Shroud of the Avatar finally admits the Kickstarter book is not happening, offers in-game items instead

    
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Yesterday, we covered the bizarre but perhaps expected news that Portalarium has transferred Shroud of the Avatar and other assets to Catnip Games, which is the new studio of Chris Spears, the public front of the game for many months now.

As we noted at the time, Portalarium’s had a rough year, as it closed its physical offices, refused comment on missing Kickstarter rewards, missed SEC filings required by the game’s equity crowdfunding (still missing), and the weird obfuscation surrounding who exactly was CEO of the company and when that happened.

Starr Long has today finally posted the first update in a year about what’s going on with the missing Kickstarter book – and as players expected, they’re never doing to see that book. They’re getting in-game items instead.

“Digital copies were delivered as promised but unfortunately we could never reach an agreement with the publisher on distribution of a physical copy to our backers. Please accept our apologies for our failure to deliver the reward and the extreme delay in an outcome. It is not all bad news however! We have come up with unique book themed replacement rewards! Kickstarter backers at the Patron level were eligible for a physical copy of the book. They will receive instead a unique in-game reward of a Challenge Dungeon Remote Dungeon Entrance! This entrance allows direct access to the Challenge Dungeon from the property it is placed on. The entrance itself is disguised as a magical book with the Blade of the Avatar symbol on the cover! Kickstarter backers at the Citizen level (and higher) were eligible for a physical copy of the book signed by Richard and Tracy. They will instead receive two unique in-game rewards. The Sword of Midras Library is a huge unique dungeon room filled floor to ceiling with books, similar to the Lyceum in Artifice. It can be placed in any Player Made Dungeon. The Sword of Midras Magical Printing Press allows you to create 12 book copies per week without needing any blank books and each of these copies automatically comes in a book bound with a Blade of the Avatar symbol book cover! We hope to have these items complete and delivered on later than the end of this year. NOTE: Citizens will also receive the Patron reward of the Challenge Dungeon Remote Entrance for a total of three unique rewards.”

We reached out to the studios, devs, and lawyers with a stack of questions yesterday relating to the missing book as well as the missing SEC filing, the involvement of Starr Long and Richard Garriott, and the state of the studio and game. No one has responded, though Spears appeared on a vague livestream yesterday.

Source: Official site. Thanks, TJ!
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Narficus
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Narficus

This is becoming even more of an absolute trainwreck.

Chris Spears makes a post about answering some questions. Except the problem is, as it always has been, is that the assertions made give no real answers and only raise further questions if you weren’t already asking those questions:

No, the team didn’t change as a result of the ownership change
No, Richard and Starr aren’t going away
Yes, Episode 2+ is still coming as expected
Yes, Seed Investor still have an investment in the success of Shroud

Complete and utter non-answers to anyone who was asking about the details of how anything is supposed to happen – especially the last item and any other outstanding obligations that Chris hasn’t answered but just passed the buck and lawyered up on.

To obfuscate those non-answers along comes proposed features that put more emphasis on player-created content. Then there’s some talk about cross-game promotions of more successful titles Shroud can tack itself onto the coattails of.

No real answers for anything Chris AGAIN left a vague, unanswered mess.

This is why Shroud has problems, not because people are looking behind the curtains.

This has been the development of Shroud before there was even an actual game involved.

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bparry

I am very happy that Chris (catnip) took over. Both RG and SL are still with the project and will continue to be a part of it.

As to the digital vs the book. IMO the dungeon room they are purposing is pretty nice looking and with Inklestudio scripting being integrated to help replace the existing npc system as well for the new player NPC scripting that is coming along with keys for doors/chest SOTA will have a better dungeon system then that of Neverwinters player dungeons.

Ep2 new land is coming end of this year as stated in recent SOTAcon and stream. There is also new player adventure scenes coming along with all sorts of new spawners for players to use in these scenes.

I agree with one poster below the only people complaining the most about the game and the rewards is those that dont really play. the community that does seem to see this as positive.

There was also mention last stream by Chris confirming the subscribed rewards program has just around 5000 accounts. this was a question asked during the stream. With ep2 coming they will be doing another marketing push for new players. The information provide showed that they still have a slow increase of player base and retention is starting to show more staying then leaving which is good news. looking at the math based on $9 subs they are pulling in $540,000USD min per year which does not include any of the in game store purchases, so its not doing as bad as many people seem to think.

Myself I look forward to seeing ep2 and a lot of the stuff mentioned this last week form SOTAcon and the stream.

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Eric E

I compliment and complain about the game each release. I play the game for one or two days a week.

While Chris has proposed a lot of new features, if you look back to the post after launch they proposed tons of new features. What was delivered was only a tiny fraction. I think most people in-game and out will only believe it when we see it.

The number of accounts and subscriptions were not enough to sustain them as they lost their offices, cut their workforce, and Portalarium sold the game off.

I would be happy if you were to come back a year later and say, see I told you so. Nothing would make people happy as to see this game grow, but considering it’s the same staff that has driven this game into non-existence, I don’t see how things will change for the better.

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bparry

I for sure agree that there were many many features that still have not made it in but they have been trickling in. I do think they will all get in at some point.

As to sustain you are right that they numbers were not large enough to warrant them requiring all the overhead and contracted people. They gave up the office because of the costs, when you have such a small team that is a lot of over head. considering this is a game it just needs servers and a good pipe in so that was probably the best choice they could have made. selling off the game to catnip I think was to avoid some of the issue created when trying to run a larger entity. this cuts down a lot of costs from the admin side for all the filing they had to do and some of the fees. They did make a lot of good choices though in doing what they did to ensure sustainability for the future. Like all companies if you want to survive when things are not right you need to right size everything. with the half a mill they make each year now in subs, plus the store they probably are closer to a mil per year. with the number to staff they have and server / overhead now they have a lot more cash flow and can now better plan for ep2. they have 2 new hires coming which they will be talking about in the streams soon as hey prepare for the new land coming in the next 2 months.

haha I have been one of the “white knights” as some call it as I choose to see it as it is. it has not failed yet many said last year and early this year the sky is falling yet it keeps moving forward. It is because of the community that still is there along with some of us that will continue to keep putting thousands into the company to keep it going. To me I am investing because I really hope to see UO successor in the end. with each release they step one stone closer imo :)

I do hope in a year we both can be here saying see…

Narficus
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Narficus

I do hope in a year we both can be here saying see…

Development capability is at the lowest it has been in the entire run and you’re trying to insist things are suddenly going to turn around for the better. That is going far beyond hopeful optimism.

I can’t see the player base growing when the devs keep silencing and banning members of the community if they speak out of line until the only ones remaining are the cultists waiting for the Kool-Aid to be passed out.

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TJ French
batterbatterswing
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batterbatterswing

Bree, their own devs are contradicting the claim that they do not have rights to print the novel: https://web.archive.org/web/20191011173201/https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/forum/index.php?threads/blade-of-the-avatar-physical-book-project.159455/ this matches what they said back when they made an agreement with Tor https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?p=59788

sawthelightsota
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sawthelightsota

Starr is not going to like that one of his (sorry, Chris’) contract devs went into that thread and contradicted him.

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Tav

Starr deleted those older threads in their entirety. And doesn’t even notify anyone.

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Eric E

Typical Port transparency. They haven’t a clue, hence why the game has failed.

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Loopy

Read up the comments on this announcement. VAST majority of commenters are ok with the replacement rewards. I’ve also noticed a trend – the ones still playing the game don’t mind the in-game items in lieu of the book, whereas the players that have left are the ones reacting negatively and demanding their books.

Sunk Cost fallacy?

sawthelightsota
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sawthelightsota

Starr is actively deleting any posts that mention the Kickstarter, regardless of whether a “legal threat” was in the post. Also is deleting threads asking about other plans Port once had to self-print the book that they magically forgot about. Full damage control mode, so yes, that thread will likely look like everyone is on board with the in game items.

Starr is staying super classy on his way out the door.

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Loopy

Yeah that was kinda my suspicion too, although i do see a handful of pretty angry comments that are still in the thread. It’s hard to say whether this accurately reflects what the SotA community actually feels or if this is some 9000 IQ mindgames by only deleting some negative comments but leaving others – skewing the perception.

sawthelightsota
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sawthelightsota

Well, Starr is at the annual SotA fan convention right now, so give him time during a break to go back in and delete some more negative comments.

ObstreperousBear
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ObstreperousBear

It did seem to evolve into deleting anything that had anything to do with the word “legal”

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Tav

Not even that. I just said that I was ‘keeping screenshots of posts being deleted by mods’ and then I was banned and that post removed.

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bparry

umm I am not seeing what you are seeing in the forums there is one that has been there over a month about the kickstar stuff and the book, and its still not locked. I think the only posts that are getting removed are the ones that are creating a lot of verbal fighting between those that play and those that are there just to create trouble… at least that is what I see.

Narficus
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Narficus

You can check the links provided in these comments about the deletions, or just stick your head in the sand some more to swallow a comforting narrative that offers the illusion the cult leaders are doing no wrong.

There is a particularly interesting example here. The book topic had a couple of threads that went poof, those links are elsewhere in the comments here once you stop pretending they don’t exist.

This attempt to keep the forums “clean so new players don’t get scared off” has only been making people leave, including those who have seen their friends scammed and abused, banned if they speak out. The charade of pretending nothing is wrong only works in that fantasy land, just about everywhere else has seen where Port has become dodgy af and trying to hide or lie about it.

What happens when someone sees their friends permanently cast out of the community for daring upset the company line? They’re not likely to stick around either. This insanity has been why player numbers have been dwindling. We’re out, as are our friends.

Shroud started off as a way to pay off the previous investors Port was in debt to. The company was already in a bad position and just had the players/customers shoulder the financial risk for them while giving feeble excuses. Outside of the LB cult most would consider that a dick move.

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Eric E

I think Port is now sunk, but people just want what they paid for. Is that now not allowed in society?

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Loopy

My sunk cost comment was directed at people still playing, defending the moves of the devs because they feel like they’re too invested in the game to complain about it.

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bparry

the game will live on for years, well it may never get the population that they wanted , there is more then enough money pouring in to keep development going forward and the servers up.

Narficus
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Narficus

From this, the ones who still play are at least getting SOMETHING (even if it is another promise the studio will likely stall, stall, stall, evade, BS, lie, etc. about until it is broken again).

The ones who do not play get NOTHING.

Coincidentally, those who had harped on about their backer rewards being far past due also number among those banned for not following Portalarium’s narrative. Chris is still enforcing perception management to some degree.

Doing these kind of replacements without first consulting the community is another short-sighted symptom of Shroud’s development – again a fair portion of the community is banned because they’ve been demanding what has been far past due for years so they cannot give their input on anything, but Portalarium gave the impression that talking about what has been past due was scaring away new customers.

The entire problem has been because of how Portalarium, and now Chris, treat those who made the game happen in the first place, who kept the company afloat after that $10M+ to develop mobile game nobody remembers about. This “replacement” gives nothing to the backers who aren’t still playing, who might be a bit sickened by Portalarium yet still regard Tracy Hickman in a good light.

This company has been just one bad business decision after another from the start, this “replacement” serving as yet another example of the company’s incompetence or malice. I’ve seen enough to suggest it could easily be both.

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Lord Klaus

I’ve never had expectations for this game. I have a copy of the game and is since a year that I don’t even bother to patch. The whole project was born almost dead, and I really doubt will reach the end of 2020. Another one bite the dust.

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Mikka Hansen

richard garriott, chris spears and starr long

from industry veterans to criminals

Celestia
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Celestia

So many exclamation points in this press release you can almost feel the excitement!

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Reginald Bottomsworth

Everything is fine! Nothing is wrong at all!!!!

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Tav

*nevermind, delete. over these dishonest developers and their censoring. they are outright liars.

Pepperzine
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Pepperzine

Portalarium right now.

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