Choose My Adventure: In which my Shroud of the Avatar plans are foiled

    
23

Hello friends, and welcome to the next installment of the Shroud of the Avatar edition of Choose My Adventure. Last week, as I’m sure you remember, I had but one choice for you to make: Should my Shroud of the Avatar character choose to follow the path of Truth (i.e., Mage), the path of Courage (i.e., Fighter), or the path of Love (i.e., Ranger)? Well, the votes are in — they have been for some time now, really — and the path of Mage-Truth came out on top, but it was a close competition; Mage-Truth edged out Ranger-Love by only 13 votes.

This, all things considered, makes the current situation rather convenient. See, there was ah, uh… a bit of a hitch, you might say. But don’t worry, everything’s fine! I mean, I’m sure everything is fine, like, on the cosmic scale or something. But to those of you who came out in droves to force me down the path of Mage-Truth, I’m sad to say that your efforts were for naught. Whoops.

So here’s the deal: After I got the results of last week’s poll, I hopped straight back in to the world of New Britannia to have one last chit-chat with Arabella so I could finally be on my merry way, this time sans extended Q&A sessions. So I told her that she could take her path of Ranger-Love and stow it because I’m all about that Mage-Truth. And Arabella, that sly dog, didn’t even blink, just told me to sod off and go jump through some astral rift that would take me to New Britannia proper, and presumably, to my destiny on the path of Mage-Truth.

I am here to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that Arabella is a liar. But we’ll get to that in a minute; first, an interlude: After hopping heedlessly through what I assume was probably a horribly dangerous rift in space-time, I came out in the middle of what I figured used to be a village. At the moment, though, it was just a bunch of burning buildings strewn throughout with the corpses of countless humans and elves. Among the ruins, I found only two other people who were still breathing: a shady scavenger whose name I cannot recall and forgot to write down — I think it was “Fingers” or something similarly weird and grabby — and a severely out-of-place wandering bard by the name of Edvard.

Against my better judgment, I struck up a conversation with Grabby McScavenger, as he will henceforth be known, but all he wanted to talk about was the fancy dagger he’d looted from one of the fallen. If I could find him something that might net him an easy pouch of coin, he might be willing to part ways with his precious dagger.

Edvard, who was considerably cleaner and less jittery than my new scavenger friend, confirmed my initial suspicion that the dagger Grabby had offered to trade to me was not just any dagger — it was a MacGuffin Dagger (+1). Edvard, displaying a bit of unnerving prescience, informed me that it might be in my best interest to get my hands on that knife, and since he was the only NPC around here who seemed to have any idea what was going on, I figured it was best to follow his suggestion.

So off I went to forage through the burning splinters of what had been, prior to my arrival, an Elven village, in search of anything that Grabby McScavenger might take in trade. I have to be honest with you: This entire introductory segment was unbearably dull, and I really hope that it’s changed prior to the game’s full launch.

Now, to be clear, I’m not the kind of guy who just isn’t happy if I’m not making something dead. Combat isn’t the only way of instilling some excitement into a game, but the problem is that there’s no attempt to instill much in the way of excitement. I was initially anticipating stumbling across a cryptic clue that would lead me on a scavenger hunt, which would culminate in the discovery of some priceless Elven relic in exchange for which Grabby would gladly part ways with his dagger.

Instead, I was left to wander the village, rifling through the belongings of dead villagers and finding little more than a rather impressive array of fruits and vegetables, plus the occasional cheese. The only thing that even somewhat urged me onward was the mystery of what had happened that left this village razed and its people massacred. I didn’t have to wonder for long, though; one of the first bodies I searched contained a conveniently comprehensive array of newsletters and mustering orders that filled in the blanks in the story.

Short story made shorter, the Humans (who fear the Elves because of something to do with their suffering under the hands of the token Dark Elves of the setting) decided that they’d had it with these Elves and their fancy varieties of produce and cheeses, mustered up a militia, marched right in, and put the village to the torch and the villagers to the sword.

That, however, did nothing to point me toward the single item in the entire village (that I was able to find, at least, and I think I searched pretty thoroughly) that was valuable enough to satisfy Grabby’s bartering standards. Said item turned out to be a generic golden necklace tucked away in a dresser that I only ended up coming across by sheer bloody-mindedness.

Finally having found the diamond among the cabbages, apples, and so on, I marched back to Grabby, threw the necklace in his weasely face, and took my newly acquired MacGuffin Dagger to Edvard. Satisfied with my acquisition of what appeared to be a purely ornamental dagger, he opened the village gates (which he had been keeping shut on account of the three mildly irate wolves that waited outside) and pointed me toward a boat that he promised would carry me on to my next adventure.

But before I set sail, I was of course obligated to scour the environs around the village because that’s the kind of place RPG designers love to hide little bits of hidden treasure, right? No, not right. Maybe I’m just blind, dense, or some combination of the two, but the only thing of interest that I stumbled across was an Elven child, tucked away in a cliffside alcove behind a waterfall, next to the body of an Elven woman who, a note by the corpse informed me, was the child’s mother.

I tried talking to the Elven child, but for some reason he didn’t want to talk to the friendly Human, even when I called him by his name (mentioned in the note, of course) and asked if he needed help. Alas, he was resolute, and so, satisfied that I had discovered everything there was (or wasn’t, rather) to discover, I hopped in the boat that Edvard mentioned earlier and set sail for the mainland.

Upon my arrival, I was greeted with a tutorial pop-up window that said, among other things, this: “When the game’s story is closer to completion, from here you will begin your story along the Path of Truth, and explore the fate of the Vertas Elves and the secret of bonesteel. For now, you will be sent to Soltown, . . . where your adventures will continue as if you had chosen a different path (The Path of Love, which begins at Solace Bridge).”

Arabella played me like a fiddle! Asking me all those inane questions, being all, “Oh, you’re perfect for the path of Ranger-Love, but you can totes pick another one if you waaaaant,” knowing all along that the path of Mage-Truth was a (Mage-)lie! You win this one, Arabella, you scoundrel.

On the plus side, though, I guess that means that everyone wins! Except for the people who voted for the path of Fighter-Courage, since it’s irrelevant now. And the people who voted for Mage-Truth because their votes were completely pointless. So I guess really, it’s just a victory for the devotees of the path of Ranger-Love, and a remarkably sneaky, underhanded one at that. Well done!

But no matter; as far as I can determine, the chosen path determines little more than your starting equipment/skills and the main narrative your quests will follow, and since I can buy new equipment and learn new skills, and since the main narrative seems to be largely incomplete and absent from the game — and even if it weren’t, I wouldn’t discuss it in detail so as to avoid spoilers — this little hiccup shouldn’t be a problem.

Now, before we get on to this week’s polls, there are a couple of things I want to talk about. The first of them is the game’s questing system, which is a radical departure from the systems commonly found in RPGs (massively multiplayer or otherwise) these days, but it should be familiar to anyone who’s played just a handful of RPGs from back in the olden days.

There are no markers floating above characters’ heads to indicate that they have quests to give you, there’s no quest tracker, and there’s no quest log — though there is a journal in which major events are recorded, but they’re not particularly detailed, and I ended up just taking notes (by hand! with a pen! on paper!) to help me keep track of who wanted me to go where and do what. In fact, you can’t even see an NPC’s name until you talk to him or her and get a proper introduction; until then, it’ll just show up as “Villager” or something similar.

I have a feeling that the aforementioned NPC-name-hiding feature and the old-school-esque quest system will fall under the umbrella of “features I enjoy because they’re immersive but that other people will hate because they’re tedious.” I enjoy the fact that there’s no quest log, no quest tracker, no quest location markers on your map, just NPC dialogue and texts (letters, notes, etc.) to nudge you in the direction of interesting things. It makes everything feel a lot more “organic,” so to speak, at least insofar as it doesn’t make me feel like my epic quests are just a laundry list to check off as efficiently as possible.

But yes, I’ll admit that it does require me to keep my inner completionist in check (or fill up sheets of notebook paper with notes on quests I’ve come across), and it can be pretty frustrating when you’ve been told to go talk to Betty in Villagetown, but when you show up, it’s just a bunch of NPCs labeled “Villager,” so you’ve gotta run around like a maniac, grabbing people and shaking them by the shoulders, shouting, “Are you Betty!? What about you? WHERE IS BETTY, DAMMIT!?” OK, fine, that’s a more-than-slightly dramatized retelling; it’s really not that bad, at least to me, but as always, your mileage may vary.

Now, that being said, while I feel like the “organic” and more open-ended quest system falls under the aforementioned umbrella of “features I enjoy because they’re immersive yadda yadda,” there is one feature in the game so far that I think falls under the much-less-frequently occupied umbrella of “objectively awful,” and that, unfortunately, is combat. Combat is awful. I’m sorry, but it is. And yes, I know that it’s in pre-alpha — in fact, in case you’ve forgotten, consider this another disclaimer of “it’s pre-alpha and everything is subject to change” — but I feel the need to rail on it a little bit anyway, if for no other reason than personal catharsis (but also because I hope that if enough people rail on the combat, they’ll scrap it and come up with something better).

“I don’t think the combat is awful because it’s just the same super-mediocre, tab-targeting, hotkey-mashing combat we’ve seen from at least a solid 90% of MMORPGs in recent history; I think the combat is awful because it’s cumbersome, sluggish, unresponsive, and probably just about as close as you can get to experiencing the sensation of wading through fresh honey with weights tied to your extremeties without actually shelling out the cash to buy a massive vat, some dumbells, and a respectably sized apiary.”
So here’s the deal: I don’t think the combat is awful because it’s just the same super-mediocre, tab-targeting, hotkey-mashing combat we’ve seen from at least a solid 90% of MMORPGs in recent history; I do, of course, think that they should be able to come up with something more engaging than the same super-mediocre, tab-targeting, hotkey-mashing combat that’s been beaten so thoroughly to death that its very essence has become one with the universe, reaching nirvana. I think the combat is awful because it’s cumbersome, sluggish, unresponsive, and probably just about as close as you can get to experiencing the sensation of wading through fresh honey with weights tied to your extremeties without actually shelling out the cash to buy a massive vat, some dumbells, and a respectably sized apiary.

Of course, it’s also still within the realm of possibility that combat eventually picks up some momentum and I just haven’t progressed far enough to see it happen (which would still be a problem, but not as big of one), but I can’t say I’m really holding out hope for that. And again, just for the record — because I know someone in the comments is going to take umbrage with me — I am aware that the game is in pre-alpha, and I’m hoping that means that reworking the combat system is somewhere on the devs’ to-do list, but just in case it isn’t, it needs to be fast-tracked to the front of the line.

OK, I think I’ve gotten all of that out of my system now; thanks for humoring me. In return for your patience, let’s go ahead and make with the voting, shall we? So, coming up with the poll options this week was a bit of a challenge for two reasons: First, my playtime was unfortunately limited by the inconvenient interference of ye olde RL; and second, because of Shroud of the Avatar‘s heavy emphasis on providing players with an organic and freeform experience, there don’t seem to be any distinct paths that overtly lead to one activity or another, so a lot of the game’s facets are simply unknown to me until I happen across them by chance. Or, alternatively, until I look stuff up on the wiki because I’ve got a poll to make, gosh-darnit.

So here’s the deal: There are simply too many different skills and activities in the game (by the wiki’s measure, at any rate) for it to be possible for me to make polls covering every individual one, so instead, let’s start by establishing a general direction, and we can delve into specifics next week.

First up on the voting agenda, we’ve got the matter of my character’s combat build. Shroud of the Avatar provides a huge variety of combat-oriented skills, and if I let you vote on individual skill sets, the list would be so long that your votes would inevitably be spread so thin that it would hardly be a decisive vote. So instead, I want you to pick a general “role” for my character: physical melee, physical ranged, or magic. Or, if you’re feeling a bit unconventional, you can also vote for a hybrid build that will incorporate two of the three. If you have any more specific suggestions regarding the general direction of my character build (we’ll sort out the specifics next week), leave ’em in the comments, por favor!

CMA: Which role should my build focus on?

  • Physical melee (7%, 12 Votes)
  • Physical ranged (8%, 14 Votes)
  • Magic (23%, 39 Votes)
  • Melee-Magic hybrid (34%, 58 Votes)
  • Melee-Ranged hybrid (9%, 15 Votes)
  • Ranged-Magic hybrid (19%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 170

Loading ... Loading ...

The second item on the docket is to provide me with a general focus to direct my adventures for the weekend. Again, there are too many things in the game (or, at the very least, too many things I don’t personally know about) for me to provide you with anything resembling a complete list of options, so again, I’m going to ask you to just give me a general idea of where I should set my focus, and we’ll see where the game takes me from there.

So as I figure it, there are a few different facets I can explore (or attempt to explore, at any rate): First, we’ve got old, reliable questing. I already talked briefly about the overall questing system in the game, but I’m sure there are still plenty of interesting quests to discover and unravel. Second, I could go ahead and lay down the sword for a bit and try my hand at the game’s crafting system and see how the life of an artisan compares to the life of a Mage-Truth-Love-Ranger… thing. Or lastly, I can simply cast aside all notions of pursuing quests or practicing a trade and instead simply wander the world, exploring the vast unknown and seeing what New Britannia may be hiding in its out-of-the-way locales.

CMA: Which focus should guide my next adventure?

  • Questing (29%, 48 Votes)
  • Crafting (21%, 35 Votes)
  • Exploring (51%, 85 Votes)

Total Voters: 168

Loading ... Loading ...

At this point, some of you may be dismayed that player housing, one of the game’s most-touted features, isn’t on the above poll. There’s a good reason for that — two, actually: The first is that I am a player housing fanatic and, though I am by-and-large your puppet (figuratively speaking; don’t make it weird) for the duration of each CMA series, I still have a modicum of free will to exercise, and I’m gonna check out player housing whether you like it or not, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!

But the second, and probably more pertinent, reason is that I decided to go ahead and look up how much a property deed (required to claim a lot on which to build a house) would run me, and the cheapest of them costs the not-inconsiderable amount of 120,000 gold pieces. Considering my character is currently valued at a total net worth of a couple hundred gold, tops, I don’t think I’m gonna be scraping up the dough to buy a deed over the course of one weekend. But if I’m able to get my hands on a deed, rest assured that I’ll tell you all there is to know about Shroud of the Avatar‘s housing.

Well, folks, the time has come once again for me to bid you farewell for another week. Make sure all of your votes for this week’s polls are submitted by Friday, January 15th, at 11:59 p.m. EST. And of course, join me next week as I try to break through Shroud of the Avatar‘s obfuscating outer layer and take a peek at the deeper aspects of the game that lie within. Until then, friends!

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Matt each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures — and you get to decide his fate. Be gentle (or not)!
Advertisement

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
organiclockwork
Guest
organiclockwork

FacelessSavior Yes! That’s another favorite of mine. Thank you again for the kind words, you magnificent hoopy frood.

FacelessSavior
Guest
FacelessSavior

Hahaha! Dude, when I wrote Late, Great D.A., at first I had in parenthesis after it “This is just a remark on his current state, not a threat.” Then I deleted it thinking no one would get the reference and it would look like a really dark, poor taste, joke. Well played my friend :)
Another one of my favorites is, “The problem with making something completely fool proof, is that people often underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
Pretty much every important thing about life I learned through the word craft of Bill Watterson and Douglas Adams. They literally (perhaps literarily?) Influenced my views on Life, The Universe, and Everything.
So I assure you, it’s not a compliment I toss around cavalier. I can definitely see and appreciate the influence in your writing. It’s very natural as well, doesn’t seem a bit forced. I’m a fan Bruv, keep up the good work and passion. :)

organiclockwork
Guest
organiclockwork

FacelessSavior P.S. Your remark about the “Late, Great Douglas Adams” just reminds me of one of my favorite exchanges from Hitchhiker’s Guide (paraphrasing because I don’t have it handy and Google only brought up the exact movie quote):

“Come now, or you will be late.”
“Late? For what?”
“What is your name, human?”
“Arthur Dent.”
“‘Late’ as in ‘the late Arthur Dent.’ It was something of a threat, you see. Never been terribly good at them, myself, but I’m told they can be quite effective.”

organiclockwork
Guest
organiclockwork

FacelessSavior Oh, stop that; you’re making me blush! ;P To be in any way compared with Douglas Adams — not that I feel in any way deserving of the comparison, mind you — is just about the highest compliment there is, as far as I’m concerned. He’s one of a few writers (alongside Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, and a few others) who have indelibly shaped and influenced me as a writer. To this day, I still make it a point to go back and re-read HHGG and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency at least once a year. So thank you! <3 You’re very kind.

Bionicall
Guest
Bionicall

I think you accurately summed up the combat in this game(and in an amusing brilliant manner too). As far as the ‘path’ (Truth/Love/Courage) goes, I had a similar experience with the fighter path… got to wander around a scene, until getting teleported to Soltown and told to follow it as the path of love. So even those that voted “Fighter-Courage” don’t miss out on much. I would echo Kendaron’s comment about finding a guild as your next step. Unless you are willing to spend real money on the housing, otherwise the crafting(my token vote) will serve you well as you can craft a heap of stuff for your house.

mindshadow
Guest
mindshadow

kendaron I think he should continue to really show everyone how unfinished this game is.  There’s actually quite a bit to do, but it’s truly only for the extreme hardcore gamer who don’t mind testing prototypes.  Everyone else really should wait until Beta, perhaps in another year or so.

mindshadow
Guest
mindshadow

Mortam Yeah, the Steam reviews really proved that.  They went Early Access way, way, way, too soon.  Unless you were prepared to help test a prototype, because that’s really what it was and still is after 3 years, with massive bugs, completely unpolished graphics and unoptimized code, incomplete and broken features,etc, this really isn’t intended for anyone except the extremely dedicated and patient backer.  Everyone really should wait until Beta in another year or so.

mindshadow
Guest
mindshadow

SteveJackn111 Yeah, it’s really bad and quite disappointing that after 3 years they still haven’t made it a priority to fix.  Oh sure they’ll make some major changes for a month or two, and then ignore it for 6 months while they do other non-core stuff.   Then when complaints are overwhelming, they’ll do another big change for another month and then ignore it again for 6 more months.  That’s the way it’s been for nearly 3 years.

Chris Spears
Guest
Chris Spears

Hi from the Shroud team thanks for taking a look at our project!  Much of the feedback you gave is what we have given internally and also received from fans.  For the next release, R26, a few of the items you mentioned will be improved, including not needing to tab target for ranged combat.  We removed the tab targeting for melee combat a few releases back and the response has been very positive.

As for combat sluggishness, that is being dealt with.  Largely it is the result of an animation set that was made to be “weighty and realistic” which is great for movies and trailers but absolutely destroys combat.  We have a new lead animator who has worked on a number of fighting games including several Star Wars titles and the recent Ninja Turtles Console game.  He gets it.  The combat animation set will be much more responsive and also include chained attack combos.  

Right now most combat animations have a half second to a second lag between when you press the button and when the attack triggers.  Especially with our non-tab targeted combat where we work based off of positioning, that type of delay is infuriating.  For the end of January (R26) release, the animators are working on getting the chaos demon and a few other NPCs cleaned up but expect to see some combat improvements for February’s release(R27).

Also, the new user experience is getting a complete rework.  Currently it is full of TL;DR out of context walls of texts about stuff you don’t need and nothing is “Taught” to the player.  Expect to see more teaching, more in character text, with only a few out of context help items going as we get closer to launch.

Thanks again for the honest write up and happy to see that we already have already scheduled time to fix/improve most of your sour spots!  Our focus up to this point has largely been on cramming in as many new features as we could each release.  We are now done with the majority of the launch features and many on the team is turning its attention towards improving existing systems and general polish.  

While it has earned us a few negative reviews, we believe strongly that our completely open development process is the right way to make games in the long run because it gets us feedback like this to help keep us honest and focused on the right improvements.  The most important thing is that it is fun when we’re done and this is the best way to get there.

Matt, if you want more of an inside view of how we’re improving combat and want to contribute yourself, message me in the shroud forums (Chris) and I’ll add you to the Combat Scrum .  

Take care and see you in game!
  Chris “Atos” Spears

Coolit
Guest
Coolit

kendaron I concur joining a guild and participating in the community events is where this game really shines, its not nearly as appealing if you’re not in a guild or participating in the community. You can find the events calendar here:- http://avatarscircle.com

I’ve been playing pretty much constantly for over a year now and although combat is rough there are many aspects of the game that make up for its shortcomings. 

I look forward to following you’re journey Matt!