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Richard Garriott remembers calling his parents to settle a fight over Ultima IV's design

In a USGamer excerpt from a new book on Apple II game history, Garriott recalls how he and his brother called their parents to settle an argument over a single controversial Ultima IV encounter.
"That's usually how things went down: we invoked parental involvement, but nothing got settled because they were split. This was the only time in company history where my mother sided with my brother."

- Richard Garriott, reminiscing about the development of Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar.

Origin Systems' seminal RPG Ultima IV: Quest for the Avatar was a significant work for many reasons, not least of which that it pushed players to try and embody specific virtues (compassion, sacrifice, humility, etc.) rather than overcome a big antagonist.

Ultima creator Richard "Lord British" Garriott reminisces about the game's development in a chapter (excerpted on USGamer) of David L. Craddock's new book Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution, and it's worth a read if you're at all curious about Ultima IV's origins -- and how a tester threatened to quit over a late-game scene they deemed morally repugnant. 

Garriott recalls trying to design a final dungeon filled with both moral and mortal challenges for players to overcome, including one room in which the player is attacked by a group of monsters disguised as human children. When a member of the QA team who didn't know about the disguises threatened to resign, Garriot's brother (and Origin cofounder) Robert pushed him to cut the sequence from the game.

"I was stunned," Garriot recalls. "I said, 'I have no idea what this guy's talking about.' Robert said, 'I don't know, either, but whatever it is, we need to find it and get it out of the game. Whatever is creating this feeling, we'd better get out of the game."

This is something a lot of devs today can probably empathize with -- the concern that players won't interpret your work as you intend, the push and pull of different opinions on the team. What's less common, perhaps, is Garriott's description of how serious disputes were settled at a family establishment like Origin.

"Usually, when arguments broke out, my dad would agree with my brother and my mom would agree with me," Garriott said, explaining that Robert had ultimately called their parents to help settle the question of whether the room full of fake murderous children should stay. 

"That's usually how things went down: we invoked parental involvement, but nothing got settled because they were split. This was the only time in company history where my mother sided with my brother."

Nevertheless, Ultima IV did wind up shipping in 1985 with that room included; according to Garriott, it's because he threatened to scuttle the game entirely if it didn't include this particularly affecting scene.

You can read more details about how it happened, and Garriott's remembrances about the development of Ultima IV in general, in Craddock's book or in the excerpt published on USGamer

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