Combat Hits the Shroud

SotA Kirthag Fighting Bear

The ninth release of Shroud of the Avatar (SotA) is scheduled for this weekend, promising to be exciting with loads of combat additions, new features and character customization tweaks along with more land, a new city and introduction to the main continent. Beginning August 21st and lasting until August 25th, the game still moves on in pre-alpha status. Open to First Responders and above along with winners of the MMORPG R9 sweepstakes, Windows clients can simply patch up (takes about 15 minutes overall) while Macintosh and Linux gamers will have to completely re-install the game.  Read More…

All About the House | Pre-Alpha R7

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Its that time again! Portalarium has flung open their development server for the 7th scheduled Pre-Alpha weekend. This release also brings back two of your favorite Stratics personalities, Rhiannon (Managing News Editor) and Kirthag (Editor in Chief) with their shenanigans and explanations of just what’s what this release.

This release has a lot of anticipated features and improvements, but for this pair, it really is all about the Housing. The basics of house security, the new Row Houses, House Boats and other house tweaks are on top of our staffer’s minds. Kirthag is planning to purchase the Addon Rustic 3-Story while giving her Founder boathouse gift to Rhiannon. Both women have decided on where they will reside and have got their houses set. Let the decorating commence! Both women plan to stream more over the weekend to show off.

During a 2 hour streaming session, the women tested some of the new features while bantering back and forth. From housing security to noting some possible grief-issues, Rhiannon does well to keeping her focus against Kirth’s antics. Kirthag also gets into an explanation of housing and what is needed to claim virtual real estate in New Britannia. Rather than post the complete two hour stream (with lag, crashes, logouts and dead-air), several highlights are collected into a playlist for you to view and enjoy.

If you’d like to visit with Rhiannon and Kirthag while they are in SotA, check either Stratics.tv or visit Kirthag’s personal site for the stream and chat with them. Better yet, become a Shroud of the Avatar Backer and experience, first hand, what these women have been talking about! Kirthag hasn’t set up a real schedule for her streams, but she does plan to be live periodically during this weekend. Cannot make it? Then tune in over the Fourth of July weekend! SotA will be at RTX and they plan to open the Pre-Alpha server then as well! (If not, Kirthag will stream from some other game.)

If you’d like to discuss this post, visit our Forum thread here.

 

SotA Awarded Best Indie MMO at E3

MMORPG E3 2014 Awards

One of the biggest and most important events in the gaming industry, the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) in Los Angeles, is over. Everyone who attended to peek at upcoming games and tech are now analyzing and critiquing what was there, from the food people eat, to the booth displays. But what everyone really wants to know is, which games are the best?

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MMORPG.com, a gaming industry news e-zine, has published their list of E3 faves in several categories, giving Shroud of the Avatar the honor of Best Indie MMO! With anticipation and expectations high for our favored title from Portalarium, there is no question about the award. Combine this with lackluster reviews of what the Big-3 (Microsoft, Sony and Electronic Arts) displayed at E3, this award shows that Indies are starting to take over the spotlight.

You can visit the article at MMORPG.com here, which includes a short video interview of Richard “Lord British” Garriott talking about what is happening and what will happen with the game. Congrats SotA!

New Pledge Tiers & Rewards for SotA Backers

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By Kirthag DiOrsae

Starr “DarkStarr” Long, Executive Producer of Shroud of the Avatar, has created another of his “megaposts” in the SotA forums. Not only is Starr giving away a lot of critical information about the current status of SotA, he is also announcing some interesting and much wanted news about pledge tiers. Here are the highlights…
[Read more...]

New Pledge Tiers & Rewards for SotA Backers

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Starr “DarkStarr” Long, Executive Producer of Shroud of the Avatar, has created another of his “megaposts” in the SotA forums. Not only is Starr giving away a lot of critical information about the current status of SotA, he is also announcing some interesting and much wanted news about pledge tiers. Here are the highlights which will be enabled very soon on the SotA website; just in time for the 2014 E3 sponsored by Gamespot. This move is sure to generate more funding and buzz at the gaming expo for this spiritual successor to the Ultima series.

New Pledge Tiers

Adding Marshal levels to Knight and Lord as “stepping stones” toward the higher tiers.

  • Knight Marshal is $1,200 USD (between Knight & Lord)
  • Lord Marshal is $2,200 USD (between Lord & Baron)

New Pledge Rewards

Adding some new rewards of highly requested features which also expands housing to lower pledge tiers.

  • Ability to create more characters on a single account added at certain tier levels.
    • These other characters are kin (related) to your first and share the same reputation and surname.
    • Second character is rewarded at Virtual Collector. The third at Ancestor.
    • Additional character slots purchased via the add-on store will be taxed.
  • New rewards are for Benefactors. There are no new Founder rewards at this time.
  • More starting recipes at Royal Artisan with enough resources to create 4 of each recipe.
  • Now get rent-free housing at Ancestor level with the new Row Lot & House for city living! (more on this below)
  • Daily use items which generate in-game items (from books to reagents and more)
  • Deco items which create effects (like a birdbath that attracts flocks of birds or a phonograph which plays music)
  • Wearable items and other usable items in the upper tiers

New Housing Type

The Row House is now being added for denser cities – and more housing!

  • Row Houses will contribute to higher housing density in cities, allowing for more housing plots than have been seen in the game so far.
  • Row Lots can be purchased in the add-on store, but rent will apply.
  • Different styles of Row Houses will be created and added to the add-on store.
  • There will also be Row Lot Basements added at a later time.
  • There is no outdoor decorating for the Row House, but the interiors are huge (1/4 of the existing village lot).
  • Only a Row House can go on a Row Lot, but a Row House can be used on any lot.

Player Town Ownership

Inspired by the PaxLair citizens crossing over from Ultima Online, new types of add-on store items are being implemented.

  • Player groups can pool their money and buy an entire scene for their town! Only one owner though.
  • High customization features with the dev team during a Design Session!
    • Choose your environment, from swampland to grasslands
    • Name your town & choose a location on the Hex map
    • Number and sizes of lots to fit within purchased parameters
    • NPC features & buildings
  • Player Lots within the scene are locked with keys that the owner uses to allow others to occupy.
  • Controls will be in place to evict occupancy of a lot.
  • Players still have to have a lot deed and a house deed to use the unlocked lot.
  • There will be a way to achieve a Player Town in the game, but fees will apply.

Stretch Goal Store

A new concept which allows players to “vote with their money” for various features they want.

  • Players contribute funds toward a stretch goal, and still receive in-game goods even if the goal is not met.
  • Created to help focus the design team’s goals and yet players get something in return.
  • Each goal will have a progress bar for tracking.
  • These stretch goals will be completed only AFTER all other Kickstarter goals are reached.
  • Stretch goal purchases cannot be melted down for other purchases.
  • Add on store credit cannot be applied to stretch goal purchases.
  • Items being added tot he Stretch Goal Store
    • Non-combat horse mounts
    • Playable Elf Race
    • Pack Animals
    • Non-combat boats (players can fight on boats, but boats do not take on damage)
    • Flexible Structure Placement (players can use multiple structures on a single lot)

Getting Your Homestead

There is even more discussed in another of Starr’s posts about Lot Selection when the game is ready to go public. This post includes specifics about who goes first for claiming land based on tier, founder vs. benefactor, possible web-based solution (for those who cannot log on from work) and other creative avenues which all depend on funding. Right now, there is still some heated discussion about this in the forums as well as the private Dev+ forums, so nothing is finalized in stone – yet. Here are the major points…

  • Tier Order will start from the most expensive tiers, working backward, so Lords and Lord Marshals get to go first.
  • Within each tier, the Royal Founders will go first, then Founders (Benefactors who received Founder gifts), then finally Benefactors.
  • Within each group: the higher the dollar amount, the more time will be given for selection.

You can read the entire post here where a whole lot of conversation happening over on the SotA forums. If you’d like to discuss there, or on our own forums, make sure to have your voice heard!

Shroud of the Avatar – One Year Retrospective

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featured-holychicken-15dec13Shroud of the Avatar recently celebrated its 1st anniversary on 7th April. The date marked the passing of one year since the successful funding of the Kickstarter project on April 7th 2013. It seems like such a short time ago yet there is even less time now until the game’s official launch at the end of 2014.

Richard Garriott and the Portalarium development team have already grown a strong and passionate community around the game, which Stratics is proud to be a part of. The ‘Pre-Alpha’ releases have demonstrated both the quality and speed of the game’s development in addition to the ethos of not just taking the community on the development journey but making them part of it.

So I thought the occasion called for reflection on some of the key milestones and events of the first year.

April 2013

7th – Kickstarter funded at $1,919,275 of $1,000,000 goal.

12th – Space Bards announced as the winners of the SotA Fan Video Contest.

28th – Portalarium development team move into new office space.

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May 2013

1st – Beloved community member and recent addition to the Portalarium team ‘Rustic Dragon’ hosts the ‘Inaugural Dragonsmeet‘ for community members to come together.


June 2013


July 2013

5th – Starr Long joins the team, collaborating with Richard Garriott for the first time on a fantasy RPG since Ultima Online.

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6th – 3 month gameplay demo revealed at RTX 2013.

25th – First downloadable ‘Dev+ Dungeon Kit’ released for community members to create their own content in Unity. Unity if the game engine SotA is built on.

August 2013

24th –  Hearth of Brittania host ‘Telethon of the Avatar‘ a 24 hour web stream with guest interviews, community spots and prizes to raise money for SotA.

September 2013

3rd – Stratics are honoured to receive our very own ‘Community Spotlight‘.

18th –  ‘Challenge of the Avatar‘ competition announced with over $10,000 of prizes for the best community developed scene in Unity.

October 2013

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5th – First ‘Lord of the Manor event‘ held at Britannia Manor in New York City.

31st – SotA 6 month video released with an early look at the game and developer commentary.

November 2013

15th – Unity Scene Jam ‘Challenge of the Avatar’ grand prize winner announced.

16th – ‘Lords of the Hearth‘ community event hosted by Rustic Dragon.

~21st – A series of long awaited Spoony interviews with Lord British.

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27th – First instalment of ‘Blade of the Avatar‘ by Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott published.


December 2013

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12th – Pre-Alpha Release 1 opens to SotA backers with the first opportunity for players to login to the game.

25th – Happy holidays from the Portalarium team and festive in-game swag available on the SotA store.


January 2014

24th – Release 2 opens adding new in game features including crafting, additional character customisation and a second town.

February 2014

14th – Hearth of Britannia ‘Poetry Slam‘ event for the community to share game inspired poetry for Valentines Day.

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20th – Release 3 launches bringing with it the first SotA multiplayer experience.

March 2014

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20th – Release 4 launches with the Overworld Map System, new scenes, content and many more new features and performance optimisations.

April 2014

7th – 1 year anniversary and celebrations.

In summary 2014 was a jam packed year in which it is clear the Portalarium team and Richard Garriott, who many invested both their hopes and money in, have worked hard to deliver the game we have all been waiting for so long. I look forward to the year ahead and the Journey Onward.

Please share with us your favourite moments from the first year, leave a comment here or head on over to our SotA Stratics forum.

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!

PvP & Combat Announcements

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sotaCombat_01mar14In the latest update from Shroud of the Avatar‘s Executive Producer, Starr Long, the much anticipated topics of PvP (Player versus Player) and Combat came up. As we all know, there is a lot of guessing and conjecture throughout forums far and wide about what is being planned for SotA’s systems, especially PvP and Combat! Will this game revolutionize active combat between players, or will it flounder and flail about as a copy-cat of others?

 

Ultima Online‘s combative systems surprised the world (and very much the developers – many of whom are working on this title!) as players performed actions in ways never dreamed of by the devs. It also taught many lessons in ethics, trolling, balancing, skill development, code development, policing and more. Many are the heated threads in the official SotA forums – some (if not most) only available to those of the Developer Pledge level or higher. Long gives a few hints as to the direction being taken by the SotA team…

“Our goal with PVP is to balance the thrill of unpredictable encounters with the desire by a large segment of the community to feel ‘safe’ at all times.” A lofty goal which stirs the imagination to possibilities – but is it attainable with an open world free-for-all? “Rest assured,” Long continues, “that no matter what we do, players who wish to avoid PVP will never be forced to participate in PVP nor will there ever be non-consensual PVP.”

SotA’s Executive Producer continues to describe some of the player combat situations many gamers are familiar with – segregated maps/worlds as well as the previously mentioned open-combat format – then he offers up that the SotA team believes they can blend these extremes! This is an interesting concept, and one that this writer is positive the team is keeping close to the hilt with discussion and proposals for this in the private Dev+ section of their forum. If you would like to participate in this conversation, you must pledge up. If you haven’t already linked your Kickstarter Account to your SotA Account – perhaps you should now?

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Also mentioned is a sort of race/monster combination, “Combat-Ready-Elves”. These creatures have been added to the “monsters” list to serve as combat targets in upcoming releases. Each type of elf will have different ways of fighting, making for what could be some very interesting PvE (Player versus Environment) action. One thing that raises a brow, is what will this do for those who role play elvish races? We are not attempting to be LotR (Lord of the Rings) or even Elfquest, but there are many people who have built very dynamic characters on the “elder races” and are indeed not too happy with SotA’s team relegating them to “mobs”. Some questions that have been whispered…

  1. What exactly is this elvish race?
  2. Does this mean the canon from the Ultima series be followed (that man created the magical races)?
  3. Will the ability for players to establish “friendly elvish races” be allowed? What of elvish towns?
  4. Will players actually get to create elvish-styled characters (Player Character Races)?

There is a lot of questions being flung about, but also just as many ideas, too. Want to participate in the conversation? Choose your forum of choice below, and contribute! To participate in the official PvP threads at SotA (along with branistorming with the developers and dev-community) you must be pledged up to the Developer level at minimum. Otherwise, everything else is pure guessing.

Links…

[FLASH] Alienware Arena Gives $20 Pledge Upgrades!

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That’s right! In an unprecedented move, the “Gamers’ Hardware Provider” is giving away $20.00 (USD) Pledge Upgrades for Shroud of the Avatar! All you have to do is visit the Alienware Arena site and follow the instructions on this page (clicky)! Use this gift to boost your current pledge, save $20 on a new pledge, or pass the word on to your friends who are on the fence about becoming a New Britannian. This Pledge Upgrade can only be applied once per account and does not apply to anything in the SotA Add-On Store. This is strictly for Pledges - this might even boost you up to the next level (for even greater benefits).

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While you are at the Alienware Arena site, how about joining the Shroud of the Avatar Group there and help generate more buzz? This will raise awareness while providing more awesome content to the entire Alienware Arena community – which will draw more people to our own community! Spread the word, share the joy, and help to make this one of the most adventurous games in the industry!

Click here to jump to our forums and talk about this exciting news!

Top 5s for Shroud of the Avatar Release 3

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I hope everyone who participated had a great time playing Shroud of the Avatar Pre-Alpha Release 3 (R3), for the extended period over the weekend; thanks Portalarium!

I wanted to share with you my own personal Top 5s for R3. Stratics would also love to hear your own Top 5s, so please have your say in the Discussion Hall over on the SotA Stratics Forums.

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So to start with the Top 5 aspects of SotA I am really enjoying already:

  • The world: While still fairly restricted to a limited area (and I’m hoping the graphics will get a polish) the world is certainly building an immersive feeling and I spent most of my time exploring the accessible areas.
  • Particle Effects: Some of the effects such as dust sweeping over a road and up into the air or a flock of birds passing overhead have been expertly implemented and add to the immersion I noted.
  • Music: The music has a very nostalgic feel; perhaps rekindling memories of UO or earlier Ultimas. I can’t say but it fits what I would expect from SotA.
  • Crafting: There is already an extensive set of recipes (have heard in excess of 150) which can be crafted at the various crafting stations. Please be aware however recipes are still subject to change, as noted by Stratics staff and the SotA community between Release 2 and Release 3.
  • Housing: A lot of work has already been done on the player housing, I expect to satisfy the early and high backers who have invested significant sums of money into the success of the game. There also appear to be a large number of lots available in the accessible areas so perhaps there will even be some housing for those not fortunate enough to start with a house.

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A lot of the systems have not yet been implemented or are partially implemented at this time so there is a lot to look forward to. The Top 5 things I am looking forward to are:

  • Combat: PvE (Player vs. Enemy) combat is due to be implemented in Release 4. While running around getting to know the world has been interesting I’m looking forward to getting to bash something :)
  • Magic: A combat related system but a system in its own right. The competing schools of magic concept put forward by the Development team has intrigued me and my character preference in RPG games has always been spellcaster.
  • Multiplayer: Release 3 marked the first true multi-player experience though meeting up with others could be challenging and the instancing was obvious. I expect significant development of the mechanics and new or improved systems for playing with friends to be introduced in the coming releases.
  • Story: Some themes and plots can already be discerned from speaking with NPCs. I am hopeful playable quests will be introduced soon, perhaps even a dungeon!
  • Crafting: The crafting system is probably one of the more advanced systems which has been implemented however there are still crucial aspects missing such as Resource Gathering.

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In an unprecedented fashion Portalarium have opened their gates to early backers of the game extremely early on in the development process (Pre-Alpha) and a bug or ten is to be expected! Saying that the purpose of this is to not just grow the community and get them involved early on but to help shape the game according to player feedback and to support the development team in identifying and resolving the issues. On that note the I’d like to finish up with my Top 5 areas for “improvement”:

  • Lag: This could be dismissed as performance optimizations are still being made and live updates may be taking place during game-play however it has certainly been my experience on a medium to high end PC with super fast broadband that the game can be somewhat ‘laggy’.
  • Collision Detection: As you may have observed from the screenshot above collision detection needs some work; it is not in fact possible to play a two headed character in the game. Characters and equipped items can pass through each other and often through fixed items in the world such as buildings.
  • Fluidity of Movement: Simply put character movement still doesn’t feel quite right. Running and jumping have been implemented and adjusted based on feedback however some character movement is noticeably unnatural. A female friend at Stratics also observed the gait of the female player characters at present to be undignified!
  • Menu System: The in-game menu system is not intuitive at this stage in the development process and a personal bugbear of mine is the game minimizing and launching a browser session when seeking to access the ‘Help’ or ‘Report a Bug’ menus. I can understand how allowing players to report a bug in-game may encourage misuse or insufficient information to address said bug however I also believe if implemented properly it would encourage greater participation and have seen similar done in other Alphas / Betas.
  • Peculiarities: While some such ‘peculiarities’ have certainly been the talk of the community and the woman and her sheep suspended 100 feet in the air made me chuckle, there are some very strange things going on with the in-game physics still. I also noticed in R3 that levitation had become a popular pastime for players.

In summary I am very impressed with progress to date, am excited to see new features and content become available in each successive release and to be part of the game and the passionate community. So I would love to hear your feedback on R3, this article or anything else you have to share on our SotA Stratics Forums.