Richard Garriott Reassures Shroud Of The Avatar Backers About Their $15 Million

Today, Portalarium, the company headed up by Ultima creator Richard Garriott, announced a new equity crowdfunding campaign for its Kickstarted MMO, Shroud of the Avatar. In doing so, it disclosed financials and future plans that caught fans and backers off guard, leaving them feeling uneasy about the game's future. But Garriott says there's no reason to worry.

Image credit: Shroud of the Avatar.

Fans on Reddit and Shroud of the Avatar's official forums were surprised by the equity crowdfunding site's disclosure of Portalarium's financial state, which stands at $US528,000 ($709,689) in the bank with monthly expenses of around $US230,000 ($309,145). That seems rather low, considering that the game managed to raise $US11,614,524 ($15,611,175) since the initial crowdfunding drive in 2013, via a mix of Kickstarter, early access game sales, pledges, and special events such as telethons.

"Where is all the money?" asked the topic starter of a thread on Reddit. "What happened to all our pledge money?!"

Garriott, speaking with Kotaku over the phone today, said that those numbers don't tell the full story. While the project hit the ground running with nearly $US2 million ($2.7 million), Portalarium has generally had around the same amount it has in the bank right now at any given moment, he said.

"We earn about the same amount as we spend every month," Garriott said, "and that has been true for the majority of the existence of this company."

"Our company has about 30 people in it, some full-time, some contractors," he said. "We size our company based on the trend lines we see in our revenue growth. We have a great deal of comfort in saying we could continue to develop the game as a small company with a relatively small player base."

Garriott says the point of this round of funding is not an attempt to save the company from going broke, but to scale Portalarium up to allow it to do marketing and perform the other functions of a publisher — first for the PC version of Shroud of the Avatar, and then perhaps someday, for versions of the game on other platforms.

Beyond that, Garriott told me he'd even like to publish other games, though he has no concrete plans along those lines at the moment.

Fans were also surprised to see the SeedInvest site state that the full game, currently in early access, would launch in July. This, Garriott says, was a mistake that has since been corrected: Although the game's main story mode will launch in July, the full game will launch later in the year.

Fans also raised issue with some of the features described on the new funding page. "What choices? What changes? What game are they describing?" wrote a poster on the game's forums. "Establish trade routes? Conquer a town? In what game?"

Garriott said that most of those things are indeed in the game in some form, and Portalarium regularly keeps backers abreast of which features are incoming and how and why they're being implemented. "There was never a plan to 'conquer a town'," he says. But he went on to explain that the game's villain faction, the Obsidian Cabalists, can lay siege to towns, and players can lift those sieges by defeating them.

"The other thing ['conquer a town'] could be construed with," he said, "is ownership of a control point. To pass through them, you've gotta fight your way through. They can also be cleared."

It's definitely a little strange that Garriott himself wasn't quite sure to what the text on his own game's funding page is referring. Even if, in the grand scheme of things, a small detail like that isn't a deal-breaker, it's easy to see why fans find the game's messaging to be sloppy.

Some fans fear that Portalarium was deliberately trying to mislead people, and they want to see the funding page taken down. Seeing a game that earned a generous amount of crowdfunding looking for more money is always apt to deal a blow to one's faith in the project, and to hear recent Steam reviews and discussions tell it, some fans' faith was already hanging by a thread. It's been four years, and the game is still pre-alpha. It's far from feature-complete despite a plan to launch later this year. It's also running on a tight budget, even if Garriott says it's self-sustaining.

For his part, Lord British says there's no cause for alarm. "We keep doing what we're doing," he said. "That's how we've been operating for four years. We've been continuing to sell stuff online, periodically running telethons, and adjusting the size of our company to match the revenue from contributions. So that's how we'll continue."


Comments

    Where is this sales revenue coming from exactly?

      They take a lot of stuff - free stuff - from the Unity store, then re-purpose it and sell it through a cash store. Sometimes for shocking amounts of money.

    Cant help but think that if we went back to rpg games like the early ultima where your character is just a fixed pixil group on a map moving around, we could have huge game settings like planet earth sized and you could travel for days as cavemen with spears and go kill a mammoth, fight wolves, and all sorts of stuff and Games would be epic fast with low byte requirements.

      Sounds like somebody should assemble a team...

    I backed this game years ago. I saw a trailer which kind of looked like an MMO Elder Scrolls Oblivion. What this game turned into.....the less said the better. The other game I backed many years ago was Star Citizen.....

    I don't want my money back. To me its kind of like I just threw it in the toilet. Safe to say I will never financially support anything in development again.

      Dude, it's so easy to get a refund for Star Citizen there's no reason to let them steal your money. Go to the starcitizen_refunds subreddit for info.

      That's an unfortunate attitude, lots of the projects work out just fine. I've had a pretty good hit-rate so far, so maybe be more discerning with your choices (I didn't back this because the pitch/enthusiasm was too much 'I AM LORD BRITISH!!!')?

      I backed SC and I'll see where it goes, still getting the regular dev updates and it looks like they're making progress.

      But I also backed Divinity: Original Sin, Satellite Reign, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Elite: Dangerous, Pillars of Eternity, Carmageddon: Reincarnation and Wasteland 2 (To name the ones that have been released) and I am ecstatic that I did.

      So don't be so harsh on all of it because you had one fail, some games would never be made or attempted without this type of funding.

      Last edited 05/06/17 8:52 am

    yeah I want to support this game,
    I have it and its quite a shocking game that I dont want to play... but try

    your mile-age may differ.

    I backed this game at the $550 pledge level, and never have I made a decision that left me feeling so foolish. I have no expectation now that this game will ever be in a playable state, but rather than being angry, consider it an expensive lesson learned.

    After Tabula Rasa (people do remember Garriot's other other MMO right?) I'm surprised people were so willing to back this project.

      Yes, i remember playing that for a month before I lost interest

      I didn't mind Tabula Rasa, its biggest problem was the lack of variety in NPC modelling. Level up to go to the next area, you fight the same monsters, in the same scenarios. That's what drove most off, but behind that were the bones of a decent MMO. Its just a shame they were so well hidden.

      I thought the logos setup had merit, and it was one of the earliest examples of Public Quests, so it wasn't a total trainwreck.

      The logos are a good example of where it went wrong. Neat idea, being able to find ways to build extra abilities, but they just made it too annoying to bother with.

      In the end, it didn't matter how good the ideas were though, it boiled down to doing the same old junk in every zone.

        In the end, it didn't matter how good the ideas were though, it boiled down to doing the same old junk in every zone.

        This may as well describe Ultima Online as well. It seems to be a common theme in Garriott's MMO projects. I loved UO back in the day, but MMOs have evolved way past that point now.

          I thought UO turned it into a bit of an artform with that massive grind to get the last few points to Grandmaster. Plus, given it was breaking new ground at the time, I'm more than willing to give it a pass regardless.

          But I do also remember leaving my toon sitting on top of Moonglow bank singing all night, just to raise a skill 0.1 points. Or sit in a mates castle provoking one rabbit onto another (or calming) to raise the more aggressive bard skills.

          In the end, if you could stay away from the griefers (it was them that turned me off the game, happily EQ came out), then yeah, there was a repetitiveness to it to get those skill increases at the top end. But you can argue that about most MMO's with their 'kill 10 rabbits' approach.

    I put in for this game, $40 something pledge and have been "testing" it regularly but I don't see a great deal of change over the course of development. It has some good ideas but at this stage of production, there's no immediate payoff, I hold out more hope for Star Citizen than Shroud of the avatar. I'm starting to mistake Richard garriot for Peter Molyneuex....at times I get those two mixed up.

    The biggest problem Shroud has it that it's not a great game, full-stop. Yes, the comments from the independent auditor in the SeedInvest documents don't pull any punches and don't paint a great picture, but underpinning all of this is that the game simply isn't very good. They've spent 4 years and gathered over 11 million dollars to make something that's, frankly, awful. And no one needs to look any further than how many people actually play it - look up the Steam charts, for example - to see that it's not in good shape at all.

    Star Citizen has been making MASSIVE advancements in their development. They also have seemingly bottomless pit of money and still haven't gone after investors.

    I'm only disappointed in the 6-12month delay of some of the milestones, I was expecting to be playing the beta of mission disc 1 by now but we are still waiting on 3.0alpha. Ugg..

    I've backed this long time ago and didn't watch closely until now. I deleted the 'game' 10 minutes after starting to try to play it. Too bad they managed to burn this money for this subpar unity tech demo. Thanks, Richard *slowclap*

    AHHAHA finally someone asked Garriot and friends where they fired money! i think that there are 2 BIG salary ...

    you can launch a ship on the moon with this money.. not make a game that "IS NOT ultima online" (the only Ultima that was a great game) .. no multiple summons.. no multiple pets.. no "usable" horses.. no one using multiplayer option because resources are not related to player but to the 3d world (and is not possible to remove the single player option because in multiplayer the game crashes a lot) .. lot of issue.. a lot of software houses can manage similar issues on 3 months.. not 3 years.

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