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Richard Garriott Interview - Part 1

Shroud of the Avatar and Crowdfunding

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I got a chance to sit down and talk with Richard Garriott de Cayeux at the Unite 2013 conference in Vancouver, BC, about his ongoing work with the Kickstarter-funded Shroud of the Avatar.

So, big picture, how is development on Shroud of the Avatar going?

Very well. Almost every day I see the output of our team, and am constantly reminded about how much faster this development process going in any other game I’ve been involved with in decades, and largely thanks to Unity. We’re just now about a hundred and twenty days in, and it would be hard to find something to complain about.

We do have a lot to accomplish within eighteen months or so, so we definitely feel the burn of the urgency of getting things done, but it's so far so good.

We're hoping that even by this Christmas, Decemberish or whenever we can, we're hoping to put a version into players’ hands.

That version will probably be more of a technical demo. It wouldn’t really be fair to call it an alpha or a beta, but it's enough to where we can exercise the multiplayer system—I hope—and the combat and the crafting and player housing and some of the other core features that we need to get into the players’ hands to even know if they're working properly, and then we’ll probably take it back down for a month or two at a time and have iterative times when it’s up to test out new systems.

 Are you planning on doing anything to allow people to buy in to weren’t backers originally?

 Well, sure. What we’re doing for the backers is that there are tons of things that are unique to those eras of backing. There are special virtual items and such that only the Kickstarter-era backers got. There's items only the backers—before we do any “launch” will only have access to. But I'm hoping once we do have a public trial, we get a bunch of new people.

We think we have as many people and in that wait and see mode as have already backed us. We just know that from the hits we get on our site and check the ID of people who are passing through. We have plenty of watchers, we’d like to get those people off the fence and into full support of us by the end of the year.

 I'm a big fan of the crowdfund model because it's allowing us to see games you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. I mean, Chris Roberts… everybody has said for ten years the joystick is dead. And now we’ve got this crowdfunded project which is making something that was title that nobody thought we'd ever see.

 And not just crowdfunded, the largest crowdfunding ever. By a long shot.

All the publishers who he has been talking to for years and saying ‘No, we're not going to do that…’ suddenly went ‘Oh.’

 I agree, I agree, and I agree. It's shocking.

 So then the halo effect is games like the X series, they’ve got a new iteration coming out in November they're probably going to pick up a few people who were waiting for Star Citizen to come out. So, I think it is a really important time right now for us talk up the small studio titles.

 But here is also an interesting side. People were tweeting at the event today. And when you tweet, you only get a very small piece of a quote or a comment. And one of the things that was tweeted that I said was, “Richard Garriott says that Unity is going to let us all make AAA titles.” Which isn’t exactly what I said.

Of course, some people reacted to that with “Hooray, Unity!” And others reacted with “Well, that’s not true.”  To which I replied, “Well, making games is still hard.” In fact, I think I specifically said Unity is not going to help us all be successful. Unity is going to help more people in this room be successful than people who are not in this room.

Making games is fundamentally a hard problem. If you want to create any great art, the best book ever written? That’s not easy to do. The best movie ever made? That’s not easy to do. Want to make the best game ever made, even just this year? Not easy to do. But having the right tools in your pocket? That makes it dramatically more plausible.

 When you reduce the engineering time, and give more of those resources to creative development, it makes all the difference in the world.

 Right.

 

In the next part in this interview series, we talk about the crafting system and economy of Shroud of the Avatar.

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