The Ultima Codex http://ultimacodex.com The Ultima Fan Network Wed, 18 Oct 2017 23:15:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 http://ultimacodex.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/cropped-ultima-codex-favicon-150x150.png The Ultima Codex http://ultimacodex.com 32 32 33386326 Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 91 – Ultima Online Again (With Raph Koster) http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/spam-spam-spam-humbug-episode-91-ultima-online-again-with-raph-koster/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/spam-spam-spam-humbug-episode-91-ultima-online-again-with-raph-koster/#respond Wed, 18 Oct 2017 21:54:34 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62430


So it has been far, far too long since we last held a recording session, but what a way to return to form this episode was! We set out to discuss Ultima Online’s 20th anniversary, and on a whim I sent a last-minute invite to Raph Koster (Designer Dragon, the original systems designer for UO) to join us on Discord for the discussion. And happily, he accepted the invitation and turned up for what turned into a three hour discussion about the early history of the game.

Now, three hours is a lot of audio, so this episode includes roughly the second half of the discussion. As with the first discussion, this one ranges over a variety of topics, and Koster tells a few tales that have never — at least as far as he is aware — been told before. Give it a listen; there are some old secrets about the earliest days of Ultima Online herein!

Listen to the Episode

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Nox Archaist: Four Days Left on Kickstarter http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/nox-archaist-four-days-left-on-kickstarter/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/nox-archaist-four-days-left-on-kickstarter/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 19:42:53 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62425 The Kickstarter campaign for Nox Archaist, an RPG being built for the Apple II, is in its final days; as of this writing, it has just over four days left and has raised $17,834 USD. Which is not a bad total…except that its goal is $43,078 USD, which is quite a lot of shortfall to make up in under a week.

The most recent update from 6502 Workshop announced that none other than Rebecca Heineman had backed the game, and also gave us a detailed look at Nox Archaist’s inventory system. Previous to that, they gave us a look at a new dungeon tile, and addressed the question of whether the game will have food in it.

If you haven’t yet backed this game, but have been meaning to, now is the time.

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #249 http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-249/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-249/#respond Mon, 16 Oct 2017 13:29:59 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62419 Greetings Fellow Avatars! Not a whole lot for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar. If you want to see the plethera of new vanity items and items made for the SeedInvest perks, company solvency, etc.. then go to the Shroud of the Avatar website.  For other news see the info below.. Enjoy!


Community Livestream: North Quel Way First Look

In this dev livestream, Esteben “SorcerousSteve” Zaldivar shows off the upcoming R47 map – North Quel Way. He’s put a ton of work into this map, so there’s much to see.

And as usual they gave away some prizes of the spooky and ghoulish type for Halloween! Have a look:

Subscribe to Portalarium’s YouTube channel for more videos and livestreams: www.youtube.com/portalarium


R46 Postmortem Telethon Results


The Portalarium Release 46 Postmortem Telethon was a success and they hit all of the Stretch Goal Rewards!  Click to Watch R46 Postmortem Telethon – Oct. 12 from shroudoftheavatar on www.twitch.tv

The total as of 07:00 PM CDT, October 12th, was:

** $80,000 **

As always, Telethon Funding Stretch Goal Rewards will be rewarded to any backers that pledged a minimum of $5 from 12:00 PM CDT to Midnight October 12th (Spending Store Credit to make $5 minimum purchase does not apply). These rewards should show up on your account page within the next couple of weeks and will begin showing up in the game over the next few releases starting as soon as Release 48.

  • ACHIEVED! $10K: Skull Cloak
  • ACHIEVED! $25K: Prisoner’s Mask
  • ACHIEVED! $35K: Torn & Tattered Wedding Dress & Tuxedo
  • ACHIEVED! $50K: Spooky Fountain
  • ACHIEVED! $65K: Dead Hedge Fence Set
  • ACHIEVED! $80K: Nightmare Statue with flaming mane and glowing eyes

NOTE: They stopped tracking towards stretch goals at the end of the telethon at 7:00 PM CDT.

They had world building tours, answered questions, danced, sang, did shots, spun the Wheel of Fortune for flash sales, and handed out tons of prizes!

Did you not get your question answered? Fret not! Starr “Darkstarr” Long (with help from the rest of the team) will answer some of the questions that they did not have time to answer during the telethon at SotA Con on Saturday and any others will be posted to the forums this week!

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #248 http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-248/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-248/#respond Wed, 11 Oct 2017 12:08:57 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62412 Greetings Fellow Avatars! Sorry for the lateness on this post, I have been dealing with major medical issues which has delayed me.  So to jump right into it, here’s what we have for you as the important news on SotA in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:


Making of North Midmaer Way and North Quel Way

 

North Midmaer Way

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Travis “Vas Corp Por” Koleski]

Some more preview shots:

Thanks for following our progress!!

Travis “Vas Corp Por” Koleski
Level Designer

North Quel Way

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Esteben “SorcerousSteve” Zaldivar]

Hey guys! SorcerousSteve here again to give you an update on the making of North Quel Way!

Below we can see the abandoned graveyard in North Quel Way, it is from here where waves of undead rose from the ground and descended upon the valley below attacking innocent wayfarers.
Beware of the gargoyle statues for they may hide a surprise…

Dumphry Castle now lays in ruins amidst the mountainous terrain with its drawbridge lays up. Gargoyles can still be seen perched up on its crenelations and a mysterious atmosphere lingers through the mist.

The North Quel Way trading post (seen for the first time in last week’s update) still bears the signs of the recent undead attack.

Numerous zombies now lay dead, but can we expect to see another wave of undead soon?

The valley as seen from across Sweetwater Creek and the now ruined trading post.

See you next time!

Esteben Zaldivar
Level Designer


R46 Postmortem Telethon on October 12th

This release’s Postmortem Telethon is going to be Halloween themed! We’re expiring a selection of items, ready to achieve new stretch goal items, and kicking off themed contests this month to celebrate Release 46!

LIVESTREAM SCHEDULE (Central Time Zone)

Telethons are livestreamed on Twitch and include answers to your gameplay questions, world building tours, prize giveaways, sales on items, and more! See what we have planned below beginning at 3:00 PM CT on October 12:

  • 3:00 PM: Introductions
  • 3:30 PM: R46 Postmortem Q&A
  • 4:30 PM: World Building Tour
  • 5:30 PM: Postmortem Q&A Continues
  • 7:00 PM: End of Telethon!

Schedule is subject to change. Check back here before the livestream begins!

EXPIRING ITEMS

 

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTIONS!

Devs will be answering questions throughout the livestream, so submit them in the comments section for the original post here or on Discord chat during the event. Questions and feedback related to each segment will be given priority and really verbose questions may be skipped, as they can be a challenge to shorten and summarize live on the air. Please keep it to 3 total questions in the comments section.

Keep an eye on twitter, @ShroudofAvatar, for updates before, during, and after the livestream. Stream is available live on Twitch at 3:00 PM CT on October 12!

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There’s an Ultima Dragons Guild in Shroud of the Avatar http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/theres-an-ultima-dragons-guild-in-shroud-of-the-avatar/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/theres-an-ultima-dragons-guild-in-shroud-of-the-avatar/#comments Tue, 10 Oct 2017 18:24:58 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62339 Bardic Dragon has, it would seem, put together a guild for the Ultima Dragons within Shroud of the Avatar:

If you’d like to join the guild, send Bardic a message on Twitter…or, you know, find him in game. Like he suggests. Above.

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Shroud of the Avatar: Release in 2017 Unlikely http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-release-in-2017-unlikely/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-release-in-2017-unlikely/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 22:03:15 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62367 If you didn’t catch it in the most recent Update of the Avatar, producer Starr Long cast a rather copious quantity of doubt on the possibility that Shroud of the Avatar might see a “version 1.0” release at any point in what is left of 2017:

While we feel we are definitely getting closer to launch readiness each month we do not believe that launching before the end of the year is going to be the right time. Before the end of the year however will be the right time to announce a firm launch date; so stay tuned!

We continue to be incredibly thankful for the support we receive from this amazing community. While the funding you provide makes all of this possible, it pales in comparison with the faith you have in us, the feedback you provide us, and the content you are making for everyone to enjoy. We are humbly grateful, and we cannot wait to see you again in New Britannia!

The remaining Releases for the year will primarily be focused on polish; scene load time reductions and frame rate increases are key points that come up in the schedule included in the aforementioned Update, as is additional UI refinement.

Now, there had been some public statements from various personalities at Portalarium which suggested, more or less, that we’d see a final release — inasmuch as the game will have a final release; this is why I call it the “version 1.0” release — of Shroud of the Avatar before the end of the year. Clearly, this is not going to be the case.

But I’ll note that we were never given an official release date for the game in the first place, so can we really call this new development a delay?

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Shroud of the Avatar: Plans For After Episode 1 http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-plans-for-after-episode-1/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-plans-for-after-episode-1/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 19:40:07 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62330 I’m a bit over a month late in drawing attention to this, and clearly it has been discussed at considerable length on the Shroud of the Avatar forums. Be that as it may; Starr Long posted a comprehensive summary of Portalarium’s plans for continued development on Shroud of the Avatar after the release — whenever that happens — of the game’s first episode, Forsaken Virtues.

Greetings Avatars,

The beauty of being an online game is that we can continue to expand the game well beyond the confines of the launch of our first episode. That means we get to dream big! Here is a first draft of everything we would like to add to the game post launch of Episode 1. Some of these will get included in regular monthly updates (yes we plan to do those forever) while some will be part of future episodes. These are presented in no particular order and some are better explained than others.

This was formerly known as the “2 Year Plan” (as made famous by my tongue in cheek vocal rendition in the last telethon) but as we continued to add features to it we quickly realized that there was more to this than might fit in just 2 years so we have renamed it to simply “Post Episode 1 Plan”. This also of course includes the plans for further episodes.

Please note that none of these are committed features and none of these have final designs of any kind. This is just a very early draft that is the result of some quick brainstorms and ideas we accumulated when we are not crazy busy trying to finish Episode 1.

Now, the list of planned changes and new features is quite lengthy, so I won’t bother including it all here; click on through to the Shroud forums if you want all the details.

That said, there are a few things worth drawing your attention to:

  • Episodes 2 – 5:
    • New Land Masses with new adventure areas and new towns per episode
    • New 40+ hour storyline per episode
    • New opportunities to settle Player Owned Towns and Player Owned Lots in the new land masses
  • Navigable Ships: Boats that can move around in water of multiple sizes. This includes boats previously marked as either decorations (ex. Longboat) or homes (ex Pirate Galleon)
    • Ship to Ship Combat: Be able to shoot cannons and catapults and other ranged weapons between ships
    • Sea Monsters: Creatures that can be fought at sea either while swimming, from shore, or while on ships.
    • Ocean Scenes: fully oceanic scenes including random encounters while taking boats between destinations.

It would, admittedly, be nice to have the ability to actually sail different kinds of boats and ships around the gorgeous overland map of Novia. It’s a pity we’ll have to wait a while to see this feature come to the game…but it’s nice that the boat homes are included in Portalarium’s plans for it.

  • Companion Mobile App: A companion app that allows direct interaction with a selection of game features including the following:
    • Vendor Controls
    • Crafting
    • Chat
    • Maps
    • Mail
    • Player to Player Trade
    • Rent & Taxes
    • Town/Lot Management

Okay, this one will be fairly “take it or leave it” for a lot of you, I’m sure. Personally, I’d find it kind of handy, especially if I could handle any crafting I wanted to do from my phone rather than using the in-game UI.

  • New Creatures: We plan to steadily add new creatures including more that can be tamed. The below list is just a sample of ideas. We also plan to continue improving AI and visuals of existing creatures. Troll should be considered the minimum baseline for a normal AI.
    • Wild Boar
    • Drakes: small tameable dragons
    • Hydra: Lots of heads, lots of attacks, avoid the business end and be sure not to make more heads for it!
    • Doppelganger: Looks like and gains many attributes of players in scene
    • Wendigo: Every point of damage it does makes it more stronger as it consumes your life
    • Yeti: Snow troll. Think troll with ice magic that uses stealth
    • Landvaettir: Powerful spirits that guard powerful resource nodes.
    • Emela-ntouka: Massive rhino like creature, paralyzing growl, and incredibly dangerous straight line attack so don’t stand in the open!
    • Door Mimic: Sticky handle = long root
    • More Clockwork Creatures: Can be looted for clockwork parts
    • Smoke Panther: Lives in darkness, stealth, bleeding attacks, and cancels friendly buffs.
    • Multiple new bosses: Not named here for secrecy reasons
  • Combat:
    • Rework animation state machine to allow for smoother animation transitions
    • Weapon type vs armor type: Impact/Cutting/Piercing vs Cloth/Leather/Chain/Plate breakdown
    • Combos with Heat system
    • Stacking equivalent with Heat system (R45)
    • Expand combo system to include at least 5 combos for each school and combos of combos
    • More refinement on the current resistance system
    • Ammunition types
    • More Ranged Weapons: Flamethrower, Tesla Gun, Gas Gun, Blunderbuss, Net Gun, etc
  • UI Overhaul
    • Everything detachable and movable on screen
    • Chat as separate windows from game window

A lot of this sounds promising, assuming it is able to be brought to fruition. Which will, of course, depend (I suspect) on how well Shroud of the Avatar performs once it goes into its official release. How well will the game sell?

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Corven – Path of Redemption: Team Name Change; New Music; New Landscape Art http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/corven-path-of-redemption-team-name-change-new-music-new-landscape-art/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/corven-path-of-redemption-team-name-change-new-music-new-landscape-art/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 18:20:29 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62373 The Titans of Ether — the team who had previously been developing Ultima IX: Redemption, before putting that project aside in favour of creating Corven – Path of Redemption — have rebranded; they are now known as Lycantic:

Welcome to our new homepage / domain! Our new team name is Lycantic and our new domain is www.lycantic.com and the old domain will not be updated anymore, so please make sure to update your bookmarks!

Twitter handle: @LycanticCorven
Youtube link: https://www.youtube.com/c/Lycantic
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/CorvenPathofRedemption/

Thank you for you continued interest and support!

Additionally, they have released some new artwork and music from Corven. You can see the artwork, a landscape piece done by a freelancer who goes by the handle Rune, above; to check out the soundtrack sample, you’ll have to click on through to the news update.

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Raph Koster on Ultima Online’s Influence http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/raph-koster-on-ultima-onlines-influence/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/raph-koster-on-ultima-onlines-influence/#respond Fri, 06 Oct 2017 01:23:29 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62378 Raph Koster — the original systems designer for Ultima Online — offered, you’ll hopefully recall, to answer questions about that game as a way of marking its 20th anniversary, which milestone was reached last month. True to his word, Koster has now answered the first of the questions he received…and, true to form, he has written quite a lot in so doing.

This is the first question I’m answering from the ones I got for UO’s 20th anniversary.

I never played UO, so not knowledgeable. Maybe a routine question, but how do you think #UltimaOnline pushed the genre forward?

This is a big question.

Indeed, the question is so big, it’s basically impossible to choose what to excerpt from Koster’s response (which, as noted, runs to a considerable length). So perhaps I’ll just highlight his conclusion:

Just to launch UO, we had to invent early forms of database sharding (the term likely comes from UO), pioneer the large-scale use of VPNs, pioneer character customization, invent seamless multiserver clusters, basically invent modern community management, invent the now-ubiquitous codes on cards for accounts or payment… many were simultaneous inventions, but we basically had to do a whole bunch of new things. You see that pic of the core team up there? The average person in that picture was in their mid or early twenties, on their first game industry job.

No doubt as a consequence of that: many of the things that were tried in UO didn’t work. They broke under unforeseen player stresses – no one had ever designed for thousands of people playing at once in a simulated economy; or they collapsed when the (puny by today’s standards) computers we used as servers couldn’t handle the load. Many were simply bad ideas, as our understanding of player psychology and behaviors evolved. UO chased the industry away from player-vs-player combat for years. To this day, Richard warns people away from trying to tackle a simulated ecology (not me, though, I’m still determined and stubborn). It’s important to realize that UO was a profoundly broken experience in many many ways.

And of course, since players managed to reverse-engineer most of the game in short order, just about everything that worked, or didn’t work, was worked over, redesigned, and recreated by players in the hundreds upon hundreds of “gray shards” created since 1998. At least three server codebases, complete with scripting languages, compatibility with the official client, and, at peak, hundreds of thousands of players, outstripping the official servers. When I got to China for the first time, I learned that UO was well-known there, despite never having launched officially in the country; it was because so many gray shards were run there that it helped create a generation of MMO developers. For a while, UO was probably the world’s most popular user-run virtual world codebase, and thus a true heir to the MUD tradition.

But in the end, if you ask how it pushed the genre forward, I think the answer is that it did so by offering a dream, a dream that even today people compromise on and don’t offer. This idea of a true parallel world with its own life, its own ongoing history, one that doesn’t pander or make concessions for tutorials, bolted-on quests, pay-to-win gear schemes, or any of the other niceties of the business of games… the idea that “what if you just actually modeled another world, in as much detail as possible, and let players loose?”

That’s something that frankly, still isn’t really on offer.

Click on through to read the whole thing. As you might expect, Koster goes into great detail about the development, technology, economics, culture, and community of Ultima Online.

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Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 90 – Ultima Online Turns 20 (With Raph Koster) http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/spam-spam-spam-humbug-episode-90-ultima-online-turns-20-with-raph-koster/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/spam-spam-spam-humbug-episode-90-ultima-online-turns-20-with-raph-koster/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 17:57:01 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62381


So it has been far, far too long since we last held a recording session, but what a way to return to form this episode was! We set out to discuss Ultima Online’s 20th anniversary, and on a whim I sent a last-minute invite to Raph Koster (Designer Dragon, the original systems designer for UO) to join us on Discord for the discussion. And happily, he accepted the invitation and turned up for what turned into a three hour discussion about the early history of the game.

Albeit this is just the first half thereof. 

Some of what is discussed has been discussed before, in other places and sometimes by other people. However, Koster peppers the discussion with more than a few never-before-told stories from the development of the game. Multiple references are also made to this article at Koster’s blog.

Listen to the Episode

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #247 http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-247/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/10/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-247/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 18:35:16 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62362 Greetings Fellow Avatars! Here’s what we have for you in this week’s edition of Update of the Avatar:

Game Development

 


Play Release 46 Now!

Release 46 launched September 28 with new content to explore, including:

  • Reduced Load Times
  • Stealing Rework
  • Quest Polish
  • More Side Quests
  • Malice Dungeon Rework
  • Blackblade Pass Rework
  • Highvale Outskirts (new)
  • Crooked Shank (new)
  • North Shattered Hills (new)
  • South Longfall Wetlands (new)
  • The Crags (new)
  • Combat Balance
  • Multiple Entry Points from Overworld
  • Agriculture Batch Recipes
  • New Creature: Reaper
  • Scythes (new Polearm)
  • New Sword Loot
  • Doublet and Gambeson Loot
  • Halloween Items
  • More Inns
  • Prison Home and Cages
  • Telethon Items
  • Seed Invest Items
  • R45 Lot Deed Raffle Winners

…and  more

Check out the Release 46 Instructions update for detailed information about all the new content.

 

Release 46 Player Instructions

Release 46 Known Issues


The Making of Blackblade Foothills, North Midmaer Way, & North Quel Way 

 

Blackblade Foothills (cont.)

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Chris Wolf]

Here are a few more screenshots for Blackblade Foothills.

Ruined City Exterior

Ruined City Interior

The Magma Pools

Road to the Temple

The Temple Beneath the Mountain

Chris “Sea-Wolf” Wolf
Level Designer

 

North Midmaer Way

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Travis “Vas Corp Por” Koleski]

Here’s some early screenshots of our progress on North Midmaer Way, hope you enjoy them!

North Midmaer Way is a Tier 2 Adventure Zone, set in a heavily wooded area.

North Quel Way

[From a Dev+ Forum Post by Esteben “SorcerousSteve” Zaldivar]

SorcerousSteve here to give you a sneak peek at my latest upcoming map: North Quel Way!

North Quel Way is located in a valley where tributaries of the Barren River flow down from the mountains. Off in the distance you can see waterfalls that make their way down as fast flowing streams and feed the pine tree forests scattered throughout. An abandoned trading post can be seen in the middle ground victim of the recent undead overrun.

As you enter the trading post there are many signs of a fierce fight with the undead…wagons have been toppled over, auto ballista turrets are still active, and many undead lay dismembered.

Smoldering debris, weapons, and corpses are scattered about. The inhabitants of this trading post did not go down without a fight and defended themselves until their last breath.

Forced to make a final stand a few survivors have managed to hold of the undead horde and have fortified themselves in the trading pavilion. Collaborating with level designer Keith Quinn, we have designed this space with some breakable/rebuildable barriers that will provide a great spot for players to fend of waves of undead!

See you next time for more progress on North Quel Way!

Esteben Zaldivar
Level Designer

 


Q4 2017 Schedule Update

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

Greetings Avatars,

As we have stated previously, we intend to publish quarterly schedule updates for our monthly releases. Even though the goals outlined in these schedules are likely to change somewhat as we react to feedback, we feel it is important to periodically provide you with an updated roadmap.

Our priority continues to be to deliver new content to our backers each and every month, so that you can give us feedback that will help us iteratively improve Shroud of the Avatar. This collaborative process continues to benefit the game, and often results in sweeping changes such as the upcoming addition of the Outskirts scenes. As you have seen in previous releases, the flexibility inherent to this process means that we sometimes push things out, but we also often pull new things in.

Top 10 Priorities: 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 such as 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 Top 10 list consists of everything that we need to address BEFORE we are ready to launch.

  1. Reduce Load Times: There are a lot of 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 still be over a minute on physical media drives (HDs) and up to 30 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 the game’s 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: The story currently does an adequate job of conveying the game’s narrative, 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 the battle progresses.
  7. User Interface Polish: While our user interface allows users to access all the current game functions, it can be counter-intuitive, often provides inadequate information (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 erroneous information displayed.
  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 in order to improve the way that we guide new players as they begin playing. 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.

To repeat what I said in the Q1 post:

“We believe that we have reached the final 20% of development before Commercial Release, at which point we will transition out of Early Access. The next two quarters will be the most exciting and challenging times for the project so far. This will be when we get the final features and content in the game and make the last important balance changes. The changes will be fast and furious, and they may occasionally be hard to understand when you become accustomed to the way things were before. Please trust that we firmly believe that every change we make is best for the long term health of the project.”​

As always, all dates, durations, and deliverables are subject to change as we adjust our designs based on direct feedback from you, our backers.

NOTE: Releases 48 and 49 are shorter in duration and in the middle of the month due to the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

RELEASE 47, October 26, 2017

  • Story: We will continue to work on adding sidequests and polish to the Paths of Truth, Love and Courage, including the continued addition of unique virtue-themed rewards for these quests. Additionally, we will be doing polish work focused specifically on the starting scenes. Finally  some adventure scenes in various regions of Novia will be rebuilt from scratch, including Blackblade Foothills, North Midmaer Way and North Quel Way.
  • Load Time Reduction: Various changes and optimizations will continue to be made to the game to reduce load times for all scenes. These changes will include code and content changes.
  • Player Towns & Player Housing: Updates to Dynamic Player-Owned Towns (POTs) that have locked submission forms will appear in the game.
  • Crafting & Economy: We will continue adding more loot to the game, including unique components for crafting.
  • User Interface Polish: We will add more information and labeling to the overworld and on screen that will include such things as scene difficulty, quest locations, scene types, and more.
  • Seed Invest, Telethon, & Holiday Content: We will add the second (and final) set of Golden Seed Invest items to the game including the Golden Viking Home, Golden Viking Palisade Walls, the Golden versions of the magic emotes, and all the rest. We will also add the R45 Oktoberfest Telethon items and the 2017 Fall Holiday items.

RELEASE 48, November 16, 2017

  • Story: We will continue to work on adding sidequests and polish to the Paths of Truth, Love and Courage including the continued addition of unique virtue themed rewards for these quests. Additionally, we will be doing polish work focused specifically on the starting scenes. Finally, some adventure scenes in various regions of Novia will be rebuilt from scratch, including East Longfall Wetland.
  • Load Time Reduction: We will continue work on load time optimizations.
  • Player Towns & Player Housing: Updates to Dynamic Player-Owned Towns (POTs) that have locked submission forms will appear in the game.
  • Crafting & Economy: We will continue adding more loot to the game including unique components for crafting.
  • User Interface Polish: We will continue adding more information and labeling to the overworld and on screen that will include such things as scene difficulty, quest locations, scene types, and more.
  • Telethon & Holiday Content: We will add the R46 Spooky Telethon items, 2017 Winter Holiday items and Doctors without Borders / Children’s Hospitals Make a Difference items.

RELEASE 49, December 14, 2017

  • Story: We will continue to work on adding sidequests and polish to the Paths of Truth, Love and Courage including the continued addition of unique virtue-themed rewards for these quests. Additionally, we will be doing polish work focused specifically on the starting scenes. Finally, some adventure scenes in various regions of Novia will be rebuilt from scratch, including Sunless Barrens.
  • Frame Rate Increase: Performance work will shift towards improving framerate and reducing hitching during gameplay.
  • Player Towns & Player Housing: Updates to Dynamic Player-Owned Towns (POTs) that have locked submission forms will appear in the game.
  • Crafting & Economy: We will continue adding more loot to the game including unique components for crafting.
  • User Interface Polish: We will provide more feedback about locations on the compass and map for quests, services, points of interest, etc.
  • Telethon & Holiday Content: We will add the R47 Telethon items and more 2017 Winter Holiday items.

 

Where is my favorite feature?: Looking at the above you might be wondering: “Where is my favorite feature or piece of content that still needs work?” Fret not! While some of these are not being worked on directly we are definitely still planning on working on them, just not in Q4, or just not as our highest priority for now.

When is Launch?: You have probably noticed that we do not list one of these releases as a launch release. While we feel we are definitely getting closer to launch readiness each month we do not believe that launching before the end of the year is going to be the right time. Before the end of the year however will be the right time to announce a firm launch date; so stay tuned!

We continue to be incredibly thankful for the support we receive from this amazing community. While the funding you provide makes all of this possible, it pales in comparison with the faith you have in us, the feedback you provide us, and the content you are making for everyone to enjoy. We are humbly grateful, and we cannot wait to see you again in New Britannia!

Before I go, I wanted to include an excerpt from my original post about our Early Release Schedule that is important to set the framework for our ongoing schedule:

As a crowd funded and crowd sourced project, we feel it is incredibly important that we provide our backers with information and access well before game studios would normally do so in a traditional development model. Traditionally, the players are given information and access only after the development team has already decided exactly how things will be done, and at times, even after it has already been implemented. By the time the public normally has access to the product, there is usually no time to meaningfully react to the public feedback. Shroud of the Avatar is different than the traditional model, as we intend to offer our backers extremely early access to information and even the game itself.

Our strategy over the next few months is to provide you with focused and iterative releases of content. Your feedback during these releases will be critical to making the final product the best it can be, and we appreciate that you are all so willing to devote your time to helping us.

It is important to note that all dates, durations, and deliverables are subject to change.​

Sincerely,
Starr Long
Executive Producer
Shroud of the Avatar

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Ultima Online: 20th Anniversary and Endless Journey (Free-to-Play) http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/ultima-online-20th-anniversary-and-endless-journey-free-to-play/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/ultima-online-20th-anniversary-and-endless-journey-free-to-play/#respond Fri, 29 Sep 2017 17:53:52 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62357 Over the weekend, a number of fans of the game gathered in Herndon, Virginia, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ultima Online:

On behalf of the entire UO Team, we want to extend a very special thank you to all of our players, past and present, for your continued support of Ultima Online as we celebrate 20 years of UO!

The Anniversary party was a huge success and it was such a pleasure to meet everyone. We have over 700 photos to sift through and will post those here and on social media so you can check them out!

For all of the winners of the castle raffle, I have emailed everyone with a valid email address. If you have not received an email and you were a winner, please contact me.

We also want give a very special thanks to In10se BBQ for an amazing meal and a very big thank you to the Spawn family for making the amazing mugs and decals. We also want to thank Larper’s Lounge for donating the prizes for the costume contest.

You can check out a drones-eye-view photograph of the BBQ luncheon over at the UO website.

Now, this next bit of news came as a surprise to some, although for others it would have served more as a confirmation. That was certainly the case here; there’s been an article in draft state since…spring, I think…in which Deckard (another of the editors, albeit an infrequently seen one) talked about this forthcoming change.

Be that as it may, the announcement that shook things up the most at the 20th anniversary celebration was the revelation that Ultima Online would be getting a free-to-play mode:

We were also very excited to announce the next major stage in Ultima Online’s history with Endless Journey coming Spring of 2018. You can check our preliminary FAQ page about the Endless Journey here. We look forward to sharing more information about the Endless Journey and what’s next in Britannia in the coming weeks and months.

You can find out more about Endless Journey over on — of course — the UO website:

What is Endless Journey?


Ultima Online: Endless Journey is a way for players to experience the core features of Ultima Online without a paid subscription.

Who is eligible for Endless Journey?


New accounts and previously paid veteran accounts that have been closed for at least 120 days are eligible for Endless Journey.

What do I get with Endless Journey?


Endless Journey accounts receive complementary access to all Ultima Online expansions through Stygian Abyss. Other expansions can be purchased and applied to an Endless Journey account. Endless Journey accounts have access to Ultima Online’s core features and can enjoy exploring Britannia, training character skills, making friendships that will last a lifetime, and much more!

Of course, as with all free-to-play offerings, Endless Journey has a few significant limitations to it. Notably, access to the bank is disabled (although items can be kept in a vault, which must be rented for in-game gold). Endless Journey accounts are also barred from owning houses; they may only access public housing. EM rewards, holiday and promotional rewards, ships, and vendor placement are also not available to free players.

To gain access to these features, of course, you need only upgrade your account to a subscription. So it’s not really a true free-to-play experience…the word “demo” comes to mind, actually. Still, it does give players the option to dip their toes in the waters of UO for free, for longer than a couple of weeks, which isn’t nothing.

And it’s worth highlighting that all UO expansions through to Stygian Abyss will be available within Endless Journey, which means that a huge portion of the game’s content will be accessible for free.

Ultima Online itself, of course, needs little introduction; it is rightly lauded as the grandfather of MMORPGs, and still sets a considerably high bar in terms of the sort of in-game interactivity it affords its players. Its influence on the MMO industry is undeniable.

Hopefully, the move to a free-to-play(ish) model will bring a few more people — and, ideally, future subscribers — to the game. I might even download and install the game client for myself, to finally check out this game two decades after its first release.

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Raph Koster Wants Your Ultima Online Questions http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/ralph-koster-wants-your-ultima-online-questions/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/ralph-koster-wants-your-ultima-online-questions/#respond Wed, 27 Sep 2017 18:16:32 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62350 Raph KosterDesigner Dragon – should be well known to all of you reading this; he was one of the minds behind the original design of Ultima Online, and devised many of the systems that the game continues to earn praise for to this day.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ultima Online, Koster has been posting about his history with the game, mostly via Twitter:


Koster also penned a short reflection on the grandfather of modern MMORPGs on his blog:

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Ultima Online‘s launch day.

Funny enough, I have no particular memories of that day.

I’ve written a fair amount about UO in the past, so I am at a bit of a loss as to what to say, other than “thank you” to the folks who hired me and let me work on it, and “thank you” to the players who played and continue to play it. It has been an honor.

Koster is also planning to write a longer article about UO, and is looking to the community for questions that he should answer therein:


The best way to send your questions to him would probably be Twitter; Koster tends to be very responsive on that platform. He’s already amassed a number of questions from people, but he’s open to more.

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #246 http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-246/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/shroud-of-the-avatar-update-of-the-avatar-246/#respond Tue, 26 Sep 2017 18:33:38 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62346 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

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Bummed About The Cancelled HoBLotH? There’s a New Event Being Planned. http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/bummed-about-the-cancelled-hobloth-theres-a-new-event-being-planned/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/bummed-about-the-cancelled-hobloth-theres-a-new-event-being-planned/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:51:30 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62319 I should have posted this as news last month! Of course, we were all saddened to see Rustic Dragon cancel the fourth Hearth of Britannia HoBLotH event, which would have taken place this November. Some enterprising Ultima Dragons, however, have taken it upon themselves to try and plan a (smaller, admittedly) get-together in its place:

The previously planned and much anticipated Hearth of Britannia event scheduled around 11/11/17 was cancelled. Some of us are still planning to get together near Austin, TX. This is a crowd-sourced event, come share your talents and obsession with like minded individuals:
Hope to see you in Britannia on 11/11/17
If interested, join the group and help plan this epic adventure!

The planning group is a closed group, so you’ll have to ask to join it. But, if you’d be keen to help pull this event together, do consider joining!

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Age of Ultimacraft: Lord British’s Castle Now Complete http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/age-of-ultimacraft-lord-britishs-castle-now-complete/ http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/age-of-ultimacraft-lord-britishs-castle-now-complete/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:05:42 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62322 The Age of Ultimacraft team have, with much fanfare, announced the addition of Lord British’s Castle to the world of their Ultima-themed Minecraft server:
 
 

 
 

As usual, the level of detail is impressive.

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The Dark Unknown: Patreon; Art Book Progress; NPC Schedules; Day/Night Cycle http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/the-dark-unknown-patreon-art-book-progress-npc-schedules-daynight-cycle/ Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:58:04 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62307 There have been a few updates to The Dark Unknown’s Facebook page recently, which contain some big news for those of you who’ve been following the game’s development.

The pace of that development has been a bit on the slow side lately, which Goldenflame explains in this post from September 12th:

OK! I’ve decided to rearrange the order I was originally planning for these and start with the personal one, rather than sticking it in the middle.

For starters, yes, I’m definitely behind where I wanted to be at this point in the year. The other day, I was pointed at this: https://whatever.scalzi.com/2017/09/05/2017-and-writing/ and it did make me feel a little better- I’m not the only one who’s not feeling that productive this year, and the last two years being complete dumpster fires has definitely not helped. That said, it still sucks, and I’m behind, my apologies.

Now, the personal bit- in 2 weeks, I am going to be undergoing a relatively minor surgery, but surgery nonetheless. I’ll be housebound for around 3 weeks. In an ideal world, I’ll be able to use that time to be extra productive! That’s what I’m hoping for. But, on the other hand, I might just play through Persona 5 while on painkillers. We’ll see. It could put me further behind.

I’m not even going to try to speculate on a finish date or month, until probably after the holidays.

However, on September 14th, he had a rather bigger announcement to make (not that the announcement of surgery isn’t a big deal, but what follows here will have a hopefully very significant impact on the development of The Dark Unknown):

Here we are: Wednesday of Announcement week, one of the two major announcements.

Tapestry of Ages Games is now on Patreon!

See http://tapestryofages.com/2017/09/14/wednesday-patreon/ for the full announcement, and of course the Patreon itself can be found at https://www.patreon.com/tapestryofages .

Finally, and most recently, Goldenflame had two smallish announcements to make:

One – The first draft of the Art of The Dark Unknown book is half done! I’ve completed the introduction and Bestiary sections, and hopefully the other half will go more quickly now that I know what I’m doing. The art book has definitely been more work than anticipated, surprise surprise, how often have you heard that about kickstarter rewards? But it will be worth it once it’s done. I’m pushing on getting it done sooner because it is a kickstarter reward and I’d like to be able to fulfill it sooner even if it delays the game itself by a bit.

Two- this is just an idea I’m floating and thinking about, but I’ve had a few ideas for possible DLC! These would be entirely optional and quite cheap, but it could be a way to make a little money on this project since I’m committed to leaving the actual game be free. Ideas include two mini-story arcs for after you win the base game, and I’m batting around the idea of making basically a crafting mod. It’s the kind of thing that yeah, would be cool to have be in the base game but I really do need to be keeping it from bloating too much. There’s a lot of interactivity already, but at the moment it isn’t quite that much.

Granted, we haven’t seen a release of The Dark Unknown yet, and likely shall not see one for a while yet. Still, if there is to be extra content added to the game, Goldenflame will need to start laying the foundations for it now.

The announcement from last Friday, however, is the biggest — and the most exciting. In fact, it’s so significant, Goldenflame felt it prudent to put only a short summary up on Facebook; the full update was published on the Tapestry of Ages Games website:

Friends, Ellusians, Avatars, it is my privilege to be able to announce that The Dark Unknown will contain NPC Schedules and a Day/Night Cycle!


I mentioned when I changed the game’s frame that I had moved the name of where you are to the bottom of the view, and then I was suspiciously silent about what I was using the top for now, and there was a sudden complete lack of screenshots or even many updates of what I was working on. So here is a new screenshot:

I was obviously inspired by Ultima V’s view of the sky, but unlike U5 my moons move in the sky to match their phases. (In U5, the moons were always in the same positions relative to the sun and each other, but their phases changed to dictate the moongates.) Interestingly, at the moment the moon phases have no bearing on the game whatsoever, but I included them anyway.

There is now time- grandfather clocks may be found here and there on civilized maps, and when looked at will tell the current time. Another change that I believe I have previously mentioned: time now only moves 5 times faster on the world map than the town maps. This change was necessary once I added day and night. Additionally, I have moved the command to change your weapons/armor to (R)eady- what used to be Wield is not going to be (W)ait, which is necessary once NPCs have schedules. One of the downsides to schedules is player frustration of needing to talk to Bob and Bob is asleep.

(Also, I removed the Awaken spell- I couldn’t cope with having to write what happens to every single NPC if you wake them up.)

The screenshot at the top of this article gives us a look at the new moon phase window that has been added to The Dark Unknown’s interface.

So…exciting news — and then some! — from Goldenflame Dragon about his long-in-development project. Of course, it’ll be a while before we see these features even in the online demo of the game that exists at present…but, as we wait for the day when we can all play the 1.0 version of The Dark Unknown, please do consider backing the project on Patreon.

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Dungeons of Chaos: Now on Steam http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/dungeons-of-chaos-now-on-steam/ Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:18:01 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62305 As of last week, Volker Elzner’s Dungeons of Chaos — an old-school, tile-based RPG for iOS and Android devices — is also available for PC, via Valve’s Steam platform:

STEAM store page is now live! Add it to your wishlist, and fingers crossed in the next 24h it could be available!

http://store.steampowered.com/app/613390/DUNGEONS_OF_CHAOS/

Many thanks for everyone’s support and patience, and of course I would be really grateful if people leave a review on steam once they had a good play. The PC version has a bucket load of keyboard controls, and pressing TAB shows what is available in any given screen. Enjoy!

The game is available for…well, the price listed for me is $8.99, but it’s unclear from the game’s Steam store page whether that’s USD or CAD. Both Windows and OS X versions are available.

If you haven’t checked out Dungeons of Chaos yet, this is a good chance to do so. It’s chock-full of puns, and is very much a love letter to the earlier Ultima games.

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Ultima Online: 20th Anniversary Party This Week; More Shattered Obelisk Fiction http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/ultima-online-20th-anniversary-party-this-week-more-shattered-obelisk-fiction/ Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:42:26 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62310 The 20th anniversary party for Ultima Online takes place later this week, on Friday the 22nd and Saturday the 23rd. Broadsword Online Games have updated the party information page on the Ultima Online website with a complete itinerary and FAQ section. Onlin

A couple of itinerary items worth highlighting, both of which take place on Friday the 22nd, include:

10:30am – 12:30pm – Welcome by Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong and Guest speakers Starr “Lord Blackthorn” Long and Richard “Lord British” Garriott.

And…

7:30-8:00pm – Costume Contest judged by Starr “Lord Blackthorn” Long and Richard “Lord British” Garriott.

Some additional details about the costume contest — or, at least, the prizes — can be found in the most recent Producer’s Letter from Bonnie Armstrong:

We are especially excited for Friday evening when we will be hosting a costume contents. The Judges for the contest will be our honored guests Starr “Lord Blackthorn” Long and Richard “Lord British” Garriott. The prizes for this contest were donated by Mr. David Johnson of Larpers Lounge. They are great people to work with and extremely helpful with your armor needs if you might have any. We can’t wait to see what everyone comes dressed as!

For those that are unable to attend the party we will be taking lots of pictures for you guys so you do not feel left out. Speaking of not leaving you guys out, I have the three winners of the in-game castle raffle that was on TC1. I will be contacting you via email today so please reply with the shard and character name you will be receiving the castle with.

Of course, concurrent with these events, the events of The Shattered Obelisk continue to play out in the game proper. Another piece of lore fiction, entitled Family Squabbles, has been published in advance of next week’s launch of the final chapter of said event arc.

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One Book, Three Richard Garriott Stories http://ultimacodex.com/2017/09/one-book-three-richard-garriott-stories/ Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:50:29 +0000 http://ultimacodex.com/?p=62270 David L. Craddock recently released a new book: Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution. Three different gaming press outlets have excerpted stories about Richard Garriott from the book…some of which we’ve heard before, and at least one of which (the most amusing, by far) we haven’t (that I’m aware).

First up, US Gamer has an article entitled How Richard Garriott Got Players to Start Thinking About the Choices They Make in Ultima IV, which excerpts the book directly:

Switching off the monitor, Richard Garriott rolled up his sleeves and dug into the mounds of unopened letters on his desk. “What was interesting about Ultima III being our first product was that when people had something to say about the game, good or bad, they could write in to Origin at our home address, and we began to get fan mail. And hate mail. Both.”

Tearing open envelopes and poring over the good, bad, and ugly of fan feedback was a new experience for him. Garriott had written his previous games in a vacuum, handing in code to publishers and waiting for royalty checks to roll in. Receiving letters, postcards, and packages from fans directly was exciting. To his amusement, he picked out a pattern existent in nearly every missive. “When anybody writes to you about your game, it’s usually one paragraph of ‘Hey, I really liked your game, really enjoyed it… but…’ And then the rest of the letter, which could be anywhere from one paragraph to ten pages, is their personal diatribe of what was wrong in the game and what they would do to fix it.”

Looking past fans’ tendency to play armchair general, Garriott took many responses to heart. Every so often, religious zealots would write sternly worded letters complaining about the winged, horned demon that adorned the front of Ultima III’s box, which they believed provoked the youth of America to run around killing goats and tendering bloody sacrifices to Satan. Garriott might have found the claims ridiculous and easy to dismiss if not for the methods that an alarmingly large percentage of his players seemed to employ. In painstaking detail, these players explained that when the going got tough, they got nefarious. When they needed gold, they admitted it was easier to bribe or steal than earn money killing monsters and looting crypts. To his horror, many players copped to killing off vendors so they could loot their shops with impunity.

We all know how that epiphany played out, the ultimate result of it being Ultima 4 and its strong focus on moral decision-making.

Polygon chose a different excerpt, this one looking at How Richard Garriott got started in games:

Two months later, Garriott set foot in Clear Creek High School as a sophomore and got some good news. The school had a single teletype. A summer spent programming and roleplaying filled him with renewed purpose. Readily copping to an average academic career, Garriott survived more than thrived in most classes, pulling in Bs and Cs. Science fairs were an exception. Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through graduation, he showed up to competitions with projects that dazzled judges. As he grew older, he went on to compete in district, regional, state, and international fairs, making even bigger splashes.

Entering Clear Creek’s administration office, Garriott made a request and cited his proven ability to self-govern projects as incentive for them to agree.” When I got back to Houston, I told the faculty, ‘I want to continue working on this machine. There is no curriculum [for computer programming]. What I would like is your permission to, instead of taking a foreign language, please consider BASIC my foreign language.'”

The faculty gave him its blessing. Over his junior and senior years, Garriott and a few other students with permission to tailor their curriculum to their strengths embarked on self-guided journeys. At last, Garriott had found the perfect outlet for his interests in fantasy adventures and computers. “That was the moment where teaching myself about computers switched from a fascination with the machine itself to specifically trying to implement games on computers. Just before that, my sister-in-law had given me a copy of The Lord of the Rings to read. I was playing Dungeons & Dragons. I was beginning to master this unusual teletype, which was the same I used during the summer at OU. So off I went to start making games.”

But I think the best story that any gaming press outlet has gleaned from the book has to be this one, which Gamasutra chose to focus on. Because it would seem to be the case that, when disputes over game production arose at Origin Systems between Richard and Robert Garriott, the boys would…call their parents to help resolve it:

Garriott recalls trying to design a final dungeon filled with both moral and mortal challenges for players to overcome, including one room in which the player is attacked by a group of monsters disguised as human children. When a member of the QA team who didn’t know about the disguises threatened to resign, Garriot’s brother (and Origin cofounder) Robert pushed him to cut the sequence from the game.

“I was stunned,” Garriot recalls. “I said, ‘I have no idea what this guy’s talking about.’ Robert said, ‘I don’t know, either, but whatever it is, we need to find it and get it out of the game. Whatever is creating this feeling, we’d better get out of the game.”

This is something a lot of devs today can probably empathize with — the concern that players won’t interpret your work as you intend, the push and pull of different opinions on the team. What’s less common, perhaps, is Garriott’s description of how serious disputes were settled at a family establishment like Origin.

“Usually, when arguments broke out, my dad would agree with my brother and my mom would agree with me,” Garriott said, explaining that Robert had ultimately called their parents to help settle the question of whether the room full of fake murderous children should stay.

“That’s usually how things went down: we invoked parental involvement, but nothing got settled because they were split. This was the only time in company history where my mother sided with my brother.”

Too funny.

At any rate, it would appear that Craddock has done a lot of homework — and spent no small amount of time getting out and talking with people at length — in pulling together Break Out. It might just be one to pick up!

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