visit to Origin Systems, Austin Texas
at conduit 3, site of good insight, i met a wonderful nice woman Amy from Origin Systems, an Austin area game company. introduced at my request by tommy palotta, i took a seat next to her and explained my presence at the festival, my presence in doug's film, my work online. she seemed most interested in "trying to describe the difficulty of loving a beautiful, distant depressed person" (and if chandra had a web page, would she write back - the difficulty of being with a self-important oversharing attention-starved asshole?)
while we didn't immediately strike up a conversation, i sat beside her long enough that between digital shorts and the "gods of times square" our talk transitioned into more personal and philosophical matters which eventually rounded out our relatings. she was a writer too and thought maybe i could be a good-writer-fit for origin, granted my game history and reverence for their product, a decent SciFi/D&D background and an enthusiasm for the industry. she agreed to take me around the offices and maybe introduce me to some folk, who might find me useful.
so this morn i arose early and bypassed any breakfast to make it out there early enough to allow for extended conversation. Origin is based in a campus, a building with two large logos tacked on it, removed a bit from the street. there's a lobby with an origin receptor and an origin employees only software shop and a computer game library.
amy met me and she was a wonderful host. we walked through different divisions and she would walk up to people and introduce us briefly and ask them to tell me justin what they were doing. then i'd ask a question or two, and then she'd ask them about some other project. i learned an enormous amount about origin, specifics and systems, in a short amount of time, because of her courtesy and forthrightness. i asked my share of questions and she didn't rush me - between two writers we eased a good picture of the state of affairs in short order.
we were able to visit Richard Garriott/Lord British, father of Origin and the son of an astronaut (Bruce Sterling later reported). He's provided vision and direction, storytelling and project management since the early 80s starting with the first Ultimas and now including the online ventures and Ultima:Ascention (the next single-player offering that looks just real purty).
photos from origin.ea.com
He was wearing a Ringo Starr concert t-shirt that I think mattered less for the artist than the large radiant sun there that took up his whole chest and gave his upper body an obvious beaming quality. He had a solid handshake and straightfoward haircut; later while talking I noticed two remaining tight braid-tail-remnants from longer haired days. Those together with a few particular bracelets, he did appear both as a reformed radical gaming geek who could now walk a corporate-productive walk, and someone who could quite plausibly be seen leading a bold party of ren-faire adventurers, in a leather vest and feathered cap, holding a flagon of ale.
I expressed my appreciation for his early works, gesturing to the Apple II in the corner of his office (later noting a Vectrex as well). Amy had sent him some notification email so he commented on Doug's film and some work ahead I might assist. I raised a few questions I had about storytelling - after years of effectively honing his skills and tools to tell single player stories, how was he going to work his magic in multiplayer? He spoke some about the transition and the similarities, and disclosed perhaps a plan for the next generation of Ultima online.
I felt like I was meeting someone with a mind for the philosophy and systems of computer game storytelling who was keeping himself trained and productive, someone I could learn a lot from. A chance to work with him would be quite an honour. Still, Origin is a large company. I have not yet even applied. If I wanted to be a part of the team, I would probably have to move to Austin. And that's a big question that probably deserves its own web page.
Continuing her kindness Amy escorted me back to Austin-proper and we talked about writing and mutual acquaintences from parker. She had done me quite a nice turn so I thanked her again and returned to my hotel and South By Southwest.