Stratics had the pleasure of conversing with Richard "Lord British" Garriott regarding his highly anticipated title, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. What follows is a written transcript of the second part of a three-part interview. Nexus: Now with towns: looking at the art, I see siege engines? RG: That’s right. Nexus: Is that something players can use against other towns or are NPCs attacking towns? RG: Yes. That example is NPCs attacking a town; whether players can is yet to be determined. As you know, one of the things I’m big on, starting with Ultima 5, I began to make sure that antagonists are not just sitting around waiting for at the end of game. In our case the new evil, the new darkness that is rising, you will discover that they have a very purposeful method and strategy to what they are trying to accomplish and that includes going round to very specific towns at very specific times and not just laying waste to them, not just out to kill people, they are actually looking for something. But if the town your home is in is under siege at one of those times it means all those quests and central services are offline and you can’t go to your house right now. It is literally replaced with the embattled version. And that means if you want to pick up something out of your treasure chest or storage locker, too bad. If you want to drop off some treasure or hang it up on your wall, too bad. You have to help defend the town or run off the bad guys after which the town will go back to its original state and you will be able to go back to your home. Nexus: Now one of the reasons I was asking is that it has been mentioned there will PvP in this game. You are looking for ways to deal with griefing and make sure there will be consequences for people’s actions. I didn’t know if the new evil will show up and players will be able to align themselves with it or will these people be rogues working outside of the accepted system? RG: Yes, the precise answer to that is something we are going to work out with the players once we get this crowd funding underway. Let me give you where our head is at and we will refine it with the player community. We said look we don’t want to go quite as open as UO was originally. We think something that was that Wild West and open, while it was great fun to be a PKer it wasn’t much fun to be a newbie preyed upon by those PKers. And in fact it worked against the long term success of the community when we were trying to bring new players into the game. We really just think it’s not practical for us to go to that extreme. On the other hand we don’t really care for the 100% opt in, where you either choose a server which is PK server or not, or you set a flag which is persistently on or not as to whether you are part of the PK area. I’m also not particularly a fan of maps or regions which are PK where others are not. So this is the straw proposal that you will be exposing to the player base right here. Our straw proposal is nominally people are not involved in PK. The way PK comes up is by being enticed into crossing that line to the dark side. It doesn't mean permanently and it doesn't mean fractionally. What we are thinking is let’s suppose during gameplay you will of course not just meet good guys and bad guys but everything in between; I’m a big believer there are shades in between. Nexus: A real world. RG: Yes, exactly. So let’s suppose one of the groups you interact with says look ill pay you handsomely for this task but the task is to take something that is technically legal contraband from the east coast to the west coast. And if you are willing to take on that task, and you can decide separately if this violates your ethical parables, but if you decide you will take that on, as soon as you are on that mission, we will express to you that you are now available to be PKd. We will also at the same time inform a few people along the way somebody will be running contraband from east to west there is a reward for tracking them down. So while you are now carrying it from east to west you will go I don’t want to just carry it on the main road. Because there will be lots of players along there they will see I am flagged for assassination or being stopped. So maybe instead I take the back roads or the woods which is dangerous on its own as there may be monsters in the woods but it might be better than facing the potential player resistance as I cross the map. Nexus: This is going to be a standalone downloadable client game. I know Portalarium your company has mostly down browser based games at this time. What are some of the big advantages of this, is it something that is just too big for a browser. RG: Yes, so the exploration we have done with some our earlier products was associated with what I saw happening in the marketplace. And I’ll tell you how I have now internalized that for the new role-playing game. Solo player games starting pretty early with the Ultima 4 / 5 timeframe began to sell to millions, 1 digit millions of customers. Games starting with Ultima Online, in spite of the fact it cost more because you had to pay for the game upfront and you have to subscribe and it’s more complicated to play compared to a solo player game. MMOs, the best MMOs; UO, Everquest, World of Warcraft sell to tens of millions of players so the market is considerably bigger if you get it right with an MMO if you can knock off whoever the current big MMO is. Then if you look at the advent of social gaming and even mobile gaming, we moved from an era of tens of millions to some of the best games sell to hundreds of millions. And so the thing we were trying to study is how and why that is happening, and my analysis goes something like this. The reason why people were willing to play a more complicated, more expensive UO was because of instead of having to play alone they at least got to run into other people and play with other people and humans enjoy gaming, table top gaming is played with other people. But what the magic of, what social media gaming uncovered was that instead of offering I’m going to play with the throng, the masses of strangers that are out there that are going to happening to be bumping into me in an MMO if instead I leverage the friends graph to help me reconnect to the people I already know, the people I already go to the movies with, the people I already go to dinner with, let me enriching my gaming and my gaming experience by deepening my connection and gaming experience with people I already know. Well that’s how I believe you can draw to an even bigger audience. And so what we are doing is taking that learning and applying it back into what is really a story based, a personal experience game, but the way we are doing the multiplayer is that as long as you are connected online first of all it will continually bring down the persistent world evolution. So that if anyone builds a cool blacksmith’s shop that sells great equipment through their vendor and is well decorated and right on the main street so it is attractive and a place I would want to buy, I’ll see it. So any of us contributing to the persistent world will then see those contributions. Secondarily we are then going to leverage whatever friends graphs we can build for you so either a) if you tell us in game who your friends are we will remember that. If you let us have access to your email or G+ or Facebook, whatever it is, we will bring in those lists of friends. Once we have those lists of friends we will then look for opportunities to where if one of your friends is in the game we will tell you about it. If one of your friends is on the map we will let you see them walking across the map. If they go into a gypsy encounter, even if they have been it for 30 seconds or 30 minutes, when you go in you will join them in that experience in the state that it is at the time you come in. You don’t need to find a party; you don’t need to find a guild or a faction it just ad hoc happens all the time. Your real friends will be brought into your play space in real time. And we will also bring in, even if all your friends are offline that time and statistically if you have 100 friends they may not be in the same place at the same time as you in this world, so we will also bring in some strangers but we will bring in strangers that the game thinks are also useful for you. We are not going to bring in people that you will just see once transiently and then are gone because you are not going to have any reason to care about them. We are going to try to find people who are either at a similar point in their character evolution so you might see multiple times and therefore develop a relationship, or people in the case of the example I gave you of running contraband we will purposefully expose people to you who are going to give the opposite quest, something in conflict with the thing we have given you. So we think that takes the multiplayer, creates a persistent world, you get to see the persistent changes that everyone is contributing to, you get to see all of your friends and you get to see enough strangers to enrichen the play space but we don’t bog down the technology with the classic client server model of an MMO. Nexus: You mentioned mobile, like tablets, are you working on having this cross platform because there are some challenges, especially when you get into Linux desktop because of the distribution but Android, iOS, Mac OS those are pretty consistent. Are you looking to eventually make the game cross platform? I know on your Facebook account you mentioned you loved the idea of playing on a tablet. RG: So first and foremost this is a PC game. We are developing it on the PC and the target market it the PC. We are also developing on the Unity platform and one of the great advantages of the Unity platform is that it cross-compiles really well. So even right now today we regularly cross compile for Mac. We have a couple of people that use Macs right here in the office so every few versions we will crank them out one. For us to cross compile to the Linux version, I’m not sure we have any Linux user’s right here in the office but all we have to do is change one variable and it cross compiles to Linux as well. To make it digitally available on all 3 of those platforms in particular will be a no-brainier Now as a player the truth is that I play about half my gaming now on tablet and that’s for me because I travel so extensively; I’m on an airplane almost all the time or at least a lot of the time, at least once in a week or so and that’s what I like to do when I’m in line at the airport or I’m on the airplane, I like to play. So I need to play not only on my tablet, I need to play offline on my tablet and so that is an extra challenge that I have thrown at the team, which is to say not only do I want to play but I want to play when I’m not connected. So I am highlight motivated, just for myself that this can compile and be squeezed into a tablet device, whether it is iOS or Android. So I hope to do that but I’m not going to fail on my primary goal for the PC, if it turns out the tablet can’t do it so be it but I hope we can. Nexus: What you are saying makes sense, Windows is base market even though I am a fan of Linux Operating Systems I still keep my Windows install because that’s where all the games are. Another thing I have noticed is that for this project you guys are working on a Kickstarter campaign. I know a lot of companies do that, they have some sort of reward system in place for investors and I wanted to know if you had any information about that you would be willing to share with us. RG: Yes absolutely. So the way we are doing the Kickstarter campaign, and why we are doing the Kickstarter campaign. If you contrast today with for example the development of Ultima Online, like other large games took us three to five years to develop, tens of millions of dollars, or at least high ones of millions of dollars back in those days. We developed a lot of features and I would say at least half, or two thirds of the features we developed were good, well-conceived features but somewhere between a third and a half the features were either under conceived radically or horribly over conceived or wrongly conceived and a couple case studies are things like much to our surprise, we want to make every object in the world interactive, and one of those objects in the world was a fishing pole and so we made it work that if you clicked on the fishing pole next to water you had a 50 / 50 chance of catching a fish; it was the beginning and end of the fishing simulation, we just wanted to make sure the fishing pole worked and in theory we could have used it as a quest somewhere but we hadn't done it, it was just a simple simulation. But because it was an online game and you could track what everyone was interacting with and fishing compared to most of the other crafting and other things in the game was far more popular than pets and farming and cafes and all sorts of other stuff and we were like wow we missed that one and so then we had to go back after the fact and spend a lot of time catch up with all the people who really enjoyed fishing. On the other hand we had created a virtual ecology, herbivores would eat grass, carnivores would eat them, if the carnivores couldn't find them they would come into town and eat the villagers who would give a quest and say help, help, save us from the carnivores and we thought it was brilliant until we launched the game. As soon as we launched the game players just wiped out everything so fast there was no way we could spawn them fast enough to keep up with the demands of players having stuff to kill and definitely not fast enough to have a virtual ecology that would be relevant at all, even noticed at all and so we ended up ripping out the system we had probably spent a million bucks or so on in the development. So by going to crowd funding it does two things for us. One is it begins to develop our relationship immediately with the players; we can begin to bring them in on PvP and if they want fishing and these other issues, to know what we should develop first and how we should begin to tune these things. And it also specifically means we won’t have to take much if any money from places like a third party publisher, a distributor of any kind. It is interesting to note that the Ultimas I am least happy with are the Ultimas I shipped after becoming part of a bigger company that then began to have their own ideas based on their sales departments as to what I should do with the game and universally I would much rather be responsible to the player base for who I am making the game than some sales person at some big company who has given us some money and therefore has some weight in their statement about we want you to go left because we believe it and the buyers at that store believe it and they think they know the players when in fact they don’t. Part 3 coming soon . . .