The Third Grand Era of Games – Social & Mobile gaming
Today, with my new company Portalarium, and with the talents and skills of many who made Ultima an Ultimate RPG, we set forth to forge a “New Britannia,” a new world from scratch, internally self-consistent, deep and refined. We have lofty goals as an Ultimate RPG. An Ultimate RPG does not fear going where others fear or have failed.
Few believed I would find success during the years I took to craft Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar and its deeply introspective plot. Fewer yet believed in “MUltima” when we began that design journey, and it opened the doors to the MMO space. Many traditional gamers are concerned about the growth of the new social and mobile gaming and its impact on games with meaning and depth. They are doubtful that this era will provide them the Ultimate RPG experience they crave. But this new era has unearthed some powerful new tools that add to the value of an Ultimate RPG.
For example, let’s look at two hypothetical versions of Ultima Online. Version A is the version that was shipped. You drive to the store to buy it, pay $50, drive home, go through a lengthy install, subscribe for $10+ / month, create a character, get dropped into the virtual world, and about 4 hours later, you have explored the game far enough to know it’s amazing. Now imagine version B of the same game. You receive a link from a friend and click on it. You start to play immediately for free. The install and intro to the game has been written in a way that you understand the game within minutes…not hours. After you have played long enough to know it’s worth the money, you are asked to pay by whatever method you find acceptable. I would argue that with these otherwise identical games, version B would totally dominate, because it was in fact a better game and better game experience.
There are staggeringly important new features unearthed by some of the early movers in this space. Powerful new asynchronous tools allow friends in the real world to aid each other and “play” together without being forced to play online at the same time every day or risk falling out of the leveling curve and ultimately losing the ability to play with friends. Instead of paying huge upfront costs, it is better to let players try before they buy, and for those unwilling or unable to pay, it’s fair to ask them to help you bring others to the game in return for continued free play. Proper social tools are compatible with the Ultimate RPG.
So when traditional gamers look at all the “Ville” clones out there in the world, take heart! See not what is popular now, but rather what is happening in this new era that also would benefit them! A great game, like a great movie, need not be inaccessible to the masses. Great story and depth need not come at the cost of up front effort, pain and cost. Free to play does not mean the game has to be riddled with advertising and calls to spam your friends. But, for those unwilling or unable to pay fairly for what they now play, asking them to work for the developer and find us players is not unfair. Great games can and will be made in this new era, to the benefit of all, traditional and new players. We intend to be a leading maker of such games.
I continue to debate how much of the new world designs to discuss in public as we work. Some part of me wants the new direction to be as new as possible to you when it arrives fully realized. Another angle is that this world will ultimately be your world, and player participation could both help me in its crafting as well as clearly communicate its depth long before its ready. So, we will see. Likely a mix of secrecy and sharing will be the right path to tread.
Here is what I feel is safe to say: Lord British’s Ultimate Role Playing Game, which may be called “Akalabeth” or may be called “New Britannia” or may be called “a name I cannot yet say as it describes the setting I am considering and think I should keep secret at least until I know if it’s likely true,” will be an Ultimate RPG. You will have customized Avatar homesteads and real roles to play in a deep, beautifully realized highly interactive virtual world. It will have virtues and the hero’s journey reflected back to the player. It will have the best of synchronous and asynchronous features in use. Fiction will support your arrival from earth into this new world. I even hope to make maps, coins and other trinkets available to players of the game.
But, please be understanding. It took 25 years to craft all the detail in Ultima. The new world will start smaller, thinner and lighter. It will have fewer features than some or most MMOs. Critical elements of the story I have just told may be missing upon launch. But fear not, this is where we are headed. Come play with us in the brave new world. Help us grow it. Teach us about what you have learned in your years of playing. Invite in your new friends who are new to gaming. They will be a new spirit and provide new ideas about what to do. They will likely not tolerate bad instructions, bad interface or huge upfront fees, which is a good thing! We will teach and learn from them as well.
I hope you will support and join us in the creation of the best ever “Ultimate” Role Playing Game!
Thanks to you,
a.k.a. Dr. Richard Garriott de Cayeux