Mark Jacobs vs. Richard Garriott rss

SirBruce already got his report on AGC up, which leads with the critical bit on what happened to annoy Mark Jacobs, president of Mythic Entertainment.

Specifically, it was this description of Richard Garriott (Lord British, duh)’s Thursday afternoon speech, emphasis added: (this is still up on AGC’s Web page as of this writing)

Thursday 2:30pm – 3:30pm
Building New IP
Richard Garriott, father of the online gaming industry (Ultima Series, Origin Systems, NCSoft), will discuss building new intellectual property.

This bothered Jacobs, because, well, he’s been in the online game industry a lot longer than Garriott, who can’t even say he was the “father” of Ultima Online, the MMORPG which used his creation, Ultima, as its basis. (Though UO was arguably the first huge mainstream success in online game worlds, and Garriott is probably one of the fathers of computer RPG gaming in general. Split hairs and all.)

I wasn’t there to see any of the following, but suffice it to say there were lots who were. Near as I can tell, this is how it went down (and anyone is free to correct me on this).

Jacobs apparently confronted Garriott in the AGC speaker’s lounge, first just asking if he wrote the text in the manual. Garriott said he hadn’t. Jacobs then demanded that Garriott apologize in his speech, or else Jacobs, who was going to be in a panel discussion in the same room immediately after Garriott, would call the whole thing out.

Garriott apparently didn’t acknowledge Jacobs’ beef in his speech (and from what I heard, spent half the speech talking in general about building an IP, and the other half plugging Tabula Rasa. Raph Koster, in the thread linked above, said Jacobs’ retort went something like this:

Mark Jacobs specifically called out “folks by the names of Richard, Roy, Bill, Kelton, and John” — that would be Bartle, Trubshaw, Louden, Flinn, and Taylor. As it happens, I was standing next to Bill at the time, and he whispered to me, “Can I just be the mommy of online games instead?”

Bartle and Trubshaw founded MUD1, Louden was founding manager of the pre-Internet online service GEnie, Flinn and Taylor founded Kesmai which made games for GEnie. All several years before UO. If you read the descriptions of each talk, you might note that most of them have a little more meat on them; almost as though whoever wrote the bit for Garriott’s talk didn’t have much to work with. “Um… it’s Lord British giving a talk… he’s important, right? ‘Father of online gaming’? Hell, let’s go with it.” I doubt Garriott’s at fault for it getting printed, but he probably could have defused that situation.

But maybe there wasn’t much to it after all, but hey, it was that kind of conference. I’ll get back to reporting stuff of consequence tomorrow.


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  1. Woooooo, shitstorm! Being a fan of both Jacobs and Garriott, I wouldn’t dream of picking sides here. I shall, however, enjoy watching from the sidelines.


    Okay that was fun.

    Comment by Slyfeind — September 13, 2004 #

  2. I’ll apologize up front for tagging on to this so late, but I thought I’d pass on what I know of it. I was in the speaker’s lounge when the confrontation happened, and heard part of it. From what I heard myself and what I was told by others who heard it, Mark asked Richard if he wrote the speech description, and Richard said no. Mark then asked if Richard’s PR people had written it, or if Richard had approved it, and Richard wouldn’t answer. Mark asked Richard if he thought the statement was true, and (if I heard him correctly) Richard said “I’m flattered by it, and I do think that–” at which point Mark cut him off. By this point, Mark was fairly angry, and Richard had two other people clustering around him. I was on my way out the door then, so didn’t hear what happened next, but I heard Mark say that he was offended by the statement in the speech description, and then Richard and the two other men stormed out of the room and down the hall, looking very angry.

    At no point did I hear, either for myself or from others, that Mark asked or demanded that Richard apologize for this statement in his speech. I think the whole thing would have been fine had Richard laughed and said “Oh you know PR, they like to stretch things a bit sometimes.” But he was obviously flattered by the statement (he said so himself) and thought it was at least somewhat true (at least that’s where I think he was going with his “and I do think” sentence). Being hustled out of the room by a “posse” didn’t do anything to help the image that Richard *likes* being thought of as a celebrity.

    Another piece of the puzzle is that I believe Mark had confirmation from the AGC organizers, later in the day, that they did *not* write the blurb for the speech, but rather were supplied it by someone from NCSoft. I heard this second hand so I can’t confirm it, so take it how you will.

    The question itself of who is the “father” of the online gaming industry does not have a clear answer. If we’re talking about the first online world with graphics, I think the prize goes to Habitat. If we’re talking about the first commercial MMO in that wave in the mid 90s, then the prize goes to Meridian 59. If we want to pick an arbitrary bench mark of number of players to call “massive”, then the prize goes to either UO or EQ, depending on what arbitrary number one picks. But the question itself is stupid. There were many, many projects before UO that led up to the explosion in the late 90s. There were many people, largely unknown to the general public, whose work we are still building on today. To claim any sort of parenthood over the entire industry — especially at a conference like AGC, which focuses so heavily on MMO development — is simply rude.

    Beyond all this, there’s the fact that the statement was completely unnecessary. It was a speech on building an IP. Richard Garriott built one of the huge IPs of early gaming, and has gone on to build another IP in Tabula Rasa. He has a wealth of information and experience to share when it comes to building an IP, and so laying claim to something like being the “father” of online gaming was as unnecessary as it was rude.

    Comment by Ryot — September 20, 2004 #

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