As development of the first full release of his new game, “Shroud of the Avatar” hits the home stretch this year, Portalarium Inc.’s CEO and creative director Richard Garriott de Cayeux is inviting equity investors to help raise another $2 million.
The famed originator of the “Ultima” series also known as “Lord British” has been working on the game over the last few years and says that as a public release of the game is in sight, his company wants to raise additional funds to begin focusing on publishing, marketing and supporting the game.
The company is working with SeedInvest to raise a Series B round of crowdfunding with a $499 minimum in addition to the $11.3 million Portalarium previously raised on Kickstarter and on its own website starting in 2013.
To that end, Garriott recently participated in a 37-minute conference call with potential investors through SeedInvest as well as a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) that was more focused on game features along with producer Starr Long and other Portalarium staffers.
The Reddit AMA largely answered questions from fans about specific bugs and improvements.
Here’s some of the highlights of what we learned from both about the progress of “Shroud of the Avatar:
- The initial release of “Shroud of the Avatar,” called “Forsaken Virtue,” will be the first of five episodes released about 12 to 18 months apart. The game will launch on Windows PC, Mac and Linux this year at $40, but it’s already been playtested by about 60,000 volunteer testers and backers for a total of about 3 million game hours.
- Portalarium is not working on any other projects right now other than “Shroud,” but has console and mobile versions of the game on its roadmap as well as hopes to develop and publish other games in the future. Garriott said much of the team has worked together before at Origin Systems and Destination Games.
- What’s different about “Shroud of the Avatar” from other massively multiplayer role-playing games? For one thing, it will have about a 40-hour single-player game component and will be playable offline. It will be less combat-focused than some other MMOs and has many crowdsources components including music, art and even some coding. It also has a player-driven economy and gear crafted by players. “Most of the game features are complete and being polished,” Garriott said.
- Garriott said he’s been focused of late on fleshing out the single-player story in the game and making sure there’s a deep narrative and ethical dilemmas in keeping with his history in games.
- Although the company has so far gone it alone in development, Garriott did not rule out working with a publishing partner globally. Though he said an initial public offering of stock for his company seems unlikely, he did suggest that large partnerships could allow investors to monetize their investment.
- The $2 million round will go toward a new phase of hiring that includes finances, sales, marketing and distribution.
- Another shift in Portalarium’s work is to get more people interested in the game as it nears completion. Portalarium is offering free trials. Garriott said the game is averaging about 500 concurrent players with upticks on evenings and weekends.
- Although the game developers suffered two hardware failures in the time they’ve been working on “Shroud,” the server software has had 100 percent uptime over 40 iterations with no unscheduled outages, Garriott said.
- At $11.3 million, “Shroud” is the second-highest crowdfunding raise for a video game. The top one? “Star Citizen,” at $152 million and counting, the space sim headed up by Chris Roberts, who worked with Garriott at Origin Systems.
- On Reddit, players got very specific about problems in the game and improvements they’d like to see, including tweaks to the crafting system, some of the game’s user-interface elements and how object permanence is handled in the game. Amusingly, one conversation focused on nutrition and how food overindulgence is handled in the game. Having characters throw up when they eat too much was one option that was considered and dismissed.
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