As we have stated previously, we intend to publish quarterly schedule updates for our monthly releases. Even though the goals outlined in these schedules are likely to change somewhat as we react to feedback, we feel it is important to periodically provide you with an updated roadmap.
Our priority continues to be to deliver new content to our backers each and every month so that you can give us feedback that will help us iteratively improve Shroud of the Avatar. This collaborative process continues to benefit the game, and often results in sweeping changes such as the upcoming addition of the Outskirts scenes. As you have seen in previous releases, the flexibility inherent to this process means that we sometimes push things out, but we also often pull new things in.
New User Experience (NUE): A large priority for the second quarter is going to be improving the new user experience. For several years now, our backers have been providing us feedback that the first few hours of our game have several major issues. Those issues include too many loading screens, scenes that are too small, overloading the user with too many options, and starting towns that include player housing/vendors. As we shift our focus to improving the New User Experience, and as we are able to measure new player progress during events such as our recent free trial, we realize that we must address these issues sooner rather than later.
As we announced during the Spring Telethon, one of our solutions to these issues is to add three new maps to the game that we are calling “Outskirts.” These scenes will be very close to the three starting scenes, and players will go directly there after finishing those starting scenes. Outskirts will be very large scenes, similar in scope to some of the recently added big scenes like Blood Bay. Each Outskirt scene will have a small outpost that will include some shopkeepers, trainers, crafting stations, and a few quest givers (and no player housing!). The scenes will also include plenty of adventuring areas (forests, ruins, bandit camps, etc.). The large scale of the Outskirts, as well as the variety of experiences and services that they provide, will allow new players to base themselves in a single scene for adventuring and resupply for their first couple of hours of gameplay without needing to go through multiple loading screens or needing to use the Overworld.
In addition to Outskirts, we plan to improve the new user experience by delaying more advanced features until later in the game (which we began doing in Release 40). We also plan to implement Contextual Help, Improved Tutorial Systems, and a Polished Skill Training Interface.
Polish: In addition to the focus on the first few hours of gameplay, Q2 will include a lot of work on polishing the overall experience of playing Shroud of the Avatar. A large focus of this work will be on performance and stability, which is why you may see fewer new features than in previous quarters as you scan the list below. However, we will be adding some new features that are aimed at polishing the game. These include Mail, Looking for Group, and a Raid System. Additionally, continual passes will be made each release to address overall balance issues, especially in the first few hours of game play.
Story Complete: Our goal is to complete the story by Release 44 (July), so story efforts in Q2 will be focused on bringing the Paths of Truth and Courage to a playable and polished state. We also plan to unveil the game’s Finale. Since the story will be complete in R44, we plan to allow all players to make a one-time-only reset of the story status for their character (so they can start fresh with their current character) in Release 44 (July).
To repeat what I said in the Q1 post:
“We believe that we have reached the final 20% of development before Commercial Release, at which point we will transition out of Early Access. The next two quarters will be the most exciting and challenging times for the project so far. This will be when we get the final features and content in the game and make the last important balance changes. The changes will be fast and furious, and they may occasionally be hard to understand when you become accustomed to the way things were before. Please trust that we firmly believe that every change we make is best for the long term health of the project.”
As always, all dates, durations, and deliverables are subject to change as we adjust our designs based on direct feedback from you, our backers.
RELEASE 41, April 27, 2017
- Story: We will begin polishing the Path of Truth with the Dungeon of Artifice coming online for the first time. We will also polish visuals of the final sequence with the Titan Grannus in the Path of Courage. The incidental NPCs and side quests along the Path of Courage will also be worked on in locations like Estgard and Harvest. Verdantis Mines and the Kas Ruins scenes will both be uncloned. The Fall, a new PvP dungeon underneath Blood Bay, will appear in the game. Solace Bridge Outskirts, a new scene that players start in after the Battle of Solace Bridge will come online for the first time.
- Performance: Significant focus will be made on performance this release with emphasis on stability, framerate, memory, and load times.
- Player Towns & Player Housing: Updates to Dynamic Player-Owned Towns that have locked submission forms will appear in the game. Additionally Shields, Tools, and Helmets will become place-able as decorations.
- Combat: We will continue our polish pass on all the visual effects related to combat as well as make major improvements to the new user experience with combat.
- Character: The Titan Grannus will get his own unique art for the first time. Wounded variations of our guards and soldiers will appear in game. We will also be polishing the medieval peasants.
- Contextual Help: A contextual help system will come online that allows players to hover over content (interface elements, items, etc.) in the game and get information about it.
- Game Balance: Major efforts will be devoted towards game balance.
- Crafting: More recipes and more patterns in gear that is dropped from enemies.
RELEASE 42, May 25, 2017
- Story: We will do final polish on the Path of Truth including incidental NPCs and side quests in areas like Xenos and Etceter. We will polish visuals of the final sequence with Titan Boreas in the Path of Truth. Highvale Outskirts, a new scene that players start in after the Battle of Highvale Village, will come online for the first time.
- Player Housing: Updates to Dynamic Player-Owned Towns that have locked submission forms will appear in the game.
- Combat: We will continue our polish pass on all the visual effects related to combat.
- Character: The Titans Sequanna and Boreas, as well as Arabella, will get their own unique visuals. We will also do some polish work on Player Customization.
- Crafting: More recipes and more patterns in gear that is dropped from enemies.
- Raid System: Tools will come online for large groups, and groups of groups, to go on adventures together.
- Looking For Group: A tool to help players find a group to adventure with will appear in the game.
RELEASE 43, June 29, 2017
- Story: Polish will begin on the Finale of the plot including work on the Destiny Pool and the Oracle Chamber. Blood River Outskirts, a new scene that players start in after Blood River Massacre, will come online for the first time.
- Character: The Oracle herself will appear for the first time in the game as will the Shroud of the Avatar. We will be doing polish work on various creatures in the game, such as the Troll. We will also begin creating Viking-inspired clothing for the NPCs in the Norgard and Verdantis areas of Novia to better define that region, including outfits for Royalty, Guards, Citizens, and Merchants.
- Performance: Significant focus will be made on performance this release with emphasis on stability, framerate and load times.
- Bug Fixes and Game Balance: Much of this release will be spent on fixing bugs and balancing game systems.
- Mail: Players will be able to send mail to each other through an in-game interface.
- Offline Combat and Economy Balance: A pass will be made through the game to adjust combat balance for play in offline mode with companions. Additionally, the economy in offline mode will be tuned to be better balanced for single-player. For instance, NPC merchants will buy player-crafted items at a profit to the player. Also, pledge and Add-On Store items will be available from NPC merchants for purchase with in-game gold.
- Player Housing: Updates to Dynamic Player-Owned Towns that have locked submission forms will appear in the game. Additionally the ability to rent rooms in a player home will start to become available to homeowners.
We continue to be incredibly thankful for the support we receive from this amazing community. While the funding you provide makes all of this possible, it pales in comparison with the faith you have in us, the feedback you provide us, and the content you are making for everyone to enjoy. We are humbly grateful, and we cannot wait to see you again in New Britannia!
Before I go, I wanted to include an excerpt from my original post about our Early Release Schedule that is important to set the framework for our ongoing schedule:
As a crowd funded and crowd sourced project, we feel it is incredibly important that we provide our backers with information and access well before game studios would normally do so in a traditional development model. Traditionally, the players are given information and access only after the development team has already decided exactly how things will be done, and at times, even after it has already been implemented. By the time the public normally has access to the product, there is usually no time to meaningfully react to the public feedback.
Shroud of the Avatar is different than the traditional model, as we intend to offer our backers extremely early access to information and even the game itself. With that said, we also want to be very careful that we only provide access to portions of the game when they are ready for a wider range of feedback. If we can play it internally and we know it is not ready, then there is nothing to be gained by having a wider audience come to the same conclusion. In fact, it could be quite damaging to do so.
Our strategy over the next few months is to provide you with focused and iterative releases of content. Your feedback during these releases will be critical to making the final product the best it can be, and we appreciate that you are all so willing to devote your time to helping us. After each release we will review the results and reevaluate the plan including the duration of availability of each release.
It is important to repeat that all dates, durations, and deliverables are subject to change.
Shroud of the Avatar