Shroud of the Avatar adds two new community events and makes its fishing tourney a monthly event

    
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Even if I’m side-eyeing the heck out of Shroud of the Avatar, I do have to give a smile and a nod to the developing MMO’s love of community events, and with this week’s Avatar’s Update, there are a couple of notable things on that front to point out. Particularly since the rest of the newsletter consists of much of the same features as previous weeks.

Specifically, Catnip Games will be hosting two new events: A monthly screenshot and video contest with the chance to win player-owned town deeds, and monthly rare item bounties that task players with finding a rare drop from a PvP scene and a PvE scene.

Speaking of monthly events, SOTA’s ongoing fishing tourney event will also be moving to a monthly format, which will also see an increase to the number of scenes these tourneys take place and adjustments to prizes. Weekly fishing tourneys will still push on until this change, which is due to start when Release 87 goes live on February 25th.

In other SOTA news, Catnip announced today that it’s “going to pass on moving to Unity 2019.”

“Based on numerous Unity forum reports and now our own testing, 2019 is significantly (20-40%) slower than 2018. Huge fail. :/ The same threads show that early versions of 2020 is much closer to 2018 in performance at 10% slower. There were only a few player facing improvements in 2019, the big one being possibly some reduced hitching. Most the improvements were developer facing only. So after this fun 40+ hours of work to get us working on 2019, I’ve decided to keep us on 2018 until 2020 is more stable. I just can’t justify a 20-40% frame rate hit for players for an improved dev experience. 2020 currently has better performance than 2019 and more player facing improvements as well. Once it is further along we’ll try and move to 2020. Yes, I know it is 2021 but…Unity. :/”

Longtime MOP readers will know that Shroud of the Avatar is a controversial game in the MMO space. Kickstarted in 2013, the game and its original studio have been criticized for cutting promised features, crowdfunding excessively, delaying Kickstarter rewards, obfuscating its corporate leadership and office status, and neglecting SEC filings legally required by the game’s equity crowdfunding. In 2019, Richard Garriott’s company Portalarium sold off SOTA to its lead dev and all but exited the game. Press inquires have repeatedly been met with stonewalling and insults, and equity crowdfund investors were seemingly abandoned, but the game does still have players and is still being developed, as we continue to cover.
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Narficus

I think I’ve found the reason for the screenshot contest.

It’s been how many years and zones are just now getting individualized loading screens? It’s like 2003 all over again – in 20 more years this might catch up to 2010!

So what is the video contest for? New gameplay trailers? An actual intro?

MasterOfPuppets
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MasterOfPuppets

So after this fun 40+ hours of work to get us working on 2019, I’ve decided to keep us on 2018 until 2020 is more stable.

Well, that’s what happens when you have only a modicum of actual programming talent, and have been taking free, third party Unity Store assets and then cramming them into your own engine to resell for insane prices to your customers… and the newer the engine, the more likely those assets haven’t been updated since 2018 and won’t work with your new framework, and you won’t be able to fix it either.

Still, getting the community to advertise your game is always wise. *Looks at the Shroud Subreddits*. Oh. Oh dear. Well, maybe not that then either.

But they might buy a tonne of decorations if they win a new property at least. Their money still looks attractive, even if the game no long does to anyone else.

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Narficus

But there’s this subreddit, Shroud of the Avatar Nice!

The creator and moderator of that one couldn’t keep it going in good faith, or gave up as he’s since joined the rest of the scammed and cynical, but remains on the official forums until they decide to add him to the rest of those banned for sake of public appearances.

The funny thing about this? His Avatar Express was one of the community elements advertising the game, still remaining in the newsletter.

It kind of lingers there as another community resource folded likely due to a rather contentious exchange with Chris Spears, despite the latter’s deflection boasts that everything is healthy with the game.

…a game that has released for 70 months in a row, hasn’t had any significant down time, never lost anyone’s data or done a rollback, never had a dupe, has a freakin’ amazing community, and just keeps on getting a bit better each month.

I’m not sure if he was trying to bluff outsiders looking in or his own community, because only a handful of the latter were really buying it, and MOP framed his statements really nicely there. Many more of his own community since then have canceled their subscription to this game’s issues because perception has always been more important than fact to Portnip long before development even started.

Leo
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Leo

I know this is totally tangential, but I watched a video about this game just the other day (my first time actually seeing gameplay). At the beginning I was like ‘hey these graphics aren’t bad, and using an old-school NPC chat system might be something different.’

But then the player left the starting area and were running around the Tales-of style overworld. That was such a jarring thing to watch.

I was stuck with that thought of old style NPC chat system and this weird stapled together feel to the world. The more I watched the more if felt like a confused indie game. (And that’s not even going into the out of place player built stuff). Like Unity can do a lot of great things. Maybe it’s time to start with something far simpler, like an old style RPG (with old style look-&-feel) but persistent online? And with less sale of people’s blood?

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Narficus

“…like a confused indie game.”

Nailed it. SotA was whatever could be pitched to get money. First, at the KS, it was meant to be a single-player with some multiplayer. The KS explicitly states that it was not an MMO.

Then came the offers of stupid amounts of money for virtual real-estate. Some have spent over $150,000. This made it clear the whole thing was repeating the Squadron 42/Star Citizen model of pitching to the core nostalgia and then jumping right into MMO virtual real-estate. After banning some for pointing that switch out, Portalarium started to push back further and further the single-player game indefinitely into the future until all the remains is a grindy mess of Offline MMO that doesn’t befit Lord British Presents, and that’s how it will stay because the current administration aren’t interested in the single-player experience.

Ever since then, development has been directed by what the cultwhales decide as they throw money to the game development jesters regularly doing tricks on stream as they beg for money. Hence “begathons”. Like a depressing version of a segment from the movie UHF. Then along came the blood auction, and yes, one of the $150k+ players did buy that as well…

Now? With what remains? You have the last remaining major dev left holding the bag saying for years that SotA is a MMO and trying to develop it as one, all while some STILL refuse to believe that SotA didn’t become a massive load of bait-and-switch.

From where you’re sitting, SotA’s development must look like an 18-karat run of bad luck. But the truth is, the game was rigged from the start.

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Greaterdivinity

Richard mentions Portalarium’s foray into social and mobile gaming was a disaster and talks about Portalarium having only enough funds to operate for another 3 months just before the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter was launched. He mentions receiving advice from Cloud Imperium Games (Chris Roberts / Star Citizen) about what it would take to do a Kickstarter, and then goes on to say that they started from literally nothing and put together the Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter in 45 days.

Oh lawd this explains SO much…and not in good ways : /

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Narficus

The original plans for SotA were to be on Facebook as a successor to Ultimate Collector.

I wish I were kidding about this, with how absurd this was done. Bits and pieces leaked out through some interviews that went counter to what the KS baited with.

The writing’s been on the wall since Tabula Rasa’s meandering development, but it only got worse since then. (Collector’s Edition owner, I even mailed the f’ing coin back to RG.)

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Narficus

Props to Portnip figuring out something that could offer a bit more visibility than promoting the less than half-dozen streamers splitting the less than 2 dozen avg viewers.

But…. so much for abandoning the fixed monthly release of bugs and incompleteness so things can be properly tested and polished, as the remaining players have been begging for the last couple of years:
Release 87 – Feb 25
Release 88 – Mar 25
Release 89 – Apr 29
Release 90 – May 27
Release 91 – Jun 24

At least the cosmetics might arrive on schedule?

Taking a feature, any feature, to completion has been voted as #1 for this year by the players, because adding a half-finished system on top of another half-finished system has been working SO well thus far (reposted player poll):
Balance/Debug/Polish/Completion passes on existing systems – 72 votes
Global Vendor Search Need solution – 50 votes
Treasure Maps / Message in bottle – 47 votes
Crafting System QOL Improvements – 44 votes
Improve UI – 44 votes
Quest system overhaul – 36 votes
More daily quests (incl. crafting/gathering/fishing/etc.) – 29 votes
Performance Improvements – 29 votes
More/Better Crafted Gear – 20 votes
New mobs & New Player Dungeon Mobs – 20 votes
More engaging crafting – 18 votes
Send lots to property manage when lot expires if space is available – 17 votes
More Dynamic Scenes / convert old scenes – 16 votes
Centralized dev communication – 15 votes

Elgarion took a break from making content to finally acknowledge the poll (as I’m acknowledging that he’s having to wear two hats), noting that it will be passed on to the team. Emphasis on that last item because the whole futzing around with Combat and Unity could have been given feedback where more players could have seen it. Streams and Twitter aren’t exactly doing it – but one can’t exactly beg for tips on the official forums, right?

One step forward and two steps in completely opposite directions is a bit better than the usual for the last year or so. Hopefully they’ll be able to coordinate this dance by this year before they achieve Full Furcadia.

Point_of_noReturn
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Point_of_noReturn

So is Elgarion a dev now? I thought he was hired just as a Community Manager.

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Narficus

There definitely has been some doubt about that.

I recall Ben Parry saying something that Catnip were able to hire on someone to be CM so that Elgarion can do some dev work. Which is in a way good, because despite Sannio the updates have been rather slim on anything about game and more about microtransaction and giving the community another poke to see if it is still alive. RG and SL showed up to LARP still having anything to do with this.

I will say that if Catnip get a CM then it will be a good thing, at least for the official Twitter of the game, which is now being mistaken for a place to hold discussions regarding great changes to mechanics of the game and feedback on the design documents-by-tweet.

It’s madness. Mark my words, this will probably result in some heat on the official forums like the change to Aim (that is still a mystery) because I’m sure the way it will be brought to attention will in no way be a neutral announcement or framed as a dev seeking feedback. Even the latter went down in flames on the official forums with the likes of RMT’s announcement, so it’s understandable that a company moved the official feedback channels off of the official forums and onto Twitter.

For an entire week’s worth of RDA on Irony: Anpu, who recently got a big award thingy by Lord Brexit, has been begging for fewer repeated development hot messes called Updates and to just release good updates that have had a bit more time in the oven to properly bake. I know asking for “a more sane release cycle so updates aren’t just full of crown shop” has been a feature of the official forums for some time, but this guy might be able to get some change. If that award comes with a lordly boon, here’s one for the lordly make-a-wish. Try to slip in something about QA build patch notes and testing directives while you’re at it! Keep the #StopPatchingToLive movement going strong!

Centralized dev communication seems like a job for a CM, so it will be great when they ever get one of those.

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Bruno Brito

At this point, there are more fishes than players.

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

So I don’t trust much of what they say and this got me suspicious…so I poked around a bit and found this – https://forum.unity.com/threads/unity-2019-3-performance-overview.735185/

Which matches up with what Catnip says! Except when you go and look at the hardware used in these tests – https://forum.unity.com/threads/performance-overview.637783/#post-4298446

Core 2 CPU @ 2.66GHz – this appears to be a CPU released in 2008, and it seems you can nab one for around $20 on ebay and whatnot.
8GB RAM – Doesn’t say the type, but I assume DDR2/3 based on the age of the CPU. It’s about “baseline” nowadays, though pretty much most folks are on DDR3/4 at this point.
NVIDIA GTX 650TI – A 1GB GPU released in 2013, don’t think 1GB cards are used much anymore especially considering most games require at least 2GB+ of VRAM nowadays.

I get min-spec testing and all, but I’d be curious to see if the performance drop (which appears to happen with the Android version as well) is consistent when more recent hardware is used.

Based on the latest Steam Survey – https://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/Steam-Hardware-Software-Survey-Welcome-to-Steam

Seems they’re using a GPU used by roughly .3% of Steam users (GTX 650, no TI tho), and given that the testing seems to be focused on GPU bottlenecks per OP’s comments (and the fact that even with its age, the CPU shouldn’t be bottlenecking at those speeds) it makes me question these results.

What specs did Catnip test at, even? SOTA is hardly a graphical powerhouse and shouldn’t require excessive horsepower to run smoothly. Maybe Catnip sees most of their users on low-spec machines similar to what OP did testing on but like…that’d be weird >.>

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Stan Dingaround

Why would you not trust a company and a dev that have been lying about their primary product literally since that product’s inception?

Point_of_noReturn
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Point_of_noReturn

Why would you question the Tech Lord’s equipment? It’s the best that bits can buy for any random garage housed game server. He wont just make any excuse as to why all other games run fine on the most recent Unity versions but his. It must be Unity’s fault!

Shroud of the Fisherman is growing in popularity and is pulling in hundreds of players from the Fishing Sim community.