Update of the Avatar #50 – 11/27/13: Blade of the Avatar Novel, Combat Design, Immortality Fruit, Black Friday Goodies, and More!

Greetings Fellow Avatars!

Welcome to this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar. Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday we’re publishing the update early this week. Lot’s of great stuff to share, including the first installment of the SotA novel by Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott, and some awesome Black Friday weekend promotions!

  • First Installment of Blade of the Avatar Novel
  • Combat Design
  • The Immortality Fruit
  • The Royal Elderberry
  • The Pickaxe of Prosperity
  • Black Friday Weekend Promotions
  • Kickstarter: The Space Bards Present Their First Album, “Neon Milk”!
  • Movember: Shroud of the Mustache


[Book Cover Art by Stephen Daniele and Tracy Hickman]


Blade of the Avatar Novel, Installment 1 – Prologue

The first installment of the serialized SotA novel, Blade of the Avatar (BotA), written by Tracy Hickman & Richard Garriott, is now available for download! Digital version of BotA is included as an Early Founder reward at all pledge levels $25 or higher, and is also available in the Add-On Store for everyone. Early Founders can download the first installment at the new Early Founder Rewards area in the community forums (accessible to Early Founders only; Early Founders are backers that pledged any amount by May 20, 2013). If you are a Kickstarter backer you’ll need to have your Kickstarter account linked to the SotA website (click here for instructions to link your Kickstarter account).

If you purchased BotA in the Add-On Store, then you will find a download link for the first installment on your personal SotA account page (log into SotA website and click on “Account” in the top-right corner).

This installment consists of the Prologue. Here is a brief excerpt (illustration by Denis Loubet, renowned Ultima artist):


The Destiny Pool

The End is the Beginning of us all.

Hear the soundless lamentation of the ages lost! The past is hidden from the eyes of the weary, blanketed beneath ash and tears. The old world is passed away, its mountains shaken, its rivers torn from its courses, its plains rent with fire and the shining towers of man tumbled to ruin. The orb of night is broken, its black shards falling from the dome of night to fall as judgment’s cruel, black rain. The music of daughters fails to resound, the proud boasts of men are as dust in their mouths and fear reigns in the dark silence that follows. The flesh is turned to dust and all that we once were is forgotten and lost in the shuttered past.

Where now are the virtues of the world now fallen? Were they taken from us or were we taken from them? Were they abandoned or were we orphaned by them? Was this not the blade of too fine an edge that cut between the light and night; between me and thee? Avatars of our dreams or nightmares, did you steal away from us in the night or…

Click here to download the full first installment of Blade of the Avatar

Here is this week’s Map reveal:


Combat Design

Chris Spears shared the dev team’s design notes for the combat system in the Dev+ Forums last week and the conversation exploded to a 15 page thread!  A lot of great feedback was provided on that thread, and after synthesizing the feedback, Chris posted a revised version of the combat design in the Public Forums for all to see: Let’s talk about combat!  Here is an excerpt from that post:

Let’s talk about combat in Shroud of the Avatar! Before jumping into the deck mechanics of combat (what some may call the really interesting part) I’ll clear up two items people seemed to be confused about.

First, players will still have an “auto” attack that just uses their equipped weapon. That equipped weapon can be a sword, axe, shield, wand, etc. For simple encounters, this will be sufficient for most people to achieve victory.

Second, when out of combat no bar will be present but the player can press the alt-key at any time and their non-combat toolbar will slide up. We’ll make it an option to leave this up at all times out of combat for those less concerned with immersion. The non-combat toolbar will work just like any other game where you can assign skills to it to use when not engaged in combat.

When a player enters into combat is where things get interesting… before diving into specifics, I’m going to define a few items so we’re all on the same page in terms of language:

Skill – For simplicity, we’re calling any element that can show up on your toolbar in combat a skill. This can include combat skills, spells, consumables, items, and abilities but we’re going to call them all skills.

Deck – This is a set of skills that the player has created or the game has created for the player. There is a minimum number of skills that can go into a deck based on the player’s level. It will start at around 10 skills at level one and rise to around 30 skills at level 20. Players can have multiple decks configured and swap them in and out when not in combat. Players will be able to switch during combat but it will take several seconds of doing nothing.

Slug – A slug is a skill that does nothing but takes up a spot in the deck. These can show up in a number of situations for balance, missing skill requirements, or to fill out a deck that is below the minimum size. For instance if you have skills relating to slashing weapons in your deck but have a mace equipped, some of the skills in your deck may become greyed out slugs.

Combo – Some skills can be combined with other skills on the fly. This result is a new, likely more powerful skill which can then be used.

Noble Skill – A noble skill is a skill which cannot be combined with any other skill. Some skills are always noble but some become noble for various reasons such as a skill being used on you or because the skill is in a locked slot. Noble skills will almost always have a higher cost of some kind. Example costs could be cooldown, reagent use, focus cost, etc.

Focus Skills – These are the skills that generally modify deck mechanics.

Locked Slot – By default skills are dealt out to the slots periodically, but by training in focus skills some slots can be locked and always contain a specific skill. Skills in locked slots are always noble and cannot be combined with other skills.

Now that we have the big combat terms defined, lets jump into how we put it together.

Upon entering combat, the combat bar slides up. This has between 6 and 12 buttons on it, depending on player skill selection and level. Skills appear on the buttons at a fairly slow and steady pace and then fade out after a decent amount of time (think 10 – 30 seconds). They can be used by clicking on them and dragging them to a specific target or by pressing the matching hotkey (1-10 key,-,+) and tapping space(by default) to execute. Combos can be created by either dragging one skill onto another one or by pressing the matching hotkey followed by the other skills hotkey. Creating a combo skill makes it behave as if it was a freshly dealt skill, meaning its fade out timer is reset. Skills can be discarded to free up a slot by dragging them off screen if the player has a faster deal speed than fade speed for skills.

The speed at which skills appear can be sped up through a learned focus skill and the duration they stay up can also be increased through a different focus skill. If there are no open slots at a given time, then new skills will not deal out until a slot opens up. So players with a slower dealing rate might have to use or discard skill elements just to free up spots for new skills to be dealt out. Each of those two elements has advantages to them, the idea is that players can adjust their deck dealing behavior to match their play style and these values can be tuned on a per deck basis.

Through the focus skill tree and leveling, players can gain the option to have 1 or more locked slots. These are slots that aren’t dynamically dealt out but become noble and can’t be combined with any other skills. The recycle time on this slot will vary depending on the skill used in it.

Focus Skill Tree

Instinct – Each level allows for one locked skill slot. How many locked skill slots are used can be configured per deck. Max locked slots is 1/3rd the total available skill slots. Locked skill slots replace a slot and reduces the number of dynamic slots.

Epiphany – Each level increases the number of skills that are available at the start of combat by 2. Without this skill players start with zero skills out other than locked slots.

Versatility – Each level increases the number of available skill slots by 1. Players start with 6 skills slots available. Players gain 1 additional skill slot at level 10 and another at 20 for free but 4 more can be acquired through skills to bring the total to 12 skill slots.

Second Guess – Each level grants a skill that can be used to push an existing skill into a random spot in the top five skills in the player’s deck.

Spark of Brilliance – Slugs normally have no purpose other than to take up room. With Spark of Brilliance, slugs can be be combined with other skills to increase their time till they fade. Each level adds 0.2 seconds up to a max of a 1 second extra time.

Recollection – Every level increases the fade out timer of skills by .1 seconds.

Brainstorm – Every level decreases the time to the next skill by .1 seconds.

Concentration – Each level grants a skill that can be combined with another skill and will temporarily extend the fade timer for a skill by 10 seconds. Unlike the permanent lock, this will not make the skill noble and can help capture more difficult combos.

Thanks for your input; we know that a system as core to the game as combat is will arouse very strong passions, especially when we reveal some of the risks we’re willing to take. We’ll continue to review your feedback closely, both now and as the system is introduced!

     – Chris “Dippy Dragon” Spears

Chris also included a Combat FAQ in the post. Here are the questions he included:

Combat FAQ:

Head on over to the public forums to read the entire post and share your feedback!

The Immortality Fruit

Included as a basic reward for all backers in the Immortal Adventurer pledge level is the Immortality Fruit seed. With the Farming Craft you can plant the Immortality Fruit seed, which will bear a single fruit. When eaten, this fruit will fully heal you, and leave you with a single seed which can be planted and harvested, over and over, for all eternity. The Immortality Fruit seed can be transferred between players.


The Royal Elderberry

Included as a Founder’s reward in the Immortal Adventurer pledge level is the Royal Elderberry seed. Planting the Royal Elderberry seed will yield a Royal Elderberry which is necessary for crafting the unique, Royal Purple Founder’s Dye. There will be no other source, ever, for creating the Royal Purple Founder’s Dye. Utilizing the Royal Elderberry to craft the dye will also bear a single seed which can be planted and harvested, over and over, for all eternity. The Royal Elderberry seed can be transferred between players.


The Pickaxe of Prosperity


Next in our “Prosperity” line of unique items is The Pickaxe of Prosperity!

This unique indestructible Pickaxe increases the quality and quantity of the ore mined as well as increasing the speed of mining. While pickaxes with similar effects can be crafted and purchased in the game this particular pickaxe never needs repair.

Get Your Pickaxe of Prosperity Now and save 33%!

For a limited time we’re offering a 33% discount on the Axe of Prosperity! Reserve yours at the Add-On Store!

Black Friday Weekend Promotions

We have some great promotions lined up for Black Friday Weekend (& Cyber Monday)! Check these out:

15% Pledge Bonus on all New Pledges and Pledge Upgrades!

For all new pledges or pledge upgrades that you purchase for yourself, or as a gift, between 12:00 am CST November 27 and 12:00 am CST December 3, we will add an additional 15% bonus to your pledge account! For example, if you purchase a new Founder pledge for $65, we will add an additional $10 to your pledge account ($65 times 15% equal $9.75 rounded up to $10; our pledge package doesn’t handle cents so we round up to nearest dollar).

NOTE: The 15% bonus pledge won’t show up in your account immediately. Give us about a week after the end of the promotion period to tally everyone’s purchases and add the bonus pledge to your account.

15% Discount on Add-On Store Items!

We’ve dropped the prices in the Add-On Store by an additional 15% during the promotion period, so now would be a great time to get that special item you’ve been drooling over (or as a gift for some lucky person).

The Return of the Darkstarr Metronome and Moondial at a 33% Discount!

If you missed your chance to get a Darkstarr Metronome or Moondial back in July then now is your chance to grab one (for yourself or as a gift)! We’re bringing them back for Black Friday weekend only, at a 33% discount from the original price! Reserve yours now!

50% Discount on Viking Village Home!

The Viking Village Home was the first home we made available in the Add-On Store, and it has proven to be quite popular. For Black Friday Weekend only we are re-introducing the 50% discount off the regular price!

15% Discount on T-Shirts and Challenge Coins in the Merchandise Store!

If you don’t have a SotA T-shirt or Challenge Coin yet, or want to get one as a gift, then head over to the Merchandise Store and get them 15% off regular price!

[NOTE: Black Friday Weekend promotions end at 12:00 am CST December 3]

The Space Bards “Neon Milk” Kickstarter

Remember the Space Bards that won the SotA Fan Video Contest back in April with their video “The Return of Lord British”? Well, they are Kickstarting their first album, “Neon Milk”, and could use your support! They had a fundraising telethon Monday night where they met their funding goal. They helped raise additional funds for SotA during the telethon and unlocked a Gypsy dance emote (as made famous in their video) for all SotA backers! Their Kickstarter campaign ends on December 1st at 4:17 pm EST so head on over there and check them out!

What IS “Neon Milk”?

Neon Milk is a concept album that follows the story of two aliens who have crash-landed on planet Earth, and are doing everything they can to blend in with the strange creatures known as ‘humans’. Dan Span and Dom John, who have been making music for many years, deftly mix genres as varied as rock, rap, dance, and dubstep into a tongue-in-cheek exploration of what it feels like to be an alien, even on your own planet.

Movember: Shroud of the Mustache

We’ve raised $1,680.00 for Movember and still have three days left! Here’s the most recent picture of our mustachioed Movember Team!


Please join us and support a great cause!

The Movember Effect

Globally, the funds raised by our Mo Bros and Mo Sistas support world-class men’s health programs that combat prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges. These programs, directed by the Movember Foundation, are focused on awareness and education, living with and beyond cancer, staying mentally healthy, living with and beyond mental illness and research to achieve our vision of an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.


      1. VengerVenger

        The link provided in the update takes me to an error message still. I’m not a kickstarter founder, but I did purchase the digital copy of the book in the add-on store. Can I still view it? I thought there would be installments provided with my purchase.

        1. VengerVenger

          Ok, finally found the link at the bottom of my account detail page. I’m in.

          But what’s the link in the update for, it’s not working. To avoid confusion, you may want to just link that to a person’s account detail page and tell them to scroll to the bottom.

          1. Tassilo (Dev)Tassilo (Dev)

            Yes, sorry, we had some problems with that forum-link, yesterday, and Scott worked on it. Glad that you found the one on the account page – I should have pointed out that it’s all the way at the bottom. Sorry for the problems, yesterday was quite a day for all of us… :)

    1. VengerVenger

      I’d like to hear the reasoning behind the metronome and moondial being put out in the store. The definition of limited and unique is a bit blurred right now.

  1. Sir Edreamer _MGT470Sir Edreamer _MGT470

    I can’t see any link to download the Novel. I purchased via the addon store back in July and can see my purchase listed under add-ons there, but no sign of any download link for the ebook anywhere on that page

          1. Tassilo (Dev)Tassilo (Dev)

            Sorry guys, my fault… ;) Patch is currently deploying, so you should see it in 15 minutes, latest!

        1. Sir Edreamer _MGT470Sir Edreamer _MGT470

          Thanks Dallas. (I just sent support an email, you can consider it replied to :) )
          Have a great Thanksgiving !

  2. VengerVenger

    Will people have to log out and then back in for the patch to take effect? Will we need to clear out browser cache files?

    Just curious.

    1. Tassilo (Dev)Tassilo (Dev)

      No, just refreshing the page should be enough. However, since we have quite a few machines out there to handle the load for each update, it might delay the patching by a few minutes. Sorry about that.

  3. monxtermonxter

    I was just about to go to bed… (1:20am) aaand I’m not tired anymore. I can’t resist the prologue.

  4. dallasdallas Post author

    The question was posted in the forums as to whether the Black Friday 15% Pledge Bonus would apply toward backers that are making monthly payments through the Layaway Plan.

    We will apply the Black Friday 15% Pledge Bonus toward any pledge monies received during the promotion period (12:00 am CST November 27 and 12:00 am CST December 3). Any payment plan payments received during the promotion period will have the 15% bonus applied to them, same as any full payments made toward new pledges or pledge upgrades.

    This will be easy for those that may be starting a new payment plan during the promotion. For those that are already on a payment plan, it will require some extra steps. They will have to go in and cancel their current plan and immediately start a new payment plan (possibly entering the same dollar amount as what their previous plan was, or changing it to a larger amount to take advantage of the 15% bonus pledge). By canceling their old plan and starting a new plan they force a payment to be made during the promotion period, thus qualifying that payment to receive the 15% bonus pledge. Any subsequent monthly payments made on the new payment plan that fall outside of the promotion period will not have the 15% Pledge Bonus applied to them.

  5. Lord MelvekLord Melvek

    Do not forget that the Darkstarr Moondial is included in the Citizen Pledge Tier and the Darkstarr Metronome is included in the Virtual Collector Pledge Tier, only available to Backers who pledge any amount by July 31, 2013.

  6. Yael

    I can’t help but feel that the axe of prosperity is gamebreaking of sorts. Won’t indestructible tools damage the tool economy?

    1. ErthErth

      I wouldn’t worry too much about it. The vast majority of players at release will not have these tools. A lot of the backers may not even purchase these tools either. I think there will only be a small group of tool purchasers (relatively speaking)

  7. Shades2585

    I can’t purchase more the one upgrade at once.

    Can you add a cart in the store so we can put more then one item in it to purchase multiple items at a time?

    1. Tassilo (Dev)Tassilo (Dev)

      Yes, this is a shortcoming we are aware of – the reasons for it are purely historical. Originally we didn’t have an add-on store, but simply those pledge tiers. We used the same system to start that add-on store, as everything was integrated into the accounting, etc. already. For only a few items it was great and a big time-saver to get it started, however, it starts to show its limits – it obviously doesn’t scale with the number of added items.

      The new merchandise store uses a real shopping cart, however, it’s not integrated into the accounting (yet). We are working on making this better, unfortunately this will take a little while, there are so many things to do…! :)

      I’m sorry about the inconvenience.

  8. Shades2585

    The Challenge Coin is not in the merchandise area? Was that a limited run and was the Coin included in any of the pledge levels?

    It might be helpful to point out which pledge levels already include the Darkstarr Metronome and Moondial.

    1. KeldrinKeldrin

      Yeah, I noticed that the challenge coin is no longer there as well. I know it used to be in the merchandise area. And I do think it said there was a limited amount.
      The collector level pledge plus, for founders only, included the coin I think. (I know it includes a coin, and I’m pretty sure, but not 100%, that it is the same coin)

  9. KeldrinKeldrin

    In artisan pledge level you get:
    “You will receive one (1) starter-level, indestructible, artisan’s tool for the skill of your choice.”
    What I’m wanting to know is how the artisan starter tool compares to Prosperity tools in the add-on store.
    Also, is the prosperity tools good enough that you will be using them from now on?
    Or will you find your character out grows those tools, and will be needing better in game tools eventually?
    Which leads to the question, will there be better in game made tools? (even if they do need repairing).

  10. Pagan

    I was planning on taking advantage of the sale and buying something is the store but cannot seem to get it to work. I’m stuck in a loop. Despite being logged in, in the store the button at the bottom of the page “log in to grab add ons” requests that I log in again, and when I do so returns me to the home page. On returning to the store page there is no change and I’m requested to log in yet again. Maybe a buy? If not and I’m doing something wrong then not a particularly intuitive storefront.

    1. Tassilo (Dev)Tassilo (Dev)

      Sounds to me like you aren’t logged-in, somehow. Is your browser blocking cookies for the site? What browser are you using?

  11. KeldrinKeldrin

    In the update it stated:
    50% Discount on Viking Village Home!

    The Viking Village Home was the first home we made available in the Add-On Store, and it has proven to be quite popular. For Black Friday Weekend only we are re-introducing the 50% discount off the regular price!

    Everything else has went back to it’s pre-black Friday price except this. Over sight? Or just decided to let it stay at the higher discount a little longer?

Comments are closed.