portalarium

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

Shroud of the Avatar works on replacing placeholder scenes

With the broad outline of the game now completed, Shroud of the Avatar’s team is turning to placeholder locations and revising them with hand-crafted content. This includes the new mountainous region of Crooked Shank, the hilly lands of Middle Downs, and more Viking-inspired clothing for northern NPCs.

“We are focusing the next few releases on building the lower tier scenes near the cities along the paths of Truth and Courage,” Portalarium said. “Most of these scenes have been clones of other scenes and will now be replaced with completely original scenes.”

The team is going to be quite busy this month, not just with August’s Release 45 but also by making appearances at Gamescom, PAX West, and Dragon*Con. The studio is also hiring a web developer to be a part of the team.

Get a look at the making of Middle Downs after the break!

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Choose My Adventure: Finding my way in Shroud of the Avatar

Heading into Shroud of the Avatar for the first time was a bit of a strange experience for me, right from the start. Usually, when I start playing a new game, I start forming impressions and then spend the next few weeks refining those impressions in either direction. This time, I am utterly unsure of how I feel about the game, and I suspect that the next few weeks are going to make that more complex, not less.

And part of me can’t help but wonder if some of that is just a matter of missing vital reference points.

I don’t mean that in the sense of the game being actually impenetrable; it’s just that I find myself constantly asking if something that bugs me is, in fact, exactly the way it’s supposed to be for fans of the genre and Garriott’s prior work. Which is a trip, let me tell you that. I’m staggering through dark woods, getting my throat chewed on by a wolf, and I’m seized with the urge to ask the wolf if this is, in fact, an intended portion of design. You know, between bites of my trachea.

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Perfect Ten: MMOs obsessed with the floating islands trope

One of the fun things about this hobby is that certain tropes repeat themselves constantly. And they’re usually weirdly specific tropes, too. Poop quests, for example. So many MMOs have one quest or another that make you dealing with poop. Someone has a fixation that is probably not entirely healthy, and that someone keeps getting hired to design quests.

But sometimes you try to come up with a trope that’s so specific that it has to be unique. Or at least rare. “MMOs that feature a zone full of floating islands requiring flight to travel around.” At least one zone, and it is traveled around via flight. That cannot be common, that has to be…

Wait. How did I not only get a full list but actually have to decline some entries? How the heck did this happen? There are this many MMOs using this astonishingly specific trope? How did this happen and why?

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Shroud of the Avatar is playable for free right now

If you haven’t been aware of it, Shroud of the Avatar is currently running yet another extended trial for the remainder of the month. That means that even if you haven’t purchased the game, you can still jump in and try it out between now and August 30th.

Of course, it is to be expected that a trial will come with limitations, and Shroud of the Avatar’s program is no different. There’s a long list of restrictions that freebies will have to accept, such as being denied trade privileges, property ownership, and open PvP flagging. Trial users also cannot play in the game’s offline mode and are limited to the Path of Love for the game’s story.

It should also be noted that if you get attached to your trial character, you’re going to want to pony up some money to keep it: “Character data may be deleted after free trial test is over if not upgraded to a paid account.”

MOP’s Eliot is exploring Shroud of the Avatar in this month’s Choose My Adventure series.

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Choose My Adventure: Starting completely fresh in Shroud of the Avatar

I really know pretty much nothing about Ultima.

This is only partly my fault. Way back when the Ultima games were a big deal on PC, I was still decidedly locked to consoles, where the options for getting into the series were rather limited. Aside from that, it was years before I really acquired much of a taste for the Western style of RPGs as opposed to the Japanese style… and considering that the roots of that style are half-buried in Ultima (along with Might & Magic and Wizardry, to be very broad and avoid overburdening this header), you can see why I’d kind of give things a pass.

All of this is pretty relevant when it comes to Shroud of the Avatar because you kind of can’t separate the two. No, Shroud of the Avatar is not an Ultima game, but it’s Richard Garriott building the game and inserting himself into the proceedings. It’d be like George Lucas making a new movie based off of Buck Rogers and Akira Kurosawa’s filmography; it might not bear the title, but you know you’ll wind up with something pretty close to wars what are waged across the stars.

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Shroud of the Avatar raised almost $700K from investors, $67.5K from donors last night

Shroud of the Avatar’s equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest has come to a close, with 518 investors having raised just shy of $700,000 in the round. It was over $700,000 at one point last night but dropped back down as someone apparently backed out.

Perhaps that person put money into the game’s latest telethon instead. As promised, Portalarium has switched over from quarterly to monthly fundraising telethons; last night’s even raised $67,500 and granted “oracle eye” themed stretch goals to players, including home decor, sparklers, and wings.

The telethon stream does feature a Q&A with the dev team on the past release in addition to a “world building tour”; we’ve included it below.

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Shroud of the Avatar profiles new zones, hits $600K in SeedInvest round

Shroud of the Avatar’s latest newsletter has plenty of business business business, but the highlights are always the developers’ diaries on various locations and scenes being worked on in the game. Case in point: Today’s newsletter features a wagonload of screenshots of Etceter and South Paladis.

Etceter is referenced in the Tracy Hickman novel attached to the game; it needed more Greco-Roman ruin influences, the roads and walls mentioned in the book, natural paths and hidey-holes, and the general feeling of hard times and post-invasion “developed decay.” South Paladis, on the other hand, is getting two new original scenes in release 45 later this month: Middle Downs, with its burial mounds and abandoned villages, and South Broken Road, with its crumbly, rocky river and creepy quest. We’ve collected all the images down below.

There’s just one more day left to invest in Portalarium’s SeedInvest campaign; the fund broke the $600,000 mark not long after hitting $500,000 earlier this week.

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Choose My Adventure: Get out of here, DC Universe Online

So this is an unusual situation for me: I’ve never actually played a game for Choose My Adventure that I’ve disliked this much.

Those of you who have followed my writing for a while know that I’ve played some games I didn’t much like before, but that’s different. Lord of the Rings Online and Black Desert, for example, are games that were not my cup of tea but still had obvious merits I could praise. I’ve played games that I dislike or ones that deserved more criticism than praise when I played them (Ryzom, TERA, the beta period of The Elder Scrolls Online), but still had positive sides. (And in the last case, ESO turned itself around quite well and earned plenty of kudos from me.) Heck, I played Scarlet Blade with as open a mind as I could possibly have.

But not so DC Universe Online. No, this game deserves a pretty thorough drubbing. I can understand why it has fans, but it’s still just not a good game. I can only hope it’s an outlier rather than the norm on Daybreak’s overall catalog, because… wow. This is not fun.

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Shroud of the Avatar: Equity crowdfunding passes $500K, studio plans monthly telethons

Shroud of the Avatar’s equity crowdfunding venture has gone rather well: Portalarium declared last night that it has “exceeded [its] SeedInvest target and [is] now reaching new heights,” meaning it’s raised $570,913 toward its original $500,000 target minimum ($465,000 from small-scale investors and $105,000 from higher-end accredited investors), with a potential round size of $2M. There are just over three days left for investors of all stripes to jump in. Don’t miss our interviews with Richard Garriott and Starr Long if you’re still on the fence!

Meanwhile, Portalarium has announced that with the release of R44 last week, it plans to “experiment with extended postmortems that are also Mini-Telethons.” If it proves popular, it’d potentially mean a switchover from the exhausting 12- or 24- hour telethon stream the team does quarterly to a monthly 4-hour fundraising session as the team delivers its release recap and Q&A.

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The Stream Team: Striking out on the open road of Shroud of the Avatar

Shroud of the Avatar’s development continues along, and Massively OP’s MJ needs to catch up! There is so much to see and do in the game and she’s barely scratched the surface! But she finally learned who likes to wear red in Soltown, so now she can finally move on from that starting city. What adventures will await her out on the open road? Tune in live at 3:00 p.m. to see where the path takes her — to death, to glory, or all of the above?

What: Shroud of the Avatar
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 3:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, July 31st, 2017

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‘Selectively multiplayer’ Shroud of the Avatar unleashes R44, plans August free trial, and expands around the globe

The Shroud of the Avatar team is sitting pretty on top of this past week’s Release 44, but there is always more to be done to get the game ready for launch. This week’s newsletter shares a little how the update improved the looks of its Crayola-pack dragons, but mostly the attention was given to how insanely busy the team will be promoting the MMO in August and September. Appearances at Syndcon, Gamescom, PAX Dev, and Dragon*Con are all on the calendar, as is the 45th major build, which should come out on August 31st.

The team also informed the community that another test of its free trial program is set to run from August 9th through the 30th, so you’ll be able to play for free for most of the month if you so desire.

In a press release this afternoon, Portalarium announced that it and Travian — a company you’ll remember as the European publisher for Crowfall — will also publish the game beyond Europe and North America, pushing into South and Central America, the Middle East, and North Africa. Russian publishing will be handled by Black Sun as previously reported. Calling the game “selectively multiplayer,” the companies say it’s reached the “story complete” stage and reaffirm that the “full commercial release” is still coming later in 2017.

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Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 44 finishes episode one’s story

Shroud of the Avatar is complete.

Not the full game itself, of course, but the storyline to episode one is now fully playable from start to end without any gaps, thanks to today’s Release 44. “This means that players can now play through the entire episode one story from beginning to end including all three paths of virtue: Truth, Love, and Courage,” the team posted.

This month’s content update for the early access title also adds dread artifacts, polishes a few scenes, adds the ability for tenants to charge rent, promises more attentive NPCs, and empowers guards to levy fines on those they catch stealing. So be good for goodness’ sake, and read the patch notes to prepare yourself!

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MMO dev and astronaut Richard Garriott hosts a Reddit AMA on /r/space today

Curious about astrophysics? The Massively OP Podcast brought on a special guest for a fun holiday bonus ‘cast back in 2015 to answer a ton of listener questions on the topic!
Don’t call him a space tourist, but if you want to pick his brain, Richard Garriott is all yours for the afternoon.

Lord British himself will sit for a Reddit Ask Me Anything this afternoon on /r/space as space enthusiasts ask him all about his experiences being a private astronaut. The AMA’s being promoted by NBC’s science wing, which last week hosted a long-form piece by Garriott in which he discussed his lifelong space flight dreams and how he finally realized them, though he shut down the “space tourist label” pretty hard.

Garriott is of course best known to MMO players as one of the founding fathers of the genre thanks to Ultima Online; he’s currently leading Shroud of the Avatar at the helm of his company Portalarium. Most recently, he published a memoir and publicly committed SOTA to Neverdie’s peer-to-peer online money trading venture.

The AMA kicks off at 3 p.m. EDT today, just as this post goes live.

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