Updates

Weekly Roundup and NEW Character Concept Art


Today’s update is for you, our Kickstarter backers!  You’ve been asking and we’ve been listening.  We’ve had many requests for a simple summary of what Shroud of the Avatar IS, so here goes!

What IS Shroud of the Avatar?

Shroud of the Avatar is the “spiritual successor” to Richard’s previous work in the FRP genre. Our primary objectives are to tell a story even more compelling than Ultimas IV-VII, create a virtual world more interactive than Ultima VII, develop deep rich multi-player capabilities beyond combat akin to Ultima Online, and offer a bold new approach to integrate them with “Selective Multi-Player”.

  • Shroud of the Avatar is infused with rich storylines, deeply integrated into game play, developed by Best Selling Author Tracy Hickman and RPG legend Richard Garriott.
  • Players will adventure in an interactive world where their choices have consequences, ethical paradoxes give them pause, and they play a vital part in weaving their own story into the immersive world and lore surrounding them.
  • Shroud of the Avatar is a Selective Multiplayer game, allowing players to choose how they want to play!  Whether in Single-Player Offline mode or any of three online modes, the main quest line will provide greater than 40 hours of focused, story driven content.
  • Shroud of the Avatar can be played as an offline DRM free solo experience or online, where our servers will enable player to player transactions, group finding, patching, streaming of dynamic content, and exploit prevention.
  • Built using the Unity Game Engine, Shroud of the Avatar will support Win/Mac/Linux for official launch.
  • Players can specialize in a wide range of combat and non-combat skills, provided by a robust, classless skill system, and full-featured crafting and housing mechanics.  Play the way you want to play, molding your character into the hero, anti-hero, or artisan you want to be!
  • Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtue is the first of a 5 game series of full-length, stand-alone games (each using the same game system), referred to as Episodes 1 thru 5. Estimated availability of Episode 1, Forsaken Virtues, is October 2014, with Episodes 2 thru 5 estimated for subsequent yearly releases.
  • Shroud of the Avatar is a “buy-to-play” game that, once purchased, does not require a subscription to play!

Three Full Games Included in New $80 Royal Artisan Pledge!

Just as Richard Garriott conceived the original Ultimas as a Trilogy of Trilogies (Ultimas 1 thru 9), he has conceived Shroud of the Avatar as encompassing five, full-length games. Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is the first of this epic story, referred to as an Episode, with an estimated release date of October 2014. Forsaken Virtues will stand on its own as a full-length game, with at least 40+ hours of content (and probably much more).

Shroud of the Avatar: Episode 2, will be a second, full-length standalone sequel to Forsaken Virtues, released approximately one year after Forsaken Virtues. The remaining 3 episodes are planned to be released one per year, all as standalone games. They will utilize the same game engine, allowing players to migrate back and forth, traveling a continuum across all Episodes! Once released to the public, each Episode is expected to be priced as a full retail product!

To show our appreciation for early backers, we have added the new $80 Royal Artisan tier that not only includes the DRM-free, digital download version of Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues (Episode 1), but ALSO includes the DRM-free, digital download versions of the next TWO, full-length, standalone games! Shroud of the Avatar Episode 2 and Episode 3 (including Beta access to Episodes 2 & 3)! In addition to getting all three games, this exciting new tier is chocked-full of exciting goodies. Check it out in more detail in Update #16!

Now we know that there is really no NEW information in there, so we wanted to give you something else!  For those of you who have asked, “Will I be able to play as a female Avatar?”  Yes you can, as seen in this new Character Concept art! (The full sized version can be downloaded from the Shroud of the Avatar Media Gallery.

SotA Fighter Concepts


New BONUS REWARDS: Future Episodes, New Tiers, Immortality Fruit & More!


We received great feedback on our forums for additional Pledge rewards, and based on this feedback we’re adding lots of new bonus rewards!

Two frequent suggestions included access to future episodes and a bridge tier between $60 and $100, so we combined those suggestions and added a great new tier! We are introducing the reward-packed, $80 Royal Artisan Tier! This tier is loaded with goodies, including full access to future Episodes 2 & 3, a David “Iolo” Watson-designed range weapon, indestructible artisan tool, unique (teachable) emote, and special ability which will allow players to tame a normally untamable monster!

We also added a new $50 tier, the Immortal Adventurer, that includes an awesome, one-of-a-kind Immortality Fruit, used with the farming craft to sow a regenerating seed and an edible fruit that grants a full damage heal!

Check out all the new bonus rewards we’ve added with this big update:

$25-$10,000 (ALL TIERS) – All levels now include:

  • NEW: Get ready to show off (and teach) your special emote! Each tier will include its own unique, teachable emote!

$50 Tier (IMMORTAL ADVENTURER) – Immortal Adventurer level is a brand new tier!

  • NEW: Available only to backers, you will receive one Immortality Fruit seed. With the Farming Craft you can plant the Immortality Fruit seed, which will bear a single fruit. When eaten, this fruit will fully heal you, and leave you with a single seed which can be planted and harvested, over and over, for all eternity. The Immortality Fruit seed can be transferred between players.
  • NEW: Get your last name early! Ordinary adventurers must reach higher levels to display a last name for their character, but not you! Immortal Adventurers will have the right to select and display both a first and last name right from the get-go!
  • New: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Immortal Adventurer” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • NEW: Also includes Adventurer Level Rewards

$60 Tier (FOUNDER) – Founder level now contains:

  • NEW: Also includes Immortal Adventurer Level Rewards
  • Added 3/18: Special tunic for your in-game avatar to wear, proudly displaying unique symbology identifying you as an early Founder of the game.
  • Added 3/18: 2 starter melee weapons, uniquely identifiable as Founder weapons
  • Added 3/18: 1 non-combat pet (out of 3 to choose from; dependent upon reaching $1.1 M Pet System stretch goal)
  • Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Founder” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • Access to the private Developer’s Blog

$80 Tier (ROYAL ARTISAN) – The Royal Artisan is a brand new tier!

  • NEW: In addition to Episode 1, you will receive the full content of the future Episodes 2 & 3 (including Beta access to Episodes 2 & 3)!
  • NEW: You will receive 1 starter-level, indestructible, artisan’s tool for the skill of your choice.
  • NEW: 2 starter ranged weapons, uniquely identifiable as Founder weapons. One of the range weapons will be a crossbow based on a unique design by David “Iolo” Watson!
  • NEW: Unique ability to tame an elusive monster that an ordinary player could never tame! (dependent upon reaching $1.4 M Taming! stretch goal)
  • NEW: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Royal Artisan” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • NEW: Also includes Founder Level Rewards
 $100 Tier (VIRTUAL COLLECTOR) – Virtual Collector level now contains:
  • NEW: Get your own Family Crest for display on your shield, tabard and house flag, made from a customized image uploaded by YOU! (Submitted Art subject to Developer Approval)
  • Added 3/18: You will receive the box cover art as a digital, uniquely framed, in-game decoration for your house.
  • Added 3/12: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Royal Archivist” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • Digital download Runic Language Translation Print
  • Digital download PDF Art Book
  • Digital game soundtrack
  • Also includes Royal Artisan Level Rewards
 $400 Tier (Developer) – The Developer level now contains:
  • NEW: Your name will be proudly displayed in the in-game credits, along with Richard Garriott and the rest of the development team!
  • NEW: Printed “Tinkerer” Certificate, hand signed by Richard “Lord British” Garriott
  • NEW: A digital, framed “Tinkerer” Certificate as an in-game decoration for your house.
  • Added 3/18: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Tinkerer” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • Access to private Developer’s Chat/Forums
  • Help create and name a character in the game
  • PDF version of Developer Design documents
  • Also includes Navigator Level Rewards
 $500 Tier (CITIZEN) – The Citizen level now contains:
  • NEW: A special, commission free Vendor!
  • Added 3/18: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Citizen” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • Added 3/18: Printed Village Property Deed, hand signed by Richard “Lord British” Garriott
  • Rent free, Village Level House Deed, transferable between players.
  • Special Founder Level plaque as a digital, in-game decoration for your house
  • Also includes Developer Level Rewards
 $1,500 Tier (LORD) – The Lord level now contains:
  • NEW: A special, commission free Vendor!
  • Added 3/18: Printed Town Property Deed, hand signed by Richard “Lord British” Garriott
  • Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Lord” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • Rent free, Town Level House Deed, transferable between players.
  • Special Founder Level plaque as a digital, in-game decoration for your house
  • Also includes Developer Level Rewards
 $3,000/$3,500 (BARON/BARON 2) – Baron/Baron 2 levels now contains:
  • NEW: A special, commission free Vendor!
  • Added 3/18: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Baron” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
  • Added 3/18: Printed Town Property Deed, hand signed by Richard “Lord British” Garriott
  • Rent free, City Level House Deed, transferable between players.
  • Special Founder Level plaque as a digital, in-game decoration for your house
  • Also includes Developer Level Rewards

Developer Insights – From Concept to Art


SotA Lavafield

How Design and Story Influence Art

This piece of concept art, by Stephen Daniele, was a truly collaborative piece and has gone through multiple revisions.  It started with the ideas that the statues could have been part of a large promenade that led to the citadel at the base of the volcano.  That is where a closer look at the lore introduced the idea that they were part of an ancient culture that had harnessed the power of the volcano using it as an energy resource.

That idea led us to contemplate; if this ancient race of monument builders were able to harness the power of the volcano, what were they like?  What imagery and symbols would appeal to that society? Perhaps Dragons and Succubi!

But these powerful, ancient people’s legendary society flourished during a time long past.  Now, the statues are in a semi-ruined state, cracked and somewhat broken up with rock caked around their bases.  They are standing in the lava because they have been there since before the lava flowed freely from the volcano.  So what would compel adventurers to traverse the dangerous landscape?

Riches beyond imagine.

What if this area was the only source for rare resources? Obsidian, diamonds, rare metals not found elsewhere in the land!  What if some, very rare resources could only be gathered in extremely dangerous areas, like a lava field?

One thing we are confident of, is that resourceful players will find a way.

Richard “Lord British” Garriott


Paypal and a Question of Virtue


Happy Saturday!

We’ve got some great news for everyone who has requested a way to use PayPal to help support our Shroud of the Avatar Project!  You now have the ability to do so by visiting  www.shroudoftheavatar.com.

The tier rewards are identical both on our Kickstarter and at our Shroud of the Avatar store. It is simply an alternative that will allow new backers to pledge using Paypal as a payment option.

We also have a short video where Richard “Lord British” takes one of our programmers through the same process he was inspired by to eventually evaluate player virtues in his Ultima games, using a set of questions. We want to know how you would answer those same questions!  If this video makes it past 25000 views we’ll post Richard’s answers in a future update!”

Also, for those Reddit fans out there, Richard “Lord British” Garriott will be hosting a IamA session on March 25th at 4 pm CST.  Be sure to join him at www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/ with your questions about Shroud of the Avatar!


Housing Update!


As promised, we’re ready to reveal more design details.  Based on feedback from the forums we’re revealing some details on housing!

Let me jump right into the stuff you guys really want to hear:

  • House maintenance and acquisition can be paid for with in game currency (KS houses have no upkeep cost ever)
  • House deeds can be traded between players
  • Houses are 100% secure for items stored in them though not always 100% accessible due to nasty sieges by evil forces
  • Houses exist in shared spaces (not instanced) and everyone will see your house and its decorations
  • Houses can be decorated both inside and out
  • Houses will be fairly limited but more will be added over time as we grow the world
  • City houses > Town houses > Village houses
  • Vendors for houses will be paid a percentage of the item that they sell (KS vendors will not take a cut of the profits)

Ok, hopefully that answered 80% of the housing questions we’ve received! For the other 20%, here are details, in written and video form:
 

House ownership involves two main elements, the property deed and the house. The deed is actually the more valuable element and when acquired will come with a house of some sort.  The deed is the claim to be a landowner in the game and allows a player to claim a lot and build a house.  Once a lot has been claimed with the deed, houses can be constructed and torn down at the player’s whim, for a cost of course, but the player need not fear losing his claimed lot.  The player can however choose to unclaim their lot at any point and reclaim their deed.  Deeds are NOT tied to the City/Town/Village in which they are sold!

There are several reasons we chose to go with a deed to a lot and make the house itself secondary.  First, due to the scarcity, the land is the valuable part, not the house.  By going with a property deed we give people the option to upgrade their houses.  Maybe they want to go with a house focused on a particular crafting element or one with a larger garden.  Maybe they just want to upgrade because new house types were added and think one is dead sexy!  Whatever the reason, we want to give people the option to switch houses.  Switching houses can also be done through in game currency and will not be cheap but far less than the property deeds.

Second major reason for using property deeds is that the game will grow over time.  Though it will be rare, we will occasionally add new villages, towns, and cities with empty lots.  This means that players will not be tied to one area.  If a new village opens up and you decide you would rather be there then you can pick up and move to the new area.

The deeds are either city, town, or village deeds.  City being the rarest and most valuable, followed by towns and then villages.  If someone chooses to, they can use their City deed to claim a lot in a town or village and town deeds can claim in villages.  Villages are good only for villages.

So what is the advantage of being in a larger town or city?  There are a number of reasons players will want to be in a big city.  First is safety and accessibility.  Big towns are more heavily defended and nearly immune to attacks.  When the city/town/village your house is in is under attack, you don’t risk losing the items inside but there could be some period of time in which it is inaccessible. You can of course join in the defense of the town to help clear the attackers or just wait until it is safe.

Another three important reasons for being in a large population center are location, location, and location!  Big cities got big for a reason and it is almost always because they are in key map areas that are highly accessible and near important resources.

To give you a sense of scale, check out this preview video of what we have planned for a typical Town:
 

Players in larger population centers also have much more convenient access to good, crafting areas, services, training, and customers!  The customers part is super critical to anyone seeking to be a successful business person. Selling goods in town and Cities not only receive the most traffic but also have the most prime spots for houses.  Players can hire vendors to stand on their property and sell their crafted or collected wares to passing strangers.

For crafters who elect not to own a house of their own, there will be bazaars available to sell the goods for a percentage of the profits.  The bazaars will only carry goods listed at them and not from throughout the lands.  The exceptionally talented homeowners will likely be able to turn a profit by buying low demand goods from one city and reselling them through their house vendors in a city with higher demand.

Houses and their decorations and trophies will be visible to all other players (unless you choose to lock it).  We fully expect people to proudly display their exceptionally crafted goods and items from their glorious adventures!  What fun is a house if you can’t fully personalize it!

So why should players want to buy a house deed during Kickstarter?  Houses acquired during Kickstarter will be maintenance free for life and come with a free vendor who doesn’t take a % of your sales.  You will also have access to several house decorations that will only be available to people during kickstarter!  Definitely the easiest, lowest maintenance method of acquiring a house.

So what happens if you don’t get a property deed during the crowd-funding phase?  There will still be some property deeds made available after the game goes live. We are currently looking at what the most fair method of distribution will be.  The three main options currently being considered are:

  • Put a deed up per week per area with an opening for a 1 week auction using in game currency.  This would obviously be VERY competitive!
  • Lottery system. Tickets are sold for a week and then we hold a random drawing to give away a few property deeds.  This will ensure that more people have a chance and makes it more exciting for the masses but could frustrate some players.
  • Land Rush!  We would set a very high but fixed in game price for deeds and let people race to get them.  This could be too rewarding for the earliest adopters and also could result in some negative side effects like organized groups or farmers working together to buy property deeds purely for resale reasons.

We are also open to suggestions from our backers!  No matter what system we choose, we know there will be some people not happy with the method chosen but we will strive to make it as fair as possible.

Houses in the offline single player version of the game will be available in most cities for an appropriate amount of in game currency and will not require a deed or significant maintenance.  Obviously, as this is the offline version, the house will not be visible to other players.

I’m sure that this glimpse into housing will prompt even more questions!  Be sure to give us your feedback here, and on our forums, and we’ll address them in future updates!

Thanks for reading this lengthy piece!

The SotA team


Developer Insights – From Concept to Art


SotA Concept At - Mountain Pass

Art Direction in Shroud of the Avatar

When we first started discussing Art Direction for Shroud of the Avatar, we felt it was critical that the virtual world be steeped in a traditional medieval fantasy feel, but have added a modern twist that we think will be a real treat for players to experience, taking them into something fresh.

There are an abundance of medieval fantasy games out there—so we asked ourselves how do we set the game apart, how do we create a unique and marketable identity in an oversaturated market?  The answer came in Richard’s natural storytelling ability.  Over the last few months, Richard developed a complex, rich story in which two worlds collide, the ancient world melding with the modern, and the world art we’re creating will reflect that in a fresh and unique way.

We started with traditional medieval elements and layered in elements of a primitive electro-mechanical future.  Our objective is to create a visual aesthetic that is both familiar and unique.  And now with the addition of Tracy Hickman to the team, his vision for the story will continue to evolve that world, and in turn, evolve our depiction of that world.

Richard’s attention to detail and sense of direction demands that all characters, weapons, objects, and buildings need to “make sense” and not just exist as eye-candy.  We are creating a world that sets Shroud of the Avatar apart from the pack– but also one where form always follows function.  We believe this design process will create believable, fascinating worlds and our art will follow that vision.

We look forward to incorporating your feedback and sharing more!

Senior Concept Artist Stephen Daniele & Senior Environmental Artist Bob Cooksey


Lord Britsh and Dupre telling stories!


You asked for more Companion Interviews.  Well, this one is EPIC! Richard “Lord British” Garriott sits down with long-time friend Greg “Dupre” Dykes! You’ll never ask, “What’s a Paladin?” again!


Developer Video Blog: Selective-Multi-Player Means Multiple Ways to Play!


Shroud of the Avatar has an innovative Selective-Multi-player system, which allows players to select the play experience they want; from a completely offline solo player mode, through a solo player online mode where you can view and contribute to the persistent world, multi-player online modes where you can select whom you explore the game with. We think this lets people play the game in a way that can feel very much like a traditional MMO, or solo player as they desire.

Here are the ways we anticipate the game can be played:

Single player offline:
This is the DRM free, completely off-line version of the game.  Your character is stored on your computer and can not be used in any of the online modes.

Single Player Online (SPO)
In the SPO mode you connect to the server, receive content updates, and can see the long term changes others are having on the world.  However, you are not visible on anyone else’s screen, nor for grouping, and you don’t see anyone else in the world.  You can switch from SPO to FPO or OPO modes whenever you like while in a city or overland map.  Some parts of the main storyline quests may temporarily force the player into SPO mode for some parts of the quest.

Friends Play Online (FPO)
In friends play online, you only see people you have flagged as friends in the game and only they can see you.  Like single player, this is just a server side filter.  For those who prefer the quieter game with friends or maybe for those who prefer a more focused role playing experience, this lets you enjoy a more limited online experience. You can switch to SPO or OPO modes whenever you like while in a city or in the overland map.

Open Play Online (OPO)
In OPO players will see everyone that the server thinks they should see.  This will not necessarily be all people in the area but should be people you care the most about based on what we believe is their relevance to you.

For the most part, OPO will feel like an MMO.  Lots of social interaction options with friends and other players.  We are trying to distinguish ourselves from traditional MMOs only in that, unlike a normal MMO players are frequently connected directly to each other instead of all data flowing through our servers. We believe this will provide numerous advantages to both players and our service, but does differ from a traditional MMO in that the upper limit of players simultaneously on one map may be restricted.


Tracy Hickman, New York Times Best-selling author of Dragonlance and Deathgate series, joins the Shroud of the Avatar team as Lead Story Designer!


Two Legends of Gaming join forces! International and New York Times Best-selling fantasy author Tracy Hickman is pleased to announce that he is joining Richard Garriott’s team as Lead Story Designer for ‘Shroud of the Avatar.’

“There is a tremendous opportunity to create something meaningful, challenging and wondrous in Shroud of the Avatar,” Tracy said. “I’m thrilled to play a part in it.”

“Tracy is not only a good friend, but also a master storycrafter whose writing I’ve greatly admired for over twenty years,” says Richard Garriott. “Tracy’s talent will add a unique richness and depth to Shroud of the Avatar.”

Tracy is known world-wide for creating the incredible worlds and stories of Dragonlance, the Deathgate Cycle, the Annals of Drakis and ‘Wayne of Gotham’. He, with his wife Laura, pioneered the use and integration of story into role playing games. He currently has over fifty books in print and is also a pioneer in the New Media publishing world of e-books and online serial publishing.

“Join us,” entices Tracy. “We’re taking adventure to a whole new realm.”