lord british

Richard Garriott‘s avatar during and after the Ultima series, including Ultima Online.

Shroud of the Avatar claims higher concurrency heading into launch

Is the buzz starting to grow louder for Shroud of the Avatar as it rounds the corner to launch? There are a couple of positive signs that player interest and involvement is picking up in these final weeks, at least according to creator Richard Garriott.

Responding to some players who noted that guild traffic and general interest has been on the rise as of late, Garriott tweeted, “Data backs that up! In addition to eight weeks of steady concurrency increases, the conversion rates of free trials to full citizens remains strong, even as less ‘indoctrinated’ folks are trying it out. Travian’s great marketing team fine tuning new player outreach.”

One of our commenters recently noted that the developers have been raining meteors down on the game’s population in these last few weeks — and that it seems as if there is something big planned as a launch event. Stay tuned!

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Shroud of the Avatar plans launch celebration while Reddit community debate sub’s existence

A rather unique shindig is being planned for Shroud of the Avatar’s launch this March. Portalarium announced that it will be holding a release party on March 14th at the Bullock Texas History Museum. Only about 100 backers plus various press and guests will be able to attend and enjoy a short concert with Shooter Jennings.

Around that time, Shroud of the Avatar will also be present at SXSW Gaming Expo from March 13th through the 17th. Richard Garriott will get a special honor as a focus of a panel covering the game’s history and future.

Over on Reddit, an interesting poll is being conducted. A brand-new mod who took over r/shroudoftheavatar is now asking fans if they want the sub to remain open in light of several other subreddits covering the game and the sub devolving into a mess of trolling and outright attacks. “If you want this to stay open, posting is the second best thing you can do,” the new mod said. “Make your case not just here, but out there. Provide some things worth talking about. Win or go out swinging.”

Source: Shroud of the Avatar, Reddit. Thanks, Vagabond Sam!


Shroud of the Avatar goes nuts for log cabins

With such a strong emphasis on player housing, Shroud of the Avatar has fans guessing as to what other interesting abodes the team is cooking up inside of Lord British’s lab. Turns out the answer to this is “log cabins.”

Over the next two updates, the team will be pushing out three new housing types. There’s a giant, hollowed-out horizontal log (hopefully worm-free), a giant, hollowed-out vertical log, and a very traditional Abraham Lincoln-goes-skiing log cabin. Two of these can be crafted in-game while the other will be a shop purchase.

“Players really liked the witch’s hollow log house that we introduced in South Longfall Wetland in Release 46 so at the suggestion of our players we have turned it into a house!” the team said. “The Hollow Log House is a single story village sized house that will be craftable via a recipe in-game that you will gain from a quest in Release 51.”


Richard Garriott on how players ‘destroyed’ Ultima Online’s ecology

With a couple of months to go before its official launch, Shroud of the Avatar has more than a few challenges to overcome to deliver a solid, full-fledged game that appeals to a crowd outside of the small-yet-loyal community that has been financially floating this title for years now. But challenges are what Richard Garriott is all about, and the video game creator is not shy about sharing his long history of overcoming these in the industry.

In a recent Ars Technica interview, Garriott shared his war stories about the creation of Ultima Online and the surprises that the community whipped up along the way. The story he tells here focuses on the automated virtual ecology that was made for the sandbox. This carefully fine-tuned system was destroyed virtually overnight when player hordes came into the game and slaughtered everything.

Out of this (failed) experiment came a funny story and some useful lessons that the team used to shape MMO sandboxes thereafter. Check it out after the break!

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The ultimate guide to The Game Archaeologist’s MMO archives

When we moved over here to Massively Overpowered, some of us transplanted our long-running columns to the new space. I perhaps felt most devastated that I was going to lose all of the Game Archaeologist articles that I had painstakingly researched over the years. So my mission with this space became two-fold: to rescue and update my older columns while continuing to add more articles to this series on classic MMOs and proto-MMOs.

I’ve been pleased with the results so far because TGA is a series that I really don’t want to see vanish. As MMORPG fans, we should consider it important to remember and learn about these older titles and to expand our knowledge past the more popular and well-known games of yesteryear.

Now that we have quite a catalogue of Game Archaeologist columns, I thought it would be helpful to end the year by gifting this handy guide to you that organizes and compiles our continuing look at the history of the genre. Enjoy!

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The Game Archaeologist: Ultima Worlds Online Origin

While the heady days of Ultima Online’s dominant position over the industry are long gone, the MMORPG continues to operate and expand, and many players have fond memories of the unique experience that game offered. In fact, some titles like Legends of Aria and (obviously) Shroud of the Avatar are doing their best to claim the unofficial title of “Ultima Online spiritual successor” in the hopes of reuniting veteran MMO players with the special qualities that made this game great.

These aren’t the first games to try to grasp the holy grail of an Ultima Online sequel. There were actually two such projects that went into heavy production in the late 1990s and early 2000s — both ending with premature cancellation and frustration on the part of developers and fans.

The second of these, Ultima X Odyssey, I covered a while back. Today, we’re going to take a look at the first MMO that attempted to mix the Ultima Online formula with a few new twists. Ultima Worlds Online Origin might not be as well-known (or as well-titled), but its history is just as fascinating as UXO’s.

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Happy 20th birthday, Ultima Online! Here’s how to get caught up on the OG MMORPG

Just about 20 years ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering through Media Play (heh) when he picked up this box for some new online subscription video game with a cheesy Hildebrandt cover. I was skeptical. He bought it anyway. The next morning, after I’d played all night and totally bogarted his new game, we figured we should probably get a second account. And so we did, in spite of being clueless teenagers who could barely afford one sub, let alone two.

That game was Ultima Online, and it’s the game that birthed the term MMORPG and quite literally dragged me into the realm of virtual worlds. Without it, I wouldn’t be right here where I am talking to you today, having married that dude in the interim. And as of yesterday, that game is 20 years old.

Last autumn, when the game was turning 19, I did a fairly in-depth video on the coolest parts of UO, the parts you can still play today, as I do frequently dive back in and am playing this month too! It’s Massively OP’s best-performing video to date, proving that the game is very much not dead and done. Pretty much everything in the video is still accurate, except for the part on the business model (spoiler: UO is kinda going free-to-play), so I’m going to include it below, but then I’ll recap some of the important bits from the last year and answer a few questions anybody reading is sure to have.

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Ultima Online preps for 20th anniversary bash, updates players on enhanced client fixes

Ultima Online isn’t considered the progenitor of the MMORPG genre for nothing: It’s closing in on 20 years of operation next week, to be celebrated at a real-life event outside of Washington, DC, this very weekend, with Broadsword devs and original Origin devs, including Richard Garriott and Starr Long, in attendance.

“The team and I are working hard to finish up the second part of Publish 98 which includes Holiday gifts, new Artisan Festival Rewards and new Veteran Rewards as well as several bug fixes,” Broadsword Producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong writes in this month’s newsletter. Some of those fixes revolve around the enhanced client, the current version of the upgraded client that Armstrong has said half of the playerbase uses; specifically, performance during live, studio-run roleplay events is an issue, both in terms of graphical effects and loot.

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Shroud of the Avatar stuffs in more dragons, preps for Halloween

Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 46 is right around the corner, and when it arrives, so do the dragons. For the patch, the team has rebuilt the Northwest Blackblade Mountains zone, giving it a taste of flame and fire. The area is now described as “a devastated arid landscape of dragon bones, mesas, sand, and possible dragon encounters.” So kind of like your younger brother’s room.

The team is keeping its eyes on Halloween as it approaches, as well. Themed decorations, a wicked scythe, and a new grim reaper statue is in the works, but the highlight of this year’s holiday will be the construction of a special “prison home” for players who… want to lock up their guests? We guess?

To mark the recent passing of Richard Garriott’s mother, the team created an in-game Exodus portrait that players can purchase for $15. Some of the proceeds will go to a children’s museum that she supported in her life.


Relive the final moments of Tabula Rasa

February 28th, 2009, was a dark day for MMO players, as crowds flocked to Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa in the hopes of hitting level 50 and seeing the return to Earth before the game was closed forever.

YouTuber GaminGHD said that he remembered it “like it was yesterday,” and in a new retrospective, he recalls the final hours of Tabula Rasa while sharing the many screenshots he took on a European server. He said that seeing the players swarm into the battle was a “beautiful sight” that was nevertheless bittersweet.

We’ve shared this video of the last day of Tabula Rasa with you after the jump along with a bonus interview with Garriott that explains why the MMO was mishandled and ultimately canned by NCsoft.

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Choose My Adventure: Starting completely fresh in Shroud of the Avatar

I really know pretty much nothing about Ultima.

This is only partly my fault. Way back when the Ultima games were a big deal on PC, I was still decidedly locked to consoles, where the options for getting into the series were rather limited. Aside from that, it was years before I really acquired much of a taste for the Western style of RPGs as opposed to the Japanese style… and considering that the roots of that style are half-buried in Ultima (along with Might & Magic and Wizardry, to be very broad and avoid overburdening this header), you can see why I’d kind of give things a pass.

All of this is pretty relevant when it comes to Shroud of the Avatar because you kind of can’t separate the two. No, Shroud of the Avatar is not an Ultima game, but it’s Richard Garriott building the game and inserting himself into the proceedings. It’d be like George Lucas making a new movie based off of Buck Rogers and Akira Kurosawa’s filmography; it might not bear the title, but you know you’ll wind up with something pretty close to wars what are waged across the stars.

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Choose My Adventure: Get out of here, DC Universe Online

So this is an unusual situation for me: I’ve never actually played a game for Choose My Adventure that I’ve disliked this much.

Those of you who have followed my writing for a while know that I’ve played some games I didn’t much like before, but that’s different. Lord of the Rings Online and Black Desert, for example, are games that were not my cup of tea but still had obvious merits I could praise. I’ve played games that I dislike or ones that deserved more criticism than praise when I played them (Ryzom, TERA, the beta period of The Elder Scrolls Online), but still had positive sides. (And in the last case, ESO turned itself around quite well and earned plenty of kudos from me.) Heck, I played Scarlet Blade with as open a mind as I could possibly have.

But not so DC Universe Online. No, this game deserves a pretty thorough drubbing. I can understand why it has fans, but it’s still just not a good game. I can only hope it’s an outlier rather than the norm on Daybreak’s overall catalog, because… wow. This is not fun.

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Shroud of the Avatar: Equity crowdfunding passes $500K, studio plans monthly telethons

Shroud of the Avatar’s equity crowdfunding venture has gone rather well: Portalarium declared last night that it has “exceeded [its] SeedInvest target and [is] now reaching new heights,” meaning it’s raised $570,913 toward its original $500,000 target minimum ($465,000 from small-scale investors and $105,000 from higher-end accredited investors), with a potential round size of $2M. There are just over three days left for investors of all stripes to jump in. Don’t miss our interviews with Richard Garriott and Starr Long if you’re still on the fence!

Meanwhile, Portalarium has announced that with the release of R44 last week, it plans to “experiment with extended postmortems that are also Mini-Telethons.” If it proves popular, it’d potentially mean a switchover from the exhausting 12- or 24- hour telethon stream the team does quarterly to a monthly 4-hour fundraising session as the team delivers its release recap and Q&A.

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