You Meet Some of the Coolest People when you Collaborate


SHG Studios has a history of finding interesting opportunities for collaboration.  Over the years, we have found artists within our communities to make images for stories in our games.  We have worked with web comics, bringing their characters into cameo strips, set in our games.  Cosplayers from North America and Europe have worked with us to bring characters from our game to life.  These have all been worthwhile partnerships and we’ve enjoyed them all.  Our latest collaboration, however, generated the most excitement yet within our development team.

In mid September, we released a new exclusive commission for Star Pirates.  This story was not written by our usual crew though.  This was a collaboration with award winning Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer.

Robert Sawyer
Photo courtesy of Bernard Clark

Robert is the only Canadian to ever win all three of the science-fiction field’s top honours for best novel of the year. He won the Hugo Award in 2003, the Nebula Award in 1996 and  the John W. Campbell Memorial award in 2006. Robert has extensive experience working in a variety of mediums having previously worked with other game studios and in bringing his novel FlashForward to ABC, a recognized hit for the broadcaster.  His twenty-three novels include Red Planet Blues, Triggers, Calculating God, and the “WWW” trilogy of Wake, Watch, and Wonder, each volume of which separately won the Aurora Award — Canada’s top honor in science fiction — for Best Novel of the Year.

This opportunity was exciting to us for two reasons; First, many of our staff have read Robert’s books.  Myself, I have read the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy and I know that AdminIce is working through the WWW trilogy.  Second, leveraging a professional writer for our game content raises the bar. The stories Robert writes are always engaging, based on hard science, and fun to read.  Exactly the qualities we want for a game that has enjoyed such a long shelf life.

But our dev team is not sitting idle either.  World War Mobile development is progressing well and next month we begin work on Star Pirates Infinity, our new CCG title. Zombie Moon has benefited from some back end changes to reinforce the store and free offers.  Another exclusive commission for Star Pirates is nearing completion and, my most daunting tasks, we are exploring an Ascension for Gates of Camelot.  Perhaps the only drawback of working with Robert is, as I now undertake the task of writing for Gates of Camelot, I find myself walking in the footsteps of a giant.

Much of my time this month will be focused on the Ascension for Gates of Camelot.  this is both an opportunity and a challenge for us.  Star Pirates and Spy Battle have already determined the framework for an Ascension and provide us with much of the underlying code base.  However, there are some story based decisions we have never considered in Gates of Camelot terms.


Ascensions take place in isolated locations.  GoC has had only one map so we must determine where it would take place.  Ascensions also have rewards such as medals and an item slot.  These need to be created and be consistent with the current theme of the game.  The writing is certainly daunting, usually around twenty thousand words or more and the encounters need the right balance.

Most challenging though at this time is the graphics requirement.  All of our artists are currently needed for other projects.  We will likely be faced with a choice between delaying the release until we have resources to allocate to graphics or accept that the quantity of images for the Gates of Camelot Ascension will be reduced.  This will likely become a community discussion in the next few days.  Stop into the Gates of Camelot forums if you’d like to offer an opinion on this.

So I guess it’s back to writing for me.  Well, maybe just one more chapter of Wake first…

Ascension Q&A

What is Ascension?

Ascension is a mission players can choose to take on – as part of that mission, experience, statistics, points, bank accounts and possessions are temporarily set aside. It is similar to “starting over” at level 5 – with no ability to trade with other players. At successful mission completion, a significant Completion Bonus is applied. Research, accumulated experience and items accumulated are converted back to the main account.

What’s this Completion Bonus?

This depends upon the specific Ascension Mission (in first release, there is a single mission – there will be more added over time). The first mission pays out 1,000,000 experience points to each of the player’s Officers in Star Pirates (Underworld Contacts in Spy Battle). It also unlocks a new item slot.

Wait – 1,000,000 Experience?

This experience bonus is for Officers and Underworld Contacts – an additional 1,000,000 experience is not given to the player. Note that this is 1,000,000 for each – this is not divided among the officers and the 10% ratio does not apply. If you are calculating quickly, yes this equates earning 40,000,000 experience divided out using the usual 10% accrual rate.

What About Player Experience and Statistics?

All experience accumulated while Ascending is added to the Regular Account when you Complete Ascension.  In other words, the accounts are merged.

A New Item Slot?

In Spy Battle, this is Nanoglyphs (name may change – but the poll has a clear leader). In Star Pirates, this is a Protocol. In both games, only one of these items may be active at a time and these are findable while Ascending and transfer back to the Regular Account at Mission Completion. After Completing Ascension, this slot and any items of this type remain open for your use in your Regular Account – however items of this type can be found only while Ascending.

Hold On: Star Pirates Doesn’t Have Item Slots!

Until now. A protocol is a single slot which any ship class may use – it is an operating procedure with pros and potentially some cons.  It is tied to the specific player and crew – it cannot be used by nor transferred to another player nor ship (though they can be sold back to the game).  These can be found by players in hourly (and points-based) searches while Ascending.

Nanoglyphs!  Tell Me More!

Nanoglyphs are patterned nanotech implanted into the subdermal layer of spies – each is uniquely customized to the person using them.  They are bonded to your neural net forever and cannot be used by anyone else (though they can be sold back to the game).  These can be found by players in hourly (and points-based) searches while Ascending.

How Do I Start Ascending?

A new Mission will appear in the Missions list. Starting this Mission will bring up a confirmation – clicking any of the mission links will start Ascension and $500,000 is deducted from the Regular Account bank balance. All loaned items are returned, funds and existing cash on hand is returned to the bank.

You must be Level 40 to start Ascension and your Fleet or Faction must not have a war upcoming. You must have Notorious Star Pirate or Special Agent Status to start Ascension. If your status runs out, Ascension will be paused by the system – to resume later, you must pay $500,000 and qualify. This pause is not the same as an “Auto-Pause” (see below).

How do I Complete Ascension?

You must progress through – and win – the Ascension Mission. Unlike player-created Missions where scripted encounters use weapon names and encounter names but select opponent statistics at random, Ascension Missions have scripted encounters which must be defeated before the mission can continue. As a safeguard, there are level requirements at specific key points – you must reach the level before you can continue.

Can I Ascend Multiple Times?

No, but potentially in the future.  At release, the Ascension Mission is a one-time mission, although players can Pause and Resume as often as desired once the mission is Completed it is finished. There are plans to allow repeats of specific missions in future.

What if I Buy a Ship or Safehouse?

This is sold back to the game and credited to the Regular Account bank balance at successful Ascension Completion.

Can I Transfer to the Ascending Account?

You may not transfer points, funds nor items to the Ascending Account – not from another Ascending player, nor from a Regular player, nor from your own Regular Account, nor from the Markets.

Can I Transfer from the Ascending Account?

You can transfer points from your Ascending Account to the Regular Account. You must have Paused Ascension to do so.

What if I Need to Stop Ascending?

You can select to Pause Ascending (from Settings). You can then Start Ascending, pay the $500,000 again and the mission and Ascending Account will pick up where it left off.

What About Fleet and Faction Management?

Players start Ascending at level 5 – this means ladder eligibility is not affected. Leaders can still control memberships, promotions, loans, vaults and armories – but while Ascending they may not access vaults nor armories for their or any other Ascending Account.

What About Wars?

At the time a Faction or Fleet War is declared, all Ascending members in both groups are automatically “Auto-Paused”. When the War completes, players who were Auto-Paused are automatically resumed. There is no control over this by the players – there is no cost to resume Ascension as a Result. Take care with this feature – note this is at the time of war declaration, not when the war is underway. It may be advisable for players who wish to focus exclusively on Ascending to leave their Fleet or Faction to do so to avoid an unexpected interruption.

How Does Upgrade Account Work While Ascending?

Notorious and Special Agent days are used up on both accounts at the same time and carry over from Regular Account to Ascending Account.
Purchases you make while Ascending credit your Ascending account.
Purchases made by another player for you credit your regular account – NOT your Ascending account (this means you will benefit from the SA days but not points in that case).
Purchases made while you have paused Ascending credit your regular account.

What about Purchases That Are Delayed by Payment Provider processing?

Certain purchases can take time to clear (ie. e-cheques). If the purchase was made while you were ascending and you have not completed the ascension mission yet, the purchase will be applied to your Ascension account (whether you are currently ascending or have paused ascension). If you have completed ascension, the purchase will be applied to your Regular Account.

In any case, you will receive an in-game PM with the details of your purchase and information on which account it was applied to.

New Hall of Fame Category?

Yes – a new Ascending Hall of Fame is part of this release. This tracks overall time to completion for each Ascending Mission.

When Does this Go Live?

We will announce the release date later this week. We want to ensure everyone has time to set aside to enjoy it. We’re getting close to “Back to School” days and final summer vacations and want everyone to enjoy as they wish.  We intend to provide at least 7 days notice before such a large update to the games would go live.

Is there a Bonus for the Very First Player to Complete Ascension?

Yes.  There will be a unique medal given to the first player to complete ascension.

In Star Pirates, the first player to do so will be given a small item known as a Mjolnir  — check the item guide.  (Please note we would appreciate players treating this prize and their health with respect and care.  There is no point in winning it if your gut is damaged due to a dozen Red Bulls worth of insominia!)

A subsequent announcement will reveal the bonus for Spy Battle.

A Leap in Memory Science!

Huge Leap Forward in Artificial Memory Science!

Cognitive Research Group, Building 8 – July 6

“MEMORY is a tricky thing,” says artificial intelligence entity Admin256, the chief administrator of SnakeHead Cognitive Research Group (SCRG), “but we think we’ve got the cure.”

The Admin256 unit and its team has been working carefully for some time now on an innovative new neural interface product that the SCRG calls the Ascension Device. “The hope of Ascension is that it can help you smooth away all those unpleasant memories that regenabots cannot heal.” Humans, demihumans, cyborgs and other organic sapients in our modern times often complain about the psychological ravages of the experiences that they have had. Ascension, the unit claims, is the cure for the various maladies and psychoses these experiences cause.

“Once you undergo our mild and virtually painless treatment, you will find yourself happier and without all that pesky experience that has been bringing you down.” As a bonus, the Device even implants new memories in the place of the old ones to give the recipient the illusion of having a far better life.

Totally Painless!
The almost pain-free Ascension Treatment

Despite the newness of this technology, many have signed up in advance to be among the first humans tested in this experiment. With no chance of permanent physical damage to their bodies, subjects have said, like one interviewee found at the SnakeHead facility, “What have I got to lose?” The future looks bright for these brave souls, who, indeed, have nothing to lose but their minds. SnakeHead expects to be able to market the Ascension process within the year.

Article courtesy of:

All the news that other papers won't print!