What about Shroud of the Avatar makes it so great for player-generated content? What makes the community great? And how has Steam affected the game? I sat down with Portalarium's Richard Garriott and Starr Long to talk about the move to Steam, updates, PGC, and the amazing community that's supporting the game. These guys had so much to share that this is only part one!
People were immediately running around trying to find secret doors out of the chicken room, or things of this nature, which of course there were none. People were trying to figure out what clever ruse we had going, which of course didn't exist.Now, after a perfect record of monthly content releases (12 and counting!), the game has so much more in it. Skills, crafting, dungeons -- there's so much already playable and much more still on the way. The team isn't taking the Steam success as a cue to rest on its laurels; the devs plan to continue work at even a brisker pace in order to keep the game running continuously. "There's nothing like running on crowdfunding that makes every month feel like it's do or die," Garriott mused. "Because pretty much it is do or die! So it gives you great focus to make a lot of forward progress, where there's no doubt in anybody's mind that you are making forward progress."
Garriott described how folks at places like E3 would pass by and upon recognizing them stop to see what was going on. He noted that these old Ultima Online and sandbox fans didn't know about the project but were very interested once they did. As Garriott put it, the question was, "Where can we sit that will put us back in front of gamers at large, who very likely have not gone out of their way to find us? We need to go find them." The answer? "If you really want to get in front of the masses who buy and play games, there's really nothing better than Steam." That sure rang true: SotA landed for a time in 11th place on the Steam top sellers list. Garriott also noted that the game made it into the top 100 in less than 48 hours; the fastest the team found any other game making it was five days. And it should be noted that all those Steam players are new because previous backers automatically received Steam keys.
Both Garriott and Long described how the existing community rallied to welcome the newcomers. Long said, "I've never actually interacted with a community like this." He qualified that by stating that even though some members are from back during the Ultima Online, "they're even more powerful now in what they can do, what they are willing to do, and what they're able to do, and the support they give each other." He further illustrated with the example of the the guild that dedicated itself to hanging out in the starter town to answer questions and help all the new folks joining.
On top of that, the current players also set up all their regular player-run events -- taverns, mazes, PvP ladders, and new player quests -- and made a schedule. To help all the new players know the who, the what, and the where of these events, the dev team actually published the schedule in an in-game book and deposited it into everyone's inventory. Garriott noted how he'd like to make this a permanent feature in the game, and Long said the goal was to have it constantly refresh to stay up-to-date.
So now the question is, what does this community once it is set loose in this sandbox? You might be surprised! It's some pretty awesome and creative stuff. Join me next week as we conclude this interview with why Shroud of the Avatar should be crowned king of player-generated content and a look at what's ahead for the sandbox.
Once in a blue moon, Massively's MJ Guthrie takes a break from her themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!