Updates




Developer Insight – Rivers!


Hello everyone! My name is Loren and I am one of our engineers. One of the two things I have been working on recently is adding support for rivers on the overland map and while they are not 100% complete, I figured I would throw together a write up showing how they work. What follows are screen shots of the various stages of development for these as well as technical descriptions for what I am doing.

BEWARE, TECHNICAL THINGS FOLLOW!

Phase0

So to start we have a picture of the current lower right corner of the map and this will be the area I focus on. The fog of war is hidden to help with the screen shots.

Phase1

The first phase of adding rivers was getting the data graphed for where rivers flow. In our map system rivers follow the edges of tiles as opposed to roads which move through the middle. As you can see by the coloring we have two different river systems that empty out into the bay to the south. The graph was traversed from the ocean inwards to compute how far each segment is from the ocean and we darken them to represent this distance.

Phase2

Now that the graphs are ready the next step was to create a system where the nodes of the river are slightly more smoothed out. I knew that eventually I would need to use some kind of spline to create the organic shape of the river so I needed to get a base set of control points to work with. At this stage you can see the control points splitting at branches and that they follow a smoothed path as opposed to the jagged structure of the hexes.

Phase3

After looking at a couple of the commonly used spline systems for games I settled on using Bezier splines for the rivers. They provide the control we need and are simple to implement. At this point I added randomization to the control point locations since the original positions were too sterile and am now drawing each spline as it follows the river flow. For those familiar with Bezier splines (or paths) in art software you know that they have control handles for each node (or knot). I compute these handles in a downstream fashion to ensure the water follows a more natural erosion pattern.

Phase5

The next step was computing a mesh off of the spline. I am only showing the left mesh for the moment to help contrast how the original source data looks. This mesh will be used in the computation of the composite height maps used for each terrain render tile. At this point though the tributaries do not start small, nor does the river empty out into the ocean. That said, you can see how they merge and I feel that they look fairly organic while still informing the player about the location of the hex edges.

Phase6

There we go. As you can see the rivers now properly start small and grow and there is also now a small river delta reaching out into the ocean. I did some more twiddling with the start, mid-point, and exit sizes to get a feel for how big the river should be in the scale of our world.

Phase7

It was then time to write a shader to output the height map data necessary for creating the composite maps. Using data I embedded in the mesh I use the cos function to compute an approximate height map with some tapering in the tributary sources. The rivers are currently the only elements in the overland using procedural height maps and have a few variables exposed to tweak how they affect the world. Importantly, as you get closer to the edge of a river it begins to defer to the height maps it is overlaying so we don’t just wash out their detail.

Phase8

And rivers! The final work phase was to add the rivers to the registered data for the render system and to use them when creating the render tiles.  There was a ton of tweaking at this point to the size of the created mesh, the depths the river worked at, and in how its height map played with the others. At this point I am pretty happy with the results but there are a few things left to do such as cleaning up the tributary starts, making it so that vegetation does not spawn on the rivers, and adding some customization to the water flowing in the river.

I hope you enjoyed this write up even though it is technical. We are having fun making this game and are happy to have you guys be a part of it!

 


Art, Unity and Emotes!


New Concept Art from Stephen Daniele

Wickedness, danger and adventure. A hero faces these challenges and overcomes! However, a world filled with darkness and malevolence needs contrast, a place worth fighting for. A sanctuary from the darkness where a hero finds peace.

SotA Enchanted Forest

You can download the full sized image over at the Shroud of the Avatar Media Gallery!

Two Ways YOU Can Leave YOUR Mark in Shroud of the Avatar!

With Shroud of the Avatar, our team is breaking new ground in crowdsourcing art through the Unity Asset store AND the crowd sharing of assets to help build a powerful community! During the prototyping phases of SotA we found the Unity asset store immensely valuable. After seeing how the use of informal crowd sourced art and code from the Unity store enhanced our team’s velocity during prototyping, we decided it was time to take the next step and formalize the process.

We want our players to have a hand in creating content for the game. Our plan is to put out calls for art on a bi-weekly basis and then take submissions over the two weeks following the call for art. To help artists better understand how to create their pieces for SotA, a full art style guide will be published on our website, a SotA asset starter pack will be added to the Unity store before the first calls for art, and a detailed description or concept art for the piece we’re in need of will also be included for each new call.

If any submission is selected for use in Shroud of the Avatar, we will not only pay the artist four times the Unity store price for it, but you will also be rewarded in-game with appropriate trophies, or in some cases, a statue version of your art for display.We will also announce the winning art on our website and include it in our art blog with full credits to the maker and include them in the credits of the final game. And you continue to own the rights to your work, allowing for you to sell your piece in the Unity store, where it will include a “Shroud of the Avatar Approved” art banner.

For quality pieces that are not accepted, we will provide constructive feedback from our veteran art staff to help with future submissions.

Our next goal is targeted at our Developer Level Backers ($400) or higher, and is the addition of monthly Unity asset packs that include a variety of SotA in-game art assets! While the SotA Unity art packs won’t include 100% of our assets, it will include the majority of our non-quest related elements as well as some code systems. This will only include assets created within Portalarium, and not user submitted assets.

The assets will be useable and royalty free in any project the backer is directly involved in and will only carry the requirement that Portalarium is listed in the credits! Our goal is to get professional game assets in the hands of our most ravenous fans and indie game developers.

For indie game developers or small game teams, this gives them access to a stream of top quality fantasy content for their own creations. For the super fans out there, they can use the assets with the free or paid versions of Unity to make their own fan applications! Fans who are developers can also submit their own scenes created with the assets for use in the final game! Look for more details on the scene submission process and rewards after our Kickstarter ends!

We look forward to even more collaborative initiatives from Portalarium and “Developer” level benefits in the coming months!

Developer Vblog on the Emote System in Shroud of the Avatar

Chris Spears, Technical Director of Shroud of the Avatar, talks a bit about the Emote Mastery System in Shroud of the Avatar.

 

 



An Interview with Warren Spector, a Quest and CRAFTING


An Exclusive Interview with Warren Spector and Richard Garriott

A Quest from Lord British!

Hail ye Shroud of the Avatar fans, Lord British has a quest for you! I’m sure all of you have seen the Epic SotA Cake created by Katie and Rob. Well, your quest, should you be brave enough to accept it, is to create the most epic Shroud of the Avatar fan video you can! From Cos-play to confections, let your inner muse be your guide; as long your video pays tribute to Lord British’s new adventure, Shroud of the Avatar!

How to enter:

1. Create a short (Less than 7 minutes) video and upload it to YouTube before 11 am CST on April 7th.  Be sure to tag your video with #LBSotA.  And we’d love it if you would link to our Kickstarter Page!

2. Submit your video to the Shroud of the Avatar Forums here.

3. Get your friends to vote for your video!

How to win:

The top 5 fan videos (based on YouTube Likes) will be reviewed by the ENTIRE Shroud of the Avatar Dev Team, who will then decide the winner!  We will announce the finalists sometime during the week following the Kickstarter!

What do I win?

All 5 finalists will receive a free cloth map signed by Richard “Lord British” Garriott!

The winner, selected by the Dev team will also receive a FREE Village House Deed!

And you’ve asked for it… You’ve Waited for it!  Crafting in Shroud of the Avatar

One of the top questions people have been asking is about how crafting in SotA works.  Crafting in any game is huge but because of its heritage we wanted to make sure that crafting was both top notch and easily expandable for SotA.  For the multiplayer game, crafting is also vital to a balanced economy and as a creative outlet to allow players to take a role in the society of the game that is not purely tied to adventuring. For single player, it plays a large supporting role in making the game feel like it is taking place in a believable world.

Because the outputs of crafting systems are hard goods, soft goods,  and consumables that need to be balanced in comparison to other game systems that are still in a state of flux, we’re only going to reveal the base system designs and core loops.

When we started the crafting design discussions there were a number of differing opinions on how to attack the problem a design standpoint.  One idea was essentially work in reverse and figure out the outputs we wanted from the system and design the crafting system around the outputs.  Another important voice on the topic was that crafting itself should be able to stand on its own without regard to the output because if not we could be asking a whole class of players(crafters) to endure a system that was designed only with another class of people (adventurers) in mind.  Finally, some voices believed that we should address it from the head and base everything on realism because that is what people will expect from a Richard Garriott game.

In the end we feel have a system that will please most everyone and, most importantly, is a solid foundation from which to build on for future expansion.  During production we will continue to tune both the systems, the inputs, and the outputs based on both player feedback and player behavior.

So now that we got all that BS out of the way, let’s get to some of the reveals!

We’ve split the large category of “Crafting” skills into two major categories of resource production and crafting.  While we haven’t revealed much information on the skill system just yet, players who prefer to split their time between crafting and adventuring will be happy to hear that the crafting skill trees and adventurer skill trees are completely separated and do not share skill advancement points in any way.  In other words, working on crafting skills will not hinder your combat or magic skills in anyway other than the time you lose to crafting!

Each of the five categories for the resource production is split into a gathering skill section and a refining skill section.  For instance, for mining, there is one skill tree dedicated to the collection of ore and gems, and another for the refining of those into final forms for use by the crafting skills.  This same idea is mirrored for the other four categories of hunter(skinning/tanning), forager(herb collection/preparation), woodsman(lumber collection/lumber cutting and planing), fishing(fish catching, fish cleaning).

Skill trees for each of the above categories has branches for faster collection/refining, more output from each collection/refining, higher quality collection/refining, and greater tool endurance for collection/refining.

The output from the above sets of skill result in the majority of the input for what most people think of as crafting.  The major categories for crafting are Blacksmithing, Cooking, Tailoring, Alchemy, and Carpentry. The outputs from crafting are any of dozens of various recipes but the the outputs tend to fall into the categories of consumables, wearables, and decorations.  They also generally fall into one of three categories for durability which are hard goods (never breaks), soft goods (wears out through use and needs maintenance), and consumables (use it is gone).

Due to economy and balance reasons we are striving towards balancing each category to make sure it has at least some items in each of the categories.  After weighing the game balance with reality we decided that we were willing to accept that some areas of crafting would be more focused on an output aimed more at specific target audiences.  For instance, trying to make sure that the output from the carpentry skill tree was equally important to an adventurer as alchemy and blacksmithing did not seem like a good use of time. Instead we decided to embrace that and let supply and demand dictate what players focus on instead of trying to artificially force each skill output to be of equal value to everyone.

Farming

Players who were reading carefully will notice that there was no mention of farming in the above resource or crafting skills.  Currently we are planning on making farming a bit of a different type skill from the other resource production categories.  The other resource skills involve going out and hunting for elements in the wild and the time to collect elements in seconds to minutes.  Farming on the other hand is generally done in the safety of cities and villages and generally involves a lot of patience.

For our first pass at the resources, we are planning on leaving farming out of the main skill system and instead making it something that any player can enjoy without a huge investment of time.  It will also give the player a reason to come check in on the game daily to harvest and collect goods which they can use in other crafting skills or use for adventuring.

The general process is that players would find, buy, or earn a seed of some sort.  They would plant the seed, in their garden or the community garden(for those without a house) and possibly add other elements with the seed to help it grow better or differently.  The other elements could be things from gathering skills(fish, granite, straight stick, manure, etc) or from adventuring.  Some additions make the resulting plant create more seeds, some make it grow faster, some make the output more effective, some seeds simply won’t grow without additional elements, and some have other more mysterious effects!  While many of these garden recipes can be learned from talking to local villagers, many will only be found through experimentation!


A Quest from Lord British!


Hail ye Shroud of the Avatar fans, Lord British has a quest for you! I’m sure all of you have seen the Epic SotA Cake created by Katie and Rob. Well, your quest, should you be brave enough to accept it, is to create the most epic Shroud of the Avatar fan video you can! From Cos-play to confections, let your inner muse be your guide; as long your video pays tribute to Lord British’s new adventure, Shroud of the Avatar!

How to enter:

1. Create a short (Less than 7 minutes) video and upload it to YouTube before 11 am CST on April 7th.  Be sure to tag your video with #LBSotA. And we’d love it if you would link to our Kickstarter Page!

2. Submit your video to the Shroud of the Avatar Forums here.

3. Get your friends to vote for your video!

How to win:

The top 5 fan videos (based on YouTube Likes) will be reviewed by the ENTIRE Shroud of the Avatar Dev Team, who will then decide the winner!  We will announce the finalists sometime during the week following the Kickstarter!

What do I win?

All 5 finalists will receive a free cloth map signed by Richard “Lord British” Garriott!

The winner, selected by the Dev team will also receive a FREE Village House Deed!


$2.5M Final Week Stretch Goals, Tracy Hickman Novel, 5 Full Games, & More!


With only one week left for our Kickstarter campaign, we decided to reveal ALL the stretch goals for the kickass game we’re going to make for you! And to help us reach these lofty goals, we’re adding some great new bonus rewards!

Tracy Hickman has agreed to write a serialized novel as a prequel to the SotA storyline if we reach our $1.8 million stretch goal! How cool is that! And to show our appreciation for our early backers, we’re including Tracy’s novel starting at the $25 First Responder tier (and above)!

Now you can get 5 Full Games at the $125 tier (and above)! In addition to Episodes 1, 2 and 3, we’re including DRM-free, digital download versions of the final TWO, full-length, standalone games, Shroud of the Avatar Episode 4 and Episode 5 (including Beta access to Episodes 4 & 5)! That’s a lot of games for only $125!!

As if that’s not enough, we’re adding stretch goals for awesome Guild features, modding tools, VR support and more!

New Stretch Goals

$1.5M: Content is King + Iolo + Spoony interviews Richard

Denis Loubet Cover art! (Denis made every Ultima cover except Ultima 2)
New David “Iolo” Watson musical composition! (Iolo created “Stones” for Ultima!)
Noah “Spoony” Antwiler interviews (roasts?) Richard “Lord British” Garriott
20 additional unique scenes including arctic scene sets
Starting continent doubles in size

$1.6M: Shipping Lanes Open for business + New Island Content Set + Soundtrack

New “Mysterious Island” content, city, and scenes
Ports with boats that run on schedules to transport players to areas beyond the mainland; Safety not guaranteed! (In short, be prepared to defend your vessel!)
Trans-Atlantic shipping lanes open the way for localization to other languages (languages for consideration based on player support: German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, etc.)

$1.7M: Dynamic and Contested Resource Nodes + Optional Minimap System

Meteorites, volcanic eruptions, outbreaks of rare plants and animals can appear and vanish suddenly (online and offline) for those who are paying attention. Some PVP focused resources appear in tile
Optional minimap system for the directionally impaired!
The Lost Vale – A new mini-adventure centered around a lost valley previously hidden to players, now visible only during special astronomical alignments.

$1.8M: Tracy Hickman Novel + Catacombs + Apprentice System + Cloaks!

Serialized novel by Tracy Hickman as a prequel to the SotA storyline, distributed in digital form for all pledge tiers, and printed versions for higher pledges.
Massive, interconnected underworld with a story and ecology all its own.
Apprentice system allows players with “Master” level skills to help lower skill players advance more quickly.
Cloaks with full cloth simulation including being affected by wind.

$1.9M: The World is a Stage!

A new City Center Theater building
Rentable by an individual or group for a performance
Only approved individuals may enter backstage or on stage
Players must pay to enter seating areas
Viewers may only emote, such as claps (claps are tracked to “rate” the performance)
Money goes to performers for their performance
Also useable for weddings and other community events!
We add a full complement of “masks” and “costumes” for use at various events.

$2M: Players Take over the World!!!

Castles & Keeps effectively a new “Town Type”, where the structure is ownable by players or guilds
Guilds can declare war against other guilds
Guilds can declare as full time PVP
Guilds can earn a guild house and guild bank
Guild Tabbard/Shield/Flags useable by all members
Minimum of 5 castle types added to the game
Castle merchants with unique merchandise
Castle defense scenarios for most castles which can be played offline as well as online

$2.25M: Mod tools + Unique Art Creation skill + Expanded Player Customization

Work begins to expose options for player modification of the offline game and limited elements of the online game
Skill for “Art Creation” to create actual individual unique art to show and trade in game
“New You” detailed character creator – We will provide tools well beyond the basic choices of gender, body/face/hair/eye types, and layer in morph targets to customize your avatar to be “the real you” at the in-game “New You” salons.

$2.5M: Full VR Treatment!

Virtual Reality: LB has always been a VR enthusiast and a VR skeptic… many times, we have looked at supporting the myriad of 3D goggles and head trackers only to find them too slow, too heavy or too low rez… But the times, they are a changin! If we hit the $2.5M goal, we will support all the great new VR technologies that are coming of age now. Key examples are: Occulus Rift HMD goggles.

New Bonus Rewards

$25+ (FIRST RESPONDER) – First Responder and above now contains:

NEW: Digital download, serialized novel by Tracy Hickman (pending $1.8M stretch goal)
NEW: 1 starter shield, uniquely identifiable as a Founder shield
Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Pioneer” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
DRM-free, digital download of the game
Exclusive Early Bird Alpha + Beta Access

$100 Tier (VIRTUAL COLLECTOR) – Virtual Collector and above now contains:

NEW: You will receive 1 starter-level, indestructible, crafting tool for the skill of your choice.
NEW: 1 starter armor, uniquely identifiable as Founder armor
NEW: A unique, in-game, musical lute specially designed by David “Iolo” Watson!
Added 3/27: 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

$125 (EXPLORER) – Explorer and above now contains:

NEW: In addition to Episodes 1, 2, and 3, you will receive DRM-free, digital download versions of the final TWO, full-length, standalone games, Shroud of the Avatar Episode 4 and Episode 5 (including Beta access to Episodes 4 & 5)!
Added 3/18: You will receive the new world map as a digital, uniquely framed, in-game decoration for your house.
Added 3/18: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Explorer” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
Added 3/12: Special Collector’s Box
Added 3/12: Recorded media game (format of recorded media TBD)
Added 3/12: Recorded media game soundtrack (format of recorded media TBD)
Added 3/12: Old-school style, illustrated, printed manual
Full size cloth map of the new world
Also includes Virtual Collector Level Rewards

$200 (PATRON) – Patron and above now contains:

NEW: Printed Novel by Tracy Hickman
Added 3/18: Your in-game avatar will receive the honorific title of “Patron” to be proudly displayed for all to see (title visibility controlled by player).
Added 3/18: You will receive a digital, framed certificate of your inclusion in the Domesday Book, as an in-game decoration for your house.
Your name permanently listed in the in-game Domesday Book
Also includes Collector Level Rewards

$500 Tier (CITIZEN) – Citizen and above now contains:

NEW: Printed novel signed by Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott!
NEW: A unique, in-game, musical piano for your home!
Added 3/27: 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

$3,000/$3,500 (BARON/BARON 2) – Baron/Baron 2 and above now contains:

NEW: Town Hall group video conference with Richard “Lord British” Garriott! (one video conference per group; groups up to 10)
Added 3/27: 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 City 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