Name: Gordon Walton
Role: Executive producer, Origin Systems
Once Ultima Online solidified itself as Electronic Art’s highest-grossing game of all time, the parent company quickly diverted resources to ensure the MMO stayed at the top of the sales charts. In EA’s rush to acquire the best and brightest in the games industry, they hired Gordon Walton as executive producer. His mission? Get everyone playing UO.
“I heard that Origin was looking for someone to run Ultima Online, so I applied,” Walton recounted. “I’d started playing Ultima Online with other people at Kesmai before this and I had a terrible time with the game for the first couple of weeks.
“I didn’t understand how to be successful and my latency on a modem from central Virginia was high. But the game got more interesting and compelling once I understood it better, and I was hooked.”
Walton said it was UO’s various system designs, which worked together to create a convincing virtual world, that sucked him in.
“UO felt like a real world to me,” he said. “I’d spent 20 years working on simulations and this was the first time an RPG felt like enough of a sufficiently-simulated world to be compelling.
“I always felt I could learn something new about how the game worked even after playing it for over 2,000 hours. The depth and possibility space that the game represented was unparalleled. The idea that you could round a corner and run into something new and dangerous was always there as you played.”
Richard Garriott’s company, as it turns out, had been on Walton’s radar for some time. Walton said he’d nearly applied for an open position with Origin in 1990, but instead he decided to move with his then-girlfriend (now wife) to Chicago. Walton’s job application with the studio was met with an invitation to interview for a management role.
Following the interview, Walton was hired as the Vice President of Online, meaning he was in charge of running all of EA’s online services while serving as an executive producer to the UO franchise.
Read more of Gordon Walton’s story in Chapter 6: The View from 10,000 Feet.