Origin Systems

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For the digital distribution service, see Origin (EA).
Origin Systems, Inc.
Former type Private
Industry Video game industry
Fate Disbanded
Successor(s) Destination Games
Portalarium
Founded 1983
Defunct 2004
Headquarters Manchester, N.H., United States
Key people Richard Garriott and Robert Garriott (co-founders)
Products Ultima series
Wing Commander series
Crusader series
Strike Commander
System Shock
Wings of Glory
Parent Electronic Arts
Website www.origin.ea.com (archived)[1]

Origin Systems, Inc. (sometimes abbreviated as OSI) was a video game developer based in Austin, Texas, which was active from 1983 to 2004. It is most famous for the Ultima and Wing Commander series.

History[edit]

Brothers Richard Garriott and Robert Garriott, their father Owen, and Chuck Bueche founded Origin Systems in 1983 because of the trouble they had collecting money owed to Richard Garriott for his games released by other companies.[2][3] The company's first game was Ultima series, Ultima III: Exodus; because of Ultima's established reputation Origin survived the video game crash that occurred that year. It published many non-Ultima games, and Richard Garriott claimed that he received the same royalty rate as other developers.[4]

By 1988 Origin had 15 developers in Austin, Texas, and 35 other employees in New Hampshire.[4] In September 1992, Electronic Arts acquired the company[5] for $35 million in stock, despite a dispute between the two companies over EA's 1987 game Deathlord. Origin, with about $13 million in annual revenue, stated that it had considered an Initial Public Offering before agreeing to the deal.[6] In 1997, Origin released one of the earliest graphical MMORPGs, Ultima Online. After this title, Electronic Arts decided that Origin would become an online-only company after the completion of Ultima IX in 1999. However, within a year's time, in part due to Ultima IX's poor reception,[7] EA canceled all of Origin's new development projects, including Ultima Online 2, Privateer Online, and Harry Potter Online. Richard Garriott left Origin shortly after and founded Destination Games in 2000.

In later years, Origin mainly existed to support and expand Ultima Online and to develop further online games based on the Ultima franchise such as Ultima X: Odyssey, originally to be released in 2004 but later canceled. In February 2004, the studio was disbanded by Electronic Arts. The Longbow series of simulation games was developed at Origin and published under the "Jane's Combat Simulations" brand of Electronic Arts. A follow-on project, Jane's A-10, was under development when the project was canceled in late 1998 and the team moved to other projects.

Notable employees[edit]

The 1980s version of the Origin Systems logo
The 1990s version of the Origin Systems logo

Origin employed many young game developers over its tenure who have since gone on to leading roles in numerous game development companies, especially in Austin. Among its prominent employees were (alphabetically):

  • Andrew Sega was a Software Engineer/Composer who went on to work for Digital Anvil.
  • Britt Daniel was a composer for numerous titles and went on to found the rock band Spoon.
  • Marten Davies was Origin's first Director/VP Sales having founded the first UK games software publisher in the US. Firebird Licensees Inc. in 1985 and went on to Co found Digital Anvil with Chris Roberts and others.
  • Chris Roberts creator of the Wing Commander series, and later the Starlancer, Freelancer, and Star Citizen space simulator games. Founder of Digital Anvil, later acquired by Microsoft.
  • John Romero was shortly working for Origin in 1987-1988 before co-founding id Software.
  • Ken Demarest created the technical prototype for Ultima Online, directed Bioforge, led programming on Ultima VII and coded on Wing Commander.
  • M. A. (Al) Nelson served as art department manager, AP and later worked as a project manager at Sony Online Entertainment and BioWare.
  • Martin Galway was a Sound Designer/Composer and Audio Technician who went on to work at Digital Anvil.
  • Mike McShaffry was lead developer of several of the Ultima series. Later co-founded other Austin studios and has written and taught on game development theory.
  • Paul Isaac was technical lead on the Wing Commander and Strike Commander series. He later became a lead developer at Digital Anvil worked on Freelancer and more recently joined Certain Affinity as engineering lead.
  • Paul Steed was a leading artist on the Wing Commander series and went on to serve as an art lead for id Software on the Quake series.
  • Raph Koster was lead designer of Ultima Online and later joined Sony Online Entertainment in Austin developing Everquest II and Star Wars Galaxies.
  • Starr Long, Director of Ultima Online, and co-founder of Destination Games
  • Raymond Benson was head writer on Ultima VII: The Black Gate, contributed some writing to Ultima VII, Part Two—Serpent Isle, and went on to work as a game designer for MicroProse and Viacom New Media, then later became an official continuation author of the James Bond novels.
  • Richard Garriott, aka "Lord British", creator of Ultima, and cofounder of Origin. Later founded Destination Games, acquired by NC Soft.
  • Rob Corell worked on the Wing Commander franchise, Ultima VIII and Crusader. He went on to Simtex where he worked on Master of Orion II. He then spent 11 years at Adobe Systems as a senior architect for numerous projects, including CreatePDF.com, Adobe Bridge and Photoshop.com. He currently works at Portalarium.
  • Robert Garriott, brother of Richard Garriott, cofounded Origin and Destination Games.
  • Sheri Graner Ray was a writer and designer on several of the Ultima series. Went on to work with several major companies including Sony Online Entertainment and Cartoon Network. Also founder of Women in Games International.
  • Tom Chilton was lead designer on Ultima Online: Age of Shadows and went on to be a lead designer for Blizzard Entertainment.
  • Tony Zurovec was the designer on Crusader: No Remorse and Crusader: No Regret and worked on Ultima VIII: Pagan. He went on to work with the company Digital Anvil on Loose Cannon.
  • Warren Spector producer of Ultima Underworld which was developed by Doug Church and Looking Glass Studios as well as System Shock, Wings of Glory and numerous other titles. He later joined Ion Storm Inc. and managed its Austin office, creating Deus Ex.
  • Zack Booth Simpson was Origin's director of technology and research fellow and went on to co-found Titanic Entertainment and later became a pioneer of interactivity as a fine art with installations in museums around the world.

"We Create Worlds"[edit]

Origin's motto was "We Create Worlds" and its games were known for their well-realized plots and the amount of detail furnished. OSI was always ahead of the curve in terms of cutting edge graphics and game versatility. The original Wing Commander, for instance, came with a booklet purporting to be a shipboard magazine named Claw Marks, written and published by the crew of the game's spacecraft carrier Tiger's Claw (ghost-written by Aaron Allston); it provided the player with a number of irrelevancies (such as an interview with the star of a popular televised wartime drama) as well as convenient statistics and user guides for ships, weapon systems, and information regarding pilots and tactics on both Terran and Kilrathi sides and also hints on a rich background history.

List of games[edit]

Developed[edit]

Published[edit]

Canceled[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Origin". March 30, 1997. Archived from the original on March 30, 1997. 
  2. ^ Warren Spector interviewing Richard Garriott for his University of Texas Master Class in Video Games and Digital Media [1]
  3. ^ Durkee, David (Nov–Dec 1983). "Profiles in Programming / Lord British". Softline. p. 26. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Ferrell, Keith (January 1989). "Dungeon Delving with Richard Garriott". Compute!. p. 16. Retrieved 10 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Varney, Allen (October 11, 2005). "The Conquest of Origin". The Escapist. Retrieved April 10, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Electronic Arts And Origin Pool Resources in "Ultimate" Acquisition". Computer Gaming World. 1992-11. p. 176. Retrieved 5 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Interview with Richard Garriott, Executive Producer, NCSoft Austin