Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 16 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, March 26 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC).
While I am proud of how much we accomplished with our last release, at the same time I am chagrined that the cost of that ambition was an overall decrease in the enjoyability of the game. We did move over to Unity 5 (which was a HUGE accomplishment) but we only got partially there and that transitional state caused bad performance and some less than stellar visual results. We also moved the players over to Novia for the first time, but we failed to balance the first region, Perennial Coast, for new players. For all of that we are very sorry and we will work to do better. We promise to pay closer attention to balancing forward progress with playability.
Release 16 (and 17) has had to be our repayment of the debt we incurred with Release 15 (tech debt is a term often used in our industry). That means that we were unable to deliver quite as much content as we had hoped, but we do feel the game will be in a stronger state because of our focus on playability. We still made time to include some cool new things for you to play with though, including shield bashing skeletons that just will not die and the sprawling narrative of the Necropolis!
Also, remember that while we are providing new content with each release, our community is working overtime to make new events for you to enjoy, so be sure to check out a couple of the Community Events Calendars run by our community members (via in game book or the player run websites Avatars Circle Community Events and Events of the Avatars calendar).
Here are a few of the R16 deliverables:
RELEASE 16, March 26, 2015
- Region by Region Expansion: As mentioned in the R15 post, we are now expanding the scenes region by region; starting with Perennial Coast and moving north and west from there. For R16, we brought Perennial Coast closer to a finished state (minus some story elements) and moved into Grunvald (the shardfall we actually put in game way back in R14). Vertas and Blood River Village will now be worked on when we move to Verdantis near the end of our map building work (i.e. closer to launch). Please note that all scenes should be considered “in progress” which means they are simply in a functional state (and in some cases they cannot be “completed”).
- 7 New Adventure Scenes: The Perennial Coast and Grunvald regions are filled with places to adventure and gather resources.
- Necropolis (first pass): This city of the dead underneath the Brightbone Mountains is our very first map that is completely focused on the narrative and it is a single player instance (this is one of the few plot moments that require solitary play). It is also one of the most complex underground spaces we have ever built. We do not yet have all of the story elements working, and there are still some lingering issues with the space itself, but it is in a mostly playable space (and looks amazing for a first pass).
- 3 New Sewers: Entrances to sewers have been discovered in Ardoris, Soltown, and Solania! Rumor has it that smugglers have been seen entering in Ardoris and then popping up in the remote towns of Solania to sell their goods.
- Novia Overworld Expanded: Most of the Novia Overworld is now navigable and the scenes that are built are hooked up to their appropriate locations including Vertas Pass, Verdantis Shardfall, Graff Gem Mines, Blackblade Pass, and the Battle Camps. This also means we removed the Lunar Rift from Owl’s Head.
- Hidden Vale Overworld Rework: Abe put in some weekend overtime to bring the quality of the Hidden Vale overworld closer to the Novia Overworld.
- Overworld Travel Speeds: Overall travel speed for Novia and Vale should now be better aligned to anything that looks like a road (therefore increasing overall travel speeds).
- Soltown and Perennial Coast New User Rework: Perennial Coast is a much more friendly place for new users. Soltown is now located closer to Solace Bridge and will be the location you go to directly after Solace Bridge (reminder that Soltown is visually identical to Braemar currently). It has NPCs who will guide you through some low level quests and send you to level appropriate adventure areas nearby.
- Shop Signs: We have begun placing pictographic signs for businesses in the world starting with Braemar, Kingsport, Owl’s Head, Solania and Ardoris. This is a first step in making the game generally more navigable. We will expand to street signs next release.
- New Trees: One of the most important additions to Unity 5 was native support for Speedtrees! Speedtrees are both faster and better quality than the previous tree options available to us and we will be switching almost all scenes over to use the new trees! For R16, we switched out a few of the trees in Owl’s Head but for later releases you can expect to see a complete migration to the new tree system.
- More Basements: Mine style basements and the Castle Arena will now be available in game for those who purchased them in the Add On Store.
- Crocodile: The swamps now have crocodiles lurking and waiting…
- Obsidian Golem: These creatures are personifications of the rare obsidian. As if the shardfalls were not dangerous enough already!
- Sand Elemental: Scorpions are no longer the only desert dwelling creatures. Sand Elementals now inhabit these dry wastes.
- Rabbits: White Rabbits and Spotted Rabbits are now available in the game. The White Rabbit was a springtime limited time offer last year and the Spotted version is this year’s limited offer
- Undead Resurrection Behavior: Undead creatures will now appear to die, only to rise again (they are undead after all). For now they will do this at all times, but in further releases this behavior will be slightly randomized and will mostly only be triggered when Undead are killed by physical means (i.e. magic will usually destroy them the first time). We will also use this behavior as the basis for the Phoenix behavior (we hope to get the Phoenix in R17). This behavior we affectionately call the “I’m getting better!” behavior.
- Damage Types & Resistances: This release we have started adding damage types and resistances to creatures based on their type. For instance Fire Elementals are now highly resistant to fire damage and they deal only fire damage.
- NPC Skills: We are slowly expanding what our creatures will do by providing them various skills. In Release 16, this includes Dual Wielding Elves, Shield Bashing Skeletons, Poison Biting / Web Rooting Spiders, and Poison Tail Attacking Spiders (complete with a fancy new Poison Debuff icon). Weapon wielding creatures will also use skills related to the weapon they have equipped: swords cause bleed damage, bludgeons can stun and polearms can pierce armor. In future releases we will continue to expand this so that NPCs will take full advantage of all the skills players can use (based on the NPC type of course).
- Attack Speed Skills Fixed: Any skill that modifies attack speed should now work properly.
- Stealth improvements: Stealthed targets can no longer be tab targeted unless they are within a 60 degree front arc and within 5 meters of the player. This still allows tab targeting but requires you know their approximate area.
- Unity 5 Cloth: Starting with Release 16 we are now using the Unity 5 cloth system. In addition to more controls over the behavior of the cloth, Unity 5 cloth supports cloth simulation for Mac and Linux!
- Weapon Flourish: Other players see your equipped weapon properly when you use the “Flourish Weapon” emote.
- Discovery System: Some points of interest (such as scene exits, merchants, banks, trainers, etc) will display icons on the compass showing their direction once you discover them. Not all scenes have been updated to include discovery items but will be in future releases.
- Razer Chroma Support: Razer approached us recently about partnering with them to show off their hardware and peripherals. In exchange, we would get the opportunity to be at trade shows (ex. GDC) with them and be promoted by their PR and Marketing teams. Our first project was to integrate the Chroma SDK, and it only took a few days to implement. The Black Widow Chroma keyboard by Razer is now connected to game state so that it changes colors based on what the player is doing. It is also linked to combos (corresponding numbers light up of spells that can be combined together) and hints (corresponding keys related to the system light up to teach players which keys do what).
- Random Encounter Assistance: Party members can now join fellow party members that are pulled into random encounters.
- Performance: This represented the second largest amount of tech work in R16 and has resulted in a major increase in performance. In some cases we have increased frames per second by more than 50%. Also, performance is not as dependent upon shadow distances any longer, so these have been increased. Additionally load times should be generally better (and will be much better in R17).
- Grand Tour 16: As with each release, we will have a grand tour that will take players through the new scenes and scenes that have changed the most. Completing this quest is the ONLY way to gain a rare reward. The hat for this release is a Black Lepus Mask that we hope you will all enjoy.