Portalarium is going all out for Shroud of the Avatar’s formal launch next week – March 27th, for those of you keeping count. Last night, the studio held its launch party in conjunction with SXSW (we’ll have much more on that event when Massively OP’s MJ returns from it!). In the meantime, Portalarium and EU publisher Travian Games pushed out a press release that bizarrely dubs the game a “multiplayer RPG” and releases two brand-new videos. The first is clearly intended to introduce the Ultima Online spiritual successor to newcomers, while the second shows off just how far combat and co-op play have come over the last couple of years.
See: Ultima Online
When we covered Shroud of the Avatar’s newsletter yesterday, one of the tidbits we mentioned was the plan for craftable housing. In response to a question from a player, Starr Long essentially announced that in the launch patch next week, Portalarium is planning to tweak that system, which has long provoked claims of pay-to-win.
“Yes we are going to be expanding the number of craftable houses soon. In R52 in fact we are adding a craftable inn.”
So what exactly does housing entail? A helpful Redditor linked to a helpful thread on the official site just a few weeks ago breaking down how exactly you can buy property without handing over your credit card because you definitely can – that’s the good news. If you’re not a crafter yourself, you just need a specific currency, Crowns of the Obsidians, which you can buy with gold.
Shroud of the Avatar’s official launch may be a bit later this month, but the launch party is this week! Massively OP’s MJ is excited to go, and so she’s soaking up all the SOTA she can before she leaves. Hop aboard the hype hot air balloon and join us live at 7:00 p.m. for more Forsaken Virtues adventures.
What: Shroud of the Avatar
Who: MJ Guthrie
When: 7:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 12th, 2018
Whether or not you agree that Shroud of the Avatar is already soft launched, it is most definitely hard launching on March 27th, meaning there’s just a few weeks to go until the big day. That makes the next couple of weekly newsletters extra important, given that they are previewing content that’s going into release 52 – in other words, brand-new launch content.
Portalarium’s latest offering teases two new companions, representing Truth and Courage, along with their unique art, plus progress on the town of Northwood and Blood River Forest adventure zone. Devs also answered a few more questions that didn’t make it into the previous Q&A; they say they’re working on DPS, crit rate, recipes, loot, and performance. They’re also “expanding the number of craftable houses” – there’s a craftable inn in R52, so MJ will be happy.
Additionally, SOTA is seeking out players for its “Ambassadors Program,” which’ll remind old-school MMO players of guide systems from games past.
A few months ago, we ran a Leaderboard poll asking players what kind of live studio-led events they want out of MMORPGs. By way of example, I compared the types of GM-run live events I saw in Ultima Online and EverQuest. In Ultima Online, we often saw long-running plotlines, mysterious NPCs, decorated special locations, dungeon crawls, and weddings galore. In EverQuest, I saw weddings, yes, but also GMs running around massacring newbies to get the highbies to come take them out (which wasn’t such a grand time as you lost experience on death). In Asheron’s Call, well, don’t take my word for it – just listen to Andrew talk about some of the biggest MMO events that ever took place in the genre.
Such GM events – the good ones, at least – are the subject of Saga of Lucimia’s weekly dev blog, which ought to make the majority of you who voted for plot, roleplaying, and activities other than endless murder in your event happy.
“Over the years, that type of interaction faded away as it became too ‘cost prohibitive’ for companies to maintain the type of staff required to create such unique events, and these days you are hard-pressed to find a GM logged into any game, much less get customer support to answer your emails in a timely fashion,” Lucimia Creative Director Tim “Renfail” Anderson maintains. “Cash shops and loot boxes are the name of the game these days. Game masters? What are those?”
In an earlier Daily Grind on peripherals, I mentioned how I used to fold up a piece of paper into a triangular prism, write down my keybinds, and prop it up on my keyboard in old school Ultima Online. That was because the game really didn’t have much of an interface. Things like healthbars and paperdolls and bags and spells were ad hoc; you could pull them out and drag them around your screen (that was ahead of its time!), but there wasn’t even a trace of the rudimentary hotbar that EverQuest would later introduce to the genre. You set your macros in options and that was that.
Since then, UO has come a really long way in the UI department thanks to multiple client upgrades. The current top-shelf UI for the game is in the “enhanced client” that about half the playerbase reportedly uses, and it’s much more like the sort of UI modern players are used to, complete with endless hotbars, API support, and on-the-fly configuration. If I dropped that UI onto a screenshot for a different game, I bet most of you wouldn’t bat an eyelash. (I was going to do that for this post, but I decided to use the brand-new F2P login screen instead – does that take you back, vets, or what?)
Anyway, that’s just one example of an MMO with a vastly improved UI. Which MMORPG do you think has most improved its UI over the years?
Is the buzz starting to grow louder for Shroud of the Avatar as it rounds the corner to launch? There are a couple of positive signs that player interest and involvement is picking up in these final weeks, at least according to creator Richard Garriott.
Responding to some players who noted that guild traffic and general interest has been on the rise as of late, Garriott tweeted, “Data backs that up! In addition to eight weeks of steady concurrency increases, the conversion rates of free trials to full citizens remains strong, even as less ‘indoctrinated’ folks are trying it out. Travian’s great marketing team fine tuning new player outreach.”
One of our commenters recently noted that the developers have been raining meteors down on the game’s population in these last few weeks — and that it seems as if there is something big planned as a launch event. Stay tuned!
With just a few weeks away left before its official launch, Shroud of the Avatar is going nuts in its home stretch. Portalarium is getting ready to show off the game at SXSW this month and has expanded the free trial to allow users the ability to choose one of the three core paths available.
It sounds as though fans are still throwing wads of cash at this game, if the recent $110,000 telethon was of any indication. The community’s ingenuity was on display in this month’s newsletter, thanks to the Magnificent Trophy Room contest that showed off the capabilities of SOTA’s housing system and a spotlight on the Library of Spritual Knowledge. The latter is a place where player creativity is stored and displayed, including lore, music, and guides.
And if getting into the nitty gritty details of combat math and performance is your thing, then you’ll be the right audience for the studio’s latest tech talk video. Check it out below.
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from War of Rights, Blade and Soul, Lineage 2 Revolution, Darwin Project, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Closers, Elder Scrolls Online, Bless, Soulworker Online, Skyforge, The Black Death, Saga of Lucimia, Dungeon Fighter Online, Mu Origin, Prosperous Universe, Legends of Aria, Battlerite, and Aura Kingdom Mobile, all waiting for you after the break!
Massively OP is heading to GDC this year, which means we’re being deluged by PR from techware and software companies that’ll be on site. One of them cracked us up: It’s called Lexip, and its claim to fame is that it’s a mouse with two joysticks embedded in it. It’s being promoted as a tool for everything from Kerbal Space Program to World of Warcraft. It sounds bizarre, but it actually looks pretty neat, which is probably why it’s raised 10 times its ask on Kickstarter so far. Heck, I’d buy one if I weren’t 99% sure it’ll be way too big for my weirdo tiny hands.
That got us thinking about peripherals for MMOs in general. My first peripheral was actually a piece of paper folded into a long triangular prism shape, propped up on my keyboard above my F keys to remind me where the heck I stashed all my Ultima Online macros (the game back then had no hotkey bar). Since then, I’ve picked up all sorts of weird gaming objects for my MMOs, including attachments to make mobile gaming less a chore, but I’ve never had a mouse with two joysticks attached.
What’s the weirdest MMO peripheral you’ve ever seen or used?
Before the free-to-play conversion for Ultima Online launches this spring, Broadsword is hard at work updating the early game experience for the newbies and returnees they hope will flock to the 20-year-old isometric sandbox. Some of that work launches on the test server today in the form of publish 99.
For starters, a brand-new newbie-oriented area has been added to Britain in Trammel in a spot that I think is currently the artist’s guild or possibly that weird open space near the archways and steps (the patch hasn’t landed on TC1 as I type this). “This open space makes for the perfect meeting place and offers nearby access to essential city services such as a pub, stable master, and crafting stations,” says Broadsword.
Meanwhile, the studio has overhauled the town crier system; now, players will be able to access the town criers for actual shard information, new player quests, wiki entries, messages from elected player governors, and events from large guilds.
Remember last week when we covered how the Entertainment Software Association is fighting a proposal to amend the DMCA that would help preserve online games, including MMOs, for future generations? MMORPG developer Raph Koster has since thumbed his virtual nose at the ESA’s jerk move.
“Speaking as a designer, I’d rather my game be played for free than never be able to be played ever again,” the Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies designer wrote on Twitter. “Much of my work is basically gone and what survives is all altered. Preservation matters.”
He points out that the ESA’s claim that putting sunsetted games back online would create a “loophole to let the public flood” in is absurd, since the lack of a flood is generally why the game closed down to begin with.
Out of all the titles that I’ve played for Choose My Adventure, Project Gorgon is probably the earliest in its development cycle. It’s also, by a sizable margin, the best in show. If you’re looking for a quick ringtone-style clip to take away from this column, that would be the one.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot of criticisms of the game, nor does it mean that this is a game which will delight and amaze everyone who plays it. I have a somewhat biased starting point anyway because I talk about this subgenre for a living, and thus I have certain tastes that not everyone is going to share. That isn’t meant as a brag; that’s meant as a self-admonishment because these are things no one should really care about all that much.
Still, here I am, here this game is, and I am happy to pronounce it the best of all the Choose My Adventure games that I’ve played for this feature so far – albeit with the slight caveat that it won’t be able to hold onto that title forever if it doesn’t actually address some of the issues that I noticed while playing.