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Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
Lord British returns to his fantasy RPG roots with Shroud of the Avatar, hearkening back to his innovative early work.
22,322 backers pledged $1,919,275 to help bring this project to life.

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Release 19 Instructions

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Greetings Avatars,

Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 19 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, June 25 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC). If you signed up at E3, please be sure to create an account on our website as soon as possible in order to gain access for the weekend.

Please read this entire message, as well as the linked instructions and known issues.

While we are getting closer to launch we are still in a constant state of change, and we do not yet have in-game systems to inform players of these changes, or to share ways to help them to explore new content and systems. This means we rely entirely on this message, and the linked instructions and known issues to convey the current game state. We regularly have to answer questions or filter bug reports, because some players elect not to read this valuable information. By taking a few moments to read through this information, a great deal of our time and efforts can be redirected to focus on new “unanswered” questions, and addressing critical issues impacting each release. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to review this post, and for all the truly valuable feedback you continue to provide.

Those of you who have been with us for a more than three months know that each quarter we put out a release schedule for the upcoming quarter (expect a Q3 update this week). In general, the accuracy of that prediction, especially during the final release of the quarter, can sometimes be considerably off our original plan. This is symptomatic of our responsive and iterative production methodology that gives us the flexibility to respond directly to player feedback and pivot when needed. Release 19 is certainly no exception to this pattern, and when you scan the deliverables below, you will notice many items that have been struck through. Many of those were painful for us to delay, especially taming, musical instruments, and guild warfare. However, there were more fundamental issues with combat that needed resolving first before we could proceed with those other deliverables. Overall, we continue to maintain a robust pace, and the amount of content we deliver each month is always what we estimated, it is only the actual deliverables that change.

As you will see below, we focused most of our efforts on improving the combat experience; an effort we will continue to focus on over several more releases. We have made sweeping improvements to AI, skills, spells, combat math, armor, animations, sound effects, and visual effects, all in order to make combat feel better and be more balanced. While we are still not quite there, we are beginning to see where we will end up, and we feel confident it will be a fun place to be. We also spent some time starting down the path of player created quests with the additions of player writable books (quest clues) and public cache chests (waypoints, quest rewards, clue repositories, etc.).

 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).

Without further ado, here are the R19 deliverables.

RELEASE 19, June 25, 2015

  • Nighttime Spawners: Adventuring at night is now a more dangerous endeavor because higher level undead spawn at night, including Zombies.
  • Improved Scenes (+Zombies and Nighttime Spawners): We polished the creature and resource spawning in several Perennial Coast and Grunvald scenes. We also added Zombie and/or Nighttime spawners to almost all of them.
  • Whiteguard Foothills: Visitors to this new area in the Whiteguard mountains should keep their coin purses hidden. Savage wolves and bears are bad enough, but now rumors are spreading of highwaymen waylaying merchant caravans traveling through these foothills.
  • Etceter Crag Mines: Our first scene in Quel is a source of many a tale. Long ago, when Etceter was nothing more than a collection of prospector shacks and tents hugging the coast of the Bay of Storms at the mouth of the Barren River, the Etceter Crag Mines were being dug deep into the nearby mountainous hills known as the Crags. At first the miners were sure their fortunes were made. The deeper they dug, the richer the veins of gold ore seemed to be. However, the stories say they became too greedy, and they braved the trembling depths of the world too deeply. Perhaps the view of distant volcanic islands should have warned them of the dangers they were about to unearth. After a horrifying tragedy, the mine was abandoned, and terrible tales of chasms that opened up into Hell itself and fiery demons emerging to slay all in their path began to emerge. The lower levels of the mine were supposedly sealed in an enormous cave-in, with barely half the terrified miners emerging to tell the tale of what really happened. Venture deep within the tunnels, breaking through walls and floors, but be careful you don’t unearth your doom!
  • Ardoris Bridge Life: The 3 long bridges in Ardoris now have a bit more life to them, including merchant stalls (entrance bridge), guard patrols, and watchers.
  • Elysium Overworld: The overworld version of the island of Elysium off the coast of the Novia mainland has now been completed.
  • Horizontal Breakaway Barriers: We now have breakable surfaces that can be used over holes in the floor. Our first use of them is in the Etceter Crag Mines.
  • Bug Fixes: General polish pass was done on quite a few scenes to fix bugs like floating items, gaps in the map border, etc.
  • Sounds on Overworld: A general pass was made across Novia to add sound effects like bird chirping, water, etc.
  • New Sky Propagated: We added the new sky system to the following scenes:
  • Chaos Magic: Chaos magic consists of spells that rewrite the rules when cast. Each Chaos spell causes a change in the very fabric of combat.
  • Juxtapose: This spell cannot be cast except when used in a combo and it reverses or radically changes the effects of the other spell in the combo (see below for the new Juxtapose combos).
  • Tabula Rasa: Discards all cards and redraws equal number. Usable on self or enemies.
  • Strength of Earth: Now usable on other group members
  • Purify: Now usable on other group members and also cures the Plague
  • Resurrection: Updated to have longer cast times, lower focus cost, lower fizzle chance.
  • Skewer: Now actually roots!
  • Enlighten: Now usable on other group members.

Combos:

  • Chaotic Backdraft: Juxtapose + Gust = Behaves like gust but instead of pushing them away from the player, it pulls them closer.
  • Enfeeblement: Juxtapose + Strength of Earth = Reduces target's Strength.
  • Clumsy: Juxtapose + Air's Embrace Reduces target's Dexterity.
  • Imbecile Incantation: Juxtapose + Enlighten = Reduces target's intelligence.
  • Darkness: Juxtapose + Light = Turns off all lights in an area effect.
  • Evaporate: Juxtapose + Douse = Reduces fire resistance.
  • Cleansing Rain: Soothing Rain + Banish Undead = Area of Effect spell that heals friendlies and damages undead.
  • Sacrifice: Healing Ray + Death Ray = Transfers a large amount of health to target from caster.
  • Summon Skeleton Mage: Enlightenment + Summon Skeleton.
  • Summon Ice Elemental: Juxtapose + Summon Fire Elemental.
  • Summon Earth Elemental: Juxtapose + Summon Air Elemental.
  • Summon Air Elemental: Juxtapose + Summon Earth Elemental.
  • Summon Fire Elemental: Juxtapose + Summon Ice Elemental.
  • Glacial Glissade: Now slows as well, as its description claims.
  • Piercing Breeze: Now updated to correctly require a bow to cast!
  • Spell Fizzle Updates: Spell Fizzle saw a major overhaul this release. Different schools have different fizzle rates based on armor. Death and Air magic are the most prone to fizzle in heavy armor and Earth and Life the least likely to fizzle. Higher tier spells have a higher fizzle chance. Also, each skill level you have in a spell beyond the first reduces the Fizzle chance. Additionally fizzle chance is affected by equipped weapons.

Housing:

  • Private Lot Change: In R17 we gave players the ability to make their lot private. This created “invisible walls” that were probably the biggest immersion breaking change we have ever made and it was almost universally disliked by our team and our players. Now there is a “Locked Doors” option which makes all doors and gates non-functional for other players.
  • PVP Basements: Players can now flag their basements as Open PVP (this was previously hardcoded to specific “Arena” basements).
  • Decoration Limits UI: For game balance and performance reasons, we have to place limits on how many objects can be placed on player property. Those limits are different based on location (interior/exterior), type (lights, containers, decorations), and number of floors. Tracking your current status versus all these different numbers was very difficult when it was only communicated via text message. Now there is a visual interface that appears while decorating that shows the player graphically how close they are to all the various limits.
  • Container Renaming: Players can now rename containers, including chests.
  • Public Cache Chests: Public cache chests operate just like other containers on your lot, only this one allows any player to take items from it, or put items in it (but they cannot move or take the chest). Fill it with any items that you want to make available to visitors. Great for player created quests where you may want to leave quest clues or loot for questors to discover.

 Creatures:

  • Zombies: The ranks of the undead armies have swelled of late with the addition of hordes of zombies. These reanimated corpses move slowly but they carry a foul zombie plague that can only be cured with magic spells or potions (or leaving the area). The zombie plague is spread through vicious clawing attacks and a noxious cloud that explodes out of destroyed zombies. Anyone killed by a zombie or anyone who dies from the zombie plague creates another zombie that must be destroyed.

Player Owned Town #3:

Port Phoenix: Port Phoenix is located on the island of Elysium and can be reached by boat from outside the future location of the town of Etceter to the far west of Ardoris in Quel. The Phoenix Republic is an alliance of guilds that have come together to unite in the name of commerce, adventure, and fellowship. Always a leader in Community Event planning and a hub of in-game fellowship even before Port Phoenix was ”on the map” so to speak, our newest player owned town promises to be a popular addition to Novia. Wrath Phoenix has led the recent streaming initiative that has resulted in increased streaming coverage of our game and the recent water.org fund raiser. The Phoenix Republic also founded the Novian Academy where community members teach combat, role-playing, and citizenship. Port Phoenix is only the first township in the Phoenix Republic to “come online”. Member towns Phoenix Fields, Stonegate Hollow, The Drowned Mountains, Sparrowfall and Jade Valley are also being planned. From Field Days to Trade Fairs, Port Phoenix will be hosting a variety of events in R19 (and beyond) so be sure to pay them a visit!

Grand Tour 19

This release we chose to do something different with the Grand Tour to make it more than just a simple list of scenes to visit. Players will be sent on a quest to discover a Kobold camp, where they will then need to figure out how to be granted the reward of a Kobold Commander Mask. To begin, talk to the tour guide in Soltown. Like other Grand Tours, this will only be available this release, so be sure to try it while you can!

And Much, Much, More! Click here to see all the cool stuff in Release 19!

Awesome Bard’s Tale IV Kickstarter 24-Hour Promotion!

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We know that many of you loved The Bard's Tale games as much as we did, so we want to make sure you know about their Kickstarter campaign that launched today, and about their awesome offer to all backers in the first 24 hours of the campaign. As our long-time friend and colleague at inXile, Brian Fargo, announced today:

Hello Exiles,

Today is a very special day. As you may know, it marks the 30th anniversary of The Bard's Tale, the game that started my career in game development in earnest. And now, we want to bring back The Bard's Tale IV with the power of the crowd once again.

The original game has a special place in my heart and fans have shown me time and again they still love the dungeon crawl genre and want more. With your help, I can finally make this long-awaited true sequel to the original The Bard’s Tale trilogy, bringing you that sense of discovery with challenging dungeons and devious puzzles that you loved and cursed all at once.

We're very excited here at Portalarium about the revival of the dungeon crawler genre that Bard's Tale IV is helping to drive. As described by inXile, it is a single-player, party-based cRPG with dynamic phase-based combat, challenging puzzles and riddles, and a game set to beautiful Gaelic music, where the Bard’s songs and melodies affect gameplay.

inXile also announced an unprecedented crowdfunding offer: anyone who backs The Bard’s Tale IV on Kickstarter in the first 24 hours of the campaign will receive a FREE copy of inXile’s Wasteland 2, or CD Projekt Red's The Witcher, or The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. (until 6/3 at 8am, CST) .

Pretty cool stuff, right? If you're as excited as we are to see one of the most amazing RPG series live again, then head over to inXile's Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter campaign and pledge your support!

Release 18 Instructions

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 Greetings Avatars,

Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. We were not going to let torrential rains, high winds, tornadoes, microbursts, downed trees, blown out windows, massive power losses, or any other weather calamity thrown our way stop us from delivering Release 18! Access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, May 28 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC).

NOTE: Servers will be down from 9:00 AM until 10:30 AM Thursday morning in order to upload the build.

Please read this entire message, as well as the linked instructions and known issues.

We are far from launch, in a constant state of change, and we do not yet have in-game systems to inform players of these changes or to share ways to help them to explore new content and systems. This means we rely entirely on this message and the linked instructions and known issues to convey the current game state. We regularly have to answer questions or filter bug reports from helpful players, because they elect not to read this valuable information. By taking a few moments to read through this information, a great deal of our time and efforts can be redirected to focus on new “unanswered” questions, and addressing critical issues impacting each release. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to review this post, and for all the truly valuable feedback you continue to provide.

Release 17 included a lot of new content including the first Player Owned Town, Crafting Events, Player Titles, an Experience Doubler, and Lot Access Permissions. It was also our attempt to finish a bunch of work related to the Unity 5 upgrade. The good news is that the new content improved the play experience (for the most part). However, a lot of other issues were introduced in the process. For instance, we completely reworked our character state machine which governs everything the character does (animating, moving, fighting, spellcasting, etc.). This rework will, in the long term, make the game better by giving us better controls for things like blending between animations. In the near term, however, it broke almost everything and took us an entire week after the release to address the biggest issues.

Additionally, combat had been neglected for many months. As many of you have pointed out, it has been unbalanced, buggy, and almost unplayable for a few releases (and R17 actually made it worse!). On top of all that, our new user experience has been beyond challenging--punishing is more accurate, in fact. Based on those three issues, we decided to spend more time on overall improvements to combat and the new user experience. Unfortunately, that means we had to move some deliverables out of this release, but the game is now much more playable.

Also, remember we are providing new content with each release and our community is working overtime to make new events for you to enjoy. 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).

Without further ado, here are the R18 deliverables.

RELEASE 18, May 28, 2015:

  • Grunvald and Quel Expansions Delayed: We decided to focus mostly on iterating and improving existing scenes, including dynamic spawning, instead of creating more new scenes (although we did add 1 new scene in the Perennial Coast: Spectral Foothills). We did finish the world building for the Etceter Mines but they won’t be spawned until R19.
  • Dynamic Creature & Resource Spawning: Starting with this release, we have begun implementing a new spawning methodology. Our hope is this new method will result in a more immersive and dynamic play experience. The scenes below represent our first initial pass, but we will periodically come back to these scenes as new features come online (escorts, complex idles, sophisticated patrols, etc.). Additionally, each new scene that comes online will be spawned this way. This will also allow for balanced tiers of difficulty within regions, commensurate with the tiers of resources found within the areas. The goals and methodology for dynamic spawning include:
    - Each full exploration of an area should feel different than the last full exploration of the same area. As you travel around a map, you may see skeletons near some ruins in one pass. The next pass, you may see kobolds near the ruins. Additionally, the next pass you may see both, and they are fighting each other.
    - Areas should always feel well/thickly spawned for ample opportunities of hunting creatures and gathering resources. This does not mean edge to edge critters and resources, just that they are not hard to find when looking. In fact, many areas may have overlapping groups of spawners, allowing players to encounter active battles between factions.
    - You should not be rewarded for camping a spawn location. When you deplete a Dynamic Resource Spawner, it will not magically reappear in the same place, but rather in a new location. Thus forcing you to keep going and continue to explore further.
    - When a map “spins up,” only about ⅓ of the “potential spawns” will spawn, and can be delayed to allow for specific situations. As spawned items are destroyed or removed, new spawns will fire off, to sustain the general ⅓ density of total spawns.  
  • 16 Improved Scenes: We polished the creature and resource spawning in several Perennial Coast and Grunvald scenes.
  • Beta Submission Form: The submission form has gone live, and we have received a lot of very valuable feedback. We will do another improvement/clarification pass on the form in the future, but for now it is lower priority than security tasks. We are also getting a lot of great submissions which are helping us designate what kinds of templates to build and also how to distribute the towns across the map.
  • Desert Template: We have created a second Player Owned Town template based on PaxLair which uses a Desert biome instead of a Forest biome
  • Player Owned Town #2: Vengeance: One of the features we are most excited about is the ability for a Player Owned Town to be flagged Open PVP. We have gotten this feature online for R18 to test the functionality, and we are placing the Crossroads Village of Vengeance at the northern end of the Grunvald Desert. Duke Violation invites all PVP inclined players to come to Vengeance for nightly PVP activities, and even to petition to live there.
  • New Decorations: The Teletype and Wishing Well are now available as home decorations. Please note that neither has their in game functionality enabled yet.
  • Removed Lot Restrictions for PVP Scenes: Players will no longer be able to choose to block off their lots in PVP scenes.
  • New Deck Mechanic: The most consistent complaint about our deck mechanic is that players have to spend too much time looking at the hotbar. To address this we have made a modification to the system that allows players to assign spells to a defined slot in the hotbar even though that skill will still be dealt to them randomly. Doing this allows players to categorize their skills. For instance, all their buffs appear in slot 4 while all their DoTs appear in slot 3. Feedback so far from players on the QA server has been that this does indeed address the distraction issue while still preserving all the positive aspects of the system. It also creates a large number of new strategies in deck building.
  • Overworld Camera Changes: In Release 17, we modified the camera to allow viewpoints similar to when you are inside a scene. This allows you to look forward to see where you are going and allows you to look up at the sky (very important now that we have Astronomy coming online, see below). However, this change allowed camera angles that exposed a host of issues around assets that were never meant to be seen closely. It also exacerbated the scale differentials between the avatar and the scenery. To combat this we have modified the camera so that it can no longer get close to the ground when you are in the overworld.
  • New Armor and Armor Variations: We have created visual variations of several armor sets representing a range from partial to full coverage. Long term these visual variations will be linked to properties of the armor, but for now durability is the only difference. Over time we will be phasing out some of the older lower quality visuals for armor so that by the time Episode 1 launches all in game armor will be of this level of quality. Here are the details (unless otherwise noted these are not yet craftable):
  • Astronomy & Calendar: The sky above is now filled with a full system of celestial mechanics, including 10 orbital bodies and a constellation-filled star field. All of these move independently and will generate phases, eclipses and multiple alignment events. These are all tied to a calendar that has a direct ratio to actual Earth time (see below). Our long term plan is to use all of this data in game play. For example, there may be certain attributes that can only be added to crafted items when Deceit is in the constellation of Chaos. Please note that for now, this new sky only appears when you are in the overworld. Over the next few releases we will propagate the sky to all the other scenes.
  • Grand Tour 18: 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 Bycocket (proper name for a Robin Hood hat) that we hope you will all enjoy.

And Much, Much, More! Click here to see all the cool stuff in Release 18!

Release 17 Instructions

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 Greetings Avatars,

Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 17 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, April 30 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC).

NOTE: The server will be going down at approximately 6 AM and will stay down until 10:30 AM in order to deploy this release.

Please read this entire message, as well as the linked instructions and known issues.

As mentioned last release, we are still having to pay some debt incurred by our move to Unity 5. However, even with that factored in, we still managed to deliver quite a bit of new content, including our first Player Owned Town, Crafting Events, Player Titles, and Lot Access Permissions. Unfortunately, the amount of architectural changes in this release required us to do a full wipe of everything except Friends and Guilds. To slightly decrease the pain of this, we implemented an Experience Doubler that will temporarily speed up leveling (see details below).

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).

Without further ado, here are some the R17 deliverables:

RELEASE 17, April 30, 2015

  • Polish & Performance: We will continue the work we started with Release 16 to improve overall polish and performance in the game. We will focus not only on improving frame rate, but also lowering load times. We may also spend some time on usability issues.
    Load Times: Significant work was done on reducing load times. This is especially noticeable for large cities like Ardoris and Owl’s Head.
    Performance: Several background changes including things like threaded loading of AI data have improved performance, especially in larger scenes.
  •  8 Improved Adventure Scenes: We circled back to new scenes we added in R16 to make them more visually distinct from each other. We also polished some other scenes to improve overall visuals. The modified scenes include: Southern Grunvald Barrens, Northern Grunvald Barrens, Savrenoc Timberland, Deep Savrenoc Timberland, Savrenoc Stronghold, Solace Bridge (visual polish), Necropolis (visuals and gameplay polish), and Vertas Pass (visual polish)
  • Steam Achievements: Players can now earn Steam Achievements. Please note these are for Steam only, we do not plan for these to be visible inside the game for Episode 1 launch. For now there are at least 15 of them (and a few hidden ones as well).
  • First Player Owned Town Template Complete: We have completed the first phase of our prototyping the production process for Player Owned Towns, using PaxLair as the first template. Our goal is to create at least 12 different templates based on biome, location, and layout. When we begin accepting submissions in R18, we will use the submitted layouts to help us determine the mix of these templates. You can visit PaxLair in the northern Novia past the Grunvald desert.
    Access Permissions: The first round of basic functionality allows the owner to control lot ownership, and delegate some of that responsibility to others. Additional functionality like blessings will come online in future releases.
  • Crafting Events: We have the first iteration of the Crafting Events system working in the game. When crafting a finished good (i.e. not a component) there is a chance for an event to occur. For now, this only applies to armor and weapons. It also is not yet influenced by tool quality, item difficulty, nor crafting table quality (but all those will influence this in future releases).
    Success: Item is created. All ingredients consumed
    Critical Success: Player gets an option to add more fuel (ex. coal) in addition to the fuel in the recipe. If player adds more fuel they are rewarded with an extra modifier to the item and all ingredients (including the extra fuel) are consumed. If the player chooses to not add more fuel then the item is created (without the extra modifier) and the ingredients in the recipe are consumed. Long term, these modifiers will be unique to critical successes and may also be linked to locations, crafting table quality, time of day/month/year, etc.
    Recovery: Player gets an option to add more fuel (ex. coal) in addition to the fuel in the recipe. If player adds more fuel then the item is created and all ingredients (including the extra fuel) are consumed. If the player chooses to not add more fuel then the item is not created and only the fuel is consumed.
    - Failure: Desired item is not created and only the fuel is consumed.
  • Summon Phoenix: Players can now use the Summon Phoenix spell in the Sun Magic school to summon a Phoenix to fight for them. When killed, the Phoenix will explode in flames and resurrect at least once.
  • Player Titles: Players now have a list of all the titles they own. They can choose which one of them they want to display at any given time. For now, these do not have any game effects but long term we hope to have some NPCs recognize and respond to the displayed title.
  • Street Signs: Street signs can now be found in Owl’s Head, Kingsport, and Solania.
  • Death Markers: Starting with this release, every time a player dies they will leave behind a ghostly skeleton at the location of their death. We expect to see big piles of these near Ghosts!
  • Town Lot List: Town Criers now provide a list of all the lots in the town and who owns them. Players also can select one of those lots and they will be provided a navigation marker on their compass to help them find that lot.
  • Lot Access Permissions: Players now have control over who has access to their lot. They can make the lot public or restricted, and they now have the ability to ban specific users (regardless of the public/restricted setting)
  • 16 Fences & 8 Pavers: Customization options for player property have greatly expanded with the addition of modular fences and pavers. This was originally scheduled for R18 but we were able to pull it into this release. Some of these items can be found in game (and/or in pledges) while others are exclusive to the Add On Store. Each Fence comes as a set that is big enough to cover a Village sized lot and includes long sections, short sections, corner sections, and a gate (yes fences finally have gates).
  • 75 Book Covers: We have created 75 different book covers. These will be used both for books placed in the world with stories in them as well as being available for player made books when those come online in a future release. For now we have made these into “Blank Book” decorations that can be placed in your home.
  • Grand Tour 17: 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 Fez that we hope you will all enjoy.

And Much, Much, More!
Click here to see all the cool stuff in Release 17!

Release 16 Instructions

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 Greetings Avatars,

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).

Please read this entire message, as well as the linked instructions and known issues.

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.

 And Much, Much, More! Click here to see all the cool stuff in Release 16!