The Complete History of Ultima, Part One

Total PC has published the first in what will most likely be several installments to a "complete history of Ultima", with quite a bit of added commentary from Richard Garriott himself. This initial entry takes us through Garriott's introduction to The Lord of the Rings and D&D, his fascination with computers, and the development of Akalabeth:
Before he launched into the design of the game, Garriott took advice from his mother, an artist, on the geometric solutions of drawing perspective and from his father, an astronaut, on the mathematics of integrating perspective within the BASIC programming language. From there, Garriott created a long table of commands in order to draw walls, monsters and treasure in a 3D view. It's this that spawned the creation of Akalabeth. (It was actually the owner of a computer store where I worked a place called Computer Land, in Texas, where I had a summer job as a sales clerk who thought that this game that I was working on in my spare time for my friends was much better than the software currently on sale in his shop,) said Garriott. (He said, '˜Richard, you really ought to publish that.' At that time my worldly assets amounted to around $200, so I invested in a bunch of zip-lock bags and Xeroxed cover sheets and began to sell them on the store wall. In just a few days, one of them found its way to one of the first national distributors, California Pacific. They called me up with an offer to distribute the game nationally.)

They distributed and sold around 30,000 copies of Akalabeth. Garriott's royalties were about $5 per unit, which totalled a rather tidy $150,000 income. All that for a high-school senior and a game that took six weeks of after-school time to develop. The return on the investment was impressive (It was that success that made me think, '˜Gee, if I can have this success with a game that I never intended for the public, then I can do a much better game knowing that it's going to be shown to the public.' That's when I sat down and began to write Ultima I.)