Portalarium published Update of the Avatar #151 this morning. It dives deep into Shroud of the Avatar, and it offers readers a look at everything from the making of the North Naryad Pinelands zone to the new flute musical instrument to clockwork pets and a hot air balloon.
At the end of August 2015, the fledgling Shroud of the Avatar community gathered together for a massive PvP fight. This wasn’t to be a normal battle, however, as Lord British (Richard Garriott’s in-game avatar) waded into the fray and was the focus of a fierce fight to see who could kill him. Down he went in the end, prompting cheers from the participants — not because they hated him but because it was a reprise of one of the most famous moments of MMO history.
A little over 18 years before that Shroud of the Avatar gathering, a similar group of beta players had congregated in the Ultima Online beta for a stress test. In the crowd lurked a would-be assassin who had a dastardly plan: to attack and kill the most revered figure in the Ultima franchise in front of a live audience.
Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 22 is scheduled for tomorrow, and whoa does it boast a lot of stuff. Producer Starr Long has penned a lengthy set of instructions, and he says that the patch “feels like a turning point.”
R22 is important for two main reasons. First, one of the newly added story scenes hearkens back to Ultima and sets players on their starting path based on questions answered. Second, the sandbox experience is expanding thanks to fishing, emote teaching, and musical instruments. Music happens thanks to a variety of instruments that support ABC and MML formats as well as synchronized party play and planned support for in-game file management and song selection.
“This expansion in two axes is exemplary of the kind of game we are trying to make, while at the same time very illustrative of how challenging it is to do so,” Long says.
Shroud of the Avatar’s Release 20 is accessible right now, assuming you’re a backer at the First Responder level and above, or that you attended the recent Classic Game Fest.
Producer Starr Long has penned a lengthy instruction post that’s a good read for anyone new to the fantasy title’s community, which Long says “continues to be the most amazing community” he has ever worked with. Release 20 is one of SotA’s biggest patches to date, and it includes “a wealth of new content” that moves the fantasy sandbox closer to alpha, according to Long.
He also mentions that Portalarium will be visibly ramping up its focus on SotA’s story, now that many of the game mechanics are in place. “We have to build the entire simulation first and then put the narrative over that foundation, so the story has had to wait until that time,” Long explains.
Shroud of the Avatar’s latest Update of the Avatar has been released. As per usual, it sums up the major happenings for Portalarium’s crowdfunded fantasy sandbox in a lengthy newsletter format. This week we’re treated to an early look at some in-progress Obsidian architecture.
Also noteworthy is Starr Long’s appearance on NBNN’s YouTube channel. He talks about everything from SotA’s upcoming release 20 to the challenges inherent in building narrative structure on top of a sandbox game. You can view the stream in its entirety after the break. There’s a lot more to Update of the Avatar #134, so don’t forget to follow the source link!
This past year, Shroud of the Avatar moved from a monthly weekend-release cadence to being online 24/7, but the major updates have been no less frequent and new features are introduced regularly. Perhaps even more impressive is that the open communication philosophy between the developers and the players has remained constant throughout the entire process. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still secrets to learn about the game. We caught up with Portalarium’s Richard Garriott and Starr Long at E3 2015 to discuss the state of the game and see what things are in store. And yes, we learned a few new tidbits the pair hadn’t planned on sharing!
As Kickstarter projects successfully funded via the power of nostalgia have proven, gamer loyalty can burn strong even decades after experiencing titles that make such a profound impact. For a subset of players, the Ultima franchise will forever be one of the most influential RPG series in existence, which is why thousands of them have migrated over to Shroud of the Avatar to give it such an active following during its early access period.
Shroud of the Avatar isn’t merely a game being formed, but a community coming together to live in this virtual world. Massively Overpowered caught up with Portalarium executive producer Starr Long this week to get a status check on the project and to ask a few burning questions about how SOTA plans on being a worthy spiritual successor to Ultima.
Shroud of the Avatar’s latest update is typically meaty. It features the usual footnotes related to in-game tweaks and changes as well as blurbs about a new community-driven mobile app, a chance to name streets in the game; a recap of appearances by Richard Garriott, Starr Long, and Tracy Hickman at SXSW; and details about an upcoming Ultima Online postmortem at Classic Game Fest 2015, also hosted by Long and Lord British.[Source: Update of the Avatar #117]
Shroud of the Avatar has amassed over $6 million in crowdfunding along with over 150,000 backers according to the tracker widget on the fantasy title’s website.
In other SotA news, Update of the Avatar #116 features a recap of the dev team’s SXSW appearances, an extensive look at changes to player-owned towns, and a Release 15 postmortem video roundtable featuring Richard Garriott, Starr Long, Tracy Hickman, and more. You can view that after the break
Shroud of the Avatar executive producer — and original Ultima Online director — Starr Long was interviewed by The Escapist this week. Long discusses his early Origin days, where he worked on everything from the Wing Commander series to a long list of Ultima products.
He also talks about Tabula Rasa, Kickstarter, and of course his newest project as well as his general design philosophy. “If I see a light, I should be able to turn it on and off. If I see a candle, I can blow it out. If there is a door, I should be able to open and close it, to lock it and unlock it. I should be able to take that cup off the table, hold it in my hand, and drink ale out of it,” Long explains. “That requires a lot of computing horsepower and a lot of memory, which means you have to take it from somewhere else. The easiest place to take it from is the graphics, but I would always much rather have a high degree of simulation than the best, newest graphics.”[Source: The Escapist]
As I type this, Massively Overpowered’s Kickstarter campaign sits comfortably at $54,323. We hit our initial $50k funding goal in roughly 48 hours. We’re on pace to smash through our $75k stretch goal before the month ends. Thanks to the miracle of crowdfunding, the Massively team and I get to keep doing what we love to do instead of spending the next few weeks explaining to potential employers what an “MMO” is and why we had to write about it.
This has been an incredible experience. I’m absolutely humbled by our community and am infinitely grateful for its support. As I said in my backer update earlier this week, I’m completely out of ways to say “thank you.”
However, my overall feelings on crowdfunding remain the same. It’s slimy, dangerous, and a borderline scam.