portalarium

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

Shroud of the Avatar's new 'outskirts' maps should be a big help for newbies

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."

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Shroud of the Avatar: Kas Ruins, custom NPCs, and marble columns

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.

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Shroud of the Avatar's Starr Long on the pros and cons of early access

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.

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Shroud of the Avatar raised $142,000 in crowdfunds yesterday

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.

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You can try Shroud of the Avatar for free right now

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.

Source: Shroud of the Avatar. Thanks Liandreth and Rick!

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Shroud of the Avatar's R39 adds town shrines, delays room renting

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?

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Shroud of the Avatar's latest update is off the rails

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."

Source: Patch notes

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Shroud of the Avatar previews clockwork critters and virtue shrine system

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.

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Shroud of the Avatar's Kobolds are high-tech marvels

Kobolds don't have the best reputation in most RPGs, usually taking the role of a low-level, non-threatening mob that you vaguely feel sorry for when you kill and pillage its corpse. In Shroud of the Avatar, however, the City Kobolds actually have an advantage in technological development.

The team gave these Kobolds the spotlight in last weekend's newsletter: "They are much more advanced than anyone else in Novia and the source of almost all of the technology that you see in the game, including clockwork creatures and aether vibration amplifiers. City Kobolds use advanced armor and weaponry including chainswords, electric axes, gas guns, electric blunderbusses, grenades, etc."

In other news, SotA will be introducing item "patterns" in Release 39 that will allow players to change the appearance of items while retaining the stats associated with (yes, it's transmog). The team also showed the development of several regions: Upper Fortus, Rhun Ruins, and K'rawl.

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Shroud of the Avatar tinkers with new areas and PvP zones

With Release 38 now behind them, the Shroud of the Avatar devs have turned their attention to 39 and 40. Portalarium's latest newsletter covers several zones being revamped in the coming updates, including mining-town-themed Upper Fortus and the obsidian-tech-obsessed Rhun Ruins, both edging away from the game's more stock fantasy tropes.

The studio also has plans for the dungeon K'rul that might affect PvPers with their eye on Blood Bay. "K'rul was originally planned to be an Open PVP zone, but with the upcoming dungeon called The Fall, Blood Bay, the Shardfalls (plus all the Ruins maps), we felt we had a good enough PVP scene balance for now," writes the team. "This means that K’rul is now going to be a PVE scene even though it is located in Blood Bay. Rumor has it there is a secret tunnel connecting it to Skrekk."

Check out the new zone screenshots plus video of the crafting hub and Rhun Ruins below.

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Richard Garriott explains why Steam has been unkind to Shroud of the Avatar

Have you had a chance to pick up and read Richard Garriott's memoirs yet? Whether or not you have, you might want to check out this interview that the Shroud of the Avatar creator did on his life adventures to date.

Speaking of the in-development MMO, the interviewer pointed out some of the bad reviews that Shroud of the Avatar has garnered so far and asked if the project might not be going as hoped. Garriott replied by saying, "I don't think so at all. We've had naysayers since the beginning. But I think what you're seeing is a side effect from open development from day one [...] Everything was pretty hunky dory until we went up on Steam. Then we found a different type of customer who hadn't been with us from the beginning. They see that the game looks unfinished, unpolished, with only a few weapons and an obtuse UI and we get a backlash."

Garriott said that Shroud of the Avatar should officially launch by the middle of 2017.

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Shroud of the Avatar draws Valentine's Day inspiration from ye olde decorations

Riding that Release 38 high, the Shroud of the Avatar team is back with its weekly newsletter to talk about what's coming up. You might love this: Valentine's Day is set to return, and for the event, the art team is once again drawing inspiration from antique cards and decorations for their in-game gifts and cards.

Other projects that are taking shape include the development of a technology-laden kobold dungeon called K'rul and the Asian revamp of Perennial Coast. The dungeon sounds quite dangerous, as it not only has cruel automatons guarding it but the whole place sits squat in the middle of an open PvP zone. Yes, that will end well.

The team said that the mix of automatic auto-attack and the recent addition of cute bunnies had resulted in a critter massacre, prompting a change to how auto-attack works. It was a hare-raising situation, but now the little creatures are safe.

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Shroud of the Avatar unloads one of its largest releases to date

Thanks to the confluence of holiday time off and the culmination of several projects, Shroud of the Avatar's Release 38 is turning out to be one of the biggest updates the game has put out yet.

The content update, which launches today, adds several new zones, revamps others, rebuilds the NPC conversation interface, wipes out scores of bugs, and tosses in deadly traps to keep you on your toes in dungeons.

"We made huge strides forward on multiple scenes throughout the game, including rebuilds of Brookside, Xenos, Vauban Pass, Solania, and multiple Perennial Coast scenes," the devs said. "We also added the new Canyon Siege scene to the Town Siege rotation and added the new PVP scene of Blood Bay to Spindrift Bay. Additionally, we began polishing the Path of Courage with special attention to Highvale."

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