Shroud of the Avatar- A Year of Portalarium: 2014 in Review

As Kenneth likes to do “A Year in Review”posts on Ultima Codex, He and I are both pleased to bring you, Shroud of the Avatar – A Year of Portalarium: 2014 in Review, in which we look at the news related to Richard Garriott, #Portalarium, and #LBSotA that came out in the last year.  As you can see we have everything organized monthly. Enjoy!!!



Portalarium put Rustic Dragon to work straightaway, tasking him with revamping the look of the Shroud of the Avatar website. As well, having become dissatisfied with their previous IRC host, the Portalarium team decided to move their official IRC chat to the Ultima Codex’s IRC server. And, of course, the crowdsourcing of game assets continued apace.

Dallas Snell, for his part, got right back into the swing of things after the New Year, publishing weekly update after weekly update touting the latest items available for sale via the Shroud of the Avatar Add-On Store, the latest backer reward items and dwellings, chapter after chapter of Blade of the Avatar, and several more pieces of the map of the island of Novia.


As well, we got a first look at the Benefactor symbol that will grace the reward gear of those who backed the game after May 20th, 2013. The symbol, however, proved to be rather more revelatory, for its depiction of the island of Novia and the surrounding continents…in an arrangement that looked uncannily like Britannia circa Ultima 9.

Shroud of the Avatar also crossed the $3 million mark in its ongoing crowdfunding campaign early in the month, prompting Richard Garriott to announce — and subsequently host — a special Hangout of the Avatar to celebrate the milestone. The Ultima Codex even had a few representatives turn in an appearance during this livestream.

And of course, January was also the month that saw Release 2 — the second pre-alpha, backer-exclusive early release of the game in its present state. Release 2 offered a fair bit more to explore and mess around with compared with Release 1, and Portalarium even extended the duration of the Release by a day because people were having so much fun with it.

Oh, and Richard Garriott also paid a visit to the UO Second Age freeshard. Twice! And he even brought Starr Long along the second time.

Toward the end of the month, we were also treated to a few more details about how multiplayer will work in the game. And a new stretch goal (of sorts) was announced, nearly coincident with a crowdfunding cross-promotion between Shroud of the Avatar and Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen.



SotA_Map_Puzzle_Story18Map piece reveals continued into February (see also: here, here, and here), as did releases of Blade of the Avatar chapters (see also: here, here, and here).  GolemDragon joined the Ultima Codex team to do Shroud of the Avatar weekly posts as well as other miscellaneous posts that Golem has plans to do.

Scott “Lum” Jennings posted a couple of pictures to the Shroud of the Avatar forums showing a number of the development team’s Avatars having an in-game meet-up. As well, a small collection of controversies erupted early in the month over the issue of pledge gifting, prompting Dallas Snell to leave a lengthy statement on the game’s forums in an attempt to address the matter.

Ultimately, Portalarium ended up establishing a new backer category, Royal Founders, to recognize those who pledged to Shroud of the Avatar during its early (Kickstarter) crowdfunding efforts.

Soon after the pledge rewards issue was put to rest, we were treated to a look at the technical underpinnings of Shroud of the Avatar’s conversation system. A screenshot of the game client running under Apple’s OS X was also released. Sadly, 3D artist Isaac Oster, who designed the female Avatar, left the development team about a week into February.

A few days later, Portalarium’s Bill Kirkman confirmed, in a forum post, that they had been testing the game’s multiplayer features internally. Shortly thereafter, an early test of Release 3 (which introduced multiplayer to the game, officially) was held for Developer+ backers.

Dusk Hangout

In mid-February, Portlarium brought a new 3D animator — Melissa Soest — on board…just in time for Release 3 (for which a second early test release was held). The addition of multiplayer to Shroud of the Avatar was a big hit with the community; Portalarium opted to extend Release 3 past its planned shutdown date. The release wasn’t free from controversy, however; Starr Long had some interesting things to say about PvP in-game, and not everyone was happy with his comments, either.



The two main Shroud of the Avatar wikis — the Ultima Codex’s wiki and SotAWiki — merged at the beginning of the month; the Ultima Codex server now plays host to SotAWiki.

And a few days later, Starr Long put up a mega post about Portalarium’s current thinking on PVP and Death. Portalarium’s ideas did, as the team had been promising all along, try to strike a balance between the open PvP of early Ultima Online and the modern near-aversion to PvP that characterizes MMOs like World of Warcraft. But even so, not everyone was happy with the proposed systems.


Toward the end of the month, a New Britannian State of the Realm was held between Richard Garriott and all of the ONBEs and Royal Warrants. As well, Release 4, which saw the addition of the Overworld Map System to the game, took place.

Oh, and of course, more map pieces were revealed, as were more Blade of the Avatar chapters.



Release 4 introduced a new controversy for the Shroud of the Avatar community to divide over: the art style for the Overworld Map had been changed from the “realistic” look featured in the Kickstarter demo video to a “pop-up book”-styled cloth and paper motif.

This new look proved to be wildly unpopular with many members of the community, but at the time the development team committed to working with the map in the state it was in.

Portalarium kicked off April by hosting a number of events leading up to the one-year anniversary of Shroud of the Avatar’s successful Kickstarter campaign. They also launched an add-on management and conversion feature on the game’s website, so that backers could manage and reallocate funds spent on add-on packages. (Pledge funds cannot be reallocated.)


In mid-April, the College of Arms and Family Crests was launched to help backers create custom coats of arms for themselves, which Portalarium will strive to add to Shroud of the Avatar. Richard Garriott also challenged the fandom to port his first game, D&D1, to either Unity or Web, for eventual inclusion in Shroud of the Avatar.

A few days later, Shroud of the Avatar reached the $4 million mark in its ongoing crowdfunding campaign. A few days later, Portalarium brought a contract 3D animator, Brandon Lackey, on board to work on the game.

Toward the end of the month, Release 5 took place; this was the first release to add the card-based combat system to the game. This Release was not extended, and both Richard Garriott and Starr Long posted their impressions of it soon after it had wrapped up. Long, in particular, hinted that the game might end up being delayed; an October release was “not feasible” in his view.

And, of course, more map pieces were revealed, as was another Blade of the Avatar chapter.



A few days into May, in response to significant backer outrage, Portalarium announced that the Overworld Map would be returning to a 3D, real-world art style, consistent with the early demo videos of the game. It was also around this time that Zack Sheppard, an accomplished programmer and musician, joined the development team.

Just prior to the middle of the month, a State of the Realm livestream was held. And another artist, Alyssa Reuter, joined the development team. As well, it was noticed that Portalarium had extended the pledge payment plan duration for the game’s ongoing crowdfunding campaign. This proved to be a subtle hint that Shroud of the Avatar would miss its planned October release date.

SotA_Starr_BillJohnsonRelease 6 took place late in the month, bringing improvements to the game’s graphics, combat system, and crafting animations. Coincident with its release, Portalarium confirmed that Bill Johnson, the voice of the Guardian in the last trilogy of Ultima games, would be doing some voice work for Shroud of the Avatar.

More map pieces were, of course, revealed, as were more chapters of Blade of the Avatar; the final chapter was released at the very end of the month.



The beginning of the month saw Portalarium touting new pledge rewards, new pledge tiers, player-owned towns, and a new Stretch Goal Store wherein backers could contribute toward those stretch goals they wanted to see added to Shroud of the Avatar. The final piece of the map of Novia was also revealed, giving us the complete picture of the continent that will be the setting of the first Shroud of the Avatar chapter.


A few days later, we were also treated to a taste of the fruits of Portalarium’s collaboration with Bill Johnson; a voiced-over trailer for Shroud of the Avatar, first presented at E3, was released. Portalarium them went on to show off a new Knight Marshal keep, and announced Royal Artisan-level backer rewards and the playable Elf race stretch goal. Player-owned metropolis’ were announced about a week later, followed after another week by the Lord Marshal’s hall, Fyndoro’s Tablet, and other rewards and add-ons.

Release 7 began near the end of the month; this Release was the first to feature the restored 3D Overworld Map System.



Release 7 was re-opened for the duration of RTX, which Portalarium attended. After the Release was shut down once more, a roundtable discussion about PvP was held in a Google+ Hangout. Soon thereafter, the Sword of Ba’Heer was revealed as a pledge reward, new


ONBEs were awarded, and Portalarium began collecting the first batch of backer NPC submissions.

A second roundtable discussion, this one focused on player-owned towns, was held in the middle of the month. Shortly thereafter, Portalarium released an update on their efforts to crowdsource music, and also announced a Flexible House Placement stretch goal.

Release 8 took place toward the end of the month, adding a selection of open PvP areas to the game. We were also treated to a look at concept art for Shardfall Ruins and the Titan of Love.



PvP tournaments and a new backer reward — a Blade of the Avatar cloak — were announced at the beginning of the month. A week later, a call for lore was put out, and sweepstakes for the then-upcoming Release 9 were announced.

In mid-August, we got a look Barrel Mimics, Ice Elementals, and in-game images of the City of Ardoris. Release 9 began soon thereafter, adding Ardoris as an explorable area. Team combat and player-hosted events also came in with Release 9, as did reagent requirements for some spells.

Release 9 was re-opened for both PAX and DragonCon.




Early in the month, Portalarium brought two more contractors on board — Abe Robertson and Marissa Bauer — to work on Shroud of the Avatar.  Lord British also hosted a “Nature to Nutrition” Google Hangout to discuss his thoughts on consumables. Our own, Kenneth aka WTFDragon was awarded an Order of New Britannian Empire award from Lord British himself.

In mid September, we got a look at the Darkstarr Training Montage that was filmed for the community that was part of the Lord British vs Darkstarr fencing contest.  Rustic Dragon did a great job and the Space Bards graced us with a unique and wonderful song to enhance the video even more.

Come the end of September along with Release 10, we had Shroud of the Avatar succeed in being Greenlit on Steam for Early Access.  Portalrium and the SotA community shattered the record for fastest game to be greenlit and it has helped bring in more community members as well as marketing to the game.



Early in October, the community was shown some pledge rewards like reagents and the new Lord Marshal’s Coronated Helmet.  The dev team also added the ability to pay via BitCoins on the website.  Around mid month we got to see the Phonograph pledge reward as well as the new Add-On Store Chess Board item set. Avatar’s Radio started a Patreon account to help in reducing their costs as well so they could continue to provide great entertainment and support to our growing community.

Release 11 brought about alot of changes to the game. Not only did we have an amazing and beautiful swampland setting to explore, but we now had alchemy, cooking, and butchery recipes in game.  The addition we had character advancement as well as new skills, including ones that boosted the base stats of strength, dexterity, and intelligence.

To end the Month of October out on a high note, Shroud of the Avatar surpassed $5 Million in funding.



Chris Spears started the month off by letting the community know about the 1000+ new first time players who were finally joining us in Novia due to the Early Access aspect of Shroud of the Avatar being on Steam finally.  The volume of millions of players that can be reached via Steam alone is a huge advantage that can help grow the game as we progress from Pre-Alpha, to Alpha, Beta, and then final release.


Dukes and Lords of the Manor had a wonderful roundtable with the dev team and helped provide more feedback from the community.  The Hearth of Britannia held an Ultima related (non-Shroud of the Avatar related) event in Austin texas as well which some members of the dev team as well as of the Dukes and Lords of the Manor attended as well.

The end of the month, we were blessed with Release 12 new additions like basic guild functions, random encounters, and more. We also had the announcement of an upcoming 12 hour marathon stream from the dev team with prizes, announcements, and more!



The 12 hour marathon stream occurred December 1st to start off the month with a huge bang.  Not only did some community members receive the Order of New Britannia Empire (ONBE), but some got Royal Warrants as well.

Order of New Britannian Empire85pxOrder_of_the_New_Britannia_Empire

  • Fenyx4 ~ Programming
  • Melchior Meijer ~ SFX, Music and Art contributions
  • Stile Teckel (The
  • Riya (New Britannia’s Builders of Bemusing Bewilderments)

Royal Warrant

  • Joseph Toschlog (Rustic Dragon) ~ Hearth of Britannia250pxSotA_Royal_Warrant
  • Joe Garrity ~ The Origin Museum
  • Amber Raine ~ Avatar’s Radio
  • Balec ~ Accepting for the Bear Tavern
  • Duke Violation ~ Order of Vengeance (PvP Tournaments)
  • Duke Gréagóir ~ Dara Brae, The Celtic Holdfast (Welcome Quest)
  • Languard and Aartemis: Society of Dungeoneering Cartography Scene Collaboration.

The community had mixed reactions as well to the announcement of the “Blade of the Avatar” book being made into a trilogy.  This will mean more content for the current book as well as 2 more books worth of lore and information for us.  This could really help Richard and Tracy flesh out the world of Novia for us even more.

Relics by Rild became the new “go-to” shop for official licensed Shroud of the Avatar Merchandise.  While the site may be in its early stages, it will hopefully grow and provide yet another amazing Shroud of the Avatar related website.  Release 13 also brought about new house decoration, our first taste of chaos magic, new creatures, and deserts to explore.


It really has been an amazing year.  A lot has changed for Shroud of the Avatar.  We have a multiple systems that have been created and are in the stage of being expanded, changed, and polished.  Other systems still have yet to be developed and so 2015 will be another year of major changes.  Many community members have only just started their own community projects or have moved on from past projects to new projects.  May you all look back on 2014 as a good year of development for SotA and look forward to all 2015 may bring us.