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|Founded||March 4, 1983Houston, Texas, U.S.in|
|Headquarters||Austin, Texas, U.S.|
Wing Commander series
Wings of Glory
(archived from 1997)
Origin Systems was an American video game developer based in Austin, Texas. It was founded on March 3, 1983, by Richard Garriott and his brother Robert. Origin is best known for their groundbreaking work in multiple genres of video games, such as the Ultima and Wing Commander series. The company was purchased by Electronic Arts in 1992.
Brothers Richard and Robert Garriott, their astronaut-engineer father Owen, and programmer Chuck Bueche founded Origin Systems in 1983 because of the trouble they had collecting money owed to Richard for his games released by other companies. Origin was initially based in the Garriotts' garage in Houston, Texas. The company's first game was Ultima III: Exodus; because of Ultima's established reputation, Origin survived the video-game crash of 1983. It published many non-Ultima games, and Richard Garriott claimed that he received the same royalty rate as other developers.
In September 1992, Electronic Arts acquired the company 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 IPO before agreeing to the deal.
By 1996, Origin had expanded to more than 300 employees, most of whom were divided among small, largely autonomous development teams. 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, 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.
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 by surname):
- Raymond Benson – Writer, Audio (1992–1993)
- Tom Chilton – Lead Designer (2001–2003)
- Britt Daniel – Sound Designer (1994)
- Was a sound designer for numerous titles and went on to found the rock band Spoon.
- Ken Demarest – Game Designer, Programmer (1990–1995)
- Martin Galway – Sound Designer/Composer, Audio Technician (1991–1994)
- Went on to work at Digital Anvil.
- Richard Garriott – Co-Founder, Game Designer, Programmer (1983–2000)
- Robert Garriott – Co-Founder, Business (1983–2000)
- Brother of Richard Garriott, co-founded Origin Systems and Destination Games.
- Raph Koster – Lead Designer (1995–2003)
- Scott Kreuser – Supported the entire software roadmap
- Went on to work for Dell Computer as a Worldwide New Product Project Manager.
- Starr Long – QA Lead, Designer (1992–2000)
- Director of Ultima Online, and co-founder of Destination Games.
- Denis Loubet – Artist (1989–2002)
- Was the first artist Origin hired. He did many box cover paintings, manual illustrations, in-game art and animation, and cinematics.
- Mike McShaffry – Lead Developer (1990–1997)
- Later co-founded the other Austin studios and has written and taught on game development theory.
- Sheri Graner Ray – Writer, Designer (1993–1994)
- Chris Roberts – Game Designer, Creative Director (1988–1996)
- Creator of the Wing Commander series and Strike Commander. Co-founded the now-defunct Digital Anvil, acquired by Microsoft, creating Starlancer and contributing to Freelancer space simulator games. Went on to produce a number of Hollywood productions, before co-founding and now working at Cloud Imperium Games, creating the crowdfunded space simulator Star Citizen.
- John Romero – Programmer (1987–1988)
- Andrew Sega – Music Composer (1995–1998)
- Aka Necros; was a Software Engineer/Composer who went on to work for Digital Anvil.
- Dallas Snell – Vice President of Product Development / Executive Producer (1985–1996)
- Head of Product Development, Producer or Executive Producer of Origin's titles between 1986 and 1995. Later served as Director of Business Development for NCSoft North America. Co-founded Portalarium and served as Director of Development and Chief Operating Officer.
- Warren Spector – Producer (1989–1996)
- Producer of Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss which was developed by Doug Church and Looking Glass Studios, as well as its sequel, System Shock, Wings of Glory and numerous other titles. He later joined Ion Storm and managed its Austin office, creating Deus Ex. Later co-founded the now-defunct Junction Point Studios, acquired by Disney Interactive. Now works at OtherSide Entertainment as its Studio Director, creating System Shock 3.
- Paul Steed – Artist (1991–1995)
- 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.
List of games
- Crusader: No Survivors (cancelled multiplayer expansion for Crusader: No Regret)
- Crusader 3: No Escape / Crusader: No Mercy / Crusader II
- Worlds of Ultima: Arthurian Legends
- Ultima Worlds Online: Origin
- Harry Potter Online
- Jane's A-10
- Privateer 3
- Strike Team
- Wing Commander VII
- Ultima X: Odyssey (2004)
- Warren Spector interviewing Richard Garriott for his University of Texas Master Class in Video Games and Digital Media 
- Durkee, David (Nov–Dec 1983). "Profiles in Programming / Lord British". Softline. p. 26. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
- Mahardy, Mike (6 April 2015). "Ahead of its time: The history of Looking Glass". Polygon.
- Ferrell, Keith (January 1989). "Dungeon Delving with Richard Garriott". Compute!. p. 16. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "35 Years Of Influence - A Look Back at Origin Systems, Creators of Ultima and More". TechRaptor. Retrieved 2020-08-07.
- Varney, Allen (October 11, 2005). "The Conquest of Origin". The Escapist. Retrieved April 10, 2011.
- "Electronic Arts And Origin Pool Resources in "Ultimate" Acquisition". Computer Gaming World. November 1992. p. 176. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
- "Origin". Next Generation. Imagine Media (13): 105–8. January 1996.
- "Interview with Richard Garriott, Executive Producer, NCSoft Austin". Frictionlessinsight.com. 2002-03-17. Retrieved 2019-07-23.