Ultima and Elder Scrolls vets launch Kickstarter for player-run MMO Shards

UPDATE: Pre-alpha footage released, but game probably won't make it.

UPDATE 09/06 11.30AM BST: There's been a Shards Online pre-alpha playtest this past weekend and there are a handful of videos of it. They show a game that's a lot like Ultima Online, both in perspective and design.

Unfortunately, however, it looks like Shards Online won't raise anywhere near the money on Kickstarter that developer Citadel had hoped.

The goal is $320,000; the reality, nearly $60,000. There are three days to go.

ORIGINAL STORY 13/5 4.30PM BST: New indie outfit Citadel Studios has launched a Kickstarter for an ambitious MMORPG entitled Shards.

Developed by industry vets who have worked on Ultima Online, Warhammer Online, The Elder Scrolls and Dark Age of Camelot, Shards seeks to be the "first-ever player-run MMO."

What does this mean, exactly? Citadel described it as an MMO that does away with such genre standard conventions as levels, classes and quest grinds. "We are returning to living virtual worlds where stories emerge naturally as players explore the worlds laid out before them," the developer stated on Shards' official site.

Citadel further explained that the game will be set in a multiverse of different worlds each with their own unique set of rules, mechanics and lore. By exploring such worlds, you'll learn new skills and abilities as well as collect treasure. Based on how things shake down, it will be possible to rule an entire world or gain immortality. Careful though, as you'll also be able to lose your character permanently in certain situations.

"At launch, Shards Online will feature a wide variety of official rulesets, while players will additionally be able to create and share their own," Citadel explained. "Anything from a hardcore PvP experience to a shard in which players can only farm is possible. Gamers can run their own server, creating live content for mortal players as gods, or jump into other servers and take advantage of open-ended character development, customisable housing, tactical combat and more in living virtual worlds. Various maps will range from high fantasy and sci-fi, to the wild west, jungles, dinosaurs and beyond."

This Starbound-like open-endedness is certainly ambitious, which is why Citadel is turning towards the crowdfunding model to help finance it. Citadel has already spent eight months on this project, but it needs another $320K to finish it.

Early birds who pledge $20 will receive a digital copy of Shards for PC - and possibly Mac and Linux - upon its estimated release. This also comes with an additional two week premium subscription, access to the dev forums, and an HD wallpaper. This tier will go up to $25 once all the early bids are taken, and more enthusiastic spenders will be able to reserve early alpha access with pledges of $50 or more.

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