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News & Features Discussion  » Shroud of the Avatar: Garriott Rebuts 'Game Designers Suck' Quote

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 15639

OP  3/21/13 11:33:15 AM#1

Shroud of the Avatar's Richard Garriott has posted a rebuttal to his quote indicating that "all game designers suck" quote. In his letter, Garriott says that the words were taken out of context. 

 Wow did I strike a nerve! In the midst of a much longer more contextual conversation, PC Gamer noted “Wow, you just gave me my headline!” At that moment, I knew to brace for an out of context backlash. Without the broader real time discussion, as often happens, much can be made out of partial thoughts used as headlines of comments meant as quipping simplification of complex issues, as was the recent case for me. The variations of headlines where I either disparage others, or glorify myself are inaccurate representations of the intent of my full commentary.

Still, I have received numerous comments of support and numerous complaints about my recent words about the challenges of finding great game designers. But, please let me clarify! By no means did I intend to disparage others who have led the many great games of each era in gaming history. I was trying to say, and show why finding or growing NEW great game designers is hard!

Behind the inaccurate inflammatory headlines extracted from a longer dialog, I really do see a major challenge to our art form, specifically in the area of design. The design of a game is simultaneously 1) the most valuable aspect when it comes to the potential of success of a game, 2) the hardest part of game development to improve over previous efforts because of competition, and 3) the skill set with the least formal and informal training available to game developers.

Let me examine the history of design from where I watched it unfold.

Once upon a time, only one person made a game. By necessity that person was the programmer, artist and designer (as well as holding many other roles). I can honestly say that the first artist I ever hired was FAR better than I ever was. I was, and could still be, a passable programmer. Some programmers who my companies have hired have been better than me, some worse, as I would expect. And there are designers whose work in many areas is far better than mine. But I also think some of the work I have done as a designer remains a top contribution for its time.

However, while ALL artists in the industry are better than I ever was, and while I can easily hire a programmer who is better than I ever was, it is far more difficult to hire a designer who is clearly capable of leading a top 10 game. For any company, growth only comes when the company finds another leader who can make a top 10 game. Origin only grew when we found people like Chris Roberts and Warren Spector. Most other attempts at creating new game lines failed when we gave the reigns to junior people looking to advance. I want emphasize that this was not always the case, but it happened more times than not. As a business it’s important to understand why.

At Origin, after we successfully added art teams and programming teams, we realized we had huge worlds to build that did not demand the same drawing skills as an artist. We also had NPC scripting needs that did not demand a top programmer. Thus we invented the Technical Design Assistant, often someone from QA (still a traditional source of designers) to build maps and script NPCs. These people did this to GREAT success!

But, as the industry evolved, we began to lean more heavily on new “designers” to develop the actual plans for the game itself and to describe the game we planned to build. They were also tasked with making design calls on how much of the computer’s limited resources should be spent on the competing fields of art, sound and interaction. This difficult trade-off is generally best handled by someone who knows the difficulties of coding and art creation issues, and that is more often someone who has programmed and drawn art than it is someone who has not.

Sadly for people who really are passionate about designing the next great game, “game design” remains a hard skill to learn. A lot of indie developers right now who are “triple threats” of artist, programmer and designer, will likely rise to the occasion. They will have a good understanding of ALL the issues. Designers, who never coded and never drew art, have a far harder path ahead of them. After all, we are making “computer games,” and a deep knowledge of the computer is mighty helpful.

Artists can take classes and create portfolios of their work and an employer knows they can do the work. A programmer can take classes and produce code samples to prove the same. For designers, there are now at least a few good schools like the Guildhall at SMU, that turn out quality designers. Yet these quality designers remain a rare breed. Sadly, I really do think that most people who get into design roles on a team have no more skills at design than the programmers and artists. They may not be worse, but they rarely have better training than the others to tackle the hardest job of all, determining what game is going to be built.

Perhaps my statement that has been quoted so often in recent days could have been presented in a more eloquent fashion. But I stand by the point I was making, that game design is the hardest profession in our business to understand and to learn.

And I certainly am not trying to put my own career on some sort of game design high ground. While I have hit occasional home runs, I have made plenty of unforced errors. I was not attempting to prop myself up with these comments, but rather lament my need…our industry’s need for proper training in the most important skill required to make a good game. I never had any formal training either; I have just had more time to learn from my mistakes than most. If what comes from all this is a frank discussion and lively debate on how to best address this issue, then hopefully I’ve accomplished something.

Thanks for your time,

Richard “Lord British” Garriott

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/12/09
Posts: 894

3/21/13 11:41:10 AM#2
That sounds a bit more balanced. Good luck to him.

There is NO miracle patch.

95% of what you see in beta won't change by launch.

Hope is not a stategy.
"This kind of topic is like one of those little cartoon boxes held up by a stick on a string, with a piece of meat under it. In other words, bait."


Advanced Member

Joined: 9/16/09
Posts: 325

3/21/13 11:55:17 AM#3
Anyone with half a brain knew that quote was taken out of context.

Advanced Member

Joined: 5/28/04
Posts: 675

3/21/13 11:55:53 AM#4
Less entertaining than the out-of-context original but probably a better read.
  User Deleted
3/21/13 11:57:24 AM#5

Sounds like PC Gamer was just trying to sell more magazines with a sensationalized quote...oh, some of us realized that yesterday.


Everyone else...torches and pitchforks at the Garriott castle...


Advanced Member

Joined: 5/28/04
Posts: 675

3/21/13 11:59:58 AM#6
Originally posted by Butch808
Anyone with half a brain knew that quote was taken out of context.

Exactly -- now if it had been said by Derek Smart, the context probably would have been correct.

  User Deleted
3/21/13 12:12:15 PM#7


A quote was taken out of context by the media? That's never happened before!



Advanced Member

Joined: 5/05/05
Posts: 999

3/21/13 12:55:50 PM#8
The sad part is that regardless of context he wasn't wrong.

  User Deleted
3/21/13 1:50:48 PM#9
Originally posted by achesoma
The sad part is that regardless of context he wasn't wrong.


But that won't stop the hyper-sensitive forum goers from tossing the man's lifelong work into the garbage and ridiculing him and demanding the world boycott his games....




Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/09/09
Posts: 92

3/21/13 1:57:47 PM#10
Not everyone is awesome at what they do, some people suck, out of context or not, some game designers SUCK.

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 6770

3/21/13 2:04:11 PM#11
Originally posted by Butch808
Anyone with half a brain knew that quote was taken out of context.

This is true and it also explains why so many posts and threads are so full of derp.

No one has as many friends as a man with many cheeses!


Elite Member

Joined: 8/19/07
Posts: 1849

3/21/13 2:10:52 PM#12

Can't say any of us are surprised that the quote was taken out of context, and I also like his comments to explain what he really meant.

He speaks alot of truth as well. If you look at the vast majority of all games created, only a handful are exampled as timeless legends. Ironically, many of those iconic and timeless games are from a series of games which were designed for the most part by the vision of a singular person. Think of any game you would consider legendary, and it's most likely part of a series of games under the same title. Even those games weren't without flaws either, but the fun value overshadowed any of the problems with the game.

There's far too many games coming to market that are well visioned, nor polished enough to be considered good let alone great games. In other words, yes Richard is right, most game designers do suck. Thankfully, we've had enough with vision in the past deliver us some fantastic experiences that keep us going.



Joined: 7/26/03
Posts: 11860

3/21/13 2:13:52 PM#13

taken out of context?

when he actually named the designers that dont suck ?

“And every designer that I work with—all throughout life—I think, frankly, is lazy,” said Garriot, adding “to give you another zinger” in reference to my ribbing him earlier over his “game designers suck” line.

“I think there’s really very few great game designers,” he continued. “I think Chris Roberts is one of them, Will Wright’s another, Peter Molyneux is another. They clearly exist, but on the whole, I think that the design talent in our industry is dramatically lower than we need, as an industry. It’s a very hard skill to learn.”



personally, I think Garriott was on an "ego high" after he made his kickstarter goal

but I dont think he was taken out of context


Novice Member

Joined: 3/21/13
Posts: 1

3/21/13 5:08:04 PM#14
I have a rebuttal to Mr. Garriott here:

Advanced Member

Joined: 6/13/12
Posts: 481

3/21/13 5:13:20 PM#15
Sounds like PC Gamer is more loyal to journalism and the gasp factor/all mighty dollar than to a PC Gaming legend. Good to know.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 7/19/06
Posts: 1398

3/21/13 5:20:47 PM#16

I understand what he is saying in this rebuttal but I dont understand how people can say he was "misquoted" or that it was taken out of context.  Basically he went from this:

"Game Designers Suck"


to this


"But I stand by the point I was making, that game design is the hardest profession in our business to understand and to learn."


Sure the new version is awesome and is very politically correct and makes everyone feel good but his first version clearly said todays designers suck.  Now he can spin this to say they dont do it all like they used to or that they are being asked to do things they have never done before but that is totally different from saying they suck.  he was not "misquoted" and it was not taken out of context.  He simply used a poor choice of words and now he is doing damage control. 


I dont understand how this guy can have such a big head.  I agree some of the Ultima games were awesome back in the day and UO did break new ground and had its merits but it was not ALL due to Lord British.  Origin had some FANTASTIC people working there over the years that did their share, you can not attribute all the success to LB.  That said, the guy has not done anything of value since he left Origin and is the last person who should be saying designers suck after his fantastic success of Tabula Rasa. 


Apprentice Member

Joined: 8/14/09
Posts: 178

3/21/13 6:55:39 PM#17
Originally posted by Butch808
Anyone with half a brain knew that quote was taken out of context.

And yet... we have yesterday that happened.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 11/22/05
Posts: 4909

3/21/13 6:59:21 PM#18
Originally posted by achesoma
The sad part is that regardless of context he wasn't wrong.

Yeah I don't see the big deal. We all play these games, it's not like he just said god sucks to a bunch of religious people. Most ppl who play mmos say the devs suck every day :P


Novice Member

Joined: 11/27/05
Posts: 1342

3/21/13 7:19:39 PM#19

"I’ve met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am. 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, and I think there’s a reason why.”

So from there he goes on to his explanation of the lack of training..etc. That statement is what it is. I don't see how you can take it out of context. It's not a riddle. He is pretty straight forward. Yes, he gives a reason why he thinks they suck but that doesn't in any way change the statement.

Don't get me wrong. My panties are not in a bunch. I don't hate or love the guy but to say that was taken out of context is absurd. There is only one way to take that. I think he should have just manned up and either admited he was being an ass or stand by that comment. Backpeddling just seems a little beneath him. IMO.


Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/01/07
Posts: 1762

3/21/13 7:34:22 PM#20
He was right if he meant he sucked because he's a one hit wonder who's completely irrelevant to todays games and gamers.

Is a man not entitled to the herp of his derp?

Remember, I live in a world where juggalos and yugioh players are real things.

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