Richard Garriott: MMOs have not changed in 10 years

The NCsoft legend believes that the genre is stagnant and that all the games currently on the market are either Ultima Online or EverQuest with better graphics

BRIGHTON, UK--Outspoken industry veteran Richard Garriott (also known as Lord British, even though he has long since lost his English accent) told a packed room of attendees at the Develop Conference today that Tabula Rasa was going to be the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game to truly offer something different.

Other MMOs on the market, he explained--and although he mentioned no names, he clearly included World of Warcraft and new title Lord of the Rings Online in his evaluation--use a number of features that have become standard practice even though they are clumsy. These gameplay elements, he said, include monsters respawning for the next player as if nothing had happened, level grinds, arbitrary and meaningless missions, poor AI, and repetition.

Garriott said, "Tabula Rasa means Blank Slate. It was actually meant to be the working title, because we were starting from scratch to innovate in as many areas of game design as possible."

Garriott explained that the NCsoft team had tried to change a number of these ingrained MMORPG features, including making the combat more fast-paced although still in a style befitting of a role-playing game, and forcing the player to make ethical decisions by giving them conflicting missions. He said, "Say two people send you to do something, but one of those is going to be completable only at the expense of the other, so the player has to make a kind of ethical decision--which storyline are they willing to give up, which character are they willing to lose?"

Also, rather than using respawning as a gameplay mechanic, "everyone is involved in this kind of intergalactic war. When a control point is taken, then all the shops in that area go offline, for example. The world is different."

But if he had to pick the one feature that would be most important in the future of MMOs, he would pick AI. He said, "There's this whole kind of 'we don't need AI because there are other players,' and I think that really undersells the passion of an online game. [In Tabula Rasa] the game operates around the player and doesn't just expect players to be the only one moving in that reality."

When asked about why he thought that the market was filled with fantasy MMOs--as opposed to the science-fiction world of Tabula Rasa--Garriott gave a surprising answer. He said, "We are genre-agnostic--we really want to broaden the type of genres that are successful in the online space. I actually believe that great games make genres popular--I don't think people are fans of one genre or another."

Looking back on the past, Garriott laughed as he remembered how he had to push the idea of Ultima Online. He said, "It took me three years of pitching and re-pitching the game, until we got given $250,000 to build the project. Truly, no one cared about it. They thought it was a waste of time." Then once the game entered beta testing, attracting some 50,000 people to sign up and pay $5 apiece for the privilege of testing out the game, "it became the biggest thing ever. Suddenly we had tons of excess management come down and join us in Austin."

The developer believes that MMOs are a high-risk venture, although they also potentially have high gain. He said, "If you're a one [retail] game [at a time] development company, then all it takes is one mistake, and you're out of business. But if you get an online success, you're set for life."

Tabula Rasa is due for release in the UK on October 5, and is currently in closed beta. For more on the game, check out GameSpot's most recent preview.

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Discussion

132 comments
newbpwnage
newbpwnage

BTW Ultima online was and still is the best;

newbpwnage
newbpwnage

rykh you are so full of it, the only difference is in EQ YOU NEED GROUPS and in WoW you dont. EQ is better.

magnus2727
magnus2727

The reason why MMOs haven't changed much is because their main purpose is to make money. Of course designers won't come out and admit it but the specific risk and reward mechanics behind these games is pulled from the psychology of addictions like gambling. So to criticize MMO developers for making MMOs the same is as ludicrous as criticizing gambling machine designers for making slot machines basically the same for the past half century. In short, I would have to agree that Garriott is just drumming up Tabula Rasa.

Agulf
Agulf

It's good to see that companies like NCSOFT and Funcom are trying to bring the MMO genre forward. Because the formula was getting pretty watered down.

rykh
rykh

WOW is the same but a lot different than EQ. I think he is blowing a litle out his a$$ in order to promote Tabula Rasa. Im not sure he can stand by all he said there. Plus ther has been plenty of games not in the "norm", people mentioned EVE below and that is a great example.

Jazzism
Jazzism

No mention of Jumpgate, one of the longest running MMO's. Totally not part of the MMO click-to-hit, click-to-move games. Nothing is like it anywhere.

Ailius
Ailius

Warhammer Online is gonna be AMAZING!

Xeiphyer
Xeiphyer

Its good that people are trying to push the MMO world and make it better, although in all honesty im not a big fan of the sci-fi stuff, the fantasy swords n monsters idea has always seemed more fun, but I guess thats because the only really memorable games ive played have been fantasy so lets see these guys bust out a WoW killer!

jthechosenone
jthechosenone

i dont care. i want to see pirates of the burning sea mmo. u dont need other people to complete missions. i hated in wow where all of a sudden u needed groups and stuff. im no team player

pawnstorm
pawnstorm

I agree about EVE. In fact I am somewhat outraged that he doesn't give credit to EVE and claims that his idea that escaping traditional MMO features is actually new. Still, staying my fury, it's always good to have another (large) group thinking fresh MMO ideas are good ideas. That is the bottom line, even if EVE was sort of 'forgotten' for the truly remarkable and diverse game it is.

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

Maybe he can surprise us with his new game then.

fredred7825
fredred7825

"LB I think your invincible.. That fire didn't hurt you or blackthorn..." "LB is dead!!!" "HE DIED"

surppo
surppo

im telling yall the next evolvlution og gaming is the mmortss (massively multiplayer real tim strategy shooter) if they cant come up with new ideas i say combine them to make something different.

fluffebunnie
fluffebunnie

Lord British speaks the truth. Furthermore, gaming in general on the PC has gotten pretty stagnant and I blame MMOs for that.

Darkstrauss
Darkstrauss

obviously richard garriot has never even heard of EVE-Online. stupid little marketing ploy...... move along people, nothing to see here, just someone plugging his own stuff. If you want a REAL mmo, go find EVE online. should do you fine. 30K people online at all times, concurrently, on 1 server. it doens't have 50 different servers like WOW, just 1 big huge awesome server. so if you DO something, you do it to the entire playerbase, not just the 3000 people who are playing on one server, but EVERY SINGLE player the game has, which is upwards of 300.000 players. this may not sound like much in WOW terms: but they are on a single server people.... EVE online also is the only MMO where you actions can influence things. heck you can build your own cities..... claim your own starsystems. and build fleets of battleships to defend them

Bill900
Bill900

I for one can't wait for Tabula Rosa not just for the features but because its not a fantasy setting.

MichaeltheCM
MichaeltheCM

i agree with him. all mmo's out right now arent very unique

ShockerX01
ShockerX01

I agree with that guy. I can say this that the only MMO currently in the market that changed alot is Eve-Online. No other MMOs comes close to change alot. Love live CCP and Eve-Online, down with WoW!

smbius
smbius

How is it that these other MMOs keep failing and WoW just never seems to go away? How can Tabala Rasa stick out from the other me-toos of MMOs? With no license, no real company backing and support, how can this game really make a difference in the overall market of MMOs? I have played in 10 different MMOs. Half of these MMOs were played through the use of free online trials that range from two weeks to one month. Each of these games have had one or more of the following: serious balance issues, lack of admin/support, buggy gameplay, low population count, and difficult interfaces. I'm hoping that the developers of Tabala Rasa understands this. Each MMO that comes out has to think about "How will content be extended?", "How will cheaters be addressed?", or "How can we encourage people to group or work together?". A Good MMO must have a good framework to build on. There is one very well known MMO that doesn't need mentioning here that has been very decent about supporting its game and its many many gameplay factors. These little factors can destroy a player's online experience if the company doesn't handle them correctly. Yes Richard, we know you can talk-the-talk but let's hope your game can walk-the-walk.

GravityDs
GravityDs

"....make a kind of ethical decision--which storyline are they willing to give up, which character are they willing to lose?" "everyone is involved in this kind of intergalactic war. When a control point is taken, then all the shops in that area go offline, for example. The world is different." "[In Tabula Rasa] the game operates around the player and doesn't just expect players to be the only one moving in that reality" lol, is it me? or does it sound like he's making a Star Wars game? It would be called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Battlefield. Seriously. Where in those statements are those original ideas he's talking about.

Nharia12
Nharia12

It's refreshing that they are trying to change some of the features normally found in MMO's. This strategy , along with being set in space, should help Tabula Rasa stand out from the crowd.

Mortoseth
Mortoseth

free-to-play is a joke... get over it

djsaskdja
djsaskdja

Oh my god, finally a big company head speaking the truth. apocalypse

Squids-Ahoy
Squids-Ahoy

All games on the market are exactly the same...except for his right? Gariott clearly isn't looking hard enough.

NightRain
NightRain

ROFL! Finally someone that speaks the truth.

Merl57
Merl57

Sure you just have to blast every other game out there to promote the release of your game. You know what this area control thing sucks, What that means is all the good people are gong to join one alliance or whatever and own everything and take all the shops online for people with out a chance. I am not going to pay for a monthly fee though.

malmeid2
malmeid2

I like MM0's and this guy is right. They haven't changed much, but people love their WOW so what can we do except continue to watch Blizzard cash in? -___-"

majere613
majere613

Has Garriot played The Burning Crusade? Mutually-exclusive factions, shops that only open for Alliance or Horde if they control Halaa? A lot of his ideas are less new than he thinks they are. Which isn't to say that they're bad ideas... :)

CaptainDingo
CaptainDingo

I think he's only half-right. All current MMORPGs are Ultima Online with better graphics and less features. :P

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

This sounds a lot like the condescending talk that Peter Molyneux was spouting off before Fable came out and how it was going to revolutionize the whole RPG genre. When you degrade other games then you open yourself up to the same treatment. I hope Garriott's game does live up to his praisings but if not then I will relegate him to Molyneux's current stature, that of an idealistic and pompous over-exaggerator.

Sonicgod
Sonicgod

All MMO are the same thing done in tons of ways. level up spend tons of time, buy items find rare items. And most of them are not good parts.

axia_777
axia_777

Like Crew_Sk said hs is right and lets hope he proves them all WRONG. Another MMO that I have very high hopes for is The World of Darkness: Vampire, ect. The actual RPG is not based around normal level building and such. I hope this translates into the MMO. There is even talk of having no dropped loot from monsters and NPC's. I just hope they do it right.

xatman911
xatman911

They should address really big annoying problems: Character's should be able to level-up various skills. Eg a warrior should be able to do magic (probably not as good as a mage but still should be able to) like in Runescape. Character's should be able to play on multiple servers like in Runscape. (It is so annoying to have your good character stuck on one world eg in WOW) A account should allow to create multiple characters like in WOW and easy management. MMORPG should allow various combat systems for individual needs. ( I would love to have God Of War /Prince Of Persia/Gears Of War type thing) Should be able to time travel and mess with time events etc. (kill that annoying boss in middle ages than teleport to future like year 3000+ to avoid all the hassle) Allow a bit of grinding for players with no skill but SHARP and SHORT methods to gain experience for players with skills. (Eg, if I cant beat that rabbit with a turtle than I should take less skill required path and race a snail instead.) Keep one time cost only for upgrading to premium like in Dragonfable. Keep one time cost of buying the game from retailers. Download should be free of charge. (hope this makes sense) Allow some way of player content to be uploaded. Advance communication to Voice chat and even video. That is all I can think of...

ReggieNametaker
ReggieNametaker

The thing that really proves how limited MMO's are is summed up by the fact that there is only 2 choices in how to play the game: Follow a clan or lead a clan with absolutely no room for individual exploration. Games like WoW and Guild Wars are prime examples of giving you a seemingly open ended world with a free-form structure, but then you realise that the overworld is full of unbeatable and unforgiving NPC enemies, making progression both a chore and a challenge. Fact it, MMO's are stuck at where they were concieved and 'reinventing' the genre is just going to cause even more headaches. If Tabula Rasa carries none of the traditional features of a typical MMO then it may be worth a look, otherwise it's another false prophet...

Crew_SK
Crew_SK

Garriott is very very right but let's hope that Tabula Rasa can really prove his point.

NailX
NailX

"StonyShred420" You still forgetting that people are leaveing WoW... lots. The end game really does suck unless you play it everyday for at least 4-5 hours. There is not much you can get to do unless your always playing it. Trust me... I was playing it like that till I get sick of doing the same few things again and again, it just lost its fun. Plus, there are a ton of people playing WoW till something better comes out. Lots are waiting to play Warhammer Online. So, give WoW some time because unless they add something really new to that game, it will burn its self out

tuff_gong92
tuff_gong92

Tabula Rasa sounds cool on paper but I'm still waiting for the review. Huxley is another MMO breaking out of the mold. MMOFPS, that sounds pretty cool.

sergio_afonso
sergio_afonso

We will see what the reviews are going to be about "Tabula Rasa"...

MrPing1000
MrPing1000

Well he's half right. Almost every mmo these days is an EQ clone. I've yet to play one anything like Ultima Online though. Which is a shame really. I think a game of that type could do well against the biggest EQ clone of them all... WoW.

geldonyetich
geldonyetich

You can find specific examples of games that have broken outside of the mold, but in general, World of Warcraft is EverQuest at the heart of it. So yeah, Garriot's right there, whether or not you're willing to agree to focus on that particular tangent.

jsambeckwith
jsambeckwith

On the whole, he's right. EVE Online though, I'm not so sure is the same as EverQuest.

runstalker
runstalker

Whether TR is the one to do it or not, we shall see, but it's still nice to have Garriott around at NCsoft now - since they're dipping into PS3 online space soon.

StonyShred420
StonyShred420

concealedview , whatever. U must only talk to peopl ho hate the game or something. The fact that the game is still loaded with people shows that theres more to it after level 70, otherwise no one at level 70 would play anymore, or very few would, according to what you said. Just cause you lost interest at 70 doesn't mean the majority shares you opinion like you think they do. Agaiin 9 million and Climbing, not going down, going up consistently.

veveqa
veveqa

He's not wrong. Stagnation isn't exactly killing the MMORPG industry, because the games are always "new to someone", for now, at least. Hardly any WoW players seriously played any other MMORPGs before it, for example, so it seems new to them. On the other hand, it is rather frustrating for people who have been playing these games a while to see the same problems and wierdnesses endlessly repeated as if they were "the only way it could work", when they're patently not. I hope Tabula Rasa is as fun to play as it is interesting-sounding, though. This has always been the downfall of "interesting" MMOs - actual playability.

SlikNik27
SlikNik27

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

concealedview
concealedview

StonyShred420: It's very easy to talk about how good an MMO is when you've only played it for 4 months and all the stuff you know about the end game is what you've HEARD from other players. It's no secret that a huge chunk of the WoW population doesn't even experience these end game raids and content. The end game instances suck and a lot of people agree with that. The arenas are tedious and boring. And farming reputation is a joke. When you actually get to level 70 then start talking about what you think about the end game before you just go by what you've heard. Saying theres much more to do is crap. Before you hit 70 you can still do instances, pvp, and everything else EXCEPT ranked arenas (you can still do arenas unranked.) So where's the logic in that? Plus like I said, the instances are horribly uninspired. Compared to the way the instances used to be (Zul Farrak, Deadmines). Oh and its expansion not expantion.

Bpg3D
Bpg3D

MMO's are one of the biggest rip-off's to ever come to video games.

Wedge55
Wedge55

The problem is not the EQ clones. The real problem with most MMO developers is that they forget that there's supposed to be a game in there. They have this grand vision for a dynamic world, millions of choices, ability to do whatever you want, etc etc. Basically a design that is so impossible to implement that it falls far short in the end, and while they've been chasing that impossible dream, they forget to design and implement gameplay. I'd be surprised if Garriot fell into that trap, having pioneered the computer RPG genre. But only time will tell.

redskinStu
redskinStu

He should know what he's talking about. The only online games that interested me were City of heroes, Conan and RE: Outbreak.

StonyShred420
StonyShred420

BigDaveyDogz, I know it is a bold statement, but lets look at Blizzards Track Record....Warcraft 2, StarCraft (still the standard for RTS games), WarCraft 3, and now WoW. someone might pass that mark of 9 million, but its gonna be hard if WoW continues to be supported by Blizzard, because just like past Blizzard games, people will keep playing them online for 10+ years. So good luck to any company out there going to try and pass WoW's 9 million, cause thats a touph feat when WoW, now in its 3 yeard of existense is still continuing to grow...whats next pass 10 million, give Blizzard another 3-6 months.