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[SOTA Official News] Q4 2017 Schedule Update


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#1
The Oracle

The Oracle

    Lady Oracle

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[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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