Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #246

Greetings Fellow Avatars! Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:

Game Development

The Making of Blackblade Foothills

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Chris Wolf]

Hey folks! Today I’ll be sharing a few screenshots of the uncloning of Blackblade Foothills. Blackblade Foothills will be home to a caravan of restless nomads, Kobold prospectors, groups of scorpions, and frequent but powerful dust devils. This scene is still in a very early state, and I’m able to show small portions of the map. You can expect more updates in the future.

The Oasis

Nomad Tent Interior

Dust Devil Plains

Chris “Sea-Wolf” Wolf
Level Designer


Top 10 Priorities for Launch (Sept 2017 Edition)

[From a Forum Post by Starr “Darkstarr” Long]

We keep a running list of our Top 10 priorities at all times that we use when building our schedule and prioritizing where to allocate our team’s resources. We often refer to it when making decisions about the project. While it has a VERY strong influence on what we work on at any given time, it does not mean that we only work on something that is on the list. It just means that if someone can assist with something that will help address an item on the list then, we will make sure they do that first before working on anything else. Sometimes team members cannot assist with anything on our top priorities, so they work on other tasks like visual polish, combat balance, or content that helps us raise funds.

Until now we have only used this list internally and we have not shared it externally with you, our backers. However, we felt that as we approach launch we definitely should share this list, especially because our current list consists of everything we need to address BEFORE we are ready to launch.

1. Reduce Load Times: There are a lot of positive benefits to being a game that is divided up into multiple scenes, including everyone playing on one server and the ability to dynamically update scenes at will. However, being a scene based game means that our load times MUST be mere seconds or the entire experience of playing the game is destroyed. Right now scene loads can take several minutes on physical media drives (HDs) and tens of seconds even on solid state drives (SSDs). Reducing load times to seconds on both drive types is our number one goal for Q4 because the entire game experience depends on it.

2. Client Performance (FPS): Once we have reduced load times we can focus on improving client performance. We will work on improving framerate, minimizing hitching, and lowering memory footprint.

3. Improved Reward Cycle: Right now our reward cycle for play is completely unsatisfying. The loot is infrequent, not exciting, and requires multiple steps to gain a reward (ex. salvaging followed by crafting). We are going to add more immediately gratifying items (artifacts and gear with stats that can be salvaged for unique components). We are also going to slowly increase the amount of resources available in the world while carefully monitoring the game balance. Finally, we are going to add more unique quest rewards, especially items related to the virtues (ex. banners with virtue symbols).

4. Clearer Player Direction: Currently we rely on some very subtle and “immersive” indicators for information in the world (ex. piles of skulls to indicate scene difficulty). We are going to provide much clearer indication of information. For example, on the overworld all towns will have clear indicators of their town type (POT, NPC, etc.). We will also indicate whether you have a quest in a scene, a clearer label of the scene’s difficulty, perhaps even an indicator of what services a scene might provide (bank, mail, blessings, etc.). We will also start providing more on screen indicators of this information, so that while you are in a scene you will better know what kind of scene it is, what difficulty it is, whether you have quests in the scene, etc. We will also work hard to polish the maps and compasses to better guide you to and from your quests, homes, services, points of interests, scene exits, etc.

5. Story Polish: As of now the story does an adequate job of telling you what is going on, but it does not really make you care, nor does it tell enough about the virtues. We will be working hard over the next several releases to provide more compelling experiences that put you in situations that will hopefully make you care more about the world, and at the same time provide you opportunities to either fulfill or turn away from the virtues.

6. Improved Enemy Behaviors: Most of our enemies have very simplistic and repetitive behaviors that can be easily gamed and do not require a high level of coordination nor planning. We hope to improve on this so that enemies have markedly different behaviors, resistances, and also weaknesses. For bosses in particular, we want to introduce patterns of behaviors that change over time as you fight them.

7. User Interface Polish: While our user interface allows users to access all the current game functions, it can be counter intuitive, not informative enough when needed (ex. very little feedback when you are stealing), and sometimes even shows incorrect information. We hope to incrementally improve the intuitive usability of the various interface elements while also adding more feedback for the user’s actions, and of course fixing any errors in information display.

8. New User Experience (NUE): While we have made various improvements to the New User Experience, including the addition of the Outskirts maps, polishing the Isle of Storms, refactoring of the hints, and tips on the loading screens, there is still much work left to do guiding new players during their first time in the game. We need to provide much stronger and clearer direction in these opening moments than we currently do.

9. Localization: Now that we have publishing partners that represent territories spanning the globe, we need to spend more time on localization including detection of system language, fonts that work for multiple languages, websites that work for other territories, and of course translations.

10. Launch Readiness: As we prepare to move from Early Access to a truly live state post-launch, we need to make sure we have everything in place to truly support the product 24 / 7. This includes ensuring we have all the proper Customer Support Tools, Network Operations Center escalation / troubleshooting procedures, and security audits.

Starr “Darkstarr” Long
Executive Producer