Backers of Richard Garriott's new RPG, Shroud of the Avatar, are invited to play the game as soon as 12th December as part of a trendy "extremely early access" plan.
That's roughly a year before release.
But what you'll play in just over a month's time will be very much a work in progress. The point is to get your feedback early on, before it's too late.
Four playable builds will be released between now and March, executive producer Starr Long wrote on the game's forum - but they will only be available for a few days each. Saved data will be wiped periodically during this period.
Specific parts of the game will be tested each time, and the game re-evaluated using your feedback.
RELEASE 1: December 12 - December 14, 2013
- Install / Patching system: Step one for you guys to play the game is for you to download the game and then patch the game. Since this is the first hands on impression of the product, it is critical.
- Login / Registration: Players should be able to log in using their existing accounts and if they have not yet registered, they should be intuitively led to the steps to register.
- Character Creation: Players should be able to create and customize their character. Creation / Customization options for Release 1 will include: name, gender, head shape, skin tone, hair style, hair color, and eye color.
- Single Player Online: All public releases prior to commercial launch will be online only. For Release 1 and 2, it will be constrained to single player online only.
- First Town: Our first town (perhaps Owl's Head) will be open for business. This is important for testing purposes so we can better tune our performance metrics on real user machines. For Release 1, exiting the town will just funnel you back into the same town (anyone see Groundhog Day?)
- Conversation: Important that players converse with the townsfolk so we can start expanding the dialog system. As you talk to NPCs, we will be tracking your conversations and using them to add more content based on your input.
- Bag Inventory: This is a hot topic in the forums so we want to get it in your hands for feedback on preferences. Immersion vs. ease of use, let the battle begin!
- Equipment: Players will be provided with several chests full of ph@t lootz (armor, clothes, weapons, etc.) for trying on for size.
- House Claiming: Players will be able to select a house from the entire list of player houses (even Lord of the Manor!) for free so that we can test out the various size houses on the lots and allow players to test drive the various houses so they can have a better idea of which they ultimately want to own.
- House Decorating: Chests full of furniture and decorative items will be provided so you can stress test the decoration system and try out various styles of interiors. Help us figure out all the ways you can break things! (Look forward to screenshot contests on this!)
- Metrics: All the while you are playing, we will be stress testing our metrics system. This system is critical to maintaining a balanced economy, tracking exploits, and gathering data to improve the experience.
RELEASE 2: January 24 - January 26 2014
- Crafting: We will be opening up crafting for testing with more than 100 recipes. Chests full of crafting resources will be provided. Crafting will initially focus on refining and production for smithing, tailoring, and carpentry.
- Shopping: Shopkeepers will be open for business for selling and buying.
- Town 2: An additional municipality (likely village sized) will be open for business! Exiting one municipality will take you immediately to the other municipality.
- List Inventory: For those who prefer spreadsheets to immersion. The inventory battle royale continues!
- Character Customization++: Characters will be wiped, but you will now have even more options when creating your character to make it look unique including: facial features, scaling, and more content (hairstyles, head shapes, skin tones, hair colors, etc.)
RELEASE 3: February 20 - 22, 2014
- Open Multiplayer Online: FINALLY we will let you see what the other players look like BUT we'll be taking away your house for the month as we prepare housing to have persistence in the multiplayer space for Release 4.
- Chat: You know, so you can talk to your friends!
- Emotes: More than 30 emotes online so you can look like a clown with your friends.
- Town 3: A third municipality opens up (perhaps the lovely oceanside village of Kingsport).
RELEASE 4: March 20 - ?, 2014
- Hidden Vale: A hidden island north north east of the mainland with numerous biomes to explore via the overworld map system
- 10 Hidden Vale Scenes: With the opening of the overworld, we need something to do between the cities so we will be turning on the first 10 scenes including wilderness, caves, and dungeons.
- Combat / Magic: Those first 10 scenes might have stuff in them, so we've decided we should give you a way to fight back! A wide array of combat and magic skills, along with the ability to assemble these skills into decks, will now become available.
- Advancement and Skill Trees: Players will start earning experience points for fighting, crafting, and questing. This will lead to level increases and skill points which can be spent to learn new skills or improve existing skills.
- Quests: Players will be able to participate in quests that will send them around the world and even change game state in the scenes based on quest flags. Testing this early is important because our quest system operates differently than the current standards (e.g. no exclamation points or convo trees).
- Loot: Creatures and quests will generate loot including gold and resources.
- Crafting: Resource Gathering will be added to crafting including resource nodes placed in the world. Item wear begins happening and in turn, Repair will now be available. Item enhancement will now also be possible, allowing upgrading of items to more powerful versions. On top of all that, more recipes will become available
- Player Housing: The housing system will be relaunched with persistence in the online space. Housing choices will now be based on backer level, add on purchase, or what can be bought in the game. Waterfront housing will also come online.
- Wearable Dyeing: Clothing and Armor will now be dyeable
- Social Systems: The first social systems will come online including Friends and Parties. Safety in numbers!