Thank you for being a loyal backer and follower of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 22 access for all backers at First Responder level and above (as well as DragonCon attendees) begins this Thursday, September 24, at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC).
Release 22 feels like a turning point for us. We are starting to gain real momentum on being able to tell the story through new scenes added each release. This release in particular is important for the story because one of those new scenes is the Isle of Storms—our homage to the beloved starting experiences of Ultimas, where questions answered determine your starting path.
We are also expanding the breadth of our sandbox experience with new ways for players to engage with the world (fishing) and each other (musical instruments and emote teaching). This expansion in two axes is exemplary of the kind of game we are trying to make, while at the same time very illustrative of how challenging it is to do so.
We also continue to remain dedicated to being responsive to all of your feedback and our analysis of gameplay data. We will continue to make iterative changes to the game to make it better, even if it costs us time. In Release 21, that dedication led us to move to a use-based advancement system. In Release 22, we finish the bulk of the work to complete that change-over. Going forward, we can now balance the game based completely on use-based advancement; no more lingering hidden player levels to hinder this progress. That responsiveness also led us to pull in PVP Loot and Ransom this release, because we felt that the PVP experience was not even close to where it needed to be and it had been too many releases since we had expanded PVP play in any meaningful way.
Release 22 also brings us to the culmination of this entire quarter’s creature work. Many of you may remember that we first began with the Troll in Release 20, trying to see how big we could make creatures and how different we could make the experience of fighting large-scale enemies. This led us to solve technical challenges, like them turning around properly and their head tracking their current target, which in-turn led us to solve turning and head tracking. It also brought us cool features like trajectory-based knockback, allowing these big creatures to knock us off tall things (to better soften us up before eating). In Release 21, we started solving problems around combat with flying creatures with the Phoenix. Now we come to Release 22, where all that learning combines into our largest and most complex creature yet… the Dragon! We still have more polish on these large creatures to get them to the quality standard we all want, but they are already inspiring to see and fight.
We also were finally able to make some time for a round of optimizations that have greatly increased performance in our worst areas. Some say Ardoris is even playable! We plan to get even more performance improvements in Release 23, when we hope to upgrade to a newer version of Unity 5. Speaking of Release 23, tomorrow I will be posting our Fourth Quarter Schedule Update as usual. It will show the roadmap for the next three releases after Release 22 so everyone can see how we plan to finish out 2015 (spoiler: we don’t finish the game).
I want to express a huge amount of gratitude to our Dev+ backers who tested all of the below on the QA server and found lots of bugs. They also provided editorial feedback on this post so they are a big reason that this post actually matches what is in the game and that it is easy to read.
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.
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 R22 deliverables.
- Isle of Storms: Long ago, incredible magical forces crafted this island on shards of the shattered moons where it still floats high above New Britannia. Arabella greets new avatars coming from Earth and guides them with a series of questions that will determine which path they start down: Truth, Love, or Courage. These paths not only determine which plot thread you begin with, they also determine what your starting abilities are and what equipment you have. Building this scene required some new solutions for terrain to allow us to show the island floating in space.
- Blood River Massacre: This single-player map is the aftermath of the massacre of a peaceful Elven village. It is the first step in the Truth quest line. Please note that because we do not yet have the rest of this quest line, nor the map areas around it, we are temporarily sending all players to Soltown upon completion of this scene. Also note that this map does not yet contain any tutorial content but that will come in Release 23.
- Blood River Settlement: When players return to the Blood River map later in the game, they find that native wildlife and bandits have taken over the former thriving settlement, despite periodic attempts by the Vertas elves to reclaim it.
- Dragon: Burninating is finally happening! Dragons can be seen flying over several scenes and rumors abound of players being ambushed in the plains of Drachvald or atop the mesas in the Barrens. The dragon is our first attempt to have a creature that freely moves between ground and aerial combat, and has a complex set of abilities—including a flame breath weapon that leaves persistent fires on the ground, tail sweep, bite, and wing slap. The Dragon takes advantage of the flying tech we used to get the Phoenix airborne as well as the trajectory based knockback tech and head tracking we created for the Troll. Over time, we intend to make these the premier creatures to fight in-game and incorporate whatever can be scavenged from their remains into the higher end items of the crafting system. For now, please help us test fighting the second of our very large creatures.
- Ravens: The black and white raven pets can now be summoned in the game.
- Troll Polish: We did a pass polishing the Troll, including textures for the body, hands, and feet. We also rebuilt the mouth (including teeth) and retextured the armor (including the Bear skin). We also improved and added visual effects.
- Phoenix Polish: The Phoenix now uses the same head tracking tech as the troll and uses the updated flight model we created for the Dragon. It also benefited from a visual effects polish pass.
- Undead Resurrection Polish: Undead resurrection behavior is now a percent chance based (up to a limit of 3) versus a hardcoded number of times they will revive.
- Musical Instruments via ABC/MML: Players can now play music in the game using the ABC and MML formats. For now, players can add files to the Songs directory and then play them. Long term we plan to provide an in-game interface for file management and song selection.
- Synchronized Play: Players in a party can play synchronized songs together.
- Lute: The lute represents our first handheld instrument and there are two versions in the game: Iolo’s Lute (pledge reward) and the Lute (crafted in game). Over time we plan to expand the handheld instrument list to include flutes, harps, lyres, tambor drums, triangles, cowbells, coconuts, and more.
- Piano: The piano is our first example of large stationary instruments that can be played and there are two versions in the game: Benefactor’s Piano (pledge reward) and the Piano (crafted in game). Over time, we plan to expand the list of these instruments to include harpsichords, standup bass, kettle drums, harps, and more.
- In R22, Fishing will work in any area where the water is deep enough to swim (it is not node based like other harvesting). For now, all water is the same (no salt vs. freshwater) and shallow water (e.g. swamps) cannot be fished in, but more water types and associated fish types will get added in later releases. In R22, there will be three fish types and at least one cooking recipe for each (including Butchery recipes to clean and filet the fish as well as crafting trophy decorations). Long term, we have tons of features and modifiers that we will be adding to fishing, such as seasons, time of day, hot spots, reeling, fish sizes, leader boards, etc. Please note we don’t yet have any visual effects for fishing so you won’t see the line going into the water or fish being retrieved.
- Specialized Repair Kits: There are now three different types of repair kits linked to the appropriate crafting stations: tailoring, smithing, and carpentry. For R22 generic repair kits will continue to function but we will remove them in R23.
- Refining and Production Skills: Each type of Refining or Production type has at least one skill now. We will expand this over time.
- New Recipes: We added a variety of new recipes to the game, including Rough Stone Building Blocks, Fishing Poles, Lute, Piano, Coconut Bra, Trophy Fish, Specialized Repair Kits, & Gravestones.
Player Owned Towns
We added another round of dynamic Player Owned Towns to the game, as well as fixed issues and upgraded sizes of several PoTs.
- Emote Teaching: There are now multiple types of emotes including innate (emotes that everyone knows), teachable (these emotes can be taught but cannot be retaught by the recipient) and re-teachable (these emotes can be taught and retaught endlessly). For example, Pledge Reward emotes are Teachable but not Re-Teachable.
- Starting Emotes: Players will now start with all innate emotes and any emotes that are part of their pledge rewards. All other emotes must be learned.
- Emote Quests: Players can learn various emotes from characters in the game by performing various tasks. Try to guess who teaches the fine art of nose picking!
- The Oracle’s Price: PVP finally has some real risk! Dead players can be looted! Looted items include gruesome trophies (skulls, jawbones, etc.) and gear. Players will have an opportunity to pay a ransom to get their loot back.
Combat / Skills Balance
- All Skills Now Updated for Use-Based System: All skills should now factor in the player’s skill level in one or more ways. A few are still missing accurate tool tips to convey the changes as they level up.
- All Magic Now Factors in Intelligence: In addition to using skill level, magic now uses intelligence for most damage calculations. NOTE: This was in all builds up to R20, but was off for R21.
- Average Spell Damage Increase: Spell damages have been given a balance pass factoring in more than 20 variables and overall should do more damage than in R21. Many also have had their focus cost to be more in line with their increases.
- Spells Can Now Critical: All damage dealing spells now have a chance for critical success damage again.
- Damage Over Time: We fixed the issues with DoTs that were affecting skills like Flame Fist, Fireball, and Rend.
- Knockbacks: If successful, any skill invoking knockback will now always move the target. Before, if a character got stunned, it did not move.
- Knockdown: Knockdown has been re-enabled and and is now resistable like Stun effects.
- Stillness Buff: The Stillness buff now only applies to magic spells, not combat skills.
- Camera Facing: Camera Facing is now only locked to targeting if Free Attack is enabled.
- Elementals: Summoned Elementals now use Focus Drain instead of losing health (undead still lose health when summoned).
- Sneak Attack: When players can execute this skill on a target from behind while stealthed, it will do three times normal damage attack with a high critical chance.
- Vanish and Shadow Form: These skills have been changed so they can be used while in combat and also can be cast on party members.
- Experience Bar: This has now returned so players can see how full their Adventuring and Producing XP pools are. Since this is one of the main factors that determines speed of skill gain, this visual feedback is critical.
- Rend: Rend received a major balance pass and should now be better balanced with other melee attacks. It also now does a small amount of damage instantly.
- Quad Slash: Focus cost has been increased to 20, but damage has been increased significantly.
- Trip: This is now an active attack that has an instant chance to knockdown the target instead of attempting a trip on the next attack.
- Clumsy / Air’s Embrace / Enfeeblement / Strength of Earth / Imbecile Enchantment / Enlightenment: The amount of these skills increase (or decrease) stats has been changed from a flat 10 to a new formula that factors in skill level (10 + Skill Level / 10)
- Sympathy of Stone: This skill now gives a bonus to the maximum percentage of a hit that can be stopped by defenses.
- Attunement with Earth & Deflection: Both skills have had their bonuses cut in half.
- Light: Once again castable on others in your party.
- Explosive Potion: Now has a use time of 2 seconds instead of instant.
- Deflection: This heavy armor skill was refactored to provide a boost to the max percentage of damage that can be stopped by defenses. This won’t help much on big hits but will help with smaller hits!
- Aimed Shot / Blinding Shot / Coup De Grace / Crushing Blow: Focus cost approximately doubled for all these skills
- Discharge: Average damage for this Air Magic spell was increased by 50%.
- Glyph Speed: For those who play with the dealt system, the base dealing speed has been reduced from 2.0 to 1.4 seconds.
- Weapon Range Improvements: Most weapons have had their weapon ranges increased slightly. Daggers received the largest range bump and should be useable again without standing halfway inside of your target.
- Searing Ray: In addition to a damage boost, this Sun Magic spell also does additional damage during the day as well as bonus damage to undead!
- Reveal Hidden: With the arrival of more stealth elements to the game, this skill now has an increased range that factors in skill level (5 + Skill Level / 10 meters). So a player with a 40 skill will reveal all within 9 meters (5 + 40 / 10)
- Deflection Skill (Heavy Armor): Innate skill that increases the percentage of damage that armor stops.
- Concentration Skill (Taming): This skill reduces the amount of focus drained by summoned pets.
- Camouflage Skill (Light Armor): This skill allows players in Light Armor to go into Stealth mode while standing still. Movement breaks the stealth. This can be used in combat.
- Silent Movement Skill (Light Armor): This skill allows players wearing Light Armor to enter Stealth mode and move about for a limited amount of time. This can be used in combat.
Make A Difference
We have added another charitable cause to our Make A Difference Store: Autism Awareness. As with our work with Water.org, 50% of all revenue (after costs) goes to two Autism charities. This promotion has been a cooperative effort with SpeedTree who created a SpeedTree with puzzle shaped leaves. Purchasable items include:
- Puzzle Pattern Cloak
- Puzzle Tree Cloak
- Puzzle Leaf Tree 6-Pack home decoration
Grand Tour 22
As with each release, we will have a Grand Tour. Completing this quest is the ONLY way to gain this rare reward. The “hat” for this release is actually a pair of goggles.