RICHARD GARRIOTT: I’m Richard Garriott. I’m probably best known for my work in the computer game field. If you go back to the beginnings, the roots, high school in the 1970s, which was right about the same time as personal computers came into existence, I was inspired by the books like The Lord of the Rings and games like Dungeons and Dragons to take this new item, this personal computer, and started creating fantasy role playing computer games. My first character that I began to play in role playing games was known as British because I happened to be born in Cambridge, England, and some of my first friends, who I was playing with, thought for some reason that I had a British accent, which I never did. I grew up in Houston, so I’ve never had a British accent.
It was the owner of a computer store that saw this game that I was working on in the evenings, and said, you know, Richard, that game is really much better than the few games that existed in the day, you know, here on the store wall. Why don’t we sell it? And so I went out and spent what I thought was a huge amount of money, $200 on ziplock bags and Xerox cover sheets, and began to sell them on the peg board. One of those found its way to California, and I was contacted by one of the first national distributors.
They distributed about 30,000 copies. My royalties were $5 a unit. If you do that math, that’s about $150,000 for a high school senior. And they were the ones who looked at it. They said, well, you know, Richard Garriott’s a fine name, it’s your name. But Lord British is much more memorable. Why don’t we just drop Richard Garriott, and we’ll leave Lord British on as the author? I’ve been Lord British for more than half my life now, so I actually feel strangely comfortable adopting the persona of Lord British in the real world, as much as in the virtual world. My first published game was called Akalabeth, which was really the prequel, effectively, to the series that I wrote for 25 years or more called Ultima. And published the first Ultima in about 1981, and in total, produced nine of the solo player Ultimas, plus a few spin offs.
I also produced Ultima Online, the first of what is now called a massively multiplayer online game. Instead of playing by yourself on a computer, which is traditionally the way most computer games are played, in this case your computer is really just a terminal, a graphics terminal connected through the internet to a big central server where everyone in the world who is playing the game can see each other, can play together, either cooperatively or against each other, in the same gigantic virtual world. So Tabula Rasa is the first non-Ultima game I’ve done in decades. Instead of fighting medieval monsters, players use wormholes to travel through a variety of planets in space and fight against the evil alien hoard that has invaded the Earth and wiped out our homeland. As part of the, what I call promotional event for the launch of Tabula Rasa, we tried to create what you might call a reality bridge, and try to prove the truth of some of what you might call the magical, or superpower aspects of Tabula Rasa. So I hired a whole slew of magicians who could come in and do things like spoon bending, or other kind of– had mental powers to physically affect, telekinetically, the world in which we lived, to showcase how here in Austin, here at my home we actually were discovering and uncovering some of these powers that ultimately would be similar to what showed up in the game.
We then bussed everybody over to the property where I’m building my new home where, as we were digging the foundations of the new home, some of these artifacts were uncovered. And then we set up a big event there. We had a huge pyrotechnics show that included not only lights and sound but also explosions and gunfire. But my brother happens to be a helicopter pilot, so we actually had him come in and swoop in with helicopters with lights and had police cars and the whole Men in Black kind of confrontation between the aliens and the human defenses. So I’m a big believer in the quote that I believe Arthur C.
Clarke coined, that any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic. And as you may know, right beside us, actually, is one of these devices. So this is a very special material known as ferrous fluid. And it basically is oil impregnated with iron filings, or rust, really. Iron oxide. So it’s not sharp in a sense of you can’t injure yourself on it, but it is sharp in the sense of it is you’re coming up to a perfect point. In this table, I’ve built a collection of electromagnets, that if you power on these electromagnets, will create magnetic fields that will come up through this oil. And then this ferrous fluid will try to form along those magnetic field lines and create three-dimensional shapes rising up out of a liquid.
I enjoy, you know, exploring the real world just as much as I enjoy exploring the virtual world. And creatively, I enjoy creating virtual worlds just as much as I enjoy creating physical, practical things, like unusual homes or other big, interactive themed events that are physical. Virtual exploration is really only one piece of the puzzle of the richness of the tapestry of life. And so I think it will remain a very popular portion, but I don’t think there’s any chance, really, of people tuning out of the real world and locking in permanently into their virtual existence. Welcome to my home. I actually call this Britannia Manor, and right as you come into the interior of my house, you’ll begin to see there’s already some unusual features.
Swords and crossbows here. We then built this steel structure, upon which is mounted the telescope that’s in my observatory. This is actually the highest point in the entire city of Austin. I actually got a topographical map out, and that’s how I selected this property. That’s how I selected this property, was actually to identify the best place to put a telescope to get a nice, 360 degree view of the horizon, which we get up here in the observatory dome. The homes I build are very much manifestations of the same creative drive that you see that goes into the games and other events that I produce.
They function as a normal house, but they’re also big, what you might call personal playscapes. So they’re filled with secret passageways throughout, and an observatory, and dungeons, indoor, outdoor pools, and artificial rain. And then of course all my collections of collections. It’s a habit I picked up my mother, actually, I think, is to be this level of pack rat, you might say.
This is my home office, where I keep a lot of my recent artifacts from my space trip, including, these are some of the items I took with me to space and back. So now we’ll go down to what I happen to call the medieval portion of the house. And I’ve got some nice astronomy prints, and you’ll also begin to see some of the more unusual bits of art in the house. These are actually preserved octopus tentacles that are here in these containers. And then in here, in the upper floor of what you might call the study, a collection from my childhood, so to speak.
I’m obviously a big fan of The Lord of the Rings. I’ve got not only first editions but– those are first editions– these are pre-first-editions. Pre-publication editions. Proof copies. So here on the upper floor of the study, one of the common questions is, how do we get downstairs? Because of course, there is no obvious route between the two. There’s no staircases or doorways. And the solution to that involves this surface. And in this surface, I’ve inserted 18 magnetic sensors. In fact, there’s a drop panel on this side with nine, and there’s actually nine more that I don’t generally use on this side. And in this kind of eyeballs and teeth thing that my mother made for me, I’ve inserted magnets up inside of it. And so now if you move this device in the right pattern over those magnetic sensors, that little click has unlatched a magnetic latch that lets us into this secret passageway.
We can go down this spiral staircase here to the lower floor of the study to the dungeon. And the dungeon, of course, is the room full of dead things. Some recently, some long dead, as well as a few pieces of art. This is a velociraptor skeleton that’s actually a cast. And this is also a piece of art. But most of the other things in here are real, including my dead friend that I call Pedro. This is the skull of an African elephant. Across here on the side of the room, these are authentic South American shrunken heads.
I have a number of vampire hunting kits. Everything from, like, a human fetus that I have here in this jar to a human heart. These are Borneo headhunter human trophy skulls and the skills of everything from African lions and prehistoric cave bears, creatures and critters from around the globe. In the living room, of course, we have the normal things– couches, chairs, stereos and TVs– but we also have something unusual in my house, which, of course, is the continuation of the secret passageway network. And so if I reach in this drawer and reach up into the ceiling, I’m actually pulling a little latch. And then if you come over here, and you look at this innocent looking mirror, this is really a secret passageway entrance. This is actually one of two Sputniks that I own. So this is the first one that I own. And the other one’s up in the automaton room that I’ll take you to momentarily. I’m sure that this is the largest collection of contemporary automatons. But physically assembled to create something really masterful, artistically.
And so I find these to be a good, what I call, physical analogy to what we do. Naturalist catching butterflies, with an alien catching him. This one actually requires looking in this little hole. So this one is the American execution. We electrocute our victims. And so here is this guy being prepared for the electric chair. The doctors are checking him out. They’re checking the voltages of the machine. They lower it down, the thing on his head. Turning, glowing red while he’s being electrocuted.
And he’s killed. He’s playing music only the dead can hear, so that’s why you can’t hear it. And even outside, there’s fun things, like I’ve got a pond with a bridge and little cabanas and things out on it. I’ve got a three-horse carousel that operates out in the front yard. Literally, throughout my entire professional career, I’ve been investing in the privatization of space, helping to unlock the gates of private space travel. I fancy myself a gentleman explorer, you might say. On October 12, I launched to the International Space Station. And I went there on board a Russian Soyuz rocket, actually called a Soyuz TMA 13. You know, that’s a pretty spectacular day, you might say.
I’d already spent about nine months in Russia, training. In the long-term future of the Earth, there’s no question that something apocalyptic will occur. We someday will probably be struck by an asteroid that will destroy most of life on the Earth, it’s only a question of when. We may unleash nuclear holocaust. Maybe. That seems unlikely today, but we’ve been through cycles where it seems more likely, so it might happen again. You know, biological problems that are pandemics that could come up, I think are also a practical risk. And so if you add all that up, one of the best ways for humanity to ensure that we survive into the future is to make sure we have isolated settlements around the universe, in which case an apocalypse on one won’t wipe out the whole species.
I very much agree with that, that that’s one very compelling reason that humanity really does need to spread beyond the surface of the Earth. The only debate in my mind is how urgently should you feel that that’s necessary. And I personally believe there’s no time like the present, so let’s get to work. Walking up to a fully fueled rocket, which has kerosene and liquid oxygen, so it’s frozen to well below freezing. So the whole vehicle is covered with frost, and any air coming near it is turning into fog, and streaming down the sides of this rocket. You know, you squeeze yourself in, and on a Soyuz, you literally squeeze yourself in through the hatches and get down into your seat. And one of my jobs is to push the button that starts up the operation of the vehicle. Then when the countdown reaches zero, the thing lights up, and it’s funny– it’s a relatively gentle ride into space. The g-forces start very minimal but slowly and steadily increase to about 4 and 1/2 g’s. And after about eight minutes at 4 and 1/2 g’s, the engines cut off, and you’re in space.
Before I flew– you know, you always hear about things that people have said, like once you go to space and you see the Earth from such a distance, and you see the world without the boundaries between countries and things, how it changes your perception of life and humanity’s place on Earth. It’s pretty amazing to look out at the edge of the Earth and see the thin veil of the atmosphere clinging to the very round Earth you can see from space.
And so you feel, still, very intimate with the surface of the Earth in ways that I found unexpected. The next thing you begin to notice is how every fertile place on the Earth that you travel over is now fully occupied by people. There is no place that you might describe as easy to occupy that isn’t already occupied. While there was no one moment where I’d say a-ha, I’ve had an epiphany, I now have a changed perception of humanity and Earth, it really is something that builds on you over time. It really is truly there. So upon my return, I can definitely now reflect on it and say that absolutely, I believe that my perception of what I call the fragility of the Earth and the human footprint on the Earth is absolutely changed. My father is an astronaut, so I grew up in a household where space felt very normal. And in fact, not only was my father an astronaut, but my right-hand next door neighbor was a guy named Joe Engle, another astronaut.
My left-hand next door neighbor was Hoot Gibson, another astronaut. Everyone in my neighborhood was involved in some way in putting people into space. And so I kind of grew up believing everybody would go to space. And when I was a young teenager, I was actually at NASA one time, and one of the NASA flight physicians was giving me an eye test. And my eyesight was fairly poor when I was young. And they said, oh, you know, I’m so sorry, Richard, but you know, your poor eyesight’s gonna prevent you from ever being selected as a NASA astronaut. And for me, that was like being told, hey, by the way, you are no longer eligible for the club that everyone you know is a member of. Prior to that moment, I don’t think I was particularly devoted to getting my way into space until I was told, you can’t go.
I spent two days living onboard the Soyuz while we were catching up to and matching orbits to dock with the ISS. I then spent 10 days onboard the space station, doing a wide variety of experiments. Uh, yeah, I would definitely say that this has met and, in many ways, exceeded my expectations. There’s no question that I’ve already begun to think about the next trip up. MALE SPEAKER: How have your found your zero-g artwork to be going? RICHARD GARRIOTT: Well, I did create the zero-g artwork. I came up with a glove box in which I could release my paint without risking painting the walls of the station, and created some art that I’ll be bringing back, so you can judge for yourself. With this trip, I was trying to study and analyze how private citizens might be able to contribute to the success here in space.
And I’ll have a lot more thoughts for that when I come back down. Thanks. Station this is KSC PAO. That’s the final question here from Florida. We’re now going to toss you briefly back to Houston. .
As found on Youtube