Richard Garriott Interview, Part One

The guys at WarCry have published a continuation of the Richard Garriott interview that originally debuted on their sister site, The Escapist. In the first part, Richard addresses questions about the Ultima series:
Q: What about the idea of the Avatar, which is I would say a less defined character than you would see in a lot of similar games, where you are usually presented with a character who has his own personality, backstory and such. Whereas in Ultima, it was more like it was the actual player transplanted into the game. Is that part of that part of [your desire to focus on the journey]?

A: Yes. When I was developing the concept of the Avatar, I had to find this interesting combination of what personality motivating philosophies can I think of that first of all sound right or sound defensible at the very least, sound holistically, from just a straight philosophical standpoint, but at the same time I had to solve also what kind of ethical or philosophical stance can I make that also makes for good gameplay physically. One of my big problems with games that get derived out of, say, Dungeons and Dragons is that Dungeons and Dragons has a large number of character attributes, including wisdom, constitution and charisma, and a lot of these attributes just get paralleled into computer games, much to their failing in my mind. As a general rule, I'm a big believer that anything you cannot test for repeatedly and from a variety of different angles is a kind of useless thing to track in a game. If you put in charisma and the only place that charisma ever made any difference is the price you're charged in a shop, the higher your charisma, maybe you negotiate better and get a lower price in the shop. You know, if that's the only place charisma ever shows up in a game, it's probably not worth having as a character attribute and so instead it gets rolled into your intelligence that might gets used for multiple uses. But the same thing true when you try and tell stories that include things like these ethical parables I tried to put into the Ultima series. If you're going to bother tracking something about a person, like how honest are they, it is difficult to set up any kind of automated observation - especially when people know its in there, because then they're going to try to purposefully game the system - and so unless there is a variety of fairly sophisticated tests in there to test someone's honesty, it makes it kind of difficult or hardly worth it. And so I had to simultaneously create what I call a believable philosophy and a gameable philosophy. I think that's one of my favorite wins or favorite aspects of the Ultima series is that I think I did a pretty good job of that.