Back when the world –well, a couple of thousand geeks– only knew him as Lord British, Richard Garriott published Ultima 1 and this screenie above was his best approximation of going into space. (Technically, that’s from the PC re-release, but let’s not quibble.) Granted, we’re dealing with primitive tech here, but I’d imagine his view of space has probably changed some since he’s now, you know, like gone there and stuff.
This is all preamble to point out our good friend, Ben Kuchera (anyone who’s been on Jumping the Shark qualifies as a good friend in my book), has written a remarkable feature on the man who would see us all have our chance to take a rocket to the moon or, at least, into orbit.
I’ve been a fan of Richard Garriott since I first learned he was the man behind the Lord British mask, which was around the time Ultima VI came out. I had played Ultima’s III – V, the latter two through to completion, and was well on my way to becoming a true Origin System devotee. Then I got the special edition copy of Ultima VI: The False Prophet. It included a cassette tape Garriott recorded as a retrospective of his time making Ultima games. Listening to that tape was the moment I went from being a kid playing games to a lifelong devotee, obsessed with seeing more in gaming than a collection of sprites or 3D models.
Now, I’ll grant you, I’ve not been a follower of Garriott’s work since the disappointments of Ultima VIII and IX. I wasn’t a devotee of Ultima Online, nor did I play any of the non-Ultima stuff he’s been behind since then. But I’ll always have a soft spot in my jaded, bitter heart for the man, and Ben’s article has made me a fan of Garriott all over again. I’ve seen a couple interviews with him over the last couple years, all focused on gaming, none of them particularly interesting to me. This. His evangelism of space flight. This is fascinating.
He and his father talked about what it was like to fly into space. Richard Garriott was the 483rd person to go into space, and to get there he had to spend the majority of this fortune, undergo corrective eye surgery, and fix his fused kidneys and liver hemangioma in order to pass the medical tests. His body is heavily scarred from the procedures. It cost tens of millions of dollars, made from selling over a hundred million games. This is not a man with a lack of will.
Question his sanity or not, but I think that willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve a dream is worthy of respect. The real details though, and why you should read, are about the diminishing costs involved in putting people in space; how going into space changes your view of the world forever; the prospects for making money; and the players involved. There’s a video on page 3 of a suborbital launch and return vehicle designed by Armadillo Aerospace, a company founded by John Carmack. Yes, that John Carmack. It’s been a long time since this NASA geek felt excited about the future prospects of spaceflight, so this was a feel good read. It feels even better that some of the legends in the gaming industry are helping to make it happen.