Richard Garriot, the creator of the Ultima series of classic RPGs and part-time astronaut, has a new project. It’s called Iron & Magic, a blockchain MMO, and has just unveiled its official website. Initially spotted by Massively OP, the site lists a series of terrain squares among the screenshots and digital fly-throughs of fantasy environments.
“Buy land in the realm of Lord British,” reads the banner above the squares.
Who is Lord British, you might ask? Lord British is Garriott’s long-time alias, both his online handle and a character that has appeared in the Ultima games since their inception. Ultima was one of the greatest role-playing games of the 80s. It became a design touchstone in the years that followed it, spawning multiple sequels and a popular MMO. The series influenced everything from other MMOs to immersive sims and the CRPGs that dominated the 90s. Garriott was inextricable from Ultima as a brand and even as a concept.
Of late, however, Garriott has found hits somewhat harder to come by. Recent pushes into the MMO space, like Tabula Rasa and Shroud of the Avatar, have either fallen apart in flight or failed to launch. Tabula Rasa made it about a year and a half before closing its doors. Shroud of the Avatar found early success on Kickstarter, but delays and changes of direction meant it ultimately crumbled into dust. As a result, Garriott has been on the hunt for other ventures. The son of an astronaut, Garriott has been busily beating billionaires into space as a private astronaut and spending time as a deep sea diver.
Between adventures, Garriott’s been looking for a new project. Iron & Magic is that project. The man who created one of the most beloved RPG franchises in the history of the medium is spruiking digital real estate.
He’s chosen an inauspicious time to get into web3 gaming. Cryptocurrencies have been, to put it mildly, really going through it over the last six months. Bitcoin and Etherium both plummeted in value, and even ‘stablecoins’ suddenly started moving around in a manner that could not strictly be considered stable. The NFT market crashed spectacularly, with outlets like Cointelegraph reporting an 85% decline in average prices found in metaverse projects built around the sale of NFT real estate.
As many early buyers quickly found out, there’s very little you can do with a chunk of digital real estate that suddenly becomes worthless.
Which brings us back to Garriott and the purchasing of land in the realm of Lord British.
Garriott and his development partner Todd Porter sat for an interview with PC Gamer in April to spruik the game and its connection to the blockchain. Most of it is the same web3 waffle you’ve heard from hundreds of other developers in the space. Ownership of digital assets (like the aforementioned real estate). Play-to-earn. Garriott framed it this way: “We’re certainly doing more for players than just, when they put their money down, they play the game and all they’re getting out of it is 60 hours of fun.”
As we all know, leisure time is worthless if you’re not making a fraction of a fraction of a cent from every hour spent playing. A normal response to having a hobby under capitalism! Perfectly healthy!
Anyway, I’m sorry, Richard, but it’s a pass from me.