Release 26 - It's the Final Countdown
First, I have to apologize. I’ve been watching BBC all week and am somewhat afraid my normal wit has become inevitably corrupted by that more arid flavor found most commonly across the Great Pond. I would make a crack about it all being inspired by another trip to Austin to visit the house that Lord British built, but the truth is that I just periodically fall into a BBC binge.
New flavors of humour aside, there are some cool updates coming for Shroud of the Avatar, and even more exciting news than normal. Release 26 will include a character wipe to implement several big updates to crafting, some major changes to combat will be implemented, and then all the normal updates to story and some new scenes. Announcing the final wipe is probably the biggest news, but there’s also been a recent poll that I think is worthy of exploring a bit as we wrap things up.
Wipe for Progress
Wipes are sort of that bittersweet component that’s unique to the MMO development cycle. On the one hand, no one really likes losing all their progress and it can be a little frustrating having to replay some of the same content over and over. On the other hand, wipes always herald major system changes, which are really exciting to players looking for a more immersive and interesting experience in the game world.
Shroud of the Avatar really hasn’t had nearly as many as I would have expected considering how early they allowed players to get access to the game. However, I suspect that’s indicative of really solid leadership backed by a really good team of developers, and no small amount of serious long-term planning. Starr made a comment to me last week that he really tries to focus his long-term planning in three-month intervals, but Shroud’s pace of development by such a small team demonstrates that there has been far more strategic vision in the development of this game than Starr’s willing to let on.
Regardless of their track to get there, the Portalarium team has arrived at the point that they’re announcing their final wipe. That last wipe should be occurring sometime mid-summer, and the wipe this month sets the stage for the last hard push of development leading up to it. I suspect the road over the next several months will be paved in subtlety for the game, as the team corrects a lot of minor issues to make the game run better and be more playable. There’ll also be a number of systems implemented to help with customer service issues and to allow the team to spot cheaters more readily.
Though, I think much of that the push for improving systems and implementing better logging will be relatively transparent to most backers. The team has expanded a good bit over the last few months, and that means there’ll still be a solid selection of new content rolling out. Most obvious will likely be tons of new sound effects to pull the game over that last big hump into being the immersive experience Lord British games claim as their standard.
Probably the most interesting part of my recent conversation with the folks behind Shroud of the Avatar, is the implementation of player-driven economy. The more I think about it, the more I think I disagree with some of the foundational components of how the guys are thinking about their economy. That’s a complex subject, however. I’m actually thinking it’ll make for a really cool future article, so stand by for that one.
That difference of opinion has no impact on how cool this newest release is going to be, though. A new crafting system is being introduced, or it might be more appropriate to say that the existing crafting system is finally being more fully enabled. Much of what we’re seeing in this release is the same design that’s been discussed for two years and just now is able to be realized in-game.
There’s always been an idea that Shroud should have several resources with inherent properties used to customize equipment throughout the crafting process. Some metals increase speed, others damage, yet others influence magical abilities, and the combination between them that is most suitable for a given character has always been intended to be as much art, as science. It’s a particularly cool way to craft in the modern age of endless wiki, in my opinion.
The new system will track armor and weapon bonuses on a component level, which will help add additional diversity to crafted gear in both how it looks and in stats. Pointless bonuses will no longer show up on equipment, which should also clean up the interface a bit. The example Starr Long and Chris Spears gave on my recent visit was ranged damage increases on weapons like pole arms. Perhaps not the most critical change, but certainly one that goes a long way to making the game less confusing for new players.
Supporting the new crafting system will be the ability for players to create work orders. Previously, players could sell gear on NPC vendors, but now they’ll be able to place orders on those vendors, as well. This pretty obviously helps to encourage the player-economy the team is working to build into the game. The only problem I see is that some vendors are less accessible due to residing in less-traveled zones. Though, I suspect we’ll either see the developers or the players work out a solution to that problem before long.