Ultima Online designer Richard Garriott has announced his return to the games business with a new social media company Portalarium.
The new venture will release online games applications, with the intention to expand into content as far reaching as open learning, health, science and environmental services, all contained in a virtual world and online social space.
"The Portalarium mission is exactly what I want to be doing next in games," said Garriott.
"This really takes me back to my roots in the game business – small development teams, low barriers to entry, affordable budgets for quality projects, and unlimited new interactive frontiers to explore together with our customers."
Joining Garriott will be Dallas Snell and Fred Schmidt, both of whom worked with him at ORIGIN Systems, Electronic Arts and NCsoft. Completing the team is Stephen Nichols, a 17-year veteran who most recently worked on Dungeon Runners for NCsoft.
The first product from the company is the Portalarium Player, a plug-in that permits games built on a variety of engines, including Flash, to run inside social networks such as Facebook.
The company's first game, Sweet @$! Poker, is already running on the service, with the plug-in being developed to work on MySpace, iPhone and Android devices.
Garriott has had a number of years off from the games business, after falling out with employer NCsoft after the failure of MMO Tabula Rasa. He is currently suing the company for $24 million.