Garriott On Shroud Of The Avatar, Why He Needs KS

By Nathan Grayson on March 13th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.

Like so many role-playing pioneers before him, Richard Garriott has joined the boom-or-bust gold rush that is Kickstarter. However, unlike literally all of those same pioneers, Garriott’s kinda, you know, been to space. He also owned an actual, factual castle at one point. The fates, in other words, haven’t been unkind to his rather formidable fortune, and it stands to reason that he’s not in what mere mortals like ourselves would refer to as “dire straits.” So then, why all this Kickstarter hoopla for Shroud of the Avatar? Moreover, how will its episodic structure work? And Garriott’s gone on about how the pseudo-MMO is actually single-player at heart, but how will the teeth of one puzzle piece interlock with the sawblade edges of another? Click past the break for Garriott’s best attempts at explaining some of his Ultima successor’s stickier issues.

RPS: First off, why Kickstarter? I mean, you’ve kinda been to space. You also owned a castle. Have all your years of extravagant Texan hedonism finally taken their toll?

Richard Garriott: I have and continue to invest millions into Portalarium. But to properly fund Shroud of the Avatar, we either needed to consider a publishing partnership with a large distribution partner, or go directly to the players.

As I reflect on my own work of the past, my favorites are Ultima IV, Ultima VII and Ultima Online. All three of those were different enough that my publisher – often my own company – did not support or understand what I was doing until it was finished. But since I finished it “my way” I’m pleased with the results, and they were landmark successes.

By going direct to players, we can avoid becoming beholden to outside influences.

But there were some games I made where our publisher forced us to ship before the product was finished and those results were never good, even though they had plenty of potential. By going direct to the players, we can not only avoid becoming beholden to outside influences, but instead build a relationship directly with players, for whom we are building this game.

RPS: OK then, onto the game: if I don’t want to deal with all the multiplayer functionality, I can just turn it off, right?

Richard Garriott: You can play single-player, absolutely. You can play the entire game solo.

RPS: What will happen in terms of there being shops and stuff like that, player-owned stuff?

Richard Garriott: If you literally never went online, you would never see a building that was hypothetically owned by another real player. Of course we’ll provide plenty of NPC ownership. Even in the empty lots, a lot of those will be originally owned by NPCs. They’ll just be available for sale if you really want one. But as long as you go online at all, even if you ignore other players, if you are at least connecting online you will see the economy change. You’ll see new blacksmiths show up in the middle of town.

You’ll get to see all the artistic results of the most contributing players. By having villages being cheaper than towns and towns being cheaper than cities, and then some of the cities actually being… I don’t know if you saw that whole electrical field that was over one of the towns, but that’s a kind of protective dome that makes it particularly safe. The most expensive area will be very interesting to visit and see, because there won’t be a lot of chaff there. It’ll be people who can afford to build in a nice part of town, and therefore it should be interesting to visit.

RPS: Obviously it’s a fantasy world, but what sort of fantasy world is it? How close is it to Ultima, and how different?

Richard Garriott: We started with traditional Tolkien-style medieval fantasy. What we’re laying on top of that is… we wanted to bring in a little technology. We’ve brought electricity into existence, for example. But we specifically did not bring in gunpowder. We didn’t want guns. That technology does not exist. But a little bit of the mechanical age does, and a little bit of Nikola Tesla is also a big inspiration.

Are you familiar with the movie Forbidden Planet? Old movie. In the movie Forbidden Planet, they land on an alien planet and set up a little energy field around their encampment to try to keep out this monster. Our big cities are generally built around sources of easy power – wind or hydro or geothermal. They run little generators which those, to which they’ve built these Tesla-like fields to offer a little protection for everybody who lives in the town. If you can afford it, you want to live in one of those towns, because it means that you’re not marauded as much.

In our case, when you’re in town, it’s pretty easy to have the convenience of electricity, but the further away from these Tesla towers you get, the more you have to start hand-cranking to provide yourself with additional energy. We do have energy weapons that we’ve brought in, too. We’ve invented a whole new pantheon of magnetic rail-shooters and little fog guns. I’m not quite comfortable with the term “steampunk,” but it does have a bit of that steam-powered flair on top of the traditional medieval world.

RPS: It sounds like a pretty dangerous world, but you’ve been talking a lot about how you’re designing the game with many non-combat roles in mind. Can I go through single-player by entirely non-violent means?

Richard Garriott: That’s a very good question. If you play truly solo, you will likely have to do some significant amount of combat. It still means you can lean heavily on other resources, but the way this map is designed to unfold: First of all, this is only the center tile of a three-by-three set of zones. This is what we’re launching with first. Then we’ll launch a second zone, a third strip, a fourth strip, and finally a fifth zone. There are five episodes that we’ll launch this with, and this will be the centerpiece.

If you look at this map, the place we were walking was these two towns. But then there’s this ridge of mountains that goes right through [the general area]. There are two dungeons. These dungeon passageways – you might think of them as the Mines of Moria – allow you to go from one side to the other. You must go through this to have access to this next area of the map. To do that, you’ll probably have to get involved in combat. So the solo player experience would require combat.

If you play solo, you will likely have to do a significant amount of combat.

But let’s suppose I’m a blacksmith and I really want to smith over here. Well, it still means I have to go through Moria. That means that if I’m not a combatant, I have to at least partner with somebody who is for that period of time. Which would be another way to do it, by the way. If you’re a blacksmith you might need an escort to get somewhere sometimes.

RPS: Are you considering adding NPC escorts, something like that?

Richard Garriott: We haven’t yet, but that’s probably a reasonable thing to suggest. That’s also one of the reasons why we’re doing this Kickstarter and getting people involved so early. I don’t know if you know, but when we shipped Ultima Online, probably a third to a half of all the features put into the game had one of two problems. Either it was a feature that we’d put almost no time into that was so amazingly popular that we should have put a lot more time into it – like fishing, which was enormously popular, even though a 50-50 chance of getting a fish was the entire simulation.

On the other hand, we had put in this virtual ecology. Very sophisticated. Tons of work. No one noticed. No one cared. I eventually ripped it out. That’s why, for example, your suggestion is excellent.It hadn’t crossed my mind, but it’s definitely one thing we should consider doing. That’s the sort of thing we have to pull out through getting the players involved in this early.

RPS: In the main single-player story, what’s your goal? What are you trying to achieve?

Richard Garriott: Since it’s a five-episode story, I don’t want to give away too much. But one of the things that I’m big on is that instead of the bad guy waiting for you in the final level, you need to see the bad guy in action. You need to therefore feel that the bad guys are bad. You’ll see why the townsfolk think they’re bad and it gives you a motivation to be the hero.

In the world you uncover here, not only at night and in the dark forests are there monsters and creatures that would do you harm. There’s a very specific, conscious harm. Every certain period of time, an entire city – including the ones the players are in – is put under siege. It’s obvious that the bad guys are looking for something. But that’s the first mystery that you encounter. It may feel arbitrary to you at first, but there’s a pattern by which the bad guys are laying waste to town after town. What they’re looking for is your first mystery that you have to figure out.

RPS: Will there just be a point where players have to put together that evidence, or will the game lead them along a path where it will eventually reveal, “Hey, this is why the villain’s been attacking these cities in this way”?

Richard Garriott: The player will figure it out. They can even share it with you. The way we’ve designed the story, it works well to not make it a problem to share information. Fairly quickly, players who want to know will know fundamentally the pattern I’ve just described to you. They’ll know fundamentally why they’re doing it. I don’t think that will change the power of the reveal to you individually when it becomes personal. But this first episode is really to understand who the bad guys are and what their mission is and what you can begin to do about it. That journey is episode one.

RPS: You say “episodes,” so will this be a kind of episodic setup along the lines of, like, The Walking Dead? Or do you mean more like you’re going to release a series of expansions over time?

Richard Garriott: It’s a series of expansions over time. We’ll even do little things in real time. For example, if we decide we want to put a city on this island to meet demand for player housing, we’ll do that. If we want to invent a new island in the ocean, we will do that. For the main story arc, there’s a whole ‘nother chunk of story to do with the map that’s over here to the right of this map. We’ll release that whole map all that once.

RPS: Will that be free, or will it come at a price?

Richard Garriott: It will likely come at a price. Likely. We’re not going to charge a subscription. The fine-tuning of the economics we’re still working out. But fundamentally, there will be a trial version of the game that you can play as a download for free. To get the full version of the game, including unlocking the skill trees, there will be a nominal cost. Like, “Oh, hey, I need some power here to start this. Let me give this machine some kindness and let it get up to speed here.”

But as you were saying about finance. The trial version’s free. Unlocking the main game and getting access to some of the base skill trees will be what I’ll call the nominal price of the game. But then, if we create a whole new skill tree – like if we create an alchemist that didn’t exist to begin with – we’ll probably have a cost to unlock that skill tree if you want to have access to it. We’ll bring in whole big chunks of content and those may have a cost to access. The precise billing structure for that is to be determined.

RPS: Is it going to be like microtransaction-based? For things like that skill tree and smaller bits like that?

Richard Garriott: Well, the answer becomes “no” when you use the word “smaller.” Our intention is that it’s for big pieces of content and big decisions that you make. What we’re not trying to do is become a social game where, “Oh, look, if you want the blue cow instead of the pink cow, it costs 25 real cents versus 25 in-game currency.” We’re not doing that.

RPS: What happens after those five episodes end? Do players just go on adventuring and starting small business enterprises, like all the greatest fantasy heroes? Or will there be some kind of more specifically tailored endgame?

Richard Garriott: They do still exist. The story you will discover is really a personal story. The fact that one person has finished it doesn’t mean that the game is over, if you see what I mean. Since that’s also a personal story, it means that your character has now achieved that particular goal. That doesn’t mean you don’t still live in the world. That doesn’t mean you can’t help people achieve their goals.

RPS: Is there an endgame, though?

Richard Garriott: There is not an endgame currently planned. The main story thread will have concluded for you, but the broader story will still be going on around you. Whether, at that point, we come up with an episode six or seven, or whether we say enough is enough and we build the next game… That’s far enough away that we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

RPS: Did Shroud of the Avatar start life as an Ultima game? Did you sort of envision it that way in your head?

 There is not an endgame currently planned.

Richard Garriott: Oh, I’ve made no secret over the years that I’ve talked to EA about collaborating on that property. I think it would be good for them and good for me. But we haven’t managed to put anything together on that down through the years. I was off doing other things, also, these last few years. Now is the time, though, so I’m going back with or without them.

RPS: Why weren’t you able to get the old band back together?

Richard Garriott: I think that it’s because they already have their own people with their own plans for that property. Let’s suppose you had been the person who was given charge to go build an Ultima game and you’re already two years into it. Then the guy who invented that wants to take it back over. Who knows? But that’s my speculation. They’re doing their own thing with it now and they want to continue their own work.

RPS: Theirs is a pretty direct successor to Ultima IV. Have you seen it?

Richard Garriott: I have. By the way, I know the team well. I’ve talked with them all in detail. I believe those guys are passionate Ultima fans. They’re passionate believers in the work that I’ve done. They very much want to fulfill the legacy of Ultima IV in particular. So I wish them great success. They are really doing an Ultima IV. I don’t see it as competitive to or in conflict with what I’m doing. I’m really trying to do the next step.

RPS: You’re using the Lord British name again. Does that make this world directly connected to Ultima, or is it just the name?

Richard Garriott: I can’t directly connect it, other than through myself. Fortunately, for me, when you look at the story of the trilogy of trilogies, Ultimas one through nine, it basically ends with the destruction of the world. While Britannia has now come to an end, what we might call the new Britannia is just beginning.

RPS: There have been a number of Britishes. There’s Lord British, and then in Tabula Rasa there was General British. Are they all related?

Richard Garriott: They are. Here’s my theory for that. The fans know that they are an Avatar, a person who lives here on earth who finds a portal that takes them through to the mystical realm of Britannia. So am I. I am Richard Garriott, but I am also Lord British, in that he is my projection into the virtual world.

The other fiction that I’ve been keeping through this is kind of like Narnia. When the kids are outside of Narnia, Narnia advances by hundreds of years. But they don’t age much at all because they’re on Earth. You and me age at the exact age you and me age. When we’re not in the world, the world does whatever it wants. So that’s why Lord British is still around, because Richard Garriott is still around. He doesn’t age at the same rate as the people in that world.

RPS: So there aren’t any terrifically awkward British family Christmases or anything? It’s all one guy?

Richard Garriott: All one guy. General British, Lord British, all the same.

RPS: Awww. I like imagining a bunch of yous uncomfortably poking at turkey dinners. Oh well. In your head, have you ever tried to link the continuities? Tarantino-style?

Richard Garriott: Oh, yeah, of course. In my heart of hearts, I think they are all part of the same pantheon of realities. Whether or not I can write it out that way, I can connect it together in my head. Even Tabula Rasa and other things, too. The name of our company, Portalarium, comes from these portals to different worlds. To me, this is always you and me, real people from Earth, getting a chance to go adventure together in new worlds where we’ve found these mystical gateways to go play in them.

RPS: But can we kill Lord British this time?

Richard Garriott: That will be interesting to find out. As you may know, I’ve tried always to make Lord British not killable. Ultima III was the first game we published as Origin, so it was the first time I knew that people were trying to kill me. We got mail from people that had gone to my other publishers before. I was like, “What?! People are killing me? Better fix that.” Every time I’ve tried to find a way to make myself immortal, people have found a way to kill me. In Ultima IX, we actually put in a way to kill me on purpose, as a joke. But we’ll see here. I will attempt to make myself immortal. We’ll see if I can pull it off.

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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99 Comments »

  1. doho7744 says:

    After the Tabula Rasa affair and his whole bit about Facebook games I really do not care what he does, I won’t be buying it.

    And is that a roach clip he’s wearing or is that his hair? Man that’s nasty.

    • mentor07825 says:

      It really doesn’t suit him, I must say. Perhaps in a different time period.

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      jackthename says:

      This reminds me way too much of Tabula Rasa.

      As soon as I read “Richard Garriott” and “MMO” in the same sentence, my wallet shriveled and retreated deep into my pants…

    • Joshua_Anderson says:

      my neighbor’s aunt makes $67/hour on the laptop. She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her income was $13528 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more… http://zapit.nu/312

    • Joshua_Anderson says:

      just as Elizabeth replied I am dazzled that some people can get paid $4352 in four weeks on the computer. have you read this website… http://zapit.nu/312

    • RakeShark says:

      The rat-tail? Always thought of it as a Jedi Padawan thing.

    • Aardvarkk says:

      Glad to see he hasn’t stopped dressing like a £100 pimp, but we really shouldn’t judge his game based on his sense on taste, should we?

  2. Bhazor says:

    Didn’t he just win $28 million in a lawsuit last year? I guess castles must be expensive.

  3. Hoaxfish says:

    By going direct to players, we can avoid becoming beholden to outside influences

    You know, he’s one of the people I think should be guided by outside influences rather than left to his own devices.

    (behold the dark magic of blockquoting a pullquote)

    • Lemming says:

      He doesn’t even answer the question. There’s still no explanation as to why he can’t fund it himself.

      Fuck this guy, frankly.

      • Premium User Badge

        Rikard Peterson says:

        “Because he doesn’t want to” should be answer enough. Or “why should he if others will fund if for him”? Your question is a bit beside the point, IMHO. The real question is “do other people want to fund it”?

        I’m not going to do so, but I don’t have a problem with him doing the Kickstarter thing anyway. If people want to fund it, good for them.

        • Damien Stark says:

          I think the point is that many other creators (say, Tim Schafer and Chris Avellone) really wanted to make these new games, but lacked the funding. Knowing this, lots of Internet-folks (the friendly village-dwelling cousins of Angry Internet Men) enthusiastically chipped in to help.

          Now Chief British *does* have the funding, but decides he doesn’t want to use it to make this new game. He only wants to make it if other people will pay for it. Setting aside any questions of actual money or greed, it conveys a certain lack of dedication/confidence/interest on his part. Why should investors be confident the game will be great, if he’s not?

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          Keirley says:

          I think the natural response to that is “He can easily afford to fund this project himself, but instead he’s asking fans to take a direct financial risk”.

          • Zap Brannigan says:

            Except of course, they aren’t taking a risk. To take a risk there has to be a reward. They are taking the BURDEN, of which he gets ALL of the profits. You might be thinking the “risk” rewards them the game, but Kickstarter isn’t a pre-order service. It’s for fulfilling artists dream projects, which as stated previously, if he isn’t willing to believe in it, why should we?

          • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

            So if he funded it himself, you would step in and say wait what are you doing let me instead. He has to fund it for you to want to fund it? I don’t get it. A million dollars isn’t a lot for something like this whose to say he isn’t covering most of the costs himself already.

            I would just like to know who are the people who give 10,000 dollars to these things though.

          • Lemming says:

            What Zap says.

            So what you have to ask yourself is: Is this a project that needs to happen? Is it a good idea?

            My answer would be, no. It’s deep into the realms of the unremarkable and uninspiring.

      • Frank says:

        Yeah, and it was a great opening question, too!

        Garriott’s non-answer that told me about the Zynga-kin, Portalarium, has turned me (further) off of this project.

        • Droopy The Dog says:

          Yeah, when you’re throwing mutiple millions of your own money at social media games, you really shouldn’t be drawing attention to that whilst trying to kickstart a project with a goal of one million dollars.

          It just makes people use rude words like fucknugget.

      • Stevostin says:

        Because that would be unhealthy. You make game that people want to play. Either it’s obvious enough for a publisher to finance it, either people want your game enough to kickstart. If none of the above, making the game is pointless.

        What could make sense would be if kickstarted fail for some non that meaningful reason, spend more to get another go at it. But there’s no sensible reason he should spend it just because he can.

    • LintMan says:

      The kicker for me was the sentence right before that:

      But there were some games I made where our publisher forced us to ship before the product was finished

      I wish RPS followed up on this and asked WHY the publisher forced him to ship before the product was done. I suspect the answer is:

      “Because we were late and already way over-budget”.

      I’m sure the KS donors will be MUCH more understanding when this happens on the project they paid for. Or, if not “understanding”, at least “impotent to do anything but complain on the internet”.
      :-)

      • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

        Anyone who wants to donate to kickstarter and complain later if they don’t get what they thought they would get is a fool. It’s a patronage system, your not making an investment, your making a donation.

        • LintMan says:

          Well, my point was that the KS means he has very little accountability – not even to his own wallet.

          But as far as KS as “patronage” – I mostly disagree. Backers are told in advance what they will get for their money, and the fundees are legally required to honor that. Now, there is of course some inherent risk of under-delivery on promises or even total failure to deliver, and KS backers should ALWAYS take that into consideration before backing anything. BUT – that doesn’t mean that backers have no right to complain if the fundee fails to preform according to expectations. They have every right to complain and even legal standing to persue it if warranted.

  4. InternetBatman says:

    I think his tiers are more than bit exploitative though. $25, $30, $33, and then $40 for the base game. No access to the developers blog until $60. It’s also inviting speculation of virtual real estate at the later tiers, which seems a bit scummy.

    Also, there’s something wrong with the formatting of this article. Annoying bright red textboxes pop up in the middle of it. Might as well be geocities.

    • solidsquid says:

      It’s supposed to be retro-style, to harken us back to an older time when Ultima was just released

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yea, I said it in one of the other articles.

      He’s pushing a high “tier-cost per person” in order to reach the funding goal, rather than doing what everyone else is and getting a lot of people convinced of a good product.

      Torment (starting a day earlier) asked $25 what he’s only offering for $40. Even his lowest “early bird” tier was still $25, where as Torment’s was $20. Even if the Kickstarter actually showed real substance I wouldn’t touch it for $40 (nearly “AAA” price costs)

      It’s inevitable that’ll he’ll get funded (within a week of starting), but I hope he doesn’t get too much more because of this pricing. Compare it to Torment, which had a low price, good pitch, etc which has blown past double the goal after reaching initial funding within 6 hours.

      As to the red pull-quote things, I’m seeing them right-aligned (but still “within” the surrounding text).

      • Arkh says:

        I fail to see why someone would back a guy who went in a trip to space.

        • RakeShark says:

          You have no idea how often NASA hears that same complaint.

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        Keirley says:

        He’s talking about supporting the game with additional purchases, but we have no idea how many of these there’ll be, or how much they’ll cost. I know it’s early days, but that (and a fair number of other things) doesn’t make me want to pledge.

        I’d have to pay $33 to get a copy of the game through Kickstarter ($40 if I’m a late backer), but then what about the extra purchases? How much will they cost, how many will they be, and how viable will it be to continue playing this MMO without getting the new content?

        It seems like a massive amount of money to risk on such little information. And like Hoaxfish said, I can drop $20-25 on Torment and be guaranteed the entire game with no extra purchases necessary.

  5. Giuseppe says:

    To me, this is one of the least convincing high-profile kickstarters yet.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I agree… even the Tom Hall/Brenda Braithwaite one was more convincing, especially once they started putting out updates.

    • Arkh says:

      Come on, the guy is broke! He went to space, that’s an expensive thing. How will he save enough money to go to the moon and come back if he fund his own games?

    • waltC says:

      No, I think that would be “Wildman”…;)

  6. Doomsayer says:

    WE WILL COME FOR YOU, LORD BRITISH. YOU CANNOT DEFEAT DEATH!

  7. Premium User Badge

    Malibu Stacey says:

    I have and continue to invest millions into Portalarium

    Whose total output so far is 3 Facebook games.
    One of which is Poker and the second is Blackjack.

    I’m with Rab on this one. To paraphrase the great man “Fuck you Garriott. And all who came before you. And, depressingly, all those yet to inevitably fucking come.”

    • Gnarf says:

      Seriously?

      “If people enjoy what you do and have made you in any way relevant in our culture, then YOU owe THEM something.”

      That’s ridiculous. I mean, the entire thing is ridiculous, but “if you make something and I like it then you owe me” is above and beyond.

      • Damien Stark says:

        How is that at all what they’re saying?

        The issue is that, given lots of his own money for funding, he chose to use it funding generic “social”/Facebook games. Then he puts out a Kickstarter appealing to everyone with how great the “old school” Ultima games were, and how he’d love to make more like that… Except that is an option he already had, and declined, in order to make pretty much the polar opposite.

      • Premium User Badge

        Malibu Stacey says:

        “If people enjoy what you do and have made you in any way relevant in our culture, then YOU owe THEM something.”

        That’s ridiculous. I mean, the entire thing is ridiculous, but “if you make something and I like it then you owe me” is above and beyond.

        Yep those 2 things are completely and 100% the same thing. Thanks for enlightening all of us.

        • Gnarf says:

          You’re right. They are different things in a number of different ways. They’re arguably not even equally ridiculous. They’re really just ridiculous in the same way. Which was the point anyway.

          (But I realize that it won’t be as enlightening and monocle as “fuck you Garriot”.)

          (What Damien said had nothing to do with what I said, btw.)

  8. solidsquid says:

    Didn’t he just kinda brush off the question about why he needs Kickstarter funding? If he’s able to invest millions in Portalarium to produce facebook casino games, why can’t he invest one of those millions in Shroud of the Avatar? Is he expecting his project to be another Torment, getting more than 10 times what it asked for? From what he says, it doesn’t sound like an issue of not being able to afford to invest the $1 million he’s asking for, it’s just that he doesn’t want to

  9. ResonanceCascade says:

    I’ve never done it, but isn’t there a joke way to kill Lord British in Ultima VII as well, by dropping something on his head?

    Anyway, I feel like this project is just pretending that a huge slew of fantasy games never came out between Ultima IX and now. They seem to be trying to just pick back up where they left off and slap some 21st century monetization models onto it. I really doubt that this is going to work out. But I’ll be happy to be wrong.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      There were two ways to kill Lord British in Ultima VII, the first involves dropping a gold sign on his head, and the other requires the Black Sword that you get via the Forge of Virtue expansion.

  10. Premium User Badge

    slerbal says:

    I loved Ultimas IV, V, VI and VII and also Ultima Online, but god this sounds awful. The more he speaks the less I am interested. This is both unconvincing and weirdly sinister though I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it is the eclipse of the sun caused by his ego? I want to like this, I really do, but no, I think I will be avoiding this like the plague.

    There is nothing new here beyond the inclusion of all the worst aspects of social gaming, MMOs and the failed elements of the Ultima series.

    • Necroscope says:

      Will you avoid this like the plague if it turns out to be a really great game?

      • Premium User Badge

        slerbal says:

        Honestly, probably, yes.

        Aside from a brief flirtation with The Secret World when it went sub-free I avoid MMOs. I love playing co-op games with my friends, but this sounds like one of the social Facebook style games I avoid where you end up spamming your friends. Nothing he has said gives me any confidence in this being a good game. Either way I certainly would not Kickstart something like this – I would wait for release and reviews and maybe see if any of my friends try it and like it before I’d touch it. I’m also completely uninterested in the setting already

        I am completely willing to accept that he has just represented himself poorly, but given how many years he has in the industry I’m not willing to cut him any slack. He was evasive in the answers to legitimate questions.

        If he can deliver something better, good luck to him, but I’ve run a games development studio and it will be hard to realise what he is talking about with the money he is seeking. Hard but not impossible.

        The proof will be in the pudding, but as I said it is a pudding that I am highly unlikely to try.

    • Enkinan says:

      This is exactly how I feel. I thought maybe I was just paranoid or something. I’m not touching this one.

      • Premium User Badge

        strangeloup says:

        I’ll add my voice to this. It certainly seems just…. I dunno, there seems something off about the whole thing in a way that I can’t put my finger on. I felt like that from first clapping eyes on it, despite having had some amazing times with pretty much all the Ultima games — even IX had its moments despite the long list of flaws, and VIII always seemed as if it wasn’t particularly a bad game in itself, just a bad Ultima game (with 7 really being a hard act to follow).

        I keep meaning to have a look and see if there’s a free server for old-style Ultima Online.

  11. gritz says:

    Ultima 7 had at least two deliberate ways to kill LB, but I guess his memory is pretty foggy now.

    • Arkh says:

      Probably the place of his memory who had this information got overwritten by memories of the ISS.

  12. herschel says:

    This what I wonder…

    Why go on Kickstarter? To get attention? Money should not be the issue here. Same with the other dinosaur Chris Roberts.

    • RakeShark says:

      Well, to be fair, Roberts had an opening. No other big names from the space-sim past had stepped up yet. I mean, if Lawrence Holland had stepped up and said “Hey you remember X-Wing and TIE Fighter? Well I want to make a game like that again!” you can bet your farm that the tone of the reception would have been much better, because we all fucking love TIE Fighter. But Holland’s happily(?) making social games these days. Braben’s Elite kickstarter might have done a little bit better, but his issue was he showed VERY little in his first weeks, it was just a talking head. The other space-sim kickstarters from unknown indies hadn’t been very successful either, mostly because while the idea and concept was nice, they seemed to lack any experience in that genre. SOL: Exodus wasn’t received all that well, and Strike Suit Zero had at best a lukewarm reception. Volition isn’t going to make another Freespace, Novalogic had their one-and-done, the X series is a worst impenetrable and at best divisive, and the Crimson Skies guy is working on Shadowrun.

      There’s not a lot that’s viable left when you take Roberts out. Yeah, he’s a dinosaur when compared to the game culture of today, but a big name in a scarce genre can at least get funded and get people excited.

      Garriott on the other hand… He’s entering a pretty bloated genre market of high-fantasy. I don’t think he understands how distinctly he needs to sell himself and stand apart (and at least equally with) the likes of inXile and Obsidian. This’ll get funded, but it’ll be like Braben’s and only have a little overflow, and the final product will be (maybe unfairly, due to funding differences) measured against Wasteland 2, Project Eternity, and Torment. We’ll have to see if the final project does.

      • Premium User Badge

        Malibu Stacey says:

        Volition isn’t going to make another Freespace

        What is this I don’t even

        I will go to my grave with the belief that Freespace 3 will come out some day. Argonaut don’t even exist any more so we can’t get an I-War 3 so I need some hope to cling to.

        THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

  13. PearlChoco says:

    He really creates worlds.

  14. Pesticide says:

    Well his worlds used to be very cool 15 years ago but lets face it , we have different standards now. He received 28 million us from ncsoft http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabula_Rasa_%28video_game%29 where he won his courtcase. I really hope the kickstarter is for feedback and beta testing purposes. Cause he really does need not the money if he wanted to make something really happen and bielieved in it. Kickstarter Q/A is a lot cheaper for sure and feedback much more passionate. But how you can go from sucha beatiful 2d UO game to this horror of a 3d engine surpassed by games 10 years ago …. its horrendous and i think he knows it.

  15. ChainsawCharlie says:

    I think the game look somewhat ugly. Surely it will change, but that keeps me from backing this.

    • Tuco says:

      Somewhat ugly? it honestly looks like a nasty shitty shovelware from 2003.

      Beside, and I’m talking as an Ultima fanboy here, the game he’s describing doesn’t strike me as something I would love at all.

  16. Epicedion says:

    Yes, give your money to a man with a ponytail calling himself “Lord British.” That seems like a wise investment.

  17. aadi says:

    Sorry Mr. British, the propitious time to ask me for money was back in 1993, when I was still playing Ultima VII and hadn’t yet seen VIII. Or IX.

  18. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    I don’t like these micro-transaction things he mentions. Sure, he doesn’t call it micro-transactions, but they sure seem a lot like micro-transactions.

    You want to play as an alchemist, pay this, oh you want another skill tree, pay more.

    Hmm, not too impressed by this whole affair at all. I wish him the best, but this in not looking very good to me. I’ll go back and play the Ultimas that I never played.

    • Premium User Badge

      slerbal says:

      It completely sounds like microtransactions. As you say, simply calling them something else – for example “pudding” doesn’t make them not microtransactions.

      Honestly I am surprised EA isn’t lapping this up as everything about it sounds like their cup of tea apart from being a bit “niche”

  19. RyuRanX says:

    I’m a huge Ultima fan and I’m very thankful to Richard Garriott for all the fantastic cRPGs he has made during the 80′s and 90′s, but I’m not backing this project.

    Shroud of the Avatar looks awful both visually and gameplay-wise. It seens to be a popamole MMO/social RPG with a souless single player mode.

    • Eldiran says:

      I feel pretty much exactly the same way. I love Ultima VII and Ultima Online, and I even like Lord British himself. However, nothing about this game sounds solid. If he went either full singleplayer or full multiplayer I would be excited, but as it is, it looks far too unfocused.

      Also it is direly worrying to me that his promo video displayed Ultima IX footage and no Ultima VII footage…

  20. Blackcompany says:

    He has no faith in his own products. Or in his ability to make a good game people want to play. If he had any faith he would use his own money then sell the final product.

  21. justdave says:

    It’s strange to me how so many people feel the need to bring up some of Garriott’s bad games, yet we barely see a mention of the turds that other notable CRPG developers funding via Kickstarter have worked on…

    • InternetBatman says:

      People mention Hunted, Bard’s Tale, and Choplifter HD at least once when talking about Fargo.
      The only Obsidian game that might bother a faithful player is Dungeon Siege III, and that’s pretty solid bug-wise.
      Braithewait and Hall had a huge forum war about the later Wizardries.
      A large portion of the comments about Peter Molyneux were about his failiures.
      Doublefine had to face up to their long legacy of producing fun, cheerful, and bright games. People still mentioned the meat circus.
      David Braben was given crap for his facebook games (or somesuch. I don’t really follow him).

      A developer’s past is the primary way of assessing risk on a Kickstarter, and it’s proper that it does get mentioned.

  22. aircool says:

    This is the same guy that blamed Tabula Rasa’s spectacular failure on the beta testers. Apparently the beta testers were responsible for telling the whole world that the game was shite. Sadly, this happened because the game was shite. A vocal portion of the beta testers were adamant that the game needed at least another six months work, and submitted hundreds of ideas and suggestions, which were promptly ignored.

    Garriot has been dining out on Ultima for over twenty years now; that’s just not enough clout to kickstart a decent game.

    • thespud says:

      I can understand the concerns about the game, but this is just totally wrong. NCsoft rushed it out, not Garriott.

      Have a look at the first question… That’s what he means.

  23. apocraphyn says:

    I know this doesn’t add anything to the topic in general, but Garriott really looks like a stereotypical pimp.

    And what the hell, I’ll just reiterate what everyone else said: Tabula Rasa 2.0.

  24. StranaMente says:

    So many people agreeing on the shadiness of this kickstarter, and yet it is almost founded.
    I’m not saying he will not deliver, the problem is he did not need or derserve other people’s money. It’s a sad state of affairs.

    • Arkh says:

      He’s trying to pull the nostalgia act. While I would gladly fund a proper Star Control 2 sequel, I would not do it if the guy looked like a pimp and he went to do some space tourism some time ago. But some people might not mind, so…

    • Premium User Badge

      slerbal says:

      I like Kickstarters that are a balance of a bit of experience but basically about giving a new guy/gal/team a shot at realising their dreams. Kickstarter also (obviously!) works for reviving iconic games that have been ignored by mainstream publishers, and that is also cool.

      But Garriott has had plenty of opportunities (and hundreds of millions of $) to live his dream. I actually think it will be a disappointment and a blow to everything I thought Kickstarter was about if (when) this gets backed.

      When I was still in the industry many developers whispered that they were asked to try Kickstarters to gauge public interest before a publisher would be willing to stump up the cash. If that is the case that is the worst possible use of Kickstarter. Of course those were only unsubstantiated whispers…

      Oh god I am turning into a conspiracy theorist.

      • Strangerator says:

        Kickstarter, in this case, is all about gauging interest. In Gariott’s head, “if people are interested to the tune of 1 million, I’m willing to pony up the rest.” Sure, he could just spend millions of his personal wealth to make a game in the dark without guaging interest in the consumer base, but that would be pretty stupid in this age of kickstarters. It would be a pretty huge betrayal at this point if he turned around after the KS and took money from EA or something. I worry about that less here because of his personal wealth.

        Personally I think it’s kind of awesome that someone was able to make enough money making computer games to visit space.

  25. Ako says:

    It’s like he decided to take some of the worst aspects of modern gaming and mix it with nostalgia…

  26. JohnFrost says:

    Letsseee….
    - evaded answering why he needs Kickstarter instead of funding the game himself;
    - didn’t think about NPC party (seriously? WTF? It’s one of the first thing anyone would think of as an alternative to real-people party);
    - mentioned microtransactions (or was that mAcrotransactions this time?);
    - mentioned “pay to unlock semi-special features like skill trees”
    - said that there will be no proper ending to the story;
    - couldn’t gather the rest of Ultima team;

    It seems to me, he probably wants to enter the world of MMORPGs at backers’ expense. It will be a disaster and waste of money. Not that Garriot cares.

  27. LintMan says:

    Exactly. I’d be all over a true SP Ultima game.

    My guess is that this pseudo-MMO thing is intended to provide a way for them to have a MMO-like monetary stream (ie: house “taxes”) rather than just game sales, while at the same time vastly reducing the huge overhead and support costs running an full MMO would cost. “You pay us like it’s an MMO, but host and admin it yourselves like a TF2 server” – it’s the best of both worlds, amirite?

    Screw that.

  28. andytizer says:

    Does anyone else think that this game looks really ugly. The art direction is really poor and mostly brown, the animations are awful, the graphics engine looks like a PlayStation 2 release title.

  29. SkittleDiddler says:

    He’s gone to outer space, he’s built a castle, he’s bought ancient Russian space junk, and he’s changed his last name to Garriott de Cayeux. Now he wants us to fund his next video game.

    Until I find out that he’s donated 90% of his remaining vast fortune to charity, he doesn’t deserve public funding. Fuck this guy with a gold-plated mace.

  30. Skabooga says:

    But we’ll see here. I will attempt to make myself immortal. We’ll see if I can pull it off.

    An apt summary of how I view Richard Garriott’s personality. I don’t mean that disparagingly either; it just definitely sounds like a very Garriott-y thing to say.

  31. Brun says:

    So, having never played Ultima, I thought (until I just looked it up) that the title “Lord British” was an actual title of British Nobility, like “Lord Salisbury”.

  32. waltC says:

    Richard: I don’t want an online simulation trying to be a game. I want a great single-player game that’s a game. (Electricity without gunpowder seems to make my “suspension of disbelief” less efficacious, frankly, and I am really not sure what this information brings to the table apart from background atmosphere.) I don’t want to hear about *four additional episodes* that will cost additional money and be published after this Kickstarter concludes successfully and after Episode One ships. I advise you to concentrate on game #1, exclusively, as that is what you are selling with your Kickstarter–not 2,3,4, or 5. They will all require their own kickstarters, I would think.

    Looking at your pledge goal today it looks as if you will easily hit your funding target. I cannot help but think that something along the lines of “Ultima X: The Game That IX Should Have Been” would have garnered an even more robust response. Do you own the Ultima IP–I’m assuming you do if you’re using the words “Lord British” as a sort of personal monogram. It seems a shame to jump into this after leading Lord British and the Avatar into such a state in Ultima IX. The entire Ultima series ended on sort of a sour note–I do like the game, however, but I also think it could have used another year of development (What was released was more along the lines of an early alpha.) I would think you’d like to leave the Ultima universe in much better shape, because as it is Ultima IX seems very unfinished…Ah, well…I wish you’d give this some thought as Ultima is likely to remain your personal legacy for the foreseeable future, and the vehicle through which most people have come to know of you.

    • maheusz says:

      Ummm, good sir did you read article? He says very clearly that he wanted to make an Ultima game with EA (which seems to be owning the franchise), but it didn’t work. He also presumes that it’s because they’ve got their own team working on the next game of the series…

  33. Bo Steed says:

    I liked when he began to explain how he exists in the game world as Lord British. I’m glad he hasn’t lost his touch. Still crazier than a box of rabbits.

  34. Panda Powered says:

    I wonder how big the scorch mark will be after the internet explodes when a kickstarted MMO is shut down within 18 months.
    At least Garriott will see it from his orbiting space castle?

  35. JabbleWok says:

    I’m going against the flow here, but I feel his personal wealth is pretty much irrelevant to this. In any case business law means that people have to arrange their personal wealth and company assets separately, and people like Conrad Black have done jail for failing to do so.

    KS is not just a way to raise funding, but also to create awareness and establish a core user base of intarweb-savvy people – the sort who’ll loudly cry foul, creating a swathe of bad publicity, if their money is misused. What’s more, it can guarantee independence from the sort of AAA publishers that insist on always-online DRM and a cynical exploitation of an erstwhile loyal customer base.

    Projects are regularly criticised or ignored for failing to have an experienced designer or developer, yet this one is being criticised for having one, albeit including some turkeys. For some reason much more so than some recent KS projects by experienced designers who also had their turkeys.

    Here, there’s clearly a man with a vision for an interesting concept and an enthusiasm for implementing it, which IMO is a good sign. Does this mean the game is guaranteed to be any good, be value for money, or even succeed? Of course not, but that’s no different from any other KS project.

  36. Giuseppe says:

    I hear Britannia Manor II is up for sale for 3.5 million dollars. That should cover the budget for this kickstarter :P

  37. TwwIX says:

    This guy is an even bigger egocentric prick than Peter Molyneux is. He can fucking finance it himself with all the money he won from NCSoft’s lawsuit. If anybody is to blame for Tabula Rasa’s failure, it’s Garriot’s incompetence. This new project of his looks laughable.

  38. crinkles esq. says:

    I know I’m the only one who seemed somewhat interested in this game — I think the malleability of a fantasy-based MMO world state a la Eve or some of those Korean MMORPGs is attractive to me. But this:

    To get the full version of the game, including unlocking the skill trees, there will be a nominal cost. Like, “Oh, hey, I need some power here to start this. Let me give this machine some kindness and let it get up to speed here.”

    instantly reduced my interest from Benefit of the Doubt to Get the Frak Outta Here.

  39. Strangerator says:

    Wow, seeing a lot of people who think kickstarter should only be used by starving artists. Nobody just launches into full production of a game without some source of funding. And as has been pointed out countless times for other kickstarters, 1 million barely scratches the surface here, where do you expect the rest will come from? KS serves nicely as a barometer for interest in the project, and the interest appears to exist. Investors in this project should be a lot less worried that their money will actually be wasted, since clearly Garriott can afford to pay the balance if he “only” raises 1 mil.

    For those concerned about this being an MMO, this is from the KS site.

    “First, the game can be played offline, no connection required. The character used for the offline version of the game will not be useable in the online version of the game for obvious exploit/hacking reasons. We are going to investigate ways to export your online character to the single player version of the game but the offline character will not be importable into the online version.

    Second, the offline single player version of the game for those who purchase it through KickStarter will not use any form of DRM. We had been holding off on committing to that because we don’t know what our final distribution system (Steam, GOG, etc) is going to be and some of them use DRM. We may have DRM of some sort on post-KS sales but we’ll commit to keeping KS versions DRM and “phone home” free for the single player version once launched. ”

    To me it sounds like the only thing you miss in the offline is trading with other players and the property purchasing. I’ll agree that the offline version needs NPC hirelings of some sort.

    “ZOMG graphix sux.”

    Pre-alpha, not final art assets. It looks like they are just communicating the concept of the game. A lot better than some kickstarters, who offer you their vision and a few concept art shots. Hell, Double-Fine didn’t even have that.

    I’ll grant you that he’s arrogant, and that he has been to space. I even have first hand knowledge that he has skeletons on his property. But he’s also done a lot for the industry over the years. I’m interested to see what happens here.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Garriot is not a great project manager. He dithers, gets infected with feature creep, and has trouble getting things out on time and under budget. If he has a crew that can actually manage, it will help. If its a team of Lucas-zombie sycophants, then it won’t.

      I really think he should have focused on the steampunky aspects of the thing, as that is actually different take. But he is totally responsible for not having all his ducks in a row with art, examples, etc.

      Personally, I’d still take Garriott over the failed Hollywood producer Chris Roberts. Though I suspect Roberts is the superior business man. However, if he hasn’t matured from his Origin System days, I expect the Star Citizen backers will be disappointed. If Garriot doesn’t get strong managerial support on the project, I expect his backers to be, well, at least waiting a while.

  40. Arglebargle says:

    One: just because you won a judgement for 28 million dollars doesn’t mean you have collected that amount. If NCSoft lags behind, you have to go and force them to pay. Given the rancor of the issue between Garriott and NCSoft, there’s no reason for holding the idea that they happily transfered over the sum, instanter. I’d want to see the item on their books, and then examine the check stub. And wait til it cleared….

  41. Intrinsic says:

    Registered to comment, dissapointed with this: “But as you were saying about finance. The trial version’s free. Unlocking the main game and getting access to some of the base skill trees will be what I’ll call the nominal price of the game. But then, if we create a whole new skill tree – like if we create an alchemist that didn’t exist to begin with – we’ll probably have a cost to unlock that skill tree if you want to have access to it. We’ll bring in whole big chunks of content and those may have a cost to access. The precise billing structure for that is to be determined.”

    This is information that NEEDED to be put on the KS page, i’m gob smacked this was left out. If it was i wouldn’t have funded it, maybe that’s the reason he left it out to dupe people into funding it. It is a fundamental issue in the current gaming world. Basically it sounds like it’ll be a DLC filled bucket of shite.

  42. Citrus says:

    Dungeon Lords.

  43. TSA says:

    Bah. If your fantasy game is called “X of the Y”, with X and Y being generic archaic/morbid “cool”-sounding words, you’re doing it wrong.

  44. radishlaw says:

    My problems with this Kickstarter?
    One, his prototype does NOT look promising; I don’t mean the visuals, but the gameplay look really boring – I know, Ultima series isn’t best known for its combat, but I expect some kind of modernization.
    Two, multiplayer concept. I get that unlike most famous designers of cRPGs, he is actually more interested in the muliplayer apsects. The way he describes the single-player part sounds less like a real option, rather than just a clutch for those who REALLY needs it. I just can’t help kickstart some projects when the creators’ heart is not in the parts I like (single player)
    Three, scheduling concerns. The last few projects led by him all suffer from some kind of scheduling issues. I doubt he can finish any project on time and on budget.