Stuck In A Bar (and Other Stories)

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For the first multiplayer test of Portalarium’s Shroud of the Avatar (SotA), some of the Stratics team did some live streaming.  You can watch and listen to our adventures by going to the Stratics’ Twitch Channel (just look for the past broadcasts).  I am going to give a short overview of my two days spent enjoying and exploring SotA Pre-Alpha Release 3 and seeing  real people for the first time!

I arrived in New Britannia for with my cohort Kirthag also from Stratics (and inconsequentially my boss).  Kirthag immediately whisked me off to do some crafting, something I hadn’t really worked on during the earlier Pre-alpha tests.  It was interesting and overwhelming to see how detailed the crafting system already is.  I think it’s going to be fun and probably the way I earn my way in the world. To start off, I made some bolts of cloth and sold them to earn my first few coins!

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Kirthag is very adventurous and she showed me some cool things she had already discovered, including the new village of Braemar that just opened with this release.  We even had the opportunity to experience a bug in which the doors of the bar and other buildings in Braemar shut (they had been fixed open and unclickable) and locked people in or out of the buildings. Apparently Kirthag was one of the few who could go in and out of the buildings and she had fun laughing at me being stuck in the bar.  Note that there are a lot of fun emotes in the game already and we’re vying for more!  The door bug was promptly fixed and we ventured on.

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One of my highlights was shortly before we ended our first day of R3: I had the honor of meeting Lord British!  He was hanging out in Owl’s Head and stopped to chat for a bit.  A small crowd grew and lots of comments were made to him, mostly good.  A few people tried to engage him in some of the hot topics from the forums but I think he was mostly just wanting to visit with the citizens of the world he and his amazing team are creating. For me, it was an honor to be seen on screen with the man who made all this possible!

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Two days later, we ventured into the world again. We were joined by another lady of Stratics: Luka. This time, we people-watched more than anything else.  We enjoyed seeing folks discover the world, look for bugs, figure out ways to make gold quickly, answered some questions, gave directions.

Then we had an amazing experience near the graveyard outside of Braemar.  You can watch the recording of the live stream here of that very special moment with Holt Ironfell who is writing some of the music that will be used in Shroud of the Avatar.  I anticipate more of these type of adventures of an unexpected nature.  Take a REAL close look at the wisps.  Kirthag noticed something inside them. What do you see? (Click the image for full version.)

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There have been lots of articles written about problems in the game (hey – it’s still PRE-alpha!).  I see no real need to go on about that. One pet peeve of mine is that while walking, my character looks like she is swaggering like a guy.  I hope they change that animation so I am walking more like a female.  Overall, I’m very pleased with what I’m seeing. And we are still NINE MONTHS away from launch!

As I experienced my time in this third Pre-alpha test run, I spent a lot of time just watching people.  I looked at the names that people gave their characters.  I looked at the detail some people gave to their clothing (what’s with the “Red Dress Brigade” with the guys???).  I realized that each person’s experience is just that: it is what you want it to be.  Some people want to role play and immerse themselves in the experience. They put thought and much time into creating their character to look how they want him/her to.  They have meaning behind their names. I could write a two paragraph explanation on how I came to my current preferred character name.  Other people choose default characters and throw a name on there get in the game as fast as they can to see what there is to do.

Shroud of the Avatar supports all kinds of players and what they want to get out of a game. All play styles are welcome.  I personally am excited to meet role players from around the world and experience the wonder of New Britannia.

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For me, the third Pre-alpha was a huge success.  Yes there were some lag problems.  With my 7-year-old machine, that’s not a huge surprise.  I had a couple of crashes but I’ve had MUCH worse from games that have been released and my computer was well within the system requirements.  The graphics are already quite beautiful. The music is amazing.  The game promises to be very immersive and never lacking in things to do. We could have played for weeks and that’s only three towns with no quests!  The next Pre-alpha test will be March 27-30.  See you in New Britannia!

Valentine’s Day SoTA Contest

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Click the image above to visit The Bards of Poet’s Circle Guild.

There has been no shortage of contests and incentives on the Shroud of the Avatar (SotA) website.  If you doubt me, and are a member of their official forums, go check out what will happen if donations hit $3.25 million by February 20th.  It’s getting pretty interesting.

This contest for Valentine’s Day is quite fun.  I am personally participating so you probably won’t win but give it a try! Use your writing talents to pen a love poem for SotA mega-fans Dame Lori or Dom John (you can also write poems to other SotA team members – see details below).  The contest is being hosted by the bard group The Bards of Poets’ Circle with prizes being provided by Portalarium. The submissions will go through a selection process by Holt Ironfell, then presented to the official judges and they will select their favorites to win prizes.

You have to have your submissions to  by 10pm Pacific on February 13. Hurry and participate in this fun contest. There will be a live broadcast starting Saturday, 5pm Pacific, to announce the winners and otherwise goof off with this amazing community.


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OFFICIAL RULES FOR THE HEARTS OF BRITANNIA POETRY CONTEST

HOSTED BY THE BARDS OF POETS’ CIRCLE GUILD. 

READ CAREFULLY.
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  • YOU MAY write to all or any of the 6 judges.
  • SPECIFY WHO THE POEM IS TO above the poem. That person will judge it. If you do not specify a recipient, it cannot be entered into the pool of contestants!
  • DO NOT post submissions on the forum or make them public. All submissions are to be kept a SECRET. Failure to do so results in DISQUALIFICATION.
  • DO NOT include inappropriate/adult content or cursing.
  • NO MODERN REFERENCES (except in the case of the “roast” aka. funny ones)
  • MAXIMUM WORD COUNT is 200. This is due to the time constraints upon orally reciting winners’ poetry.
  • INCLUDE in your submission whether or not you wish to remain anonymous IF YOU WIN. All runners-up will still be anonymous.
  • EMAIL ALL SUBMISSIONS to holt.ironfell@gmail.com – DO NOT contact anyone else with your poetry until the Competition is over.
  • DEADLINE for submissions is 10am PST on February 13th, when Holt shall select a selection of the best entries.

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ANNOUNCED PRIZES
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  • All winning entries will be bound into an in-game book which will be findable in game.
  • The winners of Lord British and Darkstarr poems, will can get the in game Darkstarr or LB cloak.
  • The team will also create a video of us (Richard, Starr, Holt, and Stephen) reading the winning poems that were written to us.
  • Grand Prize Winners judged by Dame Lori & Sir Dom John
  • The two winning entries will be adapted and sung by Poets’ Circle and put to music. Pending review, the instrumentation of that music will be put into the game.
  • Remember, you can also submit silly poems, and Holt will choose the funniest to read on air.

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EVENT DATE & TIME
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  • The Hangout/Poetry Reading will begin at 5pm PST on Saturday the 15th.
    That is 8pm EST. 1am GMT (UK, Sunday).
  • The link will be announced 15-30 minutes ahead of time (on the SotA website).

 

Discuss this over at the Stratics’ Shroud of the Avatar forums by clicking here.

Why Do Gamers Support Crowd Funding?

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When Shroud of the Avatar (SoTA) was announced and the Kickstarter campaign started, this was my first awareness that crowd funding existed. I had never heard of it.

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According to a Forbes article from May 8, 2013, I apparently have been living on an island. I wish I had known I was living on an island. It sure looks more like the desert from my window high above the Las Vegas strip. For those of you who have also been on your own islands, crowd funding is a way for individuals and companies to raise money for a project.  Private individuals who want to contribute go on a site like Kickstarter and donate money for the project. For instance, SoTA  created a Kickstarter account, then did a countdown on their own website to gain interest and announce the game. When the counter got to zero, the site directed people to go to SoTA‘s Kickstarter page and donate money to the project. In my research, I found that there is much more to crowd funding than helping to fund a game I happen to like. There’s crowd funding for everything under the sun – from start-up companies to kids trying to get enough to pay their college tuition. There is a whole lot of legalese that goes along with this new funding concept; but for the purpose of this article, I’m going to stick to crowd funding as it pertains to games.

Upon reading what Richard Garriott and his team were doing, I was on board. I threw in my $10 to get started the week SotA was announced. Since then, I have donated more here and there. I noted this week that over $1.9 million dollars was donated through the Kickstarter site and another $950,000+ since that time for a total of over $2.8 million.

My husband, who is a business analyst, commented that crowd funding is a brilliant idea (he had never heard of it either – apparently he has his own island since he is not on mine!).  His question got me to thinking. Why would people donate money towards the development of a game, with nothing monetary in return? I first asked myself that question. My reasons are simple: I want to be a beta tester and help in the development of a game from a game designer I am very passionate about. I’ve been following Richard Garriott since 1993 when I discovered Ultima 7 and therefore my life-long hobby of computer gaming. Just $10 will get you into Beta and support the game. Why donate more? And why have some people donated as much as $10,000?  What was their motivation?

I randomly surveyed a number of funders from the highly anticipated Shroud of the Avatar, asking them a series of questions about their contributions and some general questions to hopefully shed some light on this relatively new concept in game development. Asking the developers why they chose crowd funding seems to be fairly consistent: to do their own thing without a large corporation’s input. But is the answer as consistent for those donating money to the cause?

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I wasn’t sure what to expect from the crowd funders of SoTA. I thought they might all be as old as I am since gamers in my age group remember the Ultima series. We tend to hold Richard Garriott as a symbol of our younger selves, a representative of hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of fun. I am delighted to see that many generations of gamers are helping fund SoTA. The average age of the funders I surveyed is 34. They are from all over the world and mostly men. Respondents represent a good portion of western cultures, a good portion (63%) from the USA.

dollarsGraph-CrowdFunding-15dec13Of those polled, 34% had donated only to SoTA; the rest had contributed between two games to 15 games.  Nearly half, 43% of the people surveyed donated $500 or more while 57% donated less than $500 (one person hasn’t donated yet but is thinking about it). When asked the reason they donated to SoTA, the answer was overwhelmingly support for Richard Garriott. Most responders mentioned him by name and that they loved his earlier projects and believed he and his team would deliver an amazing game with depth, quality and substance. One person sent me an interesting video of the Star Citizen developer Chris Roberts and I gained insight that people often will donate to a project simply because of the name attached to it.

whySotAPie-CrowdFunding-15dec13Interestingly when asked why they donated to any game in general, the response was largely early access to Beta. Not one time did anyone say they donated to SoTA only to get into the Beta. It was mentioned a couple of times as one of many reasons but not singularly like it was in other games.

Almost all (94%) said that they thought crowd funding was a good way to get a game developed (no surprise there). However, the reasons why they thought it was a good way to get a game developed varied a great deal. From player input to gaining access to the developers to better quality games to getting SWAG and Beta access. I found these responses interesting considering the wording of my question specifically asked, “Do you think crowd funding is a good way to get games funded and if so why?”  Lots of people mentioned what they would get out of crowd funding (SWAG, Beta access) instead of why a developer should use crowd funding for game development. One person commented that crowd funded game projects could be good and bad, with the bad being that the funder might feel like they have ownership of the game and therefore think that they can demand that the game be developed the way they want.

  • 31% said they might donate to games in the futurefutureDonor-CrowdFunding-15dec13
  • 26% said they would not donate in the future
  • 43% said they would definitely donate to games in the future

One of the most interesting responses as to why he thought crowd funding was a good way to develop a game came from Jeff Post (licemeat):

I almost prefer it. You usually get a bonus when you crowd source. It could be an extra 5 or 10 bucks off the retail price, something extra and exclusive in-game, maybe you get to play beta or maybe they put your name in the credits. It also makes it ‘survival of the fittest.’ If nobody thinks your game is any good then it will be weeded out because you’ll have no funding. If you have a good idea then you’ll get all that plant food you need for that seed and everyone will enjoy the fruit. You may not giant blockbuster games…but you’ll get a ton more good games.”

Very interesting insight I thought.

So what did I learn?  That not only middle-aged people support Richard Garriott and his vision. The world is not so large after all with hopeful players from all over the globe willing to donate money to a cause they may or may not get anything back from. There are as many reasons people will give money for a crowd funded project as there are people! Everyone has their own reasons – it did not center around one thing. There are 406 active Kickstarter campaigns for games right now. And that’s just one site!

As an aside, I’d like to thank the incredibly varied funders of SoTA and their willingness to participate in my crowd funding education. And an education it was. Now where did I put my island…

Scarlet Blade: I’m a Girl and I Peeked

Let me start by saying I really don’t like anime games. There is something about those big round eyes that makes the games feel so cartoon-like. My preference in gaming is to be immersed. The goofy graphics are too distracting for me. Having said that, I decided to check out Scarlet Blade by Aeria Games. I’ve been wrong before so maybe Scarlet Blade will have enough interesting content for me to get past the big goofy looking eyes. Scarlet Blade is a free-to-play MMORPG with partial nudity so it has an M (mature +17) rating. It’s described as “an adult MMORPG”.

To get started, I went to the website: http://scarletblade.aeriagames.com and hit the DOWNLOAD button.

Download Page

This prompted me to create an account on the Aeria site since I had not been there before. I got past the requirements, being slightly over 17, then started the 1.9gb download. The download turned out to be the Aeria downloader (similar to the Steam interface). After it installed, it automatically updated my game with 17 updates which I always find annoying – why not put the most up-to-date version of the game on the download button? While watching the game update, the splash screen mentioned something about “AP” points. Not sure what’s that’s about but we’ll see.

Once the game was done downloading then updating, I was presented with a splash page that had a 90% naked woman on the screen. Her most private parts were covered with mechanical wires. After that, there was a funky key pad in which I had to create a “secondary passcode.”  So I had to create an account for Aeria with user name and password and a secondary passcode for the game itself. It seemed a bit annoying to finally get in to play this game. Too much unnecessary security, in my opinion.

Two path selections

Finally I got to the server selection which had just one choice. I clicked the server and hit Enter and nothing happened. I had to double-click the server to progress forward. So obviously there are some bugs right at the start.

Next up was to choose the path I wanted to take.  I choose the Royal Guards, not wanting to rock the boat right away. Again I’m seeing nearly naked women, which as a woman, I find rather offensive.

Moving on was class selection which included: Defender, Shadow Walker, Whipper, Punisher, Medic and my choice Sentinel.

 

Character Creation

Next up was character creation which was pretty basic. You could choose pre-builts but I did a little more customization to hopefully get a little less cartoony look as possible. No way around the anime eyes. Rhiannon was created.

 

Well, almost created. The character name “Rhiannon” was already taken. So apparently unique names are required. I added some numbers to the name and we were off.

 

Someone named “Mother” welcomed me and said quests would show up on my screen. She told me to go see someone named Lota. The interface is quite cluttered so I hope I can find my quests!

 

NPC Conversation

I found a flashing blue icon that upon double-clicking proved to be a quest that said something about going to see “Lota”. There was an on-screen map that had a dot on it. I followed that and found this chick named Lota. She gave me a quest to go see Vera. Notice that her outfit is nearly transparent. Not liking the overtly sexual characters thus far.

 

In my quest log, I clicked on “Vera” and my character took off running to Vera (I guess). I auto-ran to Vera. Vera gave me a gun and told me to go kill some training dummies. She gave instruction on how to do that. Basically I just had to double-click from a distance and the creature was killed.

The world
Finally I was allowed to go “up top” and was given a series of simple quests to accomplish. Kill 5 of these, kill 3 of those. The world looks sci-fy like, at least in this beginner area. When I was told to kill X number of a certain kind of creature, the other creatures ignored me. So there seems to be no AI in the game that I could see.

 

Resurection So I set off to see what happened when I died. I attacked a creature then ran off to attack another. Both attacked me at once and I was killed. When I died, it gave me a resurrection count-down clock. I clicked Revive and was transported to an area that appeared to be close to where I was when I died. I stood there to let my hit points regenerate.

Upon having full health again, I tried to attack the creatures nearby and got a message that I had been “kicked off the server”. I was unable to get back in. I suspect the game had crashed but I’m not sure.

 

I am unclear on who this game is designed for. Certainly not middle-aged female players. The graphics of nearly naked large-breasted women were very offensive. I didn’t see any options to play as a male character. Since the game requires aged 17+, I personally don’t understand who their target audience is.

The game play was basically point and click. Double-click a monster to attack it, enough hits and it dies. A new quest pops up on the screen. Click it to go to that location. Very boring. The game screen was so cluttered, it was difficult to see the monsters that were near me.  I didn’t see any instruction on PVP but read that it is part of the game. And there were some players in the general chat that were smack-talking about the newbies who “didn’t even know how to PVP.”

After not being able to log back in to the server, I lost my patience with it. It appears that this game has been up and running since the beginning of 2013 so there must be some reason. I just don’t have the desire or patience to find out why. There isn’t enough here to get me past the anime graphics along with the mostly naked women.