Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 15 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, February 26 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 message, 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.
We are very excited that Release 15 represents our first release using Unity 5, the latest version of the Unity engine. Unity 5 provides us with both improved performance opportunities and graphical upgrades that will allow us to iteratively and dramatically improve the visual presentation of Shroud of the Avatar. As we have said before, our goal is to make sure Shroud is as visually compelling as we have time to make it. However, whenever we have to make a choice between simulation (turning lights on/off, picking up items from the world, NPC schedules, etc.) and visuals, we will ALWAYS choose the simulation.
Moving to Unity 5 requires us to redo and retouch just about every graphical asset in the game; including textures, camera rigs, and lighting setups. Since this is such a large endeavor, our goal this release was basically, “Please make it at least look as good as it did in Unity 4.” We believe we accomplished this goal, however there might be a few errors still in the build, including missing textures (will show up as bright pink) or incorrect shaders (which can just make things look “wrong”). There may also be some scenes that still need lighting adjustments as well. In some cases, though, we believe the game is already looking much better. For instance, with Unity 5 we are now doing some post process edge shadows that really make the geometry pop.
The scale of the Unity 5 migration has required us to move out a few more deliverables than normal (see below), but we feel confident that it will be well worth any temporary delay we are experiencing. Despite that, we feel the work we did get into this release has moved the gameplay forward yet again, with major new items like Stealth and Crafting Advancement.
Please note that the patch for this release will be particularly large.
Also, remember that while we are providing new content with each release, our community is working overtime to make new events for you to enjoy, so be sure to check out a couple of the Community Events Calendars run by our community members (via in game book or the player run websites Avatars Circle Community Events and Events of the Avatars calendar).
Without further ado, here are the R15 deliverables.
- Plain Text: The original plan for the Release deliverables. We intentionally preserve the original text so that our backers can compare plan versus actuals.
- Italics: Extra notes and new deliverables
- Strikethrough: These are items that did not make the release
RELEASE 15, February 26, 2015:
- Maps: We will continue to expand the mainland scenes to include Resolute, Xenos, Desolace Town, The Necropolis, and the Verdantis Shardfall.
- 39 Scenes: This release we started focusing more of the team on world building, and the results have been fantastic with 39 scenes coming online in Release 15. These scenes are a mix of completely new maps and variants of existing maps.
- Perennial Coast: Starting with this release, we are going to focus our efforts on expanding the Novia mainland by region. For Release 15, this focus was on the Perennial Coast along the southeast tip of Novia. This region includes notable places like Solace Bridge, Ardoris, and the Tower of the Shuttered Eye. For Release 15, we feel like this region is more than 75% complete and should be completed in Release 16.
- Resolute, Xenos and Desolace Rescheduled: These locations were not located along the Perennial Coast, so we pushed them out to future releases where they will better fit.
- Necropolis Delayed: The Necropolis will be our first purely story driven single player scene. This is a fairly large and complex space, so we were only able to complete about 75% of the world building.
- Verdantis Shardfall: This is the only new scene in Release 15 that is not located in the Perennial Coast, but we felt strongly that we wanted another Shardfall map, and we wanted one with a striking visual difference from Grunvald. This led us to Verdantis, which is a Shardfall on a swampy island off the northwest coast of Novia. The swamp has flooded most of the crater and the surrounding marshy forests are prime for harvesting both resources and other players (this is an Open PVP zone, after all).
- Solania: The small town of Solania is the sole means for accessing the mysterious lake island town of Celestis. Solania is located on a high point in the Celestial Swamp that lines the southern shore of Celestial Lake, so getting there can be quite dangerous.
- 9 New Adventure Scenes: The Perennial Coast is filled with places to adventure and gather resources. Many of these are based on previous maps but some, like Restless Woods, are almost unrecognizable as variants of existing maps. Our goal, over time, is to make sure that each of our adventure scenes are very visually distinct. In Release 15 ,these new scenes include:
- Restless Woods
- West Perennial Trail
- North Celestial Wetlands
- South Celestial Wetlands
- West Veiled Swamp
- East Veiled Swamp
- Solace Woods
- South Brightbone Woods
- North Brightbone Woods.
- 25 Player Forest Towns: Using the templates from the Vale (Valemark, Holtrot, etc.) we added 25 Player Towns to the Perennial Coast. While visually similar, these versions include a City Lot for larger structures. For launch, some of these towns will be replaced with Player Owned Towns.
- Spectral Mines: Long ago, an effort was made to mine the Spectral Peaks but miners stumbled upon some ancient crypts full of undead. The miners abandoned the unstarted mines, but the Order of the Ebon Dawn have since taken over and seek to resurrect the ancient power of the Obsidians.
- Soltown: This sleepy little town in the Brightbone Woods is one of the few civilized places in this area where players can resupply or base themselves out of.
- Blackblade Pass South: This is the southern entrance to Blackblade Pass which runs underneath the Blackblade Lava rift. While not a map on the Perennial Coast, we plan to move North and East in upcoming releases so this map preps us for that.
- Spells & Skills: Sun and Moon Magic will expand to include more spells. The combat school of Shields will also expand, and more combos will be added to the game.
- New Spells and Skills: We were able to add 11 new spells and skills to the game, including expansions to Moon and Sun magic that represent our first iteration of Stealth in the game! While these are all fully functional in game, many of them do not yet have Visual Effects (a side effect of moving more people to maps and the Unity 5 transition).
- Time of Day and Location: Spells and Skills can now have varying effect based on time of day and/or location. Sun and Moon magic take the most advantage of this, but we will expand this over time.
- Moon: Moon magic is about misdirection through confusion and stealth. Moon magic is more powerful at night and underground where the duration of effects is increased.
- Night Vision: Buff that allows the caster to see in the dark.
- Celestial Blessing: Buff that increases resistance to magic.
- Animal Charm: Debuff that mesmerizes an animal target.
- Moon Beams: Debuff that mesmerizes up to three targets in an area of effect.
- Vanish: Buff that makes the caster enter stealth while standing still.
- Shadow Form: Buff that allows the caster to remain in stealth while moving.
- Night Step: Caster teleports to selected target. During the night the caster always ends up behind the target.
- Charge: The shield wielder runs forward into a target and smashes them with their shield, doing some damage and potentially stunning the target.
- Balance Changes: We made a set of changes to combat math and individual spells / skills to better balance their effectiveness.
- Regeneration Rates Reduced: Health and Focus regen rates are now at a quarter which increases the importance of stances, potions, buffs, etc.
- Water Elemental: Starting hit points moved to 175 from 125 so they stay out longer which is critical for a support pet, in fact they now last longer than any other summoned creature.
- Soothing Rain: Focus cost reduced to 14 from 20 and heal amount increased 25%.
- Absorb Impacts: Duration of this buff has been doubled.
- Healing Grace: Doubled the duration, increased the amount of healing and reduced the agro amount for this heal over time spell.
- Healing Burst: Cast time and lock time cut in half and increased effect by 50% while reducing agro.
- Berserker Stance: Increased Strength buff to 30 from 20.
- Housing: 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.Property Upkeep Delayed: Unity 5 work required us to push this to a later date.
- Basements: We added 6 more basements to the game including the three Arena basements from the add on store and the Keep sized basement for Dukes.
- House & Basement Deed Security: These deeds now work exactly like lot deeds, so when they are used they are removed from your inventory until unclaimed. This closes the loophole where a house deed could be used by multiple players.
- Crafting: Crafting skills will start to come online, and be used during crafting to modify results.
- Crafting Advancement: Doing crafting activities including Gathering, Refining, and Producing will generate Crafting Experience and Crafting Levels. At each level, the player will receive skill points that they can invest in the various Crafting Skill Trees. Adventuring advancement also awards a few crafting skill points. For Release 15, those points can only be invested in Gathering Skills.
- Gathering Duration and Interruption: We have begun introducing system changes to crafting to facilitate crafting skills. Gathering now has a variable duration and success rate that can be influenced by skills and tools. Gathering can also now be interrupted by combat, movement, etc.
- Crafting Skills: We have our first set of 20 crafting skills in the game. For Release 15, we focused on the Gathering skill trees. We will expand into Refining and Production in future releases. Each of the 5 Gathering skill trees has the following skills:
- Survey: Increases survey distance that you can see nodes.
- Swift Gathering: Decreases the time it takes to gather resources.
- Skillful Harvest: Increases success chance of gathering resources from nodes.
- Meticulous Collection: Gives the gatherer the chance to find more resources in a given node by giving them a chance upon completion of gathering to not destroy the node.
- Creatures: Our creature list will continue to expand with the Fauns, the Phoenix and Wisps.
- New Creatures Delayed: All new creatures were slain by the Unity 5 transition monster.
- Combat: Stealth mechanics will begin to appear.
- Stealth: Our first iteration of Stealth is now in the game. For now, it is only part of Moon Magic, but in the next few releases it will be found in some Light Armor skills. For now, Stealth works by decreasing the aggro radius of creatures so they won’t notice the player (until hopefully it’s too late for them!). For players, stealthed characters are almost entirely invisible, but carefully observant players might notice the visual effect. However, we intend for that effect to be almost impossible to notice when things are dark (at night or underground).
- Ambush Mode: Enemies now have the ability to enter an ambush state. For Release 15, you will see it for the first time in some of the skeletons you encounter. So beware, that skeleton lying on the ground may actually be a Skeletal Warrior just waiting to kill you. The AI can enter and exit this state, so you will see creatures not just get up from this mode, but you will also see them enter this mode by lying down.
- Auto Attack Animation Variations: Animations for auto attacks now pull from a library of multiple animations for each weapon to create more visual variety. Previously, the same animation were repeated over and over.
- Customization: Clothing and Armor will now be dyeable.
- Dyes Delayed: Due to the Unity 5 transition, we were unable to complete preparing the wearables for color customization, but we have begun the process. We are also taking the opportunity to create many more visual variations of existing armor that will be used by the crafting system to visually represent the base effects of the materials that have been introduced.
- Male Character Rework: We have started a complete rework of the male character, including a new shader for the skin, higher resolution / more detailed textures, eyelashes, new face sculpt / skin, and detail maps for the skin.
- Character Improvements: We did several general improvements to both the male and female characters, including new eyes that show more depth and natural iris color and adjustments to all the facial sliders. Also, eyebrows now change color with the color of the hair (at least for the male character).
- 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. We will also have the first pass of the Novia map.
- Roving Encounters Delayed: All roving encounters have been gobbled up by the Unity 5 transition monster. Until that beast is slain, the map will be sadly devoid of these.
- Novia Overworld: For the first time players can walk around on Novia, and it is gorgeous! For Release 15, players will be confined to the Perennial Coast but we plan to open up more of the map each Release going forward. Please note that this is our first pass, so relative scale between landmarks may be off (ex. player towns vs. Ardoris). Novia is accessible by simply walking out of Ardoris or Solace Bridge, and those of you who wish to avoid Novia can stay on the Vale by opting to use the Lunar Rift).
- Players Visible: Other players, not just party members, are now visible on the Overworld map.
- Player Titles: Players will now be able to display their title in the game.
- Player Titles Delayed: We decided to delay this in favor of Vendors (see below).
- 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. For now, “teaching” will be trading a consumable item that adds the emote via secure trade.
- Emote “Teaching” Delayed: We decided to delay this in favor of Vendors (see below).
- Vendors: Players can now give player made items to NPC vendors in several major locations for resale. Players can set the price they wish for the item, and if the item does not sell within 7 days, they will receive 50% of the standard game value for the item. These vendors will have a per player and overall total limit to how many items they will sell at any given time. Note that Player Owned Vendors will not have these time nor item limits, but they are also not yet available in the game. In Release 15, you can find Vendors in Owl’s Head, Kingsport, Solania, and Ardoris
- Pledge / Add On Pets: We have added pet calls for most of the Pledge, Referral Bonus, and Add On Store Pets (except birds). Servants are included in this Release, but they do not yet have any functionality beyond simple follow commands. Likewise, all these pets are non-combat currently. Please note that we do not yet have they “choose 1 of 3 pets” technology so each tier will just have one of the two available assigned to them. The list added in R15 includes:
- Light Source on Pledge Items: Some pledge reward items include a permanent light source. We added these light sources to those items in this release, including the following:
- Sword of the Ba’Heer
- Knight Cloak
- Knight Marshal Winged Helm
- Lord Cloak
- Lord Marshal Coronated Helm
- Duke Cloak
- NPC Schedule Example: Abela the Barmaid in Braemar is our first example of an actual NPC Schedule. She varies her routine based on time of day and will go home at night. This is very much a proof of concept, and we will expand greatly on this moving forward.
- Bank Upgrades: Bank size is now linked to pledges and can be increased with gold in the game.
- Add On / Pledge Reward Duplication: R15 introduced new or modified pledge rewards and Add On items. In order for players to receive them, we have to reset everyone’s reward / add on data. This means that if you created a character in R14 you will have two of every reward / add on item (except for lot deeds) in R15. We know this will fill up banks for some of you, but we did this so we could avoid doing a character wipe.
- Grand Tour 15: As with each release, we will have a grand tour that will take players through the new scenes and scenes that have changed the most. Completing this quest is the ONLY way to gain this rare reward. The hat for this release is a Silver Jester Carnival Mask 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, and 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. Skill checks are only in for Gathering, so results are always 100% successful for Refining and Production. 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 15 is a further iteration on our rudimentary game loop, but is still missing some key components like Crafting Skills for Refining and Production. 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 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
- Pledge Rewards: Pledge Rewards that have been built and have tech to support them are in the game; all other rewards are awaiting either content creation or tech support (ex. vendors).
- Persistence: As part of development we will need to periodically wipe data including characters, property, etc. As we near official launch the frequency should decrease but there will definitely be a wipe right before launch. So consider everything gained during early access temporary.
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 15!
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.
Help Raise the Underworld
Our long-time friend and former Origin protégé, Paul Neurath, is rebooting the legendary Ultima Underworld games with the Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter campaign! It has been more than a decade long wait, but the stars have aligned and Paul has at long last freed the rights to move forward with the franchise. We’re especially excited that, just as the original Ultima and Underworld shared a connection on backstory and fictional elements, so too will Shroud of the Avatar and Underworld Ascendant.
They’ve enlisted the aid of SotA Lead Story Designer and co-author of SotA’s Blade of the Avatar novel, Tracy Hickman, to pen an Underworld Ascendant novel as part of their $750k Stretch Goal:
Tracy’s talents as a fantasy author, together with his deep experience with gaming and close collaboration on Shroud of the Avatar, a world connected to ours, make him ideally suited to write the Underworld Ascendant novel. The novel is going to be set several generations before the game takes place, and tell the story of how a band of Dark Elves from the land of the Shroud of the Avatar passed through a magic portal to make an exodus into the Stygian Abyss. It will tell of their trials in this harsh and dangerous underworld, and of how they carved out a place for themselves. – Underworld Ascendant Update #15
The gamers over on Steam were so excited about Underworld that it only took a week for it to be Greenlit!
As some of you already know, Underworld Ascendant has been Greenlit on Steam! Only took a week. Not sure if that’s a record, but mighty fast. Huge thanks to all the fans who gave the game a big YES and helped bring us to the attention of the tens of millions of players on Steam. We are still in early prototype development, so many months to go before we’d have a build for Steam. But sweet that we’ve got a slot warmed up and waiting, for when we do. – Underworld Ascendant Update #16
This buckler, inscribed with the Dark Elven symbol, has a moonstone gem inset. If a player owns the buckler in both Shroud of the Avatar and Underworld Ascendant, then the moonstone will glow with the warmth of kinship. This signifies that the Dark Elven clans, though sundered between distant worlds, still are one. The Dark Elven Buckler is currently available in the SotA Add-On Store, and as an Add-On on the Underworld Ascendant Kickstarter page.
Otherside Entertainment is currently at $550k of their $600k funding goal, but needs your help to reach their goal and start working toward their stretch goals! Be sure and check out the Underworld Kickstarter site, and if you are as excited about it as we are, then show your support and make a pledge to Raise the Underworld!
Another of our former Origin protégés, Gordon Walton (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies), has teamed up with J. Todd Coleman (Shadowbane, Wizard 101), to create an awesome sounding game called Crowfall. They describe it as a seamless blend of an MMO with a large-scale Strategy game! Think “…Game of Thrones meets Eve Online”. They’ve enlisted the aid of yet another former Origin protégé, Raph Koster (Ultima Online, Star Wars Galaxies), as a design consultant!
Game characters are persistent, but the Campaign Worlds are not. Players are Crows – Champions who travel from one world to the next, fighting an endless War of the Gods. There are two types of Worlds in the Crowfall Universe: the Campaign Worlds, which produce materials such as stone, iron, and wood (and last until some “win condition is met” – typically 1 to 3 months), and the Eternal Kingdoms, which are barren of resources — but last forever. When a campaign ends, a victor is declared, the map is wiped and the World goes offline forever. The players – the Crows – then fly back to their Home Worlds, to either count their spoils or lick their wounds before they choose a new Campaign and fight again.
Another really cool feature is that the worlds are made of voxels (like Minecraft, only much smaller) – which means the entire world is destructible. They are harnessing VoxelFarm technology to generate an endless succession of unique and interesting Campaign Worlds for you to mine, shape, conquer and destroy.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? A lot of gamers think so because they just started their Kickstarter campaign yesterday and reached 50% of their funding goal in just 10 hours! Check out their Kickstarter page and if you like what you see then help them build Crowfall with your pledge!
Our goal is to make Shroud of the Avatar the best game we can for you, our backers, and the best way we can do that is by growing our community of backers through the power of word-of-mouth marketing. That’s where we need your help! With essentially no marketing budget, we rely on things like press coverage and friend-to-friend networking on platforms such as Facebook and Steam. Here’s how you can help us with your word-of-mouth power:
Current Facebook Likes: 5,573
Facebook can be a powerful word-of-mouth marketing tool at very little cost, but only if we can reach a large enough network of Facebook users. You can help us to reach a larger Facebook audience simply by going to the Shroud of the Avatar Facebook page and clicking on the “Like” button. If every one of our 50k backers gave us a “Like” the marketing reach of our Facebook posts would be incredible!
If You Like SotA then Write Us a Positive Steam Review
Current Positive Steam Reviews: 299
One of the most important word-of-mouth tools on the massive Steam platform is their user reviews. Many Steam users rely on a game’s Steam reviews to help them decide if they want to play a game or not. If you feel positive about SotA, or feel positive about what SotA may become, even if you have concerns and issues, then please jump over to our Steam Store Page and give us a positive review (and feel free to include your concerns and issues in that review as well)!