The Forsaken Virtues

Posted: August 26, 2014 in Commentary, Shroud of the Avatar

The Eight VirtuesAs you may have noticed by now, this site’s tagline is ‘”Forsaken Virtues” is right.’ You’re also more than likely aware that the subtitle of Shroud of the Avatar is in fact Forsaken Virtues. Fitting, isn’t it?

With those same keen observational skills, have you not noticed a pattern emerge in the way Richard Garriot (AKA Lord British), Portalarium, et al have handled and conducted themselves since the promising yet humble beginnings of this game and its community? Can you honestly describe it as virtuous?

I can’t. What I’ve seen is time and time again is dishonesty, the opposite of honesty, one of the eight virtues from the Ultima series.


For starters, it’s because they’ll tell you their game is not pay-to-win. They’ll tell you they are not selling advantages. They’ll tell you houses are not an advantage or that they are not the main point of the game. Why do they do that? Why deny the reality they have created? I’ll tell you why. It’s because they know the majority of players hate pay-to-win, because not everyone can spend thousands on a game. Some people have rent, mortgages, utilities, children and other expenses that take priority and their disposable income does not allow for such things. So Portalarium wages a campaign of propaganda and censorship to try to prevent their game from being labeled in ways they deem undesirable.

Now, even some of the highest pledgers and the most dedicated fans are starting to figure it out.

And sure, if you watch their videos, they’ll tell you how important your feedback is and how they value their community. Then, they’ll turn around and ban you for giving honest feedback. Don’t listen to what people say. Watch what they do.

Next, they’ll tell you you’re going to get something and then not deliver it and try to stealthily hide the fact by revising the record of their earlier commitments.

Clearly, judging from just a small sampling of the mountain of available evidence, there is a level of dishonesty at play and a clear pattern.

The next forsaken virtue is sacrifice. It was replaced by greed, its opposite.

What sacrifices has Richard Garriot made for this game and its community? He owns mansions (yes, that is mansions with an ‘s’), he traveled to space (one of only 536 to do so), he won a multi-million dollar lawsuit, and he has a priceless collection of antiques. Yet he wants the community to bear the burden of funding the game and to contribute their work for little to nothing in return.

He also terminated a passionate, well-known and well-liked employee (Joseph Toschlog / Rustic Dragon, founder of Hearth of Britannia) who dropped everything and moved for the lifelong dream to work for his hero, Lord British, helping to create Shroud of the Avatar for what turned out to be less than a year of employment, even though there is still much work to be done on the game. Joseph sold his own meager collection of Ultima memorabilia in the process and I can only imagine what he’s going through now as he is probably one of the most passionate Ultima fans in existence, if not the most.

For those of you on the Shroud of the Avatar e-mail list, can you remember an e-mail that wasn’t about pushing the latest housing or add-on store promotion and actually had some decent content about the game? I think most of us just stopped reading them after a while.

I believe games are an artform and an elevated and advanced form of expression. Well, at least they used to be. Today, with games designed purely to hook players into spending money on frivolous microtransactions they probably can’t even afford by exploiting their psychology, the artform has been polluted by greed and barely survives.

Originally, what morphed into Shroud of the Avatar was going to be one of those type of games. Instead, the developers stumbled upon a more sinister idea that hadn’t been attempted yet–sell virtual real estate just like Chris Roberts selling virtual space ships and model the scheme after the Oklahoma land rush of 1889.

It has been clear for a long time what is driving Richard Garriot and his associates at Portalarium, and it’s not the virtues, nor a passion for the vision to create a worthy spiritual successor to the Ultimas. What’s truly driving them is greed. Just look at the stark difference between the Ultimas of yesteryear and this farce of a spiritual successor we are stubbornly clinging to out of nostalgia today.

Ultima and the spirit of Ultima are both casualties to unrestrained greed which has overcome the games industry. It is sad to see it make its way to the Kickstarter/indie scene via Portalarium and Shroud of the Avatar, as indies are our best hope to reverse the trend.

I will close with those now all-too-familiar words:

“Forsaken Virtues” is right.

  1. Jason Ahgren says:

    I’ve been a supporter of SotA since the early KS days. I spent almost a thousand dollars on dreams and fantasies, and everything you have said has happened, plus some unsavory things that you left out. Judging by the origin of SotA, it looks like they were sticking to the anti-virtues from the start.

  2. manicniceguy says:

    I was just banned from Steam Forums cause of the direction of the game has a vision of next to nothing I was a die hard UO fan but this game has nothing on the Ultima series just shovel ware and a job.

  3. Josh Wallet says:

    Who cares about this game? there is mobile games with better graphics and sound.

    There is no sense of place, the environments are random, there is a lack in connectivity with the world entity, they are flooding the reliefs with a ton of elements without any lore or concept of culture to improve immersion, just put some runes and talk about lore in more videos.

    The world map is pathetic, is like that stupid map in Skyrim, but even more useless, you need to walk… so much resources to just show a twisted concept of UO in another camera.

    Useless Combat, the most important element to put players in action is a slow down to the fun, is boring and very slow.

    There is a lot of people with time in hands and money to burn those days.

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