Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 10 access for all backers at First Responder level and above (as well as those who signed up at PAX Prime and DragonCon*) begins this Thursday, September 25 at 10:30 AM Central Time. Release 10 access will end on Monday, September 29 at 10:00 AM Central Time. Starting today, you can begin installing and patching (see instructions below), but login will not be enabled until Thursday morning.
*Reminder that if you signed up via PAX, Dragoncon, Plantronics, Alienware, or MMORPG.com you MUST register on our website with the same email you entered for those promotions or you will not be able to play the game. You will NOT be receiving a key nor a separate email from this one.
We are very excited for all of you to get into this release and start giving us feedback. As a reminder, approximately every three months we focus a release mostly on polish and that is what Release 10 was focused on. Despite that focus, we did manage to get quite a bit of new content in as well.
We also made changes to increase player population densities in the game because we observed players becoming more and more spread out as we added more scenes; especially scenes with player housing. Speaking of player housing, we also noticed many people claiming houses, but not actually using nor decorating them. To address both these issues, we reduced the number of scenes with player housing and we introduced costs to lot claiming and house deed purchases (deeds can be purchased from the bartender in Owl’s Head). We also reduced the number of PVP arenas to only two. Hopefully this will concentrate the players in fewer areas, and increase the number of decorated buildings. See below for more details on these changes.
We have also seen a slight decline in participation in each release, only offset by newcomers from partner promotions (E3, Alienware, MMORPG.com, etc.). So we are introducing a unique hat that can only be obtained by playing in each release and completing a quest.
Without further ado, here are the R10 deliverables, along with some extra notes and new deliverables in italics.
RELEASE 10, September 25 – 28 2014:
- Stability: Updates to item architecture, characters, and other systems will hopefully improve stability and prevent characters from getting into bad states that prevent logging in or loading maps.
- Load Time Improvements: Load times will be better for most scenes. This will be most noticeable in adventure scenes. City scenes still have fairly long load times due to how we load house data but those issues will be addressed in a later release.
- PVP: The Team PVP arena and possibly the Open Team Arena will be modified to support spectators.
- Spectator Mode: There is now a third entrance from the staging area in the Team PVP arena that takes you to the galleries above the main battle pit. This entrance has a large Oracle eye over the door. These galleries allow you to observe the battle while preventing you from participating.
- New Virtue Symbol: The ankh representing the virtue team has been changed to our new virtue symbol (aka the infinity cross) since the ankh is our symbol for life magic.
- Duels: Players can now duel one-on-one anywhere in the game by right clicking. This was originally an R12 task that we managed to pull in super early!
- Combat Skills: Players now will start with a default deck equipped that is the sum total of your “spent” skill points. You can modify this deck simply by adjusting your skill points, no need to open the deck building interface. Additionally a few more combos and a small handful of new skills will be available.
- Starting Deck Revamp: We completely revamped the four starting decks so they are much more like starting decks instead of expert type decks. We also matched your starting gear to the decks so that you won’t get as many slugs. Additionally, everyone starts equipped with a deck that is set to fully locked mode so we can transition people to the new system more gradually.
- Auto Deck: If you don’t wish to use or modify decks you can equip the Auto Deck which automatically creates a deck for you as you add (or subtract) skill points. This deck also automatically filters out any skills you from the deck if they don’t match your equipped gear. Note that if your deck is below the 20 skill minimum however, those will appear as slugs.
- Universal Cool Down Abolished: The much hated universal cool down when discarding skills is no more! Yay!
- Focus Costs: The focus cost of glyphs now appears in the tooltips for each glyph.
- Combo List: You can now view all combos via a tab on the skill list.
- Combat Skill Costs: Higher level skills cost more points now. This was to better balance high level spells like fireball and summon elemental against lower level skills.
- Combo Highlighting: Glyphs that can be used in a combo now highlight on the bar so they are easier to learn.
- Power Up Combos: Glyphs can be combined with other copies of the same glyph to create a powered up version of that glyph that uses less focus, casts faster, and has greater results. For example combining two Flame Fists together makes a more powerful Flame Fist.
- Deck Swapping: You can now swap your equipped deck in combat by designating one of your decks as your Alternate Deck and then hitting the X key or the blue deck swapping button in the lower right of the screen.
- Follow Through (Tactics): We created a new skill in the tactics tree that reduces fizzle chance for all spells.
- Magic School Naming: Magic school names are changing to more thematic names:
- Thaumaturgy (Life Magic)
- Necromancy (Death Magic)
- Atenism (Sun Magic)
- Lunaism (Moon Magic)
- Gaiaism (Earth Magic)
- Theurgy (Air Magic)
- Tempestry (Water Magic)
- Sorcery (Fire Magic)
- Omnipotence (Focus)
- Names Remain the Same: After much feedback from our backers and our own internal debate we are keeping the spell school names in the skill trees to their original names because they are much more intuitive. We will still use the fancier names in lore and NPC dialogue.
- Scenes: The Ardoris Castle areas will open up to make that city complete. We are also going to experiment with a Challenge Level to test scaling difficulty for combat with and against AI.
- Ardoris Castle of the Winds and Castle of the Mountain: Excerpt from Arabella’s Journals: “Ardoris is one of the largest cities in Novia! It remains a shining example of what a community of people with common purpose can accomplish. Perhaps it is the city’s devotion to Love and Compassion that has allowed this city, to thrive where others have suffered longer through the recover of the world from the ancient cataclysms. The masters of Ardoris, Siranto and Siria (also known as Siri) built twin palaces on the east and west of Ardoris, like two mirror images or opposites, standing tall, facing each other, reaching for each other, and embracing the city between them. Sadly, in recent years, the matriarch and patriarch of this city have themselves become estranged. Some believe that dark forces are at work, else their lifelong bond would easily prevail. In fact, in the nearby swamps a dark tower has arisen and rumors spread of a dark lich and his symbol of three intertwined snakes of poisonous green color. Some say this adulteration of the silver serpent of Lord British is indeed an ominous sign… What evil forces could be at work here against this bastion of virtue?”
- Oracle Confirmatory: The Oracle confirmatory has been improved with eyes that follow you as you walk around it and a screen that allows you to speak to the Oracle. New minor quests have been added to Ardoris. Many of these reflect on how you feel about the virtue of love. Other NPCs may react to this, and you can ask the Oracle about her observations on how you have progressed. Excerpt from Arabella’s Journals: “While the virtues of the old world are all but forgotten to most of the people of New Britannia, the ideals of Truth, Love and Courage are revered by a stalwart few and recently a growing cult that espouses these principles, has begun to spread around the land. “The Oracle” as she is called, is a mysterious being, and her followers have erected “Confirmatories” in many major cities, and her Omnipotent flying and crawling “eyes” can be seen “observing” in more and more places throughout the lands. Her supporters claim, she is a bastion of the ways of virtue, here only to guide and inform those who wish to remember and rekindle a path of virtue. Her detractors claim, she is a manipulative and autocratic ruler who must be stopped. It is up to each individual to decide what if anything she may mean to them! Some cities clearly support her, while others have destroyed her confirmatories and drive off her followers. The Island of the Hidden Vale has rejected her guidance, and remains mostly free of her influence and observation… but at what cost?”
- Vertas Pass: Our newest map is a fortified mountain pass occupied by Dark Elves and is also the first map to feature a snowy environment, including snow (our first weather effect). It can be accessed via the Lunar Rift in Owlshead. Note that this map will be one of the Control Points in the game and we hope to get it functioning that way as soon as the next release. Excerpt from Arabella’s Journals: “Novia was shattered, as was most all parts of New Britannia, with the fall of the moons. Some regions were laid low, while others rose up, in the mighty cataclysm that reshaped the world. Mountain ranges now segregate wide swaths of Novia, where commerce once traveled easily. Today the few mountain passes that cross these mountains, often become places of ambush or battle, as control of these areas often implies control of the surrounding regions. One such pass which citizens struggle to keep clear is Vertas Pass. Dark Elves, remnants of the Obsidian Wars, feel this pass is within THEIR territory, and bar it from ANY other race. Woe be it to the traveling explorer or merchant, who needs to cross these mountains, when the flag of the Dark Elves flies over the high fortress!”
- The Challenge Dungeon: This dungeon is now up and running and it is living up to its name by presenting quite a challenge near the end. It can be accessed in Braemar at the default starting point for new players. This dungeon will give us extremely valuable testing data for improving our AI and the PVE experience. Rumor has it that this dungeon may be the path to Lich Mountain!
- Plains & Road & Hills Scene Polish: These scenes that are unmarked by points of interest got a visual overhaul towards a more finished and aesthetically pleasing look.
- Music: A pass was made throughout the game to update each map with the most recent music submissions.
- Lunar Rift Change Speed: The Owlshead Lunar Rift now changes destination much more frequently (every five minutes to be precise).
- Explorers Guild Quest: Starting with R10, we have a new type of quest, called the Grand Tour. You can talk to any Tour Guide (one is near where new players appear, in Braemar) to begin the quest. Visiting all the Tour Guides (who are stationed near the new content introduced with that release) will earn a reward for your account (for R10, a Cavalier’s Hat). This reward can only be unlocked during that release (did someone say rares?), so be sure to complete the Grand Tour before the release is over!
- Scene Concentration: As we have added more scenes to the game, our players have gotten more dispersed which has created the dreaded ghost town feel to many of the scenes, especially (and ironically) the many player towns. To improve player density we have removed all of the player towns except for Valemark, The Brave Coast, Holtrot and Northshire. We also removed all of the PVP arenas except for the Open PVP Castle Arena in Owl’s Head and the Team PVP Castle Arena in Braemar. We know that this lowers the amount of player housing available, but the vast majority of houses were being claimed but not used.
- Dungeon Scene Connectors: In R9 we connected all the underground areas to each other as a first pass at the Vale Underworld, but those connections made navigation confusing. So, we have unified these connections to all be hatches that you click on so you are more aware that you are about to leave your current scene.
- Creatures: An updated version of the wolf and our first dog (the Rottweiler) will appear in the game.
- Wolves & Rottweilers: The updated wolves can be found in the various forest maps and the Rottweilers are currently being used as guard dogs in various cities of the land.
- Lich Mage & Lich Archer: variations of the Lich can be found in the sewers below Owlshead and Kingsport.
- New Slime Behaviors: Slimes now only split when hit with physical damage. Legend says slimes were originally created to keep the sewers clear of obstructions. You can now see this in the game as they are attracted to corpses which they “eat” (which speeds up the fade out rate). Make sure to kill them before they destroy your hard earned loot!
- AI Agro System: Our NPCs are now on a functioning Agro system which we plan to refine and iterate on in R11. This means combat skills and magic spells will now generate various levels of hostility when fighting creatures. This paves the way for skills like Taunt that manage agro during a fight.
- Crafting: Adjustments will be made so that characters who were scaled up or down during character creation will animate properly with crafting tables. We will also add another round of visual effects to tables that do not yet have any (Milling, Carpentry, etc.)
- Overworld as a Real Scene: The Overworld map will move to a real scene. This will allow us to easily add features like animating avatars, full user interface access, etc.
- Animating Avatar & Movement: The overworld is now a real scene and therefore has your avatar animating on it. Just like in “regular” scenes, you can navigate with WASD.
- Enter Scene button: We also changed it so that there is an ENTER button that you use to enter a scene (versus double clicking like it formerly was).
- Visual Effects Polish: We are going to work on various environmental effects (smoke, steam, falling leaves, etc.) to get them working better with lighting.
- Combat Effects: Many new visual effects were added for combat & magic skills (screenshake for the Earthquake spell, improved projectiles, better fire effects, missing sigils, etc).
- Environmental Effects: Improvements were made to various effects like the falling leaves, fires, etc. We also added our first weather effect with the snow in Vertas Pass.
- Death and near Death Screen Effects: When you die the screen changes to black and white, and death wisps surround your field of view as you gaze upon your avatar’s corpse from beyond.
- Character Customization: At least one new facial feature will come online. Additionally an update to how we handle hair and facial hair will add layers, transparency, and animations.
- Cheek & Jaw Options: players can now modify various aspects of the cheek and jaw structures of their avatars which gives even greater flexibility of appearance.
- Hair: all hair styles now support layers, transparency, and animations. The actual textures and shaders will continue to get iterated on over the next several releases.
- Bigger Beards: We added a few bigger beard options for those who were feeling facial hair challenged.
- User Interface Polish: We made various improvements to the user interface to improve usability and add functionality
- Context Sensitive Cursors: your mouse cursor shape and color will now change based on context including combat stance, range, target (NPC vs. object), etc. For instance when you are in combat the cursor becomes a sword.
- Shopping Cart: The beloved shopping cart returns along with the signature line!
- Removed Bag Slots: The bag/items slots at the bottom of the Character sheet were causing all sorts of issues and while useful in some cases were just repetitive of nested containers that we already support so we removed them.
- Tab Targeting Neutrals: You can now use tab targetting against neutral characters if there are no hostile enemies nearby. Poor bunnies!
- Recipe Book Illuminations: The recipe book now includes fancy border decorations much like an illuminated manuscript
- Player House Decorations: We fixed a ton of places where decorations could not be placed in or on houses. We will continue these fixes in R11 with the goal that all of them will be addressed by R12 at the latest.
- Lot Border Indicators: Lot borders glow when decorating. This helps when placing items in lots that have no fences.
- Crafting Station Lights: We also made the light sources on crafting stations bigger and brighter (since they count against your per property lighting limit).
- Wireless Device: The wireless device (a pledge reward for Developer+) is now in the game as a home decoration and is tuned to Avatar’s Radio. You can find this on a couple of vendors in the game. This device was built by community members Bubonic (art) and Joviex (code).
- Sitting Improvements: We made a few improvements to sitting, including making benches allow multiple players to sit on them and the camera can now zoom in and out while you are sitting.
- Summoned Pets: Various improvements were made to summoned creatures including behaviors, health decay (balance) and commands.
- Summoned Pet Health Decay: To better balance summoned pets we have made their health decay over time. This makes it so summoners have to spend focus to either keep the health up or resummon the pet if it dies.
- Pet Commands: We have implemented a first pass of pet commands in the game. They can be accessed via right click menus and will pave the way for taming and a broader pet system in later releases. Commands in R10 are:
- Click on Target:
- Click on Pet:
- Teleport (snap back into owner’s location)
- Defensive (attack any target that attacks owner)
- Aggressive (attack any hostile nearby)
- Passive (do not attack unless specifically ordered to)
- Click on Target:
- Weapons & Wearables Polish: We fixed various sorting issues with armor, clothes, helmets, and weapons. There is a known issue where hats and helmets turn off hair but that will not be fixed until R11. We also added a handful of new wearables including:
- Admiral’s Boots
- Admiral’s Chest Armor
- Admiral’s Gloves
- Admiral’s Hat
- Admiral’s Leggings
- Elven Bow
- Sword of the Ba’Heer
- Lord of the Manor Crown
- Knight Marshal’s Winged Helm
- Duke’s Crown
- Cavalier’s Hat (R10 Quest Reward)
- Emotes Polish: We fixed various issues with emotes including hands sorting through bodies (salute, knighting), the torch disappearing during convo emote, and we sped up the getting up and down for the AFK animation.
- Chat Profanity Filter: Our first pass at a profanity filter for chat is now in the game. It defaults to off, so you will need to go into options to turn it on.
- Remote Triggers: Players can now trigger levers/switches at range with bows and the Gust spell. This can even be done through openings like grates and portcullises.
- Pre-Alpha Confirmation Dialogue: We have added a window that appears when you first login that describes the current pre-alpha state of the game and requires you to acknowledge this state before you can start playing (we stole this idea from our friends over at DayZ).
- Mac Installer: We now have an installer for the Mac version!
So now that it is clear what you can expect, we should also be as clear about what you should not expect:
- Performance: We have only done rudimentary optimizations and we do not yet have a full suite of performance fallbacks (LODs, etc.). This means the game will be quite slow on older 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.
- Crafting: The crafting system is in the game as a framework, but is still missing some key components like repair, events, and enhancement. Skill checks are also not in yet, so results are always 100% successful. Long term, the percentage chance to make items will depend on a myriad of variables and can result in a variety of results including: making the item desired, making a simpler version of the item that will need to be enhanced, or making a damaged version of the item that needs repair.
- Game Loop: Release 10 is a further iteration on our rudimentary game loop, but it is still very bare bones. For instance there is still no character advancement. Expect this to expand with each subsequent release, but it won’t be truly complete until we hit Beta later this year.
- Advanced Player Housing: There are some advanced features for player housing, including basements and ceiling decorations that are not yet integrated. Expect to see these appear in future releases.
- Visual Quality: Efforts to improve visual quality are ongoing. We will continue to iterate on these until we have highly competitive visuals.
- Tutorials: We do not yet have any tutorials to assist players in starting the game. In general, we try to wait as long as possible to implement these so we do not have to constantly redo them as we add new systems or tweak existing ones.
- For this release (and until we get tutorials in near the end of the year), Chris Spears is putting together a gameplay video, explaining many of the new features & improvements.
Here are links to instructions and known issues. 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.
Chris Spears’ Video Guide to Release 10
Check out this video guide that Chris Spears put together to help you get the most out of your Release 10 experience!
We need all your help with testing the new patches, putting more stress on our multiplayer servers, and testing the new game content, so please join us in playing Release 10!
If you have not backed the game yet, you will need to register and login at www.shroudoftheavatar.com, select the “Pledge or Send Gift!” button in the right side-bar, and purchase a pledge at the $45 Adventurer level or above. For a limited time, you can get the Adventurer pledge for only $25 with the Alienware Pledge Upgrade Coupon.