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Portalarium's ambitious MMORPG Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues has been given both the preview and editorial treatment this week, starting with an E3-based impressions piece over at WorthPlaying:
The concept of creating a world and not just a series of objectives is a big element in Shroud of the Avatar. One part of that will be player-created quests. There have been games that allow players to create quests before, such as City of Heroes, but Shroud of the Avatar is looking to take it to the next level. The plan is to allow players to create actual quests in the world. While the eventual idea is for players to create in-depth quests, it begins rather simply. Players gain access to in-world cache boxes that can store items. Then they can use in-world writable books and other material that stays active, even when the player is offline. The idea is that the quests will be hand-crafted by players who can set up rewards, which can be self-sustaining, such as players being required to put an into a box to get an item out of the box, thereby creating a sustained quest chain with a constant flow of new items.
Items are also in the players' hands. According to Garriott and Long, the game's items are all going to be player-crafted. There won't be anything in the way of randomized loot. Instead, weapons and equipment will be crafted by players using the in-game crafting systems. Players can use various items in the game world to create weapons that they can then trade, use as loot, or sell. If you find an item in a chest, it's something that was created by players in the world. Sometimes, it will be taken from the list of vendors who have purchased items from players, and other times, a player may have left it there. It's an attempt to create an actual economy in the game, similar to the ones in older-style MMOs, where players who choose not to engage in fighting can master blacksmithing or other careers and barter, trade and sell to make their in-game living.
From there, we stop over at Ten Ton Hammer to hear why the author feels that "Shroud of the Avatar is the Way to Build a True MMO":
To break down how a game works, it went on Kickstarter on March 8th, 2013. It was funded quickly and the pre-alpha server was turned on in December of 2013. Since then, the game has run live for the entire time and at every stage of the development player's feedback has been obtained. Richard Garriott goes so far as to hang out in the game, with Starr Long and a legion of other devs working on the game to solicit feedback and talk with players to see how they're enjoying the development of the game so far. The game is made for those who support it, instead of being made for an audience they hope will support it.
The interesting thing about SotA is that it isn't made for the mass market, it's made for fans of a specific genre of MMO that over time, have grown to be a very small percentage of the MMO community. Back when fast Internet wasn't easily accessible and you had to live within x number of miles from some technological wizard that would deliver speeds up to 50kb/s to your house; there wasn't much interest in the genre or a big audience for it. Technology was limited making it hard to create an MMO that was easily accessible and people were forced to conform to mechanics that would otherwise be considered heresy in the modern world. We can all agree that the difficulty of legacy MMOs wasn't just the grind, it was dealing with the UI, the buggy systems, the constant need for GMs to fix the game, etc.