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Back from space, Lord British tries social gaming

Portalarium, a start-up co-founded by famed game designer Richard Garriott, will make games for social networks. Its first offering will be a poker title.

Back from a stint in outer space--literally--famed video game designer Richard Garriott has returned to his roots with a new social gaming start-up, Portalarium.

Known as "Lord British" and considered one of the industry's legends for his pioneering work on Ultima and Ultima Online, as well as his leading roles on Lineage, City of Heroes, and Tabula Rasa, Garriott most recently grabbed headlines by paying eight figures for a trip aboard a Russian rocket to the International Space Station.

Game designer Richar Garriott, known in the industry as 'Lord British,' is back from outer space with a start-up called Portalarium.

Now, Garriott has come back home, literally and figuratively. On Wednesday, he formally announced his next venture, a social gaming start-up known as Portalarium that will get things going with a Facebook poker game, but intends to expand "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."

For now, however, the company is working on slightly smaller fish, and is already in beta with what it called a cross-platform Web browser plug-in "that permits games developed on a wide variety of game engines and technologies--not just [Flash]--to run seamlessly inside of the major popular social networks."

The company is calling this product the Portalarium Player, which runs in Facebook on Windows machines. The first game that will run on the player is Sweet @$! Poker, a Texas hold 'em game. It's not clear how Portalarium intends to differentiate its poker title from the many others already available on Facebook.

Joining Garriott in the Portalarium executive suite are chairman and development director Dallas Snell, CEO and publishing director Fred Schmidt, and vice president and technical director Stephen Nichols. Lord British himself, while clearly the face of the company, will carry the titles vice president and creative director.