Shroud of the Avatar improves crafting as Richard Garriott dives to the bottom of the ocean

    
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We’ll go ahead and get this out of the way first: MMO developer Richard Garriott dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench today. The game-dev-turned-astronaut-turned-aquanaut had to the delay the original planned dive thanks to an electrical issue discovered with the submarine, but it apparently went off early this morning. (There’s more that can be read in this interview where Garriott talks about things he’s actually passionate about: having completely batshit adventures.)

Here on dry land, the thing that Garriott is vaguely known for, Shroud of the Avatar, has outlined some new crafting changes like an increased maximum success chance for creating items up from 95% to 100% (seriously, only now?); a bonus to critical crafting chance for Grandmaster crafters; and the start of background work for improving salvage.

The MMO’s latest newsletter also outlines a change to SOTA’s patches. Monthly updates will move to a “tick-tock” cadence that alternates between feature polish and bug fixes and new content releases, with the upcoming Release 88 being one of the planned polish updates.

Announcements are being tweaked as well, with patch notes delivery getting some improvements, community updates now being featured on an Upcoming Events page as they show up on the forums, Crown Store addition articles arriving on a monthly basis, and weekly updates officially ending in lieu of occasional single feature articles published over the course of the month as needed. These adjustments, according to the newsletter, are in the interest of “[freeing] up more developer time for tasks which improve the game itself.”

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 without notice, but the game does still have players and is still being developed, as we continue to cover.
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Narficus
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Ben Parry

Great news this last week. They hired another full time programmer. Sounds like one of his first tasks once he gets settled in will be the UI overhaul woot woot. been waiting for that for … 5 years+ So excited.

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Narficus
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Ben Parry

Maps are done by artist on team not by the programmer. They added over 30 more maps a few patches ago, and on recent stream they were starting to work on getting more out. So hopefully that will get all caught up and I fully agree need to complete things rather than start and half finish. I think with some of the new staff though like community manager a lot of what is being missed is begin addressed as well communications which seems to be one of the issues is also being addressed. We will see though how it pans out. On the bright side at least they are slowly catching up on things promise.

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Narficus

Hopefully, someday, what is spoken of will be done. That would be better, instead of just pretending for a year and then hiring on someone do that job. They end up doing that job for a while and then get shuffled elsewhere; there was nobody taking up the slack left on CM duties when Elgarion went to impress people with a hint of the content other MMOs enjoy.

At this point, for anything to be believed, it needs to actually be done for anyone but the koolaid chuggers to believe it. Conversationalists are still half-assed but that didn’t stop them from being express shoveled into the Crown Shop. Same with mounts.

Have you looked at the Catnip Twitter lately? SotA’s more core problems are exposed. Chris is monkeying around with server hardware at a “data center”. Until someone can fix that, well, Chris is going to be Chris as he reinvents the mantra from 20 years ago “Never play on patch day” – except for his specialness, that could be any day.

Since someone could ask Chris where’s the QA and Chris would respond that it’s streamed every Friday, it remains to be seen how effective any new person could be with Chris’ incompetence running the show. But since the people loving the bland loot grind Barbie dollhouse keep memory-holing the same routine schedule we’ve seen from the start, they will always say it’s getting better, while it’s really not. The half-complete keeps getting stacked upon half-complete. There’s still that Episode 1 kludge that any new player would have to wade through to get to the current content, and that’s what keeps the player count diminishing as old players leave, or sadly, pass away.

Oooh! While we’re dreaming, maybe they can fix the starting zone into something acceptable for even 20 years ago so it doesn’t keep scaring off new players? Hopefully there’s still some CCU left by then!

Eric E
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Eric E

Hey clueless maps ARE done by artist on team BUT you need a programmer to implement them in the GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Eric E
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Eric E

Ummm I guess you don’t really keep up on dev news. 2 devs left, one due to his wife dying and another moved to get a better paying job. So technically they are still down one dev which is why they moved to this dumb tik tok schedule because they can’t keep up with releasing something new every month now.

The new dev is a player who doesn’t have much experience with Unity. So they are training him.

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Ben Parry

the one dev who lost his wife is back, he told Chris is he ready to go back to work. The one that is moving is still working on the game from what I gathered. The tik tok release was because of the number of complaints about old bugs. since reinstated bug hunter program a lot of bugs getting done now and verified. They have a lot of content on the plate that we had some sneak peaks of but wont be out for a few releases. we know from 5 months ago that there is new stuff we got to see that is waiting (pvp queue, 4 new scenes are pretty much completed. new race type mob and all the new crafting stuff, new skill tree and balance).

the bugs on new stuff are an issue partially because of how the QA works sometimes. some stuff gets very tested well some stuff gets checked in just before release and literally no testing time. that is something that should be fixed for sure as its give a bad impression.

Conversationalist are currently getting fixed for some of the issues they have as well the mount stuff. over all I still love the game and will continue to support it just because of what it will be over the life time.

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Narficus

the bugs on new stuff are an issue partially because of how the QA works sometimes. some stuff gets very tested well some stuff gets checked in just before release and literally no testing time. that is something that should be fixed for sure as its give a bad impression.

I am quite in agreement. It’s a damn hot mess.

But aside from that glorious failure to patch, why is the lead dev having design discussion upon Twitter instead of upon a forum? Filter it through a CM FFS. Even Berek did less damage than Chris’ pulling a Mark Jacobs / Tim Anderson PR trainwreck. It is their job to pull it all together and centralize the channels of information.

These Twitter changes are all slipped in without warning until patch day to the players who are merely reading the forums, playing the game, and even following the testing directives. They had no choice to offer feedback in the process until it becomes 90% of the official forum threads lately – wondering what is going on with the spurious direction while claiming to polish. It’s the same song and dance as improving loot. The fight over UI will be legendary.

Hooray new dude , what happened to another attempt at a CM? I will admit that centralizing dev communication is a pain in the ass when it has been designed to be scattered around everywhere and your fans are having in-depth feedback upon the forums and the lead dev is off twiddling on seemingly random balancing tweaks on Twitter because PvP, and devstreams are such a disorganized mess that fans have to timestamp everything useful.

I think the problems with the PvP Queue were made obvious long ago when it took months to get 14 people signed up to a PvP event, and even that turned out nada. And didn’t they have the idea to show people’s names on the queue? I thought MUDs discarded that flaw in the early 90s because it actively discouraged people from sitting in queue if they see the same names that just rolled them in the last match. Hence, the World of Warcraft Battleground /afk within seconds of a match starting because they looked at the leaderboard for that instance of the battleground and saw someone that probably dirtnapped them a few times over.

As for the rest being fixed? Dude, we’re still waiting on a launch feature for most games regardless of genre – working maps. If kids can do that and connect to the Steam Wallet and ecosystem, then I’m not sure what has been holding back this Team of Industry Veterans as far to when they pretended to have more working limbs.

Y’know, back when they first unveiled the remnants of the last big chug at Portalarium when they still had offices. And actual employees they could list without it being like Texas Hold ‘Em.

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Braunfeltd

This is exciting news. I love the new food system overhaul, look forward to see what they have in store for salvage. Sounded like they were going to allow for artifact breakdown to get new crafting materials to make player crafted artifact like options which opens up a whole expand on the options for players and evens out the artifacts vs player gear. I hope they show off the new ep2 mob race they keep hinting at and keeping under wraps along with the new zone.

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notReginald VelJohnson

I don’t see how any of this fiddling and tweaking matters when actual content comes out at a snail’s pace and while bugs remain unfixed for years.

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Braunfeltd

ep1 has lots of content, ep2 is in early access ie alpha which if like ep1 maybe 3 years away? Bugs right now are not too bad, since they started alternating between bugs and new content. myself I dont encounter any trivial ones just annoying things. over all though the game is pretty good if you are a new player.

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Ben Parry

yeah I think about 3 year. There will always be bugs in any mmo. that said I am happy they are doing a tick / tock now for content one month and fixes the next. That has helped a lot with the last 3 releases.

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Narficus

Not really, not when Chris is still clumsily patching to live.

That tick / tock nonsense just leaves things as incomplete and buggy as before, with added excuses, since Portnip STILL haven’t figured out that you need to polish something with proper QA before you release it for exploiters to make the game economy even more of an exploited joke.

Until Chris stops that insanity, anything anyone else tries to do will be undermined and back to status quo.

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Ben Parry

I agree that needs much more polish before things get released. I know they held back a lot of the stuff that they showed for that reason. but the bigger issue is stuff that is checked in just before release with little to know testing time on the QA. should be that 2 weeks before release is cut off to allow testing for the two weeks prior. 1-2 days is not enough test time for us bug hunters.

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Narficus

I can’t imagine any testing at all goes on when Chris makes a post-update addition patch with slipped in changes.

Then, when Chris does figure out something about QA to make changes, he only discusses them on Twitter in polls (as devstreams are whatever he can arsepull at the moment, with accuracy a mystery). Where did the pretense of CMing go, or was it ever there besides trying to change the optics around dance parties?

Both of these result in blowback that has Chris trying to ignore the problems in favor of the next set of keys to jangle in front of players. But the problem exists that Chris can’t even ask for feedback on the official forums without getting triggered by that feedback and delete/lying and banning people. This happened with RMT to the point even white knights had to point out the duplicity.

Until this absolutely trash dev cycle is fixed, the “tick tock” is bull shit.

Eric E
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Eric E

Why? because the last 3 releases were a BUGGY mess!! So blind

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Ben Parry

I agree on the snails pace for new content for long time players that is for sure. new players on the other hand have years to catch up. Myself I Just keep working on my skills and the likes seeing the likely hood of hitting a cap is a long… long…long ways away. Think that is the one thing that prevents me from leaving like so many other games where I capped in a short time than ran out of things to do… where this game for 5+ year folk are mainly waiting like you say well grinding up those skills. ep2 is most likely 2-3 years out if we look at how long ep1 took to complete to the point where it functioned fully as it does today. On the bright side the new dev programmer is already learning fast and helping catch up on the bugs. with the bug program back in swing so many fixes have already happened which is great. Look forward to this new land coming along with these all new race we will be encountering.

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Tee Parsley

Garriott is a crazy idea guy. As a project manager he’s terrible, like so many of the Origin era (ie Roberts). You never want Garriott to be making all those technical decisions. That’s why he always drags Starr Long along, as he’s supposed to handle the real nuts and bolts details.

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Greaterdivinity

Garriott talks about things he’s actually passionate about: having completely batshit adventures.

By all accounts, he’s living out his filthy stinkin rich dreams. Made an incredible series (apparently, I missed it), has oodles of money, just need to toss his name out there for a bit of play money to fund his trips to the bottom of the ocean so who cares if anything he attaches his name to succeeds or not. He’s got his, he got to go to the bottom of the ocean.

I’m glad he’s living his best life, which I assume he how he strives to live. Just a shame that he’s decided not to apparently care about a game he attached his name to. But who gives a shit about your reputation when you’re filthy stinkin rich and can take trips to the bottom of the ocean just because.

I’m not begrudging him the trip entirely, I’d love to go one day! (though I’d be terrified as shit). But I generally take the view that if you attach your name to something being sold to people, you have some sort of responsibility to make sure the thing your name on isn’t constantly stumbling around by the looks of it.

Does he even still use his little robot to oversee folks now that they’re all WFH? Does he like, remote into their computers to say hello and make sure they’re working? Does he have webcams installed in their homes instead? INQUIRING MINDS MUST KNOW

EmberStar
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EmberStar

” I’d love to go one day! (though I’d be terrified as shit).”

I’d never be able to get into that kind of submarine. If I tried to force it, the actual crew would probably have to tazer me when my overactive and entirely too detailed imagination started running on loop of what the slow motion footage would look like when the impossible happened and the sub imploded at the speed of sound.

Eric E
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Eric E

Monthly new content is now every other month and weekly news is now monthly? Sounds like it’s getting closer to maintenance mode.

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Narficus

Strange how history repeats itself. Major deja vu here.

RG bailed to space when Tabula Rasa was redoing crafting and nobody could tell if he was still involved in any way.

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Tee Parsley

He wasn’t. Others had taken over. Garriott was just a marketing figurehead at that point.

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Narficus

Strange how that keeps happening.

MasterOfPuppets
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MasterOfPuppets

Apparently Garriott thus became the first person to be fired whilst in space, being let go from Tabula Rasa whilst on the ISS…

Everything I’ve heard since is that he what ever skills he had when he was young and hungry, he has the attention span of a butterfly now, and throws out wild ideas with no practical dedication to seeing them through, and that he long since lost any real interest in SotA.

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notReginald VelJohnson

He’s filthy rich and no longer has the extrinsic motivation to make good games. Apparently he lacks the intrinsic motivation, too.

Being the first person to be fired in space is a way cooler legacy than anything else he’s done.

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Dro Gul

Well, we know that he’s paid serious cash to go to space and to the bottom of the ocean. It’s obvious that HE is not the bag-holder for his MMO misadventures. I wonder who is.

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Songs for Children

Either Portalarium or Catnip Games, probably. Though I doubt that Chris Spears agreed to take on liabilities when his company purchased the game.

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Narficus

There’s no publisher to blame this time, as is tradition. It’s always been the fault of the publisher impairing his vision, and not the fact that his involvement or even presence around his own games becomes doubtful.

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Songs for Children

There are people who still insist that Garriott is still involved in an meaningful way. Spears trots him out on the occasional livestream, like some sort of prized pig; meanwhile, on the forums:

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Narficus

RG still contributes design in the same ethos of an era when we saw Time Lords and Hobbits, but now it’s streamlined; If SotA counts as an MMO by the World’s Greatest Game Designer then adding a spoonful of Kraft Cheez Whiz to Kraft Mac&Cheese can be a world’s best recipe!

EmberStar
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EmberStar

Not sure I understand the reference to Time Lords and Hobbits. O.o

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Narficus

Many complain that Shroud of the Avatar has a completely jarring setting aesthetic, but the truth is that was how Ultima always was from the start.

Until Ultima re-invented itself with IV, the entire IP was some serious copyright infringement bait.