Shroud of the Avatar suffers layoffs, saying ‘right-sizing’ is needed ahead of episode 2

    
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It appears as if Portalarium is suffering some layoffs and downsizing in the wake of the launch of Shroud of the Avatar: The studio’s Starr Long admits to “adjusting [the] team size” in a forum post written yesterday.

“Now that we are almost complete fulfilling our Kickstarter promises (brewing coming online in R55, physical rewards shipping very soon, progress being made on castle defense, etc.), we are adjusting our team size to better match our current monthly revenue. This will give us the balance we need to begin work on Episode 2 while ensuring we can support the online service. To do that means having, at least for now, a smaller team. Right now we will shift our focus from creating new content to polishing our existing systems. This means making a stronger new user experience, fixing bugs, reworking the quest system, performance improvements, user interface polish, and more. At the same time we will continue the Tier adjustments in progress which will rework our existing scenes to more appropriate difficulty levels based on our current player population.”

A studio press release that landed in our inbox reiterates the layoffs, calling them a “right-sizing” ahead of the team’s start on episode 2 and hinting at a “possible expansion of […] business relations” between Portalarium and Travian Games by the end of the year. Episode 2, the next phase of SOTA’s development, is expected to include “expanded stories, new lands and of course additional feature sets.”

Source: Official forums, press release. With thanks to Mikka.

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ghostlight

It’s been a few years now since I’ve worked in a large corporation, and one thing I definitely don’t miss is the Orwellian corporate speak like ‘right-sizing’.

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squid

Let me know when they fix the performance issues.

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Armsbend

*Opens airplane cargo door. A sucking wind rushes throughout the cabin*
“Thanks for all of your hard work.”
*Kicks asset designer in the back tumbling them out of the plane*
“Damn it. I forgot to give him a parachute. Oh well.”
*shuts cargo door*

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Mailvaltar

I’m baffled every time a newly launched game needs to work on ‘making a stronger new user experience’ right away.

How can it be so hard to do that bit right ahead of launch? It’s not like every game has EVE Online levels of complexity (which is the only game where I haven’t got the slightest clue how a good new user experience would actually look like).

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Sray

It’s an issue that affects pretty much every MMO due to a virtually unavoidable flaw in play testing: the people testing your game have generally already “bought in” (whether literally purchasing, or just emotionally committing to the game), thus they’re usually already experienced players, and predisposed towards liking anything that they see. Its essentially a necessary evil due to the large number of people needed to play test an MMO.

In this particular case, it’s compounded by the fact that the target audience is the “old school, back when games were hard…” section of gamers; and they hate “being taught how to play”, which leads to a poorly tested and designed new player experiences because you don’t have any “real” new players to test it; and the ones who do test it are generally not interested in that content to begin with.

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A Hettinger

Actually, there has been a number of bug reports and RFEs about interface, play mechanics, and story. There where a group of us who came out and said that they where not ready for launch.

Have I “bought in” sure, for more then I care to admit, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see flaws and report them.

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Sray

I’m talking about the phenomenon in a broad general manner, not an absolute that applies to every single person who ever played the game pre-launch. There’s always groups of players capable of giving rational feedback, and they do so; but there’s also always a large contingent that is predisposed to liking whatever they’re presented, and who end up doing little more than filing bug reports, which is not the same as usable feedback on design. Virtually anyone who has beta tested virtually any MMO that stumbled right out of the gate can tell you about how the overwhelming majority of players on the beta forums were largely pleased with what they were seeing -occasional bugs notwithstanding- and how because of that the developers completely missed out on the feedback needed to create a product with broad appeal.

Furthermore, I was talking about the new player experience specifically: despite the fact developers know how vitally importantly that first hour of game play is, it’s generally one of the last things constructed; the least tested; and generally tested by the worst possible candidates, because that’s mostly only who’s available. This particular instance was probably compounded even further by the target audience of this particular project (long time MMO vets).

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Victor Didra

I think they’ve got the first hour down pretty well now, it’s the transition to being part of the community and world that is still not functioning well.

The early areas are pretty easy to do by yourself, and it’s almost better because you’re learning all the systems. But then when you finish, you step out into this huge world and don’t know how to join it. There are quests that will carry you to the various areas, but that’s not “becoming part of the world.”

And if you’re going to be a Shroud addict, it usually happens because you become part of the world.

So we lose people who are still playing it like a single player game because they don’t get hooked into the multiplayer part, even though they are in multiplayer.

And then there are all the non-combat oriented walks of life. Those aren’t represented (much) in any of the “game proper”. Unless you know to open the Looking for Group tool, and happen to do it at the right time, you’ll never know about all the events happening, particularly on weekends.

Getting going in crafting is guesswork unless you read an outside guide. It works, but you wind up spending a lot of gold doing things that you didn’t need to do, building things that aren’t sell-able instead of ones that are, etc.

So the good news is that there’s this big world for people. The bad news is that they don’t see the forest for the trees. The devs needs to figure out how to help them see the forest.

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Dividion

Good luck to all those affected. Unfortunately that’s pretty common in the industry after the release of a game, even the really successful ones.

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Tandor

While that’s often true due to the reduction in workload once a game has switched from development to maintenance/content addition, that’s not the case here as the layoffs are stated to be “to better match our current monthly revenue”. That’s pretty unprecedented so soon after “launch” and is a clear indication that revenue is below target and therefore costs have to be cut.

borghive
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borghive

Does anyone play this? I tried a few times, even at release, and the game just felt pretty lackluster.

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Dividion

ESO is getting the bulk of my gaming time right now, but I still hop in for a bit every month and run some quests. The game has a bunch of features I really like: no classes, plenty of different areas to explore, character gets better every time I log in, and it makes you actually think (as opposed to spoon feeding you). Making bad decisions in SotA can end badly very quickly. And if you’re into the whole housing thing, it has a fantastic decorating system. Even if you can’t buy your own place, you can be a tenant in someone else’s place with full decorative rights. The interface has improved a lot as well, though I wish they’d re-do the base maps used by SotaMap.

xpsync
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xpsync

It’s old school, and it’s actually a great game, really good in fact, but it needs more players badly, so hope they do enhance the new user experience. I mean thinking about it now i’m not entirely sure why i stopped playing it, i already have far more fond memories after a month than playing ESO for years.

It’s not going to spoon feed you like a wow baby.

Performance is another problem, unless you have decent box the loading gets tiring fast as there is so much loading. The only other grip was when you leave say a town, you are on an overhead map you can run on, very neat, at first, after awhile it feels unnecessary or kind of cheap instead of landscapes like all mmo’s you can adventure through.

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Paragon Lost

Yeah I noted performance/optimizing issues when I was checking it out. Also, I was hoping for varied race choices instead of just being human. :/ I need to get back into checking it out further, been a bit busy lately and haven’t done much gaming.