Sponsored By

GCG: Richard Garriott On In-Game Languages

Gamasutra sister site GameCareerGuide has debuted a piece on Richard Garriott’s thoughts on in-game languages, with the Ultima/Tabula Rasa creator setting

Jill Duffy, Blogger

August 12, 2008

2 Min Read

Gamasutra sister website GameCareerGuide has just posted an article on Richard Garriott’s ideas about in-game languages. To enrich a game world, developers need to ask not how much depth is in that world, but about how much depth the player can participate in, says Garriott. Richard Garriott, also known as Lord British, was the lead designer of Ultima, as well as the founder of the company that made it, Origin Systems. More recently, he was behind the game Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa. Both of those games contain man-made languages. In the article, Garriott lays down a number of rules for developing in-game languages, including: use familiar sounds, stick to a familiar grammar for both the development team and the players, and don’t make it mandatory for players to learn the language. “I’m a big believer that, when you create an alternate language, it can’t be too complex or it might as well be gibberish,” Garriott says, citing Klingon from Star Trek as an example of what not to do in a game world. Klingon, he contends, is an utterly alien language with a large number of harsh, consonant filled syllables, and very few Star Trek fans actually learn Klingon or even register the Klingon spoken by the characters. Because it doesn’t allow for enough audience involvement, it would be seen as a failure in a game. An excerpt from the article about reveals a little about how Logos, the language of Tabula Rasa was created: “For Tabula Rasa, Garriott and his team ended up sticking to an English grammar for the language of the game. Why? For one, it would be accessible and familiar to a large segment of the audience. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it was already familiar to 100 percent of the game designers. This not only increased the rate at which they could build the language into the game, but also ensured that the designers had a greater degree of fluency. This is a key element to creating an in-game language. Any mistakes or poorly crafted sentences can frustrate players and destroy their ability to learn the language presented to them.” The complete article “In Tongues: Richard Garriott on In-Game Languages” is now available on GameCareerGuide.com.

About the Author(s)

Jill Duffy


Jill Duffy is the departments editor at Game Developer magazine. Contact her at [email protected].

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like