Richard Garriott is, by most standards, an absolute crazy person. The 51-year-old game designer has spent most of the past fifteen years suggesting that the public refer to him as Lord British, and flying through space. Really. Garriott actually funded his own trip to the International Space Station in 2008 and, not unlike fellow insane Englishman Richard Branson, has invested a great deal of his fortune trying to make space tourism a viable industry. With such lofty ambitions, Garriott isn’t the sort you’d expect to return to his roots, making personalized medieval fantasy role-playing games like his signature Ultima series. Yet here he is, taking to Kickstarter like almost all designers of his generation, raising money to make a brand new RPG in the Ultima mold.
Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is, according to Garriott, an attempt to “reinvent the classic fantasy role-playing experience.” Anyone familiar with the long running Ultima series that culminated with the Ultimate Online, one of the first significant graphical MMOs, will see much that’s familiar. Psychological profiling at the beginning of the game to determine what your character is like; swords, sorcery, armor, dragons, etc; a multiplayer component in addition to being able to play the game alone and offline; and even the opportunity to build your own home in the game. Like Garriott’s old classics as well, Shroud of the Avatar will come with all sorts of trinkets like a cloth map. No word on whether or not the game will be available as a cassette tape.
While it doesn’t go into specifics, the staff making the game has an impressive resume, with former members of BioWare, Cryptic Studios, and even smaller cult teams like Airtight Games cited.
“This is a chance to go back to my roots and do an Ultima-like game, as well as bring in some modern sensibilities to it,” Garriott told Games Industry International, “Both in what I think is good storytelling technique that we didn’t have in those days, and as well as the literal technology that we have now that we didn’t have back in those days. And to rectify a few of the errors that crept into role-playing games, or at least some of the things that way too over-trodden in the last few years.”
Is there room for innovation in medieval fantasy in the post World of Warcraft and Skyrim world? It may take a crazy person to realize that ambition.