Avatar’s Update #246: The Making of Blackblade Foothills and More Halloween and Oracle Items!

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

Game Development

News Announcements

Community Updates

The Making of Blackblade Foothills

We have been focusing many of our scene rebuilds (aka “un-clones”) on the lower tier scenes near the cities along the paths of Truth and Courage. These are all Tier 1 – 3 scenes that players encounter near the beginnings of their play experience. In addition to being rebuilt, we are also adding side quests to them. One of the scenes being rebuilt for Release 47 is Blackblade Foothills which is an arid area in the South Paladis region directly southwest of Nightshade Pass.

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Chris Wolf]

Hey folks! Today I’ll be sharing a few screenshots of the uncloning of Blackblade Foothills. Blackblade Foothills will be home to a caravan of restless nomads, Kobold prospectors, groups of scorpions, and frequent but powerful dust devils. This scene is still in a very early state, and I’m able to show small portions of the map. You can expect more updates in the future.

The Oasis

Nomad Tent Interior

Dust Devil Plains

Chris “Sea-Wolf” Wolf
Level Designer

Updates to New Content Threads: More Halloween and Oracle items

As mentioned in last week’s update we created several new threads to show off content that we have been creating for SeedInvest Perk Packs, Telethons, and for Halloween. We will be making and posting in these kinds of threads going forward so that our players can stay up to date on the latest images of these items as we make them. In the case of the Telethon and holiday content they will first go in Dev+ and then later be included here in the Weekly Update. This week we have added more content to the Halloween and R44 Postmortem threads.

More Prison Themed Items for Halloween!

[From a Forum Post by Starr “Darkstarr” Long]

Continuing with our prison theme here are four more home decoration items, all lovingly crafted by our very own Bob “The Builder” Cooksey. The ornate versions are inscribed with magic sigils and runes to help when immobilizing and imprisoning powerful magical beings (like Outlanders). These ornate versions will be available in the Add On Store while the simpler versions will be craftable.

The first items are Pillories. When used the avatar will put their arms and head in them. The second items are Prison Cages with working doors:

Battle Scythe

[From a Forum Post by Starr “Darkstarr” Long]

In addition to the 2017 Ornate Scythe (that will only be available in the Add On Store for a limited time) there will also be a craftable Battle Scythe in the game!

Release 44 Postmortem Rewards (Oracle!)

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Starr “Darkstarr” Long]

The R44 Postmortem was themed around the Oracle which also means these are some of the only telethon items that do NOT have the virtue symbol. Here is the hood (aka helmet)! You all saw an earlier mockup that Fletcher “Scathana” Kinnear had put together but here is the final version.

Oracle Eye Hood (aka Helmet) (by @Scathanna)

Visit last week’s Avatar’s Update #245 for more upcoming item reward screenshots!

Top 10 Priorities for Launch (Sept 2017 Edition)

[From a Forum Post by Starr “Darkstarr” Long]

We keep a running list of our Top 10 priorities at all times that we use when building our schedule and prioritizing where to allocate our team’s resources. We often refer to it when making decisions about the project. While it has a VERY strong influence on what we work on at any given time, it does not mean that we only work on something that is on the list. It just means that if someone can assist with something that will help address an item on the list then, we will make sure they do that first before working on anything else. Sometimes team members cannot assist with anything on our top priorities, so they work on other tasks like visual polish, combat balance, or content that helps us raise funds.

Until now we have only used this list internally and we have not shared it externally with you, our backers. However, we felt that as we approach launch we definitely should share this list, especially because our current list consists of everything we need to address BEFORE we are ready to launch.

1. Reduce Load Times: There are a lot of positive benefits to being a game that is divided up into multiple scenes, including everyone playing on one server and the ability to dynamically update scenes at will. However, being a scene based game means that our load times MUST be mere seconds or the entire experience of playing the game is destroyed. Right now scene loads can take several minutes on physical media drives (HDs) and tens of seconds even on solid state drives (SSDs). Reducing load times to seconds on both drive types is our number one goal for Q4 because the entire game experience depends on it.

2. Client Performance (FPS): Once we have reduced load times we can focus on improving client performance. We will work on improving framerate, minimizing hitching, and lowering memory footprint.

3. Improved Reward Cycle: Right now our reward cycle for play is completely unsatisfying. The loot is infrequent, not exciting, and requires multiple steps to gain a reward (ex. salvaging followed by crafting). We are going to add more immediately gratifying items (artifacts and gear with stats that can be salvaged for unique components). We are also going to slowly increase the amount of resources available in the world while carefully monitoring the game balance. Finally, we are going to add more unique quest rewards, especially items related to the virtues (ex. banners with virtue symbols).

4. Clearer Player Direction: Currently we rely on some very subtle and “immersive” indicators for information in the world (ex. piles of skulls to indicate scene difficulty). We are going to provide much clearer indication of information. For example, on the overworld all towns will have clear indicators of their town type (POT, NPC, etc.). We will also indicate whether you have a quest in a scene, a clearer label of the scene’s difficulty, perhaps even an indicator of what services a scene might provide (bank, mail, blessings, etc.). We will also start providing more on screen indicators of this information, so that while you are in a scene you will better know what kind of scene it is, what difficulty it is, whether you have quests in the scene, etc. We will also work hard to polish the maps and compasses to better guide you to and from your quests, homes, services, points of interests, scene exits, etc.

5. Story Polish: As of now the story does an adequate job of telling you what is going on, but it does not really make you care, nor does it tell enough about the virtues. We will be working hard over the next several releases to provide more compelling experiences that put you in situations that will hopefully make you care more about the world, and at the same time provide you opportunities to either fulfill or turn away from the virtues.

6. Improved Enemy Behaviors: Most of our enemies have very simplistic and repetitive behaviors that can be easily gamed and do not require a high level of coordination nor planning. We hope to improve on this so that enemies have markedly different behaviors, resistances, and also weaknesses. For bosses in particular, we want to introduce patterns of behaviors that change over time as you fight them.

7. User Interface Polish: While our user interface allows users to access all the current game functions, it can be counter intuitive, not informative enough when needed (ex. very little feedback when you are stealing), and sometimes even shows incorrect information. We hope to incrementally improve the intuitive usability of the various interface elements while also adding more feedback for the user’s actions, and of course fixing any errors in information display.

8. New User Experience (NUE): While we have made various improvements to the New User Experience, including the addition of the Outskirts maps, polishing the Isle of Storms, refactoring of the hints, and tips on the loading screens, there is still much work left to do guiding new players during their first time in the game. We need to provide much stronger and clearer direction in these opening moments than we currently do.

9. Localization: Now that we have publishing partners that represent territories spanning the globe, we need to spend more time on localization including detection of system language, fonts that work for multiple languages, websites that work for other territories, and of course translations.

10. Launch Readiness: As we prepare to move from Early Access to a truly live state post-launch, we need to make sure we have everything in place to truly support the product 24 / 7. This includes ensuring we have all the proper Customer Support Tools, Network Operations Center escalation / troubleshooting procedures, and security audits.

Starr “Darkstarr” Long
Executive Producer

Free Trial Test #6 (Sep 7-27) Continues! 

Free Trial Test #6 is live and runs until September 27. As with our previous tests this will let us continue to gather data about uptake, drop-off, conversions, etc. These tests are invaluable for us in order to improve the New User Experience and the Free Trial System.

Free Trial access allows you to play the entire game in any of the Online modes with a few key differences in game play. You will be able to explore hundreds of scenes, talk with thousands of players, adventure through the opening quests, and gain experience and skills as you get used to the world of New Britannia!

Join us in New Britannia for free!


Testing Incentives Program Reinstated (as a Lottery)

[From a Forum Post by Starr “Darkstarr” Long]

Greetings Avatars,

As we announced recently, we had to temporarily suspend the Testing Incentives Program due to the amount of internal bandwidth it was consuming. This was due to the high volume of bugs the program generated as players were incentivized to create quantity over quality to gain rewards.

We do want to reward efforts to test on the QA server because we do understand that time spent there is time lost on advancing your character on live. At the same time we do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past, so instead of rewarding quantity we are going to create a lottery. Each release we will randomly reward 4 of each of the following rewards (one prize per player):

  • 5 Gold Crowns
  • Ant Farm
  • Antennae
  • Bug Cloak
  • Set of Bug Paintings

In order to qualify you must meet the following requirements:

  • Install the QA version of the game
  • Login and play on QA for at least 4 hours per release
  • Report at least 1 bug in the QA section of the forums (Note that players will only be submitted for the lottery once per QA cycle. Continued bug reporting will not count toward additional submissions into the lottery.)

Thanks Avatars!

In The News: Dragon Con Interview Part 2 and More

Dragon Con Interview Part 2 with OperationRainfall

Take a look below at the great stories told between Richard and Starr in this in-depth interview while they were at Dragon Con!

OperationRainfall: One of the more unique things in the game is when you die, there is a skill decay. Why did you choose to utilize this in the game, versus a gear repair system, for example?

Starr Long: Well, we also have a gear repair system. But the reason we have a decay system – which we’re considering some alternatives – but it goes back to because we’re a classless system, and we have a lot of different skills, and let we let people level up those skills independently of each other. The other alternative is to let people level them up infinitely, so at some point, if we did that, then everyone would have every skill maxed out and they would basically no challenge left in the game and they would basically be gods. And at that point, we would have nothing to give them that would be challenging. And there would also be no interdependency between players. There would be no need for me to adventure with anyone else because I would have all the skills. Also, there would be no need to have any specialized gear because any gear would work with me.

Read the complete interview at OperationRainfall.com!

Break Out: Ultima III and the familial origins of Origin Systems

VentureBeat.com featured an excerpt from David L. Craddock’s book Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution, which talks about Richard “Lord British” Garriott and his family coming together to found Origin Systems.

The partnership between Richard and Robert was not the first instance of the Garriotts pitching in to help their own. “When I was younger, my mom did all different kinds of art,” Garriott remembers. “Silversmithing, pottery, etching. Of all the art she did, there was one piece of art that became incredibly popular by local standards. Don’t forget, my family was a NASA family. All our neighbors were astronauts. So my mom made this cookie jar called an earthrise pot.”

Above: One of Helen Garriott’s earthrise pots, whose creation helped lead to Origin Systems.

Helen’s earthrise pot started as a token of friendship given to neighbors. Her design is elegant and elaborate. The pot, cratered and pockmarked, resembles the craggy surface of the moon, and boasts extraordinary detail and accuracy. Holding it up to the light reveals twelve glimmering rhinestones, each set in a location where a manned landing on the moon’s surface took place. She paints the lid pitch black, and then, using a small brush, paints earth’s continents along the lid’s rounded finial. In summation, the jar is a to-scale model meant to capture how an astronaut standing on the moon (painted on the pot) perceives Earth (painted on the finial) from across the blackness of space (the base of the lid).

Read the complete story at VentureBeat.com.

How Richard Garriott got started in games

Polgyon.com also featured an excerpt from Craddock’s book this week.

Richard Garriott took it as a matter of fact that every kid his age had parents who flew to outer space. To him, that was normal. “It wasn’t until I went to school at University of Texas that I ran into what I now describe as ‘the Sesame Street people,'” he says.

“I never specifically thought of people who watched Sesame Street as a cross section of my neighborhood until I moved out of the neighborhood I grew up in and came here to Austin and realized, ‘Oh, wait. My NASA upbringing was the fantasy; the Sesame Street fantasy is, in fact, reality.’ It was quite a culture shock.”

Although born in Cambridge, England in 1961, Garriott spent most of his formative years in Houston, Texas. His neighborhood was practically an extension of Johnson Space Center, the Houston-based outpost of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Most of his neighbors were astronauts, contractors and engineers at NASA. There was Joe Engle, one of the first astronauts to join the Space Shuttle program, a manned-vehicle launch initiative; and Robert Gibson, better known to his friends as Hoot, who went on to join STS-27, a team of astronauts who orbited the earth 68 times in just over four days.

Read the complete story at Polygon.com.

Weekend Flash Sale: Water Homes, Water Lots, and Ship Decos

*Some items may be rounded to 20% by a few fractions of a percent.

In recognition of Pirate Town Homes added to the game in Release 45 (and Talk Like A Pirate Day this past Tuesday), we are putting Water Homes, Water Lots, and Ship Decos on sale this weekend! Get a look at the items on sale below. You can also view each item in the Add-On Store:

Upcoming Events Calendar

Sep 7 – 27, 2017 – Free Trial #6
Sep 22 – 23, 2017 – Ultima Online 20th Anniversary Party
Sep 28, 2017 – Release 46
Sept 29 – Oct 1, 2017 – IgroMir Expo (Moscow)
Oct 3 – 5, 2017 – Unity Unite
Oct 12, 2017 – R46 Postmortem Telethon
Oct 13 – 15, 2017 – SotA Con – Austin 2017
Oct 26, 2017 – Release 47
Nov 16, 2017 – Release 48
Dec 14, 2017 – Release 49

Visit the official Community Calendar to see the great lineup of activities our amazing community has planned for this weekend! And be sure to check out this month’s Release Events thread in the SotA forums for additional events.

Livestream: Northwest Blackblade Mountains

We kicked off the livestream last week with updates from Starr Long about the upcoming Release 46, SeedInvest Perks, and our current Top 10 Priorities. Richard Garriott also showed up!

Afterward, Travis “Vas Corp Por” Koleski gave viewers a sneak peek of the Northwest Blackblade Mountains scene coming in Release 46.

We ran out of time and Fletcher wasn’t able to show off his recent work on some weapons, but don’t worry, we’re saving him a slot for the next livestream!

For more livestreams and gameplay videos, be sure to subscribe to www.youtube.com/portalarium

Spotlight: Knight’s Watch Player Town

This week’s Player Owned Town spotlight takes us to Knight’s Watch in Hidden Vale. A bustling suburb of Kingsport, this vibrant coastal town is governed by Astor Cerberus. I (Berek) am about to arrive by boat at the docks to meet with him. Read on as the town folk provide a great tour!

I clamber off the boat to meet a charming promenade of row homes along the water. There is a bustle of commerce as vendors advertise their wares to bystanders. Taking in the view, I notice that Astor is not yet present. Instead, I’m approached by an intriguing looking outlander who introduces herself as Belladonna Rose.

[Read More…]

Event: Trial of Chaos – Saturday, Sept 23, 2017

Trial of Chaos

Adventurers from Novia! This is a beginning of a new era for Shroud of the Avatar. I’m proud to present you Trials of the Avatar, a series of challenges for all PvP and PvM lovers, which will make our way of playing dynamic and less boring. Check our site’s calendar to be updated on all scheduled events.

Resources – Players Helping Players


The official SotA New Player Welcome Forum and the Player Created Resources Forum have the best player created resources for Shroud of the Avatar, whether it’s a Player Written Guide, a Video Walk-through, or a Wiki-type Website.

Visit the official Community Resources page for a complete listing of all things community.

Project to Support – Nox Archaist


Nox Archaist is an Ultima inspired, 8-bit, tile-based, role-playing game, developed on the old-school Apple II and playable on the Apple II, MAC and PC.

Our goal at 6502 Workshop is to recapture the hands on gaming experience of the 1980s classics that we grew up with. And of course, that means a full color game box, fabric map, printed manual, and in-game artifacts – all with custom, professional artwork.

Nox Archaist is set in a sinister world ruled by sorcery and swords. Adventurers brave enough to explore Nox Archaist will encounter engaging NPCs and a vast storyline within a non-linear world. Hordes of vile enemies will block your path to fame and riches.

Gamers will enjoy features like skills-driven character development and strategic turn-based combat scenarios which integrate with the game’s storyline and push the boundaries of the Apple II platform.

Backer Shipping Addresses

SotA_ShippingAddressIn preparation for shipping backers’ physical pledge rewards around the game’s launch period, on your Account Page, please enter your shipping address, log in to the SotA website, select “Account” in top right corner, then select “Edit Profile” located in top left corner, beneath your Avatar image.

A reminder to be sure that support@portalarium.com is unblocked from your e-mail account!

1 Comment

  1. Belladonna RoseBelladonna Rose

    WOW. That will be a drastic terrain change in Blackblade Foothills. My main question is will you keep the cave there with the ore inside. That is a good go to low level place to mine silver. Just hope you dont removed or lower the ore inside if you leave it. As far as the external looks it might fit more with that region. Adding and changing up the mobs is good too.
    Could we please, please cut down the wolf population a bit. Makes me feel like the wolves are taking over instead of the undead lately.

Comments are closed.