Shroud of the Avatar addresses CEO confusion, playerbase ‘re-engagement campaign’

    
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Remember back in the fall of 2018, when there was a flurry of speculation over Shroud of the Avatar as Portalarium’s Richard Garriott shed his CEO title? “As we have adjusted our direction and team to focus on Episode 2 we have decided to eliminate any titles and positions with the word Officer, including my own which was CEO,” Garriott posted at the time. “This leaves me to focus on my true role as Creative Director while Chris Spears and Starr Long can focus on the running of the team.”

It seems now there might have been a bit more to it, as some Reddit sleuths and tipsters dug up a 2018 filing on the Texas Comptroller’s website that seems to indicate that last year, not only did Garriott drop the CEO title, but Chris Spears was granted it. A simple public records search brings it up, but we’re censoring addresses in the image we verified here out of respect for the board’s privacy.

The realization caused consternation across Reddit and the official forums, as people wondered whether they’d been deceived somehow about who was running the company.

We reached out to Spears this morning to inquire about it, and in his correspondence with us, he seemed baffled that he was listed as the CEO. “While I did knowingly take on a company leadership title, it wasn’t CEO,” he told us, suggesting that titles at a small company don’t really mean much to begin with. His bafflement seems backed up by his statement on Twitch and initial statement on the official forums where he says it’s not true, presumably before seeing it on the Comptroller’s site, but that comment has since been deleted, while others – for example, the spot where he suggests “the board of directors controls 100% of the power and [he’s] not on the board” – have merely been moved.

(For context, I am the CEO of MOP’s LLC on paper, but I’d never represent myself that way outside of official documentation either, so this part of what he’s saying isn’t at all impossible, except that I know exactly what our tax paperwork says and how I am liable for the company. It would certainly be disturbing for a board to appoint someone CEO even on paper without his or her knowledge.)

Portalarium has recently made headlines over other foibles, including seemingly missing a SEC filing deadline, deleting a thread from $500+ Kickstarter backers who sought information on their still-unfulfilled physical rewards, and closing down its physical offices.

Shroud of the Avatar raised nearly $2M in crowdfunding from gamers on Kickstarter in 2013 and an additional $789K in public equity crowdfunding from players and investors in 2017. At the time, Portalarium claimed a valuation of $25M, with $11M in crowdfunds, making SOTA at that point the “second-largest crowdfunded game in history.”

The game itself, as we’ve been covering for many years now, has a rather small population spread out between the game’s launcher and Steam; in the latter, concurrency has been low but steady for the last five years. Spears tells us, however, that he’s embarked on a “re-engagement campaign” since the end of April and has clocked “more than a thousand” returning players who’ve logged in two or more times in the last two weeks, with over 2500 new players jumping in since early May. He also shared with us a graph from the game’s recent dev stream, showing new players who logged into the game for the first time.

“Still trying out different angles but you can see the second weekend actually pulled in even more new people than the first weekend,” he says. “Trying a very different angle this weekend and we’ll see how it goes, but very positive overall.”

Source: Reddit, official forums, Texas Comptroller. With sincere thanks to all of our (many!) tipsters on this one.
05/17/2019 09:15 AM EDT
Last night, thanks to helpful tips from a Portalarium investor, we accessed Portalarium’s Texas Franchise Tax Public Information Report through the Texas Secretary of State website. We cannot reprint it under the terms of that government website; however, we can confirm that the document lists Chris Spears as CEO in three different places and appears to have been signed electronically by him on November 15th, 2018. This would be shortly after Richard Garriott’s relinquishing of that position in October of last year. The document was filed in early April. Portalarium has not responded to requests for additional comment on this document. It remains unclear why Spears has represented himself as unaware of his role.
05/17/2019 11:00 AM EDT
Portalarium’s Chris Spears has now commented on the tax report filing, telling Massively OP that the form was filled out in 2018 by a contract accountant. “Dallas, the CEO as of the start of 2018, had just retired and I was the only officer at the company (Starr and Richard are board members as the document shows) so my guess is the accountant just penciled me to a blank that needed to be filled with an officer’s name,” he says. “We’re a dozen game devs making an MMO, we don’t care who wears what titles.”

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sawthelightsota
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sawthelightsota

Chris openly mocked on his stream today the signature on the tax form, implying anyone could have put his signature there. TV CEO smooth.

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Mikka Hansen

maybe it was an sticker with his signature, I heard Portalarium loves those

Weazel
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Weazel

Richard’s name wouldn’t fit in the box.

Reader
Mikka Hansen

For corporations, the board of directors controls 100% of the power and I’m not on the board. Richard, Starr, and several others are on the board. On paper the official CEO was Dallas who retired last year.

LIE

Dallas never was CEO, he was COO.

As the only other official officer at the company, my name probably just got moved over.

LIE AGAIN

Chris was never an official prior to becomin CEO, otherwise his name would have appeared in the previous SEC filing. His name could never “just get moved over”.

Chris went from mere employee to CEO of the company overnight, whether it was with or without his knowledge…according to the latest update to this news it was with, despide being on record denying this over and over again.

Good God, Chris, you should try telling the truth sometimes. You suck at lying, its trivially easy catching you with the pants down

sawthelightsota
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sawthelightsota

Really looking forward to the 2018 SEC filing should Port every get around to meeting their filing obligations.

sawthelightsota
Reader
sawthelightsota

One last thing, it will be fun to see something like this in that mythical filing –

Chris Spears, CEO*

*- (only because our contract accountant said I was in a tax filing I may or may not have reviewed and signed. NOT due to a Board approval, but titles are meaningless per the TV CEO show I watched once)

sawthelightsota
Reader
sawthelightsota

Chris Spears, yesterday –

“Please don’t quote stuff from reddit as if it is anything other than a bunch of trolls speculating on how to hurt the project. This is not true but now I have multiple website asking me about it.”

“Ah… apparently, there is some public record in Texas that shows me as CEO. YAH BABY, Go me! :p Seriously though, this is pointless paperwork pushing stuff that is meaningless. How meaningless? I didn’t even know I was the CEO on paper somewhere. ”

“Most people learn all they know about business structures from TV so I get it but at a small company, titles are meaningless”

So Chris, can you tell us what TV show you watched that taught you about business structures, and did it really teach you to 1) apparently become CEO last fall, 2) not tell anyone about it, 3) act ignorant about having said CEO title in writing and on streams yesterday when you signed public documents showing this title?

Amazing, simply amazing.

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Eric E

He will just say that he didn’t deny he was CEO, he just laughed it up.
Perhaps his name shifted again, since Dallas “retired”?

I might be wrong, but legally this should have been communicated to SeedInvestors.

sawthelightsota
Reader
sawthelightsota

He literally said on his stream yesterday about being CEO “I didn’t know”. Can’t laugh that one away.

A question we probably will never know the answer to – since Chris spent all day yesterday explaining how unimportant the CEO title is, why go to the effort to apparently cover this up? Why not just say, yup, we changed the paperwork last fall? You have to wonder.

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Eric E

Honesty is not in their vocabulary. Only lies, bait & switch, and delete/cover up come natural to him and Starr.

Weazel
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Weazel
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Reginald Bottomsworth

So the liar knew all along. Either that, or one of the other crooks at Portalarium filed the paperwork behind his back.

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Thomas Hill

Yup, so it seems he flat out lied to the players and backers of this game. Wouldn’t they have to report this to SeedInvestors?

Reader
Eric E

Just another in a long list. Yet people still defend and applaud them.

Reader
Akagi

This is one of few online games I’m genuinely surprised are not shut down yet.

Reader
Reginald Bottomsworth

It’s been slowly but surely circling the drain for a couple years now, even before it’s official launch.

batterbatterswing
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batterbatterswing

Oddly, the data in the chart he provided does not align with their own API data (scroll down to ‘New Character Created’)

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Victor Didra

That’s because the link you posted is a best guess by a player.

batterbatterswing
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batterbatterswing

No, it is not. From the provided link:

When Players create a new character they first zone into the Isle Of Storms and are given a new player guide. We are counting this event as a new character being created.

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Victor Didra

I messaged the creator and he said that is the book that you pick up, not the one you are automatically given. Thus not everyone gets it.

He’s now looking into a more exact measure, such as scrolls received or something.

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Victor Didra

So what was happening:

If you pick up the book from the Podium, it is NOT counted in those stats, but prevents the Oracle from giving you the book that IS counted.

So anyone that picked up the book as they ran by (as the popup help text tells you to do) was never counted.

A closer estimate looks like it will be based off of an item given in the tutorial + an item given if you skip the tutorial. I don’t know if he’ll get it updated tonight but it will probably happen by tomorrow.

Even that is going to look different than Ports numbers though. I don’t know when Chris takes his, but if they are when people enter the Isle it will be a higher number than what you will see on that site.

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Mikka Hansen

Just to recap, Chris now handles:

– IT
– CEO duties
– Taxes / Accounting
– Shipping
– Streaming media outreach
– Email blasts
– Forum moderation
– Level design
– Development / Lead Development

With each new responsability piled up on him meaning all the others have reduced capacity and attention.

Meanwhile Starr Long handles…chosing the music for the next naked dance party.

And RG is tasked with pretending really really hard he never heard of SOTA or Portalarium while he plans his next family trip with the money he got from crowdfunding

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Victor Didra

Don’t forget, Chris streams daily.

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Mikka Hansen

Well, not daily, he had to do the tax filing this days…btw, wasnt the SEC report delayed because Starr was still working on it with their “Accounting firm”? WHAT accounting firm? Its Chris. Port cant afford paying 4 walls and a lightbulb for an office, much less a real, professional accountant for their nonexisting finances

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Victor Didra

Can you just admit that you’re going to find the negative in everything, jump to wild conclusions, and always assume the worst case scenario and be done with this?

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Mikka Hansen

I DONT KNOW WHY YOU WOULD SAY THAT

Reader
Reginald Bottomsworth

Can you just admit that you’re rooting for a limping, diseased pony?

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Sounds a bit messy, but not overly dramatic?

Either way, I’ll make some popcorn in case Chris shows up in the comments section.

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Reginald Bottomsworth

It’s like a visit from Santa Claus and Mr. Magoo at the same time!

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Mikka Hansen

Sounds a bit messy, but not overly dramatic?

It depends on how deep you examine it.

Starr is the kind of guy that’d have jumped at the oportunity of being CEO if the situation was any good.

One has to wonder how dire the internal state of affairs have to be for him to not only decline it, but also weasely dump the “honor” on someone else without telling him.

PlasmaJohn
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Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
PlasmaJohn

ObIANAL :D

Since Portalarium is incorporated in Texas here are the incorporation requirements for a for-profit enterprise:
https://www.sos.state.tx.us/corp/managementinfofaqs.shtml

“The Texas Business Organizations Code requires that for-profit corporations and professional corporations have at least one director, one president, and one secretary.”

So they don’t need a C-suite but they do at least need a President.

Edit: Odd that they list only the CEO other than directors when President and Secretary are required (officer) positions.

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Thomas Hill

I thought they were incorporated in Delaware?

PlasmaJohn
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Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
PlasmaJohn

Yep you’re absolutely right. I went off where their HQ is (Austin) instead of looking at the SEC docs.

sawthelightsota
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sawthelightsota

That website gives the directions to the public reports filed by a company with the Secretary of State. The public filings for Portalarium may not align with some information provided…Take a look (“How do I find the management information for a corporation?”)