This week I continued my interview series on the development of Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues by Portalarium. Joining me this month were both the founder of Portalarium Richard “Lord British” Garriott and Executive Producer “Dark” Starr Long. We spent a little over an hour running around New Britannia Tuesday night showing off a number of interesting player and developer created features.
The biggest news item of the month is SotA is now on steam. For current backers you can log into your account on the SotA website (or check your email) for instructions on how to link your accounts and download the client on Steam. For everyone else you should have access to SotA through steam in November. SotA was added into the Greenlight program and in less than 2 days was approved. Starr mentioned they also had over an 80% approval curve which is extremely high. This demonstrates the loyalty of the community that SotA has already built and their continued support for the game’s development; even if everyone isn’t enamored with crowdfunding.
Something we discussed during the stream was the expectation that players have of games once they hit Steam. Until this month SotA would run a test every third weekend that lasted for 4 days. This month they decided to let the servers go until they more or less breakdown on their own. Having a game on Steam that costs money to play and is only available for 4 days a month is not acceptable. Once the game is available on Steam next month the Portalarium team plans on a lot more uptime and this weekend’s extended test is to help ensure the servers can take the abuse.
On the less technical side two of the additions that we toured were Vertas Pass and Obsidian Keep. Vertas Pass is a conflict point on the map that involves a control point. The objective of Vertas Pass is to represent a choke point on the map that is in constant conflict. Once you secure the Pass you will be required to defend it against Dark Elves. Vertas Pass is also going to be used to tell the conflict between Dark Elves and their regular Elf cousins.
Obsidian keep is a overland dungeon romp for you and a few close friends. Group sizes have yet to be finalized but this will not be an adventure for more than a handful of people. Obsidian Keep requires players to use their minds as well as their might. You’ll encounter the keep and see a dead archer on the ground. This archer has a clue for you on his corpse but you’ll have to take out the enemy archers on the keep walls before you can read it. This note will lead you to a key that will unlock the inner areas of the keep. Once inside you’ll want to close the door behind you or you could be overwhelmed by enemy reinforcements. In the current build of the game you can find a tour guide that will give you a rare release reward for completing this mission. Currently it is a tricorner hat. Portalarium had one of these quests in each release that will reward participants with a limited items that will only be available in that release. This helps motivate players to return and continue testing.
We also took a look at some of the newest community creations. Womby’s Bookstore, Bear’s Tavern, Link’s Fine Foods and Alchemy Potion. Along the way we learned that crafted items would bear their makers mark in perpetuity. You could end up one day finding a sword in a dungeon dropped by a player that a mob picked up with the crafter’s name on it. We closed out the evening by visiting Holtrot and looked at a multilot maze, Port Phoenix, and Avatar’s Radio in game studio. Unfortunately it bugged in the demo and wouldn’t work for us but the ethereal amplifier is an item in game that allows players to feed in broadcasts from Avatarsradio.com. Eventually this could open up to allow a number of internet radio stations.
In related news I wanted to point out some developer activity on a recent article we posted. Richard stopped by to answer a question on Red’s article Release 11: It’s Steamy.
MMORPG.com community member Ice-Queen wrote, “Not being an MMORPG is the only thing that kept me from buying into it. :( I hope someday he does an mmorpg out of this...”
As further proof that the developers are watching and validating the notion that this game is crowd sourced not just crowd funded Richard replied on the forums:
Shroud of the Avatar allows players to select between Solo-Player and Massively Multiplayer (and a few modes in between). When playing in the default configuration, it is more MMO than most MMO’s! Most MMO’s have “Shards” to prevent overpopulation of one server. Shards mean that people on separate shards will never meet, which arbitrarily fragments the community. SotA actually allows ALL players into the same single world. We manage overcrowding by temporarily spinning up multiple instances of an overcrowded area, and sorting people into them based on your friends graph. I think this is both an MMO and better than Sharded MMO's!
Shroud of the Avatar has the best features of many of this teams prior work: Virtue Quests as seen in Ultima IV-VII, Detailed World interaction and NPC schedules as seen in Ultima VII, Massively Multiplayer play as seen in Ultima Online, and persistent player world impact as seen in both the Housing of Ultima Online and the Control Points of Tabula Rasa.
If you are looking for an MMO, you will not be unhappy with SotA! If you are looking for a story driven RPG, SotA will also deliver. And you can play it in solo mode if you wish.
Richard really helps clear up a sticking point that a number of people have had with SotA and that is, which is it, a MMO or an RPG. Turns out it is really both.
We can continue to see progress being made in SotA each time we check in. I was able to play with a standard hotbar instead of the deck system this time and it made a huge difference in how much I enjoyed combat. I still believe the controls needs some work but the game is still is in pre alpha so hopefully they tighten up as time goes on. No where was it more noticeable than when I was trying to jump from one platform to the next in the multiplot mazes. While the mazes themselves are challenging in first person view, the jump lag made the moderately difficult to extreme. Let me know what you think about SotA in the comments below. I look forward to reading your feedback it is evident the development team does too!
Read more MMORPG.com coverage: