Let it be known from this point forward that 2013 is the year of huge Kickstarter success stories. A new social RPG, The Shroud of the Avatar is being developed by Portalarium, helmed by Richard Garriott. Garriott is the creator of Ultima, one of the longest running and most successful fantasy role-playing series of all time. Lovingly known as Lord Brittish by his fans, Garriott is a well-regarded figure within the gaming community due to the success of the Ultima franchise, and his tenure at EA (before they were evil) and NCsoft. At 10am on April 7th, the Kickstarter campaign for The Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues ended with just over $2 million, more than double their initial target. The Shroud of the Avatar has managed not only to meet its funding goal of $1 million, but to get some serious support, boasting more than 23,000 backers.
Due to the great response from The Shroud of the Avatar's backers, Portalarium has also added New York Times best-selling author Tracy Hickman to their development team as the lead story designer.
Lord British - otherwise known as Richard Garriott, the designer of Ultima and Tabula Rasa - returns to his fantasy RPG roots by Kickstarting Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
The Shroud of the Avatar promises to be a spiritual successor to Ultima in many ways, though due to EA purchasing the brand from Garriott in 1997, the games will take place in separate universes. "This is NOT an Ultima, as that is a trademark owned by Electronic Arts." Garriott writes on their website, "Ultima fans know though, that great RPGs can be played anywhere; on earth, in space, in Britannia and in many other lands. I am creating a new land for Shroud of the Avatar, which will adhere to the design principles that all of my FRPG games adhered to." Stretch goals set by Portalarium that were successfully reached include game features, such as animal taming and pets, guild banks and housing, and castle merchants with unique items, as well as a prequel novel based on The Shroud of the Avatar story authored by Hickman.
Although the Kickstarter campaign has ended, interested fans can still show their support, either financially or by offering ideas on their forums. Portalarium is still offering Kickstarter-style tiered rewards for those who want to show a little or a lot of support. Kickstarter supporters will also be able to take part in the alpha stages of the game, and offer feedback to permanently shape the game.
With The Shroud of the Avatar scheduled to launch in 2014, Portalarium will have plenty of time to see what the new generation of MMOs have to offer, and with a legend like Lord Brittish at the helm, the project holds a lot of promise. The fact that they've managed to double their expected budget is going to put Portalarium in a very good position going forward from this point, and the fact that they're communicating with Kickstarter backers means that they're going to have to be open and transparent about the game's progress. For more information, check out the Shroud of the Avatar entry in the WarCry Codex.