The Ultima Codex The Ultima Fan Network Wed, 17 Sep 2014 04:02:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Project Entry: Halls of the Vale Wed, 17 Sep 2014 04:01:48 +0000 halls-of-the-vale
Mike Mann posted the following to the Ultima Dragons Facebook group:

Several years back, I was working on a Neverwinter Nights mod that was going to combine the dungeon crawliness of Underworld with an 3d/isometric viewpoint. I had based it on The Lost Vale, the Ultima 8 expansion-that-never-was.

As it’s obvious I’ll likely never rekindle the project – especially with an actual ‘Underworld 3′ in the works – I figured I’d share a piece of the promotional artwork I had created.

The image above is that promotional artwork, and is likely all that remains of the project. But I’ve set up a project entry for it, even so.

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New Gallery: Ultima 4 Article in Bitti Magazine Wed, 17 Sep 2014 03:46:28 +0000 10575362_10152354594768042_2194893001191363085_o

These images were first posted by Timo Oravala to the Ultima Dragons Facebook group. He offered the following explanation thereof: “My parents house had interesting pile of treasures from my past including this old finnish computer magazine from 1987 with article about Ultima IV. Here are some pictures and especially the map is awesome. Big blue text on the first page when translated to English states: King of the roleplaying games. So true!”

Timo hasn’t yet found the time to produce an English translation of the article, but those of you who can read Finnish can check it out in this shiny new gallery.

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New Download: Killorn Keep for Neverwinter Nights Wed, 17 Sep 2014 03:17:55 +0000 nwn-killorn-keep

This is apparently faithful re-creation of Killorn Keep, one of the worlds the Avatar visits in Ultima Underworld 2. At the time the Avatar visits it, it is under the rule of Lord Thibris, and is also home to the Guardian’s champion, Mors Gotha.

Of course, this particular map doesn’t include any NPCs, so you won’t be encountering Gotha as you wander its halls. But if you want to save some time when laying out an Underworld 2 remake in Neverwinter Nights, or if you need a premade castle you can quickly import that will just happen to insert a sly Ultima reference into your module, this package might just be the one to download.

There’s a project entry, naturally. And you can also check out some additional details about the module at the Neverwinter Vault…the fan-run one.

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Hearth of Britannia: Scott Jones (Lord Nimrond) Added to the Guest List Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:34:19 +0000 hearth-of-britannia-new

Rustic Dragon has announced that Scott Jones — currently at Portalarium and formerly a developer at Origin Systems (he worked on Ultima 9) — will be one of the special guests of HoBLotH II.

Here’s Scott’s bio from the Hearth of Britannia website:

Art Director and Concept Artist for Ultima IX and UI artist for Ultima Online and Shroud of the Avatar, Scott Jones will be attending the HoBLotH! Also known as Nimrond, the cart bearer in Britain during the Age of Armageddon, Scott will be aiding thee in thy quests!

No word yet on whether he’ll be the bouncer for the event, per the role played by his virtual representation in Ultima 9. Or whether he’ll cart away those guests who fall ill and take them to Paws.

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U3.5 Pax Britannia: Fully Skinned R4i3DS Firmware Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:21:20 +0000 Andrew Owen posted a short update concerning U3.5: Pax Britannia to the Ultima Dragons Facebook group:


U3.5:PB. Skinned the R4i3DS firmware. Ok, really need to get back to coding now.

It…certainly looks great, it must be said. The Ultima 6 aesthetic is especially appreciable.

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Buy the Box for Ultima 8’s Expansion, The Lost Vale, on eBay Wed, 17 Sep 2014 00:12:17 +0000 lost-vale-box-crop

The history of The Lost Vale, the never-released expansion for Ultima 8, should be well-enough known to Ultima fans. It was cancelled at the every end of its development, supposedly after the gold master had been prepared, and to this date there has been precious little material pertaining to it that has come to light. The plot documents were unearthed a couple of years ago, and one single box for the game popped up for sale on eBay a number of years ago. Just the box, mind you; the only one known to exist.

(The process of verifying the authenticity of the box was rather interesting, at least at the time. Ultimately, Stephen Emond was able to verify the validity of the UPC code with EA proper.)

At any rate, the box for The Lost Vale has once again appeared on eBay, for the none-too-reasonable price of 10,000 Euros (although the seller is evidently willing to entertain other offers). It is the same box that was put up for sale back in 2005, and…well, it’s probably one of the rarest pieces of Ultima history in existence. It’s quite the piece for any Ultima collection — any gaming collection, really — so, if you’ve a pile of cash to spare, you might consider contacting the seller and seeing about arranging a deal.

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Ananias: Version 1.32 Released Online and for Android Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:31:01 +0000 ananias-v132-2014-09-15-at-9-51-38-pm

Slashing Dragon has released yet another update for Ananias, his roguelike for mobile devices (playable online and on Android devices!). He’s been keeping an impressive pace with these updates lately!

The main addition to Ananias in version 1.32 seems to be the level up cards (pictured above); the game will present these to players at the end of each dungeon, and presumably different bonuses will be conferred on the player based on which one is selected.

As well, the game now shows the description of the nearest enemy, allows dropping items on the spot occupied by the player, and limits the usability of pet-carried items. Sound effects can also be muted, now. And — this has been a theme of the last few updates, mind you — several UI enhancements have also been made.

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Sylph: Pre-Alpha 4 Upcoming; Possible Soundtrack Deal In the Works Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:04:06 +0000 sylph-alpha-4-gameplay

Kevin Fishburne has been hard at work on Sylph, his interim project while Sanctimonia is on hold. I don’t know if I reported on his release of Alpha 3 of the project, but if not…here’s some gameplay video from it:

Following the release of Alpha 3, he added orbital areas to the game, complete with cloud and atmosphering layers and proper planar UV mapping:

sylph-orbital-01 sylph-orbital-02

And he has also been working on space carriers:


And now, Kevin is gearing up for the Alpha 4 release of the game:

He has also put together a title screen for the game:

Most recently, however, he has entered into talks with Mordi, a Norwegian musician, concerning the soundtrack of the game:

You can check out Mordi’s work here; it’s a pretty impressive collection.

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New Download: The Ultima 4 Upgrade Graphics Patch Work With xu4 Tue, 16 Sep 2014 02:59:15 +0000 xu4-allpng-good xu4-endgamefixed

So I’ve been horribly lax in posting this, but it…anyway, back in 2013, Hurin came up with a solution to make Wiltshire Dragon’s Graphics Upgrade for Ultima 4 work with xu4:

xu4 v1.1 ( currently breaks support for the pack ( by Aradindae Dragon and Wiltshire Dragon.

Most of that pack’s appearance has been worked into the built-in “VGA-ALLPNG” xu4 video mode. However, there are two issues:

  1. The base terrain is now green instead of black. This can be quite jarring for Ultima veterans since “black with green dots” has been the standard since Ultima I.
  2. The “HUD” has been changed.

This pack restores the original appearance of both. Just decompress this ZIP file and overwrite the PNGs in your xu4/graphics/png/ directory with the ones provided in this ZIP file. Then, replace xu4/conf/graphics.xml file with the one provided. The former step replaces the affected terrain tiles while the latter step enables the old “HUD” from the upgrade pack.

When finished moving around files, the “VGA-ALLPNG” video mode should appear and behave just like Aradindae Dragon’s and Wiltshire Dragon’s Graphics upgrade.

I attempted to make the result of this work its own “video mode” in xu4 so that “VGA-ALLPNG” could be left alone. However, adding another video mode caused inexplicable problems with the opening title screen. So this will have to do.

Hurin also devised a solution for the issues that xu4 has when displaying the endgame sequence in the same video mode.

You can grab the revised Graphics Update from Hurin’s site, or from the Ultima 4 Upgrade project entry here.

(Hat tip: Sir John)

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Hearth of Britannia: HoBLotH II Announced Tue, 16 Sep 2014 02:02:45 +0000 hearth-of-britannia-new

As previously noted, today was to be the big decision day for Rustic Dragon as to whether the second Lords of the Hearth event — HoBLotH II as it seems to be formally known — would go ahead. And true to his word, he has made his decision: HoBLotH II will be held in Austin, Texas, on the 15th and 16th of November of this year.

You’ll have to click on through to the Hearth of Britannia website to get all the details, of which there are many. Here’s the basic gist of it: HoBLotH II is a limited-attendance event, with just 50 (now 49, actually) guest spots available. It is not a free event, either; there is a $200/person entry fee. It is not a passive event; there will be a quest line to play out over its duration, which must be undertaken by all guests. It is also — this seems especially important — not a Shroud of the Avatar event, nor is it affiliated with Portalarium in any way. It is, argues Rustic, an Ultima event first and foremost:

Please do not contact Portalarium concerning the HoBLotH. The HoBLotH is (and always been) a Hearth of Britannia event. The Hearth of Britannia is not officially endorsed by or affiliated with Portalarium. While Portalarium has kindly added the HoBLotH to their calendar of events, this is to boost awareness of the event and remind the SotA Dukes and Lords of the Manor who are visiting Austin for the Portalarium Dukes/LotM’s event about the HoBLotH. Dukes and LotM’s may only attend the HoBLotH if they have a confirmed RSVP. Dukes and LotM’s are NOT de-facto confirmed to attend the HoBLotH. However, they are certainly invited to continue reading and go through the RSVP process.

This is an Ultima Event
This is an event by an Ultima fan for Ultima fans about Ultima. The activities will be based heavily on Ultima lore, the clues will involve Britannian runes, and will be most appreciated by true Ultima fans. While you’re certainly not expected to know every little thing about Ultima, you really need to be an Ultima fan to have the most fun at this event.

That being said, if you know absolutely nothing about Ultima but are still very excited about everything else presented here and want to learn, we can discuss it further in the RSVP process. Ultima knowledge is preferred, but not a solid prerequisite, only excitement about Ultima is.

Also, while some ex-Origin folks and current Portalarium employees will be attending, this is not a SotA-Dev Meet-n-Greet. Ex-Origin/Port staff who attend will be attending the HoBLotH in a participatory role. SotA-talk time is not scheduled or to be expected. (That being said, there will be scheduled down time/open socializing of course. If Port devs are still present during these times, feel free to talk about anything you want!)

If you don’t care about Ultima or were planning on spending all day drinking beer and talking SotA with the Port staff, this isn’t the event for you.

And here’s the basic outline of how HoBLotH II will play out:

Thou wilt arrive in Austin by conventional means in normal attire as early as necessary. However, precisely at 10:00 a.m. (subject to change) Saturday morning, thou wilt step through the red moongate into Britannia where thou will be set upon a grand quest by Lord British himself. To aid thee in thy quest, thou wilt receive a weapon, cloth map, a runic translation in case thy memory is foggy, and a bag of coins. Completion of this quest is not guaranteed, but the rewards will be worth thine efforts.

As the day continues, thou wilt be free to explore the hamlet of Cove in pursuit of thy quest. Thou wilt be given opportunity to engage in martial training to enhance thy chances of survival, earn extra coin via sub quests, spend thine hard earned coin on better weapons, food, and other trinkets, be drafted into a war between old rivals, break bread with thy companions at a feast, meet actual Britannian inhabitants, spend the rest of the night engaged in open revelry, and spend the night inside the dwellings of Cove or under the stars as thou doth prefer.

The following day, thou wilt spend the morning breaking thy fast in open camaraderie with thine friends and be given the opportunity to tie up any quest loose ends before being rewarded for thine efforts and released to pass back through the red moongate to Earth, though it may never be the same again after leaving Britannia.

Thus far, both Richard Garriott and Starr Long have been confirmed as guests, and it’s likely that more guests will be added to the roster in the near future. To reserve your spot at HoBLotH II, hit up the event’s official page and scroll down (way down!) until you find a button labeled Start the RSVP Process.

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Hidden Wing Commander 3 Credits Tue, 16 Sep 2014 01:22:56 +0000 wing-commander-3-title

Wing Commander 3 came out in 1994. And while you’d think, after two decades of persistent attention from the fan community, that the game would have given up all of its secrets, it turns out that it had at least one more secret to reveal. Our friends at the Wing Commander CIC reported, yesterday, on the discovery of an alternative set of credits buried on one of the game’s data files:

AD was spending some leisure time perusing the data tre files from Wing Commander 3 when he stumbled upon an interesting easter egg! His hacking revealed a set of alternate spoof credits for the game, and there’s more in-jokes in there than you can shake a stick at. One famous example is the callsign of Prem “Wipeout” Krishnan who earned his name after inadvertently deleting Strike Commander’s source code in progress! It doesn’t appear that there’s a way to display this text in WC3 itself, but you can find the full secret credits here. Wing Commander 4 also includes funky credits, which can actually be accessed in game from the main terminal.

Click on through to check out the entirety of the credits.

]]> 1 Ultima Online: Publish 86.3 on TC1; New UI Coming This Week; Factions System Removed Tue, 16 Sep 2014 01:06:26 +0000 uo-kingdom-reborn

The latest news update published to the Ultima Online website seems…significant. It pertains to the release of Publish 86.3 on the TC1 shard, and much of the content of the post concerns the ongoing Trader’s Quest and Vice vs. Virtue events.

However, in and amongst these updates, there are a few news items that stand out as seeming particularly significant:

We are pushing our final server publish to TC1 this evening for Publish 86. We will be putting our a patch and publish to Origin and Izumo the 18th with our new UI!!

It’s no secret that Broadsword Online Games hired a UI designer (Pinco, a well-known developer of fan mods for the game’s UI), nor is it unknown that a new UI for the game has been in the works for a while now. It will be interesting to see the new UI in action once the update goes live.

There’s also this:

Faction System Removal

  • All players have been removed from Factions.
  • Faction horses will revert to normal pets.
  • Faction Greater Stamina Potions, Faction Supernova Potions, Shrine Gems, and Cloaks of Command have been removed.

Factions were a group-based PvP system, unique to the Felucca facet. “The system consists of 4 Factions, 2 good and 2 evil, struggling for control of Britannia. Control is determined by eight Felucca cities (Britain, Magincia, Minoc, Moonglow, Skara Brae, Trinsic, Vesper and Yew). Cities are captured by stealing the town Sigil, taking it back to your base, holding it for 10 hours to corrupt, and then placing it back in the respective town. The town is secured for 3 days until the sigil can be stolen once again. All factions are aggressive towards each other, meaning each faction member can be attacked freely by members of another faction. This type of warfare only takes place in Felucca, enemy faction players appear neutral in all other facets.”

I’m not well-versed in the particulars of the Ultima Online playerbase and their in-game interests, but it’s my understanding that the Factions system was consuming a fair amount of development resources that might have been…out of proportion (in a bad way) to the number of players involved. If so, scrapping the system makes a fair amount of sense. Still…it’s a fairly significant feature removal, and one hopes it signifies good things ahead for Ultima Online now that the system is no longer tying up developers.

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Oh Hey…Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is Available on iPhone Now Mon, 15 Sep 2014 04:19:48 +0000 baldursgate-iphone-screen520x924

So I guess I need to free up about 2 GB of storage on my iPhone:

What’s New in Version 1.3
– Added support for iPhone
– Added “Font Size” to Graphics Options (changing this during play will empty the combat log)
– While viewing a mage’s Spellbook screen, players can now switch to a priest character and the game will immediately switch to the Priest Spells screen (and vice versa)
– Spell scrolls that can be written into a spellbook for the current character now display a green-tinted overlay
– Non-friendly NPCs that are Blinded will no longer stand still; they will wander aimlessly until they are close enough to see someone worth attacking
– Drizzt is now properly equipped with his scimitars, and has been recolored to match his description in the books
– All golems in the game now possess appropriate immunities to Poison, Charm, Hold, Fear, Sleep, and Backstab
– Luck spell no longer erases character’s weapon proficiencies
– Improvements to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Polish, and Turkish languages
– Hundreds of general gameplay improvements

Granted, I’m not the biggest Baldur’s Gate (or Infinity Engine) fan, but I am a big proponent of iPhone gaming…and this would be an excuse to get familiar with the control scheme and interface that Overhaul Games have devised for the mobile ports of their Enhanced Edition remakes. Because when Icewind Dale gets re-released, you know I’ll want to play the heck out of that.

Thought: Isn’t it high time EA contracted out proper mobile ports of the Ultima games to a developer like Overhaul Games, rather than relying on some silly Commodore 64 emulation engine?

(Hat tip: TouchArcade)

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Ultima Journeys: Hunting Guards in Ultima 2 Mon, 15 Sep 2014 03:39:40 +0000 u2ega_001

Linguistic Dragon has been beset by all manner of real-life events over the last few months, and as such hasn’t had much time to continue blogging his journey through the Ultima games. However, earlier this month, he did find time to recount another portion of his progression through Ultima 2…in which he made it his priority to properly kit out his character so as to best one of the guards in the game:

There were three things I needed to see to in order to ensure I could take down a guard and live to tell the tale – better stats, better weaponry, and better armor. Stats took precedence, and there was a lot of running back and forth into New San Antonio and the Hotel California to bump my stats up to the 40s-50s range. That done, I turned my sights toward a new weapon and a new set of armor – which turned out to be rather expensive, and that was with fair-to-middlin’ charisma! Still, enough time gave me enough money (and a fair few more levels – I know I said this before, but what’s the point to keeping track of levels if they don’t do anything?) to pick up a shiny new phaser and reflect armor!

As it turns out, his plans bore such fruit that it would now seem that no guard in the game is safe:

…I meandered over to Port Boniface to test out my new toys and see if I could slap a guard silly. I felt a little weird doing so, especially as a cleric – I suppose this is part of what makes Ultima IV so poignant, the Stranger ended up doing a lot of questionable things before he became the Avatar, didn’t he. I can’t count how much food I’ve stolen throughout the course of this game, and my guard killcount tally is starting to spike.

Linguistic also had this to say about Ultima 2 as a whole:

It does strike me, however, how… forgettable a lot of Ultima II seems to be. I think a lot of it has to do with how insanely grindy that it feels, and how… well, empty and superfluous the world as a whole feels. I haven’t made my way into space yet (that’s the plan for the next play session, at the very least), but there’s a lot of empty space that doesn’t feel like it has much purpose other than to just Be There.

Full disclosure: Ultima 2 is probably my least-favourite Ultima. So I find the above to be…more or less spot-on.

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Ultima 9 in Widescreen Resolutions Mon, 15 Sep 2014 03:17:14 +0000 u9_16x9

Ultima 9 comes from a fairly early era in 3D gaming, and from an era where 4:3 was by far the dominant screen dimension ratio. These days, of course, widescreen is prevalent, and while Ultima 9’s setup utility presents widescreen resolutions as selectable options, it only uses the vertical resolution value, and renders the game at the standard 4:3 ratio:


Fortunately, the good folks at the Wide Screen Gaming Forum (WSGF) have come up with a solution. Of course, it’s rather manual in nature:

Go to the installation folder and edit u9.exe with a hex editor. Search for the following hexadecimal values…

28 02 85 00 68 00 00 70 42 8B 88 BC 00 00 00 E8

00 70 42 represent the game’s default field of view (FOV) of 60. Change to the FOV you want by calculating the FOV (see below) or use these example values: 29 5C 96 42 equals an FOV of 75.18, 29 DC 8A 42 equals an FOV of 69.43. These give a Hor+ equivalent of the default FOV of 60.

For other FOV settings, calculate the horizontal FOV you want using FOV Calc or your own personal preference.
Next you need to convert your horizontal FOV into the four pair hexadecimal format.

Paste your horizontal FOV into IEEE-754 Analysis.
Make a note of the Binary32 value.
Reverse the pairs (so e.g. if Binary32 is 42 96 5C 29 change it to 29 5C 96 42).

If you already have existing saved games you will need to modify them as well. Go into the savegame folder where the game is installed and hex-edit the *.sav files. Search for 00 00 70 42 and change it to your custom FOV.

As the screenshot at the top shows, it’s quite possible to get the game looking more or less correct at 16:9 resolution. It looks a bit more skewed when stretched across three monitors using Eyefinity:


At any rate, this isn’t something that can easily be wrapped up in a patch; you’ll have to follow the instructions at WSGF instead. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be anything to be done (for now) about the UI scaling.

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The Dark Unknown: Fields, Palace of the Skies Puzzle, and Melee Variables Mon, 15 Sep 2014 02:08:27 +0000 dark-unknown-sky_frame_0001

Goldenflame Dragon has been hard at work on The Dark Unknown over the last couple of weeks. Longer, even; I’ve been horribly lax in reporting on the latest developments he has made. For example, late last month, he made some changes to the code for the game’s NPCs:

I should probably have gone to bed, but instead I did some minor updates. Added a new field to NPCs (meleeChance, to determine how often a caster or archer takes its turn to approach or melee), and fixed a bug in the map editor’s handling of map enter/exit scripts. Now, to bed.

And earlier this month, he finished the map for — and coded the puzzle that must be solved to finish — the Palace of the Skies:

Finished the map for the Palace of the Skies, then got distracted by the realization that I needed to revamp how I was handling player death, and I think I have a handle on that now too.

The puzzle, such as it is, to finish the Palace of the Skies works, and so the player can get one of the M_____. Fixed a number of additional display bugs caused by my being overly clever.

Also, today I took some important steps towards what will be a fairly major announcement, but I am going to wait on the actual announcing until all my ducks are in a row.

I don’t think he has yet made the announcement in question (I could be wrong, but I don’t think he has), but his most recent update to The Dark Unknown’s Facebook page was nevertheless fairly significant:

Coded the Fields. The player doesn’t get spells to create any of them except Fire, but they can exist in dungeons/etc. In the process of coding the fields I coded poison and sleep as status effects, since they didn’t exist yet. Sleep is properly broken by taking damage. I’ll decide later if I need to have poison make you immune to sleep or if the fact that poison will automatically break the sleep on its own is sufficient.

Because really…what’s an Ultima homage without fields?

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U3.5 Pax Britannia: Custom Keyboards (For the Nintendo DS Version) Sat, 13 Sep 2014 03:44:07 +0000 Main Keyboard Alternate Keyboard

Andrew Owen took the opportunity this week to show off a pair of keyboard layouts (and skins) that he will be including with the Nintendo DS build of U3.5: Pax Britannia. The main keyboard should appeal to all you Ultima 6 fans (I know it appeals to me, at least); it can be seen above, on the left.

The secondary layout, meanwhile, can be seen on the right. And it may not be reflective of the final version that gets included with the game; Andrew did note that he opted to “go for the full alternate keyboard in the end”, whereas the layout above seems to be missing a few keys that are present on the main keyboard.

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Ananias Version 1.31 Released; Join the Playtesters Community Sat, 13 Sep 2014 03:28:57 +0000 ananias-v131-2014-09-11-at-9-49-42-pm ananias-v131-2014-09-11-at-9-51-25-pm ananias-v131-2014-09-11-at-9-52-30-pm

Slashing Dragon has released yet another update for Ananias, his mobile-friendly, browser-based roguelike. This revision of the game corrects a scaling issue that some Android tablet users had been experiencing, and brings changes to the inventory screen, health warning limits, and the introductory images for some of the game’s levels.

As well, Slash has put together a Google+ Community for Ananias playtesters, which he has called The Fellowship of Ananias. Request an invite to the group; you’ll get advance access to beta versions of the game, and can contribute meaningfully to its ongoing development.

Alternatively, consider backing Slash on Patreon.

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Ultima Online: Account Management “How To” Videos Sat, 13 Sep 2014 03:14:35 +0000 The Broadsword Online Games team are working on re-doing the account management pages for Ultima Online players. In the interim, while this work is underway, they have produced a pair of instructional videos giving a quick overview of the account management process. The first is embedded above, and here is the second:

These videos will evidently be the first in a series of such instructional guides, so do stay tuned.

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Shroud of the Avatar – Update of the Avatar #90 Sat, 13 Sep 2014 00:57:14 +0000 Greetings Friends and Fellow Avatars!

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

  • Darkstarr Training Montage
  • New Designers Join SotA Dev Team
  • Founder’s Developer Blog: Daily Standup Notes and Developer Q&A
  • Baron’s Cloak
  • Knight’s Cloak
  • Creature Spotlight: Elves
  • Alienware Sponsors $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupon
  • Upcoming Events

Darkstarr Training Montage

At long last, the Darkstarr Training Montage that was part of the $3.25M stretch goal (Lord British and Darkstarr fencing in puffy shirts), has been completed! Rustic Dragon completed his excellent writing/directing/editing, and special thanks to the Space Bards for their great “Bane of Britannia” composition/performance. Enjoy!


New Designers Join SotA Dev Team

For the past couple of months the team has been searching for level designers/world builders and the team was excited to announce that the search has ended! Two great designers have joined the team this month: Artie Rogers and Abe Robertson!

Artie Rogers Head ShotArtie Rogers is a professional game developer who has been working in the industry since 1996. He has held a wide variety of positions ranging from Quality Assurance to Creative Director. He is best known for his work on Wizard 101, which was voted the best new MMO for 2010. Artie has worked on dozens of titles, including Elder Scrolls Online, Area 51, The Hobbit, Medal of Honor 3, and Ultima Online. His portfolio covers a wide variety of genres such as FPS, Action RPG, RTS, TCG, Strategy, Mobile, and MMOs. His games have targeted a wide range of different demographics from families to adults and casuals to hard cores. Artie has also published numerous articles in the Massively Multiplayer Game Development book series.

Artie is currently crafting a new war-torn scene called Solace Bridge, scheduled for Release 11 (October 23). Here is a sample map that Michael Hutchison provided to Artie as an example of the damage wrought in this war-torn environment:


Andy Cortez has been working on these damaged castle wall pieces and damaged drawbridge that Artie might be able to put to good use in the war-torn Solace Bridge level:




Abe Robertson is a Game Designer/World Builder with just over 5 years of industry experience, and an additional 4 years in the modding scene. Before joining Portalarium, he created levels and systems for a few titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops, Halo 4, and Black Mesa. Abe is new to the Portalarium tribe, and is super excited to be working with a small team of passionate and proven devs.

Each of the level designer applicants were required to submit a test level as part of the interview process. Abe’s test map had several unique characteristics to it so we asked him to further develop those ideas for inclusion in the game. This scene, currently called Vertas Pass, is being designed as a future “control point” for when that tech comes available. A control point is where an enemy faction can temporarily take over that area, turning it into a combat zone until it is re-taken. Depending on Abe’s progress, you may see the first version of Vertas Pass in Release 10 (September 25). Here’s a screen shot of the current Work-In-Progress (using some unfinished, placeholder components):


Total team size has fluctuated slightly over the past few months, and as of this month we are at 38 active team members:


Founder’s Developer Blog: Daily Standup Notes and Developer Q&A

One of the rewards of the Founder Pledge tier includes access to the Founders Developer Blog, an exclusive, read-only collection of Developer postings, including the dev team’s daily “standup” notes, and the Developer Q&A.

Standup Corner

The SotA Dev Team uses elements of Agile software development and SCRUM methods, including the Daily Standup Meeting. Each and every morning there are three “Standup” meetings (art, design, and programming), lasting a maximum of 10 minutes each. These meetings are carefully guided so they don’t exceed 10 minutes per group, including no one sitting down and getting comfortable (hence the nickname “standup meetings”). Each attendee states the tasks they worked on yesterday, the tasks they plan to work on today, and whether they are blocked by anything. Rick Holtrop (Associate Producer), known in the forums as Chaox, takes notes during the meeting (he’s the only one that sits since he’s writing the notes). Rick then posts these notes every day in the Standup Corner forum thread.

So, if you’ve ever been curious as to exactly what each team member is working on every day, then head on over to the Standup Corner and check it out (requires Founder Pledge tier or higher). There’s even a thread in the Developer+ forums (accessible by backers at the Developer pledge level or higher) where members discuss (and speculate) about the daily standup notes. Members of the Dev Team occasionally weigh in there to address member questions regarding the standup notes.

Here’s an example of standup notes from earlier this week:

Wednesday September 10, 2014

Alyssa Reuter: Death and dying VFX
Andy Cortez: Crumbled set polish finish & Bugs
Bob Cooksey: Bugs
Bren Wilson: Weapon transitions & Draw/stow animations for two-handed
Geoff Mellon: Automatons & Meetings & Faces
Jay Reichman: Bugs
Kevin Wells: Bugs & Cloth sim & Knight’s Cloak
Scott Jones: Dungeon kit additions
Stephen Daniele: Graf Gem Mines in-game map & Geothermal concept preparation

Abe Robertson: Vertas Pass terrain
Artie Rogers: New user setup & Meetings
Bill Kirkman: Bugs & Underworld entrance and exits
Brandon Cotton: Vendors & Shopkeeper bundles & Guard Davis loot nuke & Skills
Finn Staber: Combat FX & Bugs
Gina Dionne: R10 NPC polish & Virtue quests
Scott Jennings: Oracle & Virtue quests

Erik Touve: Ranged AI & Meetings & Slimers
Jason Yenawine: Build process & Server reports &
Joaquin Del Canto: Character creation & PvP arena bugs & Facebook Screenshot option
Justin Gilbert: Water Lot Island
Ken Pfile: Challenge dungeon support & Bugs
Tassilo Phillipp: Shader support & Additional payment methods
Zack Sheppard: Crafting & Resource nodes

Aaron Holden: CS & QA
James Cousar: Sanity checks & Regression & AI smoketest & Underworld testing

Chris Spears: Memory issues & Water performance & Animation performance
Dallas Snell: Business
Michael Hutchison: Wartorn biome & Tree 8 black-screen testing
Richard Garriott: Music approvals & Schools of magic names feedback review
Rick Holtrop: Backers & CS & Crowd payments & CS & backer support
Starr Long: LotM home feedback review & Forums & Creature AI direction

Developer Q&A

Periodically the community submits questions to the dev team, and the answers are posted in the SotA Developer Q&A forum. Community member Mitch [MGT] coordinates the collection of questions, as he explains in his most recent Q&A post:

I want to help the community get some answers to the hard hitting questions so FireLotus has given me the honour of taking questions from the community and forwarding them to her once a week (Wednesday) with the plan to have them OFFICIALLY answered by the Devs as early as Friday of THAT week (We might be pushing this back until Monday going forward). *These answers are only posted in the founder forums, so it’s important to help support the game to take advantage of this process. Please PM me if you need help becoming a “founder”* This is a fantastic opportunity to get some questions answered and to avoid the confusion that comes from the broken telephone/forum posts that sometimes plague this fine site.

The process is simple, post your questions and “like” the questions you would like forwarded to FireLotus. The highest voted (# of Likes) of these questions (Top 5), will be forwarded directly to FireLotus by Wednesday afternoon.

Here’s an example of a recently posted Q&A:

Question: Following the recent addition of lot permissions in R7, how much further is the permissions system expected to go? Is it going to remain at a ‘house’ level, or will it go into more detail, such as being able to restrict access on doors? This would be a great way to offer multiple user housing, if it existed.

Currently permissions are set to the entire lot but perhaps it could be expanded to be more granular. We have also discussed the possibility of making keys with time limits something players can craft to allow something similar.

Question: Can we have a first person view while walking or running?

While this is not currently on our schedule for Episode 1, we have gotten numerous requests for this along with VR support. We would love to make this happen as we are personally passionate about this as well but for now it has to be lower priority than our other features. For now there is a similar feature to this where if you zoom in completely your avatar disappears.

Question: How many people are needed to form a guild? 5? 8? Is there a planned maximum number in a guild? Will there be different types of organizations in-game? ie. guilds vs societies where a society may have a larger member cap but a guild a smaller one?

Guild designs and tasks are going to be post Release 10. At that time we will release more information and begin detailed dialogue with you the backers.

Question: Will there be mini games within SoTA? If 5 players “engaged” a table with a deck of cards, will it actually function as a poker mini-game complete with the ability to gamble?

Mini games are not currently part of our Episode 1 feature list, but we would love to get them in if we can, especially because we have fond remembrances of playing chess and checkers in the taverns in Ultima Online.


Baron’s Cloak

Included in the basic rewards for the Baron pledge level is this unique cloak sporting the Baron’s symbol, sewn with silver and gold thread suitable for carrying an enchantment. It is permanently enchanted to function as a light source.


Knight’s Cloak

Included in the basic rewards for the Knight pledge level is this unique cloak sporting the Knight’s symbol, sewn with silver and gold thread suitable for carrying an enchantment. It is permanently enchanted to function as a light source.


Creature Spotlight: Elves

Elves were created during the Obsidian Wars by Obsidian Sorcerers as powerful chaotic leaders with very destructive tendencies. They were created as tools to dominate the natural world and the creatures within it. When the Obsidian cause failed, all of the creatures created by these Obsidian Sorcerers became leaderless, wandered away, and were mostly driven to extinction. Few survive today, and those that do find themselves hunted and hated.SotA_Combat_Elves

In the intervening two hundred years since the Obsidian Wars, some elves, specifically those known as Vertas Elves, have reemerged with a new outlook on life, somehow they have turned over a new leaf, and found new purpose in life. These elves, while just as smart and powerful as their historic cousins, are masters of their own fate. While still often shunned or hated, they work to improve their own lives and come to peace with their warmongering past.

Outlanders that manifest in New Britannia, often take on a familiar human form, though many have noted their new Avatar manifestation differs significantly from their home world form. It is not uncommon to be taller, shorter, thinner or wider when an Outlander manifests in New Britannia. Even a change of gender is common when an Avatar manifests.SotA_StretchGoal_Elves_Armor

Rarely, very rarely, for reasons yet unknown, human Outlanders may manifest as Elves in New Britannia. So few such Outlanders exist, that any Elf claiming such heritage is likely to be disbelieved.


Alienware Sponsors $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupon

Alienware’s powerful gaming rigs are a perfect match for Shroud of the Avatar! To show their support, Alienware is sponsoring $20 SotA Pledge Upgrade Coupons to members of their Alienware Arena community!

These coupons can be used to start a SotA pledge account (for new backers), or to add $20 to an existing pledge account. If, for example, you have a $90 Royal Artisan Pledge, you can use the Alienware coupon to bump you up to a $110 Virtual Collector Pledge.

Pretty sweet deal, right? So, hurry over to the Alienware Arena website and get your $20 Pledge Upgrade Coupon now!

[NOTE: Only one Alienware Pledge Upgrade Coupon can be used per account. Coupon does not apply to Add-On Store items]

Upcoming Events

2014.09.25 – Release 10 Access
2014.10.01 – Monthly Video Hangout: R10 & R11 Discussion
2014.10.23 – Release 11 Access
2014.10.24 – SotA at Captivate
2014.10.29 – Monthly Video Hangout: R11 & R12 Discussion
2014.11.03 – SotA at GDC Next
2014.11.14 – Duke & Lord of the Manor VIP Design Roundtable with Lord British and Portalarium Studio Tour
2014.11.15 – HoBLotH II: Legends of the Hearth
2014.11.20 – Release 12 Access
2014.11.26 – Monthly Video Hangout: R12 & R13 Discussion
2014.12.18 – Release 13 Access

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