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New MMO studio will focus on  Ultima Online -styled 'sandbox' play
New MMO studio will focus on Ultima Online-styled 'sandbox' play
March 11, 2014 | By Kris Graft

March 11, 2014 | By Kris Graft
More: Social/Online, Business/Marketing

Experienced MMO developers announced Citadel Studios, an independent Washington D.C.-based company that's developing sandbox-style, open world MMO in the vein of games like Ultima Online.

The studio was quietly founded in July last year by CEO Derek Brinkmann, art director Chris Ondrus and creative director Tim Cotten, who collectively have worked on games including Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online and the Elder Scrolls series.

The studio’s first project is Shards, a Unity-powered 3D top-down isometric MMO for PC. Citadel’s website says the team wants to experiment with non-XP-based character development.

Citadel's sandbox focus comes partly as a reaction to more "on-the-rails"-styled MMOs such as World of Warcraft, which require large amounts of development resources in order to keep up with content churn.

Brinkmann’s experience includes work as lead software engineer at EA Mythic; Ondrus worked as a producer on Dungeon Keeper Online and Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar; and Cotten’s past work includes leading design on Ultima Online’s Stygian Abyss expansion.

“We left our soul-crushing, corporate jobs to make the games we’d actually play,” Brinkmann said in a statement. “…Ultimately the community will dictate what Shards becomes, because we’re not just providing a game but also a platform for players to express their creativity.”

That “platform” talk includes the promise of various modding capabilities, and allowing players to “create and run your own MMO.” The studio's website also states, "we have for sandbox games of yesteryear, especially Ultima Online."

There’s no word yet on a release date or a business model, though the studio says it is “ignoring the modern online gaming imperative to squeeze every last cent from every player.”

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Kirk Black
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Good luck, guys!

As one of the original post-launch engineers on Ultima Online during 1998-2001, there will always be a special place in my heart both as a player and a developer for the wonderful world of Britania. It would be awesome (or as they say today...totes amazeballs!) to see someone recreate that unique atmosphere of social gaming that hasn't existed since UO boldly experimented with features that are either standard today (crafting and housing) or assumed to never be replicated in a mainstream commercial product (uninhibited player-driven actions and consequences in a persistent world).