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Richard Garriott and the other fine folks over at Portalarium have made a new Release 30 build of Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues available, with this and other upcoming releases being even more ambitious than usual given the fact that a final round of character wipes and lot selections is coming soon. There are some pretty significant changes in this release, so I'll point you to their postmortem and share some of what to expect:
The biggest change of course is the change to maximum durability, which can no longer be repaired at crafting stations unless you use a Crown of the Obsidian (see below for details). I understand that this change to durability so that items eventually break permanently feels challenging to process right now. On top of that, the amount of time to gather materials and the sheer amount of materials it takes to make items seems daunting to say the least. Our goal has always been that it takes specialization and time to become a crafter and the goods you sell should have real value. If we tune gathering to be fast and items to use only a few materials, then everyone could make their own goods and there would be no economy and no demand for crafters. If items continued to be in good repair indefinitely, then crafters would have no demand to fill once players got a favorite set of gear.
We believe that all of these designs are necessary to have a truly player-driven economy where effort is rewarded and the amount of time to make items is relatively commensurate to the time it takes to fight and advance through enemies. With all of that said, the entire experience needs to balance entertainment with effort and we will be carefully tuning the experience over the next few releases (and forever for that matter).
Crafting is finally also expanding with new skills including Masterworks; which allow Smiths, Carpenters, and Tailors to add new abilities to items they create. This works exactly like the Enchanting we introduced for Alchemists in R29, although both of these systems now balance the power of the abilities added with reductions in durability. Our goal for the system is to create interesting choices between power and convenience. We also envision scenarios where Avatars might have specialized sets of powerful gear that they use for boss fights and PVP tournaments versus their everyday adventuring gear.
The Path of Courage:
In Release 29 Avatars were able to follow the Path of Love from beginning to end for the first time. In Release 30 the story again greatly expands with the Path of Courage now being playable. To support that, Valhold can be visited for the first time and various other scenes have been filled out with supporting story including Skrekk, Demig's Battlecamp, Ferig's Battlecamp, and Estgard. This makes two of the three Paths of Virtue playable, with only the Path of Truth left to implement in the game (which we will start in Release 31). We also have added the first of our three Companions who will adventure with you in Offline Mode.