It seems worth noting what Mr Richard Garriott has been up to since his trip to outsidespace. Back in January Alec noted that the deposed Lord British would still very much like to work within the Ultima license. Since then he’s announced his involvement with Portalarium – an online gaming doodah that intends to create social media type stuff. (Hard-hitting analysis.) Which is to say, he’s planning on making more games, this time for social networking sites like Facebook, mobile phones, browser-based affairs, and they say for the PC. So far Portalarium has launched the bizarrely named Sweet @$! Poker for Facebook. But yesterday, speaking to Kotaku, Garriott revealed his ambitions to create an “Ultima-esque” game for the service.
There’s also their own Portalarium Player – a browser plugin for playing their games that works across all major browsers. Confusingly the site declares that it already exists, boasts about how great it is, but then has no link to actually get hold of it. In fact to get it, amazingly confusingly, you need to add Sweet @$! Poker to your Facebook account, where it will then ask you to add it during the process. That said, it’s quick-n-easy.
There’s plans for their very own social networking site later this year, called CenterPort. And Sweet @$! Poker (surely they mean @$$?) is only the first part of a planned PortCasino, which appear to be just-for-fun gambling games. (As it happens, the poker game seems pretty decent. Very simple layout, top-down view, cards and cash very clear on screen. It’s precisely how I want online poker, without any idiotic 3D avatars or distracting nonsense, but nice basic animations and good speed. Sadly, because it’s free to play, it’s inevitably filled with idiots going all in every hand because, well, what do they care?)
Garriott believes that the project will offer a model that will appeal to both hardcore and casual audiences. Of course, so does everyone who starts one of these ventures, but at least Garriott obviously knows what he’s doing. His point is, if you can access great games via a link, and not have to pay up front to decide if you want to play them, that’s not a business model that should put off anyone. And here’s the key part of the Kotaku interview:
“Today we’re talking about the Portalarium,” Garriott tells the yellow K. “We have yet to announce quote-unquote my game.. what motivates me is to go back and make Ultima-esque, familiar Ultima-esque games. But I believe the right place is to do that on this platform.”
If he means it, if their ambitions really are above creating yet more casino games for Facebook, but to genuinely explore the possibilities for social gaming, then it could be tremendous to see what he does with something as hardcore an idea as Ultima. In fact, just imagine how easy it would be to get one of the early (and wonderful) Ultima games working in a web browser engine. Clearly he can’t do that as he has no access to the license, but something similar is entirely plausible.
Oh, and plough through the avalanche of business-nonsense on their site and you eventually find this rather nice passage (still written in business-nonsense however) which bears repeating:
Although Portalarium is a for-profit organization, it has built into its founding principles a “Do Good” orientation which is integrated into our finances such that Portalarium donates a percentage of revenue to any number of charities, some pre-selected by the company and others to be selected by the customer at the point of purchase of any Portalarium product/service.