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March 2000 - Patch Page


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Darkness Ascendant

On a bluff overlooking Khayyaban, Jenavere and Hendac stood with the old woman, silhouetted by the setting sun, which had been dwindling over the last three months and now glowed a feeble red. Sulfur-tinted clouds had been racing across the land all day. A storm was brewing. Soon, the looming dark of the Demon would be seen on the northern horizon. It appeared more frequently of late -- little wonder the three Master Smiths had hastened to finish the design of their new gemstone armor.

The moons hung low in the east -- swollen, filling more of the sky every day. Some whispered they were falling. Hendac had called it a Hunter's Moon, and Jena had shivered. She held a sputtering torch close to the ground. Just beyond them in a large circle, the sand had changed to a fine, ash-gray powder. “What do you think, Mistress Najmima?” she said. “Is it like the others?”

The old archmage walked to the center of the ash. She stretched out her palms, closed her eyes, and flinched as if struck. “Pain, child,” Najmima whispered. “A voice beneath here screams in agony. No . . . many voices, shrieking as one. Voices twisted together by black arts. Life rent and reformed to serve another's needs. It . . . they . . . have slept for ages, but are now bidden to wake and serve again. The magic coursing through the land . . . It twists around a black void. There is . . . a parasite beneath us.” Jena and Hendac exchanged a knowing look.

Rollout Article

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Darkness Ascendant

March 7, 2000

For months, floating Crystals and Shadow creatures have held stations in the wilderness, arranged like pieces in a game. Now they have mobilized. Rumored to have emerged from the earth, strange, twisted citadels hover over the land near several towns, and a vast, bat-winged figure is now regularly seen flickering like dark lightning amid the storm clouds. Have Dereth's heroes forced the leaders of the Shadows into some sort of desperate stand, or are these merely the opening moves in some larger and darker conflict?

Continuing our commitment to bring you a major new chapter in Dereth's saga every month, we introduce the March event! A relative calm prevails despite the ghastly floating citadels and other omens. Dereth's heroes have managed to extend the reach of civilization, so builders have constructed festival grounds in outlying areas and even a magnificent wedding hall to host the mass ceremonies traditional in the spring. Master Smiths tinkering with crystal fragments and shadow gems have managed to incorporate them into superior suits of armor. Perhaps most significantly, the Asheron's Call developers have embarked on a project to refine the graphics engine, introducing colored lighting effects and amazing new Drudges and Golems. The world of Asheron's Call will come into even sharper focus over the coming months. Thanks for joining us in the adventure!

For full details on the extensive changes made with this update, see Build Notes, March 2000, and the new State of the Code.

Spire2.jpg A menacing, spirelike citadel floats over the crater it formed when it erupted from the earth.

Lightdark.jpg Side by side, a brazier and a portal showcase the new colored lighting upgrade.

Sneak.jpg The game now features this revamped model for the common drudge.

Olthoidark1.jpg Green light reflects from the carapace of an Olthoi.

Olthoidark2.jpg Here we see similar lighting from all angles.

Magmadark.jpg The dread magma golem illuminates the hallway as it descends on an adventurer.

Obsidiandark.jpg The obsidian golem's many fine, sharp edges gleam in the torchlight.

Wood1.jpg To make a wood golem, the Empyrean had to dismember a tree. Obviously, this does not make the tree happy.

Water1.jpg The water golem now appears as a translucent, glittering cascade.

Sandstone1.jpg When a sandstone golem is on a mission, the drudges tend to hang back and see how things go.

Release Notes

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Asheron's Call Build Notes, March 7

Here are all the tiny little details of the game update that was made on March 7, 2000. This list is culled from “check-in” notes submitted by the game developers themselves. Things of greatest note are listed first.

We won't reveal many changes concerning the new story developments, as these hold opportunities for players to drive the saga forward, and we don't want to take away the fun of discovery. As usual, the Town Criers, Barkeeps, and Scribes may know the latest news! Also, the trades of crafting and selling are always in flux, so changes to prices and abilities of items are not always detailed here.

Detailed Notes for builds 2290-2296:

  • Colored lighting! Many lights, including the sun and moon, will now cast colored light in both hardware and software modes.
  • All-new Drudge models. Beautiful!
  • All-new Golem models. Gorgeous! Kill a golem today!
  • Wedding Hall added, plus fun wedding favors.
  • Festival Grounds have been added near the Festival Stones named Wintersebb (near Qalaba'r), Leafcull (near Yanshi), and Leafdawning (near Rithwic). These are great places to hold contests of skill, since they have dummy targets of various difficulty -- the Leafdawning one also has a racetrack!. Scribes sell directions to all Festival Stones. Whack an oaken Drudge today!
  • Hand-to-hand combat is easier versus moving targets. You will "stick" to your target more.
  • Weapons that use the dagger skill have never used coordination to determine their "damage modifier"; they used strength. They now use coordination, like they're supposed to according to the documentation. The higher your coordination, the more damage you will do. This was done by popular demand and hopefully will please more dagger-users than it will annoy. Since dagger-users have always needed coordination and not strength to improve their dagger skill, this change should help them focus their attribute-building. This affects the following classes of weapons: dagger, jambiya, khanjar, and knife.
  • Mages got proficiency-point gains for casting a spell on a creature, whether or not it resisted! This was broken compared to the way PP works for all other skills. Now, you don't gain PP by casting a spell unless the spell is NOT resisted by the target. This was a great way to gain PP, but it was unfair and broken, and it now is fixed.
  • You can no longer equip bows with crossbow bolts and crossbows with arrows. There was a clever loophole making this possible. It was never intended to be this way. Fixed.
  • Fixed bug where you couldn't strafe while walking or running in Thrown Combat mode.
  • Now if you cannot put a new craft object into your inventory (due to its being full or your being too encumbered), then you will get an error message and not complete the act. (You actually get a success then an error message; we will fix that later.) Still, it's a bad idea to have your main inventory be full, or to be at maximum encumbrance.
  • When shopping with maxed-out encumbrance, you'll find transactions are a bit easier. Still not a good idea, though.
  • Artifex Vault has a fix to a locked door that was confounding.
  • Lure Blade 1 updated. Was using wrong component. Lure Blade and Turn Blade spells had problems since they both shared the same formula.
  • When appraising lockable items, if you have the lockpick skill, they now display their lockpick difficulty appropriately.
  • True Value can now be cast on orbs, wands, and scrolls.
  • Olthoi Noble and Queen can fit through smaller spaces . . . beware.
  • Wells and Fountains in towns should be usable by players to get water. The solution here is pretty cool. Flasks can be used from a player's inventory on a well to get water! Shopkeepers sell flasks.
  • No matter what your Alchemy skill, as long as it is trained, you will use the Smelting Pot successfully.
  • Spell icons for Blade Bane/Lure, Bludgeon Bane/Lure, Acid Bane/Lure, Frost Bane/Lure, and Fire Bane/Lure updated with proper colors.
  • Life magic spells no longer work against characters in the purple-bubble stage before they materialize from a teleport.
  • A clever exploit made it possible to hold a chest open and leave the area. Not anymore.
  • You get a confirmation dialog when using uncharged mana stones on items that would be destroyed.
  • Errant “Tool was destroyed” messages fixed.
  • New creature emotes allow more flexible creative effects.
  • New technology introduced that sets the stage for more complex questing.
  • You can now use extended/accented characters in chat.
  • The dart (or whatever) throwing animations pushed a character back each throw -- back, back, back . . . Fixed.
  • Lugian Boulder launch needed a sound. Well I did better. I provided a sound for the Lugian boulder launch AND collision. And the landing now sounds NICE and LOUD!!!
  • Texture memory warning should only appear once after startup and after settings are changed.
  • Various infusions and oils now look like they should, with colored bottles as they appear on the ground matching the icons in inventory.
  • Female chest used to sink when putting on certain armors, allowing her head to float above her body slightly. No more.
  • Scrolled examine panel will now stay at the scroll point when its data is refreshed. Makes it easier to examine something when its mana is dropping.
  • After you inscribe an item, shortcut keys 1-9 could stop working. Fixed.
  • Golem stomp attacks no longer sound like sword-swishes, instead they sound like large stomps!
  • Projectile spells were colliding with floors of liquid hot magma! Fixed.
  • Overrode Mountain Rat level to 20 and added 346 CP. Rats are no harder; their level and CP are now more in line with their toughness.
  • Aluvian shopkeepers that sell bundles of arrowheads now buy them back. Others are being fixed later.
  • Icon for Iron Ore should look like a lump of rock, not an ingot. Fixed.
  • Slag item should look more like slag. Fixed.
  • Silencia's Golem emoted when handed an item, and it sounded like cows eating grass, according to the bug. OK, so it sounded like SCRATCHING, which all creatures do, but we agree that it was a bit too small a sound, and replaced it with grinding rock.
  • Empyrean lighthouse final degrade happens much farther back now.
  • Lightning Elementals bleed better!
  • Some male robes looked crummy at the back, many people claimed to look like a hunchback. Wanted me to either fix it or provide them chapel bell towers. I opted to fix it.
  • Skeletons never “bled” with particles from their top half. Fixed.
  • Add sound, degrade to the beeswarm.
  • Brittlemain and Impenetrability spells were using the wrong visual effect. Fixed.
  • Inscriptions and parchment/book text should be less prone to getting wiped out under odd circumstances.
  • The lightning dart particle effect is now positioned correctly.
  • Attempting to cast a spell whilst running caused character to stop but didn't cast spell. Fixed.
  • Creatures have a level-up effect now. Level up a bunny today!

Letter to the Players

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The Spin from Turbine

March 16, 2000

Greetings! I'm Scott Herrington, the Turbine Producer for AC and filling in for Chris Foster this month. Much like when Regis filled in for Letterman, you can expect the same format, but far less comedy.

We've been basking in some of your praise from the last event, talking about the new boost to the graphics engine, the purpose of the huge spires, and the revised golems and drudges. My hat's off to the art department and our programmers for getting that stuff in, as I think you'll agree that it looks fantastic. Dave, Jesse, and L'Etoile have been working overtime to keep the grand story of AC moving forward, and Eri's been trying to stay ahead of the crushing wave of content plans, features, and bug fixes that she's got to contend with every month. They're all doing a great job, and you won't believe what's coming up in the next few months.

From the chat, I know that you're all wondering about the “stickiness” issue. After the first few days, there was the knee-jerk reaction to the first wave of criticism: “Pull it out” Then, we started hearing a number of players say they liked the patch, and we thought: “Maybe we should just let it be . . .”

Well, we're not going to do either of those things. We just made some minor changes to the system, and introduced those on Thursday. We're confident that the change is beneficial for you. Does that mean we'll only make the one change and then quit? No. As long as a system seems out of whack, we'll fix it. There may be some further changes in future updates to close the gap between our intention and the implementation. I hope you'll stick around to see. (Sorry for the bad pun)

So, what else?

Here's some other stuff that I've wanted to talk about:

  • Don't give out your ZoneID and password to another player. Sounds like common sense, but it happens more often than you'd think and is the most common way people have their accounts “hacked.” Also beware of several shady programs out there that look innocent but are really designed to take control of your computer remotely, and can be used to hijack your character. Use your common Internet sense -- it's a mean world out there!
  • Use the Sentinels, Advocates, and Online Team for help if you think that something “fishy” is going on in the game world. They're there to help (by the way, no member of the Online Team should ever ask you for your password).

And yes, Chris “Slapp” Foster or another AC designer will be writing this article from here on out once they see how badly I've done this month's column.

--Scott "Gettin' my butt kicked on Morningthaw" Herrington
AC Producer

State of the Code

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State of the Code

March 20, 2000

My character is gone!!!
Don't panic! Due to maintenance and our minor game update (see below), we needed to reset the AC worlds a few times in the last two weeks. Each time we did so, we saw a rise in the incidence of characters that appeared to be missing. This used to be a rare occurrence that we had dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but now has become much more common. As a result, we have suspended our non-urgent maintenance schedule until we fix the problem.

All characters that fell victim to this bug are safe and will reappear soon. They are not deleted; they simply have lost their connection to your Zone ID in the database. We are restoring these characters every day, and will have them all brought back as soon as possible. For more information, please carefully read the system message on the character list screen, and follow its instructions exactly. We're deeply sorry for the inconvenience.

We are already testing a fix that will prevent this bug from haunting us again. The fix will be implemented on or before our major update in the first week of April.

Please note that characters that are deleted due to the actions of a user -- including the actions of a hacker who gains entry by one of the “Trojan horse” account-stealing programs that are becoming popular -- will not be restored. Protect yourself: thoroughly virus-scan all software you use from anything less than a completely trustworthy source; use “firewall” software or make sure your computer security is at its maximum; and do not have your ZoneID be automatically saved on your system. Unfortunately, the Internet still presents many security challenges beyond our control, but “safe computing” practices will protect you from almost every threat. Learn more at

I seem to have “time warped” back since the last time I was playing!
Some players have reported that they enter the world to find that their characters have “warped back in time”: they have the experience points, items, and location that they had minutes or hours before the time when they last left the game. In this way, recently acquired items can be lost. This will happen to a small degree, a few minutes' worth, if you are online when the world is reset. Therefore, always try to leave the world as soon as you see a broadcast message in the game asking you to do so. However, some players report having lost much more than a few minutes. We are making headway on this bug, and apologize for the loss.

My items lost all of their mana charge!
On March 16, when we performed maintenance that restored many characters that went missing (see above), the process had the unexpected side effect of draining many items of their mana. We are investigating this to assure it will not happen again.

Why has AC been “out of service” so much lately?

We've had a run of bad luck lately, and this forced us to keep the worlds out of service much more than usual. We did so in order to restore missing characters (see above), improve our database system, or do a minor update (see below). From the day that it shipped in November, AC has had a reputation for very little downtime, and we will earn that reputation again. Please know that we take a world out of service only when it is in the best interest of the players, and we wring our hands for every minute that Dereth is not available to you. We promise to do better, and get back to our previous pattern of only going out of service for a few hours each month in order to perform major updates.

Tell Your Friends: Asheron's Call Discounted to Retailers!

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Tell Your Friends: Asheron's Call Discounted to Retailers!

March 27, 2000

Asheron's Call leads the vanguard of online worlds with monthly upgrades that add new monsters, dungeons, quests, gameplay features, and technology. Right now, Shadow creatures massing in the wilderness have reorganized as if responding to a summons. Ghastly spire citadels have erupted from the earth and hover in the sky near major towns. Adventurers have been teleported away by an invisible force, then subjected to strange tests and interrogations. A major conflict with evil appears imminent.

At this critical time, we've discounted the retail price of Asheron's Call to recruit as many adventurers as possible. With the money new players will save on the game, they can buy several extra months in Dereth. Bring your friends in on the current adventure. They won't regret it, and we promise to unite your playing group with new stories and features for years to come.