Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues is one step closer to its final version.
After launching on Early Access on PC in November 2014, Richard Garriott's kickstarted, spiritual successor to Ultima finally reached persistence in late July, meaning developer Portalarium is done wiping the game's servers. While this doesn't qualify as the fantasy MMO's official launch — a line that's already "blurry" at best, Garriott told Polygon — it does mark a stable state for the game. In the last two weeks, the game's player count has gone from hundreds of concurrencies to thousands.
"We're only halfway through the month, and it's already the biggest month we've ever had since the start of the game from a contributions and support standpoint," Garriott said.
That comes with some stricter standards, especially in the case of hackers. Garriott said that in the early days of development, some players reached out to Portalarium with a strange request: Do you mind if I make a bot?
"Automatic ban, you're out. That's it."
"We're going like, 'Well, of course we eventually think that a bot will be our enemy, but why not?'" he said. "Because that will let us both explore what can be done and as long as you agree that the bot our friend will make is not malicious, it helps us understand the vulnerabilities of the system. We've actually worked with some of the people who do find hack-y ways to cheat early on, and now we've sort of switched modes into OK, now we're changing into real life."
In other words, the bans have begun. According to Garriott, the team has banned only a handful of people so far under this stricter standard. The team most commonly finds players speed hacking, which allows the to jet around the game's world faster than usual.
"We'll just ban you as soon as we find out, which will be very quickly," he said. "You'll no longer be playing this game. Automatic ban, you're out. That's it.
"We have very strict terms of service, to make sure that everyone that does that understands."
However, Shroud of the Avatar remains months away from its official launch of its first episode. Garriott said that while the team has worked to keep that date as close to the end of the year as possible, "in the end, it'll probably be a little further out of the year." That launch will mark the release of the first episode's full storyline.
"We will then continue to build not only new features into this existing version, but then we start building the Episode 2 storyline, which we'll embargo from even the players until we get much further along," Garriott said."That's the closest thing we have to a traditional launch, will be in January to March."