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The Decline of Origin Systems, as seen through the eyes of artist Denis Loubet

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The Decline of Origin Systems, as seen through the eyes of artist Denis Loubet

People News - posted by Infinitron on Tue 26 February 2013, 17:47:00

Tags: Origin Systems; Ultima

One of the iconic figures of Origin Systems, developers of the Ultima series and countless other famous games, was the artist Denis Loubet. Denis was responsible for much of the artwork of Origin's games, going back to the box art of 1979's Akalabeth, and all the way up to Ultima IX: Ascension's admittedly impressive introduction movie.

Last month, the Ultima Codex reported that Denis was launching a new initiative, Drawmycharacter. Drawmycharacter will be "your one-stop site to get your RPG character, or anything you can imagine, drawn by hand-picked professional artists". It hasn't actually launched yet, and apparently a Kickstarter fundraiser may be in the cards.

But that's not what this newspost is about. Denis Loubet has been telling the world the story of his career on Drawmycharacter's Facebook page, and there are some interesting details to be gleaned there. Since this is the RPG Codex, I'll quote his post about the decline of Origin and the end of his long tenure there in 1997.

Later Origin was not as fun for me. The company filled several floors of office building, and the different projects were totally insulated from each other. You could no longer know everything that was going on because everyone was in one tight clique or another and jealously guarded their turf. We still had fun, and I even got a trip to Jamaica out of the Ultima project group. When EA bought the company we knew our days were numbered. So I took advantage of the EA sabbatical policy and went on a trip around the world! That was cool! :) I visited EA sites in Japan, Australia, England, and Canada, on my trip. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!​

But the advancement structure was not for me. The only way I could advance at Origin was to go into management, and I hated that idea. At this point I was just another artist. I had not been invited to work on Wing Commander III, and felt unappreciated. So when Ellen and Stephan Beeman invited me to join them at Illusion Machines Inc, I jumped at the chance to be a big fish in a small pond again.​

This negative opinion of Origin in its later years has also been shared by other former employees, such as designer Harvey Smith and writer Sheri Graner Ray. These comments by Kenneth Kully of the Ultima Codex are particularly instructive:

What’s interesting about the above is that the decline that Loubet perceived at Origin predated the EA buyout, and I would think it roughly corresponded with the company hitting its zenith during the production of games like Ultima 7 and (as Loubet mentions) Wing Commander 3.​

(I’ve been told by a few people that it was highly unusual for teams working on different projects at Origin Systems to closely associate both at or outside of work; the marriage of someone from the Ultima team to someone from the Wing Commander team was almost viewed as a Romeo and Juliet story.)​

Insane stuff. It seems to me that the people at Origin gradually became so obsessed with living up to their slogan "We Create Worlds" that they forgot that their actual job was to create games.

There are 32 comments on The Decline of Origin Systems, as seen through the eyes of artist Denis Loubet

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