Update of the Avatar #81 – 2014.07.11: SotA a RTX Hit, PvP, Sword of Ba’Heer, ONBE Medals, We Need Your NPCs, and More!

Greetings Fellow Avatars!

Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:

  • SotA a Hit at RTX!
  • Are You Ready for some PvP?
  • Dame Lori and Sir Frank Receive ONBE medals via Robot Lord British
  • People Playing Together: A Worthy and Inspiring Purpose
  • Alienware Sponsors 1000 Access Keys and Prizes for Release 8
  • Dev+ Backers: We Need Your NPCs
  • Sword of the Ba’Heer
  • Starr Long Keynotes DragonCon Videogames Track
  • Layaway Plan for Player Owned Towns
  • In The News
  • Upcoming Events

SotA a Hit at RTX!


RTX_logoWhat a blast RTX was last weekend! Over 30,000 attendees flooded the Austin Convention Center during the RTX weekend event! The attendees were not your usual hard-core MMO gamers, so we had the opportunity to introduce Shroud of the Avatar to thousands of players that had never heard of it before! And they loved it! Several team members and their significant others hosted the booth, including Starr Long, Rick & Brekken Holtrop, Finn Staber, Brandon Cotton, Joseph Toschlog, Ken Pfile, Geoff and Becca Mellon, Chris Spears, and even one of our Lord of the Manor backers, “Winfield”! They all said the response was 100% positive from everyone they demonstrated the game to! Here are a few pics from the event:








Are You Ready for some PvP?

Passions (and smack talk) have been running rampant at the Portalarium office the past couple of weeks as the entire team is embroiled in PvP every morning, getting it ready for prime time in Release 8! At 11:00 am every day the entire dev team assembles online at the Castle Arena Basement for 30 minutes of PvP Free-For-All!

The first week was pretty chaotic since none of us really knew what we were doing, and first iterations had a few bugs getting in the way. But by the second week, we were all getting a little better, and the bugs were getting fewer. The production room (me, Starr, and Rick) were the reigning kings for about 1 day due to forming a party and coordinating our attacks, but the rest of the office caught on quick and the next day there were two artist teams, a couple of programmer teams, the designer team, and the QA team. I could be wrong, but it seemed to me they were all cooperating to kill the production team. Needless to say, we’re having a lot of fun with it and look forward to getting all of your feedback when Release 8 launches in just 12 days!

PvP Option for Player Owned Towns

Community member Duke Violation suggested that we allow players to be able to set Open PvP for their player owned towns and we thought that was a brilliant idea, so we’re adding that option to the Owner’s Console for Player Owned Towns! Thanks Duke Violation!

Hangout of the Avatar Developer Roundtable ~ PvP Edition

Chris Spears hosted a special PvP Edition of Hangout of the Avatar yesterday, accompanied by Richard Garriott, Starr Long, and Firelotus! The community posted lots of great questions so if you weren’t able to attend then be sure and check out the video:

Combat and PVP Team update!

Chris started public and Dev+ forum posts to track the team progress on PvP/Combat for Release 8. Here’s an excerpt from the public forum post (which has exploded into 26 pages…go figure):

We are now one (short) week into our 8 or 9 week sprint to make combat and PVP FUN! While the team as a whole is always redefining what it means to be agile developers, we’re taking it up a notch further while working on this particular section.

We went and found the people on the team most interested in it, cleared their schedules of almost all other work, and are having them focus exclusively on PVP and combat. Every day we do a PVP play session together with the whole team. After the session, the small group involved with combat get together and discuss what stuff needs the most love for that day. We write it all on a whiteboard and decide who is going to be working on which items. Tasks are created and assigned and then the whiteboard is erased.

Every day we’re following that procedure and just hitting the items that were most obvious. About 50% of the work is stuff we knew about, designed, and planned on and the other 50% is stuff that was not at all obvious until we really started getting our hands dirty. We’re rapidly approaching the point where instead of playing to find bugs, exploits, and problems, we’re playing because we want to WIN.

I’ll post what got done in our first week of work here. To keep the conversation smaller, I’ll be posting future weeks over in Dev Plus section!

Changes for week one of the PVP Team of NINJAS:

  • Enable PVP!!!!!
  • Spell/ability interruption – Definable concentration length for spells followed by execute length. For spells that cannot be interrupted, the concentration length is zero and the execute length is the casting time
  • Made moving/emotes/jumping interrupt spell/skills if movement occurs during concentration time
  • Player no longer turns to face target if they are out of range
  • Fix so only one spell/ability can be cast at a time
  • Fix for collider when player is dead so dead things are easier to click on
  • Correctly sync other player’s health
  • Add variable cast lengths
  • Updated network messages to properly show stat effects
  • Updates so party members can be attacked
  • Update faction system to handle players attacking other players
  • Made it so you can target yourself
  • F1 targets yourself. F2-F6 targets party members.
  • Pressing alt while using an ability makes it cast on yourself without losing your current target
  • Targeting now breaks at long range
  • If you don’t have a target and you get attacked, the attacker is auto targetted
  • Your current target shows up with name, health, focus on your screen. (likely will pull focus off)
  • Combat logging and metrics parsing (confirmed, everyone uses fireball way too much!)
  • Remove character effects on death
  • Restore full focus on resurrection (this needs eval)
  • You can now click on party member UI on screen to target them
  • Fixed emotes so they can’t be used when dead. (Duh! but was fun confusing people)
  • Hotbar icons now grey out if target is not in range
  • Added cool down timer to hotbar icons (Greys out and then fills with color with a clock motion)
  • Show healthbars for all players if name plates are on
  • Weapon stat tuning
  • Added “Whisper” and “Invite to party” to right click player menu
  • Added a very basic character stats window
  • Tweaks for wand/staff mana use
  • Fix for Root spell. (It was making the players move at -100X their speed due to mix up on due to not knowing something was normalized vs percent. This was a fun bug.)
  • Creation of and optimization of castle arena basement for use as test PVP space

For those wondering, the PVP/Combat ninjas are B “Bzus” [Brandon Cotton], Justin [Gilbert] “Oneandonly”, and Ken [Pfile] “Burning Toad”. I’m cracking the whip on the ninjas and helping direct them but don’t have time to do enough real “Ninja” work to claim a ninja title. Starr, Richard, and a few others are also joining in on PVP conversations to sanity check our decisions as always.

This week we’ll probably get more into the details and start fixing some specific skills and making sure every skill has a purpose! Dev Plus people can look forward to more detailed posts on this topic in the coming weeks!

As always, thanks for reading my wordy post!

Chris “Dippy Dragon” Spears

Dame Lori and Sir Frank Receive ONBE medals via Robot Lord British

It was a special treat to see Dame Lori, Sir Frank, and Lord Jouten at the Portalarium office today! Dame Lori and Sir Frank had recently been awarded the Orders of New Britannia Empire (ONBE) for their outstanding community contributions. However, they had not yet received their actual ONBE medals, so today, hailing from New York via robot, Lord British personally awarded them their Orders of New Britannia medals. Check out the video:


People Playing Together: A Worthy and Inspiring Purpose

Dame Lori’s visit to our office today reminded me of something she wrote a couple months ago that I’ve been wanting to share with the community. Before I share what she wrote, let me first share some backstory.

Several years ago a colleague of mine was expressing his discomfort that, as an MMO game developer, he wasn’t really doing anything important with his life. He felt it important that he, somehow, needed to make a difference in the world or his life would have no meaning. At that time I had just returned to the gaming industry after taking a 10 year sabbatical to study the collective wisdom of humanity on the subject of happiness and well-being. That collective wisdom had unequivocally determined that a sense of belongingness was the single greatest factor contributing to a person’s happiness and well-being. My colleague’s distress prompted me to write an article that would help him, and others, to realize that we are making a huge difference in the world when we create online environments that bring people together and help them stay connected with each other, increasing their sense of belonginess, which improves their general sense of happiness and well-being. Here is the link to that article should you wish to see the reasoning and research behind this collective wisdom: http://dallassnell.com/?p=12

Portalarium was founded to achieve this same purpose: to make a difference in the world by bringing people together. You can read it in the opening statement on Portalarium’s Company Culture page:

Our Purpose: To provide fun games and virtual worlds that foster community, good will, learning, and people playing together

Now, back to Dame Lori. A couple months ago Gina “Firelotus” sent me a link to something Dame Lori wrote and said I needed to read it. I’m always worried when Gina does that because it usually means there’s a thread on the forums that is flaming out of control. Dame Lori has always been a positive influence on the SotA community so I couldn’t imagine why Gina felt it was important that I review something she posted. With some small amount of trepidation I clicked on the link, and read the following:

When Shroud of the Avatar was first announced, I danced around like a kid at the idea of a new Ultima-esque game. I pledged money that could have paid for dozens of games. Yet, a year later, I’m at the point where I wouldn’t be devastated if something happened and SotA was not released (my care would really be for LB & the team if that happened) No, not because I’m unhappy with the way it’s going. Not in the least. I embraced the community, the team, the experience, and stayed positive and light-hearted as best I could, rather than troll , bitch, nitpick, blah blah.. And something happened that I never thought would happen – I made friends with people that are like me and have had something silly like a game change their life. I’ve gotten to interact with a developer I’ve admired for a while, and a damn awesome team. I’m getting to take multiple trips to have fun with these people. In other words, I’ve gotten my pledge worth, and I’ve had another life-altering experience, just like Ultima gave me years ago. That’s what I was hoping for when SotA was announced, and you know what, it already happened. Lord British did it again. The fact that a fun game will come out of this is now a delightful bonus.

Thank you Gina for sending me that link, for knowing it was something that would be important to me. I readily admit that I got a little misty-eyed when I read Lori’s words, because they indicated that we at Portalarium are accomplishing our founding purpose. There are many, many other such statements from countless other community members, expressing these same sentiments, sometimes to us, sometimes to each other, and sometimes just through their actions. This new, groundbreaking way to make a game, where all of you are involved with us for the entire journey of development, is allowing us all to “play together” long, long before the game is ever finished in the traditional sense, making us feel a sense of belonginess never experienced in this way before. To paraphrase from my original article:

No, we’re not doctors saving lives, scientists curing diseases, ambassadors negotiating world peace, or charities feeding the starving masses.

We make games for people to play together.

This is the greater value, the greater meaning, the greater purpose that provides some of us with the driving force and the guiding star that inspires us to excellence.

People playing together – it is indeed a worthy and inspiring purpose.



Alienware Sponsors 1000 Access Keys and Prizes for Release 8

1000 members of Alienware’s Shroud of the Avatar Group will be granted early access to Release 8 (July 24-27). Only one week left for the drawing, so here’s the link to join up and qualify for the Alienware R8 Access Keys giveaway: http://na.alienwarearena.com/giveaways/shroud-of-the-avatar-release-8-key-giveaway

In addition, Alienware is sponsoring prizes to be given away randomly to players that log in to Release 8 during the weekend access period. Stay tuned to a future update for more details…

Alienware Sponsors $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupon

Alienware’s powerful gaming rigs are a perfect match for Shroud of the Avatar! To show their support, Alienware is sponsoring $20 SotA Pledge Upgrade Coupons to members of their Alienware Arena community!

These coupons can be used to start a SotA pledge account (for new backers), or to add $20 to an existing pledge account. If, for example, you have a $90 Royal Artisan Pledge, you can use the Alienware coupon to bump you up to a $110 Virtual Collector Pledge.

Pretty sweet deal, right? So, hurry over to the Alienware Arena website and get your $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupon now!

[NOTE: Only one Alienware Pledge Upgrade Coupon can be used per account. Coupon does not apply to Add-On Store items]

Dev+ Backers: We Need Your NPCs

As part of the Developer pledge rewards, players can make their mark in the game world through helping to create a character in the game as well as naming them. We’ve opened up submissions for the mainland city of Ardoris this week (currently planned to be released as part of R8), so now’s your time to flex your creativity! Here is the forum post (available only to backers at the Developer pledge tier or above):

Thank you for your support of Shroud of the Avatar! We’re ready to start adding backers as NPCs into the game, as inhabitants of the city of Ardoris for Release 8.

First, some brief notes:

  • We have well over 2,000 backers at the Developer tier who qualify for this reward. We had discussed if there was any way to enable that many backers to supply dialogue for their NPCs but as some of you already surmised, given the sheer number of NPCs to be added, that isn’t going to be possible. We still *very* much want to bring player-written NPCs into the game, and will continue to discuss how best to make that happen while still maintaining a high level of quality and polish for our game’s story and dialogue.
  • NPC visual customization, as you may have noticed, is still at a very early stage in development. Right now for the backers who want to be added to Ardoris, we cannot offer any visual customization options beyond our standard gallery of NPC models. If you would like to have input over the visual customization of your NPC, please wait for further releases when we can offer this.
  • Response to this will be on a first-come first-served basis for each call for responses. If your NPC doesn’t appear in Ardoris, feel free to respond again next month and thereafter. We have quite a few towns and cities to populate!
  • When responding, please list a first and second choice for profession; some of these are going to be very limited in number.Still with us? Great! Here’s what we need this month (this is the low end of what we expect to need; we’ll take submissions on a first-come first-serve basis):

Click here to read the rest of this forum post for instructions on submitting your NPC!

Sword of the Ba’Heer

As one of the recently added Knight pledge rewards, our good friend Ernie Cline has allowed us to include the Sword of the Ba’Heer from his best-selling novel, “Ready Player One”. It is a starting level weapon that includes precious metals and jewels that can be used to enchant the sword, and comes with permanent enchantment of being a light source.

Starr Long Keynotes DragonCon Videogames Track

Starr Long has been selected as the keynote speaker for the Videogames Track at this year’s DragonCon! If you are attending then be sure to check out his talk on “Technology Trends for Videogames” at 10:00 am on August 29th!

Read about all the DragonCon activities as well as additional Hangouts of the Avatar, SyndCon, Pax Prime, and other events on our Upcoming Events Page.

Layaway Plan for Player Owned Towns


The Player Owned Towns have turned out to be even more popular than we anticipated! Many players are excited at the prospect of owning their own town in SotA, but can’t afford the one-time full payment. To help those players achieve their goal, we’ve moved Player Owned Towns out of the Add-On Store and created the Player Owned Town Store, which allows us to offer a monthly payment plan as well as a one-time payment option.



This Week In the News

July 03 – Pocket Tactics: Richard Garriott designs Magic the Gathering card
July 05 – Massively: Stream of Release 7 Weekend 2
July 07 – The Digital Antiquarian: The Road to Ultima IV
July 08 – FanboyTV: Starr Long interview at RTX
July 08 – Maxim: Richard Garriott named one of “The 6 Most Interesting Men You Can Actually Meet”


Upcoming Events

2014.07.24 – Release 8 Access
2014.07.30 – Monthly Video Hangout: R8 & R9 Discussion
2014.08.09 – SotA at synDCon
2014.08.21 – Release 9 Access
2014.08.27 – Monthly Video Hangout: R9 & R10 Discussion
2014.08.29 – SotA at PAX Prime Seattle
2014.08.29 – SotA at Dragoncon
2014.09.25 – Release 10 Access
2014.10.01 – Monthly Video Hangout: R10 & R11 Discussion
2014.10.23 – Release 11 Access
2014.10.24 – SotA at Captivate
2014.10.29 – Monthly Video Hangout: R11 & R12 Discussion
2014.11.14 – Duke & Lord of the Manor VIP Design Roundtable with Lord British and Portalarium Studio Tour
2014.11.15 – HoBLotH II: Legends of the Hearth
2014.11.20 – Release 12 Access
2014.11.26 – Monthly Video Hangout: R12 & R13 Discussion
2014.12.18 – Release 13 Access



    PvP option for player towns is a great idea and selling point. Portalarium should use that to reach out to some top PvP guilds.

  2. TheMadHermitTheMadHermit

    Very nice update. Love how you personalized it and included your insightful research on happiness and well-being. Thanks for sharing Dallas.

  3. licemeatlicemeat

    Woah…good idea getting the star studded power of Heisenberg to visit the RTX booth.

  4. Vyse ArcadiaVyse Arcadia

    So cool that Richard Garriott has is name on a magic card and was part of the design. I will be sure to get a play set of that one!! There is only one thing I love as much as the worlds Richard Garriott has created and that is playing Magic the Gathering :-) To me that is such a neat honor.

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