This is the Dev Hangout I’ve been waiting for! As a player of Ultima II – V, which were all single player games that had to be story driven, I’ve been waiting to hear more about the backstory and the history of the land. The social aspects, the crafting and the house building are neat and I look forward to tinkering around with them, but it’s the history and the lore that interest me the most. I view the other stuff almost like icing on the cake. If the cake isn’t any good, why bother with the icing. That being said, let’s get to what Tracy and Richard had to say.
This is my paraphrasing and interpretation (and conspiracy theory). If I get something wrong or misquote, please forgive me.
The story of New Britannia begins with a cataclysmic event. The heavens and the earth are thrown into chaos after a catastrophic event changes the world as we know it. These events take place at the end of the previous games (several hundred years ago) and leave the world in tatters. Knowledge and magic have been lost and at the very least shifted from the normal reality. Many of the old magic users are no more and the teaching and understanding of magic isn’t what it used to be.
Britannia has rebuilt itself through small tribes gaining dominance and offering protection to others. A new order has been established and over time society has once again regained a stable footing in the world. We find this new world rebuilt from the ashes of the old surviving quite nicely.
And then the Avatar arrives. Or more to the point, the Avatars. There are indeed multiple Avatars in the game and they are seen as an invasion. The Avatar is not necessarily a welcome visitor and in the words of Tracy Hickman, “You might not want to tell the citizens where you’re from.” From that, Shroud of the Avatar will take on a slightly darker and “grittier” tone than previous games. If you recall, the Avatar was welcomed as a hero, at least for the short term, but by the end of the quest, the visit may have caused more harm that good. Because of that, the event of cataclysm may actually be related to the Avatar himself. I sense this could lead to bad feelings by the citizenry.
There is a reason there are multiple Avatars in the world and they have a particular destiny, perhaps more than one. But that will have to discovered through exploration.
Richard did confirm that the new land will be called New Britannia, but that may not be the name of the continent you’re on. Brittany will be the largest town and there will be other towns to the northwest that reference Scandinavian rooted names such as Valhold and down to the Southeast we may find cities like Celestus.
While the overall story is multiplayer there are aspects of the story that will be unique to the individual Avatar. Richard and Tracy eluded to the idea of multiple endings of perhaps a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style story where multiple paths can be taken that lead to the same or perhaps different ends and not everyone travels the same path. While that sounds incredibly complicated from a story and coding perspective, it sounds pretty awesome from the gameplay stance. Could we actually play the game multiple times and go on different story arcs each time? Wow, think about that from a replay standpoint. What if you chose not to save the villagers, or you got there too late, or you chose one quest over the other? If the game changes based on those actions you would have quite a branching tree of a story to follow time and time again. I don’t know if that’s what they meant, but I get that impression. My interpretation.
The Avatar is your essence in the New Britannia world. Like the Chronicles or Narnia you’re Avatar is your window to interacting with others. Your age, health and lifespan may not directly correlate to the world you’re in. With that in mind, Richard alluded to the idea of how death would be handled in the game. It hasn’t been definitively defined, but there was a reference to how players would treat you if/when they discover you are from the other world. If the history of the land shows that you died in Britannia, but yet you exist here in the world, what does that mean about death? Does that mean you are actually already dead? Immortal? Cursed or damned? Are you playing as the undead on the road to redemption? Is this some sort of Purgatory? Richard threw out quite a few ideas so I’d really be interested to see how other people interpreted what he said. I had all sorts of interpretations for what he was saying. I even made connections to Paranormal Activity.
Richard and Tracy will be looking for backstory contributions from the Community. They are looking for contributors at the Developer level and higher to add their own personal tales to the lore. For example, there is a Fort Graf that Tracy named. Richard became friends with a jeweler in New York by the name of Graff. Ultimately this jeweler made his wedding rings and other pieces of jewelry. From there, Fort Graf has some the richest gem mines and gold deposits in all the land. There are other pieces he added based on his personal relationships. He is looking for people to help tell the tale of how they got to New Britannia. You are brought by the Lunar Rift, but how did it appear to you? What were you doing? What was you life like before the event? This will be an experience players can bring in to the game that is unique to them.
Richard and Tracy plan to play the game as often as they can. They will interact with players, host events and wander around to “meet and greet”.
The Virtues of the world will be familiar, but how they’re treated might be a little different. Remember, the world has been rebuilt after the cataclysm. Things will have developed differently. Society will have evolved differently. Things definitely won’t be the same as how we left them.
Tracy is looking for ways for people to contribute stories in-game. We’ve heard from Chris that we should be able to write in books and leave those for other players. Tracy is looking to expand this and give players tools for adding their own content that becomes part of the world. Sounds like he is talking far more reaching than books.
Neither of them would go into specifics when it comes to monsters, but there is an explosion-creation myth. It will explain how creatures came into being and how others disappeared. When building creatures they asked what kind of beast it should be and why should it be there? What purpose does it serve in this world? Where did it come from? What it’s ancestry? They didn’t take the creatures or their history lightly. There has to be a reason behind everything they do. Things have to exist or function for a certain reason.
Finally, Tracy is going to begin work on the backstory novel in the very near future. It will be released as a serial novel, meaning he will release chapters online as he finishes them and those at the Developer level and higher will be allowed to read and comment. He is looking for feedback on how to shape the lore and tie all the pieces of the story together. These will be posted over time then published once all the chapters have been offered to the Community. This sounds extremely exciting. We’ll have the chance to watch a novel actually get written and take shape. We may even have a part in molding it. If pieces don’t fit together we can help adjust them. If a side story would help fill in some gaps we could offer that as an idea and perhaps even have the chance to write it. This is going to be a whole lot of fun.
I’m sure there are pieces I’m missing. This is definitely worth watching as Richard and Tracy offer up a ton of information about the new world. We’re given a glimpse into the chaos that has shaped the world and the hesitation they may feel at welcoming these outsiders. The Avatar hasn’t always brought good fortune to Britannia so the return may signal yet more dark times. There will be plenty of opportunities to contribute and the Developer chats and forums will give a direct line of feedback to the team.
Tracy is just itching to give out details about the story, but is just as anxious for people to discover it. I’m really excited about the plot and can’t wait to learn more. As I said, this is the part of the RPG that interests me.
And last but not least, don’t forget that Stephen Daniele will be drawing some more art for us on Thursday at 3PM CST. If I remember correctly he is going to be working with magic, sorcery and perhaps a waterfall.
More brilliant musings about my adventures in New Britannia
- Wondering about the SotA story? Progress has been made! Dev Hangout for 4/30 will feature Tracy Hickman and Richard Garriott talking about the story
- The Virtues of Shroud of the Avatar – A Dev Hangout
- Truth, Love and Courage plus The State of the Realm – A Dev Hangout
- Dev Hangout – Chris Spears, Richard Garriott – PvP and PvE
- Dev Hangout 5-23 at 3PM CST – Richard, Tracy and Chris discuss their progress so far
- Some highlights from the Shroud of the Avatar "Streamathon"
- Lord British reaches his goals for Shroud of the Avatar
- Blade of the Avatar to be expanded to a printed Trilogy
- Hangout of the Avatar 7-8-2013
- Developer Chat Recap for 5/31/2013–Housing, Adventure and Multiplayer