This Thursday, Shroud of the Avatar will be pumping out its latest monthly update, Release 41. There’s a lot in store for the patch, including the Norgard ruler Titan Grannus, who will be making his debut.
In this past weekend’s newsletter, the team spent a lot of real estate covering many upcoming areas and characters, including the all-seeing Oracle, new weapon designs spurred on by the recent telethon, and the Fall open PvP dungeon. Of particular note were in-depth looks at two of the new introductory zones that are in development: Highvale Outskirts and Bloodriver Outskirts. One’s got a monastery in the mountains, the other has a river of blood. You pick which sounds more appealing.
Portalarium also announced that it is resuming work on bringing the game to other languages and is looking for fan help in the effort. “We are reestablishing development support translating our game to Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese languages,” the studio said. “In order to meet the vast translation needs of our project, we return to you, our amazing community, in search of qualified volunteers with a passion for seeing our project reach many more players!”
If you’ve picked up and played Shroud of the Avatar in early access over the past year or so, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed that its beginner experience has been under construction and in need of fleshing out and polishing. It’s to this end that the team has shifted its focus as of late, responding to player feedback concerning the first few hours of the game.
The team said that several issues, such as too many loading screens and a lack of vendors, have kept potential players from taking root in the fantasy MMO. “As we shift our focus to improving the New User Experience (NUE), and as we are able to measure new player progress through events like our recent free trial, we realize that we must address these issues sooner versus later,” Portalarium said.
Today brings to a close Shroud of the Avatar’s most recent free trial, but the newsletters keep on rolling. This weekend’s update dives into the game’s new Outskirts feature, which is basically a series of locales between the starting areas and some of the much larger and more advanced zones, intended to give players a bit of a staging ground along their journey.
“Our first Outskirts scene is Solace Bridge Outskirts. It is downriver from Solace Bridge where the Solace River meets the ocean. The small army that was defeated at Solace Bridge has retreated here and sent on the villager refugees to Soltown. They have made camp in a ruined tower overlooking the swampy shoreline. However they are not getting to rest in their retreat for a nearby bandit camp is preying on them, stealing supplies. Plus across the river lie the ruins of an ancient village infested with the very undead they just retreated from! We hope to have this scene live in Release 41 or 42.”
The studio has also put a date on its next telethon: May 31st. In the meantime, Portalarium will run its monthly dev stream tomorrow, so expect more Q&A and a peek at this year’s development schedule too. Release 41 is expected on April 27th.
Someone in our comments a few days back was just wishing he could pop into Shroud of the Avatar on a free trial to check it out before plunking down cold hard Steam cash. Good news for that guy: Portalarium announced today that it’s running another free trial period beginning today and ending April 10.
To hop in and check it out, all you have to do is create an account and get it downloaded. Just keep in mind that you’ll be under some restrictions while you poke around gratis. For example, you can’t trade, you can’t buy stuff from vendors, you can’t nab a housing lot, you can’t gank people (sorry, gankers!), and you can’t play in offline mode. Portalarium also reserves the right to delete your account data if you don’t upgrade when you’re done. That’s their goal, after all!
It’s the end of the month, and that means that there’s another Shroud of the Avatar patch available right now. The bad news is that the patch has already required some hotfixes, but the good news is that there’s plenty of meaty stuff within the patch. New story scenes, an improved experience for new players, combat improvements, property management features to make moving far easier… the list goes on. It’s why there’s a whole set of notes about the patch, even. (You can also check out a video all about the new add-on store items just below.)
Players interested in the slightly more distant future can also feast their eyes upon the game’s plans for the next quarter of the year. As the game moves closer to a release-ish state, the next three patches will add and polish more story, further improve the new user experience, and improve performance. The story will finally be finished with Release 44 in July, so that’s the point when you can really play through, start to finish.
Shroud of the Avatar’s latest newsletter — its 220th for those keeping track at home — got a fresh coat of paint to celebrate, and as usual, it’s stuffed full of screenshots. Some of those pics feature the Verdantis Mines, a gemstone-studded underground area, and the Kas Ruins (Helm’s Deep, anyone?), both being built for Release 41 or 42. There’s also a spotlight on a player-owned town, Owl Sky City, and a ton of videos on Obsidian Cabalist weapons.
What caught my attention, however, was the Solace Bridge Outskirts section, as its entry marks a bit of a design shift for Portalarium. “For several years now our backers have been providing us feedback that the first few hours of our game have several major issues,” explains the studio. “Those issues include too many loading screens, scenes that are too small, and starting towns that include player housing / vendors. As we shift our focus to improving the New User Experience (NUE) and as we are able to measure new player progress through events like our recent free trial we realize that we must address these issues sooner versus later.”
Shroud of the Avatar’s 219th newsletter has arrived! Of note is the segment on the Kas Ruins, whose biome is based on the Rockies and Grand Tetons of the US but could easily be pulled straight from Lord of the Rings.
Portalarium has also requested that backers entitled to submit NPCs for inclusion in the game do so for the village of Harvest, a farming community and waystation in Estgard. I would totally claim that town crier and make him say rude things, but that’s why I’m not a game designer.
The devs have also uploaded more info on their charity work, the full telethon, and notes for the offline mode save game format changes.
Construction continues apace at Shroud of the Avatar, where the team reports that two new areas are being crafted for future releases. There’s the Sepent’s Spine Mines, a Kobold-infested underground space that will be one of the game’s “most vertically oriented mines to date.” Then there’s The Fall, an open PvP area named after what you’ll probably be doing when you are foolish enough to wander around in its dark spaces.
In this past week’s newsletter, the team also showed off the technological arsenal of City Kobolds (and players will be able to loot and use some of these weapons!) as well as the wearable outfits of the Obsidian Cabalists.
On Friday, March 17th, SOTA’s Starr Long will be talking at SXSW Gaming on the subject of “Is video game early access too early?” According to the description, “This talk weighs the pros and cons of early access using Shroud of the Avatar as a case study.” Looking past that, Release 40 for the game is scheduled to arrive on March 30th, followed by Release 41 on April 27th.
If you’ve been following Shroud of the Avatar a while, you know that Portalarium periodically puts on wild telethons for its Twitch viewers, streaming deep-dives into game content, Q&As, and dev antics while attempting to raise money for development. Yesterday’s “Spring Telethon” event raised a cool $142,000 from gamers, unlocking in the process a ton of “stretch goal” style in-game rewards for folks who pledged as little as five bucks, from masks and lanterns to fountains and thorn-themed gear.
Alas, the $150K “Mini-Mushroom Psilocybin Monster Pet,” which “sends out cloud of spores that makes avatars drunk,” didn’t make the cut.
The whole telethon is available for viewing on Twitch and below, but we would be remiss not to include the requisite picture of Starr Long dancing too. If you catch only one part of it, hit the part about an hour in when Richard Garriott is discussing critical feedback — and how not to give it.
Sing me a song of a free trial, sing me a song today!
Right this very hot moment, Shroud of the Avatar is testing out a free trial to see how its system works. What does this mean for you? If you haven’t purchased this early access title, you can jump into it for free right now to give it a whirl.
As you may expect, the trial does have some restrictions and stipulations. Players will be labeled as a visitor and denied the ability to buy, trade, own land, engage in open PvP, and play offline. The free trial period runs through March 9th, at which point any participants will need to purchase the game to retain their character data and progress.
The fact that this trial is a “test” suggests that it will return in the future, perhaps in a more persistent form.
Just ahead of the weekend, Shroud of the Avatar rolled out Release 39, its latest monthly content push, and this one is pretty massive, as the latest newsletter recaps. Players spent the weekend tinkering with new town shrines, crafter patterns, the Path of Courage storyline, combat improvements, journal updates, the ignite weapons polish-up, and additions to Blood River, K’rul, K’rawl, North Drachvald Spur, and Upper Fortus.
What didn’t make it in? Player-rented rooms, ammo refactoring, Obsidian Cabalists, the new agriculture UI, and the Rhun Ruins. “In order to get room renting working properly, we had to entirely refactor how we store and save items in player homes,” says Portalarium. “This in turn led us to realize that we should work on the ability to save a decorated home (and eventually move it) before we do Room Rentals, so we have chosen to delay Room Renting for now.”
The newsletter also includes a look at the Serpent’s Spine Mines rebuild (coming R41) and a peek at the Bloody Bay dungeon known as The Fall (R40 or 41). And if your pledge package includes custom-designed NPCs, the team is collecting entries now for the village of Estgard. You always wanted to be a town guard, right?
If you assumed that Shroud of the Avatar’s February update was going to be on the small size, thanks to a shorter month, then you’re right there with the devs. However they ended up pushing out a rather big patch with Release 39 today that continues to fill out the game as it heads to an official release later this year.
There’s no one major headlining feature for Release 39 but instead several middle-of-the-road improvements. The team is progressing in its development of the Path of Courage and added the technologically savvy Kobolds and their counterparts, clockwork attack creatures. The update also contains crafting patterns (think “transmog” for weapons and gear), a pair of new dungeons, savable houses, a better cover system, neighborhood buffs, tweaks to the NPC conversation system, and Asian-themed architecture.
Players will also be able to put down those lutes after a long day of barding: “For our first foray into making handheld player items decorations, we picked handheld musical instruments because they are a nice small subset of items to experiment with as we work our way through the system. This means players can now place lutes, harps, flutes, and tabor drums as floor decorations.”
Hope you like clockwork critters because Shroud of the Avatar is about to get a slew of them. The game’s latest newsletter shows off such beasties as the clockwork attack cat, clockwork attack raven, and the assassin automaton, all part of the clockwork menagerie that’ll be inflicted on players in K’rul thanks to those craft kobolds.
Of note to fans of Old Britannia and the original Ultima games is the upcoming town blessing system, which is basically a clone of Richard Garriott’s classic virtue shrine system. Each shrine — I mean, devotional — is based on one of the core virtues and principles and grants a buff accordingly. For example, the Justice devotional reduces your fizzle chance and buffs your cooking skill. Good food is justice.
There’s much more to the newsletter, including another look at the gloriously crumbly and moss-drenched Rhun ruins and some gorgeous screenshots, which we’ve tucked below.