Release 12 Instructions

Greetings Avatars,

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.

Please read this entire message, as well as the linked instructions and known issues. Also, please note that there has been a data wipe for Release 12.

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.

SteamEarlyAccess_logoWe 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. Please note that text that has strikeouts through it is information and/or deliverables that have either changed or been pushed from this release. We purposely keep all the original text (even when it changes) for transparency.

RELEASE 12, November 20 – 26 2014 (and then 24/7 starting Dec 1) :

  • Steam Prep:Uptime will expand to 7 days and we will conduct a Steam test with all our current backers followed by a launch on Steam Early Access Dec 1st.
    • Steam Early Access: We made the call last release to allow all backers to play via Steam for the entire release (which we extended to almost 3 weeks). For this release, we will be launching on Steam Early Access on November 24. We plan to mostly leave the servers on full time going forward.
  • Maps: We will continue to expand the mainland scenes to includeThe Necropolis (the main underground Undead area in the game), The Graf Gem Mines surface area, andthe Tower of the Shuttered Eye. We will also add the Desert biome to the game along with a desert scene.
    • 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!”
      SotA_TowerShutteredEye_external1b
    • Updated Hidden Vale Scenes: We 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: Lifeand Death Magic will expand to include more spells.The combat schools of Tactics andPolearms will also expand, and more combos will be added to the game.
    • Skill Polish / Balance: All magic attack spells have received a balancing pass and are now MUCH more effective. We also made it so that some skills gate further progression on the skill tree by requiring multiple levels. Finally fizzle rates for many spells were greatly reduced, primarily those in the Life, Earth, and Water trees.
    • 15 New Skills: We added a wide variety of skills, mainly to Polearms, and also added some new Combos. We also modified function on some existing skills (Douse & Body Slam)
      SotA_Combat_Skill_Bar
    • Polearms:
      • Skewer: Attack that also roots the target
      • Leg Sweep: Attack that has a chance to knock down the target
      • Spinning Attack: Spinning attack that hits multiple targets around the caster
      • Block: Increases defense value
      • Pull: An extended range melee attack that pulls the target into normal range of the polearm
    • Life:
      • Healing Grace: Restores hit points on the target over time
      • Healing Burst: Heals all friendly characters in a radius around the target
    • Water:
      • Douse: Now includes a 1 minute fire resist buff.
    • Bludgeon:
      • Break Weapon: Attack that increases damage done to target’s weapon
      • Break Armor: Attack that increases damage done to target’s armor
    • Heavy Armor
      • Body Slam: Now when used has chance to cause increased damage to the caster’s armor
      • Absorb Impacts: Buff that increases defensive value, but increases damage to caster’s armor
    • Light Armor
      • Escape: Decreases all aggro accumulated so AI are less interested in caster allowing them to escape
    • Combos: Note that these new combos don’t yet have icons
      • Piercing Breeze: Gust + Aimed Shot = Long range attack that has chance to push back the target
      • Smoldering Shiv: Thrust + Flame Fist = very long duration but low damage fire attack
      • Splintering Strike: Stone Fist + Crushing Blow = attack that has stunning effect, does high damage to armor, and temporarily reduces defense values of target’s armor
      • Glacial Glissade: Ice Fist + Push = Long range attack, pushes target backwards, slows them and has chance to knock target down
  • Housing:Lot Deeds will be introduced to the game so property claiming will first require purchasing a lot deed in the game (just like house deeds worked in R10)
    • 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.
      SotA_TimberStone_Basement_overhead_angle
    • 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 we 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 we were unable to get to lot deeds for R12
  • Crafting:Crafting skills will start to come online and be used during crafting to modify results. We will also be adding more Cooking and Alchemy recipes and ingredients including the ability to put enchantments on gear.
    • Material Variation: With R12 we are starting to introduce different materials (pine, maple, copper) beyond the simple base examples (wood, iron) we have 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: We 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
  • Creatures:Our creature list will continue to expand with Ghosts, Fauns, Emps and Wisps added to the game.
    • New Creatures Pushed: We made the decision to prioritize the female avatar rework (see Customization below) over the new creatures (which are fully custom pieces).
    • Turkeys: Just in time for the season, turkeys make their first appearance (note these are based on a purchased asset versus fully original like the creatures we pushed). For now, they are merely ornamental like the dogs and cats, but long term they may be formidable and hard to track…
      SotA_TurkeyCall_Turkey
    • Wolf & Bear Variations: Wolves and Bears now appear in a variety of colors. There are also top tier versions that have larger claws and teeth (the better to eat you with, my dear).
  • Combat:The cover system will be introduced that modifies attack and defense values when you (or your target) are behind cover. 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.
    • Death System: The Death System expands with Ghosts. Upon death, players will now transform into a ghostly form, and they can wander around in that form. Other entities appear as simple balls of light while you are in this form. So, the scouting ability of ghosts is limited.
      SotA_Death_R12
    • Open PVP: By talking to the Oracle in the Confirmatories of Kingsport or Ardoris players can request removal of the Blessing of the Oracle (which prevents Outlanders from killing each other whenever they want). If players change their minds, they must return and request to receive the blessing.
    • Ranged Ammo Types: Ranged skills now require specific ammo in order to work. This ammo can be found at the Archery shopkeeper in Ardoris
    • Magic / Ranged Weapons vs Melee Balance: We have made several updates to combat math and data in order to make Magic and Ranged combat better balances with/against Melee.
  • Customization: New armor and clothing items will appear in the game.
    • Skin Shader Rework: We continue to iterate on the shader for the character skin to display better in varying light conditions, provide more visual detail, and better show darker skin tones.
    • More Skin Tones: We have doubled the number of skin tones you can choose during character creation.
    • Female Face Rework: We continue to iterate on our female character to make her look as good as we possibly can. For R12 we have completely redone the default female face based on feedback from our players.
    • Lip & Mouth Sliders (and more nose sliders): Facial customization expands with new sliders for lip, mouth, and nose.
    • New Wearables: 5 pieces of Elven Armor, a Wizard hat, and the Steampunk Top Hat were added to the game.
    • Hair / Facial Hair with Hats/Helmets Pushed: The rework of the female face and the skin tones ended up taking most of the release which cost us making helmets work with hair. We hope to tackle this in R13
  • Overworld: Traveling across the overland map will incur the chance that you might have a random encounter that pulls you into a scene.We will also release the first version of the overland map for Novia (aka the mainland).
    • Random Encounters: Travelling through plains, hills, swamps, or forests in the Hidden Vale will sometimes create a random encounter. These encounters will put you in the middle of a scene where you will have to choose to stand and fight or run for the exit.
      SotA_Overworld_R12
    • Hidden Vale Polish: We did more polish work on the visuals for the Hidden Vale Overworld including better foliage, better town layouts, more defined roads, and visual effects like volcanic smoke.
    • Camera & Movement Controls: The movement and camera controls are now identical to the rest of the game, the only exception being that there is a limit to how far down you can bring the camera (you can’t look up).
    • Terrain affects Speed: Terrain types affect how fast you can move with roads being the fastest.
    • Novia Overworld Pushed: Based on player feedback about the overworld visuals we decided that polishing Hidden Vale Overworld (and other maps, see above) was higher priority than getting a working Novia Overworld.
  • Guilds: Players will now be able to start forming Guilds in the game with basic functions like Guild Name, membership, and Guild Officers.
    • R12 Guild Function & Location: Seek out Marcus the Guild Registrar in Owl’s Head to begin creating a Guild. Marcus can be found in the Owl’s Head barracks. Bring plenty of funds, as creating a guild costs 25,000 gold. Right click on an existing Guild Member (who is displaying their guild tag) and select the appropriate option from the context menu to join a guild. To leave a guild, right click on yourself and choose the option from the context menu. (You may need to enable “Target Self With Mouse” under the options menu.) Be aware that if the last guild member leaves a guild it will be dissolved, and an additional 25,000 gold fee must be paid to create a new one. Creating or joining a Guild will add a Guild tab to your Social menu. From here you can view Guild membership. The Guild tab also allows you to toggle displaying your guild name on your nameplate on or off. Guildmates share access to an exclusive chat channel, available with “/g”. Guilds are still rudimentary and will likely see many changes and additional functionality in coming releases, especially to how joining and managing a guild works.
  • Pledges Tied to Game Account: Your pledge will now be tied to your game account. This means you will start the game with your pledge rewards in your bank storage
    • Pledges Tied to Account Pushed: This turned out to be a very complex task with a lot of interdepencies because it touches almost every single system in the game. While we did make some progress on this we did not feel comfortable pushing it out before it was completely finished and thoroughly tested so we are pushing this to a later release.
  • Banks: Players can now start storing things in the bank. This is also where all your pledge rewards will be at the start of the game so you won’t start so encumbered that you cannot move.
    • Banks Pushed: Banks are a natural extension of inventory and non-mobile storage (chests). Therefore they are not the most complicated feature for us to implement. However work on the Hint/Tutorial and First Time User Experience ended up costing us this feature for R12. We hope to get it in very soon, perhaps in R13.
  • Encumbrance: The weight of items will now factor into how much you can carry. Your carrying capacity will be derived from your Strength stat.
    • Encumbrance Pushed: This is a system that touches a lot of other systems and is one of the core drivers of the loop that takes players between adventures and towns. While we have it working internally we did not feel like we could enable it without working banks because players would end up having more than they could carry.
  • Tutorials: Tutorial text will now start appearing the first time you attempt an interaction (moving, talking, crafting, fighting, questing, etc.)
    • Tutorial Hints: These are now hooked up to just about every major interaction in the game and should be invaluable in helping players ramp up.
      SotA_NewUserExperience_R12
  • 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
    SotA_MiniMap_zoom_R12
  • 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
      AlienFX_image
  • 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!
    SotA_R12_GrandTour_PilgrimHat_caption

So, now that it is clear what you can expect, we should also be as clear about what you should not expect:

  • Performance: We have only done rudimentary optimizations, and we do not yet have a full suite of performance fallbacks (LODs, etc.). This means the game will be quite slow on older machines, and due to memory usage, might be unstable in certain conditions (like densely decorated areas). With each release, we will be doing further optimizations and adding to our fallbacks to improve performance.
  • Crafting: The crafting system is in the game as a framework, but is still missing some key components like events and enhancement. Skill checks are also not in yet, so results are always 100% successful. Long term, the percentage chance to make items will depend on a myriad of variables and can result in a variety of results including: making the item desired, making a simpler version of the item that will need to be enhanced, or making a damaged version of the item that needs repair.
  • Game Loop: Release 12 is a further iteration on our rudimentary game loop, but it is still very bare bones, even though we now have a rough first pass at player advancement. Expect this to expand with each subsequent release, but it won’t be truly complete until we hit Beta next year.
  • Advanced Player Housing: There are some advanced features for player housing, including advanced permissions and ceiling decorations that are not yet integrated. Expect to see these appear in future releases.
  • Visual Quality: Efforts to improve visual quality are ongoing. We will continue to iterate on these until we have highly competitive visuals.

Here are links to instructions and known issues. Thank you again for your continued support. This is truly the most amazing community we have ever worked with, and we are proud to be on this journey with you.

Sincerely,
Starr Long
aka Darkstarr
Executive Producer


We need all your help with testing the new patches, putting more stress on our multiplayer servers, and testing the new game content, so please join us in playing Release 12!

If you have not backed the game yet, you will need to register and login atwww.shroudoftheavatar.com, select the “Pledge or Send Gift!” button in the right side-bar, and purchase a pledge at the $45 Adventurer level or above. And don’t forget, any new purchases made from now through Black Friday Weekend receive an additional 15% Bonus (see details below)!


Release 12 Player Instructions

Release 12 Known Issues


timeIsRunningOut6

Only 13 Days left to get your 15% Black Friday Bonus!

SotA_15PercentBonus

If you were thinking of pledging your support to the development of Shroud of the Avatar, upgrading your existing pledge, or purchasing an add-on item, player owned town, or stretch goal item, now’s a great time to do it! From now thru Black Friday Weekend we’ll add an additional 15% bonus to your Store Credit! Here are the details:

For all new purchases (including pledges, pledge upgrades, add-on items, player owned towns, and stretch goal items) between 12:00 am CST October 10, 2014 and 12:00 am CST December 2, 2014, we will add an additional 15% bonus to your Store Credit! You can use your Store Credit toward any additional purchase (including pledges, pledge upgrades, add-on items, and player owned towns).

[NOTE: The 15% bonus is calculated every day at 1:00 pm CST and added to your Store Credit account; Store Credit cannot be applied toward stretch goal items]

For example, if you have the $45 Adventurer pledge and really want to upgrade to the $90 Royal Artisan pledge which includes Episodes 2 and 3 as pledge rewards, you would normally pay the extra $45 for the upgrade. But using the 15% bonus you can immediately save $5. To do so, you would first purchase $40 worth of Store Credit Gift Coupons (via PayPal, Amazon, Bitcoin, or credit card; excluding existing Store Credit) then use the “Convert to Credits” option on your account page to transform the Store Credit Gift Coupons back into Store Credit. Within 24 hours an additional $6 bonus ($40 x 15%) would be applied to your Store Credit account, bringing it up to $46. You would then use $45 of your Store Credit to upgrade to the $90 Royal Artisan pledge.


Leave a Reply