After spending some time with Richard Garriott last week, there were a bunch of topics that we discussed which did not make it on video. One of the main ideas was where video games are going, especially MMOs. With both Shroud of the Avatar and Star Citizen doing so well with crowd funding the games are really more about community than ever before. This led to the discussion of why Shroud of the Avatar will herald in a new era of games that continue to bring players together on many levels.
The first is through crowd funding. Not every game is on Kickstarter, however more games are launching with founders programs that grant early access to alpha and the like. More communities are putting money up front to have the first crack at getting into these new worlds and calling them their own. Shroud of the Avatar joined the Kickstarter drive with a lot of nervous energy. Richard said that it really was a gamble and the team had high hopes but also knew if the project was not funded it would have a hard time. The idea of developers creating smaller projects and working on them with their backers reverses the concept of buying and paying for video games. Before you had to get what the developers gave you. In a game like Shroud of the Avatar you can simply pledge and get something personal. The personalized heraldry is a good example of this. Shroud continues to prove what you can do when you work directly with your fans as investors.
The next area Shroud continues to drive how games are made is by harnessing the talent of its community. Weapons, armor, in game items, etc. are being done and added to the game by fans as we speak. Perhaps you could see the sword you designed hanging in a blacksmith shop? This is an element I always wished was in the games I played. Being able to submit something and then seeing it in the living world. Not only that, but weapons will be personalized in the game and go into a database for the world so if you lose your sword, you may find it months later in a treasure horde, which brings us to the living world aspect of Shroud of the Avatar.
Ultima Online has a booming player economy. It remains to this day with player housing, and even player vendors. While other games have tried their attempt at a true player economy most games fail in their efforts. I say most because EVE Online has an extremely strong player economy. There was something about finding a player vendor in Ultima way out of town and seeing that he had some great loot to sell. You then had to go to the bank, get your money, and hope to high heaven that you lived to make the transaction. Richard said many times during our interviews that the team is doing everything they can to stay out of the player driven economy and let the community run it from the ground up.
They want the players to take ownership of the world and its resources. Craftsman, traders, and blacksmiths will all be player driven. This will create a true sandbox world for the community.
The living world will continue with elements like the day/night cycle. Richard explained that most towns are safe. However, there may be player towns which become vile places for criminals just as well.
Regardless of how society takes shape in the game, there will be the monsters to contend with. At night if you are traveling the roads, the monsters are more likely to attack you. If the road has torches your chances are better to survive your journey. Or maybe you can hire some players who are champions at monster killing? The point is things get dangerous at night. Richard even explained that a form of PvP might be to run out to the road and extinguish the torches from players who need to make the journey, opening up the chances for monsters to attack them.
One of the great things about a true sandbox game is that you never really leave it. It will always come back to upkeeping your house or possibly trade some goods. You may play a lot at launch and then find another game, but you will always go back to the sandbox world. It is why so many MMOs have stood the test of time. It is sad to see games shut down after years on the market, but in the case of true sandbox games like Ultima Online and EVE Online they are still out there today, thriving years later. Shroud of the Avatar aims to bring in a rebirth of the sandbox as well as a living world where all of its members have a personal investment in the game. Some of them even from the day it was announced.
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Garrett Fuller is the Industry Relations Manager at MMORPG.com. He likes orcs and weapons made of skulls. He often can be found in Azeroth, Skyrim, or in the chaos warp.