Shroud of the Avatar concept art 01

After last week’s buffet of sorts, we come back down to a double feature of crowdfunding projects. In this week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight, we’ll be looking at the newest game from Ultima creator Richard “Lord British” Garriott, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues. But before we get to that, here’s another project we’ve been looking at: Shovel Knight, from new independent studio Yacht Club Games. Here is oprainfall writer Josh Speer with more on the game.

Shovel Knight

JOSH: If, like me, you fondly remember the golden days of the NES, when Mega Man, Contra and Mario were king, then you should get excited about Shovel Knight. Designed and published by Yacht Club Games, comprised of former WayForward employees, it is currently seeking $75,000 USD via Kickstarter to become a reality on Windows and, recently announced, for Nintendo’s Wii U and 3DS.

The game is obviously inspired by many of the great retro platformers of the day, most notably Mega Man. Gameplay is divided between 8 primary worlds, each focused around an epic boss you have to beat in your effort to vanquish the elusive Enchantress. Where this game shows off its creative spirit is the gameplay. Everything is based around the shovel, which can be used to bounce off enemy heads à la Scrooge McDuck, as well as swung at enemies like a sword and just used as a regular shovel to dig through blocks with it.

Shovel Knight—Digging | Crowdfunding Spotlight Shovel Knight—Attacking | Crowdfunding Spotlight
Shovel Knight—Sprite Sheet | Crowdfunding Spotlight

If that information wasn’t exciting enough, the music in the game is also being composed by Jake Kaufman, who wrote the music for such gems as Shantae, Contra 4, Mighty Switch Force, and Double Dragon Neon. For those lucky enough to attend PAX East, Yacht Club Games will be showing off an early build of Shovel Knight there, allowing players to experience a level called Pridemoor Keep.

As if you needed more incentive, Yacht Club Games is offering tons of prizes to those who help fund their masterpiece. In addition to a digital copy of Shovel Knight ($10), Yacht Club is also offering an old-school instruction booklet for the game ($15 for PDF, $50 for print), a coffee table book ($25 for PDF, $300 for print), the official soundtrack ($60) and concept art index cards ($150). There are a lot more prizes, but you should just head to the Shovel Knight Kickstarter page and check them out. They still have 25 days to make this retro project a reality, so if you are an old-school gamer, you should do yourself a favor and help them out. Also, make sure to vote for them on Steam Greenlight.

Now, to bide my time and pray for an eShop release…

Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues

JEFF: If you’ve never heard of Richard Garriott—first off, shame on you—here is a brief biography. Garriott was born in England to Americans Owen and Helen Garriott. Interesting fact: Owen Garriott was a NASA astronaut, flying on Skylab 3 and STS-9 on Space Shuttle Columbia, a flight that was the last for both him and Apollo 16 commander John Young. Richard Garriott would eventually go into space, as well, visiting the International Space Station in 2008.

At age 16, Richard Garriott attended a computer camp at the University of Oklahoma. It was here that he was given the nickname “British” for the way he said “hello,” as opposed to the other campers, who just said “hi.” At the age of 18, Garriott went to work at a ComputerLand store, coming across an Apple computer for the first time. For fun, he created a game called Akalabeth: World of Doom. The game would be picked up by the California Pacific Computer Company and go on to sell over 30,000 copies.

A year later, Garriott created Ultima, the first in a role-playing game franchise that has continued to this day. The series was so popular that, with the third game coming out, Garriott and his brother formed Origin Systems, Inc., their own game development company. Garriott and his brother would eventually sell Origin to Eletronic Arts. After seeing EA cancel all Origin projects in 1999 and 2000, he eventually resigned from the company.

Garriott next founded Destination Games, which eventually became NCsoft Austin. Destination developed the science-fiction MMORPG Tabula Rasa, which struggled financially for over a year before publisher NCsoft shut it down in 2009. After leaving NCsoft, Garriott founded Portalarium. It’s with this company that he is working on the spiritual successor to Ultima, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues.

Shroud of the Avatar | Crowdfunding Spotlight

In this game, Garriott tries to break free of RPGs that force you to grind and instead focuses on immersing players in fantasy worlds. Players will be able to freely choose how they wish to play through the game, whether as an adventurer, through exploration, or working the homestead. And he promises that the world will be fully interactive—as it was put on the project page, “If it looks usable, it should do something.”

Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues | Crowdfunding Spotlight

As of last night, the campaign has eclipsed its $1,000,000 target goal, with 19 days left to donate. Stretch goals were recently announced, as well. At $1.1 million, pets will be included into the game for both social and combat purposes. At $1.2 million, they will throw in seasonal weather (whatever that means). Additional goals should be announced soon.

If you wish to donate, tiers start at $10, with which you can beg for forgiveness from Lord British for pirating, hacking, modding, or cheating in Ultima over the years (no reward, just apologizing). Available rewards start at $33 for a digital download of the game, with your avatar gaining the honorific title of “Pioneer,” as well as access to early-bird alpha and beta tests. Other tiers include a Founder level ($60), which awards backers with the “Founder” honorific and access to development progress reports before everyone else, a PDF art book and digital soundtrack ($100), a cloth map to hang on the wall ($125), physical collector’s tier ($150), having your name (or your Ultima avatar’s name) on an in-game tombstone as an ancestor ($250), having your cloth map signed by Lord British himself ($350), a free in-game house deed (starting at $500), involvement in development discussions ($5,000), and visiting Lord British at Britannia Manor (for those with a spare $10,000 lying around).

The campaign will continue through April 7th. The projected release for the game is around October 2014. Alpha tests will begin this December. Check out the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter page by clicking here.

Those are the new crowdfunding projects we’ve been looking at. Here’s what else we’ve had our eye on.

Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey

Kickstarter Project. Status: Funded

Dreamfall Chapters—Zoë Castillo | Crowdfunding Spotlight

The Red Thread Games project easily made its initial goal and raised over $1.5 million. With that, they will add content back in they initially had to cut for cost reasons. Unfortunately, they were unable to reach the goals for iOS and Android ports or The Longest Journey Home. However, they do say they’ll try to make the latter in some form.

Delver’s Drop

Kickstarter Project. Status: Funded

Delver's Drop | Crowdfunding Spotlight

The dungeon crawler had already surpassed its initial goal when we talked about it the first time. Between then and now, they finished the campaign with over $150,000. With this, they will add four-player Deathmatch and Horde modes, two-player co-op, and a 100-level puzzle mode. In addition, the game will be at the PAX East Indie MEGABOOTH. So, if you’re in the area, go check it out. Also, make sure to vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.

The Missing Ink

Kickstarter Project. Status: Funding in Progress

The Missing Ink | Crowdfunding Spotlight

So far, this free-to-play MMORPG (currently in open beta) has raised just above 10% of its goal of £25,000. However, there is still a full month left before the campaign ends. So, if you’re interested in a game that looks like an MMORPG version of Paper Mario (or you know someone who may like it), go check it out.

Whispering Willows

Kickstarter Project. Status: Funded

Whispering Willows | Crowdfunding Spotlight

We’re happy to say that this horror puzzle game has reached its goal. We’re also happy to announce that they were able to reach one of their stretch goals, translations (languages not yet announced), before the campaign ended. They are also on Steam Greenlight, with about a third of the vote they need to be on Steam.

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption

Kickstarter Project. Status: Funded; In Development

Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption | Crowdfunding Spotlight

It’s sure been awhile since we talked about this game. Work seems to be going a bit slower than expected, since they are paying people part-time in order to make the funding last as long as possible. However, if you’re someone who is strong in Unity and C# programming, you may want to think about sending your résumé to the Coles to work as a contractor on the game. Just click right here to see their latest update for the details.

And with that, we are done for this week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight. Check back next time, when we look at Torment: Tides of Numenera as well as the re-launch of the Telepath Tactics Kickstarter campaign.

Jeff Neuenschwander
Jeff has been a supporter of the website and campaign since the beginning. Joining in for E3 2012, he worked his way up the ranks quickly, making it to the Editing Manager post at the beginning of 2013. Jeff has a wide variety of tastes when it comes to gaming and pretty much likes anything that is quirky, although his favorite genres are Action, Platforming, and RPG. Outside of gaming, Jeff is a musician, being trained as a trombonist for Jazz and Classical music, and holds a degree in Sound Recording.