Far be it from me to criticize how people choose to spend their money. I belong to entirely too many fandoms to be eligible for judgment. Yet, there is just something inherently unsavory to me about the cash grab turned RPG called Shroud of the Avatar.

For those of you who just got here, the short version is that Ultima creator, Richard “Lord British” Garriott used Kickstarter to fund the development of a “selective multiplayer game.” Players can choose to engage in a single player off-line mode or one of 3 online modes. For the sake of argument it’s an MMO that you can play offline.


So far so good. The project was funded in 2013 for the staggering amount of $1,919,275. Shroud of the Avatar is marketed as a “buy-to-play” game, wherein you purchase the base game and then don’t have to pay a subscription on top of that. While it’s true that you don’t have to pay a subscription, the team at Portalarium, Inc. just can’t seem to stop finding new and exciting ways to bilk their community ($700 digital airship and seasonal telethons anyone?).

The strangest part to me? Their core community seems to love them for it. Affluent backers are given preferential treatment and standing in the world. The more money you “donate” to the game the better your prospects are. These “Whale” donors pretty much have their run of the virtual world while players who just buy the base game barely eek out a digital existence.


Perhaps it really isn’t all that surprising that this same community has decided to host their own Shroud of the Avatar convention this November and they are asking everyone to chip in! Originally kicked off over on the official forums by community member, Violation Clauth, the SotA Con will be held Nov. 4-6, in Baltimore, MD.

The event has a GoFundme page where people can donate any amount to help pay for the costs associated with hosting the convention and also the travel, lodging, and expenses of the three developers who’ve agreed to attend. Because even though their small, yet highly involved community has such devotion to their project, the developers can’t toss them even the smallest bone without making money off of it.

Portalarium have become the Scientology of game developers

Yeah, I’m probably being petty, but it just seems like Portalarium have become the Scientology of game developers at this point. The supporters are generous, but mildly fanatical and your status in the cool kids club is dependent on how much money you’re willing to shell out for inconsequential things.

To keep this in perspective, all this fuss is over a game in “early access pre-alpha” selling for $39.99 where you get to continue spending cash for imaginary real estate and equipment. At what point do backers get to just kick back and actually play a completed version of the game they funded back in 2013? Considering a list of Shroud’s “known issues” includes gems like “significant stability issues” is it really fair for Portalarium to keep adding more add-ons to their overflowing cash shop?

For $700 this could be yours.

Again, I’m not out to criticize the community for wanting to have a cool time meeting up and hanging out. Online communities are a huge part of my social life, if it was a different developer I’d probably be right there with them. I just wish I could hear some Shroud of the Avatar news that doesn’t involve their community having to raise more money for the developers, again. Especially since a finished version of the game is nowhere in sight. People grabbed pitchforks over ARK: Survival Evolved releasing paid DLC while in early access, why does Portalarium get a free pass for their overpriced cosmetic add-ons?

At any rate, if you’d like to throw more money at Lord British in person you can register for SotA Con East over on their website. Maybe he’ll sell off more of his hair and blood?

Joanna Mueller
Joanna Mueller is a lifelong gamer who used to insist on having the Super Mario Bros manual read to her as a bedtime story. Now she's reading Minecraft books to her own kiddo while finally making use of her degree to write about games.
Joanna Mueller


Writer, wannabe author, creator of things, and more than a bit nerdy. Let's be socially awkward together! Games Writer at; Cliqist, New Normative
@KatFTWynn I discovered Uber this year. I think it changed my life. - 10 hours ago
Joanna Mueller

  • Vincent

    Of all the Kickstarters I’ve backed (about 70), this one’s campaign was the most misleading. Or maybe I was naïve and nostalgic: the Ultima games contained lessons on morality, right? 🙂 The constant badgering to spend more and more money on virtual shovels and the like surprised and irritated me, both during the campaign and after. But then I discovered something: you can sell your account. I sold my ‘First Responder’-pledge ($25) for quite a lot more. I felt dirty for a while… Maybe Lord British feels the same every time he signs off on a virtual spoon or a virtual washcloth or something. The feeling passed quickly enough, though, and now I feel great every time I see another update with no gameplay whatsoever. I got out and profited by it. You should do the same 🙂

    • I think they were counting on nostalgia, but I don’t get why so many are sticking with them. Maybe they feel like they’ve invested too much to walk away at this point?

      • JediaKyrol

        well…the original Ultima games…and Ultima Online especially…were kinda sloppy, bug ridden, and populated by the smuggest smuggies in all of smugdom. (Garriott has no less than two Author-inserts in most of the games.)… … …but somehow fun.
        Also they’re probably hoping for the old days of spending 36 hours straight mining gold then turning around and selling the character with a full pack on an online auction site for $600.