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.
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!
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Construction continues apace at Shroud of the Avatar, where the team reports that two new areas are being crafted for future releases. There’s the Sepent’s Spine Mines, a Kobold-infested underground space that will be one of the game’s “most vertically oriented mines to date.” Then there’s The Fall, an open PvP area named after what you’ll probably be doing when you are foolish enough to wander around in its dark spaces.
In this past week’s newsletter, the team also showed off the technological arsenal of City Kobolds (and players will be able to loot and use some of these weapons!) as well as the wearable outfits of the Obsidian Cabalists.
On Friday, March 17th, SOTA’s Starr Long will be talking at SXSW Gaming on the subject of “Is video game early access too early?” According to the description, “This talk weighs the pros and cons of early access using Shroud of the Avatar as a case study.” Looking past that, Release 40 for the game is scheduled to arrive on March 30th, followed by Release 41 on April 27th.
If you’ve been following Shroud of the Avatar a while, you know that Portalarium periodically puts on wild telethons for its Twitch viewers, streaming deep-dives into game content, Q&As, and dev antics while attempting to raise money for development. Yesterday’s “Spring Telethon” event raised a cool $142,000 from gamers, unlocking in the process a ton of “stretch goal” style in-game rewards for folks who pledged as little as five bucks, from masks and lanterns to fountains and thorn-themed gear.
Alas, the $150K “Mini-Mushroom Psilocybin Monster Pet,” which “sends out cloud of spores that makes avatars drunk,” didn’t make the cut.
The whole telethon is available for viewing on Twitch and below, but we would be remiss not to include the requisite picture of Starr Long dancing too. If you catch only one part of it, hit the part about an hour in when Richard Garriott is discussing critical feedback — and how not to give it.
We’re counting down Massively OP’s weirdest MMORPG stories of 2016!
And the #1 weirdest MMORPG story of 2016 is…
… that time when Richard Garriott sold his blood for Shroud of the Avatar, as we wrote in a pair of articles over the summer.
The real story is a little bit more complicated, of course. Shroud of the Avatar’s Richard “Lord British” Garriott and Starr “Darkstarr” Long donated their blood to be used in 10 pieces of “blood reliquary” artwork created by Steve Brudniak; the artwork was then put on Ebay for an initial bid of $5000, though they were moved to the game’s website following what was likely an issue with Ebay’s rules. The price has increased as each one sells, and they do indeed sell; as I write this, in December, only one Lord British reliquary remains for sale (at $13,000), while two Darkstarr pieces remain (at $12,000 and $13,000).
Proceeds from the sales benefit both the game and a designated medical charity, which is actually pretty cool.
Autumn has returned to Shroud of the Avatar in the form of Harvest, a Novia region being rebuilt with a more “agrarian theme” for release 35.
“Harvest is located across the channel from Estgard,” write’s Portalarium’s Esteben “SorcerousSteve” Zaldivar. “It is an area primarily focused on agriculture nestled along a red/yellow countryside that has recently come under occupation from Norgard forces. As an occupied town it has taken on some of the symbolism behind the color yellow and Norse influence of its Norgard conquerors. Inspiration for Harvest was obtained from the Autumn Season and Upstate New York (Letchworth).”
Got a housing lot in the area? Don’t worry. Lots aren’t changing; the studio assures player it’s making only “cosmetic changes of building styles, terrain, and foliage.”
Shroud of the Avatar has the honor of being one of the first MMORPGs to tease Halloween content this year, meaning it’s only about two months behind all the damn retail stores. Why am I even bitter? Halloween is awesome! SOTA’s latest newsletter highlights ghost pets, burned down homes, dead foilage assets (your very own Felucca, perhaps?), Halloweeny emotes, and a creepy spider leg cloak, all en route to the game — and that’s in addition to the city of Estgard, which is also on the way and gets a deep-dive and a slew of images in the piece.
The devs continue to plug SOTA Con, what it’s calling “the first ever community organized convention for Shroud of the Avatar.” The Baltimore-based event will be attended by both Richard Garriott and Starr Long and runs November 4th to 6th.
The newsletter also highlights a certain MOP streamer’s brave forays into the current build of the game. Check that out, plus the newest screenshots, below. Arachnophobes should probably stay away!
This week in MMO crowdfunding news was one of the biggest we’ve had all year for crowdfunded games. Former Firefall boss Mark Kern made good on his plans for “serial Kickstarting” with a small Indiegogo campaign for his new MMO, Ember; we sat down with Hero’s Song’s John Smedley for a streamed interview; and indie sci-fi sandbox Dual Universe is hurtling along toward its Kickstarter funding goal of just over half a million bucks.
Meanwhile, Shroud of the Avatar’s Richard Garriott and Starr Long announced they’ll both be attending SOTACon, City of Titans posted the lore behind its Bureau of Paranormal Investigations and Tracking, and Ascent got a new trailer, Ever, Jane patched its beta, Elite Dangerous is rolling out the Guardians beta next week, AdventureQuest 3D announced an October open beta, and Crowfall confirmed beta 1 players will begin testing this year.
And for those wondering about the state of The Repopulation, a month ago the devs told forumgoers that their “goal is to have a playable client for it late in the year, but it will probably be a limited initial version.” Said A&B, “[W]e need to build the world and content still, which has a good ways to go.”
Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding this week and the roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’ve got our eye on!
Portalarium’s Starr Long has hopped on Shroud of the Avatar’s official forums for an extra round of player-submitted questions. Of note, Long says to expect more craftable clothing, more crafted book covers, more polish for the UI, and more multiplayer friendliness, but don’t expect Ultima-like musical abilities in episode one. Resizing decor is not happening at all, but treasure maps are, and more on the brewing and agriculture systems will be shared later in the year.
As to the economy, daily gold earnings will remain capped, active crafting activities are off the table, and the team is keeping an eye on hyperinflation. “We do not plan on [removing random rolls from crafting and enchanting skills],” he writes. “It would be destructive to the economy if everyone could create exactly the same item at will and destroy all rarity in the system. It would also eliminate an important sink in the economy.” Likewise, he argue that reducing resource requirements would “lead to a huge glut of items and prices would crash making crafting a completely unprofitable profession” – which is not something Portalarium means to do.
Do you know that feeling when you come across a game that has most, if not all, of your dream features — even the farfetched ones that you’d abandoned hope of ever actually being in a game? Probably not. But after talking with Richard Garriott at DragonCon 2016 about Shroud of the Avatar, I think I am experiencing an inkling of that very feeling! Granted, the game is not complete yet (although there are no more wipes), but each time I have sat down to speak with Garriott, not only does he highlight more features that make my mouth water, but the game has actively implemented previously revealed features. I can’t help but hope this sandbox will be The One for me.
What are these features that have me excited? And when can we expect the game’s “real” release? Between the various panels and our interview, I came away with a plenty of information on SOTA.
Did you know that Shroud of the Avatar allows players to trade and sell virtual goods like pledges and store items – and now gold? It does indeed, strictly in a subforum for that purpose. Portalarium’s Starr Long explains that such trading goes on “no matter what [the studio’s] position on it is,” so it may as well be in a safe and open space. This week, the studio has clarified its rules on the topic, forbidding trade, or even discussion of trades, outside of that forum. Players caught trading outside the official game forum will be warned and potentially permanently banned.
“We understand that the inclusion of gold as one of the virtual goods that can be bought and sold will cause some of you concern but we believe that in the end it is just another virtual good like the others,” Long elaborates on the addition of gold to the list of salable items. “As you have seen we have been monitoring VERY carefully the influx of gold into the economy and we do not believe the sales of gold will increase the likelihood of inflation anymore than any other factors.” He also points out that gold farmers have little impact on play as they will “likely be in single player online mode.”
Remember last year back when Richard Garriott raffled off his rat tail to raise money for Shroud of the Avatar? Yeah, good times. Now the Portalarium boss is selling something even wackier: his own blood.
The studio announced the fundraiser during its livestream yesterday, where Garriott and longtime collaborator Starr Long joke about the call where they first discussed selling their blood. “You know, that’s what I like about working with you, Richard,” Long is said to have told Garriott. “I really never know exactly what to expect, but I always know that it’s gonna be crossing at least a few lines of good civil society.”
You can cross that line yourself to pick up one of the new bundles — including a “Lord British Blood Reliquary” or “Darkstarr Blood Reliquary” art piece by Steve Brudniak — on Ebay to the cool tune of somewhere north of $5000, thanks to a built-in reserve price. There’s a ton of digital items and a studio visit included as well.
Sorry, space fans; it’s unlikely any of the blood you’re buying has actually been to space, as the average lifespan of a red blood cell is only a couple of months.
It gets more awesome/weird: They actually do the blood drawing during the stream, around 19 minutes in.
Shroud of the Avatar is only a few months away from its all-but-in-name summer launch, and as such each patch from here on out carries with it a heavier weight of responsibility to get the game ready for prime time. Today the team pushed out Release 29, which contains significant adjustments for the future of the game.
“We are also critically appraising our feature set and making sure each and every feature is as it should be for those critical events of Release 32,” Starr Long wrote. “With those thoughts in mind, we looked at a few key aspects of the game related to housing, crafting, and targeting and made some important changes in Release 29. These changes were not easy, nor were they without controversy, but we believe they are changes that need to be made for the long term health of the project.”
The biggest changes include using a targeting reticle to make interaction modal, the sale of lot deeds within player-owned-towns, and the integration of the recipe book to the station interface. Release 29 also includes 40 more scenes, which should make up for the full wipe that the patch requires.