Greetings Fellow Avatars!
Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:
- Blade of the Avatar Novel: Chapter 1
- Gearing Up for Release 1 Next Week!
- Kariela’s Song by David “Iolo” Watson
- Founder’s Crystal Sword
- Skinning Knife of Prosperity
- Taming Reindeer Call
Blade of the Avatar Novel, Chapter 1
Chapter 1 of the serialized SotA novel, Blade of the Avatar (BotA), written by Tracy Hickman & Richard Garriott, is now available for download! If you are an Early Founder, or you purchased BotA in the Add-On Store, then you will find a download link for the current installment of the novel on your personal SotA account page (log into SotA website and click on “Account” in the top-right corner). 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).
Here is a brief excerpt of Chapter 1 (illustration by Denis Loubet, renowned Ultima artist):
Part 1 – The Obsidians
Chapter 1: Midris
Aren Bennis, Captain of the Westreach Army of the Obsidian Empire looked out for the heads of his archer ranks toward the remains of the city of Midris.
“Why does bringing order demand such a mess,” he mused as he scanned the splintering stockade wall for the remaining defenders behind it. “Such a beautiful, glorious mess.”
The city — or what passed for a city in his times, Aren corrected himself ruefully — lay under the pall of a large column of smoke billowing from the still burning barracks on the far side of the city. The smoke rose to mar the otherwise clear sky overhead. Aren could see the forward lines of battle against the stockade wall that stood between him and the interior of the city beyond. This was the third breach in the defenses he had commanded that day. Parts of the city were already being looted because of his two previous successes. Now, once more at his orders, the Satyrs had regrouped into a concentrated force and were tearing down another section of the defensive wall. The fauns were grouped here as well in support of the Satyrs, their special song loosening the mortar between the timbers. They had been the key to the fall of Midris, penetrating the timbers that stood against them in a number of places. It allowed the main force of human warriors to sweep through the breach and collapse the city defenses. Now the city had fallen to them as the Captain knew it would.
Download your copy of the latest installment of BotA to read the rest of this exciting chapter!
Here is this week’s Map reveal:
Gearing Up for Release 1 Next Week!
Earlier this week, Starr Long posted a status update for Release 1 in the public forums. Here is that post in it’s entirety:
Thank you for your patience at our relative radio silence for the past week or two, as we have put our heads down to get Release 1 ready for you. We are on track to deliver the first early access next Thursday December 12 and we are happy to say that we are going to deliver just about every single item (except for head shapes in character creation). As a reminder, here are the deliverables for Release 1:
RELEASE 1: December 12 – December 14, 2013
- Install / Patching system: Step one for you guys to play the game is for you to download the game and then patch the game. Since this is the first hands on impression of the product, it is critical.
- Login / Registration: Players should be able to log in using their existing accounts and if they have not yet registered, they should be intuitively led to the steps to register.
- Character Creation: Players should be able to create and customize their character. Creation / Customization options for Release 1 will include: name, gender, head shape, skin tone, hair style, hair color, and eye color.
- Single Player Online: All public releases prior to commercial launch will be online only. For Release 1 and 2, it will be constrained to single player online only.
- First Town: Our first town, Owl’s Head will be open for exploration. This is important for testing purposes so we can better tune our performance metrics on real user machines. For Release 1, exiting the town will just funnel you back into the same town (anyone see Groundhog Day?)
- Conversation: Important that players converse with the townsfolk so we can start expanding the dialog system. As you talk to NPCs, we will be tracking your conversations and using them to add more content based on your input.
- Bag Inventory: This is a hot topic in the forums so we want to get it in your hands for feedback on preferences. Immersion vs. ease of use, let the battle begin!
- Equipment: Players will be provided with several chests full of “ph@t lootz” (armor, clothes, weapons, etc.) for trying on for size.
- House Claiming: Players will be able to select a house from the entire list of player houses (even Lord of the Manor!) for free so that we can test out the various size houses on the lots and allow players to test drive the various houses so they can have a better idea of which they ultimately want to own.
- House Decorating: Chests full of furniture and decorative items will be provided so you can stress test the decoration system and try out various styles of interiors. Help us figure out all the ways you can break things! (Look forward to screenshot contests on this!)
- Metrics: All the while you are playing, we will be stress testing our metrics system. This system is critical to maintaining a balanced economy, tracking exploits, and gathering data to improve the experience.
So now that it is clear what you can expect we should also be as clear about what you should not expect:
- Mac & Linux: We are definitely going to support these Operating Systems but we were unable to get them working satisfactorily for Release 1. For Release 1 we will only support Windows. Our goal is to try again for OSX and Linux support for Release 2.
- Performance: Our goal with Release 1 was to build a machine challenging scene with Owl’s Head. We have only done rudimentary optimizations and we do not yet have a full suite of fallbacks (LODs, etc.). This means for R1 the game will be quite slow on lower end machines and due to memory usage might be unstable in certain conditions (like densely decorated areas). With each release we will be doing further optimizations and adding to our fallbacks to improve performance.
- Game Loop: Even though we have clearly stated that there will not be a complete game loop (adventure, loot, spend, craft, quest, etc.) until Release 4 there is still some expectation of those activities. For R1 there is just character creation / customization, NPC conversation, and home decoration.
- Advanced Player Housing: There are some advanced features for player housing including basements, home exterior decorations, and ceiling decorations that are not yet integrated. Expect to see these appear in future releases with the goal that by Release 4 they should all be present.
Over the next few days we will release more information about how to install, patch, play, and submit bugs. Thank you again for your continued support. This is truly the most amazing community we have ever worked with and we are proud to be on this journey with you.
PS We have included some surprises around Owl’s Head so be sure to explore thoroughly.
Early-Early Access to Pre-Release 1 for Dev+ Backers Starts Today!
Chris Spears put out a call on the Dev+ Forums today, to all backers at Developer pledge level or above, to help us test our installer and patcher before we open Release 1 to all 25k+ backers next week. Here is what he posted:
Hello Dev Plus people! Today we have a special surprise for you! As you likely know, next week we are opening Release 1 up for the weekend so you guys can help us test a few things. Before we do that, we wanted to do a smaller test and let you guys help us test our installer and patcher system so we can verify it works for the vast majority of people and fix any major issues that come up before doing a larger roll out. If this all goes well then we’ll put out another patch early next week and open login to a small scene to verify dev plus people can login successfully.
You will not be able to login today but feel free to try. Early next week we’ll enable dev plus login only to help us test that system before Dec 12th.
Since you guys are dev plus and we’re trying to share as much dev stuff as possible I’ll give you some info on how it works. There is a standards installer that runs first and installs the app. When you run the Shroud app it starts up a bootstrap patcher that checks to see if the patcher needs to be updated and updates it if needed and then relaunches. Once you have the current patcher, it will start patching out the full game.
The patches are all deltas of previous versions and then compressed to keep them as tiny as possible. We also can package multiple updates into a single patch. Today’s path will be a “0 to 40” patch which means versions 0,1,2,3,4,5… 40 all rolled into one patch. We can also do things like a patch to take you from 40 to 50.
As for bandwidth, that is part of what we’re experimenting with today. To maximize patch speeds and minimize costs, by default the client uses a torrent like system so you’ll see that you’re uploading as well as downloading. In case you’re wondering, YES, we could track how much people have uploaded and yes, we’re talking about awards and achievements for people who upload the most. For those who are in secure locations or locations that try and block torrent traffic through packet inspection that mistakenly block the client, after 5 minutes of low or no downloading it switches over to a fallback. The fall back uses a more standard http type download direct connection through port 80.
For seeding, we’re using 5 dedicated boxes each with dedicated 100mbit connections in a few different locations. Depending on how much sharing we see, we might add a few more seed boxes before release 1.
Sadly, today’s test will be for Windows only.
Chris “Dippy Dragon” Spears
BurningToad (aka Ken Pfile on the server team) further explained in the thread that “After patching completes, it should run the game, bring up a screen with a play button, which you can then click to get to a login screen. So if that works, then the patch testing worked, but yes… sorry that you can’t login just yet“.
So, if you are a backer at Developer pledge level or higher, please join us in testing our installer/patcher. If all goes well, a new pre-Release 1 version will be released early next week that will allow Dev+ backers to login to a sample scenario (endearingly referred to by the dev team as the “Chicken Room”).
Thanks to all our Dev+ backers for helping us work the kinks out of our installer/patcher/login process before we open the full Release 1 to all 25k+ backers on December 12!
A Musical Proclamation from Lord British!
If you enjoyed the musical piece “Stones” by Iolo of Britannia, then you’ll enjoy this news that Richard “Lord British” Garriott posted on the public forums:
I am very proud to share some exciting news with all of you! We have secured a musical masterpiece from David Watson. David may be better known to many of you as Iolo, the great bard of Britannia! His most memorable piece by far is, of course, “Stones”, which became so popular, it inspired, and continues to inspire, MANY renditions and remixes.
What few may know, however, is that Iolo is famous for writing another great masterwork; “Karelia’s Song”. This beautiful piece touched the team so much, we had to secure the rights to use this marvelous melody for Shroud of the Avatar! And so it was proclaimed and made reality!
Here is a link to an instrumental version of the piece, which you will of course find within the game!
And for all of you loyal fans of Britannia who enjoy vocal accompaniment, you can hear the voice of Master Iolo himself singing in this stunning piece. This rendition was recorded with our mutual, and very talented friend, Truly Carmichael. Please help support their work by visiting CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/trulycarmichael
One more thing you might enjoy is the lyrics to this fine piece. It is a magical wonderful tale of the Barron of Eastmarch’s daughter. More tales of which you will find in game!
Now the Baron of Eastmarch’s fair sorcerous daughter
was enamored unseemly with the fool of her lord.
Though her Duke was deemed handsome, he’d a soul vain and petty
and a dark mind as empty as last summer’s gourd.
And the fool he was clever and he sang for the lady
like a nightingale piping in a deep forest grove.
But his station was lowly and his body was ageing
and their love was as hopeless as if he was stone.
So the lady has led them, the fool and her husband
to her cool secret garden by the midsummer’s moon.
And she’s danced them a spell there of shifting and changing
and left them dumbfounded by sorcery’s boon.
She has left a fool crying to the gods of his fathers.
She has led her duke laughing to her high chamber door.
And she’s kept him there softly, through two days bright dawnings
while her servants all gossiped in wonder and awe.
So the fool died in madness, saying he was ensorcelled
and the duke only smiled him a sad secret smile.
Now her duke rules his people with wit and good humor
and he sings for his lady like the nightingale’s song.
And she’s borne him five children, two sons and three daughters
and they’ve grown straight and handsome, and sorcerous all.
And they dance in the garden and they sing in the moonlight,
like nightingales piping in green forest halls.
I am truly grateful to have been able to bring such memorable music into the lands of New Britannia. Special thanks to the Master Bard himself; David Watson, for sharing his talents with all of us.
Founder’s Crystal Sword
One of the Early Founder Rewards for the Founder Pledge level is the Crystal Sword! Uniquely identifiable as a Founder’s sword, it kills almost any enemy you encounter with a single blow, but shatters after a single use. (Let it be known that Lord British is impervious to the Crystal Sword)
Skinning Knife of Prosperity
Next in our “Prosperity” line of unique items is The Skinning Knife of Prosperity!
This unique indestructible knife increases the quality and quantity of meat, hides, poison sacks, etc. gathered when field dressing. While knives with similar effects can be crafted and purchased in the game this particular knife never needs repair.
Get Your Skinning Knife of Prosperity Now and save 33%!
For a limited time we’re offering 33% off of the Skinning Knife of Prosperity! Reserve yours (or send as a gift) at the Add-On Store!
Taming Reindeer Call
Just in time for the holiday season, this unique indestructible Taming Reindeer Call can be used to call a Reindeer which is then automatically tamed. While items with similar effects can be crafted and purchased in the game this particular call never needs repair.
For a limited time we’re offering a 33% off of the Taming Reindeer Call! Reserve yours (or send as a gift) at the Add-On Store!