All this talk of Ultima and the Avatar has made me sentimental so I’ve literally watched a couple of hours worth of interviews with Richard Garriott about the history of Ultima and how we ended up with the concept of Shroud of the Avatar. Turns out the kernel of SotA has been floating around since 2011. Garriott brought it up at some keynote speeches as well as offered the concept in a couple interviews. And then he went off to create Portalarium with the express intent of making SotA.

Garriott also noted that he tried to reach a deal with EA over using the Ultima name and in fact it sounds like parts of EA and Garriott were ready to work with each other again. Not just the name, but publish it through EA like the old days. It seems they couldn’t come to terms, which in the long run may not be a bad thing. Maybe it’s best to start anew rather than trying to make an Ultima Online 2.

I have to say even though this is merely a prototype, the parts I’ve seen look pretty damn impressive. And it will only get better from here. Once the graphic designers actually get to work we’ll see a complete world come together. Some people have said don’t like what he’s come up with so far, but I think it shows a huge amount of promise.

It was also interesting to note that Garriott is an avid tablet gamer. He didn’t specifically call out one, but I can only assume he meant the iPad. He’s a big tower defense fan and believes that tablet gaming will eclipse console gaming. He firmly believes the PC gaming is here to stay and that consoles will soon meet their demise. With that in mind he mentioned more than once that he wanted to see SotA run on a tablet. Judging by the complexity and size he’s talking about I don’t know if that’s feasible, but it’s great to hear him say it. Although, it’s possible it could be done for the Surface. Wouldn’t that be something?

The more I read about this game the more excited I get. But I have to admit, I get a little leery when people use the terms “social media” and “social gaming”. To me those are craptacular games you see on Facebook or in a browser. To me it means an amusing game that tries to nickel and dime you at every turn. “Oh give us $0.99 and you can have a new outfit.” “For just $0.99 you can get the blue party hat.” “At $0.99 you can get the brain that feeds the zombie.” I don’t want to buy a game and then get nagged relentlessly to spend even more on it. I’ve seen way too damn much of that on the iPad.

But when talking about an MMO there has to be some sort of social element so I guess I will have to get used to it. When listening to Garriott this new world is going to have a bit of everything. It sounds like plenty of Minecraft and Monopoly elements will be in there. It doesn’t sound like SotA will have levels either which means more emphasis on exploration and building. There was a comment made about whether or not people want sandbox games. I think the success of Minecraft says they do.

And hell, look at Minecraft. It’s a sandbox game that’s folding in more and more adventure elements with each release. Only thing missing in Minecraft is an overall story and main villain. But you never know when that might show up.

Garriott has spent a lot of time thinking about SotA and has spent a few million of his own money to get the project this far. The Kickstarter cash is mainly to help hire a few key people. I’m pretty sure a game like this will cost $20 million to get out the door. For the people complaining about how he’s got his hand out for a million, I’m not sure you know how much games costs these days. Hell, that may simply cover the costs of publishing the damn thing. Considering there will be coins, maps, a real box and all the trinkets a lot of that starter money is probably spoken for. Further, this project will take two years before it hits the shelves so you have to have cash on hand to get people to sign on so it’ll be a success. I think the Kickstarter way is pretty awesome. Plus it shows there is an interest and give people a chance to pre-order, get alpha and beta builds as well as have a voice in how it all fits together. I wouldn’t exactly say we’re investors, but it’s better than some shmuck who has nothing invested in the project.

So, who else is ready for SotA? Have you jumped on board with Kickstarter? There are only a couple of days left. The main goal has been reached and some heavy hitters have jumped on board to bring this game to life. Five games are planned so quite literally we’re on the verge of a 5-7 year gaming adventure. You can already pledge your way into getting copies and beta testing Episode 2 and 3. Are we going to ride the wave of Ultima into 2020? Damn, wouldn’t that be something?

More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia

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