Greetings Fellow Avatars!
Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:
- Release 2 Perspectives
- Pantheon & SotA Co-Backers Receive Special Cross-Game Cloak
- “Hearts of Britannia” Valentine’s Poetry Competition!
- Blade of the Avatar Novel: Chapter 7
- Early Founder Knight Village Waterfront Lighthouse
- Founder Tier Pets
- Virtual Collector Iolo Lute
- Early Founder Royal Artisan Iolo Crossbow
- Smelting Tongs of Prosperity
- Stretch Goals: Lord British vs. Darkstarr
- Purchase, Transfer, or Gifting of Founder Pledges
Release 2 Perspectives
Lord British shared his royal perspective on the Release 2 results in a post on the public forums:
We continue to be amazed by the outstanding community we have participating in Shroud of the Avatar! Many thousands of you joined us in the Release 2 test phase and the data we got back was invaluable. More importantly, we are learning each cycle how better to provide you the game you want. The boards have been humming with GREAT suggestions as has my twitter feed. Which, if you don’t follow, is simply @RichardGarriott. Please join me there too!
I was particularly fond of people joining my party so that we could group chat which, while a temp hack, foreshadowed what is coming soon in Release 3! While we still have TONS of work to do, I think / hope now that people can easily tell where we are heading and that the clarity should grow with each release. If you are seeing the rich world interaction detail like Ultima VII, the start of a deep virtue based story ala Ultima IV, and the diverse interrelated professions such as combat, crafting, gathering, and player created content, then you see where we are going.
The team in Austin is exceptionally happy that you continue to play and offer feedback of such quality. Every day at the office is a day of joy. We are working hard in your service!
Richard “Lord British” Garriott
Starr Long (Executive Producer) also shared his perspective on the forums:
Thank you all for helping us test Release 2. We feel even more strongly now that we are on the right path to make a great product with all of you. The tight feedback loop we are establishing is already making things better. With Release 2, we were able to respond to your feedback from Release 1 by adding features like jumping. We took this a step further and during Release 2, we released multiple patches to fix bugs and even add features (e.g. highlighting crafting icons on crafting tables and invert mouse look). This was a great test of the team and our patching abilities but also hopefully an indication of the kind of responsiveness we strive for.
Release 3 will be the first time we enable Open Multiplayer Mode and that will consume all of our resources to make happen. Even the simple act of enabling this requires us to solve a myriad of issues like seeing other players’ equipment/customization/animation, creating rule sets for how interactive items work (so two people can’t sit in the same chair for example), creating rules for spinning up instances when zones get full, propagating changes players make across all those instances (for when housing is re-enabled), etc. Making all those things work is why we won’t be adding new major systems until Release 4. However, as with Release 1, we really want to respond to feedback you are giving us about Release 2. Specifically we are adding these stretch goals to R3…
And Chris Spears (Technical Director) shared his rather unique R2 perspective on the forums. Here’s an excerpt:
Before I jump into specific R2 feedback I just want to remind everyone how incredibly wrong we are doing things. Seriously, we are doing so many things so horribly wrong! Twenty plus years of experience has shown that game development is done a certain way.
Based on what I’ve learned from the past two decades in the games industry, here are some of the things we’re doing wrong:
- We’re not based on a movie or a comic book
- We didn’t start by talking to our marketing department to get our idea approved
- We didn’t do research to make sure that our game was “mass market”
- We did not alter our design to make sure we had enough bullet points to go on the back of the box
- We aren’t working on fixed milestones set at the start of the project by a giant publisher who also happens to be holding a sword over our head to make sure we don’t deviate from the plan
- We aren’t keeping everything completely hidden and behind closed doors until 3 months before launch and only releasing photoshopped screenshots or million dollar, highly produced trailers by Blur
- We aren’t making the players read about what the game is going to be and instead making it a conversation and rolling in their feedback monthly
- We aren’t keeping any design stuff a secret, so much though that we don’t even have visitors sign NDAs before letting them video tape us working
When we got ready to start this crazy adventure last year there was much debate over when to get players into the game. Many people expressed the very legitimate concern that showing people not familiar with game development the game too early would turn them off. That in turn would poison the community early on and make it impossible for us gain momentum later on.
Pantheon & SotA Co-Backers Receive Special Cross-Game Cloak
Brad McQuaid, the legendary designer of the industry-defining MMO, EverQuest, is Kickstarting his next big game, Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen. We’re all super excited about the vision that Brad and the Visionary Realms team have for Pantheon. In fact, we’re so excited that we want to do whatever we can to help Brad get Pantheon funded! In a joint effort with Visionary Realms, both Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen and Shroud of the Avatar are offering a cross-game cloak to those who back both projects. Pantheon will feature a Shroud of the Avatar symbol (Lord British’s Coat of Arms) emblazoned on a cloak in their game, while Shroud of the Avatar will have a cloak bearing the Pantheon symbol.
“There is no doubt that Brad McQuaid led Everqest to become the standard bearer against which all other MMO’s would be compared, and most have been patterned,” says Richard “Lord British” Garriott. “Just as I hope fans are excited about the return of the King of Britannia in Shroud of the Avatar, I have no doubt that Brad McQuaid will lead Pantheon to fulfill and expand the vision he began in the earliest days of the MMO era, and grow it into the future. I for one, look forward to what I will again learn from his leadership in gaming.”
“The opportunity to work with Portalarium is extremely exciting, not just in terms of what we can do together with our games, but also on a very personal level,” says Brad McQuaid. “Lord British has been a hero of mine since I was a teen, and ultimately was responsible for inspiring me into the video game industry. Ultima II was the first time I realized what a virtual world was and could be. When I experienced that, my life was forever changed. It became a passion, and eventually a career. Lord British and Portalarium continue to be an inspiration with ‘Shroud of the Avatar.’ It’s a perfect example of how the core elements of games from years past can continue to influence and innovate in today’s industry.”
“While Ultima Online is credited with getting the MMO genre started it was really Everquest, coming shortly after, that ended up defining the genre, even to this day,” says Starr Long (SotA Executive Producer and original Producer of UO). “Brad and his merry band created a game heavily focused on adventuring and complex group play that every successful MMO since has emulated. Visionary Reams and Portalarium are both on a journey to bring fans another set of immersive worlds so it is exciting to be helping each other in our endeavors.”
All of us at Portalarium first learned of Pantheon when we heard Chris Spears (SotA Technical Director) gleefully yelping from his office down the hall. Seems that Chris is a Brad McQuaid/Everquest Fanboy of the highest order! “How much did I love EQ?” says Chris. “A school year has 180 days in it, 7 hours a day, for 12 years, that works out to 15120 hours or 630 days. My Shaman in EQ, named Tood Eloo on Bertox server, had almost 600 days played when I finally gave up EQ to focus on being a better game developer and husband. Think about that, I spent almost as much time playing EQ as I spent in all of 1st through 12th grade! For me EQ was so addictive because it was so challenging and failure came with serious consequences which also brought a real tension to the game. I can’t remember how many times I played till midnight and minutes before logging off I would die deep in a dungeon and spend the next 3 hours doing a corpse run. Even more thrilling, were raids on zones with 60 guild mates that would take 8 hours to fight to the final boss only to die in seconds to the final boss in seconds and then spend hours with the guild recovering 60 corpses. I know to the average WoW player, they simply won’t understand but it was this sense of real danger that made both EQ and UO feel so much different than games today where failure doesn’t come with punishment.” Thankfully, we will have Shroud of the Avatar launched before we have to worry about losing Chris to endless hours playing Pantheon!
To qualify for the special Pantheon/SotA cross-game cloak you must be a Pantheon backer at the FALLEN’S SPECIAL PLEDGE tier (or higher) and the SotA FIRST RESPONDER (Kickstarter) / ADVENTURER (post-Kickstarter) Pledge tier (or higher). So, if you’re as big a fan of Brad’s games as we are, then head over to the Pantheon Kickstarter site and pledge your support!
“Hearts of Britannia” Valentine’s Poetry Competition!
The Bards of Poets’ Circle, on authority of Royal Warrant, are hosting an Official Competition! Winners of the competition shall be personally rewarded by Lord British and his Court, and have their work performed by Grandmaster Bard Holt Ironfell!
Come one come all, and prepare your submissions for the First Annual “Hearts of Britannia Valentine Day Poetry Slam!” Muster the Truest of Courage, the spirit needed for Love! (Or Trolling.)
Show us how to treat a Lady right, or how to make a grown Knight blush. Impress the beautiful & resourceful Dame Lori or the handsome rockstar & Space Bard Sir Dom with your undying adoration and win the Grand Prize!
To make things challenging: the true author, whether man or woman, peasant or noble, is kept secret from the recipient! Leave it to the target of our affections to decide whose heart is true!
Secondary Prizes will be awarded for love poetry meant for Lord British, Firelotus, Stephen Daniele or Starr Long.
Selected readings Dramatically Narrated by Holt himself to their recipients in a special Google Hangout on February 15th!
After the prize winners have been narrated, and revealed (if so desired by the poet in question) there will be a public Roast, where the most hilarious runner-ups are also anonymously read aloud in theatrical fashion.
Finalists will be reviewed for eventual inclusion in-game! Prizes too be announced shortly, so get writing, poets!
MAY THE BEST POETS WIN LUV 4 ALL TIME!
Additionally the Poets’ Circle are making music for Shroud of the Avatar and to help that effort they are holding a fundraiser to purchase instruments to record the music. Please help if you can: http://poetscircle.net/donations/
Blade of the Avatar Novel: Chapter 7
The latest installment 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 the latest installment (illustration by Denis Loubet):
Chapter 7: Awry
“Is it night?” Aren asked.
“I’m tired enough for it to be night,” Syenna sighed. “So it might as well be.”
Syenna and Aren stood on an outcropping of rock at the top of the cliff face that overlooked the Hellfire Rift. It was, perhaps, the most inhospitable terrain he had ever viewed. The jagged peaks thrust upward as sharp as finely-honed knives on either side of what passed for a wide valley floor of the Hellfire Rift. The rift itself was a bleeding wound in the world that never healed. Shifting pools of lava sputtered and spit molten rock into slow-moving rivers that glowed with unspeakable heat and shifted down their courses only to cascade back down into crevices once more. In the far distance, through the dreamlike shimmering of the heat waves rising from the molten floor and the haze of ash and smoke, Aren could see a shattered mountain. Great plumes of smoke and ash rose from its maw, feeding the perpetual storm that raged overhead and blotting out the sun and sky as far as he could see. Lancing webs of lightning were being woven among those terrible clouds, constantly fed by the ash and the heat from below. Any forests or vegetation that might once have been here had long since burned away, leaving only the raw stone, sand, and occasional steamy, acidic rain.
Download your copy of the latest installment of BotA to read the rest of this exciting chapter!
For your map puzzle collection:
Early Founder Knight Village Waterfront Lighthouse
This week’s Parade of Homes features the Founder Knight Waterfront Lighthouse, available as an Early Founder reward in the Knight level pledge. Crafted by Bob Cooksey and Michael Hutchison, this two-story, waterfront lighthouse features two spacious rooms, with a circular deck on the roof.
Founder Tier Pets
The Founder pledge tier basic rewards includes your choice of one (1) of these three non-combat pets: Greyhound, Raven, or Siamese Cat!
Virtual Collector Iolo Lute
Included in the basic rewards of the Virtual Collector pledge tier, this unique, in-game, musical lute was specially designed by David “Iolo” Watson! If you missed it during our Kickstarter campaign, check out Lord British’s video Interview with Iolo, the beloved Bard, and Companion of the Avatar from the Ultima Series.
Early Founder Royal Artisan Iolo Crossbow
Smelting Tongs of Prosperity
These unique, indestructible smelting tongs increases the quality and quantity of items produced when smelting. While smelting tongs with similar effects can be crafted and purchased in the game these tongs never need repair.
For a limited time we’re offering 33% off! Reserve yours now (or send as a gift) at the Add-On Store!
Stretch Goals: Lord British vs. Darkstarr
Hear Ye! Hear Ye!
Be it known that Lord British hath challenged me, Darkstarr to a fencing match whilst both wearing puffy shirts. I, Darkstarr hath accepted said match pending the achievement of $3.25 Million in funding! Huzzah!
Be it also known that should such funding be achieved by Release 3 (Feb 20) then Rustic Dragon shall train Darkstarr in the fencing arts and this training shall be captured in a video montage with music!
Be it also known that should such funding reach $3.3M by Release 3 (Feb 20) then the loser of said tourney shall go jump in a lake!
To Sum Up:
- $3.25M = LB vs. Darkstarr Fencing in puffy shirts
- $3.25M by Feb 20 = Training Montage
- $3.3M by Feb 20 = Loser jumps in the lake
Purchase, Transfer, or Gifting of Founder Pledges (and Referral Bonus Benefit)
During our Kickstarter campaign we got numerous requests from the community to allow the purchase of multiple pledges on a single account so they could purchase pledges for friends and family. We added that ability and included it in the one year grace period at the end of the Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/project…of-the-avatar-forsaken-virtues-0/posts/448973). The intent of this functionality was purely for that type of social philanthropy.
Recently, we fixed a bug where the purchase of additional Founder pledges was at Benefactor pricing and this raised this issue to a more public discussion. We do realize that there is potential for abuse in that system but we cannot go back on this promise we made to our 22K+ Founders. We can and will however police any abuse of this system that we see. Specifically, if you observe individuals charging other players a fee to receive a Founder pledge please send a ticket to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will address the situation.
We realize that this can feel like it sets up an unfair situation where those of you who are Benefactors, and heavily invested, would see others receive Founder status when you cannot. However, we also hope you realize that you now have a tool that lets you network with the community to upgrade your pledge to Founder status by finding a willing Founder patron. That patron can gift / transfer you a Founder pledge before the cutoff date which you can then merge with your existing Benefactor pledge to turn it into a Founder pledge.
Referral Bonus for Gifted Pledges!
Early Founders who wish to act as patrons to their family, friends, guildmates, or members of the SotA community, will also continue to receive the $25 Referral Bonus for every additional pledge they purchase as a gift for others. Not only are you helping out others to become Founders, but you are also growing your own pledge account by $25 every time you do! Win-win for everyone!
We’ve created the Player Marketplace area in the forums to help facilitate these transactions between our community members and we ask that you keep these transactions in that section.
Hurry and take advantage of this tremendous offer as there are only 66 days remaining until the Early Founder Pledge Promotion ends on April 7, 2014.
[NOTE: Any pledge payment plans started prior to April 8, 2014 will remain in effect at the original Early Founder price until that plan is completed or cancelled. Until we automate the process, you can send a request to email@example.com to have your pledges merged.]