In a recent PC Gamer interview Ultima series creator Richard Garriott said that he has never met anyone who is as good a game designer as he is and that the only one that comes close is his old friend and colleague Chris Roberts. Garriott acknowledges that there are proficient game designers in the industry but none that have the skillset that would put them in the category of being "great."
“But 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. 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.”
“If you like games, you eventually get to the point where you’d like to make one,” said Garriott. “But if you had this magic art talent as a youth, you can refine your skills and show a portfolio and say, ‘I’m a good artist, go hire me’ If you’re nerdy enough to hack into a computer, programming on your own, you can go to school and learn proper structure, make code samples and go ‘Look, I’m a good programmer, hire me.’
He goes on to say that people who "like games" but are not good artists or programmers tend to get their foot in the door by doing Q&A and later game 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. It’s really hard to go to school to be a good designer.”
To be fair, Garriott notes at the end of the PC Gamer article that some developers have been doing good work. His criticism is in how design talent is evaluated and promoted in specific parts of the industry. Unfortunately, when the headline of the article featuring you says that you think most game designers suck, the conversation goes into a darker direction. Read the entire interview here.
Garriott's upcoming RPG Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues recently hits its $1 million funding target. The game is expected to release in 2014.
Editor's note: We have changed the headline to this story because it wasn't particularly fair to Richard Garriott and was taken out of context. The overall thrust of the conversation is that game designers that lack other skills - like programming, art, and music skills - tend to produce lackluster products. Ultimately his point was, in our opinion - that being a really exceptional game designer is very hard.