Hello friends, and welcome to the new year’s first installment of Choose My Adventure. As you may have noticed, I took a bit of a hiatus back in December in order to focus on the tempest that inevitably results from the confluence of final exams, the holiday season, and my superhuman ability to procrastinate, but now I’m itching to get back in the proverbial saddle. For this month’s series, I’m going to be throwing myself headlong into Shroud of the Avatar. For the uninitiated, Shroud of the Avatar is the first project from development studio Portalarium, which was formed by creator of the Ultima series, part-time astronaut, and famed virtual-assassination-victim Richard “Lord British” Garriot.
As one might expect from the man who brought Ultima and its many sequels and offshoots into the world, Shroud of the Avatar is a fantasy RPG that boasts, according to the game’s official site, a classless character system, a player-driven economy, “skillful combat” (whatever that means), non-instanced and finite player housing, and more. It’s also notable, at least the fantasy bookworms in the audience, that the game’s story — along with some tie-in novels — is being penned by Tracy Hickman of Dragonlance fame. Although the game is currently in, as its Steam store page describes it, an “early access pre-alpha” state, I thought it might be a fun little jaunt into the unknown for the first CMA of the year, so let’s just give it a go and see what happens, shall we?
The new year is here, and it brings with it the promise of more content and options in Shroud of the Avatar. Not in the abstract sense wherein you know there will probably be content, but in the sense that the most recent dispatch from the developers extensively outlines several parts of what players can expect from Release 26. The game’s next major update isn’t due until January 28th, but there’s still plenty to feast your eyes upon just the same.
Resolute, the town that serves as the next destination for those following the Path of Courage, is on deck for the next update, as is the former mining area of North Varisa Foothills. Players can also expect clockwork animals, people, and steam-based power systems in terms of development assets. There’s a current call for players to submit potential NPCs for Resolute and Aerie, as well, so suggesting one now may well mean encountering that NPC at the end of the month when the update goes live. Check out several screenshots of what you can expect just below.
A long time ago on another website far, far away, I held a tradition of kicking off the new year by listing the top 10 MMOs that deserved attention and were likely to launch that year. These days, however, the industry has changed quite a bit, most notably with early access, open development, soft launches, and crowdfunding blurring the lines of testing and play.
Therefore, I felt that a slight change was needed with 2016’s list. Instead of rattling off 10 titles that I think are going to release in the following 12 months, I’m going to mention games that strongly bear watching in the new year. Some of them will undoubtedly release, while the rest remain in alpha or beta testing, but all could have an impact on the industry and in our online communities.
Because I’m limiting the list to just 10 entries, some up-and-coming games won’t be mentioned. I have my reasons (secret, dusky reasons), but if you disagree about these or the exclusion of any title, pipe up in the comments!
As the final pages turn on 2015, MMO bloggers engage in a favorite pastime of recalling their best and most notable gaming experiences of the year.
Light Falls Gracefully ranks the author’s eight most-played MMOs of the year, starting with a gloomy prediction about WildStar. “I am still in love with WildStar,” Mesmer posts. “With that said, it’s going to die in 2016 just as City of Heroes did in 2012.”
Meanwhile, Clean Casuals said that there was only one game that ruled them all this past year: Final Fantasy XIV. “FFXIV has demanded most of my online gaming time and staved away other MMOs,” Aywren wrote. “Part of this is due to the nature of the subscription game. Part of this is due to the efforts to foster a free company and a community that I wanted to be a part of.”
Happy holidays to those celebrating a holiday today! Happy just today for everyone else! And an extra-special dose of happy for people who like their crafting systems to have ornate depth, because Camelot Unchained has previewed its crafting system and there’s plenty for you to explore. Most of you can’t actually play with it yet, no, but you sure can dream.
Other beta news? Not a whole lot, you know, what with other things happening this week. But there’s still some!
Oh, yes, we totally have other things down there in the list. Have a good one, folks, and we’ll see you again on the other side of the new year! Really, it’ll be 2016 before the next installment runs. Freaky, huh?
As it heads into the new year, Shroud of the Avatar has grand plans in store for the first few months. In its most recent newsletter, Portalarium discusses what’s coming in the first quarter of 2016.
In addition to pumping out monthly updates, Shroud of the Avatar is gearing up for what looks to be an important summer milestone: “The focus of the first quarter of 2016 is to get us as close to alpha/feature-complete as possible as soon as we can. However we are balancing that alpha goal with polish, performance, and service hardening to prepare for our final wipe as soon as mid-summer.”
If you’re in Shroud of the Avatar and looking for something to do over the holidays, there’s always the new grand tour to get a spiffy new hat. Check out the guide below!
This week in MMO crowdfunding news, Elite: Dangerous launched the first chunk of its planned Horizons campaign, Albion Online celebrated 60,000 founders, and Ultima Online fans raced to raise Indiegogo fans to save one of the oldest surviving MMORPG fansites from auction. Educational pseudo-MMO Eco visited the white house and released its second alpha, and Gloria Victis continued tweaking its alpha combat balance.
Check out the rest of this week’s MMO crowdfunding news below.
Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 25 hit the digital streets today, taking the fantasy title one step closer to a launch (and no, we still don’t know when that will be). The final update for the year brings with it a huge assortment of improvements and new systems, as well as another grand tour quest with a funny hat as a reward.
“The story continues to march across the map with multiple new scenes every release,” Starr Long reported in the patch notes. “Agriculture completes the final major missing component for crafting. Customizability increases with multiple dye options, and PVP expands to include guild warfare. We are also making steady progress with localization thanks to our player translators.”
Release 26 is scheduled for January 28th, 2016, and Release 27 will follow that on February 25th.
Massively OP’s end-of-the-year awards continue today with our award for most anticipated MMO for 2016 and beyond.
In 2013 and 2014, EverQuest Next and Landmark took home this award. In fact, it was a bit of an upset in 2013, as WildStar had won it several years running before that. This year, our future is filled with more well-funded indies than AAA-budget games, and choosing a most anticipated from that field proved extremely hard, one that we continued debating long after the votes were cast (and changed and cast again). Best expansion was close. This was even closer.
All of our writers were invited to cast a vote, but not all of them chose to do so for this category. Don’t forget to cast your own vote in the just-for-fun reader poll at the very end.
The Massively OP staff pick for Most Anticipated MMO for 2016 and Beyond is…
Do you enjoy blundering around in your online worlds, encased in darkness with no torch? Good news for you: The latest Shroud of the Avatar newsletter introduces a former palace overrun by kobolds, Holt Fortress, and it’s dark. I mean it. I had to boost the lighting on this picture just to see it!
Portalarium also included a video montage of the game’s scenery from a player named Myrcello and a video of a seven-player musical troupe performing onstage — “the performers included: Margaritte (lute), Leostorm (drum), Arkah EMPstrike (harp), Minerva (piano), Kazyn PhoenixFyre, Jack Knyfe and Kal Tasker (flute)). Check ’em out below.
It’s the weekend, which means that it must be time to peruse the latest Shroud of the Avatar newsletter. Sure enough, Portalarium released another juicy one on Friday that features an extensive look behind the scenes at the making of Aerie. What’s Aerie, you’re asking yourself? It’s a city inside the fantasy sandbox that’s surrounded by prairies and swamps. Aerie is also known as the “City of Truth,” according to Portalarium’s Esteben Zaldivar, and it’s a scholarly place that is both rich in trade and reliant on wind power.
Elsewhere in this week’s update, the devs get together for a Release 24 postmortem, so be sure to read the full text if you’re a Shroud of the Avatar backer or curious onlooker.
I say this with nothing but love in my heart: Some of you guys are serious MMO hipsters. Heck, some of you guys were MMOs hipsters before the word hipster was popular again. World of Warcraft was the first MMO? Pff! You were there for the worst MMO launch of all time. You once camped jboots for 30 hours straight. You played Ultima Online on dial-up, for god’s sake. And now, you back only true indies on Kickstarter.
Oh no wait, that was me.
In celebration of MMO hipsters old and new, today I present you Massively OP’s holiday gift guide for that most discerning of indie hipster snob in your life – because you can’t just plop down a WoW gametime card on some people and expect gratitude!
Every year, we lodge our predictions for the next. Funny, strange, and deadly serious, these predictions are a glance back on the naïvetés of 2014 and a chance to reflect on the last 365 days before launching into a new round of predictions and awards. In this week’s Massively Overthinking, we’ll be doing just that: Scoring last year’s predictions for 2015, counting both the hits and the misses, cheering when we got it right and giggling like fools with perfect hindsight when we whiffed at bat.
Note, the predictions naturally include notes from two former writers, both of whom now work for game studios, but they’re fun and we love them, so we’re including them!