Richard Garriott Says Most Game Designers “Really Just Suck”

Despite being a key tenet in the Ultima series of games, humility does not appear to be Lord British’s strong suit. Known in real life as Richard Garriott, the developer has had unkind words to say about game designers in general.

The maker of the Ultima series and creator of the new Shroud of the Avatar kickstarter believes that there are not very many talented game developers out there.

“I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am,” said Garriott. “I’m not saying that because I think I’m so brilliant. What I’m saying is, I think most game designers really just suck.”

Garriott shared his views in an interview with PC Gamer, adding that going to school to become a good designer isn’t something he would recommend.

Garriott elaborated on what he meant, stating his belief that artists and programmers are often as good at designing—if not better—than those who hold the job titles due to their understanding of the technology and art that goes in front of the design. Not mincing words, he stated that most designers only get their jobs because they aren’t good at anything else.

“If you like games, you eventually get to the point where you’d like to make one,” said Garriott. “But if you had this magic art talent as a youth, you can refine your skills and show a portfolio and say, ‘I’m a good artist, go hire me’ If you’re nerdy enough to hack into a computer, programming on your own, you can go to school and learn proper structure, make code samples and go ‘Look, I’m a good programmer, hire me.’

“But if you’re not a good artist and not a good programmer, but you still like games, you become a designer, if you follow me. You get into Q&A and often design,” he added.

“So we’re leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they’re not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer. It’s really hard to go to school to be a good designer.”

Garriott’s statements may sound like boasts, and several publications, including Gamasutra, took them as such—offering headlines that Garriott referred to as “sensational” in a response to the aforementioned website.

“My point was, that game design is the hardest, but also the most valuable skill to build in the industry,” said Garriott. “That every company lives and dies based on the talent of its game design team, and that as an industry we are not doing so well creating the talent we need in this industry, because educational systems have not caught up in this area as well as programming and art. I was not trying to toot my own horn, rather state that game design is hard.”

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9 Comments on Richard Garriott Says Most Game Designers “Really Just Suck”

quicktooth

On March 20, 2013 at 7:52 am

Yeah, most games today have AWFUL design. Blatant copying of other’s products, totally uninspired, boring, and with horribly insulting and aggressive treatment of paying customers. Gariott is right.

April Oh'Kneel

On March 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

Garriot’s probably bitter, justifiably, at how badly the Ultima series was ruined by EA’s interference. However, that isn’t the fault of game designers – it’s the fault of gaming publishers outsourcing crucial elements of a game to people who are unequipped (either technologically or intellectually) to deal with them, or are already stretched to boiling point. Another example of this is games writing, another thing Ultima used to excel at before Origin was more or less forced to take a hatchet to the story in what proved to be the final installment. Too many developers seem to think that story should be an afterthought, and as such they don’t hire proven professional writers or even take direct influence from them, but instead focus purely on the most superficial aspects of cinematic media. We’ve seen it time and time again, even with games that people in the mainstream outlets (few if any of whom actually have any relevant experience in storytelling) that they’re exceptional narratives. Mass Effect 3′s ending was defended as somehow being in keeping with the rest of the story because it was “sad”, despite the much-stated fact that it totally departed from everything else in the series aside from this one purely artificial facet. Same with Heavy Rain, which is great at establishing mood but has an absolute train wreck of a plot that these same outlets still to this day have the audacity to compare favourably to Wallander and The Killing.

So it’s not really that designers ‘suck’ as much as they’re drawing their influence from the wrong places. Instead of looking at how elements of a game work for that specific game and trying to create something of similar value and efficiency for their own particular set of variables, they’re just lifting templates and adding cosmetic changes to it. This is obviously not a sustainable model if the industry’s going to eventually be accepted as equal or at least on a similar level to film and television, let alone literature.

Aedelric

On March 20, 2013 at 9:20 am

Garriott is right, Tabula Rasa sucked balls, whoever the lead designer was for that game should just quit the industry!

Patches

On March 20, 2013 at 10:10 am

He may be right…

But his next game better be awesome…

Leon

On March 20, 2013 at 10:23 am

I have to say it sure seems like he’s right. Things just don’t feel right, I don’t get that special feeling of just being lost in a game like I used to get. Something is going to have to change or more and more companies will be going out of business. And with all the ones that have closed in the last couple of years, the writing is on the wall. Oddly enough the older games of my childhood, were the best – was it just they were more simple? Maybe, but I know one thing, they were more complete as I wasn’t downloading DLC’s and I still came back and played multiple times. But alas….I know DLC’s are here to stay, and yes there are some good ones.

Goner

On March 20, 2013 at 11:34 am

Lara is standing here, breathless, alone in the dark cold night, and in this pure instant of emotion, she gonna use her last matche, her last hope, to set on fir….!!?. WTF!, the fire is already set… oh yeah i remember she ‘is a Croft !
This is a … short cut, and there are more and more stuff like that on every living screen.

Ok, seriously the guy is not totaly wrong, design is about talent , and sure, be gifted is a thing but having the time to make master piece is something else, and nowdays most company are running out of time,
most of them just copy again and again the good idea of someone else.
A little link, i have already use it one time, but ….
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgOtPXDyKjA

Even the japanese’s game becoming boring with the same perfect face charact design, pink, gold and silver hair, most video game becoming like porn, predictable, sometime that can be good but most of the time it’s boring.

Michael

On March 21, 2013 at 12:17 am

I totally agree with Richard on this count.

I think 95% of the top leaders and designers in the gaming industry are the wrong people. Whether they got there by luck,fate or because they know someone, games today are getting worse. You can also have the highest degree in business and if you don’t know what you are selling and how to sell it your ass needs to find another job. The main people who should be creating games are gamers and these people should take into account everyone’s input.

I myself am a average artist, I’m not good at programming or anything computer wise that takes in creating a game. But I have great ideas when it comes to what type of gameplay I need to see, or what the story is about and how it plays and controls throughout the game etc. My mind works great in this department.

But I think from what Richard is saying is that they suck because all the do is the same garbage over and over again. Like FPS games, game with sequels like God of War, Assassins Creed, Gears of War Etc. Unlike him hes more into creating Role-playing games which is an almost extinct genre which no one has the balls to create anymore. I myself fit into this genre. I loved my Jrpgs back in the SNES and PS1 years as well as the old Zelda games. These are the types of game I love to write ideas about every week when I have time.

But in the end a game that fails has more to do with those who are afraid to voice there opinions because of fear of there bosses.

A perfect example the Star Wars Prequels. If you seen any of the behind the scenes stuff you can see they are afraid of George Lucas and feel like if they disagree with him they might get fired. But guess what, these movies failed because of every single person who worked on these films with him. If more people presented him better ideas maybe the movies wouldn’t have been as bad as they are now.

Aedelric

On March 21, 2013 at 10:18 am

To clarify my earlier statement..

“Garriott is right, Tabula Rasa sucked balls, whoever the lead designer was for that game should just quit the industry!”

People in glass houses should not throw stones, Garriott is a self-righteous who is just as bad as those he claim “suck”. Look at Garriott’s legacy to date, he can not be proud…

Aedelric

On March 21, 2013 at 10:21 am

seems the word I used to call Garriott was deleted probably due to being offensive, lets just say the word is the same as when I jab a finger with a needle.

“a self-righteous ***** who..”