MMO dev Richard Garriott’s Explorers Club joins search for missing submersible at the site of the Titanic

Richard Garriott (left) and Starr Long (right)

As part of our 2021 recap, we counted among our “weirdest stories” articles representing the weirdest things MMO developer Richard Garriott did that weren’t, you know, the video game you paid for aka Shroud of the Avatar. That year, it was expeditions to the Mariana Trench and Antarctic. This year, however, it will be his involvement in the ongoing search for the Titan, the amateur submarine that has dominated headlines for the last few days after it went missing at the site of the actual Titanic.

Garriott, in his role as president of The Explorers Club, which is essentially a bunch of rich people who fancy themselves international adventurers, penned a public letter about the search for the Titan, as two of the men onboard the sub were members of the club. Garriott says the group stood ready to assist with its fleet of ROVs, and at the time he wrote it – the night of June 20th – he argued that there was “cause for hope” that the submersible and its occupants would be found, owing to “signs of life” at the site, by which he presumably meant the tapping reported by multiple outlets.

As of the morning of June 22nd, of course, rescuers still haven’t found the sub and oxygen should’ve run out inside – if it’s even still intact – but last night, Garriott was still hopeful and retweeting positivity in the face of likely tragedy.

Garriott, of course, is the originator of the MMORPG that coined the term MMORPG, Ultima Online, and has been involved in multiple MMOs over the years, including the shambolic Shroud of the Avatar, whose finances have been an unaccountable trainwreck, and NFT proto-game Iron & Magic, which has already disappeared far more thoroughly than the submarine.

Source: Twitter. Cheers, Yrys!
Longtime MOP readers will know that Shroud of the Avatar is a controversial game in the MMO space. Kickstarted in 2013, the project has been criticized for cutting promised features, crowdfunding excessively, delaying Kickstarter rewards, obfuscating its corporate leadership and office status, and neglecting SEC filings legally required by the game’s equity crowdfunding. In 2019, Richard Garriott company Portalarium sold SOTA to its lead dev and all but exited the game. Press inquires were met with stonewalling and insults, and equity crowdfund investors were abandoned without notice or any semblance of accountability; moreover, the groups are now building a blockchain MMO. SOTA itself does still have a tiny playerbase and is technically still receiving minimal development.
A diver apparently told the BBC that the president of the Explorers Club (again, that’s Richard Garriott, though he’s not named in the piece) says the debris field found this morning includes “a landing frame and a rear cover from the submersible.” (via Lum)

Garriott was also interviewed by National Geographic in his capacity as head of the Explorers Club; he had the temerity to blame “red tape” and a “bureaucratic snafu” from the Coast Guard for supposedly slowing down rescue efforts (which we now know were always in vain). As critics of the article have pointed out, it’s more than a little unjust to blame taxpayer-funded emergency crews risking their own lives to rescue billionaires who were engaged in what was apparently an extremely dangerous tourism stunt.

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