Richard Garriott: Most Current Game Designers Are Lazy Failures

Creator of the famed Ultima series, Richard Garriott, believes that the majority of current game designers are ill suited for that role and that they work as game designers only because they lack the technical skills required for other roles.

"Other than a few exceptions, like Chris Roberts, I've met virtually no one in our industry who I think is close to as good a game designer as I am," he said. "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."

Garriott suggested that most modern-day game designers end up in that role because they lack the skills required in other fields such as programing or art where work quality can be assessed easily. In fact, Garriott noted that artists and programmers are often better game designers than the designers themselves since they have better understanding on how their work products affect gameplay and design.

"So we're leaning on a lot of designers who get that job because they're not qualified for the other jobs, rather than that they are really strongly qualified as a designer," he lamented. "It's really hard to go to school to be a good designer."

And this lack of skill is only amplified by laziness and reliance on rehashing existing ideas instead of exerting effort to come up with new ones. "They generally say, 'You know, I really like Medal of Honor, but I would have bigger weapons, or I would have more healing packs, or,' you know. They go to make one or two changes to a game they otherwise love versus really sit down and rethink, 'How can I really move the needle here?'"”

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Die in a fire

I think that RG was trying to say that in most modern corporate environments -- which includes game development companies -- you have a mix of some who are highly skilled and some that are not. This includes artists / developers / designers -- and many of these people are good at more than one of these things and exhibit pride and passion for what they do. And some are not. The problem is that those who are good at what they do, or are good at many things, tend to be focused upon what is needed most -- a good programmer is hard to find, a brilliant artist maybe even moreso. This extends to other roles as well, including management. In any case, those typically tasked with design, be it UI, logic, etc, tend to be the dregs of employment pool, because the best and the brightest are busy in other ways that take real skill, and oftentimes decision makers tend to believe design is something that "just happens.". I suspect any of you that have worked in a development house or a moderately sized corporate environment can appreciate what I am saying, at least to an extent. Any any case, those idiots at the end of the thread arguing education vs experience -- while they each have their merits, IMO raw talent trumps both.
You voted 'yes'.


I agree, designers are very lazy these days and if you havent got the eye to pick out the laziness in the design in games then you have no opinion on this issue.

Stuck-up douchebag

Heyyo, I agree with the above statement... Richard is way to ******* full of himself.. especially with how **** Tabula Rasa was.. he should listen to himself and have "moved the needle" on T.R. instead of putting the needle into his veins and shooting up... he is a lazy failure for focusing on going to space over making T.R. a good game... **** Richard Garriott. Tim Schafer would NEVER bash anyone cause he's humble and doesn't need to act like a bigot to prove it... going to space went straight to this douchebag's ego.. there's definitely better designers than him and I just named one... there's plenty of other ones but I will agree there are some mediocre ones but calling them "lazy failures" isn't good for your reputation.

I think... Garriot just

I think... Garriot just called himself out? Every game designer I've met has outstanding jack-of-all-trades development skills (I teach game design in between postgrad studies).You can't pull out a couple of bad eggs and then say "All game designers that aren't me are terrible" and generalise that game design is somehow not a technical role. Such ignorant hubris from an out-of-date hack! Most game designers single-handedly prototype their games before picking up a dev team, myself and my classmates included during our undergrad.

School/indie and a real games

School/indie and a real games studio are two differnt things mate, I actualy work in the games industry, in a real games studio desingers dont prototype ****, Richard Garriott is correct that alot of desingers in these studios have very little understanding of what makes a game fun nor well desinged, they get in those roles usually because they are untallented as programers and artists nor understand how to design to the limitations of such things, this IS why indie game these days are taking off as the artist programer and desinger are alot of the time the same person. Big studios really should take a step back and realise that large teams of very focused professions doesnt always make great games, smaller teams of multitalented individulas with a better understanding of all aspects of game development will always make better and more interesting games.

I mean, that's probably the

I mean, that's probably the case at huge companies like Treyarch and Maxis, but most teams are much smaller than them and the game designer is forced to take an active role in developing the game. Saying that they only got the role because they couldn't program, or create art, or write is truly underestimating and undervaluing them. It's not as though they walk into an interview and say "I love making games but have no employable skills" and get handed the title.

Most smaller teams make up

Most smaller teams make up the minority of the industry's revenue. You're trying to make small garage companies seem like the real thing. They're not, small companies usually have roots in friends or family and as such have no clear bondaries, people do whatever that have to regardless of what their job is, overall small companies are far more informal than the larger ones and large companies set the standards. Garriott was talking about how bad are the game designers that matter today, not every little ant out there.

No, I'm not - why do you

No, I'm not - why do you automatically equate "smaller teams" as being garage developers? Eidos Montreal has a smaller team, Arcane Studios has a smaller team, and up until about 10 years ago Valve had a smaller team (now they have many more independent minuscule teams producing games that are widely critically acclaimed). Gearbox used to be tiny, but it's been a while since I've visited those guys (they're probably not a great example anyway though). Starbreeze were ridiculously small when they released Riddick, and as far as I know still are - not to mention Media Molecule. Just because a team isn't big, it doesn't mean they're some indie developer and not reaping a huge chunk of the AAA game revenue. These ARE the game designers that matter. Hell, I would even argue FOR the idea that independent developers matter - if they make an impact, they're no longer a "little ant" and aren't to be discarded for not being 'real' game developers.

You said "*******" three

You said "*******" three times, you must be an academic genius in your own right! You're right, I must be jealous of an ancient, irrelevant designer who made the same game for over a decade! He's not just a hipocrite with no self-awareness!


"It's really hard to go to school to be a good designer." The point is, you gather knowledge at school, but creativity is not something you learn. And this is why most games are just clones of other clones.

**** people who call themself's "game designer"

I'm not a huge fan of his games, but as someone who meets a lot of game designers i can say this is spot on. I've never met a designer has tried to learn something, I've tried to convince many designers to learn some code without success, when it comes down to it they just want a job where they get to boss people around to create "their" game, what's even worse, the majority of designers think that because the industry points out designers as the creators that we simply exists for them, "in the industry you work for designers, we are the creative process, we tell you how it should be, deal with it" - actual quote , a opinion many share. And the problem is that this is true in the minds of those who hire these people.. "of course you need a game designer, who would design the game otherwise?", there is a reason good games like Diablo 2 state "Game Design: Blizzard North", and why the only good designers(that i know of) have programming knowledge: Total Annihilation(which could never have been done without a good understanding of programming, unlike today's shortcut bullshit like Unity), RollerCoaster Tycoon (same story here..), etc. I'm so ******* depressed about the near future of the game industry, it's nice to know i'm not the only one.

Reinvent the wheel? Yes,

Reinvent the wheel? Yes, every time you start a project? No (you've never actually programmed have you XD), there's a reason i call it a shortcut, people who rely on existing engines lose a lot of extremely important knowledge they need to make them a good programmer(and even more so designer). When you use unity you're simply lazy and you don't want to put any effort into it, using words like reinventing the wheel only proves you're trying to justify it. You need to know how things work in order to control it properly.

No you're not "simply lazy

No you're not "simply lazy and don't want to put any effort into it" - when you use a game engine instead of programming a game entirely from scratch for one use, you're spending the time you would use writing a boilerplate rendering engine and basic game logic systems actually making or prototyping your game. Only an ******* or a fool would spend their valuable time writing something that has been written thousands of times before, often better and more efficiently because of years of refinement and continued improvement simply for the sake of "knowing how things work" to gain "extremely important knowledge" (Like what? 3D Math? Nope - you use that during development of the game too. Rendering? Nope, writing renderers and shaders is part of customising an engine. Interpreted code? Nope - only an idiot would write their own scripting system in 2013. Maybe you mean Programming-101 basics such as type casting and bit comparison? Any programming will teach you that). You don't need to code something from scratch to know how to control it, you need to know how to make good use of documentation.

No i'm sorry you are simply

No i'm sorry you are simply lazy, here's some examples of what i can do because i'm an "fool": I can make a game(and i have a prototype) that processes more than 200000 enemies(with path finding), with over 30000 turrets/ pin pointing the nearest enemy, all on a single core, not very impressed? ok, i can make a multiplayer structure for mmo's that have instances, that eliminates lag depending on the location of the participants, imagine playing a game on a server on the other side of the world with your friends, without lag, and ofc no cheating possible.. I can also make a multiplayer versus structure that doesn't even require a hosted server and still makes it impossible to cheat at the same time(with the exception of weakness all multiplayer games have, like pretending to be another player by somehow getting hold of his ip address), with the added benefits of having an even lower delay, but with some drawbacks you need to consider while designing the game. you're probably saying to yourself that it's impossible and i'm just making **** up, but in reality you just don't know anything because you spend all your valuable time learning how a particular engine "works". And what's wrong with making your own script language? I have made a simple language for defining specs that is faster than lua.. stop repeating **** other idiots have told you and learn to code.

Also, seriously, nobody cares

Also, seriously, nobody cares about the specs of your *******hypothetical engine, they want games that are actually good, why do you need 200000+ enemies on a level? People want a game that's good, they don't care if it has ******* in-built cheat protection or peer-to-peer multiplayer. Which is why people spend their time making their games using the incredibly powerful tools they have freely available at their disposal instead of wasting time coding yet-another rudimentary 3D engine.

Oh ffs, ofc more enemies does

Oh ffs, ofc more enemies does not equal better games, i never said that, but the fact is if you have an idea that require a game with many enemies, you wont know what the **** to do. I just gave some good examples of things you could learn. And i'm not talking about a hypothetical engine or any engine for that matter. "Specs" is specifying data used by the program, what textures and shaders an model uses and things like that :S. You know what people really don't like? long loading times, getting owned in pvp by cheaters, *******gameplay physics used by the wrong game.

No, what people "on't like"

No, what people "on't like" are games that promise to be technically sound and end up being terrible despite it. It's like you think the only thing that makes a game "good" is how strong the tech behind it is - which is clearly only thought out by people who have minimal programming skills and none of the creativity required to actually make a game that appeals to people. "the fact is if you have an idea that require a game with many enemies, you wont know what the **** to do." Uhh... add more enemies? If the engine can't handle it, write your own NPC system that can and integrate it? What's so hard to understand about that?

I agree with you and have

I agree with you and have seen the results of what people can do building from scratch, like Infinity Universe. I don't think developers have to design their own engines, but most times they don't properly research their choice before-hand and end up cutting 2/3 of the game because of limitations of the (*cough* Unreal) engine. This could also happen in a large company where the engine development team is so segregated from the design team that the functions needed are never implemented.

but ofc i c now u are teh

but ofc i c now u are teh l33test pragrammier evr sorri i mistakn :''(( Well my engine can have up to 9999999999999 enemies on screen all dancing the macarena and shooting laserbeams out of their steep-relief-mapped guns that are so detailed it's like a whole level of Halo inside it!!!! You sound like a ******* thirteen year old. You're a moron, and you have no idea what you're talking about.

lol what? I'm not saying i'm

lol what? I'm not saying i'm good, i'm saying you suck. You think i sound like a 13 year old answering his question? You sound like an 13 year old who didn't even bother to read the post. And on what ground do you say i don't know what i'm talking about? Your argument so far is: "but ofc i c now u are teh l33test pragrammier evr sorri i mistakn :''((" so yeah..

"No, I'm not, YOU are!" <

"No, I'm not, YOU are!" < This is you. And you're still pathetic. And you still clearly have no idea what you're talking about. But please, keep pulling bullshit out of the air to tell us how much more amazing you are as a programmer than those hacks at Epic or Mr. John "Try-Hard n00b" Carmack because you have anti-cheat.

2010 Golden Eye 007 for the

2010 Golden Eye 007 for the Wii is a good example. They actually claimed it would have old school game play like from the N64, it was however just like COD MW. Sad that even a company like Nintendo would let the "Golden Eye" design fall to just another COD.


In this day and age qualifications mean **** considering you can learn everything off the internet. And it's not hard to see why he thinks this way given the huge amount of crap that is pumped out.

So you're saying second-rate

So you're saying second-rate opinions from the internet are just as good as a formal education in anything? That's showing blatant disregard for the valuable qualities of real education. I would never employ anyone who applied and listed "Google and Wikipedia" for their academic references, and neither would anyone else in the position to do so.


What I'm saying, is that you can have all the knowledge in world about a trade, but that doesn't mean squat unless you can prove it on paper. Dig this: You decide to learn a trade, you pick your university of choice teaching said trade. Now unless you come from a relatively wealthy family or have earned it yourself (which is hard to do for unqualified people, **** work, low pay, tough economy etc) then you have no choice but to take up a loan, usually a very high interest one. Bottom line is: Education is so skewed in today's word and set up in such a systematic way which usually requires you to rack up huge amounts of debts that you end up having to pay off over the next 10-20 years anyway for a 3-5 year course which usually robs you of any real individuality and creativity to learn a specific skill set based on a curriculum where government collects. So not only are you now paying back you loans, but you are put in a higher pay bracket AND tax bracket again where (you guessed it) government collects... My grandfather was an engineer for 70 years, he had no official qualifications but if you gave him a whole pile of junk he could build anything out of it. If you have five minutes to spare, George Carlin says it quite well: youtube. com/watch?v=Nxa5-c3G4qM

You really haven't been to

You really haven't been to college or university at all, have you? Every single point in your post is the same 100% pure bullshit that I've heard from hundreds of people that are underqualified by their lack of ambition or motivation and would rather blame it on a social system than take an ounce of blame for themselves. If you think earning an undergrad is just reading books with an exam (and a very tea-patryesque taxation conspiracy) then again, you're disregarding the academic development that students go through over their time spent studying as opposed to just learning cool facts off some anonymous webpage.

Why bother

Did you actually read my post and watch the George Carlin clip, or just skim over it? If you ever have an hour to spare, watch this: youtube. com/watch?v=bxI1skgga1U&list=LLsq0a0QZHIhTUv3V9GPrEUQ [Those people sum it all up better than I do] *Captcha* "Liberty Bell" irony?

Yes, I did read your post,

Yes, I did read your post, that's how I drew my conclusion. That's merely one of many, many skills you learn through formal education that you don't learn from reading the Wikipedia entry on nuclear magnetism. Mis-interpreting George Carlin videos to try and "educate" me as to why real education is a waste of time because we have the internet and therefore qualifications are meaningless won't make you seem more qualified or less like a conspiracy freak at this point.


While it is true that you can learn more from a formal education where information is more structured and you don't have access to certain materials made publicly, you can still learn those particular skill sets from non educated people that have learned through the process of trial and error. My grandfather was a perfect example of that, he was the town engineer nicknamed "Mr Fix It"... My little rant about racking up loans, taxation, and being part of the workforce can be explained in that last youtube link I provided. You'll be grateful you watched it... And that last statement about being a conspiracy freak is nothing than a last defense of a person that doesn't have the answers. Although I do research conspiracy's I research conspiracy "facts", not theory's. Not all conspiracy theory's are theory's, remember that.

I'm sorry, but being a "Mr.

I'm sorry, but being a "Mr. fix It" and being properly qualified, long suffering student-turned-master and peer-reviewed to a standard are not the same thing. If you were to walk into a doctors office and started seeing to patients, they would probably have you arrested for endangering lives - having read Greys Anatomy and learned to perform home surgery on your sister doesn't make you even approach being equal in qualification to someone who has spent ten years of their lives under the watchful eye of dozens of highly educated supervisors, fighting poverty and illness to achieve their ultimate goal. And education is not always merely an ends to a job (If you want money, coal mines are always looking for workers. If you want to go to University, be prepared to live on less than 30k indefinitely - nobody here who is serious about their work cares about money), it is furthering ones own understanding of and ability to understand and communicate complex ideas and concepts in a rational manner, allowing them to further pursue their new, original ideas and put forth their own consented, informed research to their peers and pupils. Believe me, I am more than familiar with the works of George Carlin.


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