shroud of the avatar

Official Site: Shroud of the Avatar
Studio: Portalarium
Launch Date: N/A
Genre: Fantasy Sandbox
Business Model: B2P (Cash Shop)
Platform: PC

Perfect Ten: MMOs in limbo

The one thing that I thought we could all count on forever was that the MMO life cycle was pretty easy to understand. A game is launched, then it runs for a certain amount of time, then it shuts down. That last part kind of sucks, but the point is that you know when it’s time to move on. The life cycle is clearly one of creation, then life, then death, like a potted ficus or a cheap desk chair you get at Target.

But then sometimes you have a cheap desk chair that breaks in a crucial way, but you manage to screw the right sort of braces together so you can keep using it for another year after it should have been thrown out. And sometimes an MMO is born, and then it lives, and then it… doesn’t live, but it’s not actually shut down or in maintenance. Or it isn’t clear what’s going on with it, due to what seems to be total abandonment. Or it updates more than games which are supposedly live.

That’s what this column is all about. MMOs in a weird sort of limbo, where some facts are clear, but the results or the overall trajectory make no sense. Sometimes it’s not even clear if the game has actually launched or not. It’s weird.

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With R43 behind it, Shroud of the Avatar looks ahead to Q3

Shroud of the Avatar’s 43rd release dropped over the weekend, boasting tweaks to the Path of the Oracle, performance updates, a balancing pass for the offline economy, the new mail system, and a whole bunch of new and rebuilt locations, including the previously previewed Celestis, Libris Ruins, Boreas Colossus, Sequanna Colossus, and Bloodriver Outskirts.

Also in the latest newsletter is a quarterly update from Portalarium. “Our priority continues to be to deliver new content to our backers each and every month so that you can give us feedback that will help us iteratively improve Shroud of the Avatar,” writes Executive Producer Starr Long, who notes that the studio’s focus right now is on game performance, the new user experience, and whipping the game’s story into shape. As outlined, the next three releases – scheduled for July 27th, August 31st, and September 28th – should further those goals, along with updates to player towns, rent, combat, LFG, the economy, crafting, the UI, and the offline ruleset.

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Make My MMO: Elite Dangerous journeys to PS4, we interview Kickstarted MMO devs (July 1, 2017)

This week in MMO crowdfunding, Frontier launched Elite Dangerous for the PS4, complete with relevant adjustments for touchpad controls and a “fast headlook” mode for wireless controllers.

Meanwhile, we hosted a double round of podcast interviews with MMORPG developers, all running crowdfunded games: Ashes of Creation’s Steven Sharif and Shroud of the Avatar’s Richard Garriott and Starr Long.

Oh yeah, and there was that mess with Star Citizen fending off claims that it had been sold to a bank.

Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding over the last week and the regular roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’ve got our eye on.

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Massively Overthinking: Do MMORPGs aspire to pro-social mechanics?

Massively OP reader and Patron Avaera has a thoughtful question for the team and readers this week. “I wish more virtual world games thought deeply about what impact they can have for the better,” he writes.

“It seems to me we are living in a time when tribalism, intolerance, and lack of empathy are increasing, with online trolling, harassment and simple nastiness on the rise even before considering where real-world politics seems to be heading. Yet research continues to show that immersive virtual worlds (including MMOs) have significant potential to change us through the type of experiences they offer, with recent examples being that a VR out-of-body experience can reduce fear of death and that social exclusion in a game environment carries a negative effect on real-world emotions. Do you think any MMOs are already using this incredible power to change us as people through pro-social mechanics, activities or narratives? Can you think of any examples where you have been moved or changed by game experiences, for better or worse, and do you think this was a deliberate act by developers? As our genre continues on a trajectory away from massively social roleplay towards cliquish competitive skirmishing, are there any signs that there are still companies willing to test whether virtual world games can be more than just moment-to-moment fun or entertainment?”

I posed Avaera’s question to the whole team for an intriguing Overthinking.

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Shroud of the Avatar posts its development plans for Q3 2017

There’s a path forward for Shroud of the Avatar, and it includes the game’s story being done in July. Well, not totally done; the plan is currently that everything beyond one outskirts map will be in Release 44 in July, though. That’s one of the big parts of the game’s development roadmap for Q3 2017, covering the next three patches in July, August, and September as the development team rolls along.

Performance and the new user experience will also be major priorities for updates through the quarter, with plans to keep polishing the user interface, balance for online and offline play, and general quality of life features. Of course, all of the development plans are subject to change over time, so the update shouldn’t be read as a firm set of dates so much as a set of targets for the game to hit. Feast your eyes on all the planned changes in the full dispatch, and get ready to play the game’s story from start to finish in the very near future.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 124: Shroud of the Avatar’s Richard Garriott and Starr Long

On this special bonus episode, Justin catches up with Richard Garriott and Starr Long about Ultima Online’s spiritual successor, Shroud of the Avatar. How is this project shaping up now that it’s nearing launch? Listen and find out!

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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Shroud of the Avatar vastly increases game performance with Release 43

One of the big complaints about Shroud of the Avatar during its lengthy testing process has concerned poor optimization and clunky, laggy gameplay. These issues might start becoming a thing of the past, thanks to today’s Release 43.

“Release 43 contains both a huge amount of new content and a major improvement in performance that will generally improve everything about playing the game (and I do not exaggerate),” wrote the team. “Framerates have been improved in every scene, doubled in some! This really will make playing the game feel so much better in every way.”

The update also adds the huge Blood River Outskirts scene, fleshes out the Path of the Oracle, expands the mail system, and balances the offline economy. The team said that it will be putting out its Q3 2017 roadmap tomorrow for fans.

Source: Patch notes

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Shroud of the Avatar plans patch for Thursday, free trial next week

We’re nearing the end of another month, and that means, like clockwork, another Shroud of the Avatar patch is almost upon us. Release 43 lands this Thursday, bringing with it updates to the Isle of Storms, the Crypt of the Avatar, the Graff Gem mines, and the Asian-themed city of Celestis, all of which are previewed in the game’s latest newsletter.

Following this week’s update, Portalarium has two events planned: a “special mini-telethon around Lord British’s birthday” on July 6th and a free-trial period that’ll run most of the month of July, beginning on the 3rd.

Stay tuned for later this week; we’ve got an in-depth sit-down discussion with the SOTA leads on the way!

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Make My MMO: Star Citizen sells 14K concept ships in 24 hours (June 24, 2017)

This week in MMO crowdfunding, Star Citizen followers once again proved their game’s dominance by purchasing 14,000 of its new Nox concept ships in less than 24 hours, bringing the game’s UEE Fleet up to 1.3 million ships total. The cheap version is $35, if you’re wondering.

Meanwhile, Ashes of Creation began its summer crowdfunding drive, Mark Kern’s Em-8ER funded again on Indiegogo, Dogma Eternal Night has a new test site, Chronicles of Elyria players created a handy race map, ROKH deployed a new crafting UI, The Exiled posted a state-of-the-game missive, Exile Online is running a GoFundMe, AQ3D is taking the grind out of its leveling curve, and Elite Dangerous players are staging an event to put pressure on Frontier for bug fixes. Plus, over in Crowfall, devs talked up their cell size changes and planned out their influencer program.

Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding over the last week and the regular roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’ve got our eye on.

(Thanks, fastcart, Francis, and Stuart G!)

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The Daily Grind: How much realism is too much in an MMORPG?

In yesterday’s comments on the Shroud of the Avatar AMA article, MOP reader squidgod2000 drew everyone’s attention to an overlooked bit in the Q&A that discusses nutrition in the game. I knew that food was intended to be a big deal in SOTA, but I had no concept of how far the game might eventually go — apparently a complicated system of calories, fat, and salt that affects a player’s stats. Richard Garriott says it’s all still a work in progress and only slowly being addressed (that goes for barfing up your food if you eat too much too!).

I love playing cooks in MMORPGs — let’s be honest, games are the only place I’ll ever be a great chef — so I most definitely want to see game mechanics in my sandboxes that make such consumables matter. I didn’t mind the various versions of “stomach capacity” Star Wars Galaxies implemented, for example. But I’m going to have to draw my personal line at counting calories in a freakin’ video game. Sorry, SOTA, but most of us have to do that and worry about our health or our relatives’ health in the real world.

And that leads me to today’s Daily Grind. How much realism is too much in an MMORPG?

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The MMOs of the Steam Summer 2017 Sale

After some ups and downs this afternoon — everybody loves the “try again later” message, right? — Valve’s summer Steam sale is finally underway and stable. Here’s what we’re looking at in our corner of the gaming world.

On Steam…

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Shroud of the Avatar has plans to attract more players and keep them around

In the hopes of attracting and encouraging more player investors in Shroud of the Avatar, Portalarium took to Reddit for a Q&A session that did not leave everyone quite satisfied.

During the AMA, Portalarium explained why it’s not doing a wipe before release, responded to those upset at the slow rollout of the single-player version, promised more user interface polish, and addressed frustration over players not being able to find certain NPCs. The studio said that right now there it is seeing around a 500-player concurrency, although it expects this to increase as they start promoting the game more.

So how is the team planning in attracting new players to the game as it heads toward launch? “We have been testing out our free trial system for the last few months and in the next few months we will begin promoting this more and more as the game improves to bring in new players. To keep players around long-term we will be working on more high-end content around the end of the year.”

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Shroud of the Avatar adds East Asian-themed town, kicks off Q&A

Fancy a bit of the Far East in your MMORPGs? Shroud of the Avatar is making that wish come true with its unclone of the town of Celestis, as explained in Portalarium’s latest newsletter.

“The terrain is heavily influenced by Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China, while the cultural decor is influenced by feudal Japan,” writes Level Designer Chris “Seawolf” Wolf. “It will feature a new town center and harbor, several gardens including a rock garden, several koi fish ponds, and a Noh/Kabuki stage which can also double as a dance floor. There are also a few Easter-eggs throughout the scene which pay tribute to some of my favorite chambara (classic samurai films).”

Richard Garriott and crew are running an Ask Me Anything on the /r/SotA_Official subreddit beginning at 11 a.m. EDT today (just as this post goes live). The discussion is intended to focus on the SeedInvest equity crowdfunding campaign currently live for the company.

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