Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues


Not quite that long, but since the early 90s. Pre-Netscape, if not pre-internet. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year. I’m a long-time Ultima superfan and the series is the reason I got into game writing. Of my top 10 gaming experiences ever, four of them would probably involve Ultima games. I gave a ton to the kickstarter just to thank Richard Garriott and to help him to just work on something of his own choosing.

And yet I can’t even be bothered to boot up this game. I have a kickstarter house I haven’t bothered to plant anywhere. Maybe I will when the physical rewards are sent out, although that may be never, for all I know, given the dubious state of the company. I still won’t regret that contribution - I owed Garriott for hundreds of hours of rich gaming experiences. He was also incredibly generous with his time when I was starting my gaming website up in the mid-90s - I interviewed him at least 3 times, and the shortest interview was over an hour.

Another anecdote - shortly after this kickstarter I was out for a few drinks with a well known, respected RPG developer who happened to be in my town. When I said that I didn’t think that Garriott could pull off a modern RPG classic, the other developer interrupted and very adamantly said that “he just can’t. It’s just beyond him at this point”, even though the developer was also clearly rooting for him. I just found that incredibly sad, for some reason.

And in that context, maybe Garriott has actually done better than expected - he’s produced something that is still being refined but has quite a bit of old Ultima flavor in it, and fans of the series appreciate at least aspects of the new game. Even new players seem to acknowledge that there are some good ideas in it. And people who like UOs and that sort of community atmosphere seem to enjoy it - it had the contributions of other series fans like Lum and members of the UO development team.

Yet I’d probably still rather play a private install of the original Ultima Online just to walk around and see the original ecosystem work.


Ahh yes, 1992. Prodigy wasn’t technically pre-internet, but it wasn’t on the Internet!

I’m right with you. Ultima 7 is my favorite game of all time.


I think it’s been beyond him long before that. At least around U9, arguably U8. Although Ultima Online was a pretty good last gasp.

And he did make good money off of his name for a decade or two after that, albeit without any decent games. He was a founding father…good for him.

This from someone who still loves his earlier products, and who acknowledges that he made the games that got me interested in PC gaming and PCs.


For me it was Ultima IV. I enjoyed V as well, but the underworld stuff was a pita. I played VI through IX but didn’t care for any of them.

I played the open beta of Shrouded whatever for about 30 minutes and I’d seen all I needed to.


As long as we’re getting our Ultima on…

III is my favorite videogame of all time, IV is a masterpiece, V is better than IV, and VI, which I just played for the first time this year, is terrific fun.

Ultima II I played after III, and had a lot of fun with it, albeit in a goofier way. Hard as nails starting out, though.


Ah the Dragons. You guys talking about the original Ultima Dragons on Prodigy sure are bringing up some memories. Those were the days. As an original member, 1 time leader (Upper Council I believe it was called), and creator of the UD Hall of Fame, I can say that those were some great times. Even though the message boards only updated every few hours, and sometimes you would post something and wait days for responses, it was still quite a feeling to know you were talking with people around the world who shared a same passion for Ultima. And during those down times between UItima releases, I used to amuse everyone by posting Mad Libs.

Then I got into my first “internet” fight with some members who wanted to let people in that never played an Ultima game, and eventually I was ousted as leader. LOL, yeah good times, good times.

More to the point of this thread topic, I still haven’t found the time or desire to jump in since it released. Like I mentioned upthread, I don’t see the point since they didn’t reset progress from early on in Beta. I keep hoping something drastic will change and the game will become more like ESO where you feel like you’re playing a single player game online. Probably not going to happen though.


I didn’t find the lack of resetting progress after the beta to be an issue. To be honest, the population is low enough that it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like you feel you’re “behind” everyone, because you pretty much never see anyone unless you seek them out around Brittany and the like.

This isn’t a game that I would recommend to everyone. It’s not a game I’d recommend to most people, even. But I quite enjoyed spending a couple months with the game. It definitely is more Ultima Online than Ultima 7, but I enjoyed both those games so it’s not really a bad thing for me. It’s weird, it’s surprisingly clunky in a lot of ways, but it also felt unique and very much it’s own thing to me, which I appreciate. The combat system I also quite enjoyed, but it takes a little while for it to click. When you first start, it portrays itself as an oldschool MMO where you just push hotbar buttons as they come off cooldown. It’s a lot deeper and more involved than that, though, it’s just too bad they try to obscure that from new players (I’m guessing in an attempt to not overwhelm them?).

I think SOTA makes it clear that Richard Garriott, like a lot of the luminaries from the past, is incapable of running a modern day game studio. I’d lump Chris Roberts, Peter Molyneaux, and a bunch of others in with him. SOTA does have a bit of that Garriott vibe, though, in the attention to detail and focus on things which feel odd in 2018. @stusser mentioned it above, but they lavished content on various townhomes, cottages, player cities, all kinds of non-crunchy stuff that doesn’t help you grind dragons or obtain pants with higher stats.

Despite the low player count, there is a community in the game, and many of them are the old guard roleplayer type that ran taverns in Ultima Online.


I think this is a very interesting point. On the scale of prominence/popularity which these guys were shooting for, I think the player expectations and demands have definitely changed. And things that worked and were cool when originally founded are now ugly, grindy, and perhaps even dull to a large segment of gamers, which is way bigger now than then.

So reverse question is, what big names from the 20 year stretch of 90s-2010 have been able to keep up with the level of success they enjoyed in that time? Not talking franchises, talking people.


On the true legendary old-school PC side, I can only think of Sid Meier, Tim Schafer, and John Carmack. Carmack counts as recent success as he worked on DOOM 2016.

If you extend to the late 90s then you start to see guys like Ken Levine, Todd Howard, Tim Cain, etc, that while all brilliant, really don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Meier and Carmack.

I’m not a console gamer myself, but Hideo Kojima and Shigeru Miyamoto certainly qualify too.


Sid Meier is hard for me to say, as he doesn’t do a lot of games anymore. Wasn’t his last one that space game that was pretty meh? He can run a modern studio without driving it into the ground, though, so I’ll give him that!

EDIT: I re-read what mok had said. In terms of business success, Sid Meier is definitely up there. I was talking more in terms of “can still design and ship a great game”.


When I interviewed Garriott in 2014 he was sharp as a tack and fully aware of the current trends in game design. His thoughts on design might not be au courant to the mainstream, but I don’t think they’re trapped in the '80s or anything.

I don’t think he should be a project manager, but was he ever? I assume as the Ultimas scaled up from one-man-in-his-bedroom to 20+ person teams, somebody else took that particular responsibility.

I always root for Garriott but have to admit it’s been a 20+ year rough patch for him since he left EA. The precise why is hard to pin down, IMO. Maybe he’s gotten caught in the Kickstarter trap of chasing user/fan desires?

I’ve always wished he would return to pure single player, but he’s obviously been fascinated by multiplayer for ages (hence UO), so we get this weird hybrid. Really, Larian and CD Projekt Red and to some extent Bethesda are the keepers of the flame, plus a bunch of indie devs.


UO wasn’t really Garriot, if you read up on the history of the thing.

I’ve spoken about this before, but I went to E3 in like, 1999 and saw him there, just before the U9 release. He was talking about his ideas for UX, a hybrid single and multi-player game, but not a massively online one, and heavily instanced so every player felt like a hero, as opposed to UO and Everquest. Remember this was in 1999, instancing was a pretty fresh idea at the time. So it’s true he’s wanted to build a multiplayer social experience for a long time. I just don’t think UO was it.

Actually met Steve Bauman at that Garriot thing, told him I was a huge fan and he got all flustered and didn’t know what to say. Don’t think it happened all that often for him.


The only designers I can think of that were working in the early 90s and have released something “recently” that I enjoyed are Richard Garfield and Cliff Johnson, and I’m not sure either of them really count. And Tim Schafer of course.


Paul Reiche III has done pretty well, I should think. From Archon (83) to Skylanders. I didn’t play Skylanders but obviously a huge hit. Never mind that whole Star Control business … seems there are threads enough for that!


Wasn’t aware of Skylanders, he definitely counts.


That line of thought makes me think of the interesting/talented developers who went by the wayside into other careers.

Ali Atabek (Magic Candle) … Stuart Smith (Adventure Construction Set) … David Joiner (Faery Tale Adventure)… ah we hardly knew ye.


Gary Grigsby seems to keep on ticking in the wargaming world, and he was a huge presence in the 80s. More niche than ever though.


Grigsby is still partly developing games, War in the East 2 and Steel Tigers, a reboot of Steel Panthers.

@KevinC forgot a big name: Chris Roberts.

Grognard Wargamer Thread!

Brian Fargo has three successful games from yonder years which were revived - Wasteland, Torment and now Bards Tale. All of them focus on their key strengths - story and not get encumbered by ambitious 3D graphics. Maybe Garriott has a different dream now, but he could easily have rebooted Ultima if he wanted to.


His was the first name I mentioned! ;)