Richard Garriott has offered some clarification on how Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues can be both a rich-single player experience and part of a persistent online world.
Speaking with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Lord British said there's a "great opportunity" for a game that's neither single-player, like the nine numbered Ultima games, nor an MMO, like Ultima Online.
"Shroud of the Avatar is a game that first and foremost can be played both offline and online, so it’s a very high-quality story-driven single-player game," he said.
"That being said, if you are online, it will also search for people you know, by whatever means it can, whether you give us access to your contacts list or your social media connections. We’ll search for people you know and automatically bring them into the purview of your game."
Players will be able to see these friends walking around in the world with them, and it will happen automatically rather than requiring the player to form a group.
“It’s not exactly massively multiplayer. We’re not going to bother putting 10,000 people you don’t know on screen in front of you," Garriott added. "But if we can’t find anybody you do know, we will put some people you don’t know on screen in front of you, so the world feels rich and full.”
The designer said that in a traditional MMO, there are 10,000 players on the same map in theory. In Shroud of the Avatar, the servers know the status of the map and offer it to the game client, which then takes the information it needs - about the few hundred players it's connected with - and populates.
"We tell you and you can run your own client. The client and server are both on your machine, if you follow my meaning," Garriott said. “Otherwise it is a single persistent universe. I won’t see a version of a town where you own that corner and he sees a version of the town where someone else owns that corner lot. If you own that corner lot, that is universal.”
Better get in quick and buy some corner lots, I guess. The full interview contains some discussion of how questing will work, non-combative play, and how Shroud of the Avatar builds on Garriott's previous RPGs.
The RPG is being Kickstarted and with just a few days under its belt is well on the way to its $1 million goal. It's expected in late 2014 on Linux, Mac and PC.