portalarium

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

Shroud of the Avatar prepares for the arrival of Release 49

December is a time for sitting with friends and family, toasting to the new year, and most importantly, not doing any actual work. Thus, the developers behind Shroud of the Avatar are heading home early this month, and that means you get the next major patch of the game earlier than usual. But it’s still an update filled with polish, as it’s focused on exactly that in anticipation for launch. Higher frame rates, better optimization, and UI improvements for everyone!

The update also includes polish to the game’s main storyline and improvements to the game’s NPC behaviors, so enemies and helpful NPCs alike should behave more intelligently in this patch. Check out the full patch notes to see everything that’s changing in the latest release, and enjoy a more polished version of the game as you play over the holidays. (If you weren’t planning on playing over the holidays… well, you can still enjoy it, in theory.)

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Shroud of the Avatar creates the quintessential cozy inn, changes up free trial offerings

When travelers wander in to Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 49 later this week, they’ll find that one watering hole looks much improved than before. The team has been busy remodeling the Soltown inn to make it “cozier and more pleasant” for visitors.

Release 49 has a lot more than just a better-looking rumpus room; players will experience improved framerate, revamped wetlands, the new Elysium Mines, more ore nodes, UI polish, and winter recipes.

The team also notes that it is improving and experimenting with the free trial system (the next of which starts on December 20th). Free players will be marked as visitors, be moved over to the Path of Courage, have a level 50 skill cap, and restrict trade with others.

“Making these changes will allow us to leave the free trial up almost continually therefore maximizing the ability for players to try the game before they buy,” Portalarium said. “We feel firmly that giving players this no obligation opportunity is great for the health of the game and a fair business practice that we wish to pursue.”

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Perfect Ten: 20 upcoming MMOs to watch in 2018

It has become a long-standing tradition as Massively OP and our former site that we like to end the year by creating a list of titles that we anticipate for the coming one. It has always been a devilish list to create, full of loose dates and fast guesswork about which titles will and won’t be releasing during a 12-month window (just read last year’s list to see how spot-on I was).

This year we’re changing things up a bit by tossing out the qualifying factor of “will see a hard launch in 2018.” Instead, I drafted up a list of 20 MMOs that have the potential to do or be really interesting next year, whether that be a launch, a long-anticipated beta test, or some other significant development. Plus, hey, you get 20 for the price of 10, so no complaining now!

As an aside, this list isn’t going to cover some other exciting-looking multiplayer games that are arriving in 2018, like Sea of ThievesThe Crew 2Monster Hunter WorldDayZRed Dead Redemption 2Stardew Valley, Conan Exiles, and State of Decay 2. And you old school fans won’t want to forget that Ultima Online has a new free-to-play option coming this spring.

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Shroud of the Avatar’s newest mine borrows from Greek mythology

If you fall into the trap of thinking of every fantasy mine as a dark cavern full of Temple of Doom-style trolley tracks, then Shroud of the Avatar would like to disabuse you of this assumption. The devs are hand-crafting the game’s Elysium mines, which is about as far from tropeville as you can get.

“The visual inspiration for this mine comes from the Minoan City of Knossos in Crete,” the devs wrote, “where the original Labyrinth from Greek mythology was said to have been. The glowing river is partially inspired by the river Styx, and is closely associated with the spirits wandering the labyrinth.”

The team is getting ready to head out for the holidays, but before that happens, there is one last release (on December 14th). Portalarium raised $75,000 for the game through a December 1st telethon and got $2,889 to donate for last month’s Movember.

Checking out Shroud of the Avatar during one of its free trial periods this month? The studio is pointing newbies to the New Player Welcome and Player Created Resources forums to get them off to a good start.

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Battle Bards Episode 110: Acoustic guitar

The Battle Bards are quite familiar with the power of the strummed guitar and lute, knowing that such simple instruments can bring down walls, devastate armies, and dethrone monarchs. But on their off days, acoustic guitars are simply pleasurable to hear and are sprinkled throughout many a-MMO’s soundtrack. It’s six-stringed serenity in the 110th episode of this podcast!

Battle Bards is a bi-weekly podcast that alternates between examining a single MMO’s soundtrack and exploring music tracks revolving around a theme. MOP’s Justin co-hosts with bloggers Steff and Syl. The cast is available on iTunesGoogle PlayTuneInPocket CastsStitcher, and Player.FM.

Listen to Episode 110: Acoustic Guitar (or download it) now:

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Shroud of the Avatar saves the wetlands

Wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem, and not just because they are chock-full of stinging insects, biting snakes, and muddy bogs. They also are important quest locations in MMOs, which is why it’s so important to preserve them as nature intended.

Thankfully, organizations like SOTA (Swamps of the Alliance) exist to save the unique qualities of the wetlands from becoming generic, cloned entities. The digital eco warriors are rebuilding the East Longfall Wetlands for (catch and) Release 49 as part of the Paths of Truth and Courage. We assume that those are national forestry trails.

The SOTA team has also been busy this month creating “hordes of barbarians and cannibals,” although we cannot for the life of us understand why they would do this. Perhaps a dare.

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Shroud of the Avatar elaborates on Release 48 changes

If you missed it, Shroud of the Avatar pushed out its November update pretty early this month due to the Thanksgiving holiday (an action that the team will repeat next month as well).

Before the team takes a break to feast on the carcass of an oversized bird, it wanted to go into greater depth on some of the big changes with Release 48. Some of the updates this time around included improvements to artifacts, virtue gear, and enchantments.

“Release 48 is chock full of stuff,” said Starr Long. “We got more work reducing the load times, we got a new lighting model in there, more side quests, more story polish, more unique components, audio polish, video effects polish, UI polish, holiday items, and the long-awaited tree and grass mover.”

There’s an hour of dev chat waiting for you after the jump, so get started already!

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Shroud of the Avatar’s early R48 update focuses on launch priorities, polish, and performance

Shroud of the Avatar has rolled out Release 48 as of early this afternoon, which may just upset your internal clock a bit, since usually they happen at the end of the month! Holidays are pushing the schedule up, however, which is good news for anyone who wanted to actually play through Thanksgiving week.

R48 reflects Portalarium’s focus on its launch priorities checklist. “We continued to make strong progress on load time reductions, story polish, and creation of new scenes,” the studio’s Starr Long says. Expect updates to the in-game map, UI, holiday items, item decay on death, load times, lighting, all four story paths, artifacts, loot, and worldbuilding passes, including new mines and scenes, although not the rebuilt Novia additions, which have been postponed. Check out the screens below for a tease!

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Shroud of the Avatar entices players to complete survey with in-game rewards

Portalarium and Travian Games are looking for useful feedback for Shroud of the Avatar — and they are not shy in their approach to getting it. The studios is bribing players to take a 10-minute survey about the fantasy MMO in the hopes of understanding “gameplay experiences and expectations.”

The survey in question covers a wide range of topics, such as what makes the game fun, what players have spent money on already, the choice of game modes, quests, combat, dialogue, visuals, and sound. There’s nothing here that suggests any major change to the game or its business model, but it might be helpful for players who want to share specific feedback with the studio.

All survey takers will receive one Gold Crown of the Obsidian (a unit of premium currency) and be entered into a drawing for several other in-game goodies such as a house. To get your reward, you’ll want to take this survey by November 21st.

Source: Survey

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Shroud of the Avatar teases winter holiday items and the R48 artifact revamp

Are you one of those folks who laments that the winter holiday season gets pushed earlier and earlier every year? If so, you’re not gonna like Shroud of the Avatar’s latest newsletter, as it’s got everything but Santa. For the rest of you, it’s time to get your Yuletide on, as the piece features stuffed stockings, crackling fires, sleighs, and decorative garlands. There are even cards, and yes, you can write inside the cards as if they’re books.

Meanwhile, the studio is teasing new armor going live in R48, along with a big artifact revamp that effectively removes artifact reparability. “They will only be able to be repaired by salvaging other artifacts to get Artifact Essences that will be used in Artifact repair,” Portalarium explains. “This will cycle Artifacts out of the economy and require players to re-acquire them periodically or destroy other artifacts (thereby simulating ‘production’). Additionally we will make Artifacts a bit more dynamic by giving players the ability to enchant and masterwork them.”

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Shroud of the Avatar opens a trio of new mines for lowbies, gets ready for Christmas

Players who want to get a jump start on their Shroud of the Avatar crafting career might end up taking a tour under the surface of the world. The developers report that they have opened up three new low-level mines so that newer players can start mining for that much-needed ore without having to wait until much later in the game.

SOTA’s artists showed off a couple of rewards that players will be able to obtain, such as torn and bloody wedding attire (if you’re missing Halloween already) or Yule gifts and candelabras (if you can’t wait for Christmas). There’s also moustache-themed helmets and cloaks to support the Movember movement for men’s health.

Shroud of the Avatar recently raised $60,000 from its last telethon and is currently running a free trial which is set to conclude on November 15th. The following day will see Release 48 hit the scene prior to the holiday rush.

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Shroud of the Avatar announces big gameplay change and new trial

Following the release of its October content update a few days ago, Shroud of the Avatar’s weekly newsletter delivered a hodge-podge of smaller news pieces. These snippits include a spoilery look at the climactic setting of the Oracle Temple, more Make a Difference charity sale items, an announcement that the team will host a panel at SXSW in March, and the introduction of SOTA’s new web developer, Kory Kirk.

Portalarium said that it will be rolling out its next free trial in a few days, which will run from November 1st through the 15th. At this point, why not leave it on for good, really?

Developer Starr Long also informed players of one big change that will come in the November 16th update: “Artifacts will undergo a major refactor in Release 48 in order to better align them with the rest of the economy. In order to not have them directly compete with crafted goods they can no longer be repaired like regular items. Instead they will only be able to be repaired by salvaging other artifacts to get ‘Artifact Essences’ that will be used in Artifact repair. This will cycle Artifacts out of the economy and require players to re-acquire them periodically or destroy other artifacts (thereby simulating ‘production’).”

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Massively Overthinking: The state of early access, alpha, and beta ‘testing’ in the MMO genre

I remember years ago when then-Massively-columnist Rubi Bayer let loose with a blistering rant on the state of faux beta MMOs. She helmed Betawatch back then, see, and she was fed up with (mostly imported) MMOs claiming to be in beta when in fact they’d soft-launched. A lot of readers didn’t understand her fury at the time, but boy have things changed, right? Now, every game’s in on that very old trick, only they call it early access now, while some are still pushing the boundaries, charging $1000 for pre-alpha.

MOP reader Pepperzine proposed a topic for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s right on point. “I was thinking it would be interesting if we could discuss when people consider a game to be in alpha/beta versus a final launch as a topic,” he wrote to us.

“Back in the day, this was easy to determine. Selective testers were extended invites into beta who were experienced testers who had the computer hardware to handle the software. The primary purpose of being in the testing phase was exactly that, to test and bug report. When the game was made available to the public at a price, a game was considered launched. Now, players are granted access to pre-launch titles by ‘donating’ or purchasing access. For the most part, the primary purpose of participating in the pre-launch experience for these players is not testing or bug reporting but rather to experience and play the game. The division of purchasing a game and donating to test has become so blurred that it is no longer a valid way of determining if a title is at a state to where it is launch ready. These titles can stay in this pre-launch phase for as long as they deem necessary, easily deflecting criticisms by reiterating it is still in development. So when do you consider a game to be launched? Is it when the producers declare it is? Is it when there is no longer the possibility of wipes? Is it when cash shop monetization is implemented? Is it as soon as the company begins selling access?”

Where’s the line in 2017? Let’s dig in.

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