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Richard Garriott (AKA Lord British)






If Richard Garriott's works seem "out of this world" it's likely due to the fact his father was an astronaut. His father, an ionosphere physicist, was on Skylab II and the 9th shuttle flight.


Richard Garriott began his career writing computer adventure games at the age of 15. He was an avid D&D player and Lord of the Rings fan. In 1977, while attending a Houston high school, he used the school's teletype to write his first adventure game. Two years later he got a job at a Computerland store. Excited by the Apple IIs the store sold, he wrote a BASIC adventure game called Akalabeth. Akalabeth was the model for his later Ultima games. Using available ASCII characters, it featured a scrolling landscape and a quest given by Lord British. The moniker was a nickname school mates had given Garriott. Although raised in Texas, he was born in Cambridge, England. His mind was hardwired from birth to speak english in a proper fashion. His school mates dubbed him Lord British.


The store manager loved the game and encourage him to sell it. Garriott duped 200 copies on tape and packaged them in plastic zip lock baggies. He sold 8 copies on his own. One copy found its way to California Pacific software. They licensed the game from Garriott and published it on floppy disk. It sold 30,000 copies. Still a teenager, Garriott received $5 per copy sold - some $150 K.


Garriott enrolled in the University of Texas. There he began work on a new BASIC adventure game called Ultimatum. It was similar to Akalabeth but this time employed a tile-based graphics engine. It was set in the land of Sosaria. The single character's quest was to defeat the wizard Mondain. California Pacific released it in 1980.


In 1981 Garriott saw the film Time Bandits and was enamored. He decided to base his sequel to Ultimatum on it. For this game, Garriott wanted better packaging and documentation, like a cloth map. Garriott, possibly taking a cue from Infocom packaging, believed including things like cloth maps and trinkets enhanced game play and brought the gamer deeper into the experience. California Pacific refused to upgrade the packaging. Garriott sold Ultima II to Sierra, which agreed to his terms. Sierra released the game in 1981 for the Apple II. Garriott this time wrote the game in machine language.


With his growing success and growing popularity at gaming conventions (Garriott had taken to attending trade shows in full Lord British regalia), Garriott dropped out of the U of T to pursue his adventure game writing business full time. While working with Sierra to port the game to the Atari 800, Garriott met programmer Chuck Bueche, who became a character in the Ultima games known as Chuckles the Clown.


Garriott and Sierra eventually parted company over a dispute over licensing deals for the PC version of Ultima II. Garriott formed his own company, calling it Origin Systems. Garriott, his father, his MIT-educated brother, and Sierra programmer Chuck "Chuckles" Bueche were the principle founders. The company was based in Austin, Texas.


They quickly released Ultima III, which for the first time featured multi-character parties and an enhanced combat system. For Ultima IV, Garriott signed a distribution deal with Electronic Arts. EA/Origin released the game in 1985 for the Apple and PC. In 1988, Garriott abandoned the Apple platform and began releasing software for the PC only. Ultima V was the last Apple port.


In 1994, Garriott sold Origin Systems to EA. The deal allowed Origin to continue as an independent wing of EA. EA was mostly involved in distribution.


In 1997, Garriott got involved in online gaming and released the wildly popular Ultima Online. Several disgruntled players sued Origin in 1998. They did not feel the game offered all the extravagant features Garriott and Origin claimed. Garriott had predicted the game would attract a few thousand players. At its peak, 400,000 people signed on. There were some necessary teething problems.


In March 2000, Garriott retired from EA/Origin Systems. He's formed Destination Games, partnering with his MIT-educated brother again.



Garriott resides in a custom-designed house in Austin. His house features secret passage ways. To move from one floor to the next requires you to solve puzzles.


 -- Karl Mamer






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