Shroud of the Avatar has rolled out Release 48 as of early this afternoon, which may just upset your internal clock a bit, since usually they happen at the end of the month! Holidays are pushing the schedule up, however, which is good news for anyone who wanted to actually play through Thanksgiving week.
R48 reflects Portalarium’s focus on its launch priorities checklist. “We continued to make strong progress on load time reductions, story polish, and creation of new scenes,” the studio’s Starr Long says. Expect updates to the in-game map, UI, holiday items, item decay on death, load times, lighting, all four story paths, artifacts, loot, and worldbuilding passes, including new mines and scenes, although not the rebuilt Novia additions, which have been postponed. Check out the screens below for a tease!
Portalarium and Travian Games are looking for useful feedback for Shroud of the Avatar — and they are not shy in their approach to getting it. The studios is bribing players to take a 10-minute survey about the fantasy MMO in the hopes of understanding “gameplay experiences and expectations.”
The survey in question covers a wide range of topics, such as what makes the game fun, what players have spent money on already, the choice of game modes, quests, combat, dialogue, visuals, and sound. There’s nothing here that suggests any major change to the game or its business model, but it might be helpful for players who want to share specific feedback with the studio.
All survey takers will receive one Gold Crown of the Obsidian (a unit of premium currency) and be entered into a drawing for several other in-game goodies such as a house. To get your reward, you’ll want to take this survey by November 21st.
Are you one of those folks who laments that the winter holiday season gets pushed earlier and earlier every year? If so, you’re not gonna like Shroud of the Avatar’s latest newsletter, as it’s got everything but Santa. For the rest of you, it’s time to get your Yuletide on, as the piece features stuffed stockings, crackling fires, sleighs, and decorative garlands. There are even cards, and yes, you can write inside the cards as if they’re books.
Meanwhile, the studio is teasing new armor going live in R48, along with a big artifact revamp that effectively removes artifact reparability. “They will only be able to be repaired by salvaging other artifacts to get Artifact Essences that will be used in Artifact repair,” Portalarium explains. “This will cycle Artifacts out of the economy and require players to re-acquire them periodically or destroy other artifacts (thereby simulating ‘production’). Additionally we will make Artifacts a bit more dynamic by giving players the ability to enchant and masterwork them.”
Players who want to get a jump start on their Shroud of the Avatar crafting career might end up taking a tour under the surface of the world. The developers report that they have opened up three new low-level mines so that newer players can start mining for that much-needed ore without having to wait until much later in the game.
SOTA’s artists showed off a couple of rewards that players will be able to obtain, such as torn and bloody wedding attire (if you’re missing Halloween already) or Yule gifts and candelabras (if you can’t wait for Christmas). There’s also moustache-themed helmets and cloaks to support the Movember movement for men’s health.
Shroud of the Avatar recently raised $60,000 from its last telethon and is currently running a free trial which is set to conclude on November 15th. The following day will see Release 48 hit the scene prior to the holiday rush.
Following the release of its October content update a few days ago, Shroud of the Avatar’s weekly newsletter delivered a hodge-podge of smaller news pieces. These snippits include a spoilery look at the climactic setting of the Oracle Temple, more Make a Difference charity sale items, an announcement that the team will host a panel at SXSW in March, and the introduction of SOTA’s new web developer, Kory Kirk.
Portalarium said that it will be rolling out its next free trial in a few days, which will run from November 1st through the 15th. At this point, why not leave it on for good, really?
Developer Starr Long also informed players of one big change that will come in the November 16th update: “Artifacts will undergo a major refactor in Release 48 in order to better align them with the rest of the economy. In order to not have them directly compete with crafted goods they can no longer be repaired like regular items. Instead they will only be able to be repaired by salvaging other artifacts to get ‘Artifact Essences’ that will be used in Artifact repair. This will cycle Artifacts out of the economy and require players to re-acquire them periodically or destroy other artifacts (thereby simulating ‘production’).”
I remember years ago when then-Massively-columnist Rubi Bayer let loose with a blistering rant on the state of faux beta MMOs. She helmed Betawatch back then, see, and she was fed up with (mostly imported) MMOs claiming to be in beta when in fact they’d soft-launched. A lot of readers didn’t understand her fury at the time, but boy have things changed, right? Now, every game’s in on that very old trick, only they call it early access now, while some are still pushing the boundaries, charging $1000 for pre-alpha.
MOP reader Pepperzine proposed a topic for this week’s Massively Overthinking that’s right on point. “I was thinking it would be interesting if we could discuss when people consider a game to be in alpha/beta versus a final launch as a topic,” he wrote to us.
“Back in the day, this was easy to determine. Selective testers were extended invites into beta who were experienced testers who had the computer hardware to handle the software. The primary purpose of being in the testing phase was exactly that, to test and bug report. When the game was made available to the public at a price, a game was considered launched. Now, players are granted access to pre-launch titles by ‘donating’ or purchasing access. For the most part, the primary purpose of participating in the pre-launch experience for these players is not testing or bug reporting but rather to experience and play the game. The division of purchasing a game and donating to test has become so blurred that it is no longer a valid way of determining if a title is at a state to where it is launch ready. These titles can stay in this pre-launch phase for as long as they deem necessary, easily deflecting criticisms by reiterating it is still in development. So when do you consider a game to be launched? Is it when the producers declare it is? Is it when there is no longer the possibility of wipes? Is it when cash shop monetization is implemented? Is it as soon as the company begins selling access?”
Where’s the line in 2017? Let’s dig in.
Like clockwork, Shroud of the Avatar continues its long string of monthly updates with today’s Release 47. It’s a pretty notable release in that it’s primarily focused on getting the title ready for its prime time debut.
To help with launch preparations, Portalarium has devoted much time and effort this month to a few of its stated “Top 10 Priorities for Launch.” Release 47 aids in this effort by greatly reducing load times for each scene, polishing many areas in the world and story, improving loot, and adding yet more side quests.
Highvale Outskirts got a polish pass this time around, while Blackblade Foothills, North Midmaer Way, and North Quel Way were rebuilt from scratch. Check out the full patch notes for all of the details!
The original plan for Shroud of the Avatar was to have all maps be hand-drawn, found by players, and generally hard to find. This was at least somewhat understandable, but it ran into several problems, as there were more zones in need of maps than hours in the day to draw new ones. It also frequently resulted in players getting lost and failed to account for any sort of changes to the zones, including in player-run towns. So the developers have wisely gone a much simpler route by acquiring the SotAMap project started by fan Jakub White for official development.
This map has been lightly integrated in the game for a few releases, but the acquisition means that the maps will now be hosted on more reliable servers for the game, have improved functionality, and give players direct control over the map display. It should be a happy addition for anyone fed up with being lost in the game, albeit a bit of bad news for those with a deep attachment to the hand-drawn maps.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.