Just got off the horn with Richard Garriott and Starr Long, and thought you all might like some insight into the next release of their awesome new game, Shroud of the Avatar. Richard and Starr are very careful to tell you about how early in the development-cycle they are, but then they go on to tell you about all the great stuff they’re dropping into the game on the next release. We’re not talking early-days-development stuff, either. They’re making major strides towards completion each month.
This month you can expect to see a range of new additions. Fans of player housing will find that houses come furnished with light fixtures now, so no more stumbling around in the dark. Those lights will be fixed in place this time around, but you’ll be able to move or replace them in a future release. Additionally, with new updates to the permissions system, guilds and friends can now be given access permissions to your property, as well.
They’ve added water lots to the list of available housing choices for this month’s release. I would expect Kingsport to be a good place to start looking for the new lots, but there should be a few other locations around the map for those who care to do a little exploring. New player-towns on islands have been added, and you might notice the first scene on the nearby mainland is finally available.
On the subject of player-housing, Richard and Starr also tell me that their new store options are doing well. Specifically, the player-purchasable communities have really gotten a really good reaction since they were unveiled. Those new communities have already sold way better than they were expected to, and the option to buy has only been available for a few weeks. I think in a lot of ways, this bodes well for the eventual game. A game where players are the heart of the in-game communities rather than NPCs creates a sense of life that just can’t be duplicated by an army of AIs.
Crafters will find plenty to be excited about this month, as well. As in nearly every release to this point, new recipes have been added. With players now able to make so many items, there’s also some talk about scaling back on what vendors are selling. Though it may not happen this release, you’d still be well-advised to start figuring out how to craft your favorite items.
Crafting gets nowhere without materials, and that’s also covered in this release. Rare materials for advanced recipes, such as silk, gems, and precious metals, will be dropping or can be harvested now. The new mainland scene, The Graf Gem Mines, was added to facilitate the acquisition of some of said material. With all the new resources and recipes using them, the team also updated the recipe book so that it’s functional in this pass.
Also, what’s the point of crafting if you can’t earn a little income from your efforts? The guys thought of that, too. This pass will include the first iteration of player-to-player secure trading. There’s still some conversation to decide exactly what the eventual solution will look like, but this pass gives you an idea of where they’re heading with it. I particularly think it’s cool that they have you finalize the transaction by signing your name to a contract.
It’s not part of this update, or any scheduled update yet, but crafters may eventually be getting the ability to mint coins. Starr points out that they’re still working out how they’d control who’s allowed to do it, but the current thinking is that guilds may be able to earn the right to mint new coins. Richard’s quick to add that they’re excited to have the system in the game because it puts even more of the economy in the players’ hands.
There have been a number of miscellaneous tweaks in this pass that are worthy of mention. For instance, work on lighting hasn’t been restricted to just housing fixtures, as the guys have been doing some work to improve the daytime/nighttime effects. Starr and Richard have both mentioned in past conversations how important it is to them for there to be a very significant difference between day and night cycles. Since some of their adventuring mechanics are built around that difference, I think you can expect it to be a bit more dramatic than most players are used to.
The team continues to work on upgrading the quality of modeling in the game. This release gets more work on bringing animal models up to standard. They’ve also done some work on polishing the general NPC movement and collision responsiveness. Both are things that should go a long way towards getting NPCs a little closer to the edge of the “uncanny valley.”
Player characters got a little attention, so don’t get jealous. This time through, the team has done some work focusing on the eyes. Starr says they have a schedule for more tweaks on down the line as well. By the time the game starts heading towards a more permanently live stage towards the end of the year, players should have significantly more control over how their characters look. You may even have options to restyle your look in-game, but the details aren’t set on that yet.