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First Rock, Paper, Shotgun chatted with the man:
(Anybody who has played the older Ultimas, they'll get it,) he explains. (But anybody whose time in role-playing games has started with Everquest, or especially if their whole spectrum starts with WoW, then yes, I think they'll be shocked. '˜Where are all my aids to tell me what to do next?' Because we're not going to tell you what to do next. It's a real, living, breathing world. You can figure out what to do next.)
Which all sounds very nice, but what's actually new here? Well, the answer to that question lies in Garriott's repeated callbacks to the likes of EverQuest and WoW. Eventually, I wonder aloud about how exactly you'd classify Shroud: as an offline single-player RPG or an MMO? Garriott's answer? Both.
(Ultima 1-9 games were all single-player,) he points out. (Ultima Online and its various iterations have all been massively multiplayer. But I actually think there's a great opportunity for a game that's neither one of those. Shroud of the Avatar is a game that first and foremost can be played both offline and online, so it's a very high-quality story-driven single-player game. That being said, if you are online, it will also search for people you know, by whatever means it can, whether you give us access to your contacts list or your social media connections. We'll search for people you know and automatically bring them into the purview of your game.)
(You will literally be able to see them walking around in the world with you. You don't have to party. You don't have to group. It just happens automatically. So it's not exactly massively multiplayer. We're not going to bother putting 10,000 people you don't know on screen in front of you. But if we can't find anybody you do know, we will put some people you don't know on screen in front of you, so the world feels rich and full. But it's in this interesting line. It's not, strictly speaking, single-player, but definitely not massively multiplayer.)
But other players won't just be nameless, faceless extras in the background of your epic, multiple-continent-and-episode-spanning quest to defeat someone who Garriott will at this point only reveal is really, really mean. From Shroud's top-down Civilization-esque exploration map, other players will be able to hop into scenarios you've encountered, which will be represented by little flags over locations where battles or, er, gypsy wagon dealings are going down.
Further, since players can devote themselves primarily to non-combat roles like blacksmithing, creature taming, and farming, playing online will yield a partially player-driven economy, with other techno-magic-linked fleshcreatures able to purchase and occupy pieces of real-estate (shops, etc) that'd normally be NPC-owned. Some plots of land, by virtue of location and scarcity, will be more expensive, while others might be more within the price range of those who've yet to become grizzled wads of scar tissue and XP.
Ultima Codex also has a more traditionally formatted interview:
UC: Awesome. I think a lot of people will be happy to hear that. I know social was kind of.I've been a real proponent of it to the Ultima fandom, but it obviously isn't an idea that has necessarily gone over well with everyone.
RG: Yeah, and let me even try to address that too, because a lot of people refer to things.I've even, at some points, stated the fact that it would include social elements. But let me first give resolution, and then clarity, to what I mean by that based on what I've learned about what it means and what I think the good and bad parts of social are.
What this game is not going to be is a classic Facebook social game, in the sense that it won't be a free-to-play, microtransaction and pestering game all the way through as most social games are. But when.people have heard me say things like the following: look, for twenty years, we had only solo-player games, and the reach of that audience, the reach of those games was ones of millions of people. Then with MMOs, we reached tens of millions of people, even though the games are more expensive and more complicated. And I think the reason why the market grew in spite of the higher expense and complication is that people like playing with other people. And so it's nice to be able to play with.somebody else when you want to. And so it grew the total market for games when games went online.
And what's interesting about social and mobile is that there's something magical about the '˜friends graph' that has been uncovered where.if, instead of just playing with strangers wandering down the street, you can actually play with people who you know and who you care about already because they're your friends, that is a constituency that you care about even more than strangers. And so a lot of social games have often sold into the hundreds.yes, a hundred million players or more. And that's something to not walk away from lightly.
And so what we're going to do with Shroud of the Avatar is while it's primarily a story-based, classic Ultima-style, virtual world, sandbox game, the way we're going to implement multiplayer is we're going to try bring people you actually care about your friends into the play space with you. And so, if we know who your real friends in the real world are, however you tell us whether you tell us that in our gaming system, whether you give us access to your email names, whether you give us access to your G+ friends list or Facebook friends list, or LinkedIn list.or none of the above. It's not necessary to give any of them. But if you let us know who the real world friends are that you do know, we're not going to encourage you to spam them. What we are going to do is find them and bring them closer to you, so that your multiplayer experience is enhanced by the people you actually care about.
UC: Neat! I look forward to seeing how that actually plays out in real life. Although I'm not sure if.I have a lot of people on my LinkedIn contacts list. I'm not sure who among them I'd really play with. But.anyways, that actually kind of leads in to the question that I shot David [Swofford] a little bit earlier today. So I apologize for this one being a little late in the game; it just occurred to me. You talked about the multiplayer features, and you also talked about the single-player side of the game. And obviously, having been privy to some of the documentation David sent my way, the game will have stuff that you'd kind of more associate with an MMO: player housing, crafting systems, PvP, things like that. But you've also talked about the solo play, and I know a lot of die-hard Ultima fans will really want to hear a little bit more about that, and in particular whether offline play will be possible.
RG: Yes. And our current intention is that offline play is not only possible, but common. At least for me too.you know, one of my things where I like to play on tablets? A lot of the time, I'm on an airplane, and so there is no possibility to be online. So I'm heavily motivated to make sure offline is possible. That only reason that might interfere with that, or might be the challenge we're trying to overcome, is just whether we can fit what you might call the client and what you might call the server all in one box. They'd have to be encapsulated on your machine. But that's currently the way it's being architected; there is no client.there is no server somewhere else, in the MMO sense, that the game operates on.
And instead, what we're going to do is if you imagine you're largely playing offline or solo player, well.when you are connected online, that's when all the persistent world changes will update to you. And so who owns what house and what all the decorations look like, and all those things will change. And so if somebody is running a farm or a pub or a blacksmith in some other part of the world, when you're online his NPC shopkeeper and the way he's decorated his shop will pop in to your solo player experience. So the persistent world you're playing in will update to you every time you go online, and be continuously updated if you're continuously online, if you follow my drift.
Finally, there's also a brief snippet on GamesBeat, in which Brian Fargo and Richard Garriott try to out-fair-play each other:
(Brian's team, I believe, is doing its second Kickstarter into the same audience,) Garriott told GamesBeat. (So out of the chute, you'd expect them to do quite well.)
But that doesn't upset Garriott. Instead, he thinks the excitement for Torment: Tides of Numenera might help Shroud of the Avatar.
(I hope they go really big before us and we trail right along behind,) said Garriott. (So while we won't beat their speed to a million I'm hopeful we can keep pace as the numbers for Shroud of the Avatar go higher.)