Friday, March 8, 2013

Shroud of the Avatar

To me, the biggest news on Richard Garriott's Shroud of the Avatar is that Felicia Day is an "Ultima fanatic." I've already publicly said that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the greatest TV show ever made (particularly in Season 7, of course). I've given props to The Guild. I've highlighted good elements of the Dragon Age series. What do I have to do to get her to show up and comment on my blog? Praise Bring It On Again? Because Bring It On Again is a triumph of...bollocks. Even with my famous wordsmithing, I can't do it.

My initial reaction to the game is that it sounds great. I'd like it a lot more if it didn't focus on any MMO elements at all, although I suppose I'm in a dying generation on that one. Anyway, my goal is to scrounge up $10,000 by April 7 so I can bid at the "Lord of the Manor" level and get an original copy of Akalabeth and a tour of "Britannia Manor," so within a few days you should see my Kickstarter project to pledge $10,000 to Richard Garriott's Kickstarter project. A $10,000 pledge will give you a limited-edition copy of Addictive Adventure: Journey of a Computer Role-Playing Game Addict, Volume 1: The Early Ages and an opportunity to get drunk with me in New Orleans.

68 comments:

  1. Hmm, if this was Richard Garriot circa 1992 I would be all over it, but his form of late has not been good.

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  2. Pledged, remembered the terrible giant slotless unsortable bag interface of ultima 7 (i think it was), which brought me to my senses, cancelled.

    Did forward it to my friend who is an Ultima fanatic -sadly he's not Felicia Day.

    Feel your meh Mikrakov.

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  3. Sadly, even though I know it's really early, my opinion is: "meh". I'll reserve further judgment for the beta... I just wish it was single player and didn't have that two stage map/close up thing. And house buying. And Tesla related stuff. And and and...

    Check out Felicia Day's Gamer Poetry - her poem about Ultima that she wrote when she was 12. Funny stuff.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Y41waT3uWAk

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  4. I think I would put money towards this.

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  5. I'm sad about the mmo-focus as well, I won't be pledging :(

    That said, I might find a few bucks to pledge to YOUR pledge, good Addict! It seems like a nice way to thank you for having read your blog for years. And I can't see anyone who more deserves to pick the brains of Garriot (and get an original copy of Akalabeth).

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  6. Pledged. It surprises me a little how "slow" it is going... "only" half of the funding achieved in around 20 hours.

    Bad timing maybe (overlapping Torment kickstarter)?

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    1. I think it may have to do with Torment 2, yes. However it might also have to do with the structure of this not-strictly-single-player-not-exactly-MMO-either making people a bit apprehensive.

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  7. @Equlan: it's not MMO-focus... yes they do have Multiplayer, but it is NOT an MMO. You will be perfectly able to play this game offline and singleplayer

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    1. I blame the consistently shoddy article-writing by the Escapist. I guess it's my mistake for trusting their description. I should have known better.

      Still not necessarily hot about the "persistent shared world", could be cool, but probably not for me.

      Having now skimmed the kickstarter I have to say I think they focus a lot on the multiplayer aspects, and they sound very integral. I could be wrong. But that's a turnoff to me. It might not be a MASSIVE multiplayer game, but it sure sounds like a multiplayer game.

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    2. MMO-focus or not, for my part any resources spent on multiplayer features will be wasted resources. Worse, they are a source of potential bugs.

      I really can't bring myself to be excited about this. I did back at the discounted pre-order level, because apparently I don't value money enough, but I honestly think the end result will be a bit of a mess.

      To me, it seems like Garriott really wants to make Ultima Online 2, but doesn't dare, because he understands that a lot of his fans couldn't care less about multiplayer. I can see quite a few design problems with this marriage of single- and multiplayer. The fundamental problem is that by trying to serve both crowds you'll likely end up with something that's a poor multiplayer game, while being an annoying single-player game.

      I do admit that 'Logically constructed, internally consistent and socially relevant stories' is something that sounds really good. But in all honesty, that's a huge challenge on it's own, and I remain skeptical, especially given all the other challenges they have.

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  8. Hmm...I'm cautiously optimistic on this one. True, the multiplayer aspect put me of in the beginning, but they state in the FAQs that it won't be an MMO, that's at least something.
    If it's more in the Neverwinter Nights vein, it could actually work. (If they get the UI/controls right. Although...damn, archivis, did you have to mention the U7 inventory! ;( )

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    1. Argh, I can't believe I also used "cautiously optimistic" right after you. It feels strange.

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  9. Hmm, I'm cautiously optimistic, but his software track-record has been...not great, as of late. I'll probably wind up throwing $40 at this though.

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  10. I've backed it, as the draw of Ultima clouds my judgement somewhat. I did resist pledging too highly though, and opted for the lowest available tier that gets me the game.

    Thankfully Shadowrun Returns and Wasteland 2 both look very good, so that is helping me keep the faith with Kickstarter in general.

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  11. With first gameplay videos from Wasteland 2 (http://kotaku.com/5983104/the-first-gameplay-footage-for-wasteland-2-is-here-and-it-looks-great) and Shadowrun Returns (http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2013/03/08/harebrained-schemes-release-the-first-shadowrun-returns-gameplay-footage/) being released, it looks like those are on track to be really phenomenal. Torment (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/torment-tides-of-numenera) also looks like it will be great if they can pull it off.

    All three of those kickstarter campaigns were done with immense amounts of passion, from the videos to the almost excessive amount of updates and information we backers get, and, unless the makers are lying to us, I think they will deliver and they will probably turn out to be great games as well.

    Lord British, on the other hand, sure seemed like he phoned this one in. Props to showing actual gameplay, so I'm sure they will release a game at some point, but I'm not real excited about it. I still backed it, but basically just to get a "preorder discount", not the rather *ahem* excessive amount I backed WL2 for.

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    1. That Wasteland video certainly grabbed my interest!

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    2. Yeah, I backed that, then read the forums and got worried due to the number of people wanting a really old fashioned game. This now looks more like Fallout Tactics, or Baldur's Gate then a really old game, so I'm excited again.

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  12. I kinda liked the Ultimate VII backpacks... Keyrings were a must, but otherwise it felt more realistic to my young self. I (sadly?) derived a lot of joy organizing things into their own bags within bags. Shamino was always the food guy. Dupre the weapons guy. Ahh, memories. I'm not holding my breath for that same feeling with Shroud...

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  13. Usually I get (and applaud) your puns, but I'm missing the one in your title. Was Felicia Day in a movie that used the word "shoud"?

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    Replies
    1. No. Middle of the night. I'd been drinking.

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  14. Is there a way to pledge to the CRPG Addict pledge?

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  15. its the same design as original ultima online.. all the problems that plagued that will plague this. same gameplay. cant wait for the chinese gold farmers to move in.

    its also a REALLY poor pitch compared to the pitch for WL2, Torment etc..

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  16. I think this might be a repeat of the "Old-school RPG"-thing from earlier. At first it seems really cool - woo! Lord British! And lots of people pledge. But then people start to look at what's really on offer, and funding slows down considerably.

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  17. Someone who spent $30 million to fly in space is asking people to give him money. And with ridiculous prices.

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    1. PetrusOctavianusMarch 9, 2013 at 8:45 PM

      He hath forgotten the virtues of sacrifice and humility.

      Delete
    2. I love weirdness and varietyMarch 9, 2013 at 9:34 PM

      An M.M.O. doth violate fair spirit of Ultima; Garriot's cowardice in the face of E.A. is nonvalorous; his desire for money over art stains his name with dishonor; justice shall wane until we fain punish him for Ultima 8; and his claims of a worthy experience are misleading. Wherefore art thee so perfidious and corrupted, Garriot?

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    3. Yeah, this caught my notice as well; He could easily self-fund. If you want a kick, go read about his mansion.

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    4. My thoughts exactly when I learned about this kickstarter. And even though I grew up with Ultima and 'Lord British', the pitch somehow doesn't touch me at all. Too cold, too stylish, too MMOish, too...don't know.

      That being said, I'll now head over and pledge for Torment: Tides of Numenera.

      Delete
  18. I love weirdness and varietyMarch 9, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    Ultima 8 is to Nintendo and Xenoblade Chronicles as Bring It on 10,000 is to Spielberg and Citizen Kane. When you get to Ultima 8, you should make your inevitable suicide look like an accident so your wife can collect on the life insurance.

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    1. My wife was oddly insistent on getting me a policy that still pays for suicide.

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    2. I didn't know such things existed. I wonder how many people who have those check their spouses search history for things like "how to write a fake suicide note after killing your spouse"

      Now when she reads some of the things you wrote early on in your blog that you may not want her to see you better worry ;-p

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    3. I think most life insurance policies will cover suicide, but the policy has to remain in effect for a certain number of years before they'll pay out. No taking a $5 million policy on your spouse and rigging his computer to explode the next day.

      My wife took note that my policy's requirement was two years...and I'm at five.

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  19. People tend to forget that Ultima 8 was using the Crusader No Remorse engine (a retrospective Garriott linked to on Twitter never mentioned it). I absolutely loved that game. Sadly, it was not a good fit for Ultima. The issue in my eyes? Ultimas always created new engines and experiences and never used another engine - but EA needed to speed things up and save money. Bah. We need to find the lost U7 source code and own source it....

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    1. Yeah, Ultima 8 wasn't a bad computer game, just a bad Ultima game.

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    2. Yes, near impossible jumping puzzles are always the sign of a "not bad" game. ;)

      It was iffy in its own right and a travesty as an Ultima title.

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    3. Seriously? Jumping Puzzles? I'd rather not have known that.

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    4. A later patch eliminated almost all of the jumping puzzle woes (you jump to where the mouse cursor is now) so it is not really an issue any more. But yes, Mr. Addict, Ultima 8's core gameplay make it more of a platformer, and really nothing like any of its predecessors.

      Delete
  20. You introduced me to Felicia Day many posts ago with some side reference to The Guild. Between that show and hearing "touch my +5 to dexterity vest", I was hooked! My wife is even sewing a Codex outfit for herself. :-)

    Buffy should have ended in Season 5 though; by mid-way through Season 6 I hated every character in the show. (And when you hate every character of a show, you really don't care what happens to them.)

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    1. I thought the musical episode was infectious. And Season 7 got good again either way.

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  21. I would pledge, but I am a german guy and I have no credit card. Normally I don't need some.
    Soo I can't spend. Why Kickstarter don't support PayPal ,EC Cash or some other payment methods witch works without problems in Europe.

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    Replies
    1. The money is held in Escro by Amazon until the kickstarter succeeds. This is done by placing a hold on your credit card. That is why you can't use paypal, cash, etc.

      That said, a lot of studios will take paypal on their website once the goal is reached, so check on that.

      Or you could get a credit card just for Kickstarters, or buy a prepaid credit card.

      Delete
  22. I don't doubt that Garriott still have the potential to make something great, but the one thing that stops me from giving him money to fund this project is the 'combat-mechanics' of this game

    I do not do MMORPG's mainly due to the way combat works out
    I have played several MMORPG's and it has always boiled down to that one issue - there is absolutely no skill whatsoever required and little-to-no-tactics

    then again, I claim that Knights of Legend has the best combat of all time, so I may be rather alone in my opinions (still though, I think Ultima V has the second best)

    but if this new game is going to go down the route of 'click to attack, click hot-keys to use skills, wait until battle is over', then I think I'll pass

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    1. KoLs Combat is tactically deep, but unfortunately also impractical - It worked better in random encounters than scenarios. Guiding 6 people through a dungeon one square at a time, bumping into each other like the 3 stooges, wasn't a good idea. I'm kinda interested to see if Chet reaches the end or quits due to the pacing problems.

      Great ideas, poor execution. - KoL in nutshell really.

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  23. I am tempted to raid my savings account and plunk down the $10,000 just for the ziplock copy of Akalabeth and the chance to meet Mr. Garriott.

    I'm not sure if my wife would like it though :)

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    1. Pretty much how I feel. An original Akalabeth would be a pretty sweet trophy.

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  24. I don't know Addict; it seems that there are a lot of reasons to be skeptical here. What's the story? What's the world like? What's the combat system? All we -know- is that there will be unwanted multiplayer aspects, microtransactions (although they fiercely resist the terminology, they more-or-less implicitly admit they will exist), and social aspects. The art assets are ugly (but they're supposedly temporary?), the combat looks uninventive and boring (but it's supposedly temporary?), and the single player aspects seems half baked (though that's supposedly temporary?).

    There's hardly even a pitch here. It's just a name with a request for money attached. Note: a request for money from a guy who was able to pay for a personal trip to space. Yeah, this is fleecing as far I can tell.

    Of course my skepticism/cynicism might be too virulent. But, at the least, tear up the 10k check and keep an open mind about just what exactly will result from this. I mean, LB has been around since Ultima 7/7.5. What exactly has he done to impress us? Who else is on the team that we should care about? What the Hell is this game besides a LB production?

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    1. http://www.kickstarter.com/profile/portalarium/comments Here are comments from the company itself. They are very eye opening. They openly admit things here that they wave away elsewhere. Based on these comments, you can see that DRM is almost a certainty; multiplayer is very much the focus; they haven't really considered the idea of a true offline mode; that, as long as there is no true offline mode, it'll probably be protected by DRM to prevent exploits (read: always on DRM); there will certainly be microtransactions; there will be separate DLC content packs; and the microtransactions will probably emphasize social elements (owning land, looking cool, etc.)

      They've barely started on the combat, and I've still seen next to nothing on the story or setting.

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    2. It sounds much more like a Lord Blackthorn game than a Lord British game...

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    3. He has enough good will from me from Utlimas III-VII that I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. In the early stages of development, I don't really expect him to offer actual screen shots or have all the mechanics fully worked out. That, presumably, is what they need funding for.

      As the author of the virtue system in U4, Richard Garriott is responsible for more of my personal development than my own father. I don't know if I'll raise $10,000, but he'll get a pledge from me.

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    4. To be clear, I wasn't trying to stop you from pledging at all. I just wanted to throw some skepticism onto the hype fire. I'm not usually the cynic either these types of situations, which my Kickstarter account and wallet can attest to. I just felt that this was a bit off.
      In any case, maybe Akalabeth itself is worth it for you. Honestly, if you wanted to meet him, you probably could. Just say you're a CRPG historian with a major CRPG Blog and you want to talk to him about the new project. Of course, you'd have to travel, but, if he's that huge of an influence, maybe it's worth it? Right now he's probably at his most approachable.

      In any case, I'm still very skeptical. At the least, I'd like to see combat worked out and hear more about the team. However, beyond communicating that skepticism, I hope everything goes well, and I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, haha.

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    5. Just a heads up: only one 10k slot left

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    6. Hey, killias. I didn't think you were trying to convince me otherwise. You were just offering your perspective, and I was offering mine.

      I never really had a shot at freeing up $10K anyway. I pledged a more reasonable amount.

      Delete
    7. Oh, and an e-mail came out from the project today clarifying some things, including "the game can be played offline, no connection required" but you won't be able to transfer characters between the online and offline versions "for obvious exploit/hacking reasons."

      It says they're not committing to anything on DRM because they don't exactly know what the distribution system will be.

      To be honest, I have a tough time getting exercised about DRM, but I'm the guy who would buy a game, play it, throw it away, and buy another copy when I wanted to play it again, so not being able to make copies or install the game on more than one machine isn't the kind of thing that I worry about.

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    8. the last update at Kikstarter says (for me) three great things regarding your questions:
      -the game can be played offline, no connection required
      -the offline single player version of the game for those who purchase it through KickStarter will not use any form of DRM
      -the offline single player of the game will not have any microtransactions

      btw, great blog you have here CRPGAdict :)

      Delete
    9. Yeah, my only concern with DRM was the possibility of always on, which was certainly in play a few days ago. I'm glad they've decided to fully embrace offline as well as DRM-free.

      I'm still not sold on the project, but I don't feel the same enmity now as before.

      Delete
    10. The DRM response is pretty honest. They're developers not publishers, ultimately the publisher will determine the DRM - None for GOG, Minor for Steam, or your first born child for Origin.

      The online\offline split is probably to prevent the kinds of abuse that ruined diablo, PSO, and even BGs multiplayer.

      Delete
    11. Distribution system not publisher!

      I had to go read the post. When you guys said publisher, I started to get rather upset as I see kickstarter as a way to mostly sidestep the evils of dealing with a publisher. After I read their post that DRM is more of a consideration on how they distribute the game I relaxed a bit.

      Also I am probably going to contribute to it now even if the game doesn't really sound up my alley. I am a sucker for supporting developers who are making DRM free Linus games.

      Delete
  25. Someone said that the MMO aspect of Shroud of Avatar was Garriot's attempt to mix the realistic world of Ultima Online and the narrative of traditional Ultima series.
    To me, it seems great.

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  26. I pledged largely because I want to see the train wreck, but if it does work still get a good game. I feel Garriot is all sorts of crazy these days and I don't think that he was actually the key behind previous Ultimas (I credit Warren Spector for a few, Raph Koster for UO, am sure there was someone else for a few more).

    I'm more excited by the Torment kickstarter which went up 2 days before Garriot's... Looking at the fact that Torment has 3x the funds raised so far I think most people will agree with that. I do admit that $10,000 top prize would be really cool (although we decided in my office that Torment would still be better for their 10k prize)

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  27. RG has probably always been crazy, but he did push the game boundaries more often than anyone else I can think of.
    Why should he have stopped now?

    So, pledged a ridiculously high amount, even higher than for Tormet.

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  28. MMNo. There are other issues too, but that's the main one. I've just plain stopped buying games that insist on shoehorning a benighted 'social media' aspect into single player as a matter of course, rather than a juicy option.

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  29. FYI Lord British did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1aztsm/i_am_richard_lord_british_garriott_creator_of_the/

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  30. Also, Matt Barton did an interview with Lord British about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h0fUd1ItLk

    If you know, anyone is reading this post.

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  31. For those who missed their $10,000 kickstarter spot to win a tour of his home in Texas, here's a video piece about a tour of Richard Garriott's new home in New York City:

    http://www.polygon.com/2013/8/29/4668516/secret-passages-vampire-hunting-kits-and-sputnik-a-tour-of-richard

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    Replies
    1. Rich bastard...

      Why did he need a Kickstarter again?

      Delete
    2. God damn, I want to live in that house. I'd redo the basement shelves to be D&D and fantasy stuff, but the rest? I could move right in. Damn. Add a Nero Wolfe study off the ABC series and I'd be set.

      Delete
  32. Did you achieve your goal of Lord of the Manor status?

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    1. Not even close. I bid at a much lower level but I haven't really been following the development of the game after I was turned off by the emphases in the game announcements.

      Delete

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