Ultima creator and role-playing game founding father Richard Garriott today announced Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, the industry veteran's "ultimate RPG." Garriott's Portalarium studio is heading up development on the project, with a Kickstarter campaign for the PC game going live today asking for $1 million.
Describing Shroud of the Avatar, Garriott told GameSpot that the game is both emblematic of what he has created in the past and also a vision into what the future of role-playing games could look like.
"I not only believe it will hearken back to my work of the past, but I believe it also makes some important strides forward in what a multiplayer role-playing game can be," Garriott said.
Shroud of the Avatar (which has nothing to do with the World of Warcraft item of the same name) is not a single-player game, nor is it a massively multiplayer game. Instead, it's somewhere in between, Garriott explained.
"It's a game you can play completely solo and offline, but it's also a game that ad hoc will feel more like an MMO when you are online, in the sense that you'll see both friends and strangers in the world alongside you," he said.
Regarding structure, Shroud of the Avatar will be made up of two distinct elements: an outdoor travel map and then third-person encounter scenarios. Garriott described the overworld map as similar to that of Civilization V.
"We are not doing a social game; we're not doing a game where it's free-to-play then it endlessly pesters you for money. That is also not what we are doing."
"And as you travel around the map it will feel like an Ultima 3-6 feeling. You'll see both static locations that you can go find, whether they're towns or dungeons or other points of interests, as well as you'll see mobile points of interests like bands of gypsies traveling around or dragons flying around mountains," Garriott said.
"And when you then find that encounter, it will take you down into what we call the scenario-level activity, which is a third-person, over-the-shoulder exploration of a scene," he added. "And the scenes are story-based scenarios that you can complete in five to 30 minutes, and it can be completed or played solo or multiplayer."
In terms of pricing, Garriott said the game does not easily fall into a simple category. It's easier to explain what the game is not, he said.
"It is neither what I'll call a standard retail boxed game where it'll have a retail price and that's the end of it; nor are we anticipating that it will be a subscription-based MMO," Garriott said. "But at the other end of the extreme is also what we're not going to be; we are not doing a social game, we're not doing a game where it's free-to-play then it endlessly pesters you for money. That is also not what we are doing."
"What we are doing is somewhere in the middle," he added. "We're doing a game where we will make the trial version you can play for free. But then as soon as you really want to participate in a meaningful way, there's a game cost; so we don't have an exact price for that. "
The first alpha testing period will be held at the end of 2013, if all goes to plan. For more, check out Garriott's comments on how his exotic travels--including trips to space and to the Titanic wreckage--have affected his creative process.