After a two-year hiatus to travel to the International Space Station, work on a film documentary, ignite a personal rapid transit initiative, and wrap up post-flight experiments and speaking engagements, veteran game designer, Richard Garriott, is returning to the video game industry where he has been a fixture for more than 30 years – this time with a broad-based new social media company called Portalarium (http://www.portalarium.com).
Garriott is best known for his award-winning Ultima Series (Origin/Electronic Arts) of fantasy role playing games and Ultima Online, the first commercially successful massively multiplayer online game released in 1997 and still operating today. Garriott’s new venture, based once again in Austin, is debuting with product offerings in the online game apps category to start.
But he says Portalarium has a broad-based, open-social mission that will also see it expanding into content that includes open learning, open health, open science/environment, open government and much more, all wrapped in a connective virtual world in the online social networking space. Joining him at the company are co-founders Dallas Snell (chairman and development director) and Fred Schmidt (CEO and publishing director), both of whom previously worked together with Garriott as executives at Origin Systems, Electronic Arts and, most recently, NCsoft.
Rounding out the management team as VP and technical director is Stephen Nichols, who spent his entire 17-year gaming career in online games, most recently as producer and lead programmer of NCsoft’s Dungeon Runners. Garriott has the role of VP and creative director at the company.
Portalarium’s first product is a new cross-platform web browser plug-in that permits games developed on a variety of game engines and technologies — not just the pervasive Adobe Flash platform — to run y inside of the major popular social networks. Dubbed The Portalarium Player, it’s currently in limited beta testing as a Windows PC app on Facebook and is running Portlarium’s first published title, a Texas hold ‘em card game called Sweet @$! Poker.
It already supports all major Internet browsers and is also in development to run within MySpace and other social networks, as well as on the Mac and on mobile devices such as iPhone and Android.