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    Release 8 Live – It’s PvP Time!

    Today release 8 of Shroud of the Avatar's ongoing Pre-Alpha test has gone live. Anyone who pledges or has pledged will be able to play the latest version of the game which activates PvP for the first using the new "Glyph Combat" which is sorta like a card based combat style. I've had a chance to test it out early and I have to say its quite refreshing, fun and rewarding to get a kill. You can check it out here:

    From Starr "DarkStarr" Long:

    Geetings Avatars,
    Thank you to our loyal backers of Shroud of the Avatar. Release 8 access for all backers at First Responder level and above begins this Thursday, July 24 at 10:30 AM Central Time. Release 8 access will end on Monday, July 28 at 10:00 AM Central Time. Starting today, you can begin installing and patching (see instructions below), but login will not be enabled until Thursday morning.
    This has been yet another incredible release to work on. We kicked it off with a bang by completely redirecting the entire release to focus on pulling PVP in earlier than previously planned. We then followed it up with an incredibly positive showing at the Rooster Teeth Expo here in Austin where we signed up over 300 potential backers for Release 8 access. Right after RTX , we managed to pull in Deck Building and Glyph Combat (originally planned for R9) and then we hunkered down and spent every day making combat and PVP better. We do daily dev death matches in the Castle Arena Basement and they are epic! The team has never been more engaged and excited. Even team members who are not traditionally drawn to PVP were pulled in and had fun. After each death match, we meet to discuss the results and decide what we want to fix / add for the next session. The end result is combat that offers a truly refreshing and compelling experience that is completely different than anything we have played. Is it still rough? Of course it is, but it positively seethes with potential and you, our incredible backers, are going to help us reach that potential.
    Without further ado here are the R8 deliverables, along with some extra notes and new deliverables in italics.

    RELEASE 8 (revised), July 24 – 27, 2014:

    • Open PVP Areas: Certain parts of the map will now allow open PVP. Currently we have been testing this functionality in the Castle Basement Arena. For now there will be very little structure to this; it will basically be just deathmatch.
      • 7 Open PVP Zones: These range from Arena Basements to an entire player town island. They can be accessed from Kingsport (the Brave Coast ferry on the dock and at the northern guard tower), Owlshead (to the northeast of FireLotus Tavern near the gate to the town center and within the weapon shop near the barracks) and Braemar (within the very surprised young lady Bridget’s house). There are also two forest road scenes accessible via the overworld map.
      • PVP Balance (NOT): Despite daily play sessions and constant tuning for 3.5 weeks, PVP balance is still in a massive state of flux (as expected). Our focus with this first iteration was to get everything to a base level of functionality, balance will come over time. This is why it is is important for us to get it in sooner versus later (as many of you urged us to do). Expect it to take at least 1 or 2 more releases before it is even close to being near a steady state. Until then enjoy the Chaos (and report issues)!!!

    • Combat Systems: We will be iterating and adding to the fundamental systems that support combat, including more secondary effects like bludgeons damaging gear and heavy armor lowering your pool of focus. We are also going to introduce and experiment with interrupts, combat facing, and more sophisticated line of sight checks.
      • Positioning: We have now started implementing a positioning mechanic into the game where your relative position in relation to your target affects combat calculations including line of sight (they must be in your forward arc of view to be targetable) and damage (attacking someone from behind confers a damage bonus). We will expand the functionality and content related to positioning over time.
      • Cover / Line of Sight: Line of sight checks for being able to cast spells is now much more accurate and it is checked in real time. This is the first step towards implementing a cover system (similar to how we did it in Tabula Rasa) which will come online in later releases. Already you can use the space to assist you by keeping things like columns in the arena between you and an enemy so they can’t land that lightning bolt on you.
      • Interrupts / Casting Bar: Spells with casting times can now be interrupted. More powerful spells (like Fireball) have these longer casting times and you can see the time it will take to cast it with the new Casting Bar. Interrupts can be caused by moving, taking damage, falling, etc.
      • Jumping Mechanics: Jumping now uses focus and when used while stunned, rooted, and knocked down it has a small chance to cancel those effects.
      • Fizzle: Spells and Skills can now fizzle (fail). Fizzle is one of the penalties caused by wearing armor.
      • Misguided Missiles: Certain ranged spells like Fireball are now no longer guided missiles and instead now target the initial location of the target (i.e. they do not track the moving target). This means you can now dodge fireballs (although the splash damage is still likely to get you). Note that instant spells like lightning still track directly to target.

    • Damage Types & Resistances: Damage types and resistances (fire, ice, physical, etc.) will begin to affect combat.
      • Currently you can only increase your Fire Resistance by pumping the Fire Proof skill. The ability to increase other resistances will come online as we add those specific skills in upcoming releases.

    • Combat Skills: We are moving to a new strategy of going deeper verse broader in skill creation. For Release 8, our goal is to flesh out more of the schools of Fire, Blades, and Heavy Armor.
      • Innate Skills: Skills are divided into two classes: Active and Innate. Active skills are used in combat and until this release these have been the only skills that have been available. Each point spent on an Active skill adds another rune of that skill that you can add to a deck (therefore increasing the chance for that skill to appear). Points spent on Innate skills increase the stats associated with that school. For example points spent on Innate Fire Skills increase the effectiveness of Active Fire Skills. It is worth noting that only Fire, Blades, Heavy Armor, and Focus are the only schools that have innate skills in this release so they will be naturally more powerful than the other schools.
      • Prerequisites: Skills now require you to spend points on prerequisites in the skill tree. Note that skills we have not implemented yet will show as black boxes but you still need to spend points on them to get access to higher level skills.
      • 23 New Skills: We were able to complete 23 new skills including the addition of an entire new school: Focus. Note that this is list of ONLY new skills, not skills already in the game (ex. Fireball).
      • Fire Magic:
        • Fire Arrow: Ranged Direct Damage with DOT (damage over time)
        • Summon Fire Elemental: Summons a Fire Elemental which will attack a target that you attack (more behaviors will come online in later releases)
        • Highly Flammable (innate): Fire DOTs last longer and Fire Damage increased
        • Fire Reach (innate): Increase Range and Radius of Fire Spells
        • Fire Proof (innate): Increases fire resistance

      • Water Magic:
        • Douse: Removes fire DOTs

      • Blades:
        • Rend: A ripping attack that causes the target to bleed (adding a DOT)
        • Parry: Increases defense values for next hit on caster
        • Riposte: Attack that also increases defense value for next hit on caster
        • Coup de Grace: Attack that does double damage if target is below 20% health
        • Vital Points (innate): Increases Damage with bladed weapons
        • Speed (innate): Increases speed with bladed weapons

      • Heavy Armor:
        • Defensive Stance: Increases defense values
        • Inner Strength: Increases Strength
        • Absorb Impacts: Decreases damage received but increases damage to armor (armor damage not yet implemented)
        • Knight’s Grace: Removes physical debuffs like stun, root, knockdown
        • Endurance (innate): Increases Strength and decreases Heavy Armor Penalties (Fizzle, Slugs, etc.)
        • Healthy (innate): Increases Health and Health regeneration rate

      • Focus: Focus skills are all related to how skills appear in combat (speed, duration, number visible, cost, etc.). See below for more info on Glyph Combat and Decks. Focus is the 10th School of Magic, it is the central “eye in a triangle” of the Magic Sigil.
        • Higher Consciousness (innate): Increases size of your hand
        • Concentration (innate): Increase amount of time Glyphs are visible before they are discarded
        • Mental Reflex (innate): Increases speed that skills appear
        • Eidetic Memory (innate): Increases the number of Locked Skills you can have
        • Mindfulness (innate): Decrease focus cost of locked skills

    • Glyph Combat and Deck Building: We are very excited that we were able to pull Skill Glyph Combat and Deck Building into this release (originally scheduled for R9). You can now build decks and Glyphs will appear randomly in your shortcut bar unless you lock skills.
      • Multiple Decks: You can create multiple decks and swap between them to try different builds. The only current limit is the amount of skill points you have available.
      • Gear Links: You can link your equipped gear to a deck so when you switch decks you automatically switch your equipped gear as well.
      • Locked Spells: You can lock spells if you spend points on Eidetic Memory. Locked spells will always appear in your combat bar in the same place regardless of any other randomly dealt skills. Locked Skills cost 50% more focus than unlocked skills and they start with a cooldown. Once a skill is locked it is no longer available for random dealing nor can it be used in combos (combos will be implemented in upcoming releases).
      • Slugs: Slugs are useless Glyphs that will appear in your combat bar for various reasons including: not putting a minimum of 20 skills in your deck, wearing medium or heavy armor, debuffs, etc.
      • Fully Locked Option: If you wish to forgo playing in Glyph mode, you can select the fully locked option in the options menu and the game will act like a traditional shortcut bar MMO (i.e. identical to how it has been in previous releases).
      • Helpful Links: We highly recommend you read Lum’s Deck Tips to learn the basics of building a deck and you should also watch Chris’s Combat Vid to learn even more.

    • Status Indicators: We are adding status indicators for things like low ammo, damaged/broken gear, buffs, debuffs, etc.
      • Buffs & Debuffs icons now appear underneath the party UI elements
      • Low Ammo and Broken gear icons now appear in upper right (note broken gear won’t show up in this release because we have not yet implemented durability

    • Scenes: Ardoris, the waterfront city on the main continent filled with canals and framed by two opposing castles, will now be available to players. Ardoris will also be the first map with Row Houses. Other adventuring scenes on the main continent will also appear. These new scenes on the mainland will be accessed via the Lunar Rifts which will now change destinations based on time of day.
      • Ferig’s Battle Camp: This new map on the mainland is the battle camp of Ferig, who is the son of the Titan Grannus. Ferig, along with his brother Demig can often be found around the Norguard Territories engaging Kobold armies that regularly pour out of Skrrekk the cavern empire of the Kobold King Korabar! For these early releases this map can be accessed via the Kingsport Lunar Rift.
      • Row Housing: We have added two small sections of row housing in Owlshead and Kingsport so you can start getting a feel of how this new house type will feel.
      • Ardoris Delayed: Ardoris is very close to completion, but it is our densest and largest city so far. We want to spend a little more time on it to ensure solid performance and to make sure it has the level of polish you expect. Trust us, it will be worth the wait. It is spectacular.
      • Lunar Rifts Delayed: Tying the Lunar Rift function to time of day had to be de-prioritized in favor of skill work and combat functionality.

    • New Creatures: Several new creatures will come online including a new mimic and a Fire Elemental, as well as variations on existing creatures (liches, kobolds, etc.).
      • Fire Elemental: The Fire Elemental can now be summoned with the Fire Magic spell. This is important because she is the first step to pets, taming, summoning behaviors, etc. You can expect to see a lot more behaviors for summoned creatures including state setting (passive/aggressive) as well orders (attack/stop/stay) in upcoming releases now that we have the fundamental AI architecture in place.
      • Mimic and Variations Delayed: The new Barrel Mimic and the Lich and Kobold variations are very close to completion, but we needed to focus our AI time on the Fire Elemental so these other creatures had to get pushed.

    • Item Tooltips: Much of the data in these tooltips was literal displays of behind the scenes data and was not ordered in any particular fashion. We spent some time providing an interpretation of that data that was easier to process and we also reordered the data based on relevance to you the player, so things like damage values sort to the top of weapons for instance.
    • NPC Collision: Being able to just walk through every NPC felt immersion breaking and wrong. However making the player actually collide with every NPC felt frustrating. So this release we are experimenting with a hybrid approach where running into NPCs will slow you to a walk but not stop you.
    • Target Highlight on Interactive objects: Previously there was no feedback that you had selected an interactive object (switches, lights, chests, doors, signs, etc.) but now using our new highlighting targets effect you can know instantly that you have one of these objects selected.
    • Crafting: Durability and Repair will come online.
      • With all the other changes coming online we felt adding yet another level of functionality to the game would make things needlessly complicated for you and for ourselves. We quickly realized we already were going to have a ton of variables to balance and adjust without adding this to the mix.

    • Overworld Animating Avatars: Players will now see their avatars (along with their party members) animating on the overworld map.
      • We decided to focus only on performance improvements before adding more features to the map

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