Former Mythic/Ultima Online Developers Form Citadel Studios, Announce a Game Called “Shards”


So this news at Massively more or less caused my mouth to fall open for a moment or two. The full press release obtained by Massively reads as follows:

AAA Online Game Veterans Form New Indie Studio
Citadel Studios Brings 40+ Years of Development Experience to New Sandbox RPG Codenamed “Shards”

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2014 – A veteran team of online gaming experts today announced the formation of Citadel Studios, a new independent video game development company focusing on multiplayer role-playing games for PC. For the past six months, Citadel has been heads down working on their first project, codenamed “Shards,” and is ready to give the world a sneak peek. With Shards, Citadel is taking inspiration from their previous work on the grandaddy of RPGs, Ultima Online – they’re creating a truly next-generation online game that will enable players to customize their experience, and change the face of player collaboration forever.

Learn more about Shards and the Citadel team:
View the official teaser:
Check out the studio:

Citadel was founded by game industry veterans Derek Brinkmann, Chris Ondrus and Tim Cotten, whose collective credits range from RPG classics like the Elder Scrolls series, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot and Warhammer Online, to AAA titles in the NASCAR and Madden franchises. Derek, Chris and Tim have seen online games evolve from their earliest days through the introduction of free-to-play, mobile, MOBAs and other modern multiplayer genres. With a full understanding of the genre’s history and modern development, Citadel’s goal is to create something like nothing else on the market.

“We left our soul-crushing, corporate jobs to make the games we’d actually play,” said Derek Brinkmann, founder and CEO of Citadel Studios. “As we started our first project and experimented with concepts, we discovered ways we could share our passion for creating living worlds with gamers themselves. Ultimately the community will dictate what Shards becomes, because we’re not just providing a game but also a platform for players to express their creativity.”

Based on their own personal passion for the genre, Citadel is ignoring the modern online gaming imperative to squeeze every last cent from every player. Set in a richly-imagined universe with deep lore and environments ranging from the familiar to the surprising, Shardswill give players more power than ever before, without constantly asking them to take out their wallets.

Citadel believes in fostering rich, passionate communities that can make meaningful contributions to worlds that live and breathe. Get in on that:

About Citadel Studios, Inc.
Citadel Studios is an independent online game developer located in Washington D.C. Founded in July 2013, the studio is made up of some of the top RPG developers in the industry, collectively drawing from 40+ years of experience on titles such as Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, The Elder Scrolls and Dark Age of Camelot. Inspired by classic online games and armed with modern AAA prowess, the team is working on an online sandbox RPG, codenamed Shards. By empowering communities to customize their experiences, Citadel aims to take the multiplayer genre out of the “sandbox” and into the playground. To learn more, visit

The game’s official website doesn’t offer much in the way of information, apart from a brief description of the game concept and a teaser trailer:

Shards is a sandbox RPG in development for PC by Citadel Studios. In the multiplayer online game, players can fully customize their experience. Collaboration will determine how the world evolves.

Explore an ever-expanding universe with deep lore and dynamic environments.

Employ Shards’ unprecedented modding capabilities. Connect servers, create and run your own MMO, set your own rules, and play how you want to play.

Shards will change the face of multiplayer role-playing games and give players more power than ever before.

Meanwhile, the Citadel Studios team page reveals that the team are partnering with Unity, which suggests that the game is being made with that exceedingly prolific engine.

Speaking of which, check out some of the names on the team:

Derek “Supreem” Brinkmann – Founder / CEO

Derek is a 10 year veteran of the game industry and a diehard fan of sandbox games. Derek joined the Ultima Online team in 2006 and became the lead engineer two years later. For the next four years he lead the game development team to success with both the Stygian Abyss and High Seas expansion packs.

Tim “Draconi” Cotten – Founder / Creative Director

Tim is a long-time veteran of the game development industry, getting his first start on the Ultima Online team in 2005. As a long time sandbox advocate and voice for creating dynamic content he was thrilled to lead a series of live events through his tenure and ultimately deliver the Stygian Abyss expansion pack.

Chris “Lord Fairfax” Ondrus – Founder / Art Director

Chris has been working on computer games for over 16 years and his passion is evident in his work. From Morrowind to Dark Age of Camelot to Warhammer Online, Chris has certainly left his mark in the world of game development.

Mike “Vex/Phoenix” Moore – Programmer / Systems Designer

Mike started at Origin shortly after Ultima Online launched. He left the Ultima Online team for three years to work as a lead game system designer on Tabula Rasa with Richard Garriott. After Tabula Rasa’s launch, Mike returned to his home on the Ultima Online for three more years. Mike is passionate about game economies and dynamic game content.

Bruce “Logrus” Bonnick – Systems Designer

Bruce is a rabid fan of Ultima Online and hardcore pvper. He joined the UO team for a few years to help with the Stygian Abyss expansion pack and PVP combat balance. His addiction to numbers and spreadsheets is both frightening and insanely valuable.

Alex Yaeger – User Interface Designer

Alex is an incredibly talented illustrator and graphic designer with a wide range of experience. His work speaks for itself.

Chip Burden – Sound Designer

Chip has taught Audio classes at both American University and The Art Institutes for many years. Not only is he a hardcore gamer but the only person we know that can make us feel bad when we hear a bear die.

And finally, the Shards page at the Citadel Studios site proper reveals a few more details about the upcoming game:

Our first project is an online, 3D top-down isometric send-up of all the love we have for sandbox games of yesteryear, especially Ultima Online.

You can expect fun, simple combat with group or faction play, as well as a skill-based system to really test out non-XP based character development in the modern age of gaming.

Plus, we’ll be using some of the latest technology and beautiful artwork to make it run seamlessly on your usual hardware while still looking great. No incredible upgrades needed to get in and have fun!

So, let’s re-cap: a bunch of developers, mostly from Mythic and many with significant Ultima Online experience in their histories, have come together to form a new studio, with the goal of making a top-down, isometric multiplayer fantasy sandbox game with simple combat, faction play, skill-based and experience-free character development, which will enable and encourage players to run their own servers and contribute content to the game.

Sounds interesting!

Some of you may also remember Chris Ondrus from a couple of years ago; he was the producer at Mythic that coordinated the PC-based Ultima Forever alpha test held for the Ultima Dragons.

8 Responses

  1. Sergorn says:

    Another studio formed by Mythic vets ?

    Yeah… this does not bodes well.

    • T. J. Brumfield says:

      I feel they are in the Pantheon boat.

      Pantheon tried to capture the Everquest fan-base, but they were late to the party because they’re already looking forward to Everquest Next.

      If these guys are effectively selling a spiritual successor to Ultima Online, then they’re going to be hurt by starting their project after SotA.

      • Cromulus Prime says:

        Not necessarily. SotA seems more like a spiritual successor to Ultima with online gameplay (not quite Ultima Online). This game might fill the more specific gap for fans of Ultima Online.

      • Sergorn says:

        But SotA is *not* an Ultima Online 2!

        It’s amazing than one year after its annoucement, people still have its misconception about it. A lot of UO fans are gonna get sorely dissapointed when SotA is out…

        So Shards can certainly have its place.

        But in any case that wasn’t my point: my point is that in the last couple of month we have seen two studios created by former Mythic folks (the other one working wth EA on supporting UO and DAOC). This makes one wonders about who/what remains at Mythic… and at this point I honestly expect Mythic to get shuttered at the end of the month when EA ends its fiscal year, with at “best” just keeping a skeleton crew to support DK Mobile (since know U4E is pretty much dead now).

  2. GolemDragon says:

    Exactly Sergorn… I think Shards will have its place too in the gaming world and I really like the fact that with this current era of Indie games that focusing on gameplay and looking to past games for inspiration has been a huge factor for many of these smaller developers. We are living in quite an interesting era at the moment… it gives me hope at times because of this.

    • Cromulus Prime says:

      I think we are sitting on the edge of a new renaissance for gaming. Even if not, anything that takes EA down a peg or two (which SotA certainly does, and Shards just might do) is a bonus for Origin fans in particular but for gamers in general.

      • GolemDragon says:

        In many ways I agree, in some ways I think we are already partly into it… With the success of such indie games as Minecraft, World of Goo, Amnesia, Bastion, Shadowrun Returns, and others… we can see both sides of the success of indie games… we have seen stylistic things that are amazing as well as a re-dedication to gameplay over graphics. We have also sadly seen the harsh reality that indie games always have a cost associated with them and games like Cube World and others that have great possibilities do not always have success or hit deadlines like they want because of the high cost of time and/or money. Fans and players lose interest and games drop off and ppl consider it a loss in some ways even.

        The thing I like kickstarter, marketing, steam early access, and other methods have been a great way to help these developers get feedback and keep pushing forward. One of the reason I felt Minecraft was so successful was as the alpha grew and became beta and then release was the word of mouth spread and the regular influx of money coming in helped with the continuing cost of development. I think alot of ppl with SotA and other games forget this. Yes we have some great indie games from single ppl, but the ones from teams that get a good influx of $ and have the marketing from themselves and fans/players, are the ones that get the most success.

        I love how Steam and and other places are helping these devs, and I agree that the “chipping at the knees” of EA and other larger ones is nice, it helps remind them of their early roots and what is truly important (even if making shareholders happy is still important in many ways).

        All I know is I think we are in the early stages of this new era and I like that Richard Garriott and the SotA team are doing stuff now during this still early rise and growth of indie games so that we can see this growth. I know I loved living through the rise and growth of Early PC and console gaming, and then the era of the rise and growth of MMOs. As a historian, I am so fascinated by this current era that I hold that we are still in the “infancy stage” of.

        On a side note, a fascinating overlap to this new era is that fan content and games have been on the rise as well. Take for instance the Dark Mod for Thief that my youngest brother was a part of the team for. It reminds me alot of the fan work when the original Unreal Tournament was so popular during what I call “the end of the era of the rise of PC gaming”. This rise of fan mods, content, etc has been thankfully encouraged by Bethesda, Eidos, and other devs. I think this combined with indie games is what will make this new era we are part of so special… we finally have reached the point where unlike in the 80s and 90s, fans and gamers have the skills and access to tools to take a more active role in helping expand and influence these worlds we enjoy being part of in our spare time. I cant wait to see how things change over the next decade.

      • Micro Magic says:

        You forgot the most successful indie game company to come about in recent years, Riot. League of Legends is the most played game on the planet. Coming from a fan mod of warcraft 3, the creators of DotA formed their own company and produced LoL. I believe the most recent statistic is somewhere around 60 million active players (albeit, being a free game ‘players’ may simple mean accounts). It’s hard to ignore the statistic of over 8 million concurrent viewers for last year’s World Finals. 8 million people interested enough in a videogame they’ll watch the best in the world face off against each other. Imagine how many casuals there must be on top of that number?

        And they said PC gaming was dead years ago.