The history of “Ultimate Collector”, Garriott’s stab at social gaming

In 2018, Portalarium is mostly associated with Shroud of the Avatar, the controversial multi-million dollars crowdfunded MMO / Single Player computer RPG. With all the noise it has caused, it’s easy to assume this game was Garriott’s comeback project after his long post-Tabula-Rasa hiatus.

However, before diving into the first new millennium iteration of his “Ultimate RPG” dream, Richard was strong on taking his newly founded company, “Portalarium“, into something completely different: games in social networks, and their efforts ultimately led them to partner with one of the biggest names on the scene: Zynga.


As you might have guessed, the game is now long gone. It actually never managed to have a broad public launch (although a couple of videos in youtube about hacking the game indicate it might have been shortly available to the public). Portalarium removed all information about the game from their website and killed all of its presence in social media, and it seemingly never made it past the threshold to be included on Zynga’s social games portfolio.

Still, the history of the development of this game is intertwined with Richard plans for the “Ultimate RPG”, which makes it interesting to imagine what Shroud of the Avatar could have been.



Animated intro for HoBLotH IV

Last week I was contacted by Rustic Dragon, proprietor of The Hearth of Britannia and main host for the HoBLotH events; Castleton, Richard Garriott’s property in Austin where two of the previous iterations of the event have taken place, is up for sale now so it’s very likely that this is the last of this series of events to take place there. As a result, he’s planning to be even more fantastic than usual.

He had an idea for an animated intro similar to the Ultima IV opening so I went ahead and worked on it! I ended up putting a lot more on it than I thought I would, but it was just too fun to work in (except fiddling with scaling issues on Internet Explorer and strange WebGL issues on Safari…).

In order to be able to embed the intro onto the page portal, and also since it had to be a quick development, I picked phaser for the job. I used basic spriteworks plus the time and a bit of the tweens module (and the sound one, of course).

After the opening titles, a short demo is shown comprised of the following:

  1. Getting ready for the journey and stepping into the moongate.
  2. Exploring the countryside of Castleton.
  3. Feasting and rabbling at Castleton Town.
  4. Engaging in deadly combat at Capture the Keg (a staple event for HoBLotH)
  5. Dancing inviting the players to come to the event.

In addition to the work in phaser (including minor custom pixel art), I implemented the “retro tv” effects based on the ones I used for Cat Cafe (using glfx.js and some simple practical effects for the scanlines).

This was done specially to accommodate to Rustic’s idea to use an Apple II frame for the intro (by the way, the one he ended up using is a real pic of an ancient piece of Origin equipment ;)).

Some of the issues I had with cat cafe remain (specifically, the bulge filter doesn’t work too well in conjunction with scaling), but given the small window size and the scanlines, it didn’t look bad at all and ended up being used in the final version.

I also created a musical version using the Hearth of Britannia theme made by the Space Bards, you can check it out online here or below, via youtube.

Animations for this version are timed to play along with the theme, which I think looks pretty neat.

In any case, people have liked it so far so that makes me happy! also if you have the chance to be around Austin in November 2017, DON’T MISS THE CHANCE to be in the event, I was there last year and it was super fun! registrations open by April 30

An account of the events of the Ultima Dragons 25th Anniversary

In February 2017, Dragons from all around the world were summoned to California to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Ultima Dragons online club (Not to be confused with the UDIC, which is almost as old).The event was organized by Cran Gallara, kickstarted by fans and supported by Lord British and a cast of Origin and Portalarium employees.

Photo by Linguistic Dragon

I was joined by Exodus Destiny Dragon, we flew all the way from our hometown in Colombia to the cold coastal basin of Los Angeles. Following is a brief account of our experience at the event.

Click here to read the full article!

Morgaelin – Updated to latest libgdx, HTML5 version

Thanks to the efforts of Exodus Destiny, and after some always needed tweaking, Morgaelin has been updated to libgdx 1.9.5 from a veeery old version from around 2013.

One of the thing this allows is having a working HTML5 version, you can check the current, very early version HERE. (GIANT WARNING: DON’T BUMP INTO PEOPLE.. leaving the combat area may cause the process to hang!)


So far the experience with libgdx, at least for web, is not as straightforward as doing JS (thank you, Captain obvious). It uses GWT underneath so it’s compiling Java into JS (teh magic, after all these years still!). OTOH it generates native android programs and multiplatform Java desktop as well. May be after I sink more time into it I’ll be able to do a side by side comparison of it vs Ananias’ stack.

Morgaelin lives

Been done some small work in Morgaelin, mainly in the design side of things reverse engineering the plot based on different walkthroughs, but also worked a bit on adding support for cutscenes.


Exodus Destiny Dragon (a.k.a jucarave) also started taking a look at enabling the HTML5 version of the engine so it can be played in the browser.

We are planning to create a first version of the game going all the way to obtaining the Skull of Quakes

Three SPIDs: EXODUS Box, EXODUS Online and Britannia GPS game


EXODUS as a tabletop game, instead of fighting with LARP weapons, combat is decided with dice rolls.

As with EXODUS, players are divided between adventurers (who pick their starting class) and dungeon dwellers (who impersonate the dungeon monsters), and the program generates a random layout for them to explore. The party moves from room to room based on the available exits, and by moving they may trigger traps affecting their status.

When the program dictates combat happens and a monster party is formed, the “combat grid” is placed and players place their tokens in either the adventurers or the dungeon dwellers area. Then the starting player is randomly selected (from within all the players, dungeon dwellers included) and player take turns to act. Each player may perform any of the following actions:

  • Move 1 square in any direction
  • Attack another player using either melee or a special ability

Some monsters may move more than once.

Cast a spell or use a special ability (consuming Magic Points or Special Points)

I have tested it with some friends and it works fine! It may not be as fun as running around hitting your friends with a foam sword, but OTOH it gives allows for more tactical depth.


Each player has his own app on his phone, one of them starts a game and the others connect. As they explore the dungeon, the dungeon staff is given their monster role and the battles are tactical turn based.

SPID6 – Britannia GPS game

Each city a small representation of Britannia (a shard). Landmarks on the city are transformed into towns of virtue, shrines and dungeons.

The players must find the runes by going to each town and asking for them, then searching other places in the worlds based on the clues they got.

Parties of travelers could be formed to explore together and survive the random encounters. Characters would level up in a traditional way. Then the Avatar should go and meditate to the shrines.

Dungeons would require doing some fights better done in a party.

The ultimate goal is to get the stones of virtue and conquer the abyss to become the avatar.