After an excellent interview with Chris Avellone the folks at Gather your Party have taken the chance to talk with Ultima series' father Richard Garriott about his past projects and his upcoming "Ultimate RPG", which strives to be a successor to Ultima Online. Here's an excerpt:
With your previous work, you were met with a lot of skepticism. People said Ultima IV had too much philosophy. People said that Ultima Online was just too big. It would never happen. Have you been met with the same kind of skepticism as you are transitioning not only to social games, but with making Ultimate Collector and Ultimate RPG multiplatform? Making the exact same game on the computer as you are on a smart phone?
You hit the nail on the head on the subject. Almost universally, the time that people give me the most resistance, oddly turns out to be the times that turn out to be the best. I'm not sure they're exactly linked, but what I think that is true is with most people who are not very close to the game development or don't spend a lot of time sitting with me, pouring through the plans and intentions. By definition, there are not of comparables to look at. Newness is fraught with a certain kind of risk, distrust and lack of understanding. On the other hand, you could make a counter argument. If you do something that is so tried and true that everyone has already done it then there is no room left to innovate. While you might be able to make something that is least predictably likable, you can't predict that it will be successful because it won't chart any new territory. The more new territory you chart, the less comparables there are, which means it will either go down in flames or succeed gloriously if you create something that strikes a chord with the public. That is the magic of doing game design well. If you look at the industry at large, there are about a thousand titles released every year. The top ten every year make a ton of money. After the top ten, maybe the next 10 or 20 break even and allow people to make their next game. The vast majority below that lose money. Those small developers, or less well-funded developers, generally go out of business. The hit to miss ratio, if you look industry wide at all games released, is only about one percent. If you look at the hit to miss ratio of big companies like Electronic Arts, or even Origin before being a part of Electronic Arts, a good hit ratio would be 20 to 30 percent. Even at Origin, which we ran for 20 years, was one of the top 10 game companies in the world throughout its existence. We started on the backs of Ultima. We then found the game Wing Commander. Then we created game line called Crusader. Eventually, Wing Commander was our biggest bread winner. Ultima was our second biggest bread winner. Crusader was our third biggest bread winner. It was really those three games that supported many, many other attempts at making top-selling games. If you look at my own hit to miss ratio, not every Ultima has done great. Most of the Ultimas have done great. The same thing is true for my works that were not called Ultima. Most of them have done well; some of them have not done well. My hit ratio as an individual is somewhere in the order of 60 to 70 percent. I think what that has reinforced is the desire and competence and belief in developing a plan that purposely moves into uncomfortable, uncharted territory. You measure it constantly. You listen to players. You listen to player feedback. You listen to their concerns. You listen to your marketing department. You listen to everyone around you. You still have to internalize that yourself and decide whether that dissuades you from your belief, if that makes you do some tuning in your strategy, or you think they're wrong, I've got it taken care of, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. So, yes, the bottom line of the question that I gave you a long answer to the short question, the answer is yes, by all means, but I think what's interesting about the resistance is that I think you, most people who have played my games in the past, who have bothered to log in to Ultimate Collector, get it. Even if they don't bother to stick around, which by the way, a lot of them are. I've got a lot of people from the hardcore [Ultima]guild called The Syndicate. We've personally invited a bunch of players from The Syndicate and they were at least willing to give me a pass on, (He can't be that idiotic to be going down this path). The Syndicate really started as an Ultima Online guild and they were wanting to believe. What The Syndicate players have been doing, even if they were individually concerned or skeptical, once they came in and started playing Ultimate Collector, they went, (Aha! I get it.) I think we're persuading one person at a time.