Starr Long

Portalarium Burns The Dream Of Blackstone Bluff

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The Shroud of the Avatar community was rocked to it’s very foundation this week, go hyperbole, when none other than the great housing mogul Blake Blackstone announced his departure (Shroud Unlimited Forum Post) from it. I won’t try and speak for Blake as I am sure this is much more complex than we’ll ever know, but I can have some educated opinions on the matter based on the Ghost of Portalarium Past.

Although Blake didn’t really seem to carry the same stigma attached to the definition, there is no doubt he was a Shroud of the Avatar Whale. Blake was into Shroud of the Avatar from anywhere between $40,000 and $60,000! If that isn’t a Whale, you can call me Ahab. Blake created quite a decent looking website and theme behind his Player Owned Town Blackstone Bluff, and despite his status as a SotA Whale he always seemed like a person who was pretty logical and reasonable about what he said and asked for to me.

Jumping into the croundfunding of Shroud of the Avatar for 60k large must have earned Blake a lot of lunar cred with Portalarium, right? Well, what do we know? We know that Portalarium, most notably Richard Gariott and Starr Long, are into the idea of a “Land Rush” and were headed towards it balls to the wall.

“We want people to feel value and attachment, we want to create a thriving economy. Players want their home and businesses to be in high-traffic locations.”


– Starr Long

This statement by Starr does seem to echo the early vision in which Richard had during the Kickstarter campaign for Shroud of the Avatar. I’ll admit even I was interested in this due to being able to place a vendor on the property stuffed full of all the chairs and clock parts I steal from dead crafters, so I jumped in at Citizen which included a tax free lot.

Blake Blackstone must have been interested in this also, after all he did have a large number of high value properties and Player Owned Towns. Ah, yes, Player Owned Towns. Humbug! I don’t want to dwell on this all that much as it isn’t the main subject of this post so I’ll just say this; everything Player Owned Towns are and stand for are a slap in the face to every early backer who bought into this “Land Rush.” It was a poorly executed bait and switch, we went from valued player homes in game towns straight to unlimited and valueless lots in both instanced and non-instanced Player Owned Towns. So much for the westward expansion, we’ve just entered the black hole of the unlimited housing multiverse. Which makes this next statement pretty special.

“There won’t be any more left. That’s when we think the secondary market between players will really pick up, when people will want to sell real estate between players.”


– Starr Long

That would have been interesting, it really is too bad that Richard’s vision of having something special will never come to be. I bring this up because Blake’s announcement comes just two around two weeks after this announcement. This could be pure coincidence but it is a rather large paradigm shift, it goes against everything they’ve always said about Player Owned Towns and housing lots being limited and of value.

“We absolutely believe people will group themselves not just on individual pieces of land but in adjacent land as well. Over time certain villages and towns will start to define themselves with certain characteristics. Some of those groupings will be influenced by the nature of the game world, proximity to resources being the biggest factor, but sometimes the groupings will just be based on common play patterns like adventuring, gardening or commerce…”

– Starr Long

Well what can I say, it seems that they’ve put all their efforts indeed into Player Owned Housing. Everything that has been said about this matter will now need to be reset and we’ll have to start the Housing Clock at 12:01AM.

Blake came into SotA after Player Owned Towns were available, but still limited. He went to work and produced Blackstone Bluff and worked with/in Tantalus Consortium, of which Blackstone Bluff was the Capitol, as well as the leader of The Weeping Seven. This isn’t someone like me packing up and leaving, Blake’s departure is going to be noticed and by people who were involved with him I would guess quite sorely missed. Why did Blake leave!

If you wish to know beyond all doubt I would encourage you to speak with Blake on the matter so he can dispel any rumours, some of which I’m about to spin myself. Since Blake got in on the action a little bit later than some of the other Whales I can immediately see that there would be a problem as an, outlander, of course. Both by players and developers a like, Blake was probably treated like a second class citizen even despite his seemingly massive buy-in to Shroud of the Avatar. We’ve seen it all before, if you aren’t hand picked by a developer then it seems as if you’re just someone insignificant to their little niche game. This attitude is rampant in members of the community and has been this way for years now. It even looks to have permeated into Portalarium itself, if not fostered as an indirect result of how Portalarium has actually been dealing with the community. You decide…

There is a long list of things being handled by friends of the developers, whether or not the person doing it is actually qualified to do so which is the real shame here. The initial commitment from the team to leverage the backers for crowdfunded assets and resources was admirable, but it was clearly shot in the face some time ago. Even as they were pushing the now failed marketing for limited valued housing in Shroud of the Avatar, Portalarium had been handing out preferential things to people severely under-qualified as best as one can tell(part 1, part 2, part 3).

Yes, there is a long and noted history of Portalarium handing these things out without justification or qualification what so ever who are seemingly nothing more than friends to them. With so many talented and qualified people out there that is only going to hurt them in the long run, as quite easily demonstrated by Blake Blackstone’s departure from Shroud of the Avatar.

What is the message in all of this? Learn from Blake. Blake went into SotA at a massive level, tens of thousands of dollars, yet seemingly at every turn I can see him running into roadblock after roadblock trying to simply follow up on the simple rewards in which his pledge and Player Own Town afforded him. So much so he must have felt he would have been accomplishing nothing. Even worse we’ve also seen before how the Portalarium can just change things whenever they wish, so Blake could just have easily fell victim to many other bait and switch tactics through his dealings with them.

The message is Blake started outside the Portalarium’s inner circle and was never going to be a part of it. Neither are you. Know your place.





Starr Long Confirms Player Owned Town Delays Shroud of the Avatar

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delaySimple illustration on effects of delays to a project.

Let me just say one thing, because I don’t think enough people know this. I want Shroud of the Avatar to succeed.  You read that correctly, I do. What I really wanted from Shroud of the Avatar was an awesome single player game from the days of old. That ship has sailed however and we will not get that. The MMO driver was too great, too attractive for Portalarium to ignore as a business. Do I still want something good to play from them? Yes.

More delays though. This release has included a new batch of 133 Player Owned Towns. That is correct, one hundred and thirty-three. 100+33. That is a large number of Player Towns, and certainly a lot of work went into them, right? According to a lot of the people on the Shroud of the Avatar forums, no!

“Again, it’s complete speculation on your part that PoT design and development has been at the expense of the majority of players.”

duchess pls giv me ur drugs gurl

“My point remains – PoT implementation is NOT the*main* *single* or *major* culprit when it comes to a delay of game release. End. Of. Story.”

duchess pls giv me ur drugs gurl

Duchess Wyldemane, Multiple Player Town Owner.

duchess pls giv me ur drugs gurl

Duchess there seems pretty certain about all this, I wonder if she is defending Player Towns because she owns a couple of them? Her first quotable was a bit different, where she said that PoT implementation is not the culprit at all when it comes to game release. “End. Of. Story.” Clearly she saw the error of her ways and edited the post..

Forget about the community members defending their investments, what do the actual Developers and Project Managers of Shroud of the Avatar have to say about the matter though? We have a pretty good indication now thanks to this recent write up byRed Thomas, CEO of Texas company RedKnight marketing. Red here is no stranger to Shroud of the Avatar:

“During my recent trip to Austin, Starr Long and I had a chance to have one of those bigger picture conversations about the state of Shroud of the Avatar.”

lulz pots are fucked – end of story duchess wyldfart!

“Up to this point, developers have been working with town owners to customize each instance, and that’s taking up a lot more time than anyone really expected or desired.”

lulz pots are fucked – end of story duchess wyldfart!

– Red Thomas, CEO RedKnight marketing

lulz pots are fucked – end of story duchess wyldfart!

Right, Starr has disclosed what most of the critical thinking minds already knew and wished everyone would just accept and understand: Player Towns are sucking down Development resources. Not only have they been working with the owners to customize their instances, we have to assume around 100 of them now, in conjunction with that they created and deployed the Player Town tools on top of that work. This came out of Starr’s mouth, in person no misunderstanding to an interviewer(maybe?) who visited him on premise.  The SotA Forum-norm may now accept it, acknowledge it, and live it.

One final thought here, and I’m not sure this ever clicked with me before I suppose because I could give a flying frack about housing. It appears that the reason we have this small and ill-conceived dual scale map system with the Overland map was simply to cater for house lot investment by high level backers.

“Probably the biggest lesson learned from Ultima Online was that people want to have their own housing. The second biggest lesson was that players would rapidly turn intended wilderness into trans-Britannia suburbia in rapid order…”

lulz pots are fucked – end of story duchess wyldfart!

“They solved the issue by creating instanced communities, with some of them being NPC controlled and central to game plots.”

lulz pots are fucked – end of story duchess wyldfart!

– Red Thomas, CEO RedKnight marketing

lulz pots are fucked – end of story duchess wyldfart!

Damn. Our gorgeous monoscale map was killed by housing. /sadface


Starr Goes Beserk? – Shroud of the Avatar Dev Alt Accounts

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I’ve long suspected a few accounts out there to be fake Dev shells. But never one I’ve written about, until now. Katrina Bekers(Beserk). Funny too, as Katrina the symbol of all things Humility was selected for the name of this fake account. A few things over the past few days and a few key words have really flared up and made this a little too obvious.


Shit, I’m not even surprised! Only in the fact that it was a bit easy to uncover this due to some pretty silly shit. Everyone has forum Alt accounts. Moderators aren’t allowed to post as their mod accounts, they have Alts. Carebears who wish to strengthen their agreement with how things are going have Alts. Those of us who have been banned for speaking the truth have Alts. Those who don’t see eye to eye and are afraid of being banned have Alts. I am myself an Alt, and I have Alts of Alts ffs. Alts are a thing.

Well, they were a thing. They are about to be severely cut back due to Starr’s policy of locking everyone out of the forum until they pay $5 to gain access. The people who run the show however like Startrina there, will still be free to speak as one of us, a wolf amongst the sheep, until the end. However it comes. And, we all fucking deserve it too. Who has stood up for everyone who hasn’t already backed the game? Not many.

Back to the good old Portalarium mission statement.

“Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Starr Long Climbs Bullshit Mountain – Bans User For Fact Checking

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 The Maze – Nobody Remembers The Maze…
I tell you folks. It’s harder than it looks. It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna be king of Bullshit Mountain. Gamasutra popped a video from the GDC Vault where Starr Long was speaking about crowdfunding. Yes, it is tricky business Starr and that is why I already gave you this:
darkstarr-cupYeah, put that right back on cos you goin for a ride on a broken road baby. I’m not going to get too personal and attack everything Starr has said, though it might be possible right at the start. Example, Ultima Online isn’t the first MMOG. Does anyone remember The Maze? Sure, maybe it was the first MMORPG because Lord British happened to create the term as UO was released, but yeah sure not the first MMOG. You need ARPANET for that bro and I can lawyer you on that.
Starr got to talking about an Ecosystem in which a self sustaining entity would rise from contributions between Developers and Contributes. That is important, this is one of the large reasons I put money on the Kickstarter for Shroud of the Avatar was this promise of a relationship where things would be exposed to and driven by the community. Nothing would have made me happier than to take place and be a large part in some way of building the next Ultima. It just isn’t happening and I’m not the only one who knows this not to mention not being alone in letting others know about it for a while now too.
05:55 in the video Starr begins to talk points about this Ecosystem in crowdfunding. Right off the start on this topic I can quote him directly as saying:

05:55 “So the first one that we believe pretty strongly that’s key to any of these kinds of projects and if your attempting to build a loop is transparency, and you know a lot of people are using the term now open development. That starts with some pretty simple things like having a public and private forum, having an IRC that people can talk about the game, but we also do things like on our project we post our daily stand-up notes to our forums.”

That is sounding great. Transparency, I love it. Getting access to what the Devs are doing on a daily basis and understanding the process is even better! As Starr says, those are some pretty simple things. But the only thing they have managed to actually accomplish, after months of waiting even at the beginning of the project, is simply to have a public and private forum. So if so simple, why then is Portalarium not meeting these items in their crowdfunding Ecosystem? When it comes to Portalarium four words can sum up their entire effort: Concept Good. Delivery Bad.
Starr then continues along those lines of the scrums with some even greater faux pas, and listen it isn’t like I can sit in his chair and do any better and I hate splitting hairs like this. I’m not saying I can or ever could, but what I can see with my own eyes and report from my own experience on this project is simply that what he is saying has not actually happened yet. Well they split hairs, so I think then I can do a little bit of that as well.

06:43 “…each person goes around the room, says what they are working on. What they worked on yesterday, what they are working on today, and if they’re blocked. We post those notes directly to our forums so each day the people who’re backing the project can look on the forums, they can see where every dollar is going, every person on the team, what they are working on.”

No. Just no. Not once have I or anyone else in the Dev+ private forum actually seen where a single dollar has been spent and or allocated to the game. In fact, there are many many questions we all have on how money is actually being spent in Shroud of the Avatar. We can’t get answers though because when we quietly ask them they are ignored. When we verbosely ask them, our posts are removed. When we yell for them, we are banned. Fuck the Transparency Starr mentions in his Ecosystem, it doesn’t exist and the community might as well be talking in a vacuum for all the information we get out of Portalarium. Hold on, we’re not done yet.

07:38 “We also have a weekly Q&A with our backers so they’re able to submit questions to the forums, they’re collated, we pick a Top 5, we answer those five questions, those get posted to the forums as well. Sometimes if that information impacts something we didn’t document before we’ll in turn update the FAQ to reflect the answering of some of those questions. “

I had to roll my eyes at this too, we’ve been here before time and time again. There is no longer any Q&A with the Shroud of the Avatar Developers, it was put on the back burner a while back. I believe the main reason that this was done, believe it or not, is because it came from the community and wasn’t something they really wanted to get behind. Every week questions were posted into the forum thread, for that week, which were then collated by Mitch and basically spoon fed to the Developers. Folks, they couldn’t even manage to address them! Then when a heated discussion about the Q&A/FAQ came up, they leapt at their chance to can the entire thing. That seemed perfect for Starr’s ecosystem, the community did a weeks worth of posting and discussion on the biggest questions we had and like I said the top questions were then spoon fed to the Devs. It didn’t work though, the writing was on the wall that it wasn’t going to, and as the link above shows they shut it down as ineloquently as everything else they have where the community is involved.
About that FAQ that Starr mentioned? Documentation he sad? Where’s that? Oh in the FAQ? You mean the one that enderandrew wrote for you(google Shroud of the Avatar FAQ and open the first two links kids, one in the same)? Yes, the FAQ has been produced by ‘the community’ too though a great deal of trials and tribulation with one member, enderandrew who like many others was run out of the forum by the unprofessional moderator staff on the Shroud of the Avatar forum.  Wow, there is a lot of back-history here where I have to link stuff huh? Check the post dates, as said, nothing new.

09:05 “There is a pledge tier called Developer, and that’s at the $450 pledge level. Anyone at that level or above, cos we have people who give us more money than that, I’m humbled always, but at that level we provide you assets. We try to provide a regular delivery of that somewhere in the 30 to 60 day range, you get game assets we’re using in the game, so that can be a dungeon set, that can be decorative items, that can be flora that can be fauna, it can be creatures it can be wear-ables, weapons, basically anything and everything that we’ve built for the game we provide to the people who backed us at that level.”

There it is. The flag has been firmly planted atop bullshit mountain! These assets are posted on Dev+ forum, that is what it means: Developer pledge level Plus higher pledge level forum. They are not posted every 30 days, not every 60 days. not even every 120 days, and I am not even going to waste another 30 mins of my time tracking down when the last fucking asset release was because it isn’t worth it. I’ve already spent hours on this post and I’m 9mins through an hour long fucking video!
Look. Watch the video. It is interesting all be it at the point it was recorded, before it was recorded, and to this date it is really bullshit so take every single word with a grain of salt. Their Ecosystem is broken, we might as well all be choking on carbon monoxide right now in a runaway greenhouse effect. I want to believe something like this can work, I want to believe that it will still work for Shroud of the Avatar and that this project just doesn’t turn into a hole in the ground with a bunch of RP house decorating guys pretending to be girls douche bags marrying each other.
One last quote from Starr which comes from the SotA forum this time. The post in question was created by Myrcello, and I have to hand it both to Myrcello and Smack for trolling all this news up from the internet, placing it in a burning paper bag and dropping it into the SotA forum. Thanks to a most virtuous Whistle Blower, I have some of the history in this thread to post because what is left over there now there certainly does not reflect how the community feels about the majority of the comments. When in doubt, lock the thread, clean it up, and post:

“I just want to let everyone know that we are fully aware that we can do better at this and we are trying to (even when it may look like we are not). Some things (like the weekly Q&A) have fallen by the wayside since I first gave this talk many months ago while others have lain fallow even longer than that. I understand also how the omission of that information can be frustrating to many of you who are passionate about crowd sourcing. It was never my intention in this talk to mislead anyone about our state but I did choose to focus on the positives of the experience versus the challenges.

With that said I think when I give this talk again I will give more time to places where we can do better and where it has not worked as we had hoped.”

– Starr Long

Starr, that seems and actually feels even to me like a legitimate statement. What sours that is when you suppress those frfrustratedoices, delete their posts, correct the attitude with your comments, and then finish by banning the user(s) who posted the concerns. Come on man. You are far from unreasonable, shit you let me back in the forum after a wrongful termination once even though it led to a second and equally wrongful termination, but what gives? Where is the bloody Transparency in this Ecosystem you have been speaking about? If you want to really improve things, simply stop trying to cover up and apologize for these laggy processes, stop banning users for asking questions and speaking the truth. Start telling us what steps you are taking to correct the process, show us results and I think you’ll find that real Transparency will actually be healthy to your Ecosystem.
Speaking of the Ban Hammer… It seems that the Shroud of the Avatar user Joviex, who has created code and cooperated with another member directly submitting those assets to Shroud of the Avatar has just been banned for speaking his mind on this matter in that post, read his words for yourself:
Make sure to keep your friends on this Blog updated as to your status Joviex! I think this is pretty unfair of course!