Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 13 access for all backers at First Responder level and above, as well as winners of the Alienware Arena R13 contest and winners from our Cyber Monday telethon, begins this Thursday, December 18 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC).
This far from launch, we are in a constant state of change and we do not yet have in-game systems to inform players of these changes, or to share ways to help them to explore new content and systems. This means we rely entirely on this post/email, and the linked instructions and known issues to convey the current game state. We regularly have to answer questions or filter bug reports because players elect not to read this valuable information. By taking a few moments to read through this information, a great deal of our time and efforts can be redirected to focus on new “unanswered” questions, and addressing critical issues impacting each release. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to review this post, and for all the truly valuable feedback you continue to provide.
When we first released our Q4 2014 schedule over 3 months ago we were quite optimistic about how much we could accomplish in that period of time, while at the same time transitioning to 24/7 uptime with persistence. While we were able to complete as much work as we had planned (and in many cases more) that work ended up being very different than what we first planned. This is what comes out of a very iterative and responsive approach to development. Our velocity is almost exactly what we had hoped but the direction of our efforts varies.
We believe that this approach will result in a much better game than if we simply marched along with a rigid plan that had no room for adaptation. We hope you share that belief and continue to support us on this unique journey.
Release 13 is our first release since launching on Steam Early Access last month and we believe that the changes and additions we have made are making the game both more beautiful and more playable. From the incredible stark beauty of the desert scenes to the rush of flames engulfing your axe, you will find much to enjoy. Of course with new content comes new bugs and balance issues, so help us out by posting bugs and feedback in our official forums.
Also remember while we are providing new content with each release, our community is also working overtime to make new events for you to enjoy so be sure to check out the Community Events Calendar (via in game book or the website).
Please note that December 20 – 28 and January 1 are official company holidays for Portalarium which means there will be no developer presence nor customer support on those dates.
Without further ado, here are the R13 deliverables, along with some extra notes and new deliverables in italics.
RELEASE 13, December 18, 2014
- Steam Early Access: This will be our first update after launching on Steam Early Access on Dec 1st.
- Maps: We will continue to expand the mainland scenes to include Brightbone Pass, Resolute, Xenos and the Paladice Shardfall. We will also add the Shardfall biome to the game along with a shardfall scene (this is the biome for our Open PVP scenes).
- Some Mainland Maps and Shardfall Biome pushed: When we originally built the Q4 2014 schedule we had not yet decided to move away from the generic repeated scenes so we had a much larger list of named mainland maps we were going to make. The shift in strategy to all unique maps required us to spend more time creating and polishing adventure scenes which pushed out the named Mainland maps we had hoped to work on, including the new Shardfall biome. We plan to return to a larger number of mainland maps (and shardfall work) in R14.
- Desert Biome: With each release our goal is to add not only new scenes but also new biomes that allow us to build new kinds of scenes. For R13 we were able to add the Desert Biome.
- Desert Scenes: We have one desert adventure scene in the game now that appears in the arid southwest of the Vale: Wynton’s Folly. We also added a Desert Random Encounter scene.
- Spawn Polish: Each map goes through multiple spawning passes. The first pass is merely to add enough creatures of the appropriate difficulty and type to the map. The second pass is where we prop the map according to where we want the creatures to be (ex. webs where spiders are, skeletons near graveyards, etc.). The final pass is to add movement and conflict so that creatures won’t just be standing around in one place on a map and, in some cases, will even fight other creatures on the map. We did second and third passes on the following maps in R13: West Ravenswood, North Ravenswood, South Ravenswood, Valeway North, and Mysterious Swamp.
- The Graff Gem Mines Entrance: The newest Mainland scene is The Graff Gem Mines, which can be found in the farthest Northeast corner of Novia. Lauran Graff himself founded these rich mines long ago, and they have proven to be the most productive mines of the largest and most valuable gems ever known. Recently however, the difficulties with undead in the region have lead to their temporary abandonment. Rumors of Kobolds moving in to claim the mine’s wealth have also recently been heard. The Lunar Rift in Owl’s Head that formerly took you directly to the Graff Gem Mines now takes you to the entrance map instead.
- Vertas Pass: We added two new waves of tougher elves to the Control Point so there will be a better ramp up in challenge when defending.
- Road Random Encounters: Travelling along roads in the Overworld map now also has the chance to trigger a random encounter.
- Spells & Skills: Air, Earth, and Sun Magic will expand to include more spells. The combat schools of Ranged and Shields will also expand and more combos will be added to the game.
- Shield and Sun Skills delayed: We decided to delay work on Shields because to work properly, we need to expand how positioning in combat works. We also chose to delay work on Sun magic because they require time of day/location effects which are not quite ready.
- New Skills / Spells: We added 16 new skills and modified 2 existing skills in R13. These new skills include our first Chaos magic spell! Note that several of these new spells don’t have final visual effects.
- Tactics: The biggest change in R13 is the addition of combat stances as buffs. NOTE: Stances cannot be stacked with each other, only one stance can be active at a time.
- Offhand Power: Increases damage done with offhand weapons.
- Defensive Stance: Buff that increases defense values but reduces attack speed (was formerly in Heavy Armor).
- Passive Stance: Buff that decreases attack speed, defense values, agro, and movement speed while dramatically increasing regeneration rates and slightly increasing fizzle chance.
- Reckless Stance: Buff that increases attack speed but reduces defense values.
- Berserker Stance: Buff that dramatically increases attack speed, decreases defense values, increases agro, increases strength, and drains focus and life.
- Aimed Shot: Now has a longer cast time but does dramatically more damage.
- Ammo Scavenger: This innate skill increases the number of arrows you find on NPCs.
- Summon Earth Elemental: Summon a powerful Earth Elemental that will cast Earthquake and Root.
- Purify Burst: Removes negative effects on all targets in an area around the caster.
- Banish Undead: Does massive damage to undead creatures (Skeletons, Liches, and Ghosts).
- Undead Mastery: Summoned Undead are stronger.
- Mummified Undead: Summoned Undead decay slower.
- Ignite Weapon: Equipped weapon is engulfed in flames and now does fire damage.
- Immolation: Caster is engulfed in flames which have a chance to damage nearby enemies.
- Blink: Teleports the caster a short distance to a chosen visible location.
- Chain Lightning: Powerful lightning attack that has a chance to hit multiple enemies beyond the initial target (note chain effect not yet working).
- Summon Air Elemental: Summon a powerful Air Elemental that attacks your enemies with Gust and Lightning.
- Confusion: Causes target to have trouble focusing and moving, much like when you drink too much…
- Housing: Permissions for property will greatly expand to better support groups sharing property, including tools to rent rooms and set “per area/room” permissions. Property ownership will now incur regular fees (unless you are using a tax free deed from a pledge). If the fees are not paid the player will lose their claim and their possessions (including the house and decorations) will be moved to their bank. As part of all this, we will also begin facilitating storing and moving houses (with all associated decorations).
- Permissions, Upkeep, and Moving Pushed: We had to prioritize work on the Public Test Server/Client, Guilds, and Pledges tied to Characters over this so these features are getting pushed to a future release (R15 at the earliest).
- Decoration Rotation Upgrades: Decorations now align to the orientation of the plot (not the world orientation). Additionally decorations can be rotated in 45 degree increments by holding down CTRL while using Q and E.
- New Houses: New houses in R13 include the Ring of Stones and the newly upgraded Lord of the Manor Home.
- House Polish: We fixed some deco layer issues in the Duke and Baron homes.
- Hedge & Stone Mazes: For our maze builders we have created a set of hedges and stone wall pieces for building mazes.
- Room Dividers: Now players can finally create their own floor layouts with room dividers (in the future these will also be flexible/collapsible).
- Theater Set: For our Thespians who wish to make a theater we have created a Stage, Stage Stairs, and Bleachers.
- Tavern Counter: Any building can be a tavern with this new counter.
- Inactivity Timer: If a player does not login for 7 days, or if no one with permission moves items on a property, then that player loses ownership of the lot.
- Crafting: Crafting will now have events that occur during the crafting process that the player can interact with to influence the results.
- New Consumable Recipes: Alchemy expands with recipes for Smelling Salts, Explosive Potions, and Haste Potions. Smithing also expands with a recipe for Caltrops.
- Creatures: Our creature list will continue to expand with Air Elementals, Earth Elementals, and the Phoenix.
- Earth Elemental: The Earth Elemental will cast powerful Earth Magic spells like Root and Earthquake so they are quite formidable.
- Reindeer: Since it is the holidays we thought it would be fun to let people summon Reindeers. So look for vendors selling Reindeer calls that will summon these noble holiday beasts.
- Ghost: Some outlanders who die never resurrect and their angry spirits haunt many underground areas. They are masters of Death Magic and will drain the life of unwary adventurers. Some say they even drain focus…
- Scorpion: The desert wastes of New Britannia are plagued by these giant arachnids with powerful claws and stingers.
- Imp: This mischievous creature is obsessed with gold and will steal it from unwary travelers whenever it is given the chance.
- Air Elemental: The Air Elemental casts powerful Air Magic spells like Gust and Lightning so those who can summon them are to be respected. NOTE: The Air Elemental is functional but is currently missing all visual effects.
- Red Sash Bandits: The Red Sash Bandits of Owl’s Nest finally got their proper uniforms from the cleaners and now appear appropriately fierce.
- Combat: Stealth mechanics will begin to appear.Stealth Pushed: We felt that there were too many fundamental issues that needed addressing before adding an entirely new feature that would affect combat as much as stealth might, so we are delaying this work until we start working on Moon Magic (R15 most likely).
- Auto Attack Nerfed: When examining the data from combat we finally realized that the damage from auto attacks was way too high in comparison to the skills and spells. This was one of the contributing factors to how overpowered melee fighters were.
- Bludgeons Nerfed: Because bludgeons do normal damage, extra damage to gear, and they have a stun chance, they were the most overpowered weapons in the game. In R13 we have greatly reduced the amount of normal damage they do so they are better balanced against other weapons.
- High End Armor Rarity Increased: Epic armor will now only appear 5% of the time as loot.
- Magic Spell Criticals: Until R13, only weapons were triggering critical hits. Now spells will also trigger critical hits, therefore greatly increasing the overall damage from magic.
- Stillness Buff: Staying in one place will give the player a buff that increases the longer they stand still. Every 5 seconds they stand still gives them +1% critical chance (so 5% crit becomes 6% crit) and reduces focus cost by 5% for a maximum of 25 seconds of bonus or +5% and 25% reduction.
- Stun Types and Stun Interruption: For R13, we are introducing the concept of stun types. Stuns caused by weapons and/or combat skills are considered “concussed stuns” and in general last longer but can be interrupted with a hit. Magical stuns (ex. Lightning) cannot be interrupted with a hit but are generally shorter duration.
- Combat Consumables: In R13, we are expanding the consumables to include a greater variety of effects, specifically targeting control and counters.
- Smelling Salts: Use will negate the effects of a stun and/or mesmerizing effects.
- Explosive Potion: Throwing these volatile explosions will produce an explosion that generates area of effect damage. Long term you can expect these potions to expand to different damage types and power levels.
- Caltrops: Throwing these on the ground will generate a field effect that slows and damages anyone who enters.
- Haste Potion: Drinking this will temporarily increase movement and attack speed.
- Skill Prerequisites Increased: We increased the prerequisites for some skills to 3 points in the preceding skill.
- Skill Data Wipe: We have to wipe all skill data from characters due to all the above changes. You will still be the same level but you will have to reallocate all your skill points and build new decks.
- Customization: Clothing and Armor will now be dyeable.
- Dyes Pushed: We focused our crafting time on the new combat consumables so we did not have time to work on dyes.
- Hair with Hats: Hair will now finally work well with hats and partial helmets.
- Removed Ear Sliders: After experimenting with the limits of what we could do with ears while at the same time seeing all the issues they were creating with hair, hats, and helmets we decided that this particular customization slider was just not worth it and hardly noticeable anyway. We may revisit this decision later, but if so we will most likely focus on other ear customizations instead like ear piercings.
- Beards with Masks & Helmets: We now hide facial hair when wearing masks and full helmets.
- New Wearables: We added a few new wearables including the Wedding Tuxedo set and 3 Cloaks (Duke, Lord, and Ancestor)
- Overworld: Roving encounters (patrolling creatures) will now appear on the overworld map and can be engaged (pulling you into a scene) or avoided if you wish to sneak past.
- Roving Encounters Pushed: As variations of the random encounters, we felt it was better to wait on these until we were done making random encounters feel more like rewards and less like punishments (see below on first steps in that direction).
- Player Titles: Players will now be able to display their title in the game (including guild affiliation).
- Guild Titles Only: In R12, we added Guild titles and we hoped to expand this functionality to include other player titles, but we had to push this in order to get the Guild Functionality (see below) that we felt was more important.
- Emote Teaching: Emotes will now be teachable to other players. Some emotes (like the ones tied to pledges) will only be teachable by the original owner.
- Emote Teaching Pushed: This task is tied to pledge rewards which will come online in R14.
- Player Made Books: Players will be able to write in blank books in the game and share them with other players.
- Player Books Pushed: We have to rewrite some of the base functionality of the book system to make these work properly so we were unable to tackle this task in R13. Fortunately this same work will also improve our ability to use the Journal for quests.
- Localization: We will begin crowdsourcing the translation of the game into various languages.
- Steam Trading Cards: We created 7 Shroud trading cards as well as the associated icons, badges, emoticons, and backgrounds. We actually were able to introduce them midway through R12.
- Resurrection Ankhs: Players now have the option of finding a Resurrection Ankh when they die instead of waiting for the ghost timer to expire.
- Guild Functionality: Guilds are now approaching a much higher level of functionality now that membership is by invite only and guilds can have officers.
- Guild Leader: There is always exactly one leader. If the leader leaves, then the most senior officer becomes the leader. If there are no officers, then the most senior member becomes the leader. If there are no members, then the guild is disbanded.
- Guild Leader Powers: The leader may promote, demote, or kick any officer/member. The leader can also invite players to join the guild. If the leader promotes an officer to be leader, then the promoting leader becomes an officer.
- Officer Powers: Officers may invite new members and kick any non-officer member.
- NOTE: Guilds will have to be wiped because of this new functionality coming online.
- Random Encounter Improvements: Our goal with Random Encounters is for players to look forward to them instead of just dreading them. With that in mind, we have started polishing that experience with the addition of Flavor Text that describes the encounter you are about to enter, different loading screen art from “regular” scenes, more structured encounters (fight your way out!), and finally the addition of resource nodes in these scenes so it isn’t just about combat.
- Grim Anthology Books: Volume 1-5 of the Grim Contest Winners from the Scholars of Novia are now in the game.
- Upgrades & Add-Ons Buttons: We now have a message and link to our pledge page directly from the launcher and login screens. This is to help some of our new players who might not know about the opportunity to upgrade their pledge or purchase add-on items (and therefore fund further development).
- New In Game Maps: We have added many more in game maps including Deep Ravenswood, West Ravenswood, Kingsroad, North Valeway, South Valeway, Graff Gem Mines Entrance.
- Player Position on In Game Maps: Northmarsh, Southmarsh, Veiled Swamp, North Ravenswood, South Ravenswood, and Mysterious Swamp now all properly track player position.
- Visibility pass on Death Mode: While dead and a ghost, all players and creatures are supposed to appear as motes of light, but many creatures were still visible so we did a pass to fix all of these including spiders, slimes, etc.
- Discard Items: Right clicking an item in your inventory gives you the option to discard it! This will become critically important when we introduce Encumbrance in a future release (hopefully R14).
- Right Click on Names: We have expanded Right Click Menus to now work on player names wherever they appear in the game including the chat window, party list, health bar, friends list, etc.
- Duel Polish: While duels can be quite entertaining, they can also become tiresome if one wishes to not participate. With that in mind we added the following improvements:
- Auto Decline Setting: A setting in options that allows you to auto-decline all duels.
- Non-Blocking: Allow other actions to continue while a duel invitation is displayed.
- Timed Auto Decline: Auto-decline any duel invitation after [X] seconds without response.
- Steam Public Test Server/Client: Now that we are up almost continuously, we need a way to test releases prior to official release date. In past releases, we did this by letting our backers at Developer level and above in a few days before the official release date, but that only worked because the servers were not open. So now we have a Public Test Server and Client that we can again use to pre-test each release with our Dev+ backers. For R13, we were only able to get it working through Steam, but starting with R14 it will work outside of Steam as well.
- No Complete Wipe (this time): This will be our first release without a complete wipe of all data. We are getting some very valuable data by letting things persist over time. Already, we have been able to fix some issues that we never saw when we were only up for short periods and we were wiping data. For R13 we will only be wiping character skill data and guilds. However, when we add pledge reward functionality in R14, we will definitely have to wipe.
- New Dialogue: Some minor characters in Owl’s Head have some new stories to tell. This dialogue is also the first crowd sourced dialogue in the game!
- Bug Reporting Improved: typing /bug in the chat window (or clicking on the letter icon in the upper right) while playing now adds the proper format for submitting bugs to your clipboard, and includes your computer’s information (memory, video card, etc) automatically.
- NPC Chat Polish: We did a general pass on chat with NPCs to fix some of the most annoying issues including:
- Auto-selecting Disabled: The nearest NPC no longer is selected for chat, regardless of play mode. This should fix instances where NPCs try to rudely interrupt your conversations with other players.
- “WWWWWW”: When closing a vendor window, you will no longer have default input take place in the chat window until another NPC is selected. This prevents telling everyone around you “wwwwwwwwwwaaawwwdddd” as you try to leave.
- Line-of-Sight Checks: You can no longer see NPC chatter from within buildings outside of the building (unless the door is open, as it uses line-of-sight to determine this).
- Combat Chat: NPCs that say things to you during combat say them far more frequently now. Have at thee, knave.
- Staying Put: The trainer in Braemar was told firmly that adventuring was not the life for him and will no longer try to follow other adventurers out of town.
- Braemar Guard: The guard at Braemar no longer address you directly without your prompting, however, as trying to greet everyone arriving was taxing the poor guard’s ability to keep track. In general this should only happen in single player or adventure scenes.
- Merchants React to Weapons: If you try to purchase something from a merchant they will ask you to sheathe your weapon if you wish to do business with them.
- Hide Unknown Names: A new option has been added, “Hide unknown names”. If this is selected, nameplates for NPCs will only display if you know their proper name.
- Open PVP Heal Exploit: Players who are not flagged Open PVP can no longer heal Open PVP players
- Grand Tour 13: As with each recent release we will have a grand tour that will take players through the new scenes and scenes that have changed the most. The hat for this release is a Yule hat that we hope you will all enjoy.
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 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 13 is a further iteration on our rudimentary game loop, but it is still very bare bones, even though we now have a rough first pass at player advancement. Expect this to expand with each subsequent release, but it won’t be truly complete until we hit Beta next year.
- Advanced Player Housing: There are some advanced features for player housing, including advanced permissions 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
- Sound Effects: All sound effects are placeholder (or non-existent). We will be replacing them slowly over many releases.
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.
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 13!
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. The basic Adventurer level pledge is also available on Steam Early Access.