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Richard Garriott

Richard Garriott

Video game developer, astronaut and entrepreneur
Richard Garriott
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Video game developer, astronaut and entrepreneur
A.K.A. Richard Garriott de Cayeux, Richard Allen Garriott, Lord British, Gene...
Is Astronaut Engineer Software engineer Programmer Video game developer Game designer Businessperson Computer scientist
From United States of America
Type Business Creativity Engineering Gaming Science Technology
Gender male
Birth 4 July 1961, Cambridge, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Age 59 years
Star sign Cancer
Father: Owen K. Garriott
Siblings: Robert Garriott
University of Texas at Austin
Richard Garriott
The details


Richard Allen Garriott de Cayeux ( Garriott; born July 4, 1961) is an American and British video-game developer and entrepreneur. Although both his parents were American, he maintains dual British citizenship by birth.

Garriott, who is the son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, was originally a game designer and programmer, and is now involved in a number of aspects of computer-game development. On October 12, 2008, Richard flew aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 mission to the International Space Station as a private astronaut, returning 12 days later aboard Soyuz TMA-12. He became the second astronaut, and first from the United States, to have a parent who was also a space traveler. During his ISS flight, he created the first narrative film to be made in space, Apogee of Fear (2012).

Garriott founded the video game development company Portalarium in 2009. He is currently CEO and creative director of Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues.

Early life

Richard Allen Garriott was born in Cambridge, England on 4 July 1961, to Helen Mary (née Walker) Garriott (April 18, 1930 - September 5, 2017) and Owen Garriott, one of NASA's first scientist-astronauts (selected in NASA Astronaut Group 4), who flew on Skylab 3 and Space Shuttle mission STS-9. His parents had been high school sweethearts growing up in Enid, Oklahoma. Although both his parents were Americans, Garriott claims dual citizenship for both the United States and Great Britain by birth.

Richard was raised in Nassau Bay, Texas from the age of about two months. Since his childhood, he had dreamed of becoming a NASA astronaut like his father. Eyesight problems discovered at the age of 13 blocked his ambition, however, so he instead came to focus on computer game development.

What Garriott later described as "my first real exposure to computers" occurred in 1975, during his freshman year of high school at Clear Creek High School. As he wanted more experience beyond the single one-semester BASIC class the school offered, and as a fan of The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons, Garriott convinced the school to let him create a self-directed course in programming, in which he created fantasy computer games on the school's teletype machine. Garriott later estimated that he wrote 28 computer fantasy games during high school.

A common part of his game pseudonyms is "British". Garriott uses the name to this day for his various gaming characters, including Ultima character Lord British and Tabula Rasa character General British. The name was given to him by his first Dungeons and Dragons friends because he was born in the UK.

Game design career

Garriott began writing computer games in 1974. His first games were created on and for teletype terminals. The code was stored on paper tape spools and the game was displayed as an ongoing print-out on the spools of printer paper produced by teletype machines. In summer 1979, Garriott worked at a ComputerLand store where he first encountered Apple computers. Inspired by their video monitors with color graphics, he began to add perspective view to his own games. After he created Akalabeth for fun, the owner of the store convinced Garriott it might sell. Garriott spent US$200 printing copies of a manual and cover sheet that his mother had drawn, then put copies of the game in Ziploc bags, a common way to sell software in those days. Although Garriott sold fewer than a dozen copies of Akalabeth at the store, one copy made it to California Pacific Computer Company, which signed a deal with him. The game sold over 30,000 copies, and Garriott received $5 for each copy sold. Akalabeth is considered the first published computer role playing game.

In the fall, Garriott entered the University of Texas at Austin, joined the school's fencing team and later joined the Society for Creative Anachronism. He created Ultima I while at the university, and published it through California Pacific. Its cover, and those of several subsequently Garriott games, was painted by Denis Loubet, whose art Garriott discovered during a visit to Steve Jackson Games.

Garriott continued to develop the Ultima series of computer games in the early 1980s, , eventually leaving university to work on them full time. Originally programmed for the Apple II, the Ultima series later became available on several platforms. Ultima II was published by Sierra On-Line, as they were the only company that would agree to publish it in a box together with a printed cloth map. By the time he developed Ultima III, Garriott, together with his brother Robert, their father Owen and Chuck Bueche established their own video game publisher, Origin Systems, to handle publishing and distribution, in part due to controversy with Sierra over royalties for the PC port of Ultima II.

Garriott, dressed as his "Lord British" persona, at the 2018 Game Developers Conference

Garriott sold Origin Systems to Electronic Arts in September 1992 for $30 million. In 1997, he coined the term massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), giving a new identity to the nascent genre previously known as graphical MUDs. In 1999 and 2000, EA canceled all of Origin's new development projects, including Privateer Online, and Harry Potter Online. Garriott resigned from the company and formed Destination Games in April 2000 with his brother and Starr Long (the producer of Ultima Online). Once Garriott's non-compete agreement with EA expired a year later, Destination partnered with NCsoft where Garriott acted as a producer and designer of MMORPGs. After that, he became the CEO of NCsoft Austin, also known as NC Interactive.

Tabula Rasa failed to generate much money during its initial release, despite its seven-year development period. On November 11, 2008, in an open letter on the Tabula Rasa website, Garriott announced his plans to leave NCsoft to pursue new interests sparked by his spaceflight experiences. Later, however, Garriott claimed that the letter was forged as a means of forcing him out of his position and that he had had no intention of leaving. Garriott reviewed and signed this announcement, but did not sign a resignation letter that had been drafted for him by NCSoft. On November 24, 2008, NCsoft announced that it planned to end the live service of Tabula Rasa. The servers shut down on February 28, 2009, after a period of free play from January 10 onward for existing account holders.

In July 2010, an Austin District Court awarded Garriott US$28 million in his lawsuit against NCsoft, finding that the company did not appropriately handle his departure in 2008. In October 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment.

Garriott founded the company Portalarium in 2009. The company is developing Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, a spiritual successor to the Ultima series, with Garriott having remarked that had they been able to secure the rights to the Ultima intellectual property from Electronic Arts, the game could have become Ultima Online 2 in name. On March 8, 2013, Portalarium launched a Kickstarter campaign for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. An early access version of the game was released on Steam on November 24, 2014, and the game was fully released in March 2018.


In 1983, Softline reported that "Garriott wants to go into space but doesn't see it happening in the predictable future ... He has frequently joked with his father about stowing away on a spaceship, and recently his speculations have been sounding uncomfortably realistic". The income from the success of Garriott's video game career allowed him to pursue his interest in spaceflight, and the sale of Origin Systems allowed him to invest in Space Adventures and purchase the ticket to become the first private citizen to fly into space. However, Garriott suffered financial setbacks in 2001 after the dot-com bubble burst, and he was forced to sell his seat to Dennis Tito.

Garriott says he then returned to making games in order to make more money, and once he had enough, he put down another non-refundable deposit to go into space. During the mandatory medical examination, they found he had a hemangioma on his liver, which could cause potentially fatal internal bleeding if there was a rapid depressurization of a spacecraft. Told he had to either give up his large deposit, or undergo life-threatening surgery, he decided to have the operation, and now has a 16-inch (41 cm) scar from it. He spent a year in Russia training before he launched into space.

On September 28, 2007, Space Adventures announced that Garriott would fly to the International Space Station in October 2008 as a self-funded private astronaut, reportedly paying US$30 million. On October 12, 2008, Garriott became the second second-generation space traveler (after Sergei Volkov) and the first offspring of an American astronaut to go into space, and the second person to wear the British Union flag in space. The Soyuz docked with the station on October 14. His father, Owen K. Garriott, was at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for the launch of his son and was in attendance when a Soyuz capsule returned with his son twelve days later.

Screen capture from Windows on Earth, used by Garriott on ISS to identify targets for Earth photography (Coast of Peru).

During his spaceflight, Garriott took part in several education outreach efforts. As a part of that outreach program he worked with the free Metro newspaper in London, which provided him with a special edition containing details of British primary school student's space experiment concepts which Richard took to the ISS. The Metro has claimed as a result that it was the first newspaper in space. He was an Amateur Radio Operator (call sign W5KWQ, now expired), and during his stay on the International Space Station (ISS), communicated with students and other Amateur Radio operators using Amateur Radio. Garriott also transmitted photographs using the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) slow-scan television system. Garriott also placed a geocache while aboard the ISS.

Garriott also worked with the Windows on Earth project, which provides an interactive, virtual view of Earth as seen from the ISS. Garriott used Windows on Earth software to assist in the selection of locations on Earth to photograph, and the public were able to use the same online tool to track the ISS and see the view Richard was experiencing out an ISS window. Richard's photographs, along with images taken by his astronaut father Owen Garriott in 1973, will be available to the public through Windows on Earth, adding a personal element to studies of Earth and how Earth has changed over time.

Tracy Hickman wrote a screenplay for Garriott, for the first science-fiction film shot in space, Apogee of Fear.

On October 24, Russian cosmonauts of ISS Expedition 17, Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, along with private astronaut Richard Garriott, aboard Soyuz TMA-12 capsule, landed safely (ideal) at 09:36 (03:36GMT, 07:36 Moscow time), 55 miles north of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan. They were lifted to the Kazakhstan Baikonur space center by helicopter, and then flew to Zvezdny Gorodok (Star City), Moscow Region.

On June 3, 2009, the New York Daily News announced that Garriott would officiate at the first wedding to be held in zero gravity. The wedding took place in a specially modified Boeing 727-200 aircraft, G-Force One, operated by Zero Gravity Corporation, or ZERO-G, a company offering weightless flight experiences, of which he is the co-founder.

In 2010 he was featured in a documentary, Man on a Mission: Richard Garriott's Road to the Stars, which covered his spaceflight training and mission into orbit.

Other accomplishments and interests

In 1986, Garriott helped start the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. His high school science teacher was June Scobee-Rogers, wife of Challenger Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee, who piloted the STS-51-L mission. STS-51-L was intended to carry the first teacher in space flight, before it and its crew were tragically lost on lift off. Scobee drew on Garriott's early leadership in gaming, to help design what has become approximately 50 global interactive networked facilities, where students study about and perform simulated space missions.

Garriott bought the Luna 21 lander and the Lunokhod 2 rover (both currently on lunar surface) from the Lavochkin Association for $68,500 in December 1993 at a Sotheby's auction in New York (although the catalog incorrectly lists lot 68A as Luna 17/Lunokhod 1). Garriott notes that while UN treaties ban governmental ownership of property on other celestial bodies, corporations and private citizens retain such rights. Lunokhod 2 is still in use, with mirrors aligned to reflect lasers such that precise Earth-Moon distances can be measured. With his vehicle "still in use", Garriott claims property rights to the territory surveyed by Lunokhod 2. This may be the first valid claim for private ownership of extraterrestrial territory. Lunokhod 2 held the record for distance traveled on the surface another planetary body, until it was surpassed by NASA's Opportunity Rover in 2014.

Garriott built a haunted house/museum at his residence called Britannia Manor in Austin, Texas. Garriott's haunted house was stated to cost $50,000 each year and took two months to construct. In 1991 the haunted house event was cancelled, as Garriott was busy working on Ultima VII.

Garriott promotes private space flight and served as vice-chairman of the board of directors for Space Adventures. He is also a trustee of the X PRIZE Foundation.

Garriott performed the first Zero-G wedding on June 20, 2009. with his wife Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux.They have two children.

Garriott wrote a memoir (with David Fisher) covering his accomplishments in games publishing and his spaceflight; entitled Explore/Create: My Life in Pursuit of New Frontiers, Hidden Worlds, and the Creative Spark, it was published on January 10, 2017.


  • Garriott was named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 1992.
  • Garriott became the ninth inductee into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Garriott became the sixth recipient of the Game Developers Choice Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
  • Garriott received the British Interplanetary Society's Sir Arthur Clarke Award for Best Individual Achievement in 2009.
  • Garriott received the British Interplanetary Society's Astronaut Pin given to British-born astronauts in 2009.
  • Garriott received the Society of NASA Flight Surgeons Lovelace Award for Contributions to Space Medicine in 2009.
  • Garriott was inducted into the Environmental Hall of Fame in 2010.


Game name First released Garriott's role(s)
Akalabeth: World of Doom 1979 Game designer & programmer
Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness 1981 Original conceptor, programmer & graphic artist
Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress 1982 Game designer
Ultima III: Exodus 1983 Project director
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar 1985 Project director
Autoduel 1985 Programmer & designer
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny 1988 Designer, writer & programmer
Omega 1989 Designer
Ultima VI: The False Prophet 1990 Designer, producer, sound effect worker, writer & voice actor
Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire 1990 Executive producer
Ultima: Worlds of Adventure 2: Martian Dreams 1991 Creative director
Ultima: Runes of Virtue 1991 Creative director
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss 1992 Director & voice actor
Ultima VII: The Black Gate 1992 Director & producer
Ultima VII: Forge of Virtue 1993 Creative assistance & producer
Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle 1993 Creative director & audio team member
Ultima VII Part Two: The Silver Seed 1993 Director & voice actor
Ultima VIII: Pagan 1994 Producer
Ultima: Runes of Virtue II 1994 Creative director & additional design
Ultima VIII: The Lost Vale Cancelled Producer
BioForge 1995 Executive producer
Ultima Online 1997 Producer
Ultima Online: The Second Age 1998 Executive designer
Lineage 1998 Executive producer
Ultima IX: Ascension 1999 Director
Lineage II 2003 Executive producer
City of Heroes 2004 Executive producer
City of Villains 2005 Executive management
Tabula Rasa 2007 Creative director & executive producer
Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues 2018 Creative director
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 22 Sep 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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