April 2000 - Patch Page


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The Thorns of the Hopeslayer

March 29, 2000

“Mommy, I'm scared”, Cortrima said, her eyes wide and shimmering with tears of panic.

“Shh”, her mother said, and wrapped her arms tighter around the girl. They were huddled in one corner of the room. Crude furniture barricaded the door and windows. Outside their little cabin, the howling grew louder, shriller. They had fled when the Spire first erupted from the ground. After a few weeks of inactivity, though, they had thought it safe to return.

The change had begun two days ago. The noise from the Spire had escalated, and the ground had quaked. Cortrima's father, a mage, had clutched his head in pain during the quakes, and finally run into the woods, screaming about shifting currents, about thorns in the flesh of the earth -- things they did not understand. The black shape on the northern horizon appeared more frequently, leering down through bruise-colored overcast and blood-red sun.

Then the Shadows began to appear, their eyes burning with power. They now surrounded the house in numbers that grew by the hour, whispering in a way that set her hair on end. From the Spire itself, sick wet sounds could occasionally be heard -- as if something were hatching in the bone protrusion at its apex.

“What do they want?” Cortrima's mother whispered, half to herself. “For the love of the Mothers, what do they want?”

Sibilant laughter washed over the house. The wind shivered the trees with dire news. A storm had been building over Dereth for a month. Soon it would break -- and black rain would fall.

In our continuing commitment to bring you a major world-altering event each month, we will soon present “Thorns of the Hopeslayer.” Twisted citadels erupted from the earth several weeks ago, and have since hovered over the land, humming with evil magic. Some invisible force has periodically teleported heroes into their heights and subjected them to a menacing interrogation. What evil being prepares to assault Dereth? Is there truly a connection between the Shadow creatures gathering in the wilderness and these citadels that adventurers call the Shadow Spires? Sometime during the first week of April, the designs of a great evil will be set in motion. Prepare now for the defense!

Rollout Article

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The Thorns of the Hopeslayer

April 4, 2000

The Shadows, thought by the foolish to be in retreat, reveal that they are merely gathering for a final assault upon Dereth. Reports from spies have been incoherent, as if horror has rendered them senseless. Arm now! Attack may come at any time from any quarter, at first far from civilization, but in danger of stretching nearer to home. Asaina al-Arqis and other scholars have surmised that the goal of the Shadows is not merely victory but the spread of terror and despair. Do not be lulled by early success nor disheartened by the reappearance of the enemy as their tactics change. When the battle is joined, take the fight to their captains, wherever they may lurk, and punish them. All adventurers of all skill levels will be needed, and many can hope to their names written into the annals!

This month's major event, “The Thorns of the Hopeslayer,” is upon us. In this pivotal conflict with darkness, the actions of the players will alter the course of events on a scale never before seen in an online game. Players who make special efforts to turn the tide will have their name broadcast for all to admire. This battle is not just for those of high level - some stages will require the participation of less advanced players. Join the defense! For more information, read the articles The State of the Code and Build Notes.

Release Notes

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Asheron's Call Build Notes, April 4

Here are all the tiny little details of the game update that was made on April 4, 2000. This list is culled from “check-in” notes submitted by the game developers themselves. Things of greatest note are listed first.

Some changes are not in these build notes, because that would spoil the fun of finding all that has been added or changed! Some changes include major new things players can do to drive our evolving story forward, which we won't entirely reveal here. 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 2311-2318:

  • The stage is set for an unparalleled battle! Travelers, beware of Shadows, and look for heroes among you who can determine the fate of the lands of Dereth.
  • “Detached characters” (which recently caused some characters to temporarily appear missing) should now be a thing of the past. All characters that were not truly deleted will now appear in your character list. Some long-past characters may show up in this way. In some rare cases, you may have more characters than can show up in your character list. If your character slots are filled and you still think a character is missing, delete an unwanted character and wait for the “temporarily unavailable” label to vanish. This will allow one “overflow” character to show up. If you still feel a character is missing, read the “State of the Code” article.
  • “Infused” pyreal ingots (used for Atlan weapons) can no longer be given to others! Before, there was a loophole where a player with a high weapon skill could use a glyph to stamp (or "infuse") the ingot to yield higher quality, then give it to a not-so-skilled player, who could get a superior weapon. We had to tolerate this until we fixed a bug. Now, you can NOT give the infused ingot to anyone else -- the future owner of the Atlan weapon will have to use the glyph on it him- or herself. Note that you can still have a skilled Alchemist form the ingot to begin with, and give the ingot away. In other words, non-infused pyreal ingots still can be traded among players freely.
  • Experience point distribution within fellowships is generally more fair and logical. Before, which member of the fellowship made the kill affected how much XP was generated. If the kill was made by a fellow who was much higher level than the victim, the whole group's XP was reduced. Now, just the XP for the higher-level members is reduced. However, the flipside is also true: if a low-level fellow makes the kill on a victim of equal level, that fellow will get a non-reduced share of XP, but fellows that are higher level will get reduced XP. In most fellowship adventuring, less XP will be lost than was lost with the old system.
  • Fixed was a recently discovered (by us) bug that justified cries of “kill stealing.” We didn't understand these protests before, since the system was designed to give loot rights to whoever did the most damage, and XP division was proportional to the amount of damage done. However, we recently realized that damage above and beyond the victim's remaining hit points were being fully counted! Therefore, player A could fight a monster with 100 hit points, gradually do 60 points of damage, then have player B swoop in, kill the monster with one 70-point blow, and find that player B got loot rights and the majority of the XP. But player B didn't really do 70 points of damage; the monster only had 40 ht points to lose. This is now fixed, and in this scenario, player B will get credit for just the 40 points of damage, while player A will get credit for 60 points, and therefore get loot rights and the majority of the XP. This is not done as a balancing measure: we honestly thought it was working this way all along. It was designed this way, therefore this is a bug that needed to be fixed.
  • Due to a bug fix, Crystal creatures are now more likely to attack by using bludgeoning damage. Therefore, during melee combat, Crystal creatures may be a bit more damaging than before if you are not well protected against bludgeoning.
  • New technology enables players to affect worldwide properties as part of major events. You thought events were good before? That was nothin' compared to this stuff. And this is just the beginning.
  • New technology to enable announcement and log-recording of players who accomplish major tasks in worldwide event quests.
  • Exitless room in Ancient Lighthouse dungeon -- added a lever to this room!
  • Door facing wrong way in Mountain Fortress dungeon -- fixed.
  • NPCs now will give items to you, even if your option is set not to take items from other players.
  • There are rumors of a bloody assassination of a well-known master of his art . . . Surely this is not the end of this drama.
  • PK players can't heal monsters with healkits anymore. This was an annoying loophole that allowed PKs to harass NPK players.
  • Pyreal Motes, Slivers, Nuggets, Bars and Ingots now look like they should on the ground and in their icons. They didn't used to. They all looked like Twinkies. Now they all look different.
  • Fixed the bug where locks always appraise as "trivial."
  • Spring long past sprung; Bunnies not so busy.
  • Night ambience is now brighter, by around 12%.
  • Mana Stones now have icons that better reflect their power levels. This applies mostly to charged stones you buy from vendors. Instead of looking the same in their icons, making it harder to tell them apart in a bag of stones, they now have icons that reflect the power levels.
  • Sho & Gharu'ndim bowyers buy fletching items. The bowyers in Al-Jalima, Stonehold, and Yaraq sold lockpicks as well as bowyer stuff. They will also buy lockpicks along with bowyer/fletching stuff.
  • Now only you hear noise when you sell something to a vendor. You won't hear the sales of others.
  • Rope bridge supports are no longer see-through in dungeons.
  • Magma Golem light is brightened towards red more.
  • Most Atlan Staff weapons were being held incorrectly. Too far towards the base. Fixed.
  • Shoushi Grotto -- Reduced lighting in several rooms and most hallways. This dungeon was too bright.
  • The undead Baron of Colier no longer leaves his Electric Long Sword on his corpse.
  • Added missing acid pool to a pit in the Incunabula dungeon.
  • Special vats, fonts, pools, fountains, and wells now cast their old spells on players when used. When a flask is used on these objects you will get a flask of water. Double the usage, double the fun!
  • Casting portal recall spells now make you play some purple bubbly physics scripts for about two seconds before blipping you away.
  • Target drudges in festival grounds don't give old cheese for loot now. Oops. Yes, the days of free cheese are sadly at an end. Blame the Shadows.
  • Amullian coat no longer has humpback.
  • Flowers have been thinned out Dereth-wide.

Letter to the Players

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The Spin From Turbine

April Edition

Well, another month has zipped by and, lo and behold, it's time for another Spin article to let all of you know what we're up to, and why we've done what we've done.

It's been great reading the boards since the invasion started. Sure, there are complaints of isolated lag and some places that are super tough or crowded, but overall many of you really liked what you've seen so far this month. For us, it was a huge challenge to build and we weren't sure if you'd appreciate it or not. To all those who have and posted as such, I thank you on behalf of the design team. Eri, Dave, Jesse, and Chris did a great job in getting all the stuff done. Of course, without others like Elliot and the QA team giving 110%, we wouldn't have gotten anything to happen! Big thanks to all the tech & support guys as well for making the prop pretty painless, and fixing a bunch of bugs along with making some improvements (did I hear a shout of joy from people who are in fellowships?).

As you can probably tell, there's been a bit of work on the Zone side to keep the game up and running as smoothly as possible. We've been working with them to sort out any problems and make servicing the worlds as painless as possible. Both Turbine and MS hate bringing the game down at any time, and we do try to do it only as needed. But there are occasionally things that crop up that need immediate attention and force us to do so. Most of the downtimes have to deal with server maintenance -- making sure that everything is being backed up correctly and without problems. There have been some changes to that system in the last few weeks, and hopefully, the outages that are happening will be much less frequent as we go on.

The team is looking forward to May now, and is busy building the event (even though there's still more to come in April!). As I look through our bug-tracking system, I see we've got a bunch of bugs that need fixing. Some are fairly serious; some are variants of others . . .

Example of a fairly low-priority, trivial bug: "Backstory: Want to put in more backstory stories into the world."

Example of a fairly significant bug that merits attention and resources to fix: "SERVER CRASH: HashBase<unsigned __int64>::clobber"

Most of the problems that people talk about on the discussion boards are the ones we're trying to fix in the next few updates, things like:

  • skill curves (both general changes and distinctions to specialized/trained curves)
  • fixes for swords
  • upping monster loot
  • stuff for mages (improvements to the spell bar), since the last few months we were doling out stuff to warriors
  • a gaggle of other fixes

As for the skill-curve stuff, we will be very careful making this change. If we don't have enough time to adequately test it, we'll hold off until we feel 100% confident. I figure you want something done right the first time you see it rather than having us introduce something buggy (sorry about doing that in the past -- we want to avoid that in the future) and go back in and remove it.

The overall system changes will be minor tweaks, since we don't want to screw up the game balance or upset everyone. Like we've always tried to do, we'd rather make smaller changes rather than huge changes that have to be toned down (i.e., nerfed) afterwards. Some of the changes and bug fixes we're making affect what goes on behind the scenes.

By the way, why is it that whenever we add something that affects a bunch of people in a positive way, others complain about being nerfed? All the changes we've got planned for May should be beneficial to you, no matter what your level or class. And yes, we'll still be adding more stuff (quests and such) as always.
Anyway, Oswald says I have to go now.

Scott Herrington
Producer, Asheron's Call

P.S. Anyone need a level-12 vassal? I need loot!


P.P.S. Please welcome our international players as AC starts getting sold in various countries around the world over the next few weeks and months!


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Field Report on the Shadow Invasion

April 11, 2000

As you know, Asheron's Call has the unique distinction of providing its players with a world that undergoes major changes each month, immersing everyone in a grand plot. The wicked work of the Gelidites plunged Dereth into a sudden winter, which was stopped when brave players shattered the Great Work, a crystal that was sucking the heat from the land. A beautiful spring spread over Dereth, and a huge obsidian bridge, apparently concealed by the ancient Empyrean, appeared over the River Prosper, much to the delight of travelers. However, a new scourge arose, perhaps also triggered by the destruction of the Great Work: deadly Crystal Fragments and horrible Shadow creatures beset adventurers in the wilderness. Sages uncovered clues enabling them to reconstruct the ancient Atlan weapons, forged of old to defeat a similar invasion of Shadows. Skilled smiths examined the weapons and used certain principles of their design to create new armor, using the gemlike substances left behind by Shadows and Crystals. Meanwhile, menacing spire citadels erupted from the earth to loom over several towns, and some swore that a chilling, invisible presence teleported them up into these spires to ask maddening questions. Doubts as to the sanity of the “abductees” remain.

This month, the world seemed to grow calm for a time . . . but it was the calm before the storm. The gibbering of long-range scouts led some to suspect the worst was yet to come. They were justified in their fear. Read the following tale of a Blademaster who saw the action firsthand.

Our greatest fears have been realized. The cursed Shadows have invaded Dereth in their greatest show of force to date! A chill went down my spine as my fellowship and I heard the following whispers: “In the dark of the obsidian wasteland, where great magics wrought destruction long ago, the Shadows stir and awaken. The Hand stretches forth once more . . .” Obsidian wasteland? That sounded like an apt description of where we were: the Obsidian Plain in the southern Direlands! In fear, not wishing to be anywhere near this "stretching Hand," we ran northward. Just as we were starting to feel foolish for our flight, the sizzle of emerging enemies surrounded us, and we were staring into the blank faces of the Shadows, voids which walk in human form. We fought bravely, but soon, battered and drained, we retreated pell-mell to Fort Tethana, which was massed with defenders. After I recovered somewhat, I went to a local mage and was just in the process of buying mana stones, when a great commotion erupted. A dread Shadow Captain appeared within the walls of the Fort! We quickly found it to be as strong as a Panumbris, and just as in my previous encounters with an enemy of such might, I was quickly dispatched to a Lifestone.

As I ran back to Tethana, I heard new words on the winds: “The darkness has been checked in the Northern Direlands. The brave defenders of Fort Tethana have prevailed!” I even heard the name of the mage that laid the killing blow to the Shadow Captain. (He belongs to a rival allegiance, so I hesitate to add to his glory.) However, I also heard this dying utterance from our foe: “The tides of war shift . . . another captain shall appear, perhaps in a different settlement . . .” I soon arrived back at the fort, where the fallen were visiting their corpses alongside me. As we talked excitedly about this turn of events, my patron sent me a message: though the Shadows were slowing their attack near Tethana, presumably due to the death of their Captain, a new invasion had begun in the desert and the swamps of the Direlands. Then my friends from afar told me they saw waves of the enemy near the northern bridge from the Direlands to Osteth. “The Shadows are reaching eastward!” cried a sorceress. Her alarm only added to mine, and I sensed a panic among those who wanted to flee the invasion, and a frenzy among those who wanted to resist it. My fellowship and I wanted to fight, and as we traveled, we heard the rumor that another Captain -- or the same one, back from the dead? -- was terrorizing the town of Plateau.

My stout vassal, herself an axe warrior, hefting her newly acquired Silifi of Crimson Stars, urged us to skip Plateau, for surely the battle against that Captain would be over before we arrived. “Where will they strike next?” she mused, as we all seemed to instinctively know that epic events come in threes. She scrutinized her map. “Tethana . . . Plateau . . . What is next in line?” We said together: “Stonehold!” We ran onward, sped by a helpful enchanter who lightened our feet. As we traveled, we heard ringing in the air another pronouncement that my patron had defeated the Captain in Plateau, and that now Mt. Esper was under threat. I sent hasty congratulations, but I ached for a battle of my own, despite the doom that awaited me.

As we approached Stonehold, we met again with the armies of the void. We were seized by bloodlust -- or lust for whatever flowed in those things -- and fought more skillfully than we ever had before. We scarcely paused to loot the fallen as we made for Stonehold. The town bustled with adventurers girding for battle, but none stayed for long -- they ran off to fight their foes in the surrounding countryside. We remained close to town, helping frightened folk too ill-prepared to survive the trek outward, but always returning to the main square. Just as we were doubting the wisdom of our plan, we heard a sickening crackle, and suddenly, right next to me, stood the negated form of the Shadow Captain.

Why I did not run I do not know, and even less do I understand how I survived. I owe my life to a selfless Life Mage who healed and refreshed me over and over, bringing me always back from the brink of death. In my frenzy I slashed the Captain again and again, buffeted by her spells, but determined to beat my enemy or die trying. My fellowship dug in as well, though the Captain seemed only to desire my blood. Finally, with one mighty blow, I cleft her in twain. This time I heard my own name trumpeted to the skies, and along with the cheers of those around me, I received messages of congratulations and wonderment from seemingly everyone in Dereth. I have never felt so exhilarated.

This final blow seemed to bring an uneasy peace to the land; no new waves of Shadows appeared anywhere. Soon we went to work cutting through the lingering Shadows, who thankfully now did not regenerate after we laid them low. In this way we made safe passages for travelers to and from Stonehold.

I hear the spies, who were unwisely ignored before, now mutter that the leaders of the Shadows know better than to keep showing up in towns, and have been doing so in order to distract us. The real quest, they say, will take us far from the safety of streets and houses. They say that there are mightier foes to come, and that they will seek better-fortified vantage points from which to command their armies. They say that only by running away from the leaders may we come to them. Then, with a nervous glance upward, they fall into a demented silence . . .

The best is yet to come, everyone! Stay vigilant, for no one can tell the day when the next blow will fall, or from where. One hint though . . . we will never make masses of monsters invade a town! Though it is an exciting notion, to do so creates “hotspots” of player density that have a negative effect on gameplay. Fort Tethana was not singled out for “invasion,” having only the usual random scattering of foes nearby, but everyone in the Direlands ran to the Fort with Shadows on their tail, thereby making it look like the invasion they feared! If you are looking for an intense battle with the smoothest play, seek it out in the open, not in a crowded town. Yes, for drama there may be times when an enemy or two appear briefly in a town, but it won't be easy to figure out where -- and as our story above relates, the invasion leaders can shift tactics at any moment. Keep adventuring abroad, come to town to restock, and head out once again into the breach!
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