Shroud of the Avatar's 219th newsletter has arrived! Of note is the segment on the Kas Ruins, whose biome is based on the Rockies and Grand Tetons of the US but could easily be pulled straight from Lord of the Rings.
Portalarium has also requested that backers entitled to submit NPCs for inclusion in the game do so for the village of Harvest, a farming community and waystation in Estgard. I would totally claim that town crier and make him say rude things, but that's why I'm not a game designer.
The devs have also uploaded more info on their charity work, the full telethon, and notes for the offline mode save game format changes.
Did you realize before you saw this headline that the granddaddy of all graphical MMORPGs is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year? Yes, we are all that old, but it's not necessarily a bad thing.
This week's Ultima Online newsletter is short but packs a punch. The team reports that it has loaded Publish 97 onto the test servers with a huge focus on animal taming and pets. There are a ton of new pets to gather, including dinos, beetles, and dragon wolves.
The Ultima Online team is planning a 20th anniversary celebration in meatspace this September in Virginia, but if you can't make it, there's plenty of in-game surprises coming too.
Producer Bonnie Armstrong teased what's coming later this year: "We are starting the planning stage for Publish 98 that includes a 20th Anniversary Event arc, Halloween, and Anniversary rewards [...] One small teaser I will announce is one of the new items we are offering for the 20th Anniversary -- a jewelry box!"
Even if you can overlook the expense, the current lack of games, the potential for nausea, and the annoyance of wearing a clamshell on your sweaty face, virtual reality has a looming problem: trolls.
Turns out that the same internet jerks who ruin online spaces and games via text and avatar show up to do the same in virtual reality too.
As MIT Technology Review wrote yesterday, part of the point of socializing in virtual worlds is to feel the "presence" of other people -- but the very benefit that makes "virtual reality so compelling also makes awkward or hostile interactions with other people much more jarring," such as when people invade your private space or try to touch your avatar without permission.
The publication highlights AltSpaceVR, a startup building tools to help people deal with trolls. The company has some of the basics already -- like a way to make obnoxious people invisible with a block -- but it's also working on a "personal space bubble" to stop people from groping your virtual self without permission, which they would otherwise do because people are gross and have no shame.
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.
Wanna feel really old? Ultima Online is turning 20 this year. Another year and it can legally drink!
Broadsword is throwing a real-world party for the anniversary event on September 22nd and 23rd in Herndon, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. The studio is asking fans to register for the event in order to help it determine the scope of the room rate block required. Admission is free.
Food, guest speakers, an Ultima Online panel, raffle, mixer, BBQ, and trivial contests are all on the agenda.
Anybody thinking of going?
During the first couple of years I played MMORPGs, I was a pretty timid gamer in terms of my comfort zone for actual content. It took me a good while (and a lot of pressure from guildies) to mentally gear up to kill people and cut off their heads for my collection in Ultima Online. In EverQuest, I picked an alt to force myself to practice pulling (pulling was more of a skilled thing back then). In Camelot, my puller was my main. And by World of Warcraft, I was main tanking for my guild. (She's up in the screenie above, circa 2004. D'awww.)
It seems like a silly progression now, I'm sure, but I had to force myself to play out of my comfort zone to get good at new things -- and to appreciate them. Now, in my two main MMOs, I'm playing up-close-and-personal tanky melee as a matter of habit, when as a teenager I would have made a beeline for the nearest healer class to hide. (Although I still like healers too!)
How about you? How often do you play outside your comfort zone in MMORPGs?
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.
Sing me a song of a free trial, sing me a song today!
Right this very hot moment, Shroud of the Avatar is testing out a free trial to see how its system works. What does this mean for you? If you haven't purchased this early access title, you can jump into it for free right now to give it a whirl.
As you may expect, the trial does have some restrictions and stipulations. Players will be labeled as a visitor and denied the ability to buy, trade, own land, engage in open PvP, and play offline. The free trial period runs through March 9th, at which point any participants will need to purchase the game to retain their character data and progress.
The fact that this trial is a "test" suggests that it will return in the future, perhaps in a more persistent form.
Ready to take on Proto-Ultima with several other people? Ready to finish off your anima weapon quests? Or are you just looking forward to new delivery content for a catgirl in Final Fantasy XIV
? Patch 3.55a provides all of the above and even a bit more
, including a new map for the Feast and some lowered requirements for previous steps of the anima weapon questline. It should be plenty of stuff to keep you occupied in the game for a while.
Not enough for you? Well, maybe you can distract yourself with the Little Ladies' Day quests starting up on March 1st. Players will earn new emotes, housing decorations, and cosmetic gear by helping the Songbirds take Ul'dah by storm once again. So that should keep you occupied for a while, as well. There are also some new cosmetic items available for purchase in the store, including the oft-sought cherry blossom trees.
Just ahead of the weekend, Shroud of the Avatar rolled out Release 39, its latest monthly content push, and this one is pretty massive, as the latest newsletter recaps. Players spent the weekend tinkering with new town shrines, crafter patterns, the Path of Courage storyline, combat improvements, journal updates, the ignite weapons polish-up, and additions to Blood River, K'rul, K'rawl, North Drachvald Spur, and Upper Fortus.
What didn't make it in? Player-rented rooms, ammo refactoring, Obsidian Cabalists, the new agriculture UI, and the Rhun Ruins. "In order to get room renting working properly, we had to entirely refactor how we store and save items in player homes," says Portalarium. "This in turn led us to realize that we should work on the ability to save a decorated home (and eventually move it) before we do Room Rentals, so we have chosen to delay Room Renting for now."
The newsletter also includes a look at the Serpent's Spine Mines rebuild (coming R41) and a peek at the Bloody Bay dungeon known as The Fall (R40 or 41). And if your pledge package includes custom-designed NPCs, the team is collecting entries now for the village of Estgard. You always wanted to be a town guard, right?
Fellow fans of Final Fantasy XIV
, I'm not going to lie to you: The next few months in the game will be rough
. Not because we'll lack for things to do, of course, but because we're all going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all know what's coming, and we've even got more stuff to learn about, like the details of the system revision and the exact story transition. But there are a bit more than 100 days left until Stormblood
releases, and we're all
going to be staring with rapt attention until it actually happens.
That having been said, we are going to have more stuff to do over the next few months. Depending on when in the day you read this, the game might be down for maintenance right now with one of those patches along the way. So let's talk about the road to June 20th, what we know is coming, what we can reasonably expect, and what we don't yet know about but might help fill the gap.
Personally, I prefer science fiction over fantasy nine times out of ten, even though most of the MMOs that grace my desktop are fantasy games. Sci-fi has had an awfully difficult time making headway into the field of MMOs, with plenty of underperforming or canceled titles littering the way. I've heard it explained that the fantasy genre is easier for the common person to grasp because it uses elements of our past -- primarily the medieval period -- to provide a familiar baseline, whereas sci-fi's futuristic setting requires world-building from scratch.
Whatever the case may be, Earth & Beyond never really caught on the way that EVE Online did just a couple of years later, and its miniscule population was not enough for Electronic Arts to keep it running. But between 2002 and 2004, Earth & Beyond reached for the stars and gave its own spin on how a space-faring MMO could work. Let's take a look today at what made Earth & Beyond unique, what it gave the industry, and how it may help upcoming space MMOs avoid a similar fate.
If you assumed that Shroud of the Avatar's February update was going to be on the small size, thanks to a shorter month, then you're right there with the devs. However they ended up pushing out a rather big patch with Release 39 today that continues to fill out the game as it heads to an official release later this year.
There's no one major headlining feature for Release 39 but instead several middle-of-the-road improvements. The team is progressing in its development of the Path of Courage and added the technologically savvy Kobolds and their counterparts, clockwork attack creatures. The update also contains crafting patterns (think "transmog" for weapons and gear), a pair of new dungeons, savable houses, a better cover system, neighborhood buffs, tweaks to the NPC conversation system, and Asian-themed architecture.
Players will also be able to put down those lutes after a long day of barding: "For our first foray into making handheld player items decorations, we picked handheld musical instruments because they are a nice small subset of items to experiment with as we work our way through the system. This means players can now place lutes, harps, flutes, and tabor drums as floor decorations."