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

Shroud of the Avatar: Partying with Portalarium, countering pay-to-win, and the state of the game

The day is finally arriving: Shroud of the Avatar is formally launching next week. It’s been a long journey. The path to this new old-school MMO started back on Kickstarter on March 8th, 2013. Now, five years almost to the day, SOTA is emerging. On March 27th, release #52 will be the official launch of episode 1. And fans didn’t have to wait until the end of the month to celebrate; Portalarium hosted a launch party this past week in Austin, Texas.

Besides hanging out with devs and fans at the shindig, I visited the studio’s offices for a tour and interview with Richard Garriott and Starr Long. There, I got to see memorabilia from the very beginnings of Garriott’s game-making career as well as a sneak peek of the events that will occur at SOTA’s launch. After that, it was celebration time at the awesome From Pong to Pokemon exhibit at the The Bullock Texas State History Museum (which happened to have a display of some of Garriott’s early gaming goodies!)

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Shroud of the Avatar addresses account migrations and teases R52 content, including female vendors

Shroud of the Avatar’s next-to-last newsletter before its final launch is here, and it’s chock-full of release 52 teases – that’s the patch that’ll signal the launch. The team features multiple new and redone zones, a new observatory home, and female player vendors, as well as promises framerate boosts, new crafting patterns, heraldry, new companions, and offline spawning.

In other Shroud of the Avatar news, if you happen to own the western version of the game but aren’t actually located here right now – say, you’re stationed overseas – you might have found yourself caught up in the recent account migration. It’s apparently of particular concern for military service people stationed in regions where SOTA accounts are being migrated to SOTA’s Russian publisher, as service people have been instructed not to interact with Russian internet services, so there’s been a bit of a panic on the official forums as people tried to get that sorted out.

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Shroud of the Avatar releases co-op and world videos ahead of launch

Portalarium is going all out for Shroud of the Avatar’s formal launch next week – March 27th, for those of you keeping count. Last night, the studio held its launch party in conjunction with SXSW (we’ll have much more on that event when Massively OP’s MJ returns from it!). In the meantime, Portalarium and EU publisher Travian Games pushed out a press release that bizarrely dubs the game a “multiplayer RPG” and releases two brand-new videos. The first is clearly intended to introduce the Ultima Online spiritual successor to newcomers, while the second shows off just how far combat and co-op play have come over the last couple of years.

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Shroud of the Avatar’s housing is expensive, but not impossible to acquire without RMT

When we covered Shroud of the Avatar’s newsletter yesterday, one of the tidbits we mentioned was the plan for craftable housing. In response to a question from a player, Starr Long essentially announced that in the launch patch next week, Portalarium is planning to tweak that system, which has long provoked claims of pay-to-win.

“Yes we are going to be expanding the number of craftable houses soon. In R52 in fact we are adding a craftable inn.”

So what exactly does housing entail? A helpful Redditor linked to a helpful thread on the official site just a few weeks ago breaking down how exactly you can buy property without handing over your credit card because you definitely can – that’s the good news. If you’re not a crafter yourself, you just need a specific currency, Crowns of the Obsidians, which you can buy with gold.

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The Stream Team: Celebrating Shroud of the Avatar’s upcoming launch party

Shroud of the Avatar’s official launch may be a bit later this month, but the launch party is this week! Massively OP’s MJ is excited to go, and so she’s soaking up all the SOTA she can before she leaves. Hop aboard the hype hot air balloon and join us live at 7:00 p.m. for more Forsaken Virtues adventures.

What: Shroud of the Avatar
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 7:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 12th, 2018

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Shroud of the Avatar on R52 and launch content, craftable housing, and player ambassadors

Whether or not you agree that Shroud of the Avatar is already soft launched, it is most definitely hard launching on March 27th, meaning there’s just a few weeks to go until the big day. That makes the next couple of weekly newsletters extra important, given that they are previewing content that’s going into release 52 – in other words, brand-new launch content.

Portalarium’s latest offering teases two new companions, representing Truth and Courage, along with their unique art, plus progress on the town of Northwood and Blood River Forest adventure zone. Devs also answered a few more questions that didn’t make it into the previous Q&A; they say they’re working on DPS, crit rate, recipes, loot, and performance. They’re also “expanding the number of craftable houses” – there’s a craftable inn in R52, so MJ will be happy.

Additionally, SOTA is seeking out players for its “Ambassadors Program,” which’ll remind old-school MMO players of guide systems from games past.

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Shroud of the Avatar claims higher concurrency heading into launch

Is the buzz starting to grow louder for Shroud of the Avatar as it rounds the corner to launch? There are a couple of positive signs that player interest and involvement is picking up in these final weeks, at least according to creator Richard Garriott.

Responding to some players who noted that guild traffic and general interest has been on the rise as of late, Garriott tweeted, “Data backs that up! In addition to eight weeks of steady concurrency increases, the conversion rates of free trials to full citizens remains strong, even as less ‘indoctrinated’ folks are trying it out. Travian’s great marketing team fine tuning new player outreach.”

One of our commenters recently noted that the developers have been raining meteors down on the game’s population in these last few weeks — and that it seems as if there is something big planned as a launch event. Stay tuned!

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Shroud of the Avatar changes up trial program as it prepares for launch

With just a few weeks away left before its official launch, Shroud of the Avatar is going nuts in its home stretch. Portalarium is getting ready to show off the game at SXSW this month and has expanded the free trial to allow users the ability to choose one of the three core paths available.

It sounds as though fans are still throwing wads of cash at this game, if the recent $110,000 telethon was of any indication. The community’s ingenuity was on display in this month’s newsletter, thanks to the Magnificent Trophy Room contest that showed off the capabilities of SOTA’s housing system and a spotlight on the Library of Spritual Knowledge. The latter is a place where player creativity is stored and displayed, including lore, music, and guides.

And if getting into the nitty gritty details of combat math and performance is your thing, then you’ll be the right audience for the studio’s latest tech talk video. Check it out below.

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Choose My Adventure: Farewell to Project Gorgon

Out of all the titles that I’ve played for Choose My Adventure, Project Gorgon is probably the earliest in its development cycle. It’s also, by a sizable margin, the best in show. If you’re looking for a quick ringtone-style clip to take away from this column, that would be the one.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of criticisms of the game, nor does it mean that this is a game which will delight and amaze everyone who plays it. I have a somewhat biased starting point anyway because I talk about this subgenre for a living, and thus I have certain tastes that not everyone is going to share. That isn’t meant as a brag; that’s meant as a self-admonishment because these are things no one should really care about all that much.

Still, here I am, here this game is, and I am happy to pronounce it the best of all the Choose My Adventure games that I’ve played for this feature so far – albeit with the slight caveat that it won’t be able to hold onto that title forever if it doesn’t actually address some of the issues that I noticed while playing.

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Shroud of the Avatar’s R51 is now live with updated vendors and the skill spec system

It may be the shortest month of the year, but Portalarium has pushed out Release 51 to Shroud of the Avatar on schedule all the same. After all, it’s got a launch to make next month!

The release includes a number of new and uncloned scenes, performance improvements, story and quest polish, another pass on player vendors, combat balancing, character polish, and the new skill specialization system.

“Players can now specialize in a couple of schools of combat and/or magic to gain extra bonuses such as extra glyphs,” the studio explains. “This was a massive overhaul that gives over 125 new updates to spells and skills in the game to players who choose to specialize rather than generalize.”

What didn’t make it in as planned? New spells for Chaos Magic, unique crafting components, crafting refining tweaks, offline mode maps, and the heraldry creation system. Oh yeah, and the name entry system has been ever so slightly delayed.

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Players throw a party for this week’s Shroud of the Avatar update

Any excuse for a large-scale shindig is a good one by us. For the players over at Shroud of the Avatar, the title’s consistent monthly updates haven’t lost their luster or crowd appeal.

This is why Avatar Radio, the player-run internet radio station for the game, is throwing a dance party for this week’s Release 51. The party is taking place on February 23rd on the Isle of Chaos.

“Come help the Devs test the limits of the newest update, the last of it’s kind before
the Queen of Chaos sets Sail off into full launch,” the party organizers said. “While partying on the Queen of Chaos we will have our ears tantalised by the best beats this side of the Rift by the one and only Lord of Chaos, Darkstarr himself.”


The Stream Team: Getting excited for Shroud of the Avatar’s launch

Launch is coming soon! Massively OP’s MJ has been carefully limiting her time in Shroud of the Avatar before launch, but now that it is almost here she’s done holding back! There are many aspects of the game she has been looking forward to, and soon she will revel in them all. But first things first: Will she decide to keep the archer or kill her off and try the story from another angle? Tune in live at 7:00 p.m. for some SOTA adventures.

What: Shroud of the Avatar
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 7:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

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Shroud of the Avatar gives its shopkeepers a Victorian makeover

One fact you may not know about Shroud of the Avatar is that it allows players to stock and operate their own virtual shopkeepers to sell crafted and looted wares. These player vendors are about to get an upgrade from their former drab lives to a much more refined Victorian palate. The devs said that the male shopkeepers will be first in line for the makeover, followed by female NPCs in Release 52.

This week’s developer newsletter revealed the new in-game models for harvestable trees, which come in both pine and maple varieties. The team also continues to power forward with the design for the South Fetid Swamp, a location as charming as its name implies.

Portalarium also let players know that it extended the deadline to March 9th to confirm mailing addresses for physical goods from their pledges and backing.

Release 51 is scheduled for February 22nd.

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