We are excited to announce a candidate launch date for Shroud of the Avatar! On Tuesday March 27, 2018 (Release 52), we are planning to launch out of Early Access!
So what does that mean exactly for a game that has been both persistent for over a year and been doing monthly releases for over 4 years? Well, for us it means that we are delivering the list of features, including physical goods, promised during the Kickstarter albeit with a few exceptions and/or replacements (see below). It also means that we are going to grow our community through marketing campaigns
As we have stated previously, we intend to publish quarterly schedule updates detailing our monthly releases and those monthly releases will continue. 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 regularly, 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 recent polish passes to the user interface. 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.
Most recently we have been collaborating with our partner Travian to survey our backers on their experience with the game so we can correlate feedback scientifically with the metrics we are collecting in the game. Thank you everyone who has participated, your survey answers have helped guide our Top 10 priorities for launch and our Q1 schedule.
Q1 Top 10 Priorities: As mentioned in last quarter’s schedule update 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 such as visual polish, combat balance, or content that helps us raise funds. Q1 will focus on performance, launch preparations, and polish.
- Performance: Client Performance (FPS) & Load Time Reduction: In Q4, we managed to halve the load times, allowing us to focus on improving client performance. We will work on improving framerate, minimizing hitching, and lowering the game’s memory footprint. While we managed to reduce load times on most scenes to our goal of 15 seconds or less, there are still a few scenes that take more than 25 seconds to load (mainly big cities) and we will focus on getting those last few scenes down to our 15 second goal.
- Localization: In Q4, we successfully launched a fully localized Russian website and translated version of the game. We now need to make that happen for the other languages we plan to support for launch, and fully integrate all of this into the Steam client.
- Launch Readiness: As we prepare to move out of 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.
- Physical Goods: We have now begun production of the physical goods promised during the Kickstarter including the cloth map.
- Improved Reward Cycle: In Q4, we began adding unique components, virtue items tied to virtue quests, more artifacts, and we made artifacts enchantable and masterworkable. We will continue expanding that work in Q1. We are going to continue to slowly increase the amount of resources available in the world while carefully monitoring the game balance.
- Clearer Player Direction: In Q4, we took over SotAMap and fully integrated it into the game including moving it over to Amazon Web Services for hosting to make it much faster to load. We will continue improving this in-game mapping service with Linux support, Offline support, and Localization. In Q4, we improved the amount of information available to players in the Overworld and on the Compass and we plan to continue to expand on that, while also providing an option to disable these assistive features for those who prefer more of a challenging experience.
- New User Experience (NUE): In Q4, we polished all seven of the starting maps to improve flow and provide clearer direction. We will do another pass through all seven of those maps in Q1, to provide even more polish.
- Story Polish: In Q1, we will continue to add 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.
- 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 the battle progresses.
- User Interface Polish: In Q4, we polished various UI elements and we will continue to do so during Q1 with a focus on improvements to targeting.
To repeat what I said in the Q1 2017 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.
NOTE: Release 52 launch date is a Tuesday vs. a Thursday due to Easter weekend.
RELEASE 50, January 25, 2018
- Story: We will continue to work on adding side quests and polish to the Paths of Truth, Love, and Courage. Additionally, we will continue doing polish work focused specifically on the starting scenes. Also, we will continue to add and update maps for the in-game map system. Finally, some scenes will be rebuilt from scratch including the city of Yew.
- Performance: Performance work will mainly focus on improving framerate and reducing hitching during gameplay. Work will also continue to be done on load time reduction on the few outstanding scenes that are not meeting our 15 second load time target.
- Crafting & Economy: We will continue adding more loot to the game, including unique components for crafting, more Virtue Gear, and Barbarian wearables. We will begin adding refining skills that increase the overall output of the refining step of crafting by increasing speed, batch size, and raw good to component ratios.
- User Interface Polish: We will make various improvements to the in-game map system, including support for localization and quest locations. We will begin adding options to disable assistive features like quest highlighting. Additionally, we will polish targeting to better identify your current target and whether your target is in or out of range of your weapon.
- Physical Goods: Production of the physical goods including the cloth map, box, and manual will continue.
- Combat: A pass will be made on combat balance looking at different combat and magic schools.
- Character: We will be adding wild boars as a new creature and doing polish passes on the wolves and female peasant NPCs.
RELEASE 51, February 22, 2018
- Story: We will continue to work on adding side quests and polish to the Paths of Truth, Love, and Courage. Also we will continue to add and update maps for the in-game map system. Additionally, we will continue doing polish work focused specifically on the starting scenes. Finally, work will be done on “The Lost Vale”; new mini-adventure centered around a lost valley previously hidden to players, now visible only during special astronomical alignments.
- Performance: Performance work will mainly focus on improving frame rate and reducing hitching during gameplay. Work will also continue to be done on load time reduction on the few outstanding scenes that are not meeting our 15 second load time target.
- Combat: More balance passes will be made through combat. Additionally, Cabalists will get some behavior improvements so that fights with them will be more interesting. Also, Chaos Magic will finally get more spells! Finally, we will be making a Training Accelerator Potion that temporarily increases how fast your skills use experience out of your pool to advance (note that a replenishing box of these potions will be a replacement for the 2 Week Skill Head Start reward).
- Crafting & Economy: We will continue adding more loot to the game, including unique components for crafting and more Virtue Gear. Also, we’ll continue adding refining skills that increase the overall output of the refining step of crafting by increasing speed, batch size, and raw good to component ratios.
- User Interface Polish: We will make various improvements to the in-game map system including support for Offline Mode and Linux. We’ll continue adding options to disable assistive features like compass notations.
- Physical Goods: Production of the physical goods including the cloth map, box, trinket, and manual will continue.
- Loot Rules: Parties will now be able to choose from a set of rules on how loot is allocated between party members.
- Heraldry: Players will be able to create heraldry through a blazon system that can be displayed on shields, tabard chest pieces, and banners in game.
- Character: Polish passes will continue to be made on various creatures and non-player characters including the bandits and various woodland creatures like the bear.
RELEASE 52, March 27, 2018 <LAUNCH CANDIDATE> Note that R52 launch date is a Tuesday vs. a Thursday due to Easter weekend.
- Story: We will continue to work on adding side quests and polish to the Paths of Truth, Love, and Courage. We’ll continue to add and update maps for the in-game map system. Additionally, we’ll continue doing polish work focused specifically on the starting scenes. Finally, some adventure scenes in various regions of Novia will be rebuilt from scratch.
- Frame Rate Increase: Performance work will focus on improving frame rate and reducing hitching during gameplay.
- Names on Brittany Graveyard Tombstones/Domesday Book/Credits Page: Players will be able to select what name they wish to display in these locations via a name entry function on their account page.
- Player Towns & Player Housing: Updates to Dynamic Player-Owned Towns (POTs) that have locked submission forms will start appearing in the game again. Additionally, the globe decoration that replaces the Map Atlas reward will appear in the game. Finally in-game Lot Deed Raffles will resume.
- Crafting & Economy: We will continue adding more loot to the game including unique components for crafting.
- User Interface Polish: We will provide more feedback about locations on the compass and map for quests, services, points of interest, etc.
- Multiple Characters: Players will now be able to have multiple characters on a single account. Note that these characters will share virtue and will have a common bank account. Characters will also share guild membership and land ownership ( including lot access permissions and rentals).
- Physical Goods: Physical goods including the cloth map, box, trinket, manual, lot deeds, etc. (and the signed versions of each) will begin shipping.
- Localization: All interface text and quest dialogue will be fully translated into our launch languages including English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.
Launch: Yes, you read that correctly, we are launching out of Early Access with a candidate build at the beginning of 2018! So what does that mean exactly for a game that has been both persistent for over a year and been doing monthly releases for over 4 years? Well, for us it means that we are delivering the list of features, including physical goods, promised during the Kickstarter albeit with a few exceptions and/or replacements. It also means that we are going to grow our community through marketing campaigns.
As we present the overview of launch content it is worth reviewing what our vision is for Shroud of the Avatar. Shroud is a role playing game that is the spiritual successor of the Ultima* games that Richard “Lord British” Garriott started making 40 years ago that blazed the trail for what is often described as immersive sandbox role playing games. NPCs with schedules, choices that matter, the virtues, the word Avatar, games in a box, cloth maps: all those things came first with Ultimas*.
It is also the spiritual successor of Ultima Online*, the game that is credited with pushing MMOs into the mainstream & coining the term MMO. That game was built with Starr Long, aka Blackthorn, aka Darkstarr who is once again working with Richard on Shroud. Like the Ultimas*, and Ultima Online*, Shroud is a role playing game where you immerse yourself in a massive sandbox where you are challenged to make choices based on Virtues. It is a game where you can accept that challenge solo, with friends, or against other players through deep and interdependent roles supported by a complex crafting and economic system.
Much like all of Lord British’s previous works Richard pushes the team to make the world be interactive and immersive. This manifests itself with a working celestial system and day/night system that affects the game mechanics, fully dynamic lighting where every light can turn on and off, all the doors can open and close, traps and locks abound, NPCs have schedules, and much much more.
On top of that deep sandbox is a rich story that Richard co-wrote with Tracy Hickman that follows three converging paths of Truth, Love, and Courage. All of this is woven together by a unique system we call Selective Multiplayer that allows you to play Offline or three different Online modes including Single Player Online, Friends Online, and Open Online.
Now that we have reviewed the vision here is the broad overview of the launch content:
- Multiple Play Modes:
- Offline Mode with special features and content
- Save Games
- All Store, Pledge, Bundle Items available for gold in-game
- Combat Balance
- 3 Online Modes on One Worldwide Server (no Shards!)
- Single-Player Online
- Friends Online
- Multiplayer Online
- Offline Mode with special features and content
- Multiple Platforms, Versions, & Languages:
- PC, Mac, Linux
- Steam & Direct Download
- English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian (Game & Website)
- Combat:Use-Based Advancement
- Classless System with fully customizable builds from all schools
- 7 Combat Schools with 75+ Combat Skills
- Heavy Armor
- Light Armor
- 9 Magic Schools with 95+ Magic Spells
- 4 Strategy Schools with 40+ Skills
- Free Attack and Auto Attack options
- Fixed Hotbar and Dynamically Dealt Deck options
- Combo system where spells and skills combo into different abilities
- 20+ Weapon Types: Swords, Daggers, Polearms, Axes, Hammers, Bows, Staves, Wands, etc.
- 12+ Armor Types: Cloth, Leather, Augmented Leather, Chain, Plate, Epic Plate, etc.
- Cover that affects combat
- PVP: Open Flag, Duels, Guild vs. Guild, Open PVP Zones, Open PVP Player Towns, Open PVP Basements
- Movement: Walk, Run, Sprint, Jump, Swim, Tumble
- World & Story: 230+ scenes
- Episode 1 Storyline Complete
- Paths of Truth, Love, and Courage that can be completed in any order
- Path of the Oracle (finale)
- 220+ Scenes:
- 100+ Outdoor Adventure Scenes
- 30+ Dungeons & Sewers: A vast Underworld with a multitude of interconnections.
- 60+ Towns
- 6 Control Points that block access to different parts of the map until taken (or snuck through)
- 13+ Open PVP Areas: Obsidian Ruins, Shardfalls, etc.
- 2 Overworld Scenes
- 10+ Roving Encounters
- 100s of unique NPCs with names, conversations, and schedules
- 10+ Merchant Types
- 100s of quests
- In-game Map system (also accessible via the website)
- Town Sieges linked to working Celestial Mechanics
- Dread Artifacts and the Shroud of the Avatar in-game item
- Traps, Puzzles, Keys, Locks, Secret Doors, and Breakable Walls
- Episode 1 Storyline Complete
- Creatures: 55+
- Bosses: Dragons, Trolls, Phoenixes, Daemons, Reapers, Liches
- Magical: Elementals, Golems, Chest Mimics, Barrel Mimics, Imps, Wisps, Slimes, Maneaters, Flesh Flayers, Mushroom Men, Killer Plants
- Undead: Skeletons, Zombies, Ghosts
- Clockwork: Clockwork Dragon, Clockwork Assassin, Clockwork Dog/Cat/Raven, Clockwork Monkeys
- Humanoids: Elves, Kobolds, Bandits, Satyrs, Fauns, Reshapers, Barbarians
- Creatures/Animals: Bears, Wolves, Corpions, Spiders, Deer (Stags and Does), Rabbits, Cats, Dogs, Horses, Llamas, Chickens, Donkeys, Turkeys, Ravens, Eagles, Crocodiles, Pigs, Sheep, Wild Boars, Ravens
- Character Customization:
- Facial Feature Morphing, Hairstyles, Skin Tone, Eye Color, Hair Color
- 135+ Emotes including emotes that can be taught/traded between players
- 10 Slots for Gear: Head, Chest, Arms, Legs, Feet, Finger, Neck, Back, Musical Instrument, Belt
- 100s of Wearables including dresses, masks, hats, cloaks, and armor
- 40+ Pets including Eagles, Rabbits, Cats, Dogs, Lynx, etc.
- Multiple Characters on Single Account
- 100s of recipes for gear, decorations, potions, food, etc.
- 100s of modifiers on crafted gear based on materials, critical success, location, masterworks and enchantments.
- Gem Socketing, Enchanting, Masterworking, dyes, and patterns for a variety of post crafting, post process effects on items.
- Recipes that can be found, purchased, or discovered.
- Salvage system that can be used to gain raw materials, components, and patterns from gear.
- Patterns that can be salvaged or purchased that can be applied to gear to change appearance.
- 50+ materials to be gathered.
- Classless crafting system that can be freely mixed with combat skills.
- Public and Player Vendors to sell goods.
- Purchase Order system to buy goods through vendors.
- Specialized Trainers to teach skills.
- Regional Economies with relative abundance/scarcity of goods.
- Player created books and book printing.
- Player created bulletins and bulletin boards.
- 6 Schools of Gathering with 20+ Skills.
- Field Dressing
- 5 Schools of Refining with 15+ Skills.
- 5 Schools of Production with 25+ Skills.
- 6 Lot Sizes: Row, Village, Town, City, Keep, Castle.
- Lot Deeds offered on website or through monthly in-game raffle.
- 100+ different houses.
- 50+ different basements.
- 1000s of decorations including furniture, walls, fences, paintings, rugs, food, trophies, statues, trees, etc.
- Detailed decoration system to make your place truly unique.
- Magic Movers system that allows you to save and move your decorated home & basement.
- Land Tax System.
- Housing Permissions so multiple players can share the same land including renting.
- 320+ Dynamic Player-Owned Towns where owners can customize lot placement, start locations, decorations, town blessings, tree coverage, music, merchants, and more.
- Servants and house pets.
- Public Cache Chests.
- Player-Owned Town Blessings that offer various bonuses.
- Text Chat with multiple channels (guild, party, private, scene)
- Discord integration
- Mail System
- Radio linked to customizable webstreams.
- Banking System
- 13 Musical Instruments (Lute, Drum, Piano, Harp, Flute, etc) with songs played via ABC/MML files including ability to play as a synched group.
- “DnD 1” playable on a teletype machine.
Where is my favorite feature?: While we were able to get almost all Kickstarter features, pledge rewards and every other randomly mentioned or thought of feature over the last four years complete by launch there are a few that are not going to make it in time. Please rest assured that we are going to put forth every effort to get all of these complete by the end of 2018 in one of our regular monthly updates (yes we are going to continue to do those each and every month just like we have for the last four years!).
- Kickstarter Features, Pledge Rewards, Store Content: This is the short list of items from the Kickstarter, pledges, and store that will be finished in one of the post launch monthly releases.
- Alcohol/Brewing: This includes the German Beer Recipe reward.
- Fyndoro’s Tablet of Finding: While the home decoration item exists, it does not yet allow for the tracking of a person (player or NPC).
- Puzzle Box: While the home decoration item exists, it does not yet have any puzzle functionality.
- Theater System.
- Castle Defense Scenarios/Castle Types/Castle Merchants.
- Shipping Lanes/Boat Schedules & Random Boat Encounter Scenes.
- Custom Duke/LotM Heads: We did not adequately prepare for how excited backers would be to upgrade to this incredibly high pledge level so we have contracted with an outside vendor to fulfill this reward, hence the delay. However we have every confidence in the delivery of these by the end of 2018.
- Custom Static POTs: While over 95% of POT owners have opted for the flexibility of Dynamic POTs there are still a few POT owners who wish for a static customized town and we plan to honor those requests.
- Content & Systems Polish: In addition to the above there is another short list of content that needs polish and additions that we have mentioned previously including:
- Combos: More ways to combine existing skills & spells.
- Public Gardens
- Vendors: Vendor customization and finer vendor controls.
- Fishing: fishing skills beyond the base, more fish variety, treasure.
- Scene Rebuilds: There are approximately 30 scenes left to rebuild including a mix of adventure scenes and towns.
- Looking For Group
- Raid System (group of Groups)
- Offline Spawning Rules
- Agriculture: Weather influence and fertilizer.
- Item Affinity/History
- Player Items in Loot Tables
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!
Shroud of the Avatar
*Ultima and Ultima Online are Registered Trademarks of Electronic Arts, Inc.