Update of the Avatar #116 – 2015.03.13: R15 Postmortem with Tracy Hickman, SotA Chroma Support at GDC, SotA at SXSW, Player Owned Towns Update, White Lepus Mask, Kickstarter Reboots, and More!

Greetings Fellow Avatars!

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

  • R15 Postmortem with Special Guest Tracy Hickman
  • SotA Shows Razer Chroma Support at GDC
  • SotA at SXSW
  • Player Owned Towns Update: Scope, NPC Buildings, Icons, etc.
  • Abe’s Overworld Work-in-Progress
  • White Lepus Mask
  • Kickstarter Shout-Outs
  • In-game Community Weekend Events
  • The Shape of Things to Come Competition
  • Receiving Pledge Rewards and Add-On Items
  • Changes to Store Credit Conversions
  • Steam Access Keys Available for All Backers
  • How to Cancel Monthly Layaway Payment Plans
  • This Week In The News
  • Upcoming Events


Tracy Hickman’s first visit to Portalarium Studios in Austin for SXSW and R15 Postmortem

Hangout of the Avatar ~ Release 15 Postmortem with Tracy Hickman

It was awesome to have Tracy Hickman visiting the Portalarium Studios today! He’s in town this weekend, participating in the SXSW Interactive Conference, and hanging out with Richard, Starr, and Chris for our video Hangout of the Avatar: R15 Postmortem. The Hangout highlights included: Grand Tour Quest reward stats, street names in towns for better navigation, full loot areas for some PVP areas, undead who resurrect themselves, trainer design, and more!

And for those of you curious as to how many of the Grand Tour Quest Rewards have been achieved:

  • R10 Cavalier Hat: 1425
  • R11 Tricorn Hat with Carnival Mask: 1731
  • R12 Pilgrim Hat: 2336
  • R13 Yule Hat: 2503
  • R14 Hennin Hat: 1835
  • R15 Silver Jester Carnival Hat: 1123 (with 2 weeks left to go)

If you missed the live broadcast earlier today, then check it out here:

SotA Shows Razer Chroma Support at GDC


The Tower of the Shuttered Eye


One of the founders of Razer, Min-Liang Tan, proudly described to Richard that the Razer logo is based on Richard’s serpent necklace, so there is a deep connection between us and the Razer clan. At GDC, Razer introduced their Chroma SDK which allows game developers to connect game events to Razer Chroma peripherals. Prior to GDC we worked with the Razer team to implement this functionality in Shroud and players will be able to experience it firsthand in Release 16. Not only did we hook it up to game state but we also linked it up to combos (corresponding numbers light up of spells that can be combined together) and hints (corresponding keys related to the system light up to teach players which keys do what).

Razer was so impressed with our implementation that they invited us to show it at GDC in the Razer booth and they even filmed Richard giving a little demo. We had a great show at GDC with a lot of visitors and incredibly positive feedback from fellow developers, many of which had not yet seen the game.


Here are a few more pics from the GDC event:




Umm, Finn Staber doing VR research at GDC?!?

SotA at SXSW This Weekend

Richard Garriott and Tracy Hickman will be on a SXSW Interactive panel moderated by Starr Long entitled Linear versus Nonlinear Narrative in Video Games at 3:30 PM Saturday, March 14 in the Kodosky room at the Long Center.

Starr Long will also be giving a talk at SXSW Interactive entitled Crowd Sharing: Crowd Funding and Sourcing in Games at 11 AM Sunday, March 15 in the Kodosky room at the Long Center.

Most of theSXSW Interactive talks, panels, and events are free to the public, so if you are in Austin this weekend then head downtown and check out the action!


Tracy Hickman at Portalarium Studios, in town for SXSW, shown here with Rick Holtrop and Richard Garriott

Player Owned Towns Update: Scope, NPC Buildings, Icons, etc.

[A SotA Public Forum post by Starr Long]


Greetings Avatars,

We continue to iterate on our submission, intake, and fulfillment process for Player Owned Towns (PoTs). We are also doing continual design work for PoTs, including ways to incentivize thriving PoTs filled with occupants and ways to keep traffic moving through PoTs. We are far enough in our thinking that I wanted to provide all of you with an update on a few topics (note that templates is not yet one of those topics).

I also wanted everyone to understand the scope of this feature. At a high level I am trying very hard to control the scope of PoTs for Episode 1 so that is why anything I propose will be more fixed than some of you might like. As much as possible I am trying to use systems we are already building (or have built) versus creating whole new systems or new parameters for existing systems. This will also make it easier to debug and balance. That means a lot of the requested features are not going to make Episode 1 launch including: contracts/automated taxes for owners, owners being able to decorate NPC areas, income to owner from in town purchases, etc.

I am also attempting to make the PoTs function as close to the regular towns as possible which is why you will see things like town size influencing certain parameters.SotA_Metropolis

Icons on the Map:

Our current plan is to make the size of the icon associated with a PoT on the map directly related to the number of occupants of that city (occupant in this case is defined as someone who has claimed a lot and has at least X number of items on that lot). If there are no occupants, your PoT will appear on the overworld map as just a foundation. If you have a few occupants, you might get an icon of a single building and perhaps the foundation of the second building. If you are at full occupancy, you would have an icon of a full village/town/city/etc. A stretch goal here would be to also indicate current activity, so for example, if there are players in the town then smoke will come from the chimneys and lights will be on.

NPC Buildings and NPCs:

Owners will select a certain number of NPC buildings based on the size of the town. These buildings each come with 1-2 NPCs. Owners will be able to pick name and gender of the NPCs and provide brief stories for them (which we will use to attempt to create some dialogue for the NPCs).

Building List: This by no means meant to be the final nor complete list. As other systems come online we will add these to the list including things like Theaters.

  • Tavern: Bartender & Customer
  • Bank: Banker & Guard featuredImageSmallBankSlots[1]
  • Combat Shop: Combat Merchant (assorted weapons & armor)
  • Weapon Shop: Weapon Merchant (assorted weapons)
  • Armor Shop: Armor Merchant (assorted armor)
  • Magic Shop: Magic Merchant (assorted reagents, wands, staves, potions, cloth armor, etc.)
  • Home Shop: Homes Merchant & Decorations Merchant
  • Guild Shop: Guild Merchant
  • Stables: Pet Merchant plus some assorted farm animals
  • Cemetery: Caretaker/Merchant (assorted undead stuff like corpse wax)
  • Guard Tower: 2 Guards (NOTE: These can be placed on perimeters of town, not just in the central square area)
  • Crafting Shop: Crafting Merchant
  • Fishing Shop: Fishing Merchant
  • Cooking Shop: Cooking Merchant (assorted cooking recipes and cooking ingredients)
  • Public Garden: Crafting Merchant
  • Monuments / Shrines: These would be items players could have placed in a central square or other point of interest in their town. Placing these is a requirement if you wish to take advantage of the Blessings system (mentioned below). There will likely be a cap on these up to no more than 3. Note that these would not include NPCsSotA_SequannaTitanLove
    • Titan Statues
    • Oracle Statue
    • Hooded Statue
    • Moon Tower
    • Dragon Bones
    • Virtue Shrine
    • Chaos Shrine
    • etc


This concept is that the population of any scene that includes player housing (PoTs as well as cities we place) will trigger a blessing when it reaches a certain threshold (for example 60% occupancy). The blessing would be a long term buff (24 hours for example), and the city would be “blessed” for 1 month. Any players entering the blessed city and using a monument/shrine would receive the blessing. For cities that we place in the game, we will determine the type of blessing based on a combination of trainers/merchants in the city as well as story elements. For Player Owned Towns, the concept is that the owner will be able to select from a menu of blessings. Smaller towns will have more generalized blessings while bigger towns will have more specialized blessings (this mirrors our current plan for trainers*). Current thinking is that there will be a limit to how many blessings a player can have based on type; as little as 2 of each type. So you could only have 2 adventuring blessings (combat, magic) and 2 crafting blessings at any given time. The actual blessings are still being designed and are part of a larger system of blessings tied to the story, trainer placement, lore of map areas, resource locations, and overall map layout (hope to get a post out in the next week from Beast about this latter topic). We think this system will bring traffic to PoTs while at the same time encourage owners to be really reliable / trustworthy landlords so players want to live there.

Permissions: We do plan to get some permissions sharing (like our current housing system) in for PoTs along with some succession rules like we want to do for Guilds.

We will continue to update all of you as we have further designs. For now our tentative goal is to have a test case Player Owned Town (minus blessings) in either Release 17 or Release 18 at the latest. That test case will be an example of a template that we will use to base other towns from.


*Trainer Design Sidenote: Trainers start generalized at lower levels and become more specialized for higher level ability training. Tier 1 trainers will teach all Tier 1 abilities across both Combat and Adventuring. These trainers will be found all the starting villages. A Tier 2 Combat trainer teaches all Tier 1 & Tier 2 combat skills across all combat schools. However a Tier 3 & 4 Trainer would only teach skills of a specific school (ex. Death Magic). Tier 3 & 4 Trainers will often require a player to quest / task before they will start training a player. Tier 2 trainers will be common in most areas while Tier 3 & 4 Trainers will only be found in a few cities in the game. Those cities are generally known as the centers for those specialties (ex. Blade & Shield combat). Tier 5 Trainers are the only source of Tier 5 spells. There will only be one of these for each Tier 5 ability and they will often be hard to find and will always require some questing by the player before they will teach the Tier 5 ability.

Abe’s Overworld Work-In-Progress

Abe has an ongoing Dev+ forum thread where he continues to post his changes to the Novia and Hidden Vale Overworld maps. Here are some screen shots of his latest work on Vertas Pass, the Elven control point:

Special Edition White Lepus Mask

Just in time for your Easter celebrations, this Special Edition White Lepus Mask is available in the Add-On Store until April 30st! Get yours while they’re available!


Kickstarter Shout-Outs

TSI: The Resurrection of SSI


“It is great to see these masters of the early games industry return to lead once more. SSI was always a great inspiration to me in my work. I look forward to the magical worlds TSI will create for us to play in once more!” – Richard Garriott, Co-founder, CEO, Creative Director – Portalarium

Back in the day, the name Strategic Simulations Inc (SSI) was synonymous with some of the best strategy games and RPGs, such as the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons computer game series! Founded in 1979, SSI was one of the very first computer game publishers ever, pre-dating Origin, Electronic Arts, and many other early publishers. Several of the SSI alumni have joined forces again to form Tactical Simulations Interactive (TSI), and are Kickstarting their first game, Seven Dragon Saga (SDS)!

As reported at the CLIQUIST, Seven Dragon Saga “…is an RPG in the vein of classics where you have complete control over your team members, engage in turn-based combat, and can spec each character out as you see fit. A neat little tweak to this whole formula is, upon creating a new character, you assign goals alongside typical traits. Goals affect the team after completing quests. Players are presented with choices which, if aligned with character goals, will give those characters a boost.

Several of us at Portalarium cut our teeth on games built by these guys back in the 80’s. If anyone knows how to create a solid RPG, this team does! We’re such fan boys that we joined forces with TSI to offer a digital reward of backers of both games! For those that back SDS at the $55 Emperor’s Own tier and SotA at the $55 Immortal Adventurer tier, will receive the Dragonshroud Blade in SDS and the Dragon Sigil Cloak in SotA.

Check out the Seven Dragon Saga Kickstarter site and if you like what you see then pledge your support!

Descent: Underground

More of our former Origin compadres, including Eric “Wingman” Peterson, Jason Spangler, Rob Irving, Sergio Rosas, Todd Bailey, and Michael Morlan, have teamed up to reboot Descent, a pulse-pounding, 3D action game from the 90’s. Descent gave the player full control of a spacecraft as it battled enemies and rescued crewmen within space stations and the tunnels of asteroids (sometimes described as “Wing Commander in tunnels”).

It’s quite possible that Descent delayed the launch of Wing Commander 4 back in the day, as Chris Roberts recently posted over at Star Citizen: “I know that myself, Eric and a few other folks working on Wing Commander 4, spent a fair amount of time screaming at each other in heated [Descent] battles back in my old Origin days!

As described on their Kickstarter site, Eric and team are bringing back six-degrees-of-freedom combat by blasting Descent into the 21st Century with current-generation gaming technology. Descent: Underground is more than a graphics upgrade. Get ready for multiple types of customizable ships! Prepare for upgradable weapons and sensors with richly-detailed tech trees. Brace yourself for destructible voxel maps with new power-ups and mod tools to make your own maps and more!

Checkout the Descent: Underground Kickstarter site and if you like what you see then pledge your support!

MONARCH Board Game – Vie for the Crown

One of our “sisters” in gaming, Mary Flanagan, is in the final hours of a Kickstarter campaign for her board game, MONARCH.

In MONARCH, you play the heirs to the throne. Your mother, the Queen, has lived out her years and will soon pass on the crown. The time has come for you and your sisters to demonstrate your intelligence, compassion, bravery, and strength as leaders. Choose strategies that will bring prosperity to the land and glory to your court. Defend the realm from threats and famine. There are many paths to choose from, but only the most worthy among you will become heir to the throne. Who will be Queen?

MONARCH has met their funding goal, but could use your help to reach their first stretch goal! Check out their Kickstarter site and if you like what you see then pledge your support!

Check out this video of Richard Garriott and Starr Long chatting with Mary Flanagan about Monarch, games, and gender:

In-game Weekend Community Events

Our amazing community has another great lineup of in-game events planned for this weekend. Here is the latest schedule of player events from the Avatar’s Circle Community Events calendar and the Events of the Avatars community calendar:

Saturday, March 14
9:00am CST – PaxLair Working Hours – Host Winfield (Valemark)
11:00am CST – Church of the Dark Star – Saturday Service – Topic: Ignorance is Bliss (Or is it?) (PaxLair, Valemark; details)
12:00pm CST – Welcome Quest R15.5 (starts in Dara Brae in NorthShire, or “/zone Dara Brae; details)
2:00pm CST – BMC Crafting Faire – Learn Crafting, Gifts, Prizes (Owl’s Head, or “/zone Jaron Schwartzhaar”; details)
6:00pm CST – OoV – Crafting in Vengeance (Brave Coast)

Sunday, March 15
6:30am CST – Explore Novia with royalsexy (Owl’s Head entrance)
12:00pm CST – Bear Tavern Brawl R15 – 1v1 Double Elimination (“/zone Archaon Avenguard” or “/zone Balec deCani”; details)
5:00pm CST – BMC Grid Iron Feast and Registration (details)
6:00pm CST – BMC First Blood at Grid-Iron (details)
6:00pm CST – Phoenix Republic Town Hall (“/zone Kazyn Phoenixfyre” or “/zone Jack Knyfe”)
7:00pm CST – PaxLair Meeting (Valemark, or “/zone Winfield”)
8:00pm CST – Fishing with Winfield (some lake or pond, “/zone Winfield”)
9:00pm CST – Beach Party by BMC (details TBD)

Be sure and check out the Release 15 Events thread in the SotA forums for additional events that may not be included here.

Release 15 Decoration Contest – March 19 Entry Deadline

Every release the community plans a Decoration Contest to celebrate all the amazing work people are doing. Entries will be judged on originality, detail, completeness, and a whole bunch of things you have done to make your lot and/or building unique – so get an idea together and enter in the R15 Decoration Contest! Get your entries in by Thursday 19th March, and judging will begin on Friday 20th March.

Click here for more details…

The Shape of Things to Come Competition

A fun time was had by all at The Shape of Things to Come Competition, hosted by The Caverns last weekend in Solania! Players divided into teams and formed SotA-themed shapes called out by community member, Vyrin, who coordinated the event, with Amber Raine broadcasting a play-by-play commentary on Avatar’s Radio.

Points were awarded to those that best formed the shape in the least amount of time. Congratulations to the Green Team for winning this rather unique event! If you missed it live, then check out the videos posted in the Release 15 Events forum by community member Womby.

Here’s an image of the winning Green Team forming the shape of an “eye”:


Receiving Pledge Rewards and Add-On Items

SotA_Bank_Interior2Go to any bank to claim your Add-On items and Pledge rewards. There is a banker NPC in every map where there is player housing because when you switch houses or unclaim a lot, all the decorations will go to your bank. In most locations the Town Crier is now also a banker.

Banks are local only. You can see your items in other bank locations (they appear in location tabs), but you can only access the items in the bank you are currently at. Pledge rewards are an exception to this and can be accessed from any location.

[NOTE: there are some Add-On and Pledge reward items that have not been built yet so you may notice some of your items not showing up in your bank. If you delete your character, all equipped and inventory items, including pledge reward items, will be deleted and cannot be recovered until the next wipe]

Changes to Store Credit Conversions

If you wish to convert any of your purchased Add-On items to Store Credit, you will need to do so before logging into Shroud of the Avatar.


The instant you log into the game all of your available Pledge reward items and available Add-On items will be flagged as “claimed” and deposited in your in-game bank. Once the Add-On items are “claimed” they cannot be converted to Store Credit until the next wipe (which is currently unpredictable). After you’ve logged into SotA, the “Convert to Credits” button on your account page will be deactivated for all those items available in the game, so if you had any plans to sell back some of your Add-On items, make sure you do it before you log into the game!

We intend to change the claiming process in an upcoming Release so that items are not automatically claimed when logging in, but will require you to actively claim them in your bank before they can be used.

If you purchase any new Add-On items, or upgrade your Pledge tier, those new items and upgraded rewards will automatically appear in your in-game bank the next time you log into the game (providing those items are available in the game).


Steam Access Keys Available for All SotA Backers

SotA successfully launched on Steam Early Access on November 24, and we’ve made Steam Access Keys available to all our backers as part of their basic pledge rewards! Once you’ve redeemed your Steam Access Key you’ll have the option of playing SotA either with the Steam client or the regular game client (or both).SotA_SteamTradingCards2_small

Click here for instructions to redeem your Steam access key and installing the Steam SotA client…

If you play SotA on Steam you can collect the SotA Trading Cards! Collect a full set of SotA trading cards to earn SotA badges, profile backgrounds, and emoticons that help you customize your profile and show off your Shroud of the Avatar gameplay. Check out Steam’s trading card FAQ for more information.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

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 could use 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 efforts:

Facebook_LikeIf You Like SotA then Like Us On Facebook

Current Facebook Likes: 5,677 (+39 from last week)

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: 312 (+9 from last report)

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)!

How to Cancel Monthly Layaway Payment Plans and What In-Game Rewards to Expect

Remember that Pledge payment plans are not canceled automatically after reaching the desired pledge. You must manually cancel your monthly payment plan, which can be done at anytime on your SotA Account page. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause, but it is a result of how recurring billing functions with PayPal, Amazon, and Stripe (our credit card service).


If you are on a monthly payment plan, the rewards you receive in-game may not reflect the final pledge tier you are making payments toward, but will reflect the rewards for the current pledge tier that your cumulative monthly payments have reached (your current pledge tier is shown on your Account page on the SotA website).


This Week In the News

March 8 – Gamer Nexus: Shroud of the Avatar’s Impressive Stability & Beautification – Richard Garriott Interview

March 9 – Red Bull: Ultima in all but name: Shroud of the Avatar

Upcoming Events

2015.03.13 – SotA at SXSW Interactive
2015.03.26 – Release 16
2015.04.03 – Duke & LotM VIP Design Roundtable w/Lord British and Portalarium Studio Tour
2015.04.23 – Release 17
2015.05.21 – Release 18
2015.06.16 – SotA at E3
2015.06.25 – Release 19


  1. licemeatlicemeat

    $55 in Seven Dragon Saga is pretty steep. I have tried to get all the bonus items from cross sales like this but it seems I will be skipping this one.

  2. smacksmack

    Great update, Dallas! That Razer keyboard is looking mighty tempting, but I’d have to give up my custom Runic keyboard!!! :(


    (Technically, I can transfer most of they keycaps over but the backlight won’t show through the letters).

    Missed the Hangout earlier but getting caught up with it now. Great to see Tracy again.

    Abe’s work continues to amaze, so very much looking forward to exploring more of the Novia over world in R16!

    Really enjoyed the chat with Mary, Richard, and Starr. I backed the board game and look forward to playing it with friends and family.

  3. Azur

    Great update and fantastic hangout. Thanks for answering my question on hats. I’ll be interested to see if more players start to collect them in future releases now we know how rare they are!

  4. SargonSargon

    I love the Chroma keyboard lighting, but I don’t know if I’m willing to give up 18 macro keys on my Logitech G15 for it. I guess I could always pair the Chroma with a G13 instead!

  5. Kvow [MGT]Kvow [MGT]

    Hi dallas,

    Is there a way to find out if we can surround a player owned town or city lot with our PoT NPCs so we can create a player run and decorated town square?

    The idea would be to have the opportunity to place all player owned vendors in the square surrounded by the NPC’s as a central marketplace. I understand location location location is important in NPC towns. This idea could help lessen the importance of location in a PoT in order to increase equality.

    This seems to be two questions. 1) Can we have a PC lot inside the NPC area of a PoT. 2) Can we have as many unique player vendors as we want on any given lot?


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