Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues E3 Interview

While they might not have had a presence at the big console pressers, Richard Garriott and his Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues were also present at E3, which means we can expect more coverage like this PC Gamer interview in the near future. For now, here's an excerpt:

PC Gamer: What was it like to start making this game as a crowdfunded thing. Was that completely different than anything you've done before?

Richard Garriott: It's completely different. I think what's more interesting, or at least as interesting, is the learning curve of, first of all, making the decision to go this way, when frankly our default assumption would have been to do it the old way. But we've done that already twice before. We built Origin, sold it to EA, and frankly had to leave. Then we built Destination Games, sold it to NC Soft, eventually had to leave. I thought, (Do we really want to do that again?) because we kind of knew what that cycle's endgame was going tgo be like. It starts nice, but becomes harder and harder.

And so we thought, (Maybe we'll try this new way.) However, if you decide to go down the crowdfunding way and it doesn't work, it really means you're game over, in the sense that, if we said we wanted to do the spiritual successor to Ultima and the crowdfunding failed, we would never be able to go do the spiritual successor to Ultima with a bigger company. Because they'd look at that and go, (Well it didn't work there. Why would we pick it up?) So it was a huge faith bet for us. Frankly, it was a scary faith bet for us to try this other way, because we didn't know how it would play out. Because it's actually pretty hard to go and be a multi-million dollar crowdfunded campaign.

But once we started it, it's been interesting to see how, not only did it work really well to begin with, but opportunities have continued to show up that we never predicted would be there. So for example, we're not only crowd funded, which was the whole intention, but we're crowd sourced, in many ways that we never anticipated. We knew we'd be able to get some artists in our community that might produce some art for our game. That was expected. But as a case study, we looked at music. And I'm very particular on music. if fact, as I look back at Ultimas historically, there's a guy named Ken Arnold that did a lot of the Ultima music when it was back in three voices on a mocking board, that I really liked. And I still remember it, and I love those pieces. Whereas, frankly a lot of the later stuff, a lot of music in games that's very orchestral and they have these giant pieces that's just not the music I want in this game.

And so the community was quick to go, "Well, I'm a composer, I'll make you some music!) But you listen to the stuff they put up on SoundCloud and go, (Yeah, well, you're no Ken Arnold. Thank you very much for your interest, but here's what's not right about it in composition or orchestration, or instrumentation.) And finally as the community began to self-organize around these various disciplines, they came up and said, (Richard, give us clear communication as to what you're looking for.) And that's fair.

So we had a Google Hangout and wrote up a handful of docs, and I said, "Here are these pieces that I really liked and here's why, and here's some pieces even in Ultima that I'm less happy with, and here are some pieces we could buy on the Internet from royalty free sources, but that's really not the right way to go and why. So if you can beat these goals, then more power to you."

And they went out, they did their own Kickstarters to bring on equipment and technology, both hardware and software, in order to as a group be able to produce at the highest possible quality technically, and then they self-policed and made it amongst themselves how to meet those goals. And after maybe a month or two months, ever since then, every piece of music the Bard's Guild has submitted for use in the game as been perfect. Not just acceptable better than I could possibly imagine. So they went from batting zero to batting 1000 just by clearer communication between us and the community.