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Garriott Lawsuit Raises Questions

General Article By Jon Wood on May 06, 2009

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It’s Goliath vs. Goliath in the courtroom these days as new details are beginning to come to light surrounding the recent revelation that Ultima creator and well-known industry leader Richard Garriott is suing his former employers, the MMO publishing giant NCsoft, for an amount of 24 million dollars according to Justia.com’s Federal District court Filings and Dockets.

According to an article at Gamasutra, Garriott was dismissed by the publisher shortly after returning from his trip to the International Space Station. The details of the court case revolve around the circumstances of that dismissal.

According to Gamasutra, Garriott was dismissed by the president of NCsoft’s North American operations, Chris Chung. Garriott claims that he objected to his dismissal. The suit also claims that at some point, the internal reason for dismissal was marked as “voluntary.” A voluntary dismissal meant that Garriott had to sell his stocks sooner than he would have liked or risk losing them. This fact seems to be what the lawsuit is about.

The specifics of the court case aside (the Gamasurta article covers this aspect quite thoroughly), this civil suit merits another look at the order of events surrounding Garriott’s departure from the company and the cancellation of Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa.

Here is a breakdown of the order of events as they were known at the time:

October 12th 2008 – Richard Garriott travels to the International Space Station. The space flight itself (though paid for by Garriott) was used as a promotional tool for Tabula Rasa via the “Operation Immortality” project. Minutes before Garriott went into quarantine for the flight, he appeared via phone on the Colbert Report as a part of this campaign.

October 23rd, 2008 – Garriott returns to Earth

November 11th, 2008 – Garriott makes the surprising announcement that he would be leaving NCsoft to pursue “new interests.” It was noted at the time as a very sudden and surprising move for the game developer. While strange, the announcement contained nothing that would have pointed to an unpleasant parting of ways.

November 21st, 2008 – NCsoft cans Tabula Rasa. Only ten days after Garriott’s departure, NCsoft announced that the game that bore his name would be closing down due to the game’s failure to meet performance expectations.

February 28th, 2009 – Tabula Rasa closes down

Looking back at the events surrounding Garriott’s departure from NCsoft and the eventual closing of Tabula Rasa, the only thing that can be said for sure is that the events left a lot of questions unanswered:

Why, if Garriott planned to leave the company only two weeks after returning from a trip to space (which NCsoft later confirmed that it had no financial stake in), would he use the trip to promote the game? Why was Garriott so cryptic in his letter when it came to his departure as to what he would be doing next? Why did he praise the development team so thoroughly and yet not mention NCsoft? Did NCsoft intend to close down Tabula Rasa before Garriott’s space flight ever took off?

Whatever the case, this most recent news is yet another blow for the publishing giant to withstand as it prepares for the North American launch of Aion, one of this year’s most anticipated MMO titles.

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