portalarium

Richard Garriott and Starr Long’s studio working on Shroud of the Avatar.

The Daily Grind: How much realism is too much in an MMORPG?

In yesterday’s comments on the Shroud of the Avatar AMA article, MOP reader squidgod2000 drew everyone’s attention to an overlooked bit in the Q&A that discusses nutrition in the game. I knew that food was intended to be a big deal in SOTA, but I had no concept of how far the game might eventually go — apparently a complicated system of calories, fat, and salt that affects a player’s stats. Richard Garriott says it’s all still a work in progress and only slowly being addressed (that goes for barfing up your food if you eat too much too!).

I love playing cooks in MMORPGs — let’s be honest, games are the only place I’ll ever be a great chef — so I most definitely want to see game mechanics in my sandboxes that make such consumables matter. I didn’t mind the various versions of “stomach capacity” Star Wars Galaxies implemented, for example. But I’m going to have to draw my personal line at counting calories in a freakin’ video game. Sorry, SOTA, but most of us have to do that and worry about our health or our relatives’ health in the real world.

And that leads me to today’s Daily Grind. How much realism is too much in an MMORPG?

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Shroud of the Avatar has plans to attract more players and keep them around

In the hopes of attracting and encouraging more player investors in Shroud of the Avatar, Portalarium took to Reddit for a Q&A session that did not leave everyone quite satisfied.

During the AMA, Portalarium explained why it’s not doing a wipe before release, responded to those upset at the slow rollout of the single-player version, promised more user interface polish, and addressed frustration over players not being able to find certain NPCs. The studio said that right now there it is seeing around a 500-player concurrency, although it expects this to increase as they start promoting the game more.

So how is the team planning in attracting new players to the game as it heads toward launch? “We have been testing out our free trial system for the last few months and in the next few months we will begin promoting this more and more as the game improves to bring in new players. To keep players around long-term we will be working on more high-end content around the end of the year.”

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Shroud of the Avatar adds East Asian-themed town, kicks off Q&A

Fancy a bit of the Far East in your MMORPGs? Shroud of the Avatar is making that wish come true with its unclone of the town of Celestis, as explained in Portalarium’s latest newsletter.

“The terrain is heavily influenced by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China, while the cultural decor is influenced by feudal Japan,” writes Level Designer Chris “Seawolf” Wolf. “It will feature a new town center and harbor, several gardens including a rock garden, several koi fish ponds, and a Noh/Kabuki stage which can also double as a dance floor. There are also a few Easter-eggs throughout the scene which pay tribute to some of my favorite chambara (classic samurai films).”

Richard Garriott and crew are running an Ask Me Anything on the /r/SotA_Official subreddit beginning at 11 a.m. EDT today (just as this post goes live). The discussion is intended to focus on the SeedInvest equity crowdfunding campaign currently live for the company.

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Shroud of the Avatar plans a pair of investor Q&A sessions, the first taking place tonight

One of the frustrating bits about the MMORPG studios that are turning to newly legal online equity crowdfunding platforms is that the very SEC rules meant to protect us also hinder us when it comes to digging up information and reporting on the proceedings. That is, gaming studios and other companies are forbidden from disclosing specific things (chiefly, deal terms) about their campaigns to the media while those campaigns are ongoing. You might notice studios won’t answer most emailed or forum questions either. The idea is that a campaign’s premise would be scattered for different audiences, which could open the game up to legal challenges later.

All of this is preamble to explaining why you might want to tune in to the Q&A sessions Portalarium will be holding with investors and potential investors into its newly announced Shroud of the Avatar SeedInvest campaign. The first is tonight at 5 p.m. EDT and takes the form of a public streamed webinar; the second is a public Reddit AMA next week on June 20th. Presumably, investors will be able to ask more direct questions about the studio’s finances during those established public fora.

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Shroud of the Avatar puts the final touches on Libris Ruins, promotes SotA Con 2017

One of the big additions to Shroud of the Avatar in this month’s Release 43 will be Libris Ruins. Is it a little weird that a bunch of current, modern work is being done to make ruins? Perhaps only in our minds.

The ruins will be filled with plenty of hostile mobs and traps — specifically, bear traps. That isn’t to say that the whole place will be oppressive; Libris Ruins will feature many panoramic views, including a winding river, rugged cliffs, and alien flora.

The team is also promoting the upcoming SotA Con 2017, which will take place in Austin from October 13th through the 15th. Early bird tickets are on sale for $44, with any excess funds raised to go straight to the game itself.

Release 43 is coming on June 29th. You can get a glimpse at the new Libris Ruins after the break.

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Massively Overthinking: MMO monetization run amok

Over the last couple of weeks, the monetization of unreleased games has become a pervasive and uncomfortable theme for the MMO genre. Just in brief:

The frustrating bit is I could go on, and this is just for games that aren’t even formally launched yet. So for this week’s Massively Overthinking, I want to take the temperature of alarm regarding these types of business models for unlaunched games. Is this all par for the course, in line with what we expect from the new MMO market? Have they gone too far yet? If not, what’s too far? How do we feel about this type of pre-launch monetization run amok?

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Perfect Ten: MMORPGs that died too soon

Your favorite game is going to die. I wrote about that. Some games are never even going to get to launching in the first place, unfortunately. But then there are these titles: games that went the distance when it came to development, marketing, promotion, testing… but somehow didn’t quite manage to stick the landing past that. These are the games that, in Transformers terms, are the hi-then-die cast of the MMO space.

That doesn’t always mean the games are bad, mind you. Some of these games were great fun. But through a combination of business model issues, publisher issues, player population, and just general weirdness, these titles couldn’t make it to a year and a half in the wild. Heck, some of them couldn’t even make it to a year and a quarter. And if you want to peruse this list and wonder why all of these titles are gone but Alganon is somehow still operating… well, we’re just as confused as you are.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 120: Steaming into summer

On this week’s show, Justin and Bree welcome summer by talking about SWTOR’s roadmap, Black Desert’s amazing Steam debut, and a troubling Shroud of the Avatar announcement, as well as a mailbag question about casual gaming.

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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Shroud of the Avatar’s Richard Garriott on launch and philosophy following equity crowdfunding announcement

Last week during its seasonal telethon, Shroud of the Avatar’s lead developers surprised watchers by announcing an equity crowdfunding campaign that allows players and other parties to invest directly in the game.

To try to glean more information about the state of the company and the decision to launch this year, we fired off an interview to Portalarium’s Richard Garriott. But one extremely tricky (and frustrating for everyone) issue that crops up with these equity crowdfunding interviews is that the SEC has implemented strict rules for what studios can talk about, meaning they are not legally allowed to discuss deal terms with the press. In fact, if we mention specific deal terms of their campaign in this interview, we can get them in trouble, which is obviously not our goal here. For example, we asked additional questions about the company’s financial position, who has invested in it, what happens to Portalarium if the investor round fails to meet its minimum, whether the game’s income is currently covering its costs, and how the game’s valuation was determined, but Garriott couldn’t answer in fear of running afoul of SEC regulations.

So we’ve proceeded with what we can discuss, and investors can ask questions in public on SeedInvest where everything is posted in accordance with the law.

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Shroud of the Avatar makes $2M equity crowdfunding pitch, plans 2017 launch

Shroud of the Avatar’s Summer Telethon concluded last night, having raised from players $115,000 and unlocking multiple stretch goal rewards for players, including balloons and special pipe smoke shapes.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of news to emerge from the hoopla is that Portalarium is apparently using the SeedInvest platform to solicit investors in a new $2M equity crowdfunding campaign, akin to the one Crowfall studio ArtCraft carried out late last year.

It’s sent Reddit and the official forums into a tizzy as players and detractors question the game’s $25M valuation, its plans to fully launch in 2017, the story wipe apparently coming, and some of the features touted in the investment briefing that aren’t in the game, like trade routes, a fully player-driven economy, town capture, and console/mobile functionality. The investor pitch notes that the game has more than 64K “volunteer testers” (copies sold?) and over 150,000 “player registrations,” with a cash position of just over half a million dollars and a monthly drain of $230,000 in operational costs.

We have reached out to Portalarium for clarification this morning and will report back when we have better information, but be aware that it’ll be hard to get financial quotes out of them while the equity investment campaign is live.

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Global Chat: Freaking out over Destiny 2

Ever since the Destiny 2 reveal, everyone seems to be freaking out about this follow-up MMO shooter. Will it be the new hotness or a repainted product that’s being sold again to the same audience?

The reveal made Dragonchasers change his mind: “I guess I have to applaud Bungie for trying something new. They freely admit that they’re trying to do something about the frequently toxic environments brought about by matchmaking.”

“I have to say I am not disappointed in the least,” Tales of the Aggronaut enthuses. “In fact at this very moment I am feeling inordinate amounts of Destiny love.  There were a few things that were released that gave me all the feels.”

That doesn’t mean everyone’s fully on board yet. “I appreciate the changes the game is making, but I had expected a proper sequel to Destiny to actually be a bigger game with actual new stuff to do, stuff that couldn’t be done in the first game,” said Virtual Bastion.

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You’ve got mail in Shroud of the Avatar

Just ahead of the long weekend, Shroud of the Avatar rolled out one of its distinctly consistent monthly updates for early players. The so-dubbed Release 42 includes more combat and AI balancing, the Path of the Oracle content, Virtue Path battle scenes, advanced skill training, and of course, the new mail system.

“With Release 42, players will be able to receive mail notifications based on vendor transactions. When a vendor item is sold, expired, or removed, players will receive mail that notifies them of the event. The mail will also include the proceeds or refund from the transaction. Mail can be accessed at mailboxes, which are located at all banks throughout New Britannia. Mailboxes can also be crafted and placed at your house. Work is ongoing to eventually allow players to send mail to each other in future iterations.”

The game’s latest newsletter also includes a peek into the delayed Libris Ruins scene (a bit of a cross between Rivendell and Old Ascalon if you ask me) and the revelation that now over a third of the game has been properly translated thanks to community volunteers. There’s a few days left in the game’s special May free trial — anybody catching the tail end of that? And of course, Portalarium is gearing up for its next telethon on May 31st. Check out the new images and video!

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The Stream Team: Back to the beginning in Shroud of the Avatar

The last few times Massively OP’s MJ was wandering around Shroud of the Avatar, she was actually wandering… all over the map. Now it’s time to progress in the story and get some of those early quests done, so she’s back to help the folks out in Soltown. Tune in live at 7:00 p.m. to see if MJ can finally find out who likes red so much!

What: Shroud of the Avatar
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 7:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 26th, 2017

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