Archive for May, 2014

I’ve become convinced that a lot of the problems surrounding Shroud of the Avatar and its community are caused not only by the failures of its community management team, but by the fact that Shroud of the Avatar was an ill-conceived and unplanned foray into crowdfunding by Richard Garriot in an effort to save his business, Portalarium, after a previous ill-conceived foray into mobile and social games which left them in dire straits.

Watch the following video where Richard Garriot spells it all out himself.


32:00 – Richard talks about Portalarium’s failure to chase the social media and mobile gaming trend.

41:00 – Richard mentions Portalarium’s foray into social and mobile gaming was a disaster and talks about Portalarium having only enough funds to operate for another 3 months just before the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter was launched. He mentions receiving advice from Cloud Imperium Games (Chris Roberts / Star Citizen) about what it would take to do a Kickstarter, and then goes on to say that they started from literally nothing and put together the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter in 45 days.

43:00 – Richard mentions they took their art almost exclusively from the Unity Asset Store and wrote a bare minimum of code.

44:40 – Richard admits the $1M fundraising target in their Kickstarter was an amount they decided would allow them to “get out of this pickle” and not necessarily finish the product (which of course would entail fulfilling the promises made in the Kickstarter).

On April 7th, 2013, the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter goal was met and exceeded by almost a million dollars. Because of this, Portalarium is now obligated to deliver on their original promises in the Kickstarter and a number of stretch goals. It is now a year later and we are approaching the originally forecast release date of October, 2014. Since that time, over 2 million in additional funds have been raised, but the game is still a hollow and empty shell and Portalarium has conceded that the game will not be ready for the original targeted release.

As I suggested earlier, I believe this was the result of a lack of planning of the project. It was also very evident to me that this was the case and predictable what would happen as a result.

Indeed, the design of the game has continued to be performed on the fly and the game has yet to carve out an identity or find a solid direction over a year later. Instead of fleshing out aspects of the game and their vision for it before they decided to ask for money, Portalarium went the opposite route and asked for money first.


Normally, this would almost never happen, as potential patrons heavily scrutinize a Kickstarter in an effort to weed out bad projects before pledging their money. But because Richard Garriot (AKA Lord British) still has numerous fans which have stuck with him despite a string of failed games since the late 1990’s, he was able to capitalize on his brand name recognition and the feeling of nostalgia many people have for his older games. In the Kickstarter description, Shroud of the Avatar is called the “spiritual successor to Richard’s previous work in the FRP genre,” which as most of us know means Ultima and Ultima Online. If the same game had been presented in the same state from a source without this level of recognition and nostalgia behind it, there is no way it would have attracted the kind of funds it did.

But what did those people actually pledge for? Everyone has a different interpretation of what the spiritual successor to the Ultima games is, and therein lies the real problem. The game was not properly designed or planned before the Kickstarter. You shouldn’t start selling a product when all you have is a vague idea of what it is going to be.

“Forsaken Virtues” is right.



Shroud of the Avatar all started out as an idea to create a mobile and social media game in the RPG genre.

Richard Garriot, AKA “Lord British,” wrote a letter titled Ultimate RPG Defined. In that letter, he declared the era of the PC and the MMO to be over, proclaimed himself to be the essential ingredient of the “Ultimate RPG” and announced his intentions to build it as a mobile game and social media game. Previous Portalarium products included Port Casino Poker and Ultimate Collector. The intention was to use those previous projects to build technology which would be reused in their next game, which was to be the “Ultimate RPG.”

What actually ended up happening is Portalarium accepted money from venture capitalists to develop mobile and social media games, failed to gain traction and almost ran out of funds, then did a complete 180 after seeing the success of Chris Roberts’ Star Citizen, a high-end PC game.

After speaking with Chris, they decided to proceed to make a PC game and an MMO, both of which were purportedly part of a dying era, according to Richard Garriot.

With only three months of funds left and little else but a vague idea, they proceeded to make a game demo using Unity and assets purchased from the Unity Asset Store. In all, they spent 45 days on the effort.

Rumors circulated for a while as they attempted to drum up hype. Much of the history of this period is archived here on the Ultimate RPG Facebook page. A countdown timer was published at When the countdown ended at 10 AM CST on March 8th, 2013, the game was formally announced and renamed to Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. At the same time, a 30 day Kickstarter campaign was started, with a goal to raise one million dollars. On April 7th, 2013, the campaign concluded, raising $1,919,275 from a total of 22,322 backers.

“Forsaken Virtues” is right.