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Inside Origin Systems

Vol. 2, Issue 11
February 7, 2000



Garriot’s first published game was Akalabeth in 1979, which he put together while in college, at the age of 19. It was a simple game, and the first few editions were actually made by Garriot himself, with photocopied instruction manuals and the containers put together by hand, each disk individually copied. The total expenditure for the first few copies was the grand sum of $200, and they were put up for sale in a local shop called Computer Land. A week (and 5 copies) later, a publisher contacted Garriot and offered to publish the game for him. He agreed, and his first game was now on the market, ultimately selling over 30,000 copies in total.

He later published Ultima: The First Age of Darkness. On its original release, it had no overall plot whatsoever, but when later remade for the PC, it introduced the story of the Avatar, that ran all of the way up to Ultima IX: Ascension, where the Avatar left Britannia behind him. Ultima II was also released before Origin’s creation, and it continued the story of evil, and the Avatar being sent to put a stop to it. The first few games were made for Apple computers, but were soon been made for the PC, which was becoming the prime choice for games designers to work on.

Garriot had always wanted to make something more of the Ultima series, and proved himself to truly be one of gaming’s pioneers when he released the award winning Ultima Online, which was the first truly massively multi-player game ever released to the public. It suffered many teething problems, but that was because it was the first of its kind, and a massive leap forward for online gaming. Origin never really expected the game to do as well as it did. It wasn’t thought it would sell over 15,000 units, and that only one game server would be needed. Today, there are 20 UO game servers in the US, Asia, Europe and one opening soon in Australia, and it is Origin’s fastest selling game ever.

Garriot only ever once had an ego problem that usually comes with all the fame, but he quickly realized it after some friends pointed it out to him and changed his ways. Garriot, along with the likes of John Carmack, Sid Meier, Peter Molyneux, is a rare breed of game developer who can be instantly recognized when you see him, and is known to almost every hard-core gamer on the planet.

Garriot firmly believes there is much more to online games than the usual ‘kill everything’ approach that some games take. Co-operation with other players in Ultima Online ultimately brings greater rewards than going it alone, or being anti-social towards other players. Some of the areas in UO can be so dangerous that going in alone is suicide, unless you’re an expert at running away. More time is spent in UO talking, trading, skill/stat building and enquiring than actual adventuring, but then again, its not as though anyone’s life is non-stop action 24 hours a day.

His favorite Ultima games would be IV, because of the strong use of the “Virtues,” and VII, because it was the first game with a fully simulated world. After publishing Ultima I, he and his friends all thought that the entertainment software phase would just blow over, and he would have to go back to college to get a real job. Quite to the contrary, despite a serious drop of interest in games in the mid-80’s, the gaming industry has grown now to be comparable to the film industry, and a long way from the handful of developers in the 70’s making games for the Amiga and Apples.


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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Joachim. This article is © 2000 Tim “Damarr” O'Malley. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. So don't do it, or we'll make you cry, sissy.