Choose My Adventure: Finding the fun in Shroud of the Avatar

One of the things that I believe is utterly vital to writing about games in general and MMOs in particular is finding the fun. It’s sometimes difficult, but I think finding the fun is the difference between saying that a game is hot garbage (which it may be) and saying that it’s not to your tastes. That’s not to say the fun is even always there to be found, but if you can understand why someone might enjoy the game, you can at least work from common grounding.

It was something I hadn’t managed the last time I played through Shroud of the Avatar. I wanted to find that this week, and I’m happy to say that I did… sort of. My suspicion is that I didn’t so much find the fun as I found some fun, but considering where I was starting from when going into this week, I’m more than willing to take that as an upward move.

You're just going to need some realistic expectations here.Last week’s comments, somewhat to my surprise, were filled with vitriol about this particular game. That was interesting to read through, and also elucidating. I’m not saying that everyone who had angry words was necessarily on-point, but it paints a more comprehensive picture, and it also points to the deep divide that exists over how the game has been handled and managed to this point.

It also serves as an illuminating look at some of the issues I was running into head-first as I worked at the game. This means that it expands the question of “is this a bad game or just not to my tastes” to include the fact that, top to bottom, it’s a game with a lot of powerfully contentious issues about how development and release has been handled thus far.

Case in point: the skulls. Someone helpfully pointed out that the little pile of skulls outside of a zone indicate the zone’s difficulty level. However, what wasn’t clear until I looked very closely was that those skulls aren’t, like, a display; there’s just a little stack of skulls on a pike somewhere near the zone entrance. If you miss that, you miss any indication of the game’s overall difficulty.

Immersive? Vaguely, I suppose, if you assume that there are people helpfully going about and mounting skulls to indicate how many skulls there are to be found in the region. But it’s hard to see, unclear, and generally more of a mess than it needs to be. A level range or a straight difficulty check would be far more easy; just a message indicating “this area will be suitable for you” or “this area is too weak/strong for your abilities” would be far more user-friendly.

This is going to be a point of contention for some people, probably until the end of time, but in the fight of immersion vs. accessibility, I’m always going to come down on the side of the latter. The more obtuse your game is, the less likely anyone will play it, much less want to see how immersive it can be. Immersion is worse than useless if it deprives you of useful information.

In this particular case, it’s a minor thing. Less minor are other aspects, like the fact that you have to go to the (unheralded) adventuring trainer to realize that you have several unlocked skills not mentioned through any prior means. That may seem minor, but it’s the difference between wading through combat that’s somewhat plodding with bad animation and odd stuttering factors… and doing so with at least enough skills to form some form of strategy.

Here’s the bright side, though: Combat was where I did find the fun for the game, helped along by equipment, fizzle chance, and the game’s skill system.

For those unfamiliar with the basics, it’s really quite straightforward: As you do things related to skills, they improve. Passive skills improve as you do anything tied to them (so just attacking with bladed weapons improves your Bladed Weapons skill), while active skills improve as you use them. Training new skills often requires a prerequisite level in a prior skill. Straightforward and simple.

To its credit somewhat, the game often affords nice environmental shots.The added wrinkle came in the form of fizzle chances for magical skills, which I appreciate and like. Heavier armor raises the fizzle chance, but you can train up the skill to improve your chances of casting successfully even in armor. I like this because it really does give you options about how you want to play your character. Want to do the hybrid thing? Sure, but you’re going to need to focus in on a handful of spells to make sure you can cast them through armor, and you can’t wear the heaviest armor and not have it impact your casting.

It’s also balanced decently at a glance. Lower-level utility spells are spells that are pretty easy to cast and don’t get a high fizzle chance even if you haven’t used them much, so you can easily train them up and make them usable. High-end spells, though, frequently require many reagents and are hard to cast normally, which means that your hybrid caster sort will really not want to go that route. It’s a nice means of organically forcing some parity into things.

None of this means that the skills are all well-balanced and even, or that things are straightforward, or even that it’s not still a mess. The game’s actual in-game map doesn’t seem to work half (or perhaps all) of the time, which makes navigating a really fun ride, let me tell you. There are weird prerequisites for a lot of skills, and I suspect I’m going to have to do a fair bit of grinding in order to unlock dual-wielding blades, which is my preferred way to play most games.

But as weird as it might sound, wandering around, killing and looting bandits, vendoring stuff to get more gear while training skills up? Yeah, that was fun. Maybe not the most fun I’ve ever had, but I at least found a fun gameplay loop. I’m going to consider that a point marked.

The downside of “just wandering,” of course, is that it doesn’t really force me to any new decision points, but the up side is that it gives me a chance to try something new with the column format. (If you haven’t noticed by now, I enjoy doing that.) So this week we’re doing something different. If you’d like to leave a suggestion for what I do over the next week, place it in the comments in the following format:

Suggestion: You should try crafting.

All suggestions will be considered, and more common suggestions will be given more weight. Will it be fun? Gosh, I hope so. You can also leave more general feedback in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com. I have to figure out how heavy I dare go with armor; it’s a serious problem.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. He is well aware that this particular approach may lead to mountains of unusable suggestions and would ask that you refrain from troll options like “go play something else.” It’s not clever.
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21 Comments on "Choose My Adventure: Finding the fun in Shroud of the Avatar"

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Rob Crowther

I have to figure out how heavy I dare go with armor; it’s a serious problem.

Remember that you can mix and match – it’s possible to wear a plate chest piece to access heavy armour skills and bonuses with cloth gloves/boots/helmets to reduce fizzle.

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Rob Crowther

Suggestion: Join a guild.

Or at least attend an event or two and join in on whatever voice or chat channel they are using. Group play and community are big parts of why some of us do enjoy the game, and it will give you an opportunity to see and participate some of the higher end content.

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Adam Zacharias

Boy will he be in for a surprise when he realizes that no.. the skills don’t force any sort of specialization or character building. Mages can run around in full heavy armor just fine, and in fact a player needs to level up all the magic trees for the attunements no matter what style they actually like to play.
I enjoyed the skills early on too when it looked like you would be able to build some interesting characters… now everyone is the exact same.

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TotalCowage .

The game’s actual in-game map doesn’t seem to work half (or perhaps all) of the time, which makes navigating a really fun ride, let me tell you.

You have to be holding a copy of the local map in your inventory to see it. There is no World Map. Like passing World Chat over to a third party in Discord, they simply gave up and passed it over to the SotAMaps webpage, which was built by the playerbase, and integrated it into the game in Release 40.

I presume if you’re losing it, it’s because the game has lost sync to SotAmaps.com

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Victor Didra

Suggestion: Go to the Central Brittany are and find the town Verat Chaos, near the beach. Events M-W 7 p.m. Central Time:

Visit on if you like roleplaying, 10,000 gold award for best RPer.

Tuesday if you want to try or watch PvP.

Wednesday for adventure night, where you can apprentice to Grandmasters and they shoot for party members getting between 300,000 xp and 600,000 xp.

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Victor Didra

Central Brittany are = area.

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Loopy

You should try housing.

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TotalCowage .

Housing is Real Money only; you need a Lot Deed as well as a House, and Lot Deeds only come into the game via Pledges or purchases in the Add On Store, or the occasional in game Lottery win. There is no way to just get a deed for a flat Gold rate from an NPC.

They can be traded for Gold, but trading Gold for Real Money is also legal, so this is a secondary market.

And they have no intention of ever letting the price fall below the market rate for Gold to Dollars.

(Comment edited by mod; please review our commenting code of conduct.)

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Gary Turton

There are many MANY lots and houses being sold for In Game Gold on vendors in the game by other players, and also on the forums. The game has a player driven economy, just because the GAME is not selling it does not mean it is not available.

If you cannot afford a house with In Game Gold, or From the Add-On Store, there are many, many Inn’s were you can rent a room from another player for in game gold. You can be free to decorate and explore the housing system to see if you even ever need to get one.

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TotalCowage .

Before we begin, let’s just get the basic facts on display; Because you the neutral observer need to be aware of just how determined an attempt is being made to deceive people about Shroud.

Here are the official forums for trading Houses and Lots. Count how many threads deep you have to go before you see someone who ISN’T selling for Real Money.

Now then… which part of the “Player driven market” are you deliberately leaving out again? Is it all players, or only a select few who “drive” it?

This is basic economics here. If the items only come into the game via the Add On Store and the occasional lottery, then you don’t have free competition for those items, and the consumer has to pay the price that the seller demands because they have no way to influence the market in that good, except by purchasing or boycotting it.

And when trading the Gold for Real Money is legal, and the game has been designed to keep this RMT forefront (and maintain the value of the Premium Currency to Real Dollars too), then the customer is further disadvantaged because he can’t leverage the power of his own currency.

I notice you don’t dare give an actual price in game gold, because that would allow critics to point out the actual time required to have a hope of getting one.

When Victor Didra above tried this exact same dishonest argument, I simply used the actual marketplace at that time to illustrate what the actual requirements for a player who only had Gold to spend would be.

At the time, you had to go 4 pages deep to find anyone even selling for Gold. Look at the marketplace today. Is it any different? Or is it dominated by sales in Real Money?

And they wanted $90… or 350,000g for a taxable Village Lot. Or 58 hours of grinding at the highest earning rate anyone had ever claimed they’d got. And then grinding to pay the taxes to keep that lot active, because of course there’s tiers of property too.

You know this. You are almost certainly a Real Money Trader yourself and are deliberately trying to deceive players about how the market actually works.

You even repeat the exact same dishonest claims of the rest of the real money traders; it’s never you that’s making the profit, oh no, it’s always a friend isn’t it?

I have a guild-mate who has amassed a literal fortune of in-game property and assets just by playing and trading from a $45 game investment. Not to mention all the give-aways and lottery every month.

That’s why we loathe what the game has become since. Why can’t you just tell the simple truth to your fellow man? Why is the “spiritual successor to Ultima”, a game that taught you to give gold to beggars and blood to the unwell now about false advertising to deceive decent people so you can make a profit of forcing them to grind gold in game just to have a hope of a virtual roof over their heads?

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redfish

I don’t like the RMT aspect of the game either; I long for a game where everything is crafted in the virtual world environment. I also think the current tax rates on property should be lower than they currently are, but I also think you’re making the prospects of owning a home sound more daunting than they actually are in practice, which does a disservice to people reading about the game.

There are many ways to earn gold in the game; the easiest is just farming loot and selling to NPC merchants, and its pretty extremely easy to find a scene in the game where you can earn 4k gold an hour — I’ve done some grinding in some which are 6k. That adds up to maybe 2 hours a day for about a month to buy a Village Lot. But you don’t have to buy a Village, you can buy a Row, which is half as much, which brings it down to 1 hour a day. Plus this is also the least efficient way to earn money. If you simply mine ore and sell to players at good prices you can get upwards of 10k last I tried to do it (though prices may have fallen). You can then craft from raw materials and potentially make more money.

And, yea, grinding sucks, even for 1 hour a day. But you don’t have to do it in a month. You can take your time and grind for a few minutes a day and get it in 3 months. The fact that owning property in the game requires time isn’t a bad thing. And I remember grinding a lot to get my property and house in UO, though we may have played at different times. At any rate, IMO, its good that having a home means you have long term relationship with the game.

As for taxes, yea I think they should be lower. But I think a tax system is far better than the lot decay system in UO, which I thought was awful. Camping home decays was an awful mechanic IMO and am glad its not in SotA. As for the amount you have to grind, its 1K g a day for Village and 500 g for Row. That’s at most 2 hours for a week of taxes for a Village — though you can earn that in less than 2 hours — and 1 hour for a Row. Although, you can get 500 gold free a day from a daily test in game (equaling no grinding), fully paying for your Row lot taxes, and half of your Village lot taxes.

As for the Lottery, odds are if you put in the market value of what you’re trying to win, you have a decent chance of winning it, especially when there’s more than one being given out in a drawing (as for Village and Row deeds). That’s because of the way people that you’re competing with the prize for calculate their bets. But yes its a risk to put in that much gold — so if you don’t want risk, you can simply try your luck with lower bets, or find a player willing to sell. And generally you’ll find someone posting an offer at least once a release. Or you can put a WTB offer and generally find someone.

So, again, not saying I disagree with you about disliking RMT, but I don’t think players should have the impression that this is a really scary aspect of the game.

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redfish

Oh, yes, and if you’re really lucky, you can find a rare artifact on a mob which you can sell to another player for 100k and earn your way towards buying a deed that way. :D

shibby523
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shibby523

On top of this, people spent a lot of money on player owned towns with hopes to have a busy bustling town full of players and vendors. Portalarium essentially killed this by making plots available in the cash shop. Not many want to pay cash or grind forever to take part in housing which is the better part of the game.

The average MMO player that sees the cash shop laughs and moves on. The game is literally laughed at when brought up other places.

Portalarium can fix the game but they are too beholden to their whales to make the important changes in order to save the game. It’s better to tick off the few in order to gain the many.

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khadre

The crafting is pretty interesting, so you should at least try it. I warn you it can be a huge money sink as you need to buy some components from the vendor, and good luck finding the vendor sometimes. Tool decay is also an issue as you use your crafting tools, so you may need to buy more than one crafting tool by the time you have leveled up sufficiently, as paying for equipment repairs is just astronomical.

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Rob Crowther

I think the way crafting is right now, with the recipes now being much harder to find, getting to the interesting part is a much bigger grind than it used to be. Might not be enough time to try it properly before the end of the series.

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dorkish

to really get the most out the game it helps if your in a guild there really isn’t much info on the game on the web it’s really a old style game it’s more like the old ultima online with with a new 3D graphical interface it’s very grindy and it takes a lot of work to get some things done it’s a game that you have to spend a lot of time on to get any where

thats both a benfit and a downfall of this game if you can put the time in it’s fun and rewarding. it’s still in early devolpment but they did just finish the main quest lines last release it might help if you got some help following the main quest lines to get better idea of the game

feel free to contact me in the game if i’m online Dorkish

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Silver Squirrel

What happened to Schlag’s comment? One moment it was here, next… poof! Disappeared into the ether.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

change of heart

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Silver Squirrel

Ah, mystery solved. I was afraid you’d been silenced by the gif police for a mostly text based comment :)

I shall call off the cavalry.

pepperzine
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pepperzine

Missing the polls :(

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agemyth 😩

Suggestion: Interact with other human beings and in a more meaningful way than joining a random guild for the extra chat channel.

Anecdotally, stumbling into social interactions with decent people has happened often (as I tried not to be my usual avoidant self) and so far all positive experiences.

wpDiscuz