Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Leaving

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you're young at heart
For its hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If you're young at heart

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting with each passing day
And love is either in your heart or on its way

Dont you know that its worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
For as rich as you are its much better by far
To be young at heart

When I read that Richard Garriot was floating in space, I heard this song in my head. It must be carefree, floating in space, unless a HAL 9000 unit is somewhere nearby.

Richard Garriot, like many of us, has had a huge influence on my life, because as I have mentioned on occasion, the first computer game I ever played was Ultima IV.

That experience certainly changed some road maps.

I actually was lucky enough to meet him in person once, at E3 in 2001. NCsoft had this tiny space so far off the main way that no one even knew how to find them. He was just standing there, by himself, Johnny Unitas in a Chargers uniform. It all felt vaguely uncomfortable and wrong, and I remember wondering if it was going to end badly for him.

Well, it didn't. Seven years later, he was in space.

Back in the ugly pull of gravity, though, what a mess he left behind. Six years of development (scrapping the first three years) birthed a game that nobody really hated, but nobody loved, either.

Inconceivable, isn't it, that Richard Garriot could be deeply involved with a game that didn't inspire any passion?

In a year, the game sold 61,000 copies in the U.S. In NCsoft's most recent earnings report, Tabula Rasa accounted for two percent of quarterly revenue. It appears that total sales of Tabula Rasa have generated 10.4M in revenue (not profit). To put it into perspective, it's entirely possible that Richard Garriot made more revenue from his NCsoft deal than his game did.

By any measure, it has been a colossal failure.

Today, Garriot announced that he was leaving NCsoft:
"Many of you probably wonder what my plans are, now that I have achieved the lifelong dream of going to space," he mused in an open letter on the Tabula Rasa Web site. "Well, that unforgettable experience has sparked some new interests that I would like to devote my time and resources to. As such, I am leaving NCsoft to pursue those interests."

What? Hadn't he already left years ago?

I'm happy that Garriot went into space and realized his dream. I deeply appreciate the experience he gave me in Ultima IV. But for someone who always thought Garriot believed in the virtues of his imaginary worlds, it's impossible to see this happen and not feel all kinds of yuck.

Honesty. Compassion. Valor. Justice. Honor. Sacrifice. Spirituality. Humility.

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