Garriott wins $28 million in NCsoft suit

Ultima creator wins out against former employer for breach of contract and fraud.

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Just a few months after returning to Earth following a 12-day, US$30 million trip to the International Space Station, famed video game entrepreneur Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, announced that he would be leaving Korean publisher NCsoft after seven years with the company in order to pursue other interests.

Lord British has plenty to smile about.

Six months later, Garriott revealed that he was actually fired from NCsoft and subsequently filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court of Texas against the company for breach of contract and fraud amounting to US$24 million in damages.

Garriott's complaint was that he lost millions of dollars when NCsoft forced him to prematurely sell (in just 90 days) a number of stock options the company had given him, rather than being allowed the 10-year period he was promised under his contract if he were ever to be fired.

The suit also claimed that Garriott received this information while still in post-flight quarantine, after returning from the International Space Station, and that the announcement he made regarding his departure from NCsoft had actually been written by the publisher.

Now, Austin daily newspaper the Statesman is reporting that a federal court jury has awarded Garriott US$28 million in the lawsuit after a three-day trial in the US District Court in Austin.

"I am extremely pleased with the jury's decision," Garriott said in a statement. "The facts were clear that my departure from NCsoft was not voluntary. I am very pleased with the final award."

A lawyer representing NCsoft, Laura Merritt, said the Korean publisher will be "considering all options for next steps in the legal process."

Although the initial lawsuit was for US$24 million, the Statesman is reporting that Garriott had asked for US$47 million in order to cover the profit lost by selling his stock options so quickly.

Garriott began working for NCsoft after the publisher bought his Austin-based company, Destination Games. While there, he headed up the six-year development effort for the sci-fi massively multiplayer online role-playing game Tabula Rasa, which launched in late 2007 to lukewarm reviews and technical problems.

Two weeks after Garriott's departure from NCsoft, the publisher shut down Tabula Rasa servers.

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