More to Explore
The insane developer known only as “Abe” continues his inexorable advance on maps and scenes he deems subpar. We’ll all be new players in this pass and have the chance to see his work on the Solace Bridge scenes. He’s spread his crazy skills all over other scenes, as well. Keep your eyes open for a myriad of other visual improvements as your wandering takes you to new lands. I bullied Abe into showing me his recent work on Vertas Pass where he added touches like snow on the roofs of several buildings. I would have never thought of it, but wow does it make a difference! He’s got his hands in other scenes too, so keep an eye out for many other improvements.
The Grunvald and Perennial Coast regions have new scenes added, so some of those open spaces are starting to fill in a bit. If nothing else, you’ll also start seeing more player communities as we move forward, but the team is adding more content with each pass, as well. I’d also heard something about rebalancing the creatures around the Perennial Coast to be more new player friendly, but I’m not sure it happened in this pass. You might find your early adventuring options opened up a bit, but I wouldn’t try to pet the pretty wolfie until you make sure. …Just in case they didn’t get a chance to get to it this month.
Loads of Extras
Shroud of the Avatar has its share of major updates in this release, but there are plenty of other odds and ends that don’t fit in a specific category. This pass will see the inclusion of new creatures like the summoned phoenix, or the “flaming turkey” as Chris jokes while telling me about the new conflagrated fowl. I got Finn Staber to show it off to me, and I think folks are really going to like it. The effects around the flaming raptor-like creature are particularly well done and lend a very magical air to the fiery pheasant.
Players will now find themselves able to gain Steam achievements in Shroud of the Avatar, and be able to take advantage of personal titles. Achievements and titles both come in obvious and covert forms. Some you get for completing quests or exploring all of a given area, or of course there are the titles gained through supporting the game, but there are also hidden achievements that can only be found by those who immerse themselves into the game. Combatting the destructive designs of chaos might lead one to a situation where either victory or death in service to the cause could be such auspicious acts deserving of title or lovely Steam bauble. Get involved with the communities in the game, and you’ll likely find all sort of such things.
Another addition in this pass that also may have eventual links to titles and Steam achievements is the focus on Virtue. The Oracle has been watching this whole time, but there’s been little attempt to focus and pull it into forefront of the collective conscience. You’ll notice some changes moving forward if you’re one to consult said mysterious being. Richard’s shown me collections of stories and parables that they’ve been working with the community to add to the game, each espousing the various Virtues.
They’ve also been collecting data on players as they engaged in virtuous actions, or chosen to do otherwise, and have used that to improve the system feeding the Oracle. The hard line for them to define was a system that allowed players to understand the sorts of things that impacted the Oracle’s impression of their adherence to Virtue, while not being so obvious that it allowed players to game the system. I think the plan they have now is the bones of a system that fits that bill nicely. The Oracle will give cryptic references to random actions you’ve taken that have impacted her opinion of you, but by keeping the comments just general enough and selecting semi-randomly from multiple examples of the player’s actions, it should accomplish exactly what they want.
Beginning of the End
Don’t be too bummed about having to start your character over in this pass. Richard Garriott tells me that backers will get a bonus to double their experience points when the servers come back online. The bonus will last until you get to the same level you were pre-wipe. That should allow the guys to quickly gain an idea of how the new crafting updates work in a live environment using a wide range of levels.
In many ways, I think this is the beginning of a much shorter road to the final product. It’s certainly not something anyone has specifically told me, but with player-owned cities and the crafting overhaul, we now have all the major pieces of the final game. In fact, had it not been for the XP boost, I would have felt like we might be seeing the last wipe. As it is, I imagine they’d have to do at least one more… Though, I can think of a few reasons why they might not, so who knows.
Either way, if you’ve been waiting to get into the game because you weren’t interested in being involved with an Alpha, I think you should take another look now. Granted, there’s still plenty of work to be done, but the game is very stable and I believe very representative of the final product in its current state. Now seems like a good time to get in and learn the ropes so that you can hit the ground running after the final wipe. While you’re at it, meet some of the fantastic people in this community and I think you’ll learn that the state of the game isn’t what makes this a great one to play. I have.