I am Richard “Lord British” Garriott, creator of the Ultima franchise and Creative Director for Shroud of the Avatar. AMA.
Greetings! I am excited to be here and ready to answer your questions!
As many of you know, I am revisiting my RPG roots with my new game currently in development, Shroud of the Avatar. You can learn more about Shroud of the Avatar at:
You can also follow me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Richard.Garriott.de.Cayeux
and Twitter https://twitter.com/RichardGarriott #LBSotA
Thank you everyone! This was GREAT fun for me. I appreciate all the questions and suggestions. The community support and design feedback has been invaluable. Please keep it up. We will be having more chats on various sites. I hope to see you again, here or on one of the others! -Lord British
RAINZ!!!! Some day I will get my revenge! When it happened, I was in shock and disbelief. I did not know what to do. I could no longer speak. I could not resurrect myself. I was in my office alone. Fortunately someone in QA could see me and resurrected me. Then the team, decided to kill everyone, as we did not know yet that it was Rainz.
Rainz killed me at the end of the UO beta....
Ultima Online pre-the second age was probably one of the best gaming experiences of my life. Is there any hope to create the interactive world experience of being murdered and stolen from again? Private houses, boats, break ins, murders, theft; these are all things that made UO hands down better than anything else on the market (then or now).
Chunnnn, Blackheart, I do think we have a plan that will channel your dark wishes into a method of play which will satisfy those dark desired.
Greetings friends! I really appreciate the opportunity to speak with you all today. The team and I are very excited about the response to us "getting back to our roots" with Shroud of the Avatar". Today I would love to answer question on SotA or Ultima or anything else I might have useful or arcane knowledge of. Again, thanks for coming. Lets get started!
Excited for your responses and loved your Matt Chat interview My question: Played UO when it first released and use to get murdered by PK's all the time and hated it. Turns out I now miss that in games. I miss the literal fear I would have for my things and the loss that would happen if I died. Why are games so easy now and will Shroud of Avatar have PK's running around murdering me?
We fully understand the potential horror as well as exhilaration that comes from being in full PVP. We are working hard to properly thread the needle, such that newbies don't get ganked, and yet mature players are encouraged to become exposed to PVP risk, such that the feeling is returned. We know this is a hot button issue, and we are working hard aon what we hope is an elegant answer!
Will Rainz be allowed in Shroud of the Avatar?
I hope to see him... and get my REVENGE!!! :)
First off, thank you a million times for your contributions to fantasy role playing games. Ultima 7: The Black Gate still stands as one of my all time favorite computer gaming experiences. Like many, Ultima Online was my first experience with a MMO (not that there was a lot of competition back then, except for EverQuest and NeverWinter Nights). You were directly responsible for hundreds of hours of entertainment, and deserve a huge amount of credit for the state of modern multiplayer gaming.
So, a question: What is next for fantasy games? How do you formulate something new and engaging in a mature market that has been saturated with too many "Me Too!" products?
First, thanks! Lots! While there has been some great work like Skyrim & Fallout 3, etc. mostly in solo player. Most MMO's have fallen into the Wow / EQ copy game. Thus I think there is an opportunity open for us to sneak back in. At least I sure hope so! :)
Good day Richard Garriott. Are you planning to have the farming system work along with the seasonal weather system? it only seems logical to me. plant in spring harvest in summer :D also the hexes surrounding the villages would make good purchasable farming plots.
Wow, great idea... my team (or at least Chris Spears) will freak out on that one... I do hope we get to the weather stretch goal ($50k to go). If so, I will look into "seasonal" influence as well!
British, as a rule I do not get starstruck. Reddit has had quite a few celebrities do AMA sessions and while I've found them interesting, I never really felt like I was in awe of any of them.
But right now the teenaged me (from the mid-80's) is kinda freaking out.
I know that's not a question. Just wanted to say thanks for all that you and your colleagues have contributed over the years, and best of luck with the new endeavor.
Hey Richard, are you mad at me for pirating Ultima VII back in the day? I couldn't afford the game otherwise... loved every minute of it even though I barely spoke English!
I backed your Kickstarter on Day 1! Hope that makes up for my earlier mistake :)
Indeed, thanks! More than enough.
Do you regard the early days of UO with large amount of PVP/Griefing via Tinkering, Thievery, etc to be a mistake or would you say it was the kind of emergent game play you were going for?
"emergent game play you were going for" - HA!!!! We had no F'n Clue! We were both amazed and shocked, thrilled and horrified all at the same time! We are trying hard to get back most of that feeling, with some safety nets to keep it from driving away customers, as it really did do in UO.
If somehow the servers will be taken down. Will there be an option to run our own private servers? i.e. will there be private server software available if the official servers are taken down?
Since the whole game runs ON your machine, it should be relatively easy to pass support to the community after 100 years or so of glory! :)
As a huge fan of Ultima Online, what is the biggest regret you have with the game? Also, will rideable llama's be a mount in Shrouds of the Avatar? :)
A Llama once bit my sister.... ooops wrong animal and story... Llamas were a favorite animal of an UO developer. :) I honestly have little "regrets" about UO, but we made TONS of mistakes (server instability, exploits, insufficient community tools, many more). But man... what a ride it was. If i had to pick a regret, it might be that we didn't get it more "cleaned up" before we let it out.
You expressed an interest in playing your own game. (obviously) Will you ever be taking control of the Lord British NPC in Shroud of the Avatar? Will we ever enter the throne room and be treated to a conversation with the man himself?
I am sure my evil team will leave an exploitative way to kill LB.... And YES, I am sure I will OFTEN play as LB as well!
Have you or your team given any thought to supplementing housing with inns, (gypsy) wagons/etc. to cater to a more nomadic play style?
Its under discussion. There will not be enough housing for everyone to own a persistent house on the map (we expect). So an Inn (or camp) could be a good alternate for as you say "nomads."
I totally like the idea of there being sleeping bag items/tarps/whatever that degrade after an hour or so, so people can be all walking through an area and see your character hanging out playing a lute or somesuch, stop to chat, form temporary encampments against wandering monsters, etc. Like travel kids sitting under overpasses, but more SCAed up.
Gypsy camps that act like caravan parks perhaps? I'm fond of the idea of renting rooms inns as a form of poor mans housing idea myself. Actually makes inns functional.
I like too!
Okay, I never managed to get into Ultima, but I was/am a huge Wing Commander nut. So, I've got 2 questions for you.
1) How does it feel to see the Origin label bastardized by EA?
2) Have you kept an eye on any of the Wing Commander projects out there? Wing Commander Saga is the first I can think of, but there might be others you keep an eye on.
Otherwise, it's awesome to see you do an AMA.
1) What non-slanderous thing can I say... "Nothing". 2) Chris Roberts is also returning to his roots, go check out Star Citizen!
Mr. Garriott, I live in Austin and I want to thank you for building The Curtain theater! It is an absolutely GLORIOUS space in which to play and I hope you can continue to keep it available for groups in Austin! I know this AMA was focused on your gaming projects, but I did want to give a brief shout-out for your arts patronage. It is GREATLY appreciated!
Thanks! For those of you out of town, who would like to visit, pledge at the Duke, Lords level, you can visit it while your in Austin!
Why did you sell Origin Systems to EA? Was it the giant pile of money, or was there another reason?
As the industry "matured" only the top 5 publishers could get shelf space on store shelves. We were #10. So to keep access to retail we had to team up with someone or get squeezed out of the market,
Given the recent upheavals in the industry, with many independent minded developers seeking crowd funding and private investment to circumvent publishers, what are your thoughts on contemporary publishing and its place in the market? Is it exclusively the land of giants seeking to launch billion dollar games or is there still a place for smaller publishers? How can smaller developers protect themselves if they decide to find a publisher? Or are they better off going it alone?
Tricky question... as any chanel matures, it will become dominated by the strongest participants. When MMO's were invented, brifly, new companies like Blizzard and NCsoft could rise to fill the new gap. Social / mobile games saw the rise of Zynga and Rovio. Crowd funding can help fund an indie project, but then reaching a broader audience you still must compete with others. Even digital distro channels get filled, such that "marketing" again matters lots. so there is no easy long term cure. But for today, crowd funding works, and digital distro backs it up.
I love Ken's music work... We may be able to interest him and Iolo to compose again!
The 80's criticism came at the same time I got letters from players of Ultima III, the first Origin game, and thus the first time I got ANY player feedback. I noticed that in my game about being a hero, players were writing me about anything BUT being heroic. Those combined to drive what became my attitude for Ultima IV.
Will there be storyline heavy NPC characters that will be able to join your party (similar to shamino and the others from previous ultimas)?
Yes, SotA is very heavy on story. It is a defining feature. And we have pets / hirelings so this should work well. Tracy Hickman and I are on the people / places and things pass right now! More info soon.
Ultima VII Parts 1 and 2 were simply amazing.... but, and I mean this in a nice way, but what happened with VIII and IX?...
RG vs EA
First thanks, Ultima IV was awesome!! I look forward to seeing what influence that game has on SoTA.
Can you give us more info on how pvp will work in SoTA? Some hate it; some love it. How do you intend to keep both groups of players happy?
Yes, that is a tough one to be sure... yet I think we can. Noobs will be safe. Safe places will be safe. Some areas are clearly NOT safe. Some people on some missions will NOT be safe. We are still working on the areas "in-between those extremes. But don't forget, concerned folks can always play solo (even in the persistent world) and not get ganked. But we will be giving lots of reasons to open yourself up to FUN risks.
Thank you everyone! This was GREAT fun for me. I appreciate all the questions and suggestions. The community support and design feedback has been invaluable. Please keep it up. We will be having more chats on various sites. I hope to see you again, here or on one of the others!
- Lord British
Will I be able to steal from other people in multiplayer? I really miss my thief from vanilla UO, no other game has served my need since.
I miss your thief too... well not when you steal from me... We will be encouraging players to accept risk, through the story. So, while true noobs will likely be "off limits", we think we can get "volunteerism" to rule the day.
What are your thoughts regarding Ultima Forever? Are you pleased to see EA finally utilizing the Ultima franchise or do you see it as simply taking advantage of the Ultima name?
I think very highly of the Ultima Forever team. I know they are devoted Ultima fanatics, and are doing their very best to remain true to the original. I wish them great success, as a remake of Ultima IV will help all things Ultima including Lord British.
Will it be possible to indiscriminately murder NPC's in SotA and resurrect them as you need them like in the old Ultima games (Also ones you "accidentally" let die)?
My main level builder so far, Rick Holtrop, says "Yep - They can kill all the NPC's" Of course, you will have to live with the consequences.
HI Richard, just a thank you for Ultima VII 1+2 and VIII! Both parts of VII have remained my favorite games since I first played them a few years after their release. VIII was the first one I owned myself, so I am also very fond of this, disappointed the expansion never got released though. Was that a sales related decision? Do you remember any details about it?
It was a sales related decision. Ultima VIII was the only Ultima to sell less than its predecessors. Assuredly due to it being rushed out, incomplete and buggy. Had we done our jobs correctly. Had I made the right decision. It would have been fine.
Have you thought about trying out a wilderness system similar to what you had originally programmed into UO, where we the players control animal populations? If so it could lead to new professions such as breeding and animal farming. Also, can you please promise never to let us play as Pandas? Ever.
YES, I PROMISE, NO PLAYER PANDAS!
Yes, animal taming is on our list.
In SotA will players be able to control cities, uo felluca like?
I am hoping to hear from giant guilds like The Syndicate, or Pax Lair, for whom we would love to "build a town".
I was wondering if the interactive instruments stretch goal is reached could there be a possibility of being able to have in game live performances like scheduled things in the cities,towns,villages where people can sign up and perform and if actual vocals can be also incorporated if they have a headset?
We absolutely plan for group public performance to be the intent of that stretch goal. Vocals we have not discussed... but we will now!
Hey Richard, thanks for doing an AMA!
My question is somewhat personalized, but it's an AMA and I would really love to get a response. First the somewhat lengthy background, the actual questions are at the end.
I've been playing a few MMO's casually, but I got bored with the run of the mill gameplay. So, I decided to do something creative and role play a poet. In other words, I write poems and try to sell them to other people for in-game money. Of course, the NPCs tend to be rather desinterested in my craft, but some players love what I do and do indeed give me some of their hard-earned gold coins. My character doesn't have another means to make money, no crafting, no fighting, just written words.
While playing a poet is a nice idea, I really want to branch out into interactive theatre. I have lots of ideas for role playing quests, where my friends and I play disposable characters to entertain other players with a story they can participate in. For instance, one story I have in mind is where I play a young boy named Oliver, who walks up to players and tries to steal from them. They will be angry at first, but soon figure out that the boy is forced by a person named Fagin to do the stealing, and they can help the boy by forcing the bad man (played by my friend) to grant the boy his freedom.
It's a bit like running a role playing session as a game master, but I want to do it as regular player, as this really forces me to focus on storytelling. I've done it a couple of times; it's a lot fun, but success depends on the player community and also on some game mechanics issues (like being able to have multiple alternate characters and finding other players quickly).
What do you think? Would you encourage player poets in SotA? Would you encourage "player-made stories" and "interactive theatre" (for a lack of a better word)?
So far, only UO had the balls to offer this kind of player agency, so I'm counting on you. :-) Also, I'd be happy to have an extended discussion on this, based on my experience of what works and what doesn't.
I love the general idea, let me noodle with the team!
I miss Tabula Rasa. Is there any hope of continuing that universe into other games or, possibly bringing back that style of gameplay into another MMO?
I really liked the "Control Points" of TR, we will be bringing those into SotA.
Hi :) You've touched on user-created-content a bit. I'm wondering if there is going to be any way my vendor can sell things I can make that are pretty unique, to give people a reason to venture out to my village vendor... or if everyone's vendors will wind up selling the same items.
I was just discussing this at lunch with the team. Our goal is to launch with at least 1 "artistic" skill, which allows true OOAK (one of a kind) individually customized items into the game.
Over time, in later episodes or as a larger stretch goal, we could add much more on this I hope.
Hail to thee Lord British! thanks very much for everything and I'm very happy thou hast returned to thy roots!
How detailed will customizing the character appearance be when creating the character and the clothing/armor/combo appearance be as far as during gameplay?
Well met Skalormalk! My deep thanks to thee and all our friends gathered here. We are still working on the customization, but I know the min and max limits we will have: Of course we will have main character swaps like head, body, leggings, boots gloves, weapon, helm / hair at a minimum, but I don't think we will go so far as eyebrow controls and other facial details that are rarely seen.
In one of the first Shroud of the Avatar devchats, one Portalarium employee commented something to the effect of "The game does not take place in Sosaria. Actually, I'm not even sure even sure we have the rights to Sosaria."
Later in that same devchat, you talked to us about how many facets of the Ultima world, including Sosaria, Mondain and the shattered crystal, have been a part of your imaginary landscape since your childhood.
Now, many of those same facets are, as I understand it, the intellectual property of EA Games.
So, I wonder: What's it like to have something that came from your imagination under the control of an external party?
Interesting issue. Much of those early Ultima items were used in stuff that was not Ultima (Akalabeth for example is a chapter of the Silmarilian form JRRT). Much was released to my friends and played by others in D&D campaigns. So its not clear where the legal line lies with what is public domain. Thus I will be conservative and avoid getting too close. But my D&D campaigns, are still a rich source of inspiration.
will there be multiple choice conversations in scenarios and how do they work in multiplayer?
Yes, conversations are "multiple-choice" (perhaps also "input"). We are still working out the best plan for when 2+ players are in the scene. The best path so far varies by interaction type.
Will there be the possibility for npc party members like in Ultima I-VII ? and how will the party system work in scenarios? is there one avatar and his companions or are all players equal? And lastly, will it be possible for players, to rent a deed, build a house and decorate it together?
Great questions: 1) Yes, you will be able to take a "hireling" 2) You are all individuals. YOU individually are "The Hero" and the "avatar" of the earth you. Your companions are your "Companions". 3) We would like for a group to buy a building, but that may need to be a stretch goal or game 2.
What's the last game that really engaged you? One that you found yourself playing at 3am after promising youself you'd go to bed at midnight?
To this day I play Plants vs Zombies all night, finished it 4 times I think, all the other modes, every Achievement. I have not found a recent RPG that has kept me so long.
I don't have a question for you, but I just wanted to let you know that on UO I met most (if not all) of my close friends for the first time. I'm 30 now, and if it wasn't for your game I'd be a completely different (and possibly worse) person. Thank you. Thank you.
ps. the game wasn't bad either ;)
Lockdownit, thanks, really! Very nice of you to say.
How are you planning on handling the single player story in regards to the Friends Online mode? will the story still be active, and if so, how will your online companions experience the storyline in relation to your own experience?
In any great story... there are times when one must act alone, and times when friends would be of great help. SotA has the option of separating friends when the story believes it will be better without your friends around. So don't worry about two people both thinking they accomplished this and their friend spoiling it.
Hello Lord British, is it possible to learn all skills at once or can you choose only some skills? And how was the feeling of weightless? :-)
Weightlessness is amazing! I truly hope you all get the chance... and don't give up on trying!
All players can explore ALL skills and trees. That being said, no one will master all at once, and so some specialization will be helpful.
I was in the retro gaming room at PAX East this weekend. Someone was loading up Ultima 3 on an old PC. How does it feel to be directly responsible for so much nostalgia?
It makes me feel old.... no, actually that's not exactly true, weirdly I feel about the same, its just been going on a while... I am VERY lucky though to have survived in the industry so long, starting from such an early time.
I'm a big fan of the old Dragonlance seriers, in those several mages of either color, red, black, green, white etc. could go together and create even more powerful spells, is something like that on the drawing board? Also will there be several magic schools like in Dragonlance? (Where you can't train em all but would have to chose your kind of magic)
With Tracy Hickman on the team, we will be planning out the magic system shortly. I know it will have words of power / Logos (An Flam) and reagents (ash and pearl). I liked the colored "styles" of Ultima VIII, so perhaps Tracy and I will find a middle ground to the reality of magic.
How the crafting will be in SotA? Is it like UO where i could go with my axe in the forest to chop wood and build a piece of furniture?
It is in the larger list of crafting skills we hope to support. It will require another stretch goal or two, or wait till live or game 2, if we don't make it. But I will get there!
I'm curious what the nature of "loot" will be like in this game. Will it be similar to UO where you essentially hoard things? Will there be a similar secure banking system as in UO? Will storage space in a player dwelling be important (due to item limit/weight restrictions in bank & chests?)
I'm also very curious about the open world PvP but I see you have answered a few such questions already, saying that it's a fine line where you're trying to balance safety for beginners/newbies with thrill for the more experienced players. I think this is a good approach as long as there is INCENTIVE to go to unsafe areas.
I played Ultima Online for years, pretty much right from release, until slightly into the whole Trammal/Felucca split (I'll be honest, it ruined the game for me) since there was very little incentive for the bulk of the player base to leave the safe zones after that.
Having safe areas is fine, as long as there is an enormous upside to venturing into unsafe territory, things like better loot, or unique dungeons/cities that people want to visit. I think that dynamic of hunter vs predator, and that fear you get in your belly venturing into unsafe territory, knowing that your journey might be set back by some villainous murderer is what made UO a truly amazing game, and that's speaking from the perspective of someone that has been on both sides on the spectrum. Honestly even when you get victimized in such situations, it's 10x more thrilling than anything you typically experience in gaming today.
Loot: yes, you will want to store loot, thus banks and houses are useful. PVP: Agree, must be heavily incentiveized, but not demanded. Agree, agree.
You've stated that SotA will be tracking out behavior, and the title "Forsaken Virtues" seems to indicate the return of a prominent virtue system. Will they be the virtues we recognize from the Ultima series, or will they be something new? If new, can you tell us what to expect?
Yes, SotA will include a strong aspect of Virtue observation (akin to Ultima IV) and yes, you will recognize them well.
Lord British, first of all, welcome to IAmA. I have two questions.
The first: How do you feel that the game development process and game programming and design itself have progressed from when you started Akalabeth, all the way up to Tabula Rasa and Shroud of the Avatar? How would you recommend someone start out today and what lessons have you learned from your development experience that you wish you could tell a younger version of yourself?
Second: What lessons did you learn from the experience of developing Ultima IX: Ascension in particular?
Thank you in advance. I'm really looking forward to Shroud of the Avatar.
1) Learn to program! Its a computer game after all, and while art and design are greatly valuable too, without programming at some level designers and artists cannot see how their work will be used as well. 2) Ascension, difficult answer. Ultima IX was already off the EA radar, due to the success of UO. So, I had to fight for every month that game took to build. Not sure what the lesson was, but I am glad I completed it!
What games would you say have had the biggest influence upon Shroud of the Avatar, and your overall RPG viewpoints ?
Of course Ultima IV/VII/UO... Outside games like Kingdom Rush oddly enough... Of course all things Blizzard.
When I played the original Ultima games, I had to rely on my own problem solving skills when playing the game. I never had a walk-through guide and could only occasionally get advice from a friend playing the same game. I'd like to think I have the willpower to resist looking up answers online when SotA arrives but that can be difficult with the ease of doing so and with the suspicion that others are already doing so in Multiplayer game.
Are you planning to build anything into the Single Player game that would discourage players from "Googling" solutions when they come up against challenging situations?
I agree with you! We are looking at ways to vary answers enough to limit the power of Google. Even randomizing the "words or answers to some questions. It may help... may not... we will try.
How did it feel getting killed by Rainz in UO?
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