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“We should learn more about Richard Garriott.”

To commemorate the launch of our early-bird ebook special, I thought it would be fun to recount how Dungeons & Dreamers became a book.

John, Brad, and Richard at the First Edition's 2003 book launch at BookPeople in Austin, Texas.

John, Brad, and Richard at the First Edition’s 2003 book launch at BookPeople in Austin, Texas.

I moved to Austin on Christmas Even in 1995 without a job, a plan, or any prospects. The story of how I ended up in that situation is for another time and place, but the result of that decision led to Dungeons & Dreamers.

I met a young woman who worked for David Swofford, the director of public relations for Origin Systems, a then-thriving game company run by Richard and Robert Garriott. From that meeting, I’d somehow convinced Wired magazine that I could get an interview with Garriott to discuss his Ultima series and the upcoming game, Ultima Online, which he’d promised would be the first massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that scaled.

[Ed note: The veracity of this claim is tenuous as Meridian 59 beat Garriott to the punch, but the impact of UO would far outshine every other game of its class. Let’s not quibble in my story, okay?]

As it turns out, Richard and I can both talk. He’s a Texas and I’m an Appalachian. I don’t know how long we ended up talking, but I had three tapes filled with various amounts of talking. Mind you, this piece was slated for the front of the book, which mean I was writing 200-500 words, and he was taking me through every aspect of his business including the server rooms.

The piece I’d written was actually spiked by the magazine after the editor, Todd Lappin, told me he’d misplaced the email on three different occasions.

[Ed note: I disliked Lappin for several years until I started working at Wired in 1999 and had to deal with the voluminous amount of information that flowed through Katrina Heron‘s editorial room.]

I kept the tapes because I assumed some day I’d use them to write a book. In fact, I kept them until just about 3 months before John and I decided to write a book.

[Ed note: My then-girlfriend and I lived in a small apartment in Berkeley. She was a filmmaker, and I was a writer. We lived sparsely because we both like spaces. I cleaned out my closet and dumped several years worth of recordings, notes, and ideas. I know, I know. I KNOW!]

While sitting in San Francisco’s 21st Amendment, John and I began discussing book ideas.

“I have several hours of interview recordings with Richard Garriott,” I said drunkenly. “He talked me through the entire Ultima series. These MMOs are huge right now, and we have the best history of how it happened.”

[Ed note: We didn’t. The garbage man did. I KNOW!]

We grabbed a stack of little square bar napkins, and began to scribble ideas for the book. As I recall, we originally conceived a series of biographical essays about the developers, the games, and the players. We jettisoned that as too dry. John, in particular, wanted us to be literary in our approach so we settled on the idea of a narrative biography serving as our book’s hook.

With that as our tent pole, we wrote the very first outline for Dungeons & Dreamers. After several hours of brotherly arguing, drinking, and scribbling, we proudly reviewed our outline. It read:

“We should learn more about Richard Garriott.”

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