Richard Garriott on Shroud of the Avatar: “If this didn’t work, I actually thought this literally could be the end of my career.”

richard-garriott-portalarium-urpg

MCV — a UK publication about the Market for Computer & Video Gamesspoke with Richard Garriott at Gamescom. The Ultima and Shroud of the Avatar creator was remarkably frank with them about the degree to which Portalarium’s future — and his own future as a game designer — depended upon the success of the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter campaign:

Ultima creator Richard Garriott has said that his four-plus decades of working in the games industry would have come to an end had the crowdfunding campaign for Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues failed to hit its target.

“When we started down the crowdfunding path, I looked at it with great trepidation,” Garriott told us. “If crowdfunding didn’t work, my ability to go back to a big publisher and say: ‘help, back me building the spiritual successor to Ultima’ when the community wouldn’t support it, when I was taking it directly to them, would go way down.

“If this didn’t work, I actually thought this literally could be the end of my career. At least for making the thing I really want to make.”

He also left open the possibility of working with a publisher in the future:

“Once we prove that this works, they might want to come in. We’ve talked to big publishers about doing this and they weren’t interested because it didn’t fit the formula. If this is successful, then they’ll want to talk to us.”

I think it was reported elsewhere — possibly also based on a quote from Garriott himself — that at the time the Kickstarter launched, Portalarium had only a few months of operating budget left in its coffers; the crowdfunding campaign really was a Hail Mary play to not only finance development of Shroud, but to keep the company as a whole alive and kicking.

Fortunately, that all worked out rather well; the game has since gone on to raise nearly $10 million from its backers. But at least for a while, Portalarium was on the knife’s edge, as it were.

43 Responses

  1. Knight Otha Livinded says:

    The Kickstarter was successful because most of us who pledged fondly remembered Ultima Online- and the promise of a spiritual successor to this great roleplaying game, which focused on supplying a simple, unobtrusive gaming world – one with largely invisible systems- for fans of past pen and paper rpg’s to play in with like minded players.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Garriott spent this trust and goodwill on Shroud of the Avatar, a game which loses sight of what it was that made UO fantastic.

    I was a founder backer, at Knight status, for this game, as well as a Beta tester for UO, and have followed Shroud’s development carefully.

    Sadly, I find sections of this game unplayable. It’s combat system, in particular, is quite horrible in the way it destroys the player’s belief in the game world, yanking the player from concentrating on one’s avatar and whatever monster is being fought, to concentrating on what is happening outside the game world on the tool bar.

    Various backers posted thousands of posts complaining about the badly fitting combat system throughout the game’s development. Promises were made to change it if it didn’t “get better”. It’s just as poor today, in it’s basic concept, as it was when first unveiled.

    All of the gaming “systems” in UO serviced one’s belief in character. It’s really quite difficult to believe the awfulness of the combat in Shroud in comparison. It’s almost as if Richard Garriott left the major design choices to people with no idea of how or why UO worked as it did.

    There are other serious issues with the game, when compared with it’s much more “real” feeling sister from the 1990s.

    In Ultima Online, you could explore the world freely, walking from place to place, and each location was tied to the rest of the world…large numbers of people could travel there in different groups, monsters would follow you back to town, you could run into people who meant you harm.

    All of the above made the world feel “real”. You needed to be aware of your surroundings, and could not predict what might lie ahead in your actual travels.

    None of this is true about the dull, instanced adventuring and crummy map travel in Shroud of the Avatar.

    The “wild” areas are instanced and unconnected to the towns back home. Once you’ve been, it’s all the same. The beasties and bandits won’t chase you outside of their zones….they don’t feel real at all.

    There’s no teleporting back to town with a wyvern on your tail. There’s not even real exploring, because you travel “on your map” as it were. Instead of spending man hours creating larger maps to explore, you travel from town to town and town to the wilds on a “map” where there isn’t danger of getting lost or meeting a beastie or pk kind of player.

    It’s all abstracted. dumbed down, instanced and panders to those who need lead around by the nose with carrots….which, is pretty common with “todays” games.

    I had hopes for a “gaming world” to RP in from Mr. Garriott that held a similar spirit to Ultima Online as promised at the Kickstarter.

    Unfortunately, the folks making Shroud of the Avatar have neglected the “avatar” portion of their game. Instead of roleplaying a believable character, every time I play, I feel I am battling the various systems in the game to try and overcome the abstractions and clumsy game design in order to “believe”.

    Mr. Garriott was successful in raising the money for Shroud of the Avatar.

    However, he will not prove able to bank on his past successes again for future games, at least with this gamer.

    Shroud of the Avatar deserves a shroud on delivery- at least, if a roleplaying vehicle is what you are looking for in this game.

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      I have a quibble:

      The Kickstarter was successful because most of us who pledged fondly remembered Ultima Online- and the promise of a spiritual successor to this great roleplaying game, which focused on supplying a simple, unobtrusive gaming world – one with largely invisible systems- for fans of past pen and paper rpg’s to play in with like minded players.

      You’ll have to speak for yourself rather than the vast, huddled masses here. Certainly, I am one who has no fond memories of Ultima Online; I backed the game because it promised to (and here I’m quoting the Kickstarter page directly) “tell a story even more compelling than Ultimas IV-VII, create a virtual world more interactive than Ultima VII, develop deep rich multi-player capabilities beyond combat akin to Ultima Online, and offer a bold new approach to integrate them with ‘Selective Multi-Player’.”

      And many people backed it precisely because of those first couple promises; there’s no lack of support for Shroud coming from among those who grew up on the single-player Ultimas, who want to see a return to those type of games, and who don’t particularly care to dip in to the online features…hence the appeal of the whole selective multiplayer concept.

      And really, that’s worth underscoring: from the beginning, Shroud was never billed as an MMORPG; it was billed as multiplayer, but only selectively so, and with rather more limited player populations in its instances.

      Unfortunately, Mr. Garriott spent this trust and goodwill on Shroud of the Avatar, a game which loses sight of what it was that made UO fantastic.

      Since it was never billed as a spiritual sequel to Ultima Online exclusively, are you actually surprised that it drifted from that particular ideal?

      It’s combat system, in particular, is quite horrible in the way it destroys the player’s belief in the game world, yanking the player from concentrating on one’s avatar and whatever monster is being fought, to concentrating on what is happening outside the game world on the tool bar.

      I’m mostly with you here, actually, albeit I have to say (in fairness) that the archery system has been improved markedly over the course of the last few releases. But the rest, I agree, is rather pants.

      All of the gaming “systems” in UO serviced one’s belief in character. It’s really quite difficult to believe the awfulness of the combat in Shroud in comparison. It’s almost as if Richard Garriott left the major design choices to people with no idea of how or why UO worked as it did.

      Or it’s like they’re doing more than just building Ultima Online 2.0, and are in fact building a game that also homages and serves as a spiritual sequel to various of the single-player Ultima games.

      Not that I disagree with you about the combat, or about other aspects of the game’s implementation…not entirely, at any rate. There are issues, to be sure. But then, I’m willing to kind of sit back and wait those out for now, because I realize that the game is still in active development, and will see significant refinement before its version 1.0 release.

      In Ultima Online, you could explore the world freely, walking from place to place, and each location was tied to the rest of the world…large numbers of people could travel there in different groups, monsters would follow you back to town, you could run into people who meant you harm.

      All of the above made the world feel “real”. You needed to be aware of your surroundings, and could not predict what might lie ahead in your actual travels.

      None of this is true about the dull, instanced adventuring and crummy map travel in Shroud of the Avatar.

      And thank the Virtues for it!

      Oh, I miss the open world too, don’t get me wrong; I’d rather all of Novia’s towns and dungeons were on a single map, separated by large swathes of land just waiting to be explored. But equally, I can recognize that one can’t build a massive, open, 3D game world on that scale with a budget of $9.6 million. The overland map hearkens back to the first five Ultima games, and to its credit feels very large and expansive. It’s not what I’d consider ideal, but it works rather well…at least for me, as I progress through the game in single-player mode.

      I will say this, though: I’m quite glad to be free of the risk of running into packs of other players who mean me harm. What a turn-off that would be, to have to contend with.

      There’s no teleporting back to town with a wyvern on your tail. There’s not even real exploring, because you travel “on your map” as it were. Instead of spending man hours creating larger maps to explore, you travel from town to town and town to the wilds on a “map” where there isn’t danger of getting lost or meeting a beastie or pk kind of player.

      None of that sounds particularly awesome, to my ears…I don’t see the absence of forced PVP and griefing as being net negatives for Shroud.

      I had hopes for a “gaming world” to RP in from Mr. Garriott that held a similar spirit to Ultima Online as promised at the Kickstarter.

      Unfortunately, the folks making Shroud of the Avatar have neglected the “avatar” portion of their game. Instead of roleplaying a believable character, every time I play, I feel I am battling the various systems in the game to try and overcome the abstractions and clumsy game design in order to “believe”.

      Other players seem to find no obstacles to engaging in significant amounts of RP within Shroud. And as noted above, the systems are still in flux, are still being worked on, and will almost assuredly — like archery did — see significant refinement prior to the game hitting its version 1.0 state.

      That isn’t to say that every issue will be solved; I don’t think that will be the case, and I think I’ll struggle with some of Shroud when I do get around to playing through its plot. It won’t be perfect. But I do think we’ll see improvement, so for now a wait and see strategy is still warranted.

      Shroud of the Avatar deserves a shroud on delivery- at least, if a roleplaying vehicle is what you are looking for in this game.

      I’m looking for a story-driven single-player experience with a decent amount of exploration and a reasonably interactive world.

    • Micro Magic says:

      I can’t tell if I can’t get into Shroud because it’s a lesser game or simply because my tastes have changed. I think it’s the latter. I think the game itself is pretty good, it’s just not the same kind of Ultima game we remember.

      You’re right about the instancing; there’s nothing good about it.

  2. Knight Otha Livinded says:

    Me-“There’s no teleporting back to town with a wyvern on your tail. There’s not even real exploring, because you travel “on your map” as it were. Instead of spending man hours creating larger maps to explore, you travel from town to town and town to the wilds on a “map” where there isn’t danger of getting lost or meeting a beastie or pk kind of player.”

    WtF Dragon-“None of that sounds particularly awesome, to my ears…”

    ***

    Well, it’s sad that you missed the game with the finest RPG elements of any game that has come since. I suppose for those who missed out on UO, it’s hard to imagine an online world without barriers and limitations like those found with modern, crippling instances.

    Try and imagine a gaming world where the monsters were real enough to chase you across the lands, from dungeon to the town. Or, a world where you can open a portal within a dungeon marked “home” when being chased by a villainous player, and when they run through it, it sends them to some awful lava filled place you marked and set and disguised as a trap to get rid of a murderer.

    Conjure up a playing world where friends of another guild might accidently meet on some far battlefield and unexpectedly help one another.

    Shuck off the idea of fake feeling monsters who only exist in their teensy, roped off, instanced area, and consider how much fuller and alive a world might be when everyone and everything can actually travel and interact, and you might get a glimpse of a real RPG world offering the creative person possibilities.

    That was Ultima Online. You felt the dangers were REAL. You could not PREDICT what would happen next. It was FUN.

    Let’s note that even you, WtF Dragon, someone who has never experienced any of this, agrees with me that the combat system found in Shroud of the Avatar, which is now quite late in development, is TERRIBLE.

    Why is that?

    And why do we have to settle with awful?

    The reason bad game design continues to be made isn’t that it’s impossible to make wonderful game systems, as even an ancient game like UO proves. The reason games are produced with rotten core systems is that fans and reviewers continue to support poor decisions and work, as if somehow, sticking our heads in the sand and pretending something is “good enough” helps bring about better games.

    The opposite, of course, is true.

    By condoning poor work, bad decisions, we only guarantee future work will be substandard. When something is poorly designed, it is up to us, the people doling out the dough, to stand up, and tell the TRUTH about what we see and want.

    I mean, how would you feel if every RPG game you ever played from now on in the future had Shroud of the Avatar’s clumsy, immersion destructive and boring combat mechanic?

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      You misunderstand me here:

      Well, it’s sad that you missed the game with the finest RPG elements of any game that has come since. I suppose for those who missed out on UO, it’s hard to imagine an online world without barriers and limitations like those found with modern, crippling instances.

      I didn’t miss out on the game with the finest RPG elements of any game that has come since; I did play Ultima 6 and Ultima 7 after all, and have completed both multiple times. Ultima Online was built upon the foundation and design principles established in those earlier games. And while it might have offered even more expansive and immersive versions of those systems, there was an inherent issue as well:

      …a gaming world where the monsters were real enough to chase you across the lands, from dungeon to the town. Or, a world where you can open a portal within a dungeon marked “home” when being chased by a villainous player, and when they run through it, it sends them to some awful lava filled place you marked and set and disguised as a trap to get rid of a murderer.

      I don’t mind intelligent monsters in games (and I daresay that games which have come along since Ultima Online have done these very well indeed). However, the whole “other players” thing — especially the PKs and gankers that so plagued the earlier years of Ultima Online — is a complete turn-off for me. Even when I play SWTOR with my wife now, I adjust my settings so that the nameplates of other players aren’t visible to me; I can at least pretend they’re NPCs then, rather than other people who happen to be in the same game world as me.

      I don’t like online play. Never have, really, apart from some LAN party games. And I definitely don’t feel I missed out by not getting griefed in UO.

      So, you know, no need to condescend to me here; no need to feel sorry on my behalf. I’ve played many excellent games, and there is no regret attached to the fact that UO is not among them. Truthfully, I can’t even stand to look at UO for all that long; the odd perspective hurts to behold.

      Shuck off the idea of fake feeling monsters who only exist in their teensy, roped off, instanced area, and consider how much fuller and alive a world might be when everyone and everything can actually travel and interact, and you might get a glimpse of a real RPG world offering the creative person possibilities.

      Like I said…no need to condescend. Or, for that matter, to make terrible guesses at the kinds of games I do play. I dabble in SWTOR because my wife and I greatly enjoy Star Wars, but if she hadn’t started playing, I wouldn’t have gotten back to it. I dabble in The Elder Scrolls Online because it’s basically Skyrim with better combat (and it has an open world; if it instances players, it does so in a way that isn’t obvious or even indicated in-game).

      But most of the games I play are single-player RPGs, many of which have open, expansive worlds, well-designed monsters, and engaging settings/worlds. So don’t worry…I’m not missing out on anything here.

      That was Ultima Online. You felt the dangers were REAL. You could not PREDICT what would happen next. It was FUN.

      That’s also true of something like Dark Souls, though. Or RUST. Or a handful of others I could probably name if I could at all be arsed to keep up on such games. But…I can’t, because I don’t enjoy online games in general, and in particular I don’t care for those games in which I can be set upon by other players. People are assholes enough in real life; I don’t need to deal with it in my leisure time too.

      Let’s note that even you, WtF Dragon, someone who has never experienced any of this, agrees with me that the combat system found in Shroud of the Avatar, which is now quite late in development, is TERRIBLE.

      Why is that?

      As I’ve explained in several different places, for me it’s mostly because I’m spoiled now. After playing Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, I’ve become very picky about combat in RPGs. Truthfully, very little measures up to that; I quit playing Dragon Age: Origins twice because its combat was so plodding by comparison, for example.

      I haven’t quit Shroud yet, which says something; its combat model isn’t great, but I find it better than that of DA:O. But then, in Shroud, I at least have the option of avoiding combat for the moment. If it turns out that combat is an integral part of progression in the game, I may end up souring on it…barring refinements to the combat system which could still happen.

      And why do we have to settle with awful?

      Who said anything about settling? I’ve played worse, and I also realize that the game is still being worked on, optimized, and tweaked. Until such time as the version 1.0 release happens, there is reason to expect that the combat system will see further refinement, and that it may even improve. It happened with archery, after all.

      I mean, how would you feel if every RPG game you ever played from now on in the future had Shroud of the Avatar’s clumsy, immersion destructive and boring combat mechanic?

      I’ll reserve my answer until the game hits a state in which all those things are final. It would be silly to give a definitive, binding answer now, since much is still in flux and subject to change.

  3. mark says:

    Excuse me for butting in:
    I think WTF rightly points out that U6 and U7 are probably the high point from single-player perspective, and Ultima, in general, had an outsized impact on the genre.

    Like Knight, however, I played enough UO to know that it was revolutionary and had some great aspects that hold up well, even today (and for the intervening 20+ years! Longer than Ultima was alive as a single player experience). It’s freedom and well thought out systems allowed for lots of interesting, ’emergent’ play. It had a neat, familiar setting, and lots of cool unscripted challenges (that didn’t scale to you). Unfortunately, for me, too many of the things I liked about U6 and U7 were stripped away to keep me playing long (interactive world, npc schedules, npc dialog, etc.).

    I have known for a long time that Garriott was tainted, and I didn’t put a dollar anywhere near SotA. I knew he wasn’t going to produce what I wanted, despite the lip service. And everytime I see something that kindles a little Ultima nostalgia, I see something horrific, like the focus on ugly fan housing at cash-grab prices (as an aside, I DID contribute to UA for opposite reasons).

    I don’t have anything against the SotA team. Like I said, I haven’t played, and maybe their bizarre gameplay choices and modernization of the UO mechanics will work for them. I understand why they are doing it. RG had a front row seat for the UNBELIEVABLY profitable serendipity that was UO, and once you see that, I can imagine it is hard to go back to single player. But let’s not kid ourselves that they are cash limited. 10M is a huge sum, and it is cheaper in may ways to develop a high-functioning SP game on much less than 10M. look at Divinity:OS.

    But maybe it will work out for them. I wish the team well. But I think we all suspect the worse. I mean, this isn’t a good looking chart, even allowing for google trend peculiarities:
    https://www.google.com/trends/explore?q=%2Fm%2F0s8tt32,%2Fm%2F0j_3rsw

    • Micro Magic says:

      10 million isn’t a paltry sum of money… but it is a paltry sum to make, market, and publish a game. Many modern single-player triple A titles have 20 million dollar budgets now-a-days. Now consider MMOs cost A LOT more. Swotor is estimated to have cost 150-200 million, Curt Schilling’s 38 studios tried producing 1 single player game and 1 mmo for 133 million dollars, and never released the MMO. Lets be honest here, a 10 million dollar budget for a modern-day MMO is laughably pathetic. No bueno.

      For what Portalarium has produced on such a shoe-string budget is really-really good though IMO. Just not my cup of tea. I’m not super compelled by it, but I can see the charm and craftsmanship to it.

      That’s some good investigative work there on Google Trends. Lets add a few more search terms…

      https://www.google.com/trends/explore?q=Shroud%20of%20the%20Avatar,Sota,Ultima%20Online,UO

      Looks like ‘SOTA’ was a search term before the game popped up, so those results are skewed. No matter how you cut it, Ultima Online is kicking Shroud’s ass… kicking their ass all over the place too… it’s not even close… which is not a good sign.

  4. Frank says:

    I was expecting something more from SOTA, I’m not going to lie.

    On paper shards online looks far more interesting but after the horrible tech demo they released my hopes had gone to SoTA, I’ve tried playing the game for a few minutes every new patch, I just can’t seem to gel with it. I’m not exactly a fan of how monetized the game has become but they have to make money somehow so I can’t be too angry about the direction they took.

    I very much doubt that I will play the game in multiplayer, hopefully the single player experience is worth playing. I only pledged as a royal artisan so it’s not a huge investment, I was just hoping for something more like Ultima Online.. which in my opinion was modeled after ultima 7, which is probably my favorite game to date.

    at the moment, I think shards looks more appealing to me than Sota, I might play it but I feel like my desire stems from trying to recreate the UO experience.. I don’t think i can capture the same thing almost 20 years later… unfortunately.

  5. Jack says:

    Just tweeted LB about my disappointment in the combat system……..he replied back that major revisions are coming. I can hope…..right?

  6. GolemDragon says:

    If Ultima Online was released today, it would fail. It would not survive the MMO wars. Plus attacking WTF Dragon for having a different opinion shows a level of deep thinking that would equate to a small puddle after a light rain. Is UO one of the greatest, yes. THE GREATEST.. no way… there are many other games both online and offline that could challenge it.

    Games like The Realm Online (released 1996) and Ultima Online (released 1997) helped revolutionize online gaming in ways that the gaming industry were not only surprised by, but responded to in many various and interesting ways. UO has great things and it has great flaws in it. Time has caused some of these flaws to be more noticeable, but time has shown us the flaws in a lot of games from over the years. It also shows and reminds us of the things that made games great overall, as well as individually. Both The Realm Online and UO exist to this day, neither have the base of users they had in the past though. There have been many games with online modes that have come and gone in the interim, and there are ones that have had great emergent gameplay elements that devs haven’t expected. I could go through the list of MMOs since 1997 and some would have great stories of such emergent behavior. Why some of those still exist too, which is wonderful.

    While I have a number of disappointments with Portalarium in how they have handled the community, the project in general, combat, and other systems of the game, I refused to throw any dev team member from SotA “under the bus” or name call, etc. Early access is not a good system. In the end I think it is what has caused many great ideas, concepts, etc to suffer major problems. Those who claim and demand that SotA is UO2 have also been part of this problem. Certain games when I played UO helped me realize more and more what systems in UO i no longer enjoyed because some developers found ways to do them that appealed more to me. I am extremely picky when it comes to many gameplay systems and I can say with 100% certainty that there are ones in SotA that will always bother me in some regard(s). Will it keep me from playing SotA at some point, no way… I still want the story I was promised during Kickstarter. Did systems in other RPGs bother me? Absolutely, but unless the flaws of the game are so bad and so broken that my enjoyment of at least certain elements of the game no longer exist, I will play the game.

    I have chosen to walk away and pull any future emotional and financial investment into SotA… I did the same thing with Ultima Online in early 2012. I still have fond memories and thing I like about UO just as I do with SotA. Will i go back to UO sometime, I doubt it. The game industry has changed alot through the life of UO. I expected what was promised and quotable from Kickstarter – “tell a story even more compelling than Ultimas IV-VII, create a virtual world more interactive than Ultima VII, develop deep rich multi-player capabilities beyond combat akin to Ultima Online, and offer a bold new approach to integrate them with ‘Selective Multi-Player’.” The recent rise in many single player and co-op games that dont have a pure MMO Online mode style has been with good reason, and a big reason for it is market driven. Stop viewing SotA as a pure MMORPG from the late 1990s and early 2000s. The world of gaming has changed, People have spoken with their wallets and while purely multiplayer only games still exist, they no longer hold the market power they once did. Back in 2011 Mark Cerny once said that Single Player gaming would be dead by 2014. Guess what, it is more powerful then ever. Pre-2011 Online gaming was on the rise and literally overtook single player gaming. Games like Bioshock and Uncharted invested significant time and money to develop multiplayer features for their games. MOBAs were on the rise. Look back at the release schedules from developers, they will read like a multiplayer focused game list. DLC and Season Passes was on the rise.

    But guess what…. some developers like Bethesda Softworks still kept to the minority and focused on games like Skyrim, Dishonored, etc. EA stuck to The Sims. Other examples exist as well. Everytime Single Player gaming is claimed to be almost dead, we go through a period of time where single player gaming rises and overtakes Online. BioShock Infinite, Skyrim, Dishonored, the Witcher series, Life is Strange, Assassins Creed, Tomb Raider, Fallouts 3/New Vegas/4, the return of Telltale games, the rise of VR single player games, and more all show that single player isnt dead. The adjustment of online games to be more SOLO FRIENDLY is even more proof of the shift in the industry. Richard knows this and based on this trend that I just showed, saw Selective Multiplayer which Elite Dangerous and other games have done, as an option to provide the great emergent RPG and Social online aspects that the majority of gamers see and agree are generally a great thing, but the story and immersive world of single player games have never left because they are so strong and important. This is why, I believe, the Kickstarter was worded how it was and why I think many things have worked out the way they have with SotA.

    I think there are too many fans who are so blind and so myopic that they cannot get over the emotions they have to certain gameplay systems of the past as well as see the bias they hold while debating opinions and game development. These facts and the fact that such people keep pushing the devs to make certain choices, of which they have very much capitulated at times to backers and groups of backers, have helped cause many of the problems with the game and community. Richard and the dev team had a vision, and I think that vision is lost at times because of people outside of the team, and in fact are in the community. I knew all this info that WTF Dragon had in this article and I was proud of Richard for reaching out to the community and risking not only his company, but his career and dream. It takes major strength to do this, and it shows that he isn’t a “lost cause” as I have seen many say. Is Richard perfect? no. Does he make mistakes or have ideas that aren’t always the best, totally.. .everyone makes mistakes or has a bias that sometimes clouds you from making the best choice or coming up with the best idea.

    Will Shroud of the Avatar turn it around? I hope so, and I pray they do. Chris, Richard, and others know I feel this way. Give the game time. I stepped away to avoid making emotional mistakes and other things I am seeing. It is the same reason why I had the comments section turned off on my one post when I did walk away and then dump the rest of the Chris Spears’ Character lore I did. I may even make a dump of other SotA stuff I had developed, written, designed, etc.

    • Robbie says:

      “If Ultima Online was released today, it would fail. It would not survive the MMO wars. Plus attacking WTF Dragon for having a different opinion shows a level of deep thinking that would equate to a small puddle after a light rain. Is UO one of the greatest, yes. THE GREATEST.. no way… there are many other games both online and offline that could challenge it.”

      Your opinion.

      UO is the only MMORPG that I can stand, and probably the greatest online game I’ve experienced. And the funny thing? Believe it or not, I tried it for the first time in 2010! I had recently gotten into the Ultima series and was curious about what UO was like in its firsts years, so I tried a classic free shard that mimicked the pre-Trammel gameplay and was shocked at how much superior the experience was to modern MMORPGs! Sure, the graphics and engine were archaic, and many gameplay aspects were inferior to those found in later games. And yet it still managed to have so much more freedom and depth than every other online game I had tried.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        Solipsism. Your individual experience does not map to the entirety of the MMO-playing public.

        Subscriber counts don’t lie. UO was the dominant game once, but now has an increasingly small audience; it competes with other niche titles only.

      • Robbie says:

        “Solipsism. Your individual experience does not map to the entirety of the MMO-playing public.”

        When did I say it did? I was just sharing my experience and opinion.

        “Subscriber counts don’t lie. UO was the dominant game once, but now has an increasingly small audience; it competes with other niche titles only.”

        Well, of course. Most old school UO players agree that the game changed for the worse with nearly every expansion released by EA after Garriot left. Even I hate the current UO in official servers.

      • If you’ve only played it since 2010, how can you really be sure of that? Most of the expansions in question would have already been released by then. And if your main experience of the game has been freeshards that offer the shard-runner’s subjective interpretation of what made UO great “way back when”, how can you really speak to the experience of the vanilla game, and/or the changes made thereto?

      • Robbie says:

        “If you’ve only played it since 2010, how can you really be sure of that? Most of the expansions in question would have already been released by then.”

        Because I eventually tried official UO and couldn’t stand it. It felt like it had become a pale imitation of more modern MMORPGs, given that it was trying to copy their gameplay style and features while keeping the archaic UO engine.

        “And if your main experience of the game has been freeshards that offer the shard-runner’s subjective interpretation of what made UO great “way back when”, how can you really speak to the experience of the vanilla game, and/or the changes made thereto?”

        Because the shard had only pre-Trammel features. Well, there were 1-3 new features, but that’s about it. The shard’s owner was pretty Trammel-phobic, so he kept the post-Trammel influence to a minimum, and and the shard prided himself in claiming that it simulated the old school gameplay.
        Sure, it still wasn’t a 1:1 representation of the late 90s experience, especially since it didn’t have all the lag, and the number of players wasn’t the same (I assume? When I played, there were always 800 players online; I have no idea how many players per official shard were there during the game’s golden years), but still close enough for me. Official shard or not, it was still UO if you ask me, given that it using the official unmodified client and there weren’t any unique shard-specific features other than faster skill gain.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        So let me see here…

        Because I eventually tried official UO and couldn’t stand it. It felt like it had become a pale imitation of more modern MMORPGs, given that it was trying to copy their gameplay style and features while keeping the archaic UO engine.

        Uh-huh. Before I reply, let’s pull in the rest of the comment:

        Because the shard had only pre-Trammel features. Well, there were 1-3 new features, but that’s about it. The shard’s owner was pretty Trammel-phobic, so he kept the post-Trammel influence to a minimum, and and the shard prided himself in claiming that it simulated the old school gameplay.

        It’s always about Trammel with the freeshard operators, isn’t it? As though that was the point at which the game went downhill, despite the fact that it wasn’t until after the introduction of Trammel that its userbase experienced truly explosive growth.

        Sure, it still wasn’t a 1:1 representation of the late 90s experience, especially since it didn’t have all the lag, and the number of players wasn’t the same (I assume? When I played, there were always 800 players online; I have no idea how many players per official shard were there during the game’s golden years), but still close enough for me. Official shard or not, it was still UO if you ask me, given that it using the official unmodified client and there weren’t any unique shard-specific features other than faster skill gain.

        Okay, so here’s my thing: I don’t like Star Trek: The Next Generation as a series. It really started to go downhill after Gene Roddenberry died; that’s what most old-school Trek fans agree, anyway. The series really changed for the worst with nearly every new season produced by Paramount after Roddenberry died and Berman took over.

        I mean, okay, my main experience of Star Trek is fan fiction; I’ll admit that. There’s one fanfic author in particular…I’m not sure he offers a 1:1 representation, in his writing, of The Next Generation and the experience of watching it on TV, but he assures me that it’s pretty close to the series from when Roddenberry was alive and still working on it. There were a few things he introduced from the post-Roddenberry series, but he mostly kept it old school. It’s close enough for me, at any rate; whether or not it’s an official source, it’s still Star Trek in my books, given that it uses only the first season cast members, starships, and other bits of the established canon (no Mary Sues).

        I did eventually try and watch a few episodes of Season 7 of The Next Generation, and couldn’t stand it. It felt like it had become a pale imitation of other sci-fi shows, that it was trying to copy their style and plot arcs while keeping the Trek label. Very disappointing.

        Okay, being serious again: While it’s true that I actually don’t particularly enjoy The Next Generation for various reasons, just consider the above three paragraphs for a moment. Consider the absurdity of lambasting the entirety of The Next Generation, as a series, based solely on the fact that one is a fan of a particular series of Trek fan fiction works.

        Hopefully, you can see the parallel to the current discussion. You’re basing your opinions about the state of official UO on your experiences in a freeshard that may or may not actually be offering you a particularly accurate experience of the game in its pre-Trammel state, and you’re concluding that this freeshard — and not the official game — is the authentic UO experience. In other words, you’re dismissing the actual Star Trek series because, in your view, the fanfic you favour is the authentic Trek experience.

        Which is…fine, I suppose, if that’s what does it for you; if you like the pre-Trammel experience, then it’s good there’s a freeshard to cater to that. But you’ll understand, I hope, why I’m not going to give your opinions here any particular weight of consideration.

      • GolemDragon says:

        I see Confirmation Bias in your argument. ignoring the arguments I laid out to defend why it would fail, including information about the market trends, what gamers expect now versus then, etc… help show that you are cherry picking only info that supports your argument. I have now lost interest in this debate because of this.

      • Robbie says:

        @WTF
        All the features and design choices that made me a UO fan came from the official game and the pre-Trammel era. So I don’t see how my enjoyment of it is invalidated by the fact that I played a free shard.

        I could do the same as you and get snarky about how you have no place discussing MMORPGs with old school features such as free PVP when you hate them and have never tried any of them, but well… you hate being condescend to (just like I do, btw), and snarking at someone is my idea of being condescending.

        “It’s always about Trammel with the freeshard operators, isn’t it? As though that was the point at which the game went downhill, despite the fact that it wasn’t until after the introduction of Trammel that its userbase experienced truly explosive growth.”

        Cool. And your point is? That I’m supposed to change my opinion and preferences because of that?

        @GolemDragon
        Are you talking to me? If so, I never addressed the rest of your comment because I didn’t care for arguing about UO’s feasibility in today’s market, and I don’t disagree that it wouldn’t be successful now. Not sure where you got that I was trying to disprove that in my comment from?

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        Welcome back!

        All the features and design choices that made me a UO fan came from the official game and the pre-Trammel era. So I don’t see how my enjoyment of it is invalidated by the fact that I played a free shard.

        You’re still assuming much about the rulesets in place on the freeshard, and whether they do accurately map to what pre-Trammel UO was authentically like. Which is not to say that an authentic re-creation is impossible, but for you coming to it in 2010, there’s also no basis for comparison to the original product.

        I could do the same as you and get snarky about how you have no place discussing MMORPGs with old school features such as free PVP when you hate them and have never tried any of them, but well… you hate being condescend to (just like I do, btw), and snarking at someone is my idea of being condescending.

        It’s not that I haven’t played a number of multiplayer games; I don’t hold my opinions about such things absent all experience thereof. But, having played various multiplayer games, and having heard probably hundreds of stories — from different sides of the PVP/PVE debate — about what vanilla UO was like, I’ve come to the conclusion that yeah, PVP isn’t for me. But it’s an informed decision, even so.

        And note that I never said you have no place discussing these things; I simply noted that given the basis for your opinions, I wasn’t going to give them much weight of consideration.

        It’s always about Trammel with the freeshard operators, isn’t it? As though that was the point at which the game went downhill, despite the fact that it wasn’t until after the introduction of Trammel that its userbase experienced truly explosive growth.

        Cool. And your point is? That I’m supposed to change my opinion and preferences because of that?

        In an argument on the Internet? Hardly.

      • Robbie says:

        “You’re still assuming much about the rulesets in place on the freeshard, and whether they do accurately map to what pre-Trammel UO was authentically like. Which is not to say that an authentic re-creation is impossible, but for you coming to it in 2010, there’s also no basis for comparison to the original product.”

        Seeing how all the features that me off when I tried modern UO came from post-Trammel expansions and updates, and not a single one of them came from official pre-Trammel UO, I see no reason to assume that I would have disliked the official classic UO.

        And btw, one of the shards I tried and enjoyed was The Second Age, which is supposed to be an accurate recreation of pre-Trammel UO’s play style, features and rulesets, and every old school player I know of that tried it agreed that it was.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        This is still what is known as confirmation bias.

      • Robbie says:

        Not really. I had literally zero reason to hate modern UO before I tried it. And I could list all the things I disliked about the official UO when I tried it and you could look them up and confirm that they didn’t exist in classic UO.

        Of course, you’ve already decided that I’m biased and my opinion is invalid, given how you ironically accused of confirmation bias before I even listed the reasons, so you’ll still try to find some way of discrediting my opinion.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        I never said “invalid”; you’re putting words in my mouth. I said I wasn’t going to give your opinion much weight, which is a markedly different thing.

      • Robbie says:

        Well, since you feel that I probably must not know what classic UO is like from playing classic freeshards, care to explain the reasoning behind your assumption that they’re different enough from classic UO? Like I said, I already looked up UO’s history and know that the things I enjoyed about UO all came from the official game (and no ruleset tweaks would change that), and veteran players agree that the shard was accurate. And you even acknowledged that an accurate recreation was possible. So what’s your basis to assume that it’s not?

        @GolemDragon
        Reading my comment again, I can see how you assumed I was trying to disprove your statement about UO not selling in today’s market. I didn’t realize how ambiguous my comment was. The part I was replying to was the “Is UO one of the greatest, yes. THE GREATEST.. no way… there are many other games both online and offline that could challenge it.” statement, since I disagree as it’s the best MMORPG IMO. Sorry for not being clear enough.

        Guess the same apology goes to WTF if he read it the same way.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        I don’t assume it is or isn’t, strictly speaking. Think back to the fanfic example: even if it’s some of the best fanfic ever written, even if it does capture a great deal of the authentic Trek spirit…it’s still just fanfic, not the real deal. There’s no harm in preferring the fanfic to the real deal…but I don’t have to give it any particular weight of consideration, either, because there’s a lot of fanfic out there, and none of it is canon. So too freeshards; there are a lot out there.

  7. Micro Magic says:

    You guys keep talking about how gaming has changed and MMOs have changed and how SOTA is too modern. Which I agree with.

    Just saying, if you guys are interested in that old-school vibe, you guys should check out Fonline. It’s a fan-made MMO mod of Fallout 1 and 2. It’s hardcore. It’s hardcore as fuck. You get all the old school stats, tons of PvP, PvP anywhere, thieving, breaking into houses, emergent gameplay and culture, etc.

    Geeze, the heartbreak and excitement in this game, it was too much for my blood. There’s a few different servers, here are some links if you’re interested. I think you need Fallout 1 and 2 original files to play it. It’s been some years since I fired it up, but the forums are still quite active.

    http://www.fonline-reloaded.net/

    http://fonline-aop.net/site/

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      Not my cup of tea, though I will admit to being baffled as to why nobody has made a for real Fallout MMO yet.

      • Frank says:

        there was something in the works…
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallout_Online

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        Yeah. Pity it never went anywhere.

      • Micro Magic says:

        Me neither. The game is too old school and intense.

        Tons of setbacks, PKers all over the place, and a lot of heartbreak. But the heartbreak makes those little successes taste so sweet.

        One time I found a Hummer in a random encounter, which was a HUGE deal. I have no idea why it was there, but the keys were sitting on the ground. Basically only factions are able to buy vehicles because they’re ridiculously expensive. Even then, you almost never see vehicles, because of how expensive they are. So I was driving her all around, like a friggen boss, when I stopped at The Hub to do some trading. I came back to my car and these two dickheads were trying to break in. I don’t remember the exact circumstance, but one guy was breaking in while the other guy kept pushing me off of the hex so I couldn’t get in the car.

        Try as I may, all I could do was stand there.

        Stand there and watch.

        Watch him fail attempt after attempt to break in until he finally succeeded.

        My one stroke of good luck was stolen slowly right in front of my very eyes.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        That sounds profoundly unappealing.

      • Micro Magic says:

        Darn. I didn’t sell you on it, huh? 😛

        That’s what I find rather funny. Many of us say we want an old school experience with sublime highs and consequently devastating lows- a game where actions have a serious and real impact on people and the world. Oddly enough though, when we get games like that again, it turns us off.

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        Heh…I want old school, but only on the single player side.

      • Robbie says:

        Honest question: Have you ever experienced MMORPGs with free PVP, or your opinion on them is based on stories you’ve read and what you picture these games must be like, WTF?

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        I don’t play many MMOs to begin with, and those I play, I play because there’s a story element that I want to explore.

        And TBH, when I play MMOs, I mostly try and pretend that they are actually solo games. I turn off, for example, the nameplates above other players’ heads in SWTOR, so I can just pretend they’re scripted NPCs.

        And I don’t PVP at all. Mostly because I’m a misanthrope in my games; I don’t like playing with other (my wife, and two of our friends, excepted) people when I’m questing through a story. And also because I genuinely don’t see the appeal. I have heard the horror stories from the early days of UO, yes, but that’s not my main consideration; I don’t enjoy most multiplayer games as a general rule, apart from those I can play over a LAN with my friends. Competing with random people over the Internet? Not my thing.

  8. racerx12 says:

    New player here as of yesterday…old Ultima “quest of the avatar” fan here. Im 48. played it on a commodore 64.I bypassed everything and went straight to see lord british. His NPC isnt there. In fact the whole castle is empty of NPC’s. Why is a capital city so dead? Ummm a world with no lord british? Why am I playing this again? Come on guys I know its not finished but damm! I think you guys need to look at this from another approach! Kerbal space program also uses Unity engine. Why is it so successful? Its modding community and its active development. This game has alot of potential but the fanbase isnt doing its part. Modding! Is this game opened up enough to be modded? (I will investigate this more) Is there enough documentation and user made tutorials on modding? Is there anybody on Twitch making mods, testing stuff. I looked on steam and all the reviews are terrible! I spent 45$ anyways because I love ultima I had to know for myself. ANd granted alot of the reviews are bad due to younger world of warcraft type people expecting something totally different and what they are used to then when its not they go on steam bitching, I get that but you guys got to do something to get past this bad rap the game is getting. You got to get past the money object thing…you might just have to code for free or let the community help! GASP! free? yeah free. A team of 5 devs getting paid with the money well slowly drying up or 50 modders doing it for free…you tell me which is more productive? Im going to investivate this modding/contributing thing more and hopefully I can use my 3d modeling/unity skills to help out

    • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

      To the best of my knowledge, no, modding won’t be officially supported. That said, I’m reasonably sure that some people will figure out an unofficial means of modding the game.

      As to the lack of NPCs, well, yes, that’s true in a number of scenes, as Portalarium haven’t gone in and added them yet. The impression I get is that at present, what is being worked on is de-cloning scenes so that each area of the land feels unique. Once that’s done, I would expect we’ll see a few passes made devoted to populating those scenes. And then a few more passes made to give every NPC unique dialogue.

      • racerx12 says:

        well thats a shame. I really like this game BTW. Yeah Its a work in progress but i see the direction they are going for. I wish I could contribute in other ways other then money. I still believe though that with the communitys help modeling/scripting and whatnot would be great asset to the devs. I understand why in a way but if they would for instance “ASK” the community….”Hey we need a good Elf model” or we need a 3d model for a (insert monster here) for example. Needs to be rigged this way have these characteristics bla bla bla. the community would deliever im sure. Anyways wishfull thinking I guess

      • WtF Dragon WtF Dragon says:

        They’ve done some of that, actually; there’s a lot of community-submitted music, for example, and also a number of 3D models for various things. Of course, this has also resulted in some visual and audio inconsistencies in the game; allowing user-submitted content is not without its drawbacks.

  9. caiogullart says:

    The end of his “career” in games? i dont know the level of relevance in the modern games development Lord British has today, after Tabula Rasa, he is 100% a business man, no longer a designer of games.

    All this thing it may backfire in 3 ways:
    – Tabula Rasa
    – Daikatana
    – Godus

    Talking about Daikatana, John Romero is a good comparison, he was “amazing” in the 90´s with DOOM and Quake. After the hype and disaster of Ion Storm and Daikatana, now he is a teacher and some kind of indie developer, making facebook games and trying, again, another revolutionary shooter, skill, rocket jumping…. his old BS.

    They share one thing in common, an ego stuck on the past and a cult of followers, blasting in different networks to keep the old temple.