portalarium

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

Shroud of the Avatar sells toilets and wheelchairs for charity

While it still continues on that long road to launch, Shroud of the Avatar is using some of its development time and resources to help those in need outside of the game studio. In this past weekend’s newsletter, Portalarium mentioned a few new store items that it’s created for the purposes of raising money for charity. One of these? A toilet.

Yes, if you buy SOTA’s steampunk toilet (“an ingenious contraption that brings bodily evacuations indoors through the clever use of Kobold technology”), you’ll be pitching in to help with Water.org’s World Toilet Day effort to address a sanitation crisis in impoverished nations. Other charity-related items include a wheelchair for children’s hospitals and Doctors Without Borders.

The team also showed off some new Halloween-themed rewards, new houses for SeedInvest backers, and Oktoberfest cosmetics for postmortem rewards. Shroud of the Avatar recently raised an additional $80,000 through an October 12th telethon and is working toward Release 47 on October 26th.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 139: Catching up with Legends of Aria

On this week’s show, Legends of Aria’s Derek Brinkmann returns for another interview about how the indie MMORPG is shaping up as it goes through its “final” alpha and heads toward beta and launch. We also dig deep into the mailbag to gripe about gambling!

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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C-3PO lookalike joins Shroud of the Avatar in release 47

OK, so C-3PO isn’t really being imported into Shroud of the Avatar, but the game’s new automaton sure looks a lot like him (minus his silver leg!). He’s one of the golden clockwork critters and automatoi included as an investor perk from the game’s recent SeedInvest campaign.

Portalarium’s latest newsletter also teases the remake and release for North Midmaer Way and North Quel Way, a cozy old forest and abandoned castle ruins with graveyard, respectively. Fall may not be here for a lot of us still experiencing ridiculous near-90-degree temps in the US, but it’s on the way in SOTA, as the team’s laid out an assortment of wreaths and turkeys, with “spooky-themed” items slated to go as prizes from the game’s upcoming fundraising-slash-postmortem stream. That’s coming up on Thursday. In the meantime, you can check out the new location and gear images down below.

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The Game Archaeologist: Ultima Worlds Online Origin

While the heady days of Ultima Online’s dominant position over the industry are long gone, the MMORPG continues to operate and expand, and many players have fond memories of the unique experience that game offered. In fact, some titles like Legends of Aria and (obviously) Shroud of the Avatar are doing their best to claim the unofficial title of “Ultima Online spiritual successor” in the hopes of reuniting veteran MMO players with the special qualities that made this game great.

These aren’t the first games to try to grasp the holy grail of an Ultima Online sequel. There were actually two such projects that went into heavy production in the late 1990s and early 2000s — both ending with premature cancellation and frustration on the part of developers and fans.

The second of these, Ultima X Odyssey, I covered a while back. Today, we’re going to take a look at the first MMO that attempted to mix the Ultima Online formula with a few new twists. Ultima Worlds Online Origin might not be as well-known (or as well-titled), but its history is just as fascinating as UXO’s.

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Shroud of the Avatar pops out a free October trial, runs a Halloween contest

You can’t turn around in this genre these days without Shroud of the Avatar leaping out at you with another free trial. And so it is for October, as the curious set can scout out the game for free (albeit with limitations) through the 25th.

If you happen to be out and about in Shroud this month, you might want to consider entering into the “Nightmares of New Britannia” Halloween contest. The team is urging players to come up with thematically striking costumes or house decorations for the season, and the best of these will be richly rewarded.

At least this game’s trial program will be fully tested by the time Shroud of the Avatar actually launches! Which, as a reminder, won’t be this year for sure.

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Shroud of the Avatar is not launching this year, but it will have a launch date this year

There’s a lot still to be done in the development of Shroud of the Avatar. Even with the most recent major patch for the game having just been released, the newest update on the game’s development outright states that the game will not be hitting honest-to-goodness launch state this year; there’s still a great deal to be done, such as polishing up the game’s performance, improving rewards, improving in-game direction, and enriching the game’s narrative. All that having been said, the game should receive a launch date by the end of the year, so that’s at least a step in the right direction.

The development dispatch includes a roadmap for the remaining patches of the year; the October patch is meant to improve the UI, client performance, and the story flow of the game’s opening scenes. November will see more progress on that front along with holiday content and more sidequests, and December will be focused on optimizing FPS and another batch of holiday content. It’s still part of the lengthy journey through early access, even if the game seems as if it can finally spy the finish line.

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Shroud of the Avatar’s R46 is live, with a stealing update, better load times, and plenty of polish

Shroud of the Avatar’s 46th Release is live today, the first monthly update in which Portalarium says it is beginning to “truly focus on [its] top 10 priorities for launch.” The studio says that the update features improved load times, polished or rebuilt seven scenes, fully reworked the Blackblade Pass area, whipped up the Highvale Outskirts, quest polishing, nine new side quests, and updated the Malice dungeon.

Halloween is also on the way; the patch includes some Halloween items, including a prison home. Oh yeah, and thieves, listen up:

“We have done a major rework of the Stealing System. The fines associated with stealing now escalate in cost each time you are caught and start much lower than they did before. Also, the number of times you are caught is now recorded by each town’s Magistrate so they can determine these escalating fines.”

The studio does note that it has delayed brewing skills and spawning revamp. Check out the whole list of what made it in and what didn’t in the patch notes.

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Battle Bards Episode 106: Early access themes

Instead of looking back at MMORPGs this week, the crew of Battle Bards launches forward into early access! What would a show about music from MMOs that aren’t even officially out yet be like? We’re going to find out in this wild and woolly episode!

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 106: Early access themes (or download it) now:

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Shroud of the Avatar preps 46th release, focuses on ‘player direction’ inside the world

It’s almost the end of the month, and you know what that means: Shroud of the Avatar’s monthly update. R46 is due out this Thursday, a day after the current free trial period ends. Portalarium has posted a top 10 list of priorities for updates, the current version of which highlights load times, client FPS, loot rewards, story polish, AI, UI, the newbie experience, locatlization, launch prep, and improved player direction, something our own Eliot Lefebvre isolated as a problem during his recent CMA series with the game. As the studio put it,

“Currently we rely on some very subtle and ‘immersive’ indicators for information in the world (ex. piles of skulls to indicate scene difficulty). We are going to provide much clearer indication of information. For example, on the overworld all towns will have clear indicators of their town type (POT, NPC, etc.). We will also indicate whether you have a quest in a scene, a clearer label of the scene’s difficulty, perhaps even an indicator of what services a scene might provide (bank, mail, blessings, etc.). We will also start providing more on screen indicators of this information, so that while you are in a scene you will better know what kind of scene it is, what difficulty it is, whether you have quests in the scene, etc. We will also work hard to polish the maps and compasses to better guide you to and from your quests, homes, services, points of interests, scene exits, etc.”

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Happy 20th birthday, Ultima Online! Here’s how to get caught up on the OG MMORPG

Just about 20 years ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering through Media Play (heh) when he picked up this box for some new online subscription video game with a cheesy Hildebrandt cover. I was skeptical. He bought it anyway. The next morning, after I’d played all night and totally bogarted his new game, we figured we should probably get a second account. And so we did, in spite of being clueless teenagers who could barely afford one sub, let alone two.

That game was Ultima Online, and it’s the game that birthed the term MMORPG and quite literally dragged me into the realm of virtual worlds. Without it, I wouldn’t be right here where I am talking to you today, having married that dude in the interim. And as of yesterday, that game is 20 years old.

Last autumn, when the game was turning 19, I did a fairly in-depth video on the coolest parts of UO, the parts you can still play today, as I do frequently dive back in and am playing this month too! It’s Massively OP’s best-performing video to date, proving that the game is very much not dead and done. Pretty much everything in the video is still accurate, except for the part on the business model (spoiler: UO is kinda going free-to-play), so I’m going to include it below, but then I’ll recap some of the important bits from the last year and answer a few questions anybody reading is sure to have.

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Shroud of the Avatar stuffs in more dragons, preps for Halloween

Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 46 is right around the corner, and when it arrives, so do the dragons. For the patch, the team has rebuilt the Northwest Blackblade Mountains zone, giving it a taste of flame and fire. The area is now described as “a devastated arid landscape of dragon bones, mesas, sand, and possible dragon encounters.” So kind of like your younger brother’s room.

The team is keeping its eyes on Halloween as it approaches, as well. Themed decorations, a wicked scythe, and a new grim reaper statue is in the works, but the highlight of this year’s holiday will be the construction of a special “prison home” for players who… want to lock up their guests? We guess?

To mark the recent passing of Richard Garriott’s mother, the team created an in-game Exodus portrait that players can purchase for $15. Some of the proceeds will go to a children’s museum that she supported in her life.

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Shroud of the Avatar reveals a batch of investment rewards for the one percenters

People, steel yourself for an entire article about gold-themed housing decorations that won’t involve a single Trump joke. It’s going to be hard, but we can get through it. Together.

So anyway, Shroud of the Avatar shared its first “perk pack” of investor rewards from the Seed Invest platform. Players who have chipped in $499 or more to the development of this upcoming MMO may get some of these gilded costume options, pets, and housing layouts. And they won’t have to wait, either, as these rewards are coming as soon as Release 47.

Check them out in the gallery below!

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Choose My Adventure: Shroud of the Avatar in summation

All the time through playing Shroud of the Avatar, I found myself wanting to like the game a lot more than I did. And my brain kept turning back to Minecraft, which seems like a worthwhile comparison to make.

Much like SOTA, Minecraft is a game strongly based on the concept of making your own fun. You are definitely making your own adventure in the game. But at the same time, it seems very relevant to point out that the game starts by giving you a clear set of parameters to work within. Monsters will spawn at night, there are resources under ground, you break things to get better things, and then combine those things to make still better things. From there on out, much of the game is devoted to figuring out how these various elements play off of one another.

So they’re both sandbox-ish titles in which you make your own fun. Except that one of them starts by showing you the fun that you’re supposed to be having and giving you a goal, and it does so with absolutely no story to guide you along that route. It shows you exactly the sort of game it’s trying to be and lets you start working at meeting it halfway. But SOTA never quite got there, at least for me.

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