Share this project


Share this project

Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
22,322 backers pledged $1,919,275 to help bring this project to life.

New Concept Art and Developer Blog

Posted by Portalarium, Inc. (Creator)

Art Direction in Shroud of the Avatar

When we first started discussing Art Direction for Shroud of the Avatar, we felt it was critical that the virtual world be steeped in a traditional medieval fantasy feel, but have added a modern twist that we think will be a real treat for players to experience, taking them into something fresh.

There are an abundance of medieval fantasy games out there—so we asked ourselves how do we set the game apart, how do we create a unique and marketable identity in an oversaturated market?  The answer came in Richard’s natural storytelling ability.  Over the last few months, Richard developed a complex, rich story in which two worlds collide, the ancient world melding with the modern, and the world art we’re creating will reflect that in a fresh and unique way.

We started with traditional medieval elements and layered in elements of a primitive electro-mechanical future.  Our objective is to create a visual aesthetic that is both familiar and unique.  And now with the addition of Tracy Hickman to the team, his vision for the story will continue to evolve that world, and in turn, evolve our depiction of that world.

Richard’s attention to detail and sense of direction demands that all characters, weapons, objects, and buildings need to “make sense” and not just exist as eye-candy.  We are creating a world that sets Shroud of the Avatar apart from the pack-- but also one where form always follows function.  We believe this design process will create believable, fascinating worlds and our art will follow that vision.

We look forward to incorporating your feedback and sharing more!

Concept Art Lead Stephen Daniele & Environmental Art Lead Bob Cooksey


Only backers can post comments. Log In
    1. Polaris Penguin on

      Realism and grit and with a modern twist does not necessarily automatically mean Steampunk, even though that tends to be the first things that enter our minds :). I searched fro Victorian Steam engines on Google, and as you will see they really don't look Steampunk:…

      These things were mainly used in mining (its how it all started if I remember my history), travel and industry.

      Will we be able to mine?

    2. Robert Reise on


      Yes, this game genre needs more realism and grit. Its a time of strife with an unknown and malevolent entity creeping into the world. The questions that arise in the world do not lend themselves to be lighthearted.

    3. Raymond E Gaustadnes on

      @Lord_Toast -- I agree with you, creating art takes time, trust me :)

      I could post something that had me sitting up to 4am last night, but Lord British would probably ban me for shamelessly showing off my own game art creations in here :D

    4. Missing avatar

      Eric on

      I feel like this game keeps changing into something new...

    5. Lord_Toast on

      @Kristan Alicesun-- The PnP version of Eberron fits what you just described.
      @FY Long-- Drawing isn't relatively easy. Trust me, it takes me weeks to figure out how to draw Charile Brown by hand. There is no way I can do the picture displayed in this update.

    6. Allan Chong on

      I hope the magic carpet will make an appearance in the game... I remembered using magic carpet in U7 as my pack mule.

    7. Amit Kohli on

      Dear Mr. Hickman, please don't make the game look cartoony like so many titles have been doing lately! Ultima has always been a bit bloody... More gritty = more awesome! Thanks in advance (and welcome to the dream team!).

    8. Grayhawk on

      Otherwise, even UO contains electronic like in Exodus and there are Golems. And teleporters should be futuristic in a medieval world as well. And I didn't ever mind about that fact. So I'm curious and hope you will have the right touch for it.

    9. Grayhawk on

      I don't like steampunk also and I hope it will be more like a magic of very old and advanced beings.

    10. Kristan Alicesun on

      Quote: "We started with traditional medieval elements and layered in elements of a primitive electro-mechanical future."

      This to me sounds like technology has continued to evolve from medieval times, but that technology is based on magic rather than electricity & magnetism. It would make perfect sense to see machines powered by magic. I'm honestly surprised we haven't seen more worlds make this development.

    11. Mark L

      I seem to remember several times in the past when similar 'oh, nos, it has ___, they ruined it!' comments have been made about various incarnations of Ultima, (not to mention a raft of other game series). I think this looks very promising so far, and am enthusiastically awaiting further information. I've played almost every game Richard has been associated with, and have never yet felt let down or disappointed.

    12. Missing avatar

      Darek Gajda on

      It really seems as if everyone that is afraid of the tech/steampunk aspect does not truly know the origins of Ultima, though this is a different story it is clearly inspired by the Ultima series. In which you are an avatar travelling between the modern age and the Britannian one, you fight Exodus, a machine with a memory core you destroy later in Ultima 7. Lets not forget gems such as this!

      Nobody should worry. I think if anyone can do this theme properly, its Lord British. ;)

    13. ND3G on

      I highly doubt we will see any actual in game footage over the next 16 days. The game isn't due out until Oct 2014. Everything we have seen thus far aside from the concept art is just proof of concept stuff.

    14. FY Long on

      My comment regarding this update is that I'd like to see a screenshot of the implementation of this idea, not just a concept art. We know its relatively hard to put these ideas as game element. Drawing is relatively easy and from the few screenshots that was posted in this Kickstarter, I'm not sure if the engine would convey the art direction. I still wish Shroud is not 3D, then these ideas and concept art has a higher chance of translating into game world.

    15. Robert Reise on

      I am a little surprised at the kneejerk reactions to a picture and a mention of the word steampunk. Perhaps all the sentiments about all kickstarter projects feeding nostalgia are untrue, perhaps its all the kickstarter funders who are creating this rep. I think the many games out right now that exclusively go after the high fantasy, classic medieval art style are numerous. Proposing the idea of something like this is a good thing and necessary for a number of reasons.

      Most of the MMOs and mud/DnD inspired RPGs out there employ the classic, "standard" art style of magic, armor and dark castles. You can find that anywhere. At this point its expected and anytime where a "creative" idea is expected than the idea is dead. I'm glad RG has proposed this because it shows me he isn't just trying to cash in on the blind nostalgia some people have been yearning for 10 years.

      Its still up to us in the community to decide about the art style as was said by RG in the comments and I dont seem to be the only one who is open and excited this new idea. Why the outrage now? The videos have clearly been mentioning steam punk and did you miss the giant electro field generators on on the overland map during the demos?

      Finally now we get some original art direction and are introduced to Stephen Daniele & Bob Cooksey. I'm a little disappointed that people were more happy with the "starter pack" of Unity art models used in the demos. In the videos it was said repeatedly that the art for the game was as standard and lame as if it was bought out of a vending machine. I agree the game doesn't really look that bad even now in the planning stages, but come on, why would you take a 99 cent McDonalds budget burger over the creative and juicy prospects presented by Stephen Daniele & Bob Cooksey.

      We still have a lot of time to express what we want to see hybrid styling. I can say 0 change from the current genre in this case would be a mistake. I think putting some steam/electro punk aspects into the game would be cool ad no different than the overt tinkering that the Lord of the Rings movies did with Tolkien's original concept. It worked for the movies, why not for SotA?

    16. Matt on

      I think a little pseudo-technology can work without spoiling the overall medieval vibe. Besides, we flew spaceships in Ultima, had phasers and power armor in Ultima II and fought a magical computer in Ultima III... so it's not like this is exactly out of character for the series.

    17. Darren Wade on

      I can see why some people might be scared and decide not to go with the flow of helping to shape this. Most people's only experience in gaming is buying the end product and without reviews it is hard to imagine what all will be in the game. This is a good opportunity for everyone to be heard in this effort, but make no mistake this is Lord British's venture and in some cases we, his subjects, will disagree on what we want seen and his and his teams discretion and experience will the guide the development of this potential from a vision to a great game that will stand the ages rather than a misanthrope with nothing backing it.

      My plan is to support this effort and do what I can to make sure what I like is represented. Tech doesn't break the game for me, but I really hope I can steal ships like I did in the earlier games. It was awesome finding a pirate and have them rush to attack me but I get to sail away with their ship to other places. It doesn't matter to me in the slightest if it is powered by sail, magic or some fusion hybrid.

    18. amigacooke on

      Lets hope Tolkien Enterprises don't get to see this bit of artwork ;-)

    19. Blake on

      That looks awesome! Talented folks behind this.

    20. Missing avatar

      RetroDeviant on

      I remember way back when. I was playing Ultima Online with much joy! And then someone mentioned what was called "UO2" or eventually became UOW:O It was the same basic concept. Medieval mixed with some steam punkish elements. I was SOOOOOOOO into following the development of that game. Every little tidbit that came out i read about within hours.

      I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this game, and how I long for it to fill that void that Ultima Online left in my gaming life.

    21. Missing avatar

      Jim Gagne on

      I'm REALLY happy with how things are going in Shroud. I've been thinking a lot about what I'd like to request to meet my own personal needs in this game.

      My most earnest request while playing any RPG is to have a detailed walkthrough at my side. Others may regard this as cheating, but I HATE having no idea what's going on. I'm lousy at puzzles. Walking around in circles trying to figure out what to do next drives me crazy. Without a walkthrough I miss half of what's happening.

      I'm a "completionist" and enjoy doing all the quests and exploring every nook and cranny of a game. I love mapping out the best strategy for character development. So my style is to buy the Prima guide or equivalent, supplemented by the data on I suspect there are many others who like to play this way.

      Most games try to describe the characteristics of character types, abilities, and gameplay strategies in general terms. But these descriptions are mostly poetic and rarely match how the game actually plays. Which skills and spells are REALLY useful? I played Dragon Age: Origins twice, first as a mage and again as a rogue. The rogue character was vastly more powerful and interesting. In Skyrim, the effectiveness of magic spells is severely limited over level 30, whereas arguably the most important skill to develop is blacksmithing. By contrast, in Kingdoms of Amalur, everyone agrees you really need to max out Detect Hidden, which makes the game a lot more fun and rewarding. And the usefulness of Amalur's magic spells mostly depends on how long a spell takes to cast: whether you can get the spell off without having your casting interrupted by an attack.

      Without a game or strategy guide available at the release of a new RPG, being one of the early players means I feel really lost. So typically I'll put the game aside until more information is available.

      One GREAT way to address this need would be to put GENUINELY helpful information within the game itself, possibly set up so that players who want to figure things out by themselves aren't tempted to cheat. You might make "I want lots of hints and help" a gameplay option available only at the start of new game. Probably the best example of an optional spoiler system is in the game Machinarium.

      One more thing. Aside from puzzles and quests, the most challenging part of playing a new RPG is mastering the player interface. Though you'd think they would all be very similar, they're not. At all. And I find that skills like Block and Parry require careful timing, something I'm lousy at until I've played a LONG time. (Even then -- my arcade game reflexes suck rocks.) Most games come with an introductory tutorial, but there's no chance to practice a particular action until you've figured it out. (Best example of an effective in-game tutorial: the original Fable)

    22. Keithstone on

      Some people don't understand it is in the prototype phase and ideas are still being formed and molded, nothing is set. They are working with us to shape the game. People who are pulling funding don't understand how KS works, let alone game development / SDLC. There's also the fact of putting a little faith in RG. I've contributed with money. I can't wait to contribute with my ideas.

    23. Michael O'Hair on

      This will be fine as long as there are no pandas.

    24. Solaris on

      @Kirby The answer is: Drama Queens

    25. Kirby Johnson on

      I don't understand why anyone who wants any version of an ultima would pull there funding. This KS and the following design till alpha are designed to get feedback from people to give them want they want. By pulling funding and taking yourself out of the process, you ensure that what you want will not be made because you have removed yourself from the feedback loop. And honestly haven't seen anything in the concept art to make me think steam punk, it has all looked extremely lovely and most importantly ...fantasy.

    26. Missing avatar

      Donnie D. Washington II on

      Sounds awesome. Can't wait!! I've always wanted to see a modern Ultima that was faithful the the old games. Ultima IV got me into RPGs when I was kid playing on my dad's Atari 130XE computer.

    27. ND3G on

      It is kind of funny how melodramatic some people get. "Oh, the game isn't exactly what I envisioned in my head, I must pull my funding immediately" "Damn you LB, damn you to hell!"

      Richard Garriott is a great game designer, I think he deserves a bit of faith and some freedom to design something new instead of simply remake Ultima VII or Ultima Online with updated graphics.

    28. Missing avatar


      Seems to be an excellent idea ! Good luck, you'll succeed !

    29. RelExpo on

      Excellent update! I for one am looking forward to a very interactive environment, whether I am in town using a piano or in the depths of a dungeon and I must figure out some sort of puzzle to progress.

      Even the light technology sounds incredible. I remember in a few Ultimas there was tech, and it didn't break immersion or anything of the sort, rather it allowed a deeper storytelling and richer history. The new lore that will be coming from SotA will undoubtedly be more detailed and interesting than we can imagine, especially with Lord British and Tracy Hickman taking charge.

      Great stuff!!

    30. Missing avatar

      Dave blanchard on

      @julianna this isn't going to be MMOrpg in the way you think, you could play without ever going online and he is aiming this for the players he felt he left behind in Ultima 7 to 9.

    31. John Stewart on

      "Surely sombody remembered to bring the key?"

      Great artwork!

    32. Missing avatar

      Commander Regel on

      The visual style of Ultima set it apart from other RPGs. The reason I've not been interested in playing any other RPG is that they are typically set in gloomy worlds that seem depressing. In comparison, the worlds of Ultima (especially VII) looked really pleasant and "living" in this world was enjoyable.

      Hopefully Lord British and team can make SoTA more Ultima than other RPGs.

    33. lilbuddhaman on

      I hope you make the game as a GAME first, and "scenery to escape my poor hard life with all it's unfairness" second..or third...

    34. Vyrinor on

      As has already been said - there is no purely medieval fantasy on the market. Want sewage troughs running down the streets in the towns? Mud everywhere? Grisly, grimy NPCs? (Remember no dentists - showers - hairdos, etc) Those who think fantasy is medieval need to stop using that word! Even Assassin's Creed presents a very rosy picture of what things were like.

      Magical pre-steam-tech fantasy might be a better description of what people want - but if the story stinks, what good is it?

      What Ultima was good at was creating an immersive coherent world. That is what most people want no matter the particular elements finally included. Simple point - most of us are looking to be surprised by a new wonderful creation. Like when you buy a fantasy book. Those who pledged thinking the developers would respond to their exact wishes, no game but the one you create will satisfy.

    35. Missing avatar

      Julianna Holden Mohler on

      @Dave, I have played and owned every single Ultima game. But the one I played (because it was online & I developed relationships, and married the man I met on it! - he in Germany, me in the US), I was referring to online because this will be an MMORPG I'm assuming. And because it was medieval (at least in the beginning), I love that factor & always search for games that do. Most do not ever live up to true medieval, or immersion in it.

    36. Missing avatar

      Julianna Holden Mohler on

      I also agree with Lord Toast. And Please, please please, no huge breasted women. I know it sells games. But please.

    37. Raymond E Gaustadnes on

      I have no doubt the creators of this game will pull it off in a great way, nomatter what direction it takes. To me it's about choice. What do I want from a game that I'm likely to spend months and years playing inside of? I love scifi games and I love fantasy game, but I'm no fan of hybrids (Thief , Fable and Arcanum as mentioned below here).

      I'm certainly not here to bend the wills of people, I just want to know that the end SotA result is something I'd want to continue to support and play, once it's finished.

    38. Michael Vezina on

      And I for one would LOVE a clockwork horse (á la Ultima: Technocrat wars, which featured THREE worlds colliding). Yes it was fiction, no I don't know if it was canon (probably not), but it took place in Britannia and it was awesome.

      Clockwork Horse. Think about it.

    39. Haz on

      Great job on the artwork here Stephen/Bob. I'm very much looking forward to the traditional layered feel to the game even though we all know the majority will be medieval fantasy as per LB's roots.. just no industrial music please.

    40. Tet Yoon Lee on

      I don't see anything wrong with it if it's well done

    41. Greg Rodrigues on

      Technology has never been off-limits in Ultima. I have faith in my Liege and his new path.

      But yeah, I think airships specifically have been way overdone. As cool as they are, we don't need them in every single RPG game. ;)

    42. Missing avatar

      Dave blanchard on

      @julianna if you haven't played the original single player ultima's I suggest you check them out.

    43. Missing avatar

      Julianna Holden Mohler on

      When Ultima Online first came out, I loved it in most ways. But after playing for nearly 10 years and watching all the additions & eye candy (like neon blue or green hair), I think it's important to stay with an original theme and not morph it over time. You say that the gaming world is saturated with medieval themes, but most don't feel as genuine in some fashion. The most genuine feel I ever had to a game was in Assassin's Creed. Having been to Venice, and like literally being immersed in the actual time period with close authentication, it was one of the things I loved best about the game. I'm an older woman, so assassinating people wasn't the primary reason I played it. I play to escape every day life, just like the guys who want their adrenaline rushes do. The gaming world is dominated with male viewpoints and features - aggression, violence, mechanics, metal. That is what the market is saturated with. I mean, there are a zillion adrenaline rush games out there. Not that this couldn't or shouldn't be, or have that element. But like in the real world, we need balance. We need downtime from the adrenaline and stimulation. The way you describe this new concept sounds almost like Fable 3 to me. I've played many, many games over the years and only a few pop in my head as worth playing more than once. Online worlds come & go - but UO was one of the most enduring and endearing. Do I want a repetition of UO? No. I wouldn't play it (been there, done that). A change of scenery is not needed, but a world in which a person can really live is.

    44. Keithstone on

      Those that are worried about "modern" element have obviously not played Martian Dreams. Go play that and your fears will be alleviated.

    45. BorgKitten on

      I am really excited about this update, I really love the idea :)

    46. Simon Boxer on

      I love the Ultima franchise! It actually taught me quite a lot, funnily enough. The majority of my medieval knowledge is derived from it. ha
      Looking forward to seeing this project come together!

      I'm particularly interested in where the art will go, since polished art in itself is a great way to set a game apart. Take Guild Wars, for example (even the first). They've created gorgeous landscapes and environments, some of which I could easily see in an Ultima game. Everything's well lit and shows off the characters. There's lots of texture variation and colour grouping to make shapes stand out. In terms of MMO's more grounded in a realistic setting I think there's a bounty of knowledge in studying what they've achieved.

      Something like Dragon Age's art would be the desatured, darker cousin of Guild Wars, and another contemporary competitor. Similar setting etc, possibly closer to what you've currently got in-game.

      All that aside... The Ultima franchise seems like the strongest marketing force here! Ultima is one of a kind! In my experience steampunk art has been more complex to produce than medieval art, so I just hope this marketing direction isn't at the expense of scope/quality. A known genre executed well always trumps an average take on a novel genre. Having said that, I'm not personally alienated by steampunk.

    47. Michael Vezina on

      Food for thought only: for those who [are apprehensive about] the tech in fantasy games, let us not forget that the second half of Ultima 1 was almost Star Wars. Phazors, Blasters, and space ships? I seem to remember that!

      Ultima 7-2 had an automated crematorium in the first town. (LOL, no virtue restrictions meant I got rewarded for breaking the law by cashing in Pikemen's ashes!)

      Final Fantasy 6 (3) for SNES was an absolutely perfect blend of fantasy, electro, and steam technology. I loved wielding swords and Bolt Spells against giant laser shooting robots. The fact that they were powered by magical essence is rendered moot by that they were giant robots!

      Have faith that Lord British et al can pull it off!

    48. Jeffrey Koches on

      The concept art looks gorgeous to me ;)

    49. John Wagenman on

      Things I like to see: I had a friend in Germany a long time ago, we both played Asheron's Call together. He only wanted to cook. He loved it and to him it was the most amazing thing. They had seasonal ingredients and our play focused largely around getting him the things he needed. It was the second best memory I have of sharing a world with a close friend. The best one I have was actually from EQ back in 99. The best part of it all was just running around discovering things and dying in the process occasionally. It was the discovery and exploration - things that had no quest giver or arrow pointing you the way. So, wrapping up that little memory - I want crafting and Chinese gold farmers to be included, wait, strike that last part, just put in lots of stuff to discover on accident. :)

    50. Missing avatar

      Dave blanchard on

      Jittery bunch in here.