Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues Interview

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published a new interview with Richard Garriott on, you guessed it, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, touching a variety of topics: from the reason Garriott went to Kickstarter, to the setting's technology, to the game's episodic setup. And more, of course.

Here's a snip:
RPS: It sounds like a pretty dangerous world, but you've been talking a lot about how you're designing the game with many non-combat roles in mind. Can I go through single-player by entirely non-violent means?

Richard Garriott: That's a very good question. If you play truly solo, you will likely have to do some significant amount of combat. It still means you can lean heavily on other resources, but the way this map is designed to unfold: First of all, this is only the center tile of a three-by-three set of zones. This is what we're launching with first. Then we'll launch a second zone, a third strip, a fourth strip, and finally a fifth zone. There are five episodes that we'll launch this with, and this will be the centerpiece.

If you look at this map, the place we were walking was these two towns. But then there's this ridge of mountains that goes right through [the general area]. There are two dungeons. These dungeon passageways you might think of them as the Mines of Moria allow you to go from one side to the other. You must go through this to have access to this next area of the map. To do that, you'll probably have to get involved in combat. So the solo player experience would require combat.

But let's suppose I'm a blacksmith and I really want to smith over here. Well, it still means I have to go through Moria. That means that if I'm not a combatant, I have to at least partner with somebody who is for that period of time. Which would be another way to do it, by the way. If you're a blacksmith you might need an escort to get somewhere sometimes.

RPS: Are you considering adding NPC escorts, something like that?

Richard Garriott: We haven't yet, but that's probably a reasonable thing to suggest. That's also one of the reasons why we're doing this Kickstarter and getting people involved so early. I don't know if you know, but when we shipped Ultima Online, probably a third to a half of all the features put into the game had one of two problems. Either it was a feature that we'd put almost no time into that was so amazingly popular that we should have put a lot more time into it like fishing, which was enormously popular, even though a 50-50 chance of getting a fish was the entire simulation.

On the other hand, we had put in this virtual ecology. Very sophisticated. Tons of work. No one noticed. No one cared. I eventually ripped it out. That's why, for example, your suggestion is excellent.It hadn't crossed my mind, but it's definitely one thing we should consider doing. That's the sort of thing we have to pull out through getting the players involved in this early.

RPS: In the main single-player story, what's your goal? What are you trying to achieve?

Richard Garriott: Since it's a five-episode story, I don't want to give away too much. But one of the things that I'm big on is that instead of the bad guy waiting for you in the final level, you need to see the bad guy in action. You need to therefore feel that the bad guys are bad. You'll see why the townsfolk think they're bad and it gives you a motivation to be the hero.

In the world you uncover here, not only at night and in the dark forests are there monsters and creatures that would do you harm. There's a very specific, conscious harm. Every certain period of time, an entire city including the ones the players are in is put under siege. It's obvious that the bad guys are looking for something. But that's the first mystery that you encounter. It may feel arbitrary to you at first, but there's a pattern by which the bad guys are laying waste to town after town. What they're looking for is your first mystery that you have to figure out.