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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.

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!

Release 15 Instructions - Unity 5 is Alive!

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Novia Overworld
Novia Overworld

Greetings Avatars,

Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 15 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, February 26 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC).

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

This far from launch, we are 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 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.

We are very excited that Release 15 represents our first release using Unity 5, the latest version of the Unity engine. Unity 5 provides us with both improved performance opportunities and graphical upgrades that will allow us to iteratively and dramatically improve the visual presentation of Shroud of the Avatar. As we have said before, our goal is to make sure Shroud is as visually compelling as we have time to make it. However, whenever we have to make a choice between simulation (turning lights on/off, picking up items from the world, NPC schedules, etc.) and visuals, we will ALWAYS choose the simulation.

Moving to Unity 5 requires us to redo and retouch just about every graphical asset in the game; including textures, camera rigs, and lighting setups. Since this is such a large endeavor, our goal this release was basically, “Please make it at least look as good as it did in Unity 4.” We believe we accomplished this goal, however there might be a few errors still in the build, including missing textures (will show up as bright pink) or incorrect shaders (which can just make things look “wrong”). There may also be some scenes that still need lighting adjustments as well. In some cases, though, we believe the game is already looking much better. For instance, with Unity 5 we are now doing some post process edge shadows that really make the geometry pop.

The scale of the Unity 5 migration has required us to move out a few more deliverables than normal (see below), but we feel confident that it will be well worth any temporary delay we are experiencing. Despite that, we feel the work we did get into this release has moved the gameplay forward yet again, with major new items like Stealth and Crafting Advancement.

Please note that the patch for this release will be particularly large.

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).

This release contains the Novia world for the first time, 39 new scenes, 11 new magic and combat skills, 20 new crafting skills, pets to follow you, and more!

[Click here for the rest of the Release 15 Instructions]

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Help Raise the Underworld

Our long-time friend and former Origin protégé, Paul Neurath, is rebooting the legendary Ultima Underworld games with the Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter campaign! It has been more than a decade long wait, but the stars have aligned and Paul has at long last freed the rights to move forward with the franchise. We're especially excited that, just as the original Ultima and Underworld shared a connection on backstory and fictional elements, so too will Shroud of the Avatar and Underworld Ascendant.

We're teaming up with Underworld Ascendant so that backers of both games will get a special in-game Dark Elven “Kinsman” Buckler! This buckler, inscribed with the Dark Elven symbol, has a moonstone gem inset. If a player owns the buckler in both Shroud of the Avatar and Underworld Ascendant, then the moonstone will glow with the warmth of kinship. This signifies that the Dark Elven clans, though sundered between distant worlds, still are one. The Dark Elven Buckler is currently available in the SotA Add-On Store, and as an Add-On on the Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter page.

Otherside Entertainment is currently at $550k of their $600k funding goal, but needs your help to reach their goal and start working toward their stretch goals! Be sure and check out the Underworld Kickstarter site, and if you are as excited about it as we are, then show your support and make a pledge to Raise the Underworld!

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Crowfall Kickstarter

Another of our former Origin protégés, Gordon Walton (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies), has teamed up with J. Todd Coleman (Shadowbane, Wizard 101), to create an awesome sounding game called Crowfall. They describe it as a seamless blend of an MMO with a large-scale Strategy game! Think "...Game of Thrones meets Eve Online". They've enlisted the aid of yet another former Origin protégé, Raph Koster (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies), as a design consultant!

Game characters are persistent, but the Campaign Worlds are not. Players are Crows – Champions who travel from one world to the next, fighting an endless War of the Gods. There are two types of Worlds in the Crowfall Universe: the Campaign Worlds, which produce materials such as stone, iron, and wood (and last until some "win condition is met" - typically 1 to 3 months), and the Eternal Kingdoms, which are barren of resources -- but last forever. When a campaign ends, a victor is declared, the map is wiped and the World goes offline forever. The players – the Crows – then fly back to their Home Worlds, to either count their spoils or lick their wounds before they choose a new Campaign and fight again.

Another really cool feature is that the worlds are made of voxels (like Minecraft, only much smaller) – which means the entire world is destructible. They are harnessing VoxelFarm technology to generate an endless succession of unique and interesting Campaign Worlds for you to mine, shape, conquer and destroy.

Sounds pretty awesome, right? A lot of gamers think so because they just started their Kickstarter campaign yesterday and reached 50% of their funding goal in just 10 hours! Check out their Kickstarter page and if you like what you see then help them build Crowfall with your pledge!

Going for Three! – Please Vote for SotA for MMORPG's Players Choice Awards for Most Anticipated MMO of 2015!

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First, you helped SotA win Massively's Reader's Poll for Most Anticipated MMO of 2015! Then, you kept the mojo going by driving SotA to a commanding lead in Ten Ton Hammer's Most Anticipated Game of 2015 (voting for the TTH poll ends at 11:59 pm EST tonight, Jan 6).

It feels like we're on a roll, here! You've knocked it out of the park for SotA twice in a row, so what do you say we go for three? These Reader's Polls help new players learn of our awesome community and this awesome game that we are all building together! Please help keep the winning streak going and click the following link to go cast your vote for Shroud of the Avatar in MMORPG's 2015 Players Choice Awards!  http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm/loadFeature/9273/The-Players-Choice-Awards-Part-One.html

Please Vote for Shroud of the Avatar for Ten Ton Hammers’ Most Anticipated Game of 2015!

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We couldn’t have won the Massively Reader’s Poll without the tremendous support from all of you! And now we’ve just learned of another Reader’s Choice poll for Most Anticipated Game of 2015 being held by Ten Ton Hammer. This is an “official” poll and will have a follow up article on TTH once the results are finalized on January 7th.

So, what do you think? Can we keep the mojo going? Can we win two Most Anticipated Reader’s Choice polls for 2015! I bet we can, but we’re going to need all your help (again) to do it, so please click the following link to go cast your vote for Shroud of the Avatar!

Release 13 Instructions

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Greetings Avatars,

Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 13 access for all backers at First Responder level and above, as well as winners of the Alienware Arena R13 contest and winners from our Cyber Monday telethon, begins Thursday, December 18 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC).

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

This far from launch, we are 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 post/email, and the linked instructions and known issues to convey the current game state. We regularly have to answer questions or filter bug reports because 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.

When we first released our Q4 2014 schedule over 3 months ago we were quite optimistic about how much we could accomplish in that period of time, while at the same time transitioning to 24/7 uptime with persistence. While we were able to complete as much work as we had planned (and in many cases more) that work ended up being very different than what we first planned. This is what comes out of a very iterative and responsive approach to development. Our velocity is almost exactly what we had hoped but the direction of our efforts varies.

We believe that this approach will result in a much better game than if we simply marched along with a rigid plan that had no room for adaptation. We hope you share that belief and continue to support us on this unique journey.

Release 13 is our first release since launching on Steam Early Access last month and we believe that the changes and additions we have made are making the game both more beautiful and more playable. From the incredible stark beauty of the desert scenes to the rush of flames engulfing your axe, you will find much to enjoy. Of course with new content comes new bugs and balance issues, so help us out by posting bugs and feedback in our official forums.

Also remember while we are providing new content with each release, our community is also working overtime to make new events for you to enjoy so be sure to check out the Community Events Calendar (via in game book or the Avatar's Circle website).

 Without further ado, here are the R13 deliverables, along with some extra notes and new deliverables in italics.

[Click here for the rest of the Release 13 Instructions]

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Please Vote for Shroud of the Avatar for Massively’s Most Anticipated MMO of 2015!

Massively is running a Reader Poll for the the Most Anticipated MMO of 2015, so please click the following link to go cast your vote for Shroud of the Avatar!

http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/12/18/massivelys-best-of-2014-awards-most-anticipated-for-2015-and-b