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    Early Access Releases 4-7 Announced

    The next few alpha test dates have now been announced:

    Hello Everyone,

    It has been an incredible journey so far has it not? When we first proposed this monthly release schedule back in November of last year we were hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. As Chris Spears, our Tech Director, likes to say we were “doing it wrong but in the best way.” Not only were we giving access to players earlier than most any game but we were also committing to definite dates of releases every month with detailed lists of deliverables! Were we crazy? I am pleased to say that our faith in this community was rewarded and you completely understood what we were doing and were able to give constructive and valuable feedback.

    Our goal continues to be to deliver our backers content each and every month so that we can get feedback and react to it. This has already paid off with additional game features like jumping and swimming as well as improvements to systems like crafting and conversations. Meeting that monthly goal is our highest priority but we require flexibility in our deliverables to meet that goal. As you have seen in previous releases sometimes we push things out but we also often pull new things in.

    Here is an excerpt from my original post about our Early Release Schedule that is important to set the framework for our continued 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. With that said, we also want to be very careful that we only provide access to portions of the game when they are ready for a wider range of feedback. If we can play it internally and we know it is not ready, then there is nothing to be gained by having a wider audience come to the same conclusion. In fact, it could be quite damaging to do so.

    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. With each release, we will have specific tests we will ask you all to make. As we get closer, we will send instructions on how to download, install, report bugs, etc. After each release we will review the results and reevaluate the plan including the duration of availability of each release. Please note that game data will be wiped periodically during early access.

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

    We are incredibly excited to continue sharing our iterative monthly releases with you. Below are updates to Release 4 and details about the following three releases for the second quarter of 2014 (April - June). You will note that we have spread out our combat deliverables in order to make room for some much needed performance optimizations that multiplayer in Release 3 exposed. We did not make this change lightly but we follow the mantra of “Stable, Fast, Fun. In that order.” If we cannot provide you a stable and well performing platform then you will not be able to accurately give us feedback on that ephemeral fun factor and at the end of the day that is the goal: find the fun.

    Here now is our Early Release schedule through June. In addition to these official releases we will also do fairly frequent incremental tests with our Developer and above backers. As always all dates, durations, and deliverables are subject to change as we adjust our designs based on direct feedback from you, our backers.

    RELEASE 4: March 27 - 30, 2014

    • Performance Optimizations: Introducing multiplayer in Release 3 exposed some performance issues that needed resolution sooner than later. To that end we are making this a top priority for Release 4 so more players can enjoy the game. Giving this the time it needs requires us to both move the date for Release 4 out by one week and to move much of the combat work we had originally planned out to Release 5 and beyond.
    • Overworld Map System: An initial version of our dual scale navigation system will launch and players will use it to navigate between towns and adventuring areas.
    • 10 Scenes: The Hidden Vale, a hidden island north north east of the mainland, will be complete with 10 scenes including towns, wilderness, caves, and dungeons.
    • Combat: Those first scenes will have nasty beasts in them, so we’ve decided we should give you a way to fight back! This first release of combat will be extremely simple and focus just on auto swing using your equipped weapon. Death will also be kept simple for now: you will auto resurrect at your death location after a short time interval.
    • Quests: Players will be able to participate in quests that will send them around the world and even change game state in the scenes based on quest flags. Testing this early is important because our quest system operates differently than the current standards (e.g. no exclamation points or convo trees). As a stretch goal we will also provide the first version of the journal.
    • Loot: Killing those nasty creatures you encounter and quests will generate loot including gold and resources.
    • Crafting: Resource Gathering will be added to crafting with resources appearing in the world. More recipes will also become available
    • Player Housing: The housing system will be re-launched with persistence in the online space. Since we are still on the small island of Hidden Vale there are not yet enough lots to go around. To continue to allow everyone to try out player housing the ownership of the lots will cycle every hour or two
    • Parties: We will continue to expand our social systems by adding a Party system so players can group together and adventure.
    • Mac/Linux Patching: No longer will you have to download a full executable whenever we release a new patch. Mac and Linux versions will patch just like the Windows version.
    • Swimming: Jumping was just the first step to giving players a much greater feeling of movement freedom. Like jumping, swimming will eventually be governed by game systems like encumbrance and focus.


    RELEASE 5, April 24 - 27, 2014:

    • Combat and Magic Skills: Finally you will no longer be confined to auto attack now that a wide array of combat and magic skills will be at your disposal. To let you test out a wide variety of these skills we will give you a bunch of skill points to allocate up and down as you wish. This allocation of points will automatically build your deck. Skills can be locked in your toolbar or left unlocked so they can be used in combos during combat.
    • Death System: OooOoooOOOOooo! Death will now turn you into a ghost. Current thinking about the death system will be shared at a later date.
    • Main Continent Scenes: Finally players will get to see their first maps on the main continent including a city that is part of the story, adventuring areas, and a player town.
    • Interactive Areas: Don’t you wish you could move that chair in the tavern to have a better view of the front door? Public areas like taverns will now be flagged as interactive areas. This will allow more freedom in those spaces by allowing the moving but not taking of items.
    • AI Behaviors: NPCs will now start to have schedules and change behavior according to the time. This will include things like going around turning on the lights around town as the sun goes down. NPCs will also now react to players taking and breaking stuff so watch out when you try to steal that loaf of bread!
    • Books: Books will no longer just be decorative objects! Read lovely poems and stories written by our very own community in the game. Try to collect them all!

    RELEASE 6, May 22 - 25, 2014:

    • Combat Decks: You will be free of the confines of the auto-built deck as deck building comes online. You will now be able to build and equip multiple decks to try out different strategies and play styles. To support this flexibility more skills and more AI combat behaviors will come online
    • Player Housing Improvements: Do you desire even more from housing? Your greatest desires will be answered with advanced features that greatly expand the player housing system including waterfront lots, basements, and exterior decorations. We will also introduce player lot access permissions so you can control who can visit your space (everyone, friends, or kindred)
    • Crafting Expansions: Crafting will greatly expand to include Makers’ Marks, Repair, Enhancement, and events during crafting that will affect the outcome. We will also introduce Alchemy and Cooking for the first time which brings not only a whole new set of recipes but also consumables to the game like potions and food (and beer of course). On top of all that player made items will begin appearing in NPC vendor inventories.
    • Non Combat Pets: Fluffy! I missed you so! Summon a non-combat pet to follow you around the world.
    • Waterfront Scenes: More scenes on the main continent will appear including more plot specific maps. For those more aquatically inclined we will introduce Player Islands and the Waterfront Twin City of Ardoris to support waterfront housing.
    • Character Creation Improvements: Do you wish you could style yourself even more? Well wish no longer as we add more options to modify, more content to select, and improvements to the interface.
    • Player to Player secure trade: Did you discover something cool you wish to give your friend? Need to share some potions with a party member? Did you craft something amazing you want to sell? Secure trade is the answer and will allow you to make exchanges of goods between you and other players.

    RELEASE 7, June 26 - 29:

    • Advancement: Adventuring and Crafting will now earn you experience points that will level you up and earn skill points. You can spend those skill points with trainers to learn new skills as well as re-train existing skills.
    • Duels: Finally a way to settle your differences like real Avatars with the first taste of PVP. Duels between two players can now be initiated. Glove slaps to the face optional. Note that a mega-post about our current thinking on PVP is in the works and will go up before the end of next week.
    • Crafting: Enchanting items including the creation of wands and staves will finally make an appearance in the game. Additionally player made items will begin to appear in adventuring scenes including corpses of slain NPCs.
    • Combat Expansions: Combat will continue to expand with more skills and more AI behaviors.
    • Player Made Books: For those aspiring writers you can now write books in the game. These original manuscripts will be one of a kind items that can be traded or sold or submitted for publishing for a small fee. Published books will get copied and placed throughout the world.
    • Drop Items Anywhere: Not content to place object only on player property? Well rejoice because we will now enable item placement anywhere. Some minor constraints and limits will regulate this activity but the main goal is to provide freedom and immersion.
    • Guilds: Guilds as a social structure will now be in the game including the ability to declare any player property a Guild Chapter House (Guild Halls will come in a later release).
    • Wearable Dyeing: Tired of that red dress? Wish you could make it blue? Well wish no longer as the ability to dye items will now available
    • More Scenes: More Plot specific maps and adventuring areas will appear
    • NPC Player Vendors: Players will be able to setup their very own NPC vendors that they can stock full of goods to sell to other players
    • Combat Pets & Taming: Taming creatures to fight alongside you will be available so stock up on taming collars or creature calls.

    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!

    Starr Long
    Executive Producer
    Shroud of the Avatar

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