Richard Garriott is building a blockchain MMO following the failure of Shroud of the Avatar

Richard Garriott (left) and Starr Long (right)

Richard Garriott is working on a new MMORPG, and yes, it’s filled with NFTs.

Garriott, who is probably best known to mainstream gamers as the multi-millionaire originator of Ultima Online, and business partner Todd Porter have announced that the new unnamed MMO is in early production under new studio DeMeta and will share the top-down isometric perspective of the original UO with a range of adventuring content. Funding for the game will be sourced both from traditional investment as well as an NFT land sale; while acknowledging that crypto games aren’t traditionally very good games and that gamers are immensely (and justifiably skeptical) skeptical about them, the duo justify the business model as a way to “provide direct value to players” while somehow managing to avoid pay-to-win scenarios.

“In Ultima Online, when people started buying and selling shops on eBay, we had to go through the trouble of going like, well, how do we feel about it? Do we want to stop it, because we haven’t guaranteed that the sale will actually be persistent? And we’re not getting anything out of it,” Garriott told PCGamesN. “All we get from people trading items is risk and complaints. [The blockchain] is a way to just clarify the economics in a way that is very fair and consistent between the players who are buying, selling, and trading these virtual assets.”

We note here for the record that we were offered a chance to interview Garriott about this new game, but we were told we could not ask about the many outstanding issues and irregularities revolving around Shroud of the Avatar, which are obviously critical when it comes to the credibility of any new Garriott project, so we declined to participate.

For those not aware, Shroud of the Avatar is a Richard Garriott-helmed MMORPG that was heavily funded by gamers by way of a 2013 Kickstarter, weird crowdfunding stunts, frequent donation telethons, whaling packages, and an $800K equity crowdfunding investment round, during which Portalarium claimed a valuation of $25M. However, the game was mired by controversy, layoffs, delays, design issues, and ultimately a tiny playerbase. Garriott himself stepped down, the new CEO denied taking over, Portalarium shuttered its office, and then it abruptly folded outright and transferred SOTA to a newly formed indie studio. Through it all, company reps stonewalled and insulted press and dodged legally required SEC filings and accountability to SeedInvest investors as recently as this very year.

Prior to the Shroud of the Avatar debacle, Garriott headed up Tabula Rasa through NCsoft, though of course that game was shuttered after only a year and a half online; Korean press called it a “financial disaster.”

All of this is to say that even without the injection of cryptobabble into this new game, it’s going to be a hard sell for veteran MMORPG players… if we were even the audience to begin with.

Click to show the full press release

Ultima Veterans Form All New Gaming Studio

Richard Garriott and Todd Porter set their sights on new online worlds

April 12, 2022 – DeMeta, a newly created gaming studio started by Todd Porter, a founding producer of Dungeons & Dragons and the original Ultima series, and MMORPG heavyweight and creator of the beloved Ultima series, Richard “Lord British” Garriott, has begun development on an online title that will integrate blockchain technology.

Reunited and leveraging decades of their world-building experience across genre-defining titles such as Ultima, Ultima Online, Lineage, Tabula Rosa, and Shroud of the Avatar, both Todd and Richard have already begun development, having made significant hires in recent months.

“Ultima has an enormous fanbase of 25+ million players. Our mission is to take MMOs to the next level,” says Todd Porter, “offering this huge fan base the opportunity to help build our next title, and to shape the next version of RPG the same way that Richard and I shaped those in the past”

As the US arm of DeHorizon, DeMeta is backed by key industry leaders including Griffin Gaming Partners, Sfermion, Dragonfly Capital, gumi Cryptos Capital, Yield Guild Games and Animoca Brands.

“In 1997 my team at Origin published the first true massively multiplayer online game,” says Richard “Ultima Online created something new, and spawned a genre that has continued to evolve and grow for more than 25 years. We’re seeking to create that same magic to evolve and reinvigorate MMOs once again.”

Those keen to learn more about DeMeta and their project will soon be able to follow its social media channels to discover all about the upcoming title.

“NFT is an infrastructure that confers immortality to a digital object,.” said Miko Matsumura, General Partner at gumi Cryptos Capital. “But only a truly legendary team like Richard Garriott and Todd Porter can make game objects that are worthy of that immortality.”

Source: Press release, PCGamesN
It gets wilder: Chris Spears, the developer behind Catnip Games, which is the outfit Portalarium transferred Shroud of the Avatar to, says he’s “working with Todd Porter and Richard [Garriott] to help build a strong foundation for a new game.”

“Before anyone else speculates, NO, I did not sell Shroud. Nothing will change with Shroud except more awareness and Shroud development will continue as it has. I can however confirm that I am working with Todd Porter and Richard to help build a strong foundation for a new game. This is actually the thing I’ve mentioned a number of times on streams that was SECRET but that was consuming the bulk of my time. I can’t say much except that I’m still heavily involved in Shroud and that new games take a long time to make, especially when you do them right and the new game will be done right. I’ll be able to share more info as Todd and Richard do more reveals but that is on their schedule, not mine and again, not impacting Shroud in any way other than raising awareness. Sounds like I might need to do a Friday stream after all!”

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