Last week we got the chance to talk with Richard Garriott about the state of Shroud of the Avatar and all the upcoming milestones for the game. Many people continue to watch the progress of the game closely as backers and players get ready for the full release of the game. Early Alpha and Beta phases have been tested heavily by fans. Now Richard explained that they are making the final 20% push into release. It is a time of polish and adjustment which Richard finds to be the best aspect of game making. What will the rest of the world think?
Richard said that the goal of the year is to complete work on Episode 1. The milestone would launch the complete story for people to play through. Even though they are no longer wiping characters from the early testing, it may be time to start anew and experience the whole journey. They have had their 43rd monthly release and continue to deliver on time each month based on their schedule. With Episode 1 players can go through the plot lines of Truth, Love, and Courage leading up to the finale.
Richard explained polish onto the game. He believes that “80% of the quality in a product goes in at the last 20% of development time.” This is the sprint at the end of the marathon where the final push is needed. In his experience, it is when developers really brighten the game for launch. Ultima 4, Ultima 7, and Ultima Online all had their best development cycles at the end to meet their deadlines. That is where the team is in Shroud right now.
In working with the community Richard explained the two sides of involving them. One the one hand, the team is much more careful and smart about how to handle mistakes. The other side is if a feature falls short of community expectations, they are very quick to tell you. The only side effect of having the community so involved is when players come in half way through the journey. They do not see the full scope of development and have mixed expectations. Richard said that backers from the beginning are very loyal and understand the pitfalls. Supporters coming on mid-project sometimes have a different expectation.
We spoke about the additional funding and Richard said that Shroud had been earning and spending on the same average from the beginning. They have augmented with contractors when needed and maintained their development team well. The additional efforts come with the full marketing, sales, and launch event for the final product. This will allow for a much smoother launch event and to boost the game’s visibility. It was a logical step for the company without having the benefit of a publisher to push these efforts. Right now though, the trajectory of the additional funding is not on target, so Portalarium will likely need to do the best they can without the added dollars. At less than 1/10th what they hoped to raise via SeedInvest, the bulk of the burden is on the existing backers and Garriott's team to get the game out and keep it going.
Continuing this thought, Richard talked about Portalarium on a much broader scale. Back in his Origin days, he wanted to build worlds. That was their mantra “We create worlds.” He wants to see developers and companies working together again under a platform for players. A foundation that is platform-agnostic and supports multiple systems. Shroud of the Avatar is designed to grow and change with players' desires.
In closing, Richard is excited to launch Episode 1 and also to have had the time to get it right. The team is not under immense publisher pressure, but they are staying true to their deadline. This will format the set up for Episode 2. The big question remains: how will everyone that's not a backer already react to Lord British's new RPG?