Garriott's Shroud of the Avatar: multiplayer explained, Dragonlance author Tracy Hickman added

Three types of online play.

How Richard Garriott's new game Shroud of the Avatar will handle multiplayer has been explained.

The very-nearly-funded Kickstarter project also announced that Tracy Hickman, author of Dragonlance, has joined the project as lead story designer.

Shroud of the Avatar can be played online and offline. Offline you connect once to the game for authorisation and that's it. But your character can only be used offline and you won't see any dynamic changes to the world, nor will you see other player's houses nor their items at auction.

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Meanwhile, in space...

Online there are three modes: Single Player Online (SPO), Friends Play Online (FPO) and Open Play Online (OPO).

Single Player Online connects you to the world so you can see the effect other people are having on the world, as well as look at their houses and their items at auction. You won't be visible to other people, though, or be eligible for grouping.

Friends Play Online shows the people you have flagged as friends in the world. It's handy for guilds or role-players who don't want strangers breaking immersion.

Open Play Online is as close as Shroud of the Avatar gets to being an MMO. But you won't see everyone: the server regulates who you see. This is based on a Selevance (social relevance) system that shows people based on "who we believe you will care about", explained tech director Chris Spears in a video update.

It takes into account (probably in order) these things: Friends, guildmates, people you've grouped with, people you've interacted with, people you've sent tells to, people who've set their PVP tag and, finally, character power.

The amount of people you'll see in Open Play Online mode will probably be dozens not hundreds, Spears said.

You can switch between all three of the online modes whenever you're in a safe area like a city or an overland area of the map. You can't switch between modes when you're in a scene - the game's kind of instance - area.

Shroud of the Avatar has raised $976K of its $1 million goal with 20 days to go.

I'm talking to Richard Garriott about Shroud of the Avatar later today. If you'd like me to ask him anything, mention it below and I'll see what I can do. Thanks!

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