Update From Atos on the Future of the Game and Features Yet to Come

With so many changes in the game, we have been eagerly awaiting to hear from Atos with an official update. Well, wait no longer! Here is what Chris “Atos” Spears has to say about the future of Shroud of the Avatar and what we can look forward to!

Copied from the original post, which you can find here: https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/forum/index.php?threads/update-from-atos.159594/

Greetings Avatars! As many of you know we have had some exciting changes recently that will positively impact the game in many ways. There will be some questions I won’t be able to answer but I’m pretty sure I can hit the big ones fast, so I can get on to the more exciting stuff.

Just listing the answers as the questions are pretty obvious:

– No, the team didn’t change as a result of the ownership change

– No, Richard and Starr aren’t going away

– Yes, Episode 2+ is still coming as expected

– Yes, Seed Investor still have an investment in the success of Shroud

The slightly longer question to answer is “why?” There are a lot of reasons but the big ones are cost savings, risk, and company focus. Costs savings include not having to pay for 3 extra types of insurance that ran several $k a month, not needing an employment company that increased overhead dramatically, not needing a lawyer and multiple CPAs to deal with corporate and tax filings quarterly, and a number of other pointless costs. Risk is reduced because we have far fewer things to screw up as a result of the simpler structure and fewer filings. Finally, company focus going forward will be on one thing, making Shroud of the Avatar better and better every month without having a mountain of paperwork completely unrelated to the game weighing us down.

For the last few people who are still waiting on boxes, those will resume shipping again. We had been blocked because we needed additional signatures from Richard but I just had him sign 500 more items last week. There are less than 100 boxes left to ship and I’m committed to shipping these personally.

Now it is time to talk about the stuff most really want to hear about, the future of Shroud of the Avatar, the challenges we face, and why I’m more optimistic now about Shroud than ever!

So first off, let’s talk about some stuff that isn’t changing. We are still working towards episode 2 and we’ll continue to release more information about that over the coming months. We will still be doing monthly releases. The devs, including Richard, Starr, and Chris, will still be involved with the players.

The stuff that will be changing is a far more substantial list but in many cases will be subtle. If I had to sum it up in a single sentence I think it would be that we are going to have a more open and collaborative game creation process.

When we started the project, we involved the players in development in many ways. We are going to work to try to involve players far more going forward. Our community is one of our strongest assets and we’ve made them stand on the sidelines far too much lately. We are working on a number of initiatives to fix this.

First, one of the things that players love are community events. While players have been running their own events for a while, our European partner had someone who ran some of these with his special GM powers and players loved it. Sadly, when that partnership ended, so did the GM events.

In the future, we will be making some of our dev commands available to a handful of community members who have proven over the years to be highly responsible and trustworthy. Those who take part will be asked to create a new account that can be flagged so they can remain anonymous to the community if they choose to. These new Game Masters(GMs) will not get the full suite of dev powers but rather a subset to allow them to appear invisible, summon creatures, apply temporary buffs, change the weather, summon other players, and teleport to other players.

Players have done an amazing job creating events on their own and we’re going to work to empower some to make these events even better. In addition to granting these GMs some limited powers for running events, we’ll also be more generous about providing rewards for the events that the GMs can provide.

There are a number of other big items we will be working on to allow players to take a bigger role in the creation of game content. We are embedding a simple scripting language into the game client called Lua. This will be rolled out in phases.

Lua phase 1 will give the players the scripting system, a way to load and run scripts, and access to a handful of features such as querying stats we don’t currently expose, access to position and map name, raw text to screen features, and reading/writing to their local chat log. We are shooting to have the first iteration of this live before the end of the year.

While this may not sound like a big deal, trust me, it is! If you stopped thinking at “Yippee, I could make my own command to print my stats” then you’re missing the power. When mentioned to tech savvy players, they immediately started scaring me with their ideas. For example, creating a lua script to read and parse your own combat logs, post that data to a server you run so you can see who has the highest DPS on the server that is running the script. Also, making a script for your guild so it would post your location and scene to an external server so you can see your entire guild’s location in real time. Even things like hooking up guild chat to a text-to-speech program so you could build a broadcast of your guild chat to listen to on your phone while on the way home from work. Again, TONS of things this opens for players.

Phase 2 will include some graphic components that will allow for the creation of some new UI and expanding function access. This is targeted for starting roll out Q2 of 2020.

Finally, Phase 3 will include a limited set of “Executable” hooks. Phase 1 will have no execution hooks. Phase 2 will have limited execution available through bound button click events. Phase 3 will allow for more execution type events. This is obviously the scary one as it needs to be carefully worked through to prevent “bot” type of behavior. This will start coming online after Phase 2, a piece at a time.

Next item up on getting players more involved is player created NPC dialog! After investigating a number of our own solutions, a team member pointed us to an open source scripting language called “inky”! While this doesn’t handle 100% of the challenges we need to solve, it is open source and can be expanded. We’ll be using it as the foundation for some of our future dialog work, including the player created NPC dialog. The bonus is that you guys can start messing around with it now with their free “Inky” editor (at https://github.com/inkle/inky)! Also, if you like what you see there, feel free to throw those guys some support on their donations page for us!

For those who haven’t heard us talk about this on a stream, the idea is that you will be able to have placeable NPCs that you will be able to create dialog for other players to see. For many, their minds immediately turn to creating their own fancy quests complete with elaborate dialog but we expect them to be used for far more than that. Imagine having a town crier who has a full dialog tree to answer questions about your town. Players could even create an NPC for their joke-of-the-day or to answer questions about upcoming events in the game.

The other important thing to remember for this system is that we will be basing much of our own developer-created tech off the same system. Why is that important? Because that means that if a player or guild creates an amazing quest using the tool, we could quickly move it to be in game and polish it up with rewards and more danger!

There are plenty more examples of ways we will be working to involve more players in creating content in the new year like more player dungeons, player-created outdoor scenes, and more Player-Owned Town (POT) features, but my wall of text is already approaching the overwhelming length so I’ll stop there. Look forward to lots more information on player involvement trickling out as we near the end of the year.

Other exciting news is that we will be adding at least one new team member soon from the community and also I’m about to extend an offer to a new Customer Support person! Both of these excite me even though I know there will be some significant ramp up time before they can really contribute!

For many players, I know their top thing they want is the same as ours, MORE PLAYERS! Going forward we will be doing more paid ads. These have been fairly costly in terms of $ per new player we get to try the game. Once people try the game, our metrics are great. We plan on dramatically increasing our ad budget in the coming months.

The bigger addition of new players will likely come from us reaching out to other similar products and doing some cross promotion. I started working on this after reaching out to a crowdfunded game similar to ours about how things were going. The short version was that things were going well BUT after 5+ years of development and playing, they have developed a fairly large number of discontented players who remained rather than moving on. I basically nodded and said something to the effect of “My, that sounds familiar!”

That got me thinking though… we know through comparing lists that we don’t have a ton of overlap between projects. The knee jerk reaction between most similar games that have worked hard to develop an audience is to avoid too much cross-promotion for fear they might take some of your users. Upon further reflection, I believe that BOTH projects can benefit dramatically with far more cross-promotion.

I’ve reached out to three projects so far and all three enthusiastically agreed about cross-promotion. I’m hoping to reach out to a few more soon, build a small coalition of projects with a total user base of over 1 million, and do far more cross-promotion of each other’s games. This means do far more than just an occasional blurb in a newsletter. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to do some cross sales items. This means deals where you’ll buy “item X” in our game and get “item Y” in their game. Also, I’m hoping to do things like cross-livestream each other games. For instance, I might join another team to play their game one week and they’d join me in Shroud of the Avatar the following week. We’ll comment on stuff we like and ideas we might want to “steal” from each other.

Again, while I have several other projects already on board that have 6 figure user bases, we still need to hash out the details as to what we’re going to do, so please be patient. Consider this a heads-up in case you see me streaming something other than Shroud of the Avatar on our official channel! It doesn’t mean I’ve switched teams and I’m joining the competition! It just means we’re working with partners in a more substantial way!

Alright, while I have LOTS more to tell, I think this is a good start to help you guys see some of the initiatives I’ll be starting and ways we’ll be improving the game AND expanding the community!

Thank you all so much for your support over the years and going forward! As Starr has said many times before, and I completely agree with, I do feel like we’re making something special and I am forever thankful that Richard has entrusted me with making that happen.

Looking forward to seeing you in game now for R71 and in the many years to come!

Chris “Atos” Spears