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Shroud of the Avatar - Alpha Review, including PvP!

Discussion in 'Shroud of the Avatar Discussion Hall' started by Llewen, Jul 25, 2014.

  1. Llewen

    Llewen Grand Inquisitor
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    I've been watching the development of SotA for some time. As usual with any new MMO these days, I was prepared to be disappointed. When I saw the way it was being funded, frankly it annoyed me. A game is not a charity. Why is it being funded like a charity? Doesn't Richard Garriott still have some juice in the industry? Can't he get some proper corporate backing?

    So let's deal with all that for a start. First, what exactly does Richard Garriott do well as a producer? His last attempt at an MMO, Tabula Rasa, was a disaster. In fact I'd argue that Lord British makes craptastic MMO's - at least as we know them. I've had two magical moments in my life as a gamer, two moments that I will never forget. The first was the first time I played AD&D, way back in the late '70's, and the second was the first time I entered the world of Sosaria, in December of 1997.

    Which brings us back to what it is that Richard Garriott does well. Does anyone remember what the original OSI motto was? "We build worlds." With the Ultima series that is exactly what Richard Garriott did. His games were more than just games, they were a place you could live an alternate life.

    I would argue that Ultima Online, even though it was the first commercially successful Western MMO, isn't, and never was, an MMO as we have come to know them. Ultima Online is a world; a universe unto itself. You can call it a "sandbox" if you like labels, but it is, I think, more than even that. And as I see it, that is what Garriott is once again trying to do with Shroud of the Avatar.

    So how good is it? I guess that's what a review is supposed to be all about. How many stars out of five is it worth? At this point, honestly, it's hard to say. The game is still labelled "pre-alpha". All that is there right now is a skeleton. A lot of the systems have yet to be developed. While a lot of the artwork is pretty impressive, there is still a boatload of detail work and polishing to do.

    Which leads us to the way it is being funded. Your typical MMO these days costs almost as much as a big budget Hollywood blockbuster to develop. And every MMO is a huge gamble, just as films are. It's hard to pin down the exact costs involved in developing a true MMO, but estimates run everywhere from 50 to 200 million US dollars. So far Portalarium, the studio developing the game has raised less than 5 million in development funds.

    So does SotA even have a chance? Well, I'd say yes. I think Richard Garriott and his team are trying to show that you can spend a lot less on developing an MMO, and end up with a better product, with better long term prospects, if you build a community and get that community to invest in that MMO - in time and effort, and in dollars and cents - ok, just dollars, and lots of them.

    One of the clever things Portalarium has done has to do with housing. Myself, I like in game items to be earned in game. But we all know that probably all of the castles in Ultima Online, and most of the keeps, have been sold at one time or another for real life $$. We're talking thousands of dollars in many cases. All moneys of which the developers never saw a cent, farthing or peseta. But with SotA, if you "pledge" a ridiculous amount of money, it comes with a house or a manor, in fact you can even buy your own player town. So while this whole "pledge" thing has annoyed me, what Portalarium is doing is getting it's cut of the player market right from the start, and it's hard to argue with that.

    So is the game any good? Well honestly, as already stated, this is a pre-alpha, and it's a little hard to tell what the final product is going to look like. But what is there so far looks good. The game systems framework seems to be intelligent and have a lot of depth, and if you are into that sort of thing, a good fictional foundation as well.

    Which brings us to the PvP. The combat system in SotA is, in my opinion, flat out the most original, interesting, and fun system to come along since, well Magic the Gathering. Yes, you did read that correctly - Magic the Gathering.

    Combat is based on selecting your skills, and building a deck of cards out of them. When you select a skill multiple times you don't gain in any "level", you gain another card to put in your deck of twenty, up to a maximum of five for each skill. When you enter combat your "hand" appears at the bottom of your screen, and you can select the actions as they are dealt to you, or ignore them until they go away.

    This system is clever on so many levels. For one thing, it's a system that will translate well cross platform. It works on PC's and it will work on tablets and phones as well - genius really. If you are a old school gaming grognard, and you like "realism" in your game, it works on that level as well, because combat is always a game of opportunity, and you have to play the hand that is dealt you if you are to be successful.

    But of course, the final and most important question is, IS IT FUN? So far, in my limited experience, the answer is, "Hell yeah!" It is fast, furious, strategic and tactical all at the same time. It really is an amazing combination of intelligent traditional MMO combat, and classic card game combat. It is addictive, and it just works.

    So I'll just close with a few thoughts. Is Shroud of the Avatar Ultima Online 2? Is it the game that is finally going to put the last nail in the coffin of the game so many of us have loved for so long? To answer the first question, there is no doubt that SotA is the spiritual successor of UO, and most definitely a Richard Garriott game - good things in my opinion.

    As for the second question, I think the answer is, "Probably not." Ultima Online has seen many games come and go. Far all it's flaws and the moaning and pancakes of thousands of trolls over the years, it has proven to be a stubborn survivor, a game that gets under your skin and doesn't let go. I don't think SotA is going to kill UO. I think both can survive and thrive. I think there is room in the market for both, because both are utterly unique. There are dozens of Everquest/WoW clones out there, but there is only one Ultima Online, and I think there will only be one Shroud of the Avatar. And if I have my wish, twenty years from now I will still be playing both.
     
    #1 Llewen, Jul 25, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
    Ron Bron, Adrianas, Sophi and 4 others like this.
  2. Captn Norrington

    Captn Norrington Trade Forum Administrator
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    Regarding your point about proper corporate funding, I've never seen them post anything that says they don't already have a few corporate sponsors, and on their website the donation amount is listed as player donations, not corporate ones. It's still very possible they have already arranged contracts with large sponsors that they just haven't begun using yet.

    Also they are using the free to play model, which is 90% based on items sold in the official game store, so when the game does officially launch they are pretty much guaranteed money from new players buying random items they like.
     
  3. Llewen

    Llewen Grand Inquisitor
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    Well, I know they are getting some sponsorship from Alienware, but that is based on player pledges, so I think that is included in the 5 mil. I've seen no indication that they are getting any other corporate sponsorship, and I'm pretty sure they aren't a publicly traded company, so they aren't getting traditional investment. As for "free to play"... I dislike that model, but I know why it works. And as I said, as much as I don't like it, I understand that it gives the developers a cut of the very lucrative third party sales market, and it appears to me that is what they are trying to do right from the beginning.

    But in the end it may be the "free to play" model which kills the game for me. I have an addictive personality, and a game which facilitates open ended spending isn't something I'm likely to stay interested in over the long term. "Free to play", when done badly, means an unending stream of crap you "must" buy in order to stay competitive. And if that becomes the case with SotA, I will lose interest very quickly, no matter how good the game is otherwise.
     
  4. Keira

    Keira Journeyman
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    Simple. Crowd funding was used due to EA and NCSoft putting their demands out there and wrecking UO and Tabla Rasa.

    SotA will be done right and it will be good.
     
  5. popps

    popps Always Present
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    I have similar feelings about the free to play model.

    No matter how good the game might end up being, it is this pricing model which will keep me away from it. I much prefer paying up a reasonable monthly subscription and have access to the whole contents of the game rather then feel that I have to buy this or that item at the store in order to be competitive.

    I wonder whether it would be feasible to have both..... the "free to play" structure for items to be purchased at the store AND a monthly subscription which allows only the accounts which decide to go with this option to have access to the whole contents of the game through game play.

    Of course, should this be viable, the in-game accessable items only for monthly subscription accounts should be different as those purchased at the store by the "free to play" accounts (even though they can do the same things...) and only usable by subscription accounts, not by the free to play accounts. This, to avoid players to subscribe just for a few months, get the items they want through game play and then un-subscribe and use them freely under the free to play model....

    Houses.... well, for those there could be either lots reserved to monthly subscription accounts within the existing towns or separate areas of the game could have villages and towns housing lots all reserved to monthly subscription players...

    Like, there would be entire villages and towns where houses would be from players using the free to play model and separate villages and towns where houses would be from players using the monthly subscription model.

    Whatever....

    All I know, is that I have no interest in playing free to play games where I would need to do a whole lot of microtransactions in order to stay competitive and to keep up....

    If I could play it with a monthly subscription, instead, things would be different because I could just pay my months without the need for a too much substantial initial expenditure of my money to play it (as it would be with free to play) and over time see whether the game is going towards a direction which I like and is a game, a world, where I want to settle in..... If I decide that the game is not for me, then I would not have spent too much of my money for just a few months of playing time....

    Some could argue that with free to play I could just play the game for free, see whether I like it or not without spending anything and then start spending buying items at the store in order to be competitive. Well, this is not a viable option for me because if I do not have the items to be competitive (because I would need to spend money at the store to get them...), I simply cannot test the game at its competitive level and therefore I cannot figure out whether I could like playing the game at its competitive level.

    In order to see whether or not I can enjoy playing the game throughout all of its levels, I need to be able to play them all. With free to play, if I do not purchase the needed items at the store I would be cut out from trying out game play at those competitive levels. And I would just hate to spend money on the items to just then see that I do not enjoy game play at the higher, competitive levels that require those items...

    Besides, having to buy items through microtrasactions outside of the game just kills for me the feeling of a virtual world that my character is part of.... It destroys my feeling that through work, hunting, being part of that virtual world I CAN get any and all items I may need to keep living my virtual life, succesfully....

    That's at least as I see it, probably, I am just a die hard monthly subscription gamer.......
     
    #5 popps, Aug 25, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  6. Captn Norrington

    Captn Norrington Trade Forum Administrator
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    Free to play doesn't necessarily mean you have to buy tons of things to stay competitive, In star wars the old republic online they have both subscriptions, free to play, and "preferred" which is in the middle and just means you bought something from them one time. The in game store does have tons of things for people to buy with real money....but most are them are just cosmetic and are no different than things obtainable in the game. The issue with having the option to be both free, and subscription, is that like star wars, once the free option was introduced massive amounts of people dropped their subscriptions, including me. You can buy most of the subscriber benefits and items with in game currency anyways from other players so...there was no reason to pay anymore.
     
  7. Sophi

    Sophi Adventurer
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    Hear! Hear!

    I certainly don't plan on giving up all my friends - or my houses and my stuff on uo that it's taken me years to collect!
    On the other hand, I sure am having fun playing Shroud for the few days each month we're getting access!

    I'm actually glad it will be free to play since uo has a monthly fee (for each acct, arg - lol).
    so my monthly game budget isn't wrecked, and if i put enough into my pledge for shroud i can get land and a house and a few cool things so that i won't have to worry about acquiring them later on.
     
    #7 Sophi, Aug 30, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2014
  8. VaLorRavenclaw

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    Shroud of the Avatar has a lot to offer players that cannot be found in other games of this category.

    If you are the type that likes to be led around by the hand and not have to think about anything then this may not be the game for you.

    This game is about community, friendships, exploration, thought provoking quests and fun. There is no arrows telling you who to speak to or where to go next, no single path to follow from start to finish. This game is open ended and there is no finish, only more to explore in a dynamic world of ongoing entertainment.

    If you are only looking for a game with stunning state of the art graphics and easy to follow instructions that guide you to specific tasks like an interactive movie then you should pay attention to the negative comments.

    If that's not what you're looking for, if you want a game that allows you to choose your own path at any time and do whatever you like whenever you like then come check out Shroud of the Avatar and get involved. You'll see that it's the people that makes gaming fun and Shroud of the Avatar offers a world that is literally built by people, run by people and shared by people in an interactive way that most others games cannot offer.

    Join while the world is being built and watch it grow. Learn it's secrets and discover it's dynamic nature. This game will be incredible when it's is finally released so don't miss out on the journey.

    For anyone interested in learning more about the current state of the game and how it got here I recommend checking out the ongoing videos done by The Mad Hermit. You can

    find them here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheMadHermitGaming
     
  9. Llewen

    Llewen Grand Inquisitor
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    The real genius of the dev team with SotA so far has been the way they've been able to get their community to buy into the game, both literally and figuratively. If they can continue to tap into that community, not just for funds, but for content and ideas, they have a good chance of building something really special.
     
  10. morPR

    morPR PRmeister
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    I wonder if LLTS has a player town?