Shroud of the Avatar devs form new studio to make AI-generated roguelike battle royale Project Rise

yay sure

If you thought that the waters surrounding some of Shroud of the Avatar’s bigwigs weren’t muddy before now, things are potentially about to get murkier: Players have dug up a presentation video from last September that features Starr Long and Chris Spears announcing a new studio and showing off a new game that uses AI tools to randomly generate levels.

The studio is called Pangaea and was apparently co-founded by both Spears and developer Joe Scott. The game itself being developed is Project Rise, a “rogue-like battle royale that uses procedural generation to ensure that the map, and the challenges that lie within it, are never the same,” according to the video description. An associated dev blog also calls the game session-based with PvPvE – a title where “[e]very session is completely unique and player decisions impact the game for everyone.”

As for the AI tool use, the video sees Scott and Spears joined by Starr Long, who is named as Project Rise’s executive producer (Pangaea’s studio website calls him a “stealth executive producer”), generate “lots and lots of dungeons” through procedural generation and unspecified third-party AI tools.

The presentation and the video description also say the quiet part out loud regarding the use of AI, arguing these decisions are purely about cutting costs associated with hiring humans:

“The primary costs of developing multiplayer, live-services games are driven by art and backend technology, accounting for roughly 75 percent of the total dev cost of a game. Pangaea tackles that with its proprietary backend tech and efficient use of third-party AI.”

More details about Project Rise are promised over the next few months, but followers of SOTA do not appear to be impressed as they balk at the presentation and laugh at Pangaea’s sign-up form being a “placeholder.”

Pangaea: AI Camp Demo Day from Betaworks on Vimeo.

sources: Vimeo, Pangaea website (1, 2), Reddit, thanks to Felix for the tip!
Longtime MOP readers will know that Shroud of the Avatar is a controversial game in the MMO space. Kickstarted in 2013, the project has 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 company Portalarium sold SOTA to its lead dev and all but exited the game. Press inquires were met with stonewalling and insults, and equity crowdfund investors were abandoned without notice or any semblance of accountability; moreover, the groups are now building a blockchain MMO. SOTA itself does still have a tiny playerbase and is technically still receiving minimal development.
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