Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 12 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, November 20 at 10:30 AM Central Time (16:30 UTC). Steam Early Access will begin on Monday, November 24 at 10:00 AM Central Time (16:00 UTC). Starting today, you can begin installing and patching (see instructions below), but login will not be enabled until Thursday morning.
This early in development, we are in a constant state of change and we do not yet have in-game systems to inform players of these changes, or share ways to help them to explore new content and systems. This means we rely entirely on this post/email, and the linked instructions and known issues to convey the current game state. We regularly have to answer questions or filter bug reports because players elect not to read this valuable information. By taking a few moments to read through this information, a great deal of our time and efforts can be redirected to focus on new “unanswered” questions, and addressing critical issues impacting each release. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to review this post, and for all the truly valuable feedback you continue to provide.
We started Release 12 with a very aggressive and large set of deliverables, as well as a goal to launch on Steam Early Access. We quickly realized that these were not necessarily complementary goals. Prepping for the Steam launch ended up taking much more time than we had initially estimated. We also ran headlong into the network effect of ever more intertwined systems. The network effect I speak of is that each time you add a new system or a new feature to an existing system, you increase the number of connections all systems have with each other. That means each new feature that goes in requires more work than the previous feature, and often requires some level of rework on several existing features. This is a natural progression of a project’s development, but for some reason we were optimistic that it would not require us to move at a slower pace.
However, it was indeed the case that for a few of the larger new features (like Encumbrance, Banks, and linking Pledges to Accounts) that we had to go a bit slower to make sure that they had all the proper connections to everything else. This required us to take longer than one release to finish them, and so they did not make it into Release 12. We also spent a significant amount of time on performance and stability which came at a cost. However, there are a lot of other things we did get in, including a prototype of our “First Time User Experience” that shows a lot of promise.
We are very excited about the launch on Steam Early Access on November 24th. We believe it will be a very important milestone for us, and it has the potential to increase our amazing community even more. We launched the store and community pages last week, and I want to express how much we appreciate that the community is already showing off Shroud of the Avatar with great screenshots, videos, and discussions.
Without further ado, here are the R12 deliverables, along with some extra notes and new deliverables in italics.
- Steam Prep: Steam Early Access: Portalarium made the call last release to allow all backers to play via Steam for the entire release (which they extended to almost 3 weeks). For this release, they will be launching on Steam Early Access on November 24. We plan to mostly leave the servers on full time going forward.
- Maps: Portalarium will continue to expand the mainland scenes to include the Tower of the Shuttered Eye.
- Veiled Swamp & Tower of the Shuttered Eye: These are the newest locations on the mainland of Novia. The Veiled Swamp is the scene where the Tower resides. From the lore: “The Tower of the Shuttered Eye appeared in the swamps of southeast Novia not long ago. No one saw it being built, because few ventured into the swamps other than those in search of rare reagents from time to time. As soon as it was known to be there, rumors began to arise about its inhabitants and their activities. Some visitors find the tower empty, filled only with cobwebs and rats, yet others, who visit on dark and stormy nights see hooded figures going in and out by torch light, often followed by lightning and thunder emanating from the top of the tower. Today, most avoid these swamps altogether, even those who seek rare reagents usually seek elsewhere!”
- Updated Hidden Vale Scenes: Portalarium did a massive pass through almost all the places on the island of Hidden Vale. Changes included increases in playable space, clear visual variations for each map, and spawning polish on the Valeway maps so creatures are not just “standing around”. Scenes modified include: Valeway South, Valeway North, East Ravenswood, South Ravenswood, West Ravenswood, and Kingsroad
- Character Advancement: The advancement system will expand to include Skill Trainers
- Trainers: Trainers can now be found in Kingsport, Owl’s Head, Ardoris and Braemar. They are now required to unlock skills in your skill trees and you will have to spend skill points and gold. For now, there are only two kinds of trainers: Combat and Magic. In the future, there will be more specialized trainers, including trainers for specific schools, and even trainers for the most powerful and rare skills (ex. Summon Lich). Also, in future releases, trainers may require certain tasks to prove your worth before they will train you.
- Spells & Skills: Life Magic will expand to include more spells. Polearms will also expand and more combos will be added to the game.
- Basements: Players will finally be able to attach Stone & Timber style basements to their houses. This will be a first pass, so expect to see fun things like basement hatch entrances on upper floors, on boats, etc.
- Images in Deeds: House Deeds now have images in the tooltips so players can better see which house they are purchasing
- Price Increase: Houses and Lots are now 10 times more expensive to better reflect what Portalarium believe future pricing might be like.
- Lot (Property) Deeds: Getting basements working and also closing up some loopholes in house deeds used up our available schedule time so Portalarium were unable to get to lot deeds for R12
- Material Variation: With R12, Portalarium are starting to introduce different materials (pine, maple, copper) beyond the simple base examples (wood, iron) that have been seen to date. These different materials bring different properties to the finished goods. So Copper Armor has a different set of properties than Iron Plate or Iron Plate with Cotton Straps is different from Iron Plate with Leather Straps. This introduces a vaster array of items and much greater variation in their properties.. Getting this foundation built and adding example recipes of this was deemed more important than our original R12 crafting goals ( crafting skills, cooking recipes, alchemy recipes, and enchanting).
- 50+ New Armor / Weapon Recipes: Portalarium have added many new recipes for armor and weapons that represent the material property variations mentioned above. Some examples include:
- Iron Plate Leggings with Cotton Straps
- Iron Plate Leggings with Leather Straps
- Copper Chainmail Chest Armor with Leather Straps
- Maple Shortbow with Cotton Bow String
- Maple Shortbow with Leather Bow String
- Pine Short Bow with Cotton Bow String
- Copper Mace with Maple Wood Handle
- Copper Mace with Pine Wood Handle
- Combat: The Death System (including ghosts) will come online and PVP will expand to include an Open PVP flag players can set on themselves. Ranged ammo types will now be linked to Ranged skills. So Piercing Shot will require Bodkin Points (armor piercing) for example.
- Customization: New armor and clothing items will appear in the game.
- Overworld: Traveling across the overland map will incur the chance that you might have a random encounter that pulls you into a scene.
- Guilds: Players will now be able to start forming Guilds in the game with basic functions like Guild Name, membership, and Guild Officers.
- Tutorials: Tutorial text will now start appearing the first time you attempt an interaction (moving, talking, crafting, fighting, questing, etc.)
- First Time User Experience: The new hint system is very powerful, but after experiencing it we still felt it was not enough for new users (mainly because it required you to try systems you did not know how to use in order to learn how to use them!). While that would work over time as purely trial and error, it completely lacked guidance. So we pulled in this task from much later in the project and we have begun iterating on the First Time User Experience. The goal of this is to guide you through the most fundamental issues (movement, equipping items, inventory, combat, and conversation) while also providing some level of entertainment. Our first attempt puts you in the aftermath of the Battle of Solace Bridge, which will actually be one of the three main starting areas in the final game. To make this work, we added a new feature that allows us to force a player into conversation with an NPC. We plan to iterate and polish this experience each release, so please provide us feedback to make it as strong as possible. It is important to note that in the final version of the game, players will have had one experience prior to this that will be our version of the Gypsy starting experience in Ultima.
- 40 New Songs: We added 40 new and incredible songs to the game this release, all of them player made!
- NPCs & Doors: Several releases ago we started making NPCs more aware of their surroundings and we began giving them the ability to act on that awareness. Our first implementation was giving them the ability to turn lights on and off depending on time of day. In R12, we continue to expand this functionality so that NPCs are now aware of doors and able to use them. This may sound simple, but it is actually a complex issue that touches how we do movement and collision in the game and how those must be completely dynamic. You can expect much more of these kinds of things that bring the game to life in future releases. Please note that this is a work in progress so you might still see some NPCs run through closed doors or not be able to open a door right in front of them.
- Drawbridges: Drawbridges were a commonly used defensive technique used in Castle fortifications. We plan to use them as puzzles (like in Obsidian Keep) and for Control Points and sieges. Like doors, they seem simple, but are actually quite complex and require dynamic navigational meshes in the game.
- Energy Fences: The moon towers that channel aetheric energies in cities like Owls Head and Ardoris are used to beam energy to various devices, including defensive energy fences surrounding these cities. It is the only way those cities have been able to steadily grow, as the lands recover from the Great Cataclysm, the continuous wars, and the recent mass risings of undead. In R12, we have gotten the first of these energy fences built around Owls Head.
- Sprint Animations: We added sprinting (double tap W) in R11. In R12 we have added a specific suite of animations to visually show that your character is sprinting
- Message of the Day: We now have functionality for a Message of the Day at login and broadcast into chat.
- Player Event Schedule Book: Our community continues to create an amazing series of events each release. Long term we are brainstorming ways for that to appear as a feed to players in the game. For R12 we are going to provide players a book in their inventory which will list all the events we know of.
- More Player Towns: We initially lowered the number of player towns to increase player density. However, now that we are extending access beyond a mere four days we need to give players more places to own property. Thus, we are adding back in several of the player towns and islands.
- Bloom: We added bloom visual effects (linked to Tone Mapping) several releases ago, but at some point it got disabled as a side effect of some other optimizations. We have reenabled this effect in R12. It still needs some fine tuning, but it already greatly improves the visual quality of the game.
- Minimap Zoom & More Minimaps: You can now zoom in closer on the in game minimaps, and we created minimaps for all the wilderness zones in the game
- AlienFX: Alienware keyboards and cases have lights in them that can change color and can be linked to game events. For Shroud, we wanted this functionality to be helpful in indicating game states in the following ways:
- White = non-combat mode
- Blue = NPC Convo Mode and Crafting
- Green = Combat mode full health
- Yellow = Combat mode taking damage
- Red = Combat mode, near death
- No lights = Dead
- Dancing = flashing colors
- Durability and Pricing: NPC shopkeepers will now factor durability of items into the price they will pay for them. The more damaged the item the less money you will receive.
- Quests: More quests were added to Braemar and the surrounding wilderness, and we will continue to add to them. Many quests now give experience points as well.
- Quick Reference Card: We created a first draft of a quick reference card for players. Many thanks to Stile Teckel who made one for the community.
- Explorers Guild Quest: The Grand Tour returns in R12. You can talk to any Tour Guide (one is near where new players appear, in Braemar after Solace Bridge) to begin the quest. Visiting all the Tour Guides (who are stationed near the new content introduced in this release) will earn a reward for your account. The Pilgrim hat (also known as a Cockel) is the prize for the R12 grand tour in celebration of the American holiday of Thanksgiving. This reward can only be unlocked during this release (did someone say rares?). So, be sure to complete the Grand Tour before the release is over!