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Richard Garriott To Sue Former Employer NCSoft 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the lord-british-holding-court dept.
Om writes "Richard Garriott, lead designer of the now-defunct NCSoft game Tabula Rasa, is suing former employer NCSoft to the tune of $24,000,000. GamePolitics has details on the legal filings, but contrary to official postings from 'General British' himself, it appears this split wasn't exactly amicable."
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Richard Garriott To Sue Former Employer NCSoft

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @12:52PM (#27847623) Journal

    ... but contrary to official postings from 'General British' himself ...

    If you bother to read the official document [libsyn.com] hosted by GamePolitics, Garriott claims that letter was fabricated while he was in quarantine from his space flight. And he claims its true intent was to deprive him of stock options he would have if he were terminated involuntarily. Since it sounded as voluntary termination in the letter, he no longer had these stock options:

    22. Shortly after the "quarantine call," NCsoft prepared and presented an "open letter" to Mr. Garriott, announcing Mr Garriott's departure from the company. That letter was drafted by NCsoft but purported to be from Mr. Garriott to the Tabula Rasa players. The letter announced that Mr. Garriott was "leaving NCsoft to purse [new] interests." Though NCsoft's letter omitted details about the circumstances surrounding Mr. Garriott's departure, Mr. Garriott saw no reason at the time to object to these omissions, and he did not object to NCsoft posting the letter on the Tabula Rasa website.
    23. With the benefit of hindsight, however, it appears that NCsoft's "open letter" was a prelude to the wrongful conduct by NCsoft to come.
    E. NCsoft Re-Characterized Mr. Garriott's Termination as a Voluntary Departure, Depriving Mr. Garriott of the Full Value of His Stock Options.

    Seems to boil down to whether or not his termination was voluntary or involuntary that determines if he could have exercised $27 million (not $24 million) in stock options.

    • by wjousts (1529427) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @01:00PM (#27847743)

      Seems to boil down to whether or not his termination was voluntary or involuntary that determines if he could have exercised $27 million (not $24 million) in stock options.

      Actually, it boiled down to when not if he could exercise his stock options. If his leaving was "voluntary" he would have to sell his stock options right away or risk them not being honored by NCSoft. If his leaving was involuntary, he'd have until June 2011 to decide when to exercise his stock. Because of his "voluntary" leaving, he had to exercise his stocks in a down market rather than being able to pick the right time to cash in.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jgtg32a (1173373)

      If you bother to read the official document [libsyn.com] hosted by GamePolitics, Garriott claims that letter was fabricated while he was in quarantine from his space flight

      I find this sentence very amusing, but I think its because I'm working on the assumption that he is crazy and isn't actually going to space, and he locked him self in his room for a while.

      • That would be a bad assumption. Google "Richard Gariott space" and you'll get a long list of news articles on his visit to the ISS, topped by an official web site for the event. He launched on Oct. 12 and returned to Earth Oct. 23.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          That would be a bad assumption. Google "Richard Gariott space" and you'll get a long list of news articles on his visit to the ISS, topped by an official web site for the event. He launched on Oct. 12 and returned to Earth Oct. 23.

          Google Owen K and you get his dad - making them teh first father / son pair to fly into space and both did it to space stations. (Skylab and ISS)

        • by jgtg32a (1173373)
          Yeah I saw that but it took a very long time to stop laughing.

          Technically I haven't stopped I'm still giggling about it
      • Richard Gariott was actually supposed to be the very first space tourist. I believe he paid first, but didn't go up until later. And it is a little known fact that his dad was an astronaut.

        Actually I think it is extremely cool that he spent his fortune living out childhood dreams (building a castle with trap doors, jousting, going into space, etc).

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      That all sounds incredibly fishy to me. The guy loses a fortune as the stock market tanks, tries to claim that his voluntary resignation was forged to get back that money, then says he didn't notice said forgery because he was in quarantine (they don't allow phones and the internet in health quarantine, wtf?).

      Man that whole story stinks like an unemployed WoW player and raises more questions than the old guy in a college class.

      • by LingNoi (1066278)

        Makes perfect sense to me. Tabular Rasa tanked and NC soft figured Garriott had to be fired as his game wasn't a WoW killer. NC Soft didn't want to waste money so they screwed him over. What's not to get?

    • by ildon (413912)

      I thought his lawsuit was sour grapes until I got to this part of the article:

      As a result, according to the filing, Garriott exercised the options within the 90 day window, "[forcing] him to sell into one of the worst equity markets in modern history."

      I don't think there was malicious intent here by NCSoft (meaning, I don't think they purposefully tried to force him to sell his stock when the economy was potentially as bad as it was going to be for the next 3 years), but that argument does seem rather sound in that he could have been forced to miss out on a LOT of stock value.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Perhaps you should bother reading the linked articles? They are written by people who have read the "official document" as well.

      From the article:

      "The filing stated that Garriott approved the letter, but in hindsight, the plaintiff suspects that NCsoft was setting up a means to show that Garriott's departure was voluntary."

      He approved the letter in question. It's too bad so sad that he didn't realize at the time that he could lose money on the stock options. That's his fault; or his accountants fault.

      It was

      • by WNight (23683)

        It appears that he merely did not object to how NCSoft tried to spin his leaving - fairly reasonable, no need to feed rumors or anything. The statement had nothing to do with the conditions surrounding his actual termination and any pressure that he might have been under.

        He should have had the balls to say "No, I'm not leaving"

        You think he should have stayed where he wasn't wanted? This isn't really the wizard image he'd be trying for. Willing to step down without causing a circus isn't the same as leaving of his own choice.

        No, he should deal honorably and assume

  • However, Garriott's complaint claims that Chung had meanwhile internally "re-characterized" his termination as "voluntary." The problem is that the alleged re-characterization of the dismissal would have a significant impact on Garriott's stock options.

    24 million dollars?

  • Lord British (Score:2, Informative)

    by vaxt (894676)
    It's Lord British, not General British. *scoff*
    • Akalabeth Rules!

    • Re:Lord British (Score:4, Informative)

      by Bai jie (653604) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @01:00PM (#27847745)
      Not in Tabula Rasa. Though I will always love Lord British of Ultima fame over the space British.
    • Yeah, seriously, wtf?

      His game persona should be pretty well known to anyone who would care about the games enough to post a story to /.

      • by Burkin (1534829)

        His game persona should be pretty well known to anyone who would care about the games enough to post a story to /.

        So then what is your excuse for not knowing that in Tabula Rasa his persona was called General British?

        In anticipation of next week's launch of Tabula Rasa, we would like to invite you to join us in our end of beta event. The Tabula Rasa team will be playing and challenging you to take on General British himself on Friday, October 26, 2007 from 10:00 PM to 11:59 PM Central Time.

        http://www.playtr.com/news/latest_news/the_tabula_rasa_end_of_beta_event.html [playtr.com]

        • by mackyrae (999347)
          The *game character* being General British doesn't change the fact that his *in real life* nickname is Lord British.

          And his dad being an astronaut is "little known"? Huh..."I'm going to space just like my dad...." was one topic of convo at dinner with him.
          • by Burkin (1534829)

            The *game character* being General British doesn't change the fact that his *in real life* nickname is Lord British.

            And for the game Tabula Rasa he used the name General British hence that is why it was used in the summary.

  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @01:23PM (#27848127)
    http://gmtristan.com/the-man-who-killed-lord-british/ [gmtristan.com]


    Suddenly, with Garriott on the witness stand, Rainz, cleverly disguised using his 'Appearance as Matlock' spell - reaches into his briefcase and produces a fire scroll!!!!!!!!!!

    Alas, Bailiff Blackthorne could not reach him in time...
  • I don't understand how stock options work. Did NCSoft save money by forcing Richard Garriott to exercise his options 90 days early? I'm guessing that the option contract is a right to buy a share of NCSoft stock at the price when the option was issued. So if NCSoft was worth $10 a share 2 years before, and it's now worth $20 a share, NCSoft has agreed to pay the $10/share difference. So if Richard Garriott had been able to wait a few more years, maybe NCSoft stock would be worth a lot more money, and he
    • by zoobaby (583075)
      Or it could be the options are set at $30 a pop and the current share value is below that. So exercising them would be a loss.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by neurovish (315867)

      The options are just an agreement to sell a number of shares at a set price. If NCSoft was worth $10/share when the options were cut, and is worth $20/share now, then Richard Garriott could buy the stock directly from the company for $10/share, then turn around and sell it for $20/share on the open market. If the stock is currently only worth $5/ a share, then he would still buy at $10/share, but wouldn't be able to gain any profit at all from a sale.

      NCSoft isn't paying him anything at all, they're just cut

      • by atari2600 (545988)

        1. Options usually need to mature or unlock if you will

        2. There is something called a cash-less transfer (you can sell your options for the difference in the option grant price and the current stock value)

        3. I don't know about the "don't last forever usually" - it all boils down to a case by case or company by company.

      • by mgblst (80109)

        They are not cutting him a discount. They put aside the shares when they are $10. So it doesn't matter if they go up to $1000, it isn't costing the company anymore, except in opportunity cost. They don't have to come up with $990 to pay the different, they just miss out on making $1000 instead they make $10.

    • I don't understand how stock options work. Did NCSoft save money by forcing Richard Garriott to exercise his options 90 days early?

      I don't know the specifics of this case, but it's very doubtful.
      Usually stock options are extra stock the company issues at the set price.
      In essence, they print up new shares - they don't buy them at the market rate - the cost to the company is close to 0.
      Then they sell them to you. Far from costing them money, they actually make money.
      But they're going to get the same amount of money whether you buy them today or 2 years from now.
      (Because of inflation, money now is worth more than money later, but that's

      • The way you explained it isn't completely true. The value of the options granted above and beyond the strike price is considered compensation, and therefore an expense. It comes off the bottom line for financial reporting purposes. It used to be the other way around for a long time, but FASB changed the rules based on the abuses of the 90's and early 00's. I think the rule changed around 2005? (Not an accountant).

  • by Net_Op (1193791) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @01:55PM (#27848657)
    One of the new GM's("Moxie") at the Lineage 2 forum just locked the thread about this lawsuit and wiped all of the posts except for the original that contained a link to the Kotaku article. It was their right to do so, but this is the first time I can remember them actually taking this action.
  • EA Bought Bioware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @01:59PM (#27848729) Homepage Journal

    EA owns the Ultima license. Bioware needs to hire Richard Garriot tomorrow and remake Ultima. The first three Ultima games had plots going all over the place. Most of the games don't run on modern computers, and many gamers today never played a single-player Ultima. But thanks to Ultima Online, they recognize the name.

    Use the Dragon Age engine that Bioware made, and remake the original Ultima trilogy. I know he doesn't want to work for EA, but working for EA under Bioware probably wouldn't be that bad. Please, make this happen.

    • by Khyber (864651)

      All of the games minus Ultima 2 work just fine on my dual-core XP system, with or without DOS Box. Ultima 2 gives constant divide overflow when attempting to run.

      I just whipped out my Ultima 1-6 Disc from back when I purchased the 6-pack games pack (Spear of Destiny, Ultima 1-6, Blackthorne, Stellar 7, etc.) just to check.

      • I've gotten the games to work with Exult, Dosbox and the like, but most modern gamers wouldn't touch archaic games like that sadly. And while the plot/concepts of the second trilogy hold up really well, the first trilogy was very inconsistent. I'm not sure he knew what he was doing or planning back them.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          Ultima 2 under any system gives me a constant divide overflow. It just won't run. everythign else does.

          I loved 5 and 6 the best. Having to learn another written language to play was fucking awesome (plus one of the most innovative forms of copy protection at the time,) and the geeks back in elementary and middle school that played and knew the runic alphabet would write notes to each other, which teachers could not decipher, and we never gave the code out, saying "You're not computer-literate enough to unde

    • Re:EA Bought Bioware (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @03:24PM (#27849957)

      One of the interesting things about the Ultima V: Lazarus project, which was a remake of U5 based on the Dungeon Siege engine, was that several spells and features from the original 8-bit release couldn't be implemented safely. (You can't teleport around in dungeons, among other things.)

      The old-school 2D worlds had some real advantages when it came to game-design freedom. If you wanted to implement an airplane, you changed the player icon into a 14x16-pixel airplane, made the speaker play a repetitive clicking sound, and turned off collision detection. Need a teleport spell? Just generate pairs of random numbers from 0-63 and accept the first pair that lands on an empty tile. It took about 10 minutes to add a new monster via the 2D tile editor; no need to submit a request to the art director, coordinate with the animators, and hope you're not setting the schedule back another week or blowing the texture-memory budget.

      Bottom line, the first three Ultimas were chock full of stuff that would be a nightmare to implement in a modern game engine. Lighting, animation, physics, sound, and so forth don't just complicate the code base, they complicate all aspects of production. It'd be comparable to the difference between writing a chapter in a novel about dragons attacking a city, and shooting the scene in a $200M movie. Not to say it can't be done, or that it shouldn't be done, but what you end up with will not be a very faithful heir to the originals.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Enderandrew (866215)

        I think it is largely forgotten how much RG pushed the technical boundaries. Ultima 1 had some weird elements like space flight. Would it be removed for technical reasons in a newer title, or would it be removed because it was wacky and took away from the original title?

        From a story perspective, I'd like to see him revisit the original trilogy of kill-the-big-baddie and try to put a spin on it. He put that concept on its head, in Ultima IV-VI, but those games feature abstract concepts that are best handl

      • by DrWho520 (655973)
        "But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone,
    • And people wonder why Hollywood keeps making sequels, remakes, and re-imaginings.

      • VASTLY different story here.

        Jackie Chan is off making a Karate Kid remake right now. I'm not remotely kidding. Is that movie going to be better or really different? Will it add something the first couldn't?

        Taking a computer game from 1980 and remaking it today is to completely reinvent it and do things that just weren't possible before.

        • No, it's not a different story at all. It's fanbois drooling and the media serving up what they know the fanbois will eat up without question.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @02:41PM (#27849393)

    Iolo: "...Ask Dupre about that."

    Dupre: "...Ask Shamino about that."

    Shamino: "...Ask Iolo about that."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    He said it cost him virtually all of his savings to pay for it. Or was that, it cost him all of his virtual savings? Either way....he needs more money. Afterall, Lord British can't be seen in a Hyundai.

  • NC Soft and teh Guardian team up to destroy Lord British. With the crack lawfirm of Dupre & Fitzowen, Esq advising your moves, you'll have to collect the contracts from the Sandallwood Box, travel to the Shrine of Justice in Yew, convince the Magistrate there that Brittania law applies to South Korea, then track down the vile Chung Blackthorn II.

    Confronting him in his underworld lair from which the Exodus Lineage Server farm runs, you will defeat them, take their funds for a return to space...

    • Hah, that's a good point. Look for a not-so-well-disguised anagram of "Chris Chung" in whatever LB's next game is, complete with a dastardly reputation followed by a horrible death at the player's hands.

      Back in the day, it was "Pirt Snikwah."

  • They were hoping he would die in outer space. It was a calculated risk :/

    I must say Tabula Rasa is pretty TERRIBLE. Though I do not know enough about the inside workings of NCSoft to just blame Garriott outright. But I assume he had creative control, he just took the game in a pretty lame direction. Nothing was innovative except for FPS combat.

    If he is to blame for the state of the game however, he should have been terminated a lot sooner. Worst thing that will come out of this probably will be him using

    • TR was a collection of problems. First of all, when you look at trailers from 2004 (search them in YouTube if you're interested), you'll see a game that had nothing in common with what TR finally way. 2004 TR was more of a fantasy sword-and-spell game with the graphics and feel of TR.

      Much like NC Soft's Aeon is now. Makes you wonder if they reused some of the stuff they scrapped back then.

  • by Trikenstein (571493) on Wednesday May 06, 2009 @09:02PM (#27854111)
    I didn't play it. Pretty sure I don't know anyone who played it. In fact I don't believe anyone I know was even tempted to play it.

    The reason I said these things is Mr. Garriott seems to have a lot of grandiose ideas, but is incapable of implimenting them himself. Has he coded anything himself since Ultima 2 or 3?
    Anyway, he comes up with ideas, gets others to pay him for them, and when these ideas don't actually work. It's everyones fault but his own.

    After all, he's the idea guy. It's not his fault, you couldn't make it happen. Or that you didn't understand. That you didn't *get it*

    It was a great idea.

    The failure is yours.

    So of course, someone, somewhere, owes Mr. Garriott a great deal of money.
    And he should get it.

    He can use it to buy himself a sense of shame.

    • Now you know someone. Me. I even liked it to some degree, but it lacked a lot of important features to make it stay.

      First of all, the game was ready for release about a month before its demise. It was shoved out the door a year too early. In the end, there was everything in that was lacking, and everything removed that bothered.

      The game sorely lacked any kind of endgame at release. I don't mean "no huge raids, just petty 5-man-dungeons". I mean ANY kind of endgame. There was literally NOTHING to do with you

  • The comment "Garriott had also been taking a working leave of absence for space exploration around that time." and no one bats an eyelash. A leave of absence for "space exploration"!! How awesome is that? I need to get me one of those.

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