Peeling Back The Shroud Of The Avatar

By Adam Smith on November 4th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

I’m watching a twenty five minute video of Shroud of the Avatar, with commentary from bearded spacefarer Lord British. I was going to take in the whole thing, making the occasional note when something caught my interest, but I’m four minutes in and I’ve become rather distressed. So far, Garriott has shown a couple of settlements and the player housing within them. There’s a pokey wizard’s tower, with a teleporter instead of a staircase, and Viking and Germanic themed dwellings. The problem is, they’re all crammed full of blatant fire hazards. Wooden houses containing enormous braziers, flames hungrily dancing and spilling from within. The druid is slightly more careful, possibly because he lives in a tree, but he’s still plonked an open flame next to a case of precious books. Very concerning. Oh, there’s conversation, combat and crafting as well but it’s mostly Rightmove Britannia.

The combat system is a first draft, so to speak, but even with that knowledge it’s not particularly inspiring. Killings things is always the worst part of this sort of game though, I find, so perhaps it was wise to concentrate on housing before moving on to the tedium of hitpoint-reduction systems.

I’ll admit to being surprised that a lightning strike only did two damage to a bear. That was probably the most unexpected part of the hacky-slashy part of the video.

Comments that the game looks ‘dated’ and suchlike are entirely expected, however, and they’ve been spattered across the internet like the contents of a Saints Row septic truck. Next to The Witcher 3, Shroud looks like the product of a union between two ugly sticks that have been bopping each other and bumping uglies all night, but so does every other game. Shroud’s goals are different and if it can offer a world that responds to the presence of players in meaningful ways, backed up by a variety of possible virtual lifestyles, I won’t give a hoot what it looks like. Well, to a point. If every NPC was replaced by a crude 3d model of Danny DeVito, the game might well suffer. Then again, it’d certainly grab some headlines.

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43 Comments »

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  1. MuscleHorse says:

    I’d be all over Danny DeViMMO like a rash.

  2. Keyrock says:

    Good lord, that running animation… The horror!

    • huldu says:

      Kinda reminds me a lot of the lotro animations, the graphics feels like daoc. I’m not going to judge, at least not yet. Those are my first impressions.

  3. herschel says:

    This looks painfully dated…

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      As if someone had done one of those Morrowind Graphics Mods for Ultima 9.

      Clipping through walls and all.

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      Cinek says:

      In deed. I wonder where’s that “improved graphics” they promised in initial campaign?

    • UmmonTL says:

      I’m playing Mount&Blade Napoleonic Wars right now and well…
      it’s not quite that bad?
      But in all honesty, there is obviously no dynamic lighting yet and I’m sure there are a bunch of other make-look-pretty gadgets that just need to be included.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Maybe it’s just my age showing but I think it looks just fine.

    • BrainFlush says:

      Not to be a jerk, but I grew up playing almost everything in the 80’s and 90’s but his games and now I see another reason why I never did. Retro is cool but not this retro, I am sorry.

      I knew when I saw the KS for this that the end product (granted it is still being developed) would only bring back nightmares. Passed on KS will pass when released.

      For those of you who enjoyed his work, enjoy it and I wish you the best. No hard feelings and not trolling.

      And another thing, FFS if you are going to release a video update at least make it available in 1080p and make sure it doesn’t make the game look even worse than it is. I know his games have never been cutting edge but at least let the video show it to it’s best ability. Joke: Maybe the people who KS can only watch in 720p..

      Otherwise game on everyone.

      • Humppakummitus says:

        I’m having a bit of trouble following your comment here. You didn’t play any of his games. So when you saw his Kickstarter you knew it would bring back nightmares.. of the games you didn’t play?

        And you say his games have never been cutting edge? Origin released a whole bunch of games that pushed hardware further than before, and they looked the part too. Ultima 7, Wing Commander etc. And even before that Ultima 5 was the biggest game available for C-64.

  4. Infinitron says:

    I don’t know how interesting this game will be, but they’ve done a nice recreation of Ultima VII’s environmental interaction mechanics which you can see starting from around ~10:00.

    But you can get that in Divinity: Original Sin too, with an isometric POV and turn-based combat to boot.

  5. instantcoffe says:

    Did he just put a whole guillotine in his backpack?

    • MadTinkerer says:

      You better be able to pick up guillotines and put them in your backpack. This is supposed to be a spiritual successor to the good Ultima games, after all.

  6. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    I CALL UPON THEE, MIGHTY THOR! RAIN DOWN YOUR VENGEANCE UPON THIS FOUL BEAST AND

    2?

    seriously, 2?!

    Picks up a branch.

    *poke*

    #3

    *sigh*

  7. Maxheadroom says:

    Of all the games I’ve backed this year (this, Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous, Project Eternity, that Road Rash remake) this is the one i’m the most worried about.

    Some of those house houses (which I believe only come with pledge tiers $150+) look like they were knocked up in an adventure creator in the late 90s.

    I’m not a graphicist (if that not a word it should be) I’m old enough to remember text based adventures, and I know its still in alpha, but something about it just isnt clicking with me

    • 2late2die says:

      “Road Rash”? Maybe you should have a doctor take a look at that – I hear those can be a real drag on one’s social life.

      • HothMonster says:

        Sometimes when life hits you in the back of the head with a lead pipe you just have to rev the engine and motor through.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      This looks like it’s from 2003. Which wouldn’t be a problem if it also had an interestingly designed world, but the city and landscape are completely bland and generic. It’s a bit weird that he spent so much time giving us tours of houses like they are some marvelous achievement when said houses look exactly the same as houses in basically every fantasy RPG ever.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    a union between two ugly sticks that have been bopping each other and bumping uglies all night

    A little too graphic.

  9. Wurstwaffel says:

    It’s hideous.

  10. kevintimewaster says:

    I don’t mind that it looks dated (I’m playing Vanguard), but the question I have is…

    WHY?

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      Cinek says:

      Dated is good when it’s intentional design choice. Here it looks like it’s dated because: lack of skill / lack of budget / poor choice of engine / all three at once.

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        Smashbox says:

        It doesn’t have to be one of those two binary choices.

        How about: Focusing time and money on other aspects of the game?

        • Wurstwaffel says:

          You can have beautiful art with low fidelity while not investing any more time and money.

  11. Urthman says:

    It’s like Minecraft, except you have to buy the space where you build your house and the stuff you want to put in it for real-world moneys. And you’re really limited in building options. But it looks a little bit nicer.

  12. Stupoider says:

    Very impressed, I didn’t back it but I wish I had done. Yeah the graphics and animations are really shoddy, but then again it’s not close to release yet is it? And for a game with this kind of scope, of player housed cities and player run economies (from the man who made Ultima Online) it is very easy to forgive the roughness. I’d rather have this than an MMO that’s all-out on the aesthetic approach but feels very cookie-cutter WoW-clone gameplay wise.

    Keeping my eye on it, I need to do a bit of research.

  13. zachdidit says:

    I don’t mind the dated look, my main concern is that right now I don’t know why I would want to play this over a EQNext, Pathfinder, or The Repopulation. It feels like if this game that was been made back in 2005, I’d be gobbling it up. But now it feels like a game with graphics(I can overlook), systems, UI, and design that’s years past its prime. I reserve final judgement until something more solid is there, but it’s not looking like something exciting to me. .

  14. Keyrock says:

    As an aside, “bearded spacefarer” is a criminally underused tag. I demand more bearded spacefarer articles!

  15. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    And there was me thinking it looks quite nice actually.

    Personally graphics hit a certain level with me a few years back, around about the Witcher 1 I think, after which I sort of think that anything that matches or betters that is fine by me. It’s what’s under the skin that I’m more interested in.

  16. neolith says:

    Why would a wizard’s tower with a teleporter also have a staircase right in front of it?

    • misterT0AST says:

      Why would you worry about architectural design in a place created according to game design?

  17. GasToad says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.

    Boo Auto-Attack boo. Hiss. Boo.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Have you never played an Ultima game before?

      • GasToad says:

        If I remember correctly, only Ultima 7 had auto-attack. I never played 8, 9 or Ultima Online though.

        • Orageon says:

          U8 had no auto attack as far as I remember. You had to click yourself when you wanted to hit, and keep the button down for parry. It was a bit of a pain to fight melee in that game though, especially in the beginning. Spells all the way !

          UO had auto-attack.

  18. A_Rude_gesture says:

    So it’s a Queer Eye for the Medieval Guy-simulator?

  19. rollermint says:

    I always assumed that “looking dated” was sort of the point of the game, that its a design choice. I mean, the way the inventory works, the typing in commands to converse with NPCs, the animations and item designs. A game for those wishing for some nostalgia, just brought a little bit more up to date with current tech.

    Heck, if you actually go to its official website, even that looks like it fit in perfectly in the late nineties.
    It all just made sense to me.

    So if thats really the case, those arguing against the “dated” looks, I think you may have misunderstood the whole point of the game and the kind of audience that its catering to,

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I guess that’s another point of view. I guess I should think of it as the Ultima IX we deserved, instead of the Ultima IX we got, to badly mangle a quote from the end of The Dark Knight.

  20. speedwaystar says:

    notice how the player-created content (footage of which starts at 21:96 — http://youtu.be/yGa6hR4a87U?t=21m9s) is about 1000 million x better than the incredibly drab “professional game developer” produced content

  21. MadTinkerer says:

    “Comments that the game looks ‘dated’ and suchlike are entirely expected, however, and they’ve been spattered across the internet like the contents of a Saints Row septic truck.”

    And clearly WRONG. See, this is a 2.6 million dollar game. This is not “dated” for 2.6 million dollars. For 260 million, yes. If they had 100 times the budget, and could afford a huge art team, yes. We’re talking not even Broken Age budget, dummies.

    We’re finally getting an “Ultima” style RPG worth getting excited about. I wonder if anyone complaining about the graphics was even born last time an Ultima game was worth getting excited about? I wonder if anyone complaining about the graphics has ever experienced one of their beloved franchises soaring as high as Ultima VII and falling as low as Ultima Forever? I wonder if anyone complaining about the graphics can kiss my posterior and play FMV quicktime event games for the rest of their lives?

  22. justdave says:

    “Dated” isn’t a very specific description. The animations are poor, the particles are janky, and there isn’t a lot of originality or personality in the art direction. That said, I think it looks good given its budget, team size, development time, and the eventual goals of the project.