants to do better than they've ever been done before, but there's no reason to start with sticks and stones."

Garriott's initial reticence was tied to decades of working in an industry obsessed with "special sauce," to the point where opportunities to innovate and develop genuinely unique features are lost to time-consuming, humdrum tasks like drawing and modelling yet another set of buildings, or implementing the physics on a character's cloak. With Shroud of the Avatar, the Asset Store shouldered much of that burden, affording Garriott's team more time to experiment with more novel features like its conversation system.

More than anything else, Garriott claims, this crowd-sourcing of effort and assets that will be a catalyst for Unity's evolution. The Asset Store is still only a few years old, but, as with so many phenomena powered by the crowd, it's growth could eventually become self-perpetuating, the curve thundering towards an exponential trajectory.

"If it had not been as broadly adopted by such a sharing community, Unity would not be nearly as powerful. Not nearly," he says. "Everyone is willing to give each other stuff for free, or for truly reasonable prices, then that again multiplies the power of everyone who's working within Unity. To me, that's a unique moment."