Shroud of the Avatar developers address Kickstarter reward novel fulfillment, SEC filings

    
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Over the last few days, we’ve had a rash of tipsters reaching out to us with concerns about Shroud of the Avatar, and now we’ve spoken to Portalarium to allow it to address them.

First, backers of the game’s original Kickstarter have been inquiring about the whereabouts of one of the game’s promised Kickstarter rewards. Backers who pledged $500 were promised a signed copy of the SOTA-themed Tracy Hickman novel after the game’s Kickstarter passed the $1.8M mark. That was back in 2013 when the Kickstarter funded. Six years later, those elite backers still don’t have their books.

When reached for comment, Portalarium’s Starr Long pointed us to his post from September 2018 in which he addressed the book specifically.

“As many of you have noted at the Patron (and above) pledge level one of the rewards is a printed version of the prequel novel Blade of the Avatar (aka Sword of Midras). Our original plan was to get copies of the book from the book publisher for distribution but we could not work out an equitable deal with them and we were not happy with how they laid out the illustrations in the book. Instead of using the beautiful Denis Loubet illustrations at the beginning of each chapter (as they were designed), they instead put them all lumped together at the beginning of each section of the book. So we have chosen to print the book ourselves and ship them to you directly. This will take some extra time and we will provide an update as soon as we have more information.”

“That was our official statement and we said we would provide and update when we have more information,” he explained to us today. “At this time we do not have more information hence the lack of update.”

Second, SOTA players reminded us that under the SEC’s equity crowdfunding rules, companies like Portalarium are legally required to file annual reports with the SEC for the purpose of transparency for its investors. MMO players will recall that Portalarium raised $789,658.89 in Series B funding through SeedInvest from small-scale unaccredited investors back in 2017. Portalarium filed its report in 2018, though it has not done so yet in 2019, in spite of the fact that the deadline appears to be today – 120 days past the end of the fiscal year.

But it sounds as if it’s not been forgotten; it’s just still forthcoming. Here’s what Starr Long told us this morning: “We are still working with our legal and accounting firms on that information and will provide it where required when it is all finalized.”

Source: Official forums, SeedInvest. With thanks to Mikka, Gloop, and Anon.
Update 05/02/2019
Multiple readers and commenters have pointed out to us that since the publication of this article, the multi-page thread from March about the missing books on the official SOTA forums has apparently been deleted in full. It remains unclear why Portalarium would delete a rather reasonable thread from its own $500 backers inquiring about the status of their Kickstarter rewards, nor why it determined that thread was in need of deletion only after it had provided statements to Massively OP for publication. There appears to be a second thread, but it’s not clear how long it will be allowed to stand. Richard Garriott has also previously been made aware of the missing books.

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Caleb Cranson

Love the update Bree! Keep holding them accountable and keep up the good work!

Reader
Caleb Cranson

Bree, just so you are also aware of this. Richard Garriott did respond to a tweet asking about the book saying he would look into it. That clearly never happened either: https://twitter.com/RichardGarriott/status/1117082683413278722

sawthelightsota
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sawthelightsota

To be fair, Richard’s father passed away a few weeks ago. I’m not going to fault him for not remembering this tweet.

Not saying people can’t remind him to follow up, but he has an excuse for not doing so, unlike some other devs.

Reader
Caleb Cranson

That is true and a fair point. However, he should at least get someone from Portalarium to address the issue. Maybe somebody who is the (AHEM) Executive Producer.

Reader
Mikka Hansen

Part time* Executive Producer. Since Starr took another job shortly after Portalarium laid off more than half their remaining work force and became a nomadic studio as they coulndt afford a small office rent, its unclear how much time he devotes to SOTA…beyond forum “cleansing”, I mean

Reader
Caleb Cranson

No argument here!

Blackghostx
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Blackghostx

For 2 months, Chris, Richard and Long were taged in the post. In fact they have been tagged 11 times. 11 times, 2 month is more than enough. I agree with Richard’s excuse but come on. I’ve been asking since March 05…………

Reader
Eric E

Yes, Richard’s father died recently, but what happened in the 5 or 6 years prior? Why wasn’t the book ever spoken about unless a backer brought it up? Had Richard ever ready his company’s forums he would have seen that backer/investors never got all of their rewards and boxes and perhaps he would have made things right. Now we are at a point where Starr & Chris has run this game company into the ground and backers & investors are left without the items they paid for.

sawthelightsota
Reader
sawthelightsota

Richard has stated in the past that he largely does not visit the forums – from a forum post last June asking where LB is –

“Uh… I’m right here! :) we have tons of methods of community contact from the forums to the game itself, various community sites, Facebook, Twitter, discord, twitch and others. The two I focus the most time in myself happen to be the game propper as a player / analyst / designer and Twitter as a listener and congratulator for People who complete the EP1 quest and tweet me as the game tells them to. Discord and the forums I try and visit, but ATOS and Starr do better than I do here.”

https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/forum/index.php?threads/lord-british-where-are-you.130976/page-2#post-1069485

Reader
Joey

I tired to play this game, but it just felt like a disjointed mess from another era.

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Loyal Patron
Kickstarter Donor
Sargon

I’m not proud of the amount of money I spent on this game, but I’m at least glad that I recognized the warning signs soon enough to recoup most, if not all, of my original investment.

I have backed many Kickstarter projects… some good, and some bad, but none that have gone completely off the rails quite like this one. The original concept was solid. From that point on, everything became focused on making money first and making a good game a distant second.

From the beginning, Portalarium as a company felt like a disorganized mishmash of Richard’s friends (getting the band back together) with a complete lack of unified vision, and the product reflects it… a disorganized mess of components that don’t quite fit together.

I don’t root for any game to fail, but there comes a point where I would prefer to see them pull the plug rather than continue to string people along. What is the end game? Scraping by to meet monthly expenses just to support a skeleton team to supposedly continue work on Episode 2? When is enough enough?

Reader
Victor Didra

Why would you want a game that others play and love to shut down?

Why would you want that when you just stated you already recouped your contributions?

The game is free to play, there is no gamble for people to figure out if they like the game or not.

ObstreperousBear
Reader
ObstreperousBear

Personally, I wouldn’t go far as to say that it should be shut down, exactly. More like, they should be establishing a plan to sunset, which should include making the server software open source for privately run servers, and/or going into minimal maintenance mode.

The moral objection is that, they’ve had ample opportunity to make this successful, and have failed, repeatedly. At this point, it’s more like stringing someone along in a relationship (even if that person believes he/she is in the relationship voluntarily) just because it gets you free meals. That should end.

Reader
Eric E

If Portalarium did the proper thing in the beginning of setting aside money from the kickstarter to fund the promised rewards we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Since they spent the money unwisely the least they could do is come clean to those who funded/supported this game. rather they make a different excuse each time they are confronted.

they should set the monthly money they receive from their stretch goals and fund the production of the book that was promised to the people who gave money at the high tier. They continue to lie and delete posts that only ask when the reward will be honored.

People who continually advocate for the company should feel bad.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Why would you want a game that others play and love to shut down?

The same reason i want a wifebeater locked up, love or not.

Why would you want that when you just stated you already recouped your contributions?

Because they shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

The game is free to play, there is no gamble for people to figure out if they like the game or not.

No, but tying yourself to this company is a gamble. They’re running something so dumpsterfiry that you can smell the garbage burning. This is not something you should allow people to invest on.

Reader
Caleb Cranson

Quite frankly so they stop lying to people that everything is fine. Some people actually still believe these devs, for whatever reason, and do give them money. Even though it is F2P. I find this to be disingenuous and abhorrent behavior. I had expected a lot more from a game by Lord British. Forsaken Virtues is right!

Reader
Mikka Hansen

For anyone out there who was considering a class action lawsuit, I recommend they start gathering material and snapping pictures of everything right now, before Starr continues with the deleting rampage

Reader
Caleb Cranson

Don’t lawyer them bro!

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
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Vagabond Sam

Like… why?

Seriously, why delete a thread being linked to by an MMO site?

It’s about to get eyeballs so put on your ‘happy customer service’ face and at least fake giving a crap about your customers.

Deleting it with such reckless disdain for concerns around unfulfilled backer rewards just appears to indicate that they don’t care a single dot for the game, or it’s future.

What a train wreck.

Reader
Mikka Hansen

Industry veterans at work

And by industry veterans, I mean con artists

batterbatterswing
Reader
batterbatterswing

That was our official statement and we said we would provide and update when we have more information,” he explained to us today. “At this time we do not have more information hence the lack of update.

9 months later and he has no information to give as to any progress that’s been made in delivering this item. Oddly, Richard stated on twitter that all physical goods were shipped last summer, except to those with incorrect addresses. The owner of a 12 employee company is unaware that about 4,000 printed copies of a book they owe to backers worldwide has yet to be printed? That is a massive expense to overlook.

We are still working with our legal and accounting firms on that information and will provide it where required when it is all finalized.

Unbelievable. Its required to be on their website. They never did so for the 2018 report, though, to credit where credit is due, at least they filed in 2018.

Reader
Mikka Hansen

Lol, they deleted the forum thread they had been ignoring for 2 months 10 minutes after massively links to it

this clown car has no brakes

Blackghostx
Reader
Blackghostx

Tell me about it..

ejester
Reader
ejester

what a fuckin joke. 6 years later and still haven’t fulfilled pledges? fuck this company. they are just making excuses at this point.

sawthelightsota
Reader
sawthelightsota

And Port has now deleted the big thread on their forums about the book (that the devs ignored for two months) and banned at least two people for bringing it up. Stay classy Port!