The Game Archaeologist: Richard Garriott's haunted cache

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|05.23.12

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The Game Archaeologist: Richard Garriott's haunted cache
Richard Garriott
Whenever you get really into a new hobby, it's natural to want to blab about it to anyone who drifts into your gravitational field. That's why we all talk about MMOs, right? It's also why any friends, family members, and coworkers have had to put up with excited rambling about my discovered love for Geocaching.

Some of you probably know Geocaching, as it's been around for over a decade now. For those of you who haven't, it's a worldwide treasure hunt that involves over a million and a half "caches" of various sizes that are hidden and then marked with GPS coordinates. Players head to the official site or one of the open-source projects to get the coordinates and go hunting for them. There's a useful two-minute introduction to this hobby on YouTube if you're curious.

I noted on our Massively Speaking podcast that Geocaching has a lot in common with MMOs: Both encourage questing and exploration, both have treasure to be found, and both plug you into a community of adventurers. Listener Terrence heard this and send in an email with an interesting revelation that ties these two hobbies even closer together, as a game developer brought his online world to a real-world location.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you Richard Garriott's haunted cache.

Gaming in all forms

MMO fans -- heck, gaming fans -- are most likely familiar with Richard Garriott. He's the developer who gave us the Ultima series, Ultima Online, and Tabula Rasa. He's also the personality that gave us a million and one reasons to post pictures of him in a space suit.

Like many devs, Garriott is a fan of gaming in all its forms, and he has always enjoyed fudging the barrier between the real world and the make-believe one. As such, it's no surprise that he got into Geocaching as a hobby.

Garriott became well-known in the Geocaching community for establishing two of the most difficult-to-attain caches in the solar system: one on the International Space Station and one in an ocean trench off of Europe. He has further plans to establish a new cache in the remains of the Titanic.

Unless you're a multi-millionaire or a superhero, chances are that these caches will be outside of your reach. This isn't the case with one of Garriott's most well-known caches, the Necropolis of Britannia Manor III.

Richard Garriott
The haunted mansion

If you find yourself in Austin, Texas, you may want to plan an afternoon sojurn to the outskirts, where Garriott's house hosts a mind-boggling Geocache of epic proportions. Unlike many celebrities, Garriott doesn't mind if you visit his property; he actually encourages it (although I wouldn't hold out hope that he'll invite you in for hot cocoa and marshmallows). He's set up a running Geocache adventure that is constantly accessible.

Designated GC2B034 and located at N 30° 21.445 W 097° 48.738, Garriott's cache isn't a simple find-and-log experience like so many others. Instead, the developer designed the cache to function as a real-life version of an MMO mission called The Guardian's Quest.

"In the mundane world, I'm a computer game developer, and that gaming history is involved in the playful interactions that are required to reach this cache," he said in 2010.

Garriott encourages any participants to arm themselves with a sensible inventory before embarking on this quest. Printing out the story and clues from the official Geocache website is paramount, as is acquiring a GPS, insect repellant, a flashlight, and several quarters.

The quest will send players traveling all across town to gather clues for the exciting finale. The first seven chapters are dedicated to doing this, with the eighth reserved for a visit to Garriott's stomping grounds.

Once they arrive at Garriott's famous Britannia Manor, players finish their journey in a spooky graveyard full of movie-worthy props. There they have to solve a few clues to find out how to unlock a nearby shack. Inside the locked shack are hanging skeletons and a coin presser that allows visitors to make a unique memento of their trip. Following this adventure, Garriott invites players to walk up to the top of a lookout tower for an impressive view of the surrounding area.

One MMO fan found this journey essential to both his hobbies: "After playing UO for over 6 years, I need to finish this to finally close my book on Ultima."

The Necropolis of Britannia Manor III has garnered several Geocaching awards as well as the accolades of over 225 players who have deemed this a "favorite" location (players only get to mark a spot as a favorite for every 10 caches they find, so it's an honor to get one of these). It even was featured on the official Geocaching video series:

While Garriott put Britannia Manor up for sale last year, apparently the Geocache is still safe and operational for the time being.

Meanwhile, in the realm of MUDs...

MUDs and their counterparts are always welcome guests here on the Game Archaeologist, and two posts that I wanted to pass along came across my radar this past week.

Live Like a Nerd
had an excellent and lengthy interview with a trio of staff members who help run Second Pass MUSH. If you've ever been curious about the appeal of MUSHes or what goes on in them, this is a great read. Also, the Ancient Gaming Noob pointed out that the long-running and quite expansive TorilMUD has added a brand-new zone, the Tower of Kenjin.

When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
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