Update of the Avatar #137 – 2015.08.07: More Designers, Desolate Hills, Desolis Underground, Snowy Mountains Player Town, NPC Name Requests, Hometown Island, and More!

Greetings Fellow Avatars!

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

  • New Designers Join SotA Dev Team
  • Desolate Hills on the Perennial Coast
  • Architecture of the Obsidians, Part 4: Desolis Underground!
  • Thou Art Invited to Hangout of the Avatar ~ Release 20 Postmortem
  • Player Owned Towns: Snowy Mountains
  • NPC Name Submissions Requested for Desolis!
  • Hometown: Parade of Homes
  • 24 Day Countdown for 10% Summer Bonus & Reward Expirations
  • 10 Day Countdown for Pledge Splits & Merges
  • In-game Community Weekend Events
  • This Week In the News
  • Upcoming Events
  • World Builder/Level Designer and VFX Artist Job Openings
  • Recommended Games to Back

Zaldivar_Esteben_headshot Mills_Jeff_headshot

New Designers Join SotA Dev Team

For the past several months we’ve been searching for world builders to help us crank out more content, as well as game system designers to help flesh out some of our systems. Our search has been fruitful and we’d like to introduce you to three recent additions to our Shroud of the Avatar team:

Keith Quinn joined the SotA team 3 months ago, and hit the ground running starting with Release 18. Keith has worked on massively-multiplayer games since 2001, starting in community relations for Ultima Online and most recently as a level designer for Shroud of the Avatar. Along the way, he’s been a game designer on several MMOGs for PC, mobile, and PlayStation, including DC Universe Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic. As a level designer, Keith helps bring adventure scenes to life by adding interesting visuals, harvestable resources, exploration rewards, and, of course, challenging bad guys all along the way. Born in New York, Keith currently lives in Texas with his pets. He sometimes creates comics in his spare time.

Zaldivar_Esteben_headshotEsteben Zaldivar aka “Steve”, joined us three weeks ago as a junior Level Designer, and is one of the youngest chaps on the Shroud of the Avatar team. He graduated with Honors from the College of Communication at the University of Texas with a concentration in game design. Throughout this time his research spanned open-world games, educational applications, and virtual reality games leading him to be awarded the ESA Video Game Innovation Fellowhip. During his studies he interned at Team Chaos where he was a game designer on several of their titles.

Mills_Jeff_headshotJeff Mills joined our team this week as a game system designer/programmer. Jeff has been making games professionally since 1996, at such studios as 7th Level, Terminal Reality, and Red Fly Studios. He has spent his career as a facilitator among the various disciplines within the development studio structure. Part programmer, part artist, part scripter, his experience gives him valuable insight into all of the processes involved in developing video games. Jeff is diving into the SotA crafting system, so look for enhancements to that system in Release 21 launching in a few weeks.

Desolate Hills on the Perennial Coast

Esteben Zaldivar and Keith Quinn have been working on the new Desolate Hills scene for Release 21 (launching August 27). Esteben is laying out the terrain and points of interest while Keith focuses on the game play elements. The Desolate Hills, corrupted by the Necroplis, have been reduced to a ruined graveyard in the North, abandoned settlement in the South, and a Shrine to the Lich King in the East, an inhospitable place for travelers. Here are a few screenshots of the work-in-progress:







Architecture of the Obsidians, Part 4: Desolis Underground!

[Continuation of A Dev+ Forum Post by Scottie Jones]

This week I made significant progress on the base layout for the Desolis Underground map from beginning to end (featuring all of this new Obsidian architecture). This has been, by far, one of the most difficult scenes to create simply because of the number of unique rooms and props it has required, partially due to the need to make it match the descriptions in Blade of the Avatar, and partially because of my desire to make the Obsidian architecture unique compared to the generic dungeon environments of an earlier age.


Of course, the fact that this complex is meant to represent the former seat of the Obsidian government also means it’s quite huge as well. Above you’ll note there are quite a few areas that are unfinished, but at least now I’m able to walk through it from start to finish. When you first enter this complex through the passage in the rock face of the Epitaph (a huge plateau of earth and stone thrust up by the cataclysm), you will travel through a huge passage deep into the earth flanked by carved stone dragon heads which act as sentinels, and which match the huge ones on the outside of the entrance (dragon heads designed by our awesome artist Andy Cortez for the Dragon Pass region).


The passage opens into a vast cave called the Cavern of Night, where the Old City’s basement layers are exposed around a funnel of ruins leading to the edge of an enormously deep shaft that descends into the heart of the plateau’s inner core. Currently, this space is dim and somewhat empty, waiting for me to populate it with ruins, rock, and earth.


Though the above image gives an impression of scale, and an initial glimpse of the balcony leading to the Acolyte’s Stair, this next image gives a better view of the same area from above the great depths it overlooks.


Here you can see the stairs beginning to descend into the terrors below. Over two centuries ago unfortunate prisoners were led by the dozens into this place, around the walkway to the right of the stairs, and into the upper dungeons on the opposite side of the great shaft. After they were processed they would be taken down the second staircase, known as the Long Stair, on a singular path that would lead down into oppressive darkness to only one terrible destination, the dreaded subterranean laboratories of the Reshapers.


In the present days of our game’s fiction, the desert people that dwell outside the walls surrounding the Epitaph throw their criminals and captured rivals into the ruins beyond the wall, and some of them seek shelter from the burning sun in the Cavern of Night. Those that have survived have claimed the old upper prison ruins as their own, and use the two stairways as choke-points to slaughter the many insane and horrid creatures that rise up from the depths. In the image below you can see the iron-doored gate on the opposite side which opens on to the Long Stair. That is my starting point for the rest of the upper dungeon prisons which I’ll be building behind it, under a covering of ruins and rubble which the Obsidians would have incorporated into it.


Players will be able to choose which path they’d like to use to descend, and will eventually be able to take either path back up as well, assuming they live through the quest that takes them to the Pool of Destiny far, far below… The shaft of the stairs will allow for a few harrowing fights with ascending monstrosities, while simultaneously enjoying the view of the Obsidian Falls (which plummet into the caves below), before finally getting to the bottom. In the image below you can see the path that leads down the center of the cave toward Fate’s Lake, beside the arcing end of the Long Stair. Here, visiting dignitaries and members of the Obsidian Court once looked down to their left and saw the majesty of the Cascades where the falls pour down toward the lake (currently not built-out yet), or gazed down to their right upon the poor souls being led to their doom.


And lastly, we have nearly the same view you saw a week or so ago, but now nearly complete and fully built-out! Once again you can see the entrance of the Obsidian Keep, the courtyard, and part of Fate’s Lake, but this time from atop the straight stairs on its path back toward the bottom of the Acolyte’s Stair…


Ah well, it’s been another evening of burning the midnight oil for me… Time to head home for the weekend! I do hope you enjoyed this week’s work in progress… There may be one or two more postings in this thread before I wrap up this scene… Take care!

Scottie ^_^

Thou Art Invited to Hangout of the Avatar ~ Release 20 Postmortem

Please join us Wednesday, August 12th at 3:00 PM Central (20:00 GMT) for our next Hangout of the Avatar! Richard, Starr, and Chris will be chatting about Release 20 and looking ahead to Release 21. And, of course, FireLotus will be taking your questions and feedback live in the chat-room and also in advance in the OP comments section.*


We will be giving out some really awesome prizes during the 90 minute extended Hangout, and all you have to do to qualify for one is to come hang out with us in the IRC chatroom during the broadcast. And, some very special guests will be joining us to close the show.  As always, the link to the hangout will be posted here directly before the hangout begins.

*Please keep in mind that questions and feedback related to Release 20 specific topics will be given priority and really verbose questions may be skipped, as they can be a challenge to shorten and summarize live on the air. In brief… please keep your questions… brief. ;)

Player Owned Towns: Snowy Mountains

Michael Hutchison has been working on the Snow Mountains Player Owned Town template. Any new PoTs added in R21 that select the snow mountains biome will be able to use the new template. Any PoTs already in the game that originally designated the snowy mountains biome will have their current template replaced with the new one when we do our next data wipe. Here are a few work-in-progress screenshots:



NPC Name Submissions Requested for Desolis!

The Founder Developer rewards (and above) includes naming an NPC in the game. Scott “Lum” Jennings has posted the following NPC naming request on the Dev+ the forums:

HumilityThank you for your continuing support of Shroud of the Avatar! It’s been a while since we’ve done this (a year, actually, since the introduction of Ardoris in R9!) but as we start to pick up the pace on new content, expect these calls for submission far more frequently. This month, we’re seeking entries for inhabitants of the dusty and mysterious village of Desolis!

Desolis is a desert community that is overlooked (quite literally) by the Obsidian ruins of the Chamber of Souls and its adjoining underground. Although few make their home there, many new arrivals have been driven by the promises of what can be found in the nearby ruins; be they studious archeologists, daring adventurers, or desperate refugees looking for a last chance at wealth…

First, some brief notes:

– NPC visual customization, as you may have noticed, is still at a very early stage in development. Right now for the backers who want to be added to Desolis, we cannot offer any visual customization options beyond our standard gallery of NPC models. If you would like to have input over the visual customization of your NPC, please wait for further releases when we can offer this.

– Response to this will be on a first-come first-served basis for each call for responses. If your NPC doesn’t appear in Desolis, feel free to respond again thereafter. We have quite a few towns and cities to populate!

– When responding, please list a first and second choice for profession; some of these are going to be very limited in number.

– NPCs for Desolis must be human.

Still with us? Great! Here’s what we need this month (this is the low end of what we expect to need; we’ll take submissions on a first-come first-serve basis):

– 5 guards
– 3 merchants
– 3 residents
– 2 trainers (these will be fairly high level)
– 10 visitors (people who seek to explore the ruins of the Desolis underground)

If you’d like to have your namesake be a resident or visitor of Desolis, please respond via private message on this forum to me (Lum) using the following format:

NPC name:
NPC gender:
NPC profession (first choice): Guard / Merchant / Resident / Trainer / Visitor
NPC profession (second choice): Guard / Merchant / Resident / Trainer / Visitor
NPC background (optional): A paragraph on whom your NPC is, how they would respond to nosy outlanders poking about their business, what brings them to Desolis (or keeps them there), or anything else you’d like to add. We reserve the right to edit and/or reject any background that does not fit the lore and setting of the game.

We will respond if: your NPC is used; if it is rejected for whatever reason (such as an inappropriate name); or if your NPC missed the cutoff for this release.

Thanks for your support, and see you in Desolis!


Hometown: Parade of Homes

We’ve received many requests from community members to be able to view a home in-game before they purchase it (either from the Add-On Store, Stretch Goal Store, or through a pledge upgrade). So, using the new Island template, we (well, mainly Starr Long) built the town of Hometown on an island just off the southeast corner of Novia, near the starting town of Soltown. Starr gave the town editor a workout as he laid out lots and placed one of every type of home we have available (from the Add-On & Stretch Goal Store, Pledges, and in-game vendors). This also helped us prioritize what improvements we plan to make to the town editor over the next several releases.

Hometown is still a work-in-progress, so let us know if we missed any homes. Plus, we plan to enlist the aid of some of the community’s top decorators to help us decorate all the homes (like some of those folks that participate in the Home Decorating contests). Send me (dallas) a PM in the forums if you’d like to put your name on the list of Hometown’s model home decorators.





24 Day Countdown for 10% Summer Bonus & Reward Expirations

SotA_10PercentBonus-v1If you were thinking of pledging your support to the development of Shroud of the Avatar, upgrading your existing pledge, or purchasing/upgrading a Player Owned Town, now’s a great time to do it! To celebrate twenty months of successful monthly releases, we are offering a 10% Summer Pledge/Town Bonus! Starting at 10am CST, July 10 and running through Midnight CST, August 31, 2015, you will receive an additional 10% bonus added to your Store Credit for any pledge purchases/upgrades, or Player Owned Town purchases/upgrades (including monthly pledge or town payment plans).

(NOTE: The 10% Bonus will be applied to your Store Credit within 24 hours of your purchase; 10% Bonus is for Pledges and Player Owned Town purchases/upgrades/payment plans only and does not apply to Add-On, Stretch Goal, or Make a Difference Store purchases; Existing Store Credit applied toward a purchase does not qualify for the 10% Bonus)

Additionally, as we enter the last half of 2015, and major milestones such as Alpha and Beta are looming closer on the horizon, we will be announcing a series of expiration events regarding pledges, rewards, and related services. The first expiration event coincides with the end of our 10% Summer Bonus promotion at Midnight CST, August 31, 2015. These expirations include:

  • Select Pledges (including their specific rewards):
    • $220 Patron Pledge
    • $375 Navigator Pledge
    • $450 Developer Pledge
  • Signed physical goods (Patron pledge and above)
  • Home and basement stacking (Ancestor pledge and above)
  • Secondary lots (Lord pledge and above)
  • Player Owned Towns with Overland Map Access

Please know that these expirations DO NOT affect any backers that already have these rewards. If you already got ’em, then you get to keep ’em! These expirations only affect new backers, or existing backers that have not upgraded to the specified pledge tiers before the expiration date.

[NOTE: Any payment plans started for the specified pledge tiers (Patron, Ancestor, & Lord) or above prior to Midnight CST, August 31, 2015 will not be affected by these expirations]

[Click here for more details…]

10 Day Countdown for Pledge Splits & Merges

As announced in Update #134, backers will have thru August 17, 2015 to request a pledge split or merger, after which we will no longer be able to process them.

[Click here for more details…]

In-game Weekend Community Events

Our amazing community has another great lineup of in-game events planned for this weekend. Special thanks to community member SpookyJenny (aka Jenny Phoenixfyre in-game) for her help in compiling the latest schedule of player events from the Avatar’s Circle Community Events calendar and the Events of the Avatars community calendar:

Recurring Events

  • Gladiator Wars (Mondays, 7pm CST)
    • A call to all fighters PVE and PVP! Would you like to participate in the “Gladiator Wars” PvP Tournaments? (details)
  • Novian Academy – The Philosophy of Order (Fridays, 5pm CST)
    • Weekly discussion on the philosophy of Order and their interconnection to the virtues. Learn how to overcome the misconceptions of order and chaos and instead learn about the realities behind the creation of both the Order philosophy and the virtues. (/zone Kazyn Phoenixfyre)
  • The R20 Unreliable Travel Guide
    • The Unreliable Travel Guide, created at the SotA Writing Round Table, is not an event, but a a collection of hilarious short stories published by two drunken layabouts who have nothing better to do than try to derive a dishonest income from newly arrived avatars. (details)
  • “The Tavern Respite” RP Event (Mondays, 8pm CST)
    • The tavern door opens before you, and the scent of pipe and stew waft outwards with a wall of warmth from the hearth. Join in with the patrons of the Bear Tavern as they share tales of their adventures amid endless mugs of ale, legs of mutton, and merriment unbounded (details)!
  • Happy Hour Wednesdays (Wednesdays, 8pm CST)
    • Otherwise known as “Spend Stryker’s Gold” – Stryker will open a bar tab at one of the local Novia taverns for an hour or so for drinks, stories, news, critique of the arts, dancing, and otherwise unplanned mayhem. Zone /Stryker Sparhawk or watch this thread for locations each week!
  • Vengeance Madness (Fridays, 7pm CST)
    • This is an Open PvP event where everyone fights it out in a royal rumble to see who the ultimate death dealer is! (City of Vengeance; /zone Bambino LudoVate)
  • Daily Breakfast Club – 12am CST (London UK); 6am CST (Central US); 3pm CST (Sydney Australia)
    • Breakfast Clubs offer a time when people from around different time zones can gather. (Wody’s Pub, Paxlair)
  • Phoenix Republic Open Mic Night (Thursdays, 7pm CST)
    • Come hang out in Wody’s Bar. Have a story or a song, Maybe want to do some stand up? Every Thursday the audience will vote on the winner of the weekly prize (Wody’s Bar, /zone Kazyn Phoenixfyre or Jack Knyfe)
  • Beach Party by BMC (Fridays at 9pm CST)
    • Come join the BMC for dancing and fun at the Beach (/zone River Beauchamp)
  • Challenge Dungeon Run (Fridays at 7pm CST)
    • This is a self-host event, meet at the Braemar Cemetery and organize into groups to take on the infamous Chillblain’s Compendium of Pain & Suffering!

Saturday, August 8

  • 9:00am CST PaxLair Working Hours
    • PaxLair town and community “working hours” are for anyone interested in PaxLair. (/zone Winfield)
  • 11:00am CST Church of the Dark Star – Saturday Service
    • Join Lady Amber Raine, High Priestess of the Church of the Dark Star along with Kazyn Phoenixfyre of the Church of the Sun, as they bring another thought provoking service. (PaxLair; details)
  • 12:00pm CST Dara Brae Farmers Market
    • Come to Dara Brae and attend our Farmer’s Market. In our main Pavilion we will have tables with goodies for you to browse through and purchase at your leisure. Food, crafts, and more will be available. Do you have something to sell? Bring it and sell it at our Farmers Market!!  (/zone Dara Brae; details)
  • 2:00 pm CST 4B Maze in Dara Brae
    • Visit our maze in the new Player Owned Town – Dara Brae. Get lost on the island. (/zone Dara Brae)
  • 3:00pm CST Book Exchange
    • This is for authors, playwrights, librarians and amateurs. An hour of reading, trading and selling your books. Anyone who wishes may leave up to 6 of each of their personally written books in my cache chest for future visitors. (/zone Luka Melehan)
  • 6:00pm CST Doomsayer in PaxLair
    • A role-playing event (/zone Mallory Tolbert)
  • 8:00pm CST Vengeance 1v1 Tournament
    • The longest running Player vs Player tournament in Shroud of the Avatar. (City of Vengeance)

Sunday, August 9

  • 6:30am CST Explore Novia with royalsexy (PaxLair Moon Tower, /zone royalsexy)
  • 11:00am CST Phoenix Republic Town Hall/Working Hours
    • A Gathering of members of the Phoenix Republic to cover important topic areas of the month. (Republic Town Hall, Port Phoenix, /zone Kazyn Phoenixfyre or Jack Knyfe)
  • 3:00pm CST Gustball
    • Two teams are pitted against each other in a sporting event not dissimilar from soccer, football, and basketball. The object of the game is to Gust a Gustball around the field and into your opponent’s goal (PaxLair, /zone Bambino Ludovate, details)
  • 5:00pm CST BMC Grid Iron Feast and Registration
    • Register to compete in the BMC Gridiron and mingle with other participants and spectators before the big fight! (Merriston, west of Ardoris, details)
  • 5:30pm CST BMC Gladiator’s Grid-Iron
    • The BMC is proud to present the nastiest, the foulest, the most feared arena in all of New Britannia! The Grid-Iron is equipped with a pit-style arena, locker rooms, a VIP round-table, betting & vendor booths, and all the blood-sport you can handle. (Merriston, west of Ardoris, details)
  • 7:00pm CST PaxLair Meeting
    • Come see what PaxLair is up to in Novia and other town areas! Many people also attend from towns and guilds for a bit of a weekly wrap-up and what’s happening. Good discussions!  (PaxLair, /zone Winfield)
  • 8:00pm CST Fishing with Winfield
    • Come sit with Winfield on a log or rock to hear some fish tales or tell your own. Chat about anything from the moons to the earth worms. Spend a relaxing day in nature near a stream or lake — bring insect repellent or a sword.  (some lake or pond, /zone Winfield)

Be sure and check out the Release 20 Events thread in the SotA forums for additional events that may not be included here.


This Week In the News

August 4 – Classic Game Fest: Richard Garriott & Starr Long Interview

Upcoming Events

2015.08.27 – Release 21
2015.08.28 – SotA at Syndcon
2015.09.04 – SotA at Dragon Con
2015.09.24 – Release 22
2015.10.29 – Release 23

World Builder/Level Designer and VFX Artist Job Openings

We currently have openings for junior-level to senior-level World Builder/Level Designers for Shroud of the Avatar. Qualifications for the “ideal candidate” are:

  • Minimum 2 years industry experience for junior-level (preferably on a shipped game)
  • Unity3D proficiency
  • Scripting ability
  • Experience building, texturing, and decorating natural, terrain based exterior environments
  • An artistic eye for detail, with strong scene compositional skills

We also have an opening for VFX artist with the following “ideal” qualifications:

  • Minimum 3 years experience as VFX artist for games
  • Unity3D proficiency
  • FX scripting and ability to create custom FX shaders
  • Artistic and technical particle effect skills

If you’d like to join the Portalarium Tribe working on the ground-breaking Shroud of the Avatar, please submit your resume to jobs@portalarium.com. Provide links to your work (if possible), including actual game play, videos footage, and document form (images, maps, and event descriptions).


Recommended Games to Back

The Bard’s Tale IV

From the creators of Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera comes The Bard’s Tale IV. Thirty years ago, The Bard’s Tale put Brian Fargo and Interplay on the map and launched a storied career crafting some of the most beloved cRPGs in gaming history. Today, we return to Skara Brae for the long-awaited dungeon-crawling sequel to the Bard’s Tale trilogy — the games that helped define the genre. As described by inXile, it is a single-player, party-based cRPG with dynamic phase-based combat, challenging puzzles and riddles, and a game set to beautiful Gaelic music, where the Bard’s songs and melodies affect gameplay.


  1. mbombermbomber

    Hometown is a GREAT idea. I will love to see it. I bought a few things to try out, wall and pavers to get a look at if they will fit my aesthetic tastes (or lack of). I really like the Ornate Rusted Iron Fence and Tall Ivy Covered Stone Fence (want a hedge trimmer though), but i did not like Ornate River Stone Fence. If only you would make and Ornate Stone fence with Bone White and Black Marble blocks to match the pavers.

    1. KoldarKoldar

      I really hope that crafting will be able to fill the need to personalize things like fences, pavers, shrubs, etc.

  2. steannesteanne

    hometown is fantastic! …though it did require reduced graphic settings. add the city duke water house and the town druid tree?

    1. DarkStarrDarkStarr

      Thanks for pointing out the tree. It got accidentally deleted. I’ve added it back in the same area where the white towers are.

      Also the Duke Founder Keep is the same exact layout as the water version.

  3. Forest_DwellerForest_Dweller

    Welcome to the new members of the team!!! Can’t tell you how excited I am that they have joined SotA and will contribute their visions and skills to the game. Very nice to meet you! :)

  4. majoria70majoria70

    A hearty welcome to the development new hires. I am really happy you have joined us in this journey. Now we can get on with so many things with help Im sure. I’m sure there was way too much for the team to do without you, so thanks for joining us.

Comments are closed.