Original Link (now dead) -http://zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/septemberteaser.asp
Keep Your Enemies Closer
September 7, 2001
Gideon opened the window hesitantly and scrutinized the perimeter. This is a fine mess I've gotten myself into, he thought, grimacing as he nocked another quarrel. These Virindi just don't know when to quit. He fumbled for his healing kit, but found that he wasn't able to tend to his wounds, so great was his pain.
Gideon looked up to see Amara glaring down at him, equal parts anger and concern blazing within her eyes. "You just don't know when to quit, do you?!?"
Gideon smirked through the blood in his mouth. " Nope."
Amara seemed to calm down and sat next to him, peering out the window. "Are they gone yet?"
Gideon nodded. He had lost sight of the Relic Bones amidst the storm, and the only thing he could see was a curtain of rain, and the strange purple tinge in the sky. What was a Relic Bone doing here, in the Direlands?
"According to the Zharalim, the Virindi have used that strange island to tamper with portal space, causing monsters to? shift. I wonder if everyone in Kara is okay?"
Gideon glanced around, looking for an exit to their current predicament, but knowing there was none. Empyreans sure built things to last. Too bad I never got to meet one. I would have shaken his hand, right before I beat him senseless for getting me into this mess.
Gideon finally looked at Amara, and said, "Portal."
She nodded, and used her magic to rip a hole in reality. She bent down, picked him up, and staggered through the gateway.
Upon their arrival in Uziz, they saw a strange man wearing purple armor wielding a Quiddity Blade. He smiled at them and waved. Gideon and Amara walked towards him, relieved to see a friendly face.
"Beware, stranger. The Storms, they've changed portal space, causing creatures to be places they shouldn't."
The man raised a hand, smiled, and said, "I know." His eyes changed to a strange purple color, and sprang at them, his blade swinging into the attack.
Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve. What strange new forces will the Virindi bring to bear on the defenders of Dereth? Join us, as the Keep Your Enemies Closer event opens.
Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story, and we'll see you in Dereth!
Original Link (now dead) -http://zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/septemberrollout.asp
Keep Your Enemies Closer
September 12, 2001
As the autumn winds begin to howl forlornly through the valleys of Dereth, the patterns of leaves and hides begin to shift to those of winter. Ripples of change radiate across Dereth as creatures find themselves seeking shelter in locations outside of their normal dens. Travelers recount many a tale of encounters in locations and numbers far different from the usual.
Some travelers have even reported groups of creatures banding together for protection under the leadership and guidance of a more dominant force. Some of these travelers display intricate and powerful new items recovered from these new enemy leaders.
The weary warriors locked in the struggle with the Virindi have found some small measure of respite, as the assaulting Virindi forces retreat into their fortified holdings. This slackening of their direct assault on the capital cities of Dereth has not resulted in a slackening of the frequency or ferocity of the Virindi raiding parties.
Are the Virindi preparing some devastating new weapon, or are they merely rethinking their strategy and calculating their losses? Reports trickle in of new enemies fighting at the whim of the strange masked creatures. Have the enterprising Virindi created yet another new servant to support them in their conquest of Dereth, or is some other strange new foe entering the fray?
Following is a list of the most interesting additions made to the game this update. However, please note that not everything has been included--that would spoil the fun of finding out all manner of things added or changed! As usual, though, 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 features are not always listed here in their entirety.
The Chat window can now be enlarged without opening the side panel.
The Right panel can now stretch to adjust for higher screen resolutions. And there was much rejoicing.
The Compass can now display the player's coordinates. And there was even more rejoicing.
A spell duration countdown timer has been added. No more guessing how much time is left before your spells run out. And the crowd goes wild.
New Creatures have sprung into being to oppose the defenders of Dereth.
The spawn patterns of creatures all across Dereth have altered? some for the better, and some for the worse. Travel with caution.
With the arrival of fall and the cooling of the air, there is a slight respite in the onslaught of the Virindi. Yet all is not well in Dereth, as new enemies appear to challenge those who would protect Dereth. Be sure to check the Developer's Notes for September, the new addition to Asheron's Lore, Homestead, the Letter to the Players and the new Map of Dereth, to learn more details of the Keep Your Enemies Closer event. Join us as we continue the ongoing saga of Asheron's Call, and we'll see you in Dereth!
Original Link (now dead) -http://classic.zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/septemberbuild.asp
September 12, 2001
Here are just some of the additions made in the September 12th game update, Keep Your Enemies Closer. The following list is comprised of detailed notes straight from the developers themselves. For a summary of things of most interest, be sure to consult the official event article, Keep Your Enemies Closer, the Letter to the Players, and the new Asheron's Lore article: Homestead.
Major changes to the spawn locations of all creatures on Dereth as part of an ongoing improvement to the outdoor hunting life of players.
Players can elect to have their map coordinates displayed underneath their radar.
Players can elect to have spell durations displayed on their spell-in-effect list (note that spells that items cast upon you are permanent spells subject to the item's mana, and therefore do not list durations).
Players can elect to stretch their right panel so that it displays across the entire length of the screen.
Players can now have a full-sized chat box without using a right panel.
Players can elect to have their sounds turn off when they alt-tab away from the client.
Miscellaneous Improvements and Changes
For August (not mentioned in last month's build notes): The Chosen of Asheron now appears on Wintersebb, allowing WE to complete the SOLH quest.
For August (not mentioned in last month's build notes): There was a bug with the particle system where any particle effect in the vicinity of your character would queue up in your client if not directly visible. This has been fixed.
Sanctuary Recall and Recall to Aerlinthe spells have now been fixed. Players using these spells should no longer experience client lockups after they arrive at their destination.
Fixed no-drop bug, where players could exploit the secure-trade interface to make their items temporarily no-drop.
Fall foliage is spreading its way across Dereth.
The Four Towers Impious Staff npc was not spawning due to a bug, this should be fixed now.
Scalemail cuirasses did not undergo the earlier changes to metal armor. This has been fixed; cuirasses should now have protections comparable to other pieces of chainmail.
Removed black border from two icons: Shreth and Black-dyed Sho dress.
Tibri now returns Tibri's Fire Spear when given to the NPC.
Gap in Koujia armor between abdomen and chest has been removed.
Greater Broadhead Quarrels are now properly labeled as such, instead of "Broadhead Quarrels."
Ascendant Drudges had a bug where their actual skills were much lower than their intended skills. This has been fixed.
Many creatures in the Virindi Towers have been made resistant to drain and harm.
An Open Letter to the Players
Original Link (now dead) -http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/openletter01.asp
An Open Letter to the Players
September 10, 2001
Eight months ago if you had asked me if I ever thought that I would be working for Turbine, I would have told you flatly, "no." But now, six months into my time here, I am feeling more comfortable and rather pleased to address some of the issues facing the community of players and fans of Asheron's Call.
First things first though: I want to give you a little bit of insight into who I am, where I come from, and how I got into this swanky position. I am a gamer by nature and heart. Though I'm not a designer I dream, as do most of us, that some day perhaps I'll have that one defining idea that breaks and shatters the floodgate of ideas that are a spawning pool for more games in the future. I have worked for most of my life in the customer service field and this has been an integral part of my position here with Turbine. My position here is Community Manager, which is somewhat of a misnomer as there is no "Community Team" beneath me--so for the most part I just manage myself. On the other hand this is not as much a misnomer as it would seem. My position is not easily defined. I perform a variety of different tasks for Turbine, the Asheron's Call team, and the teams that are currently working on other projects. As Asheron's Call is currently the only title in release it is no surprise that most of my time is spent assisting that team and interacting with the players and fans of the game. How I happened upon the position was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and impressing the right people with my communication skills. Honestly, it may have just been a fluke, yet here I am and I am more than pleased to be here as the voice of the fans.
In recent weeks there have been a few major issues that have fallen onto the community hot plate month after month. There are so many that a simple letter such as this won't address them all but I'll do my best to address those most often discussed.
The first item is macro-ing. This has been perhaps the most heated and controversial topic brought up by the community. Those who use macro programs are accused of cheating and forcing the casual player to resort to the same tactics in order to keep up with the expanding content, which would otherwise be inaccessible were they to progress by regular game standards.
People discuss the validity of macros as a violation of the Code of Conduct set down for Asheron's Call. While Microsoft remains the final arbiter in dealing with Code of Conduct violations we have often discussed this subject. At this time the timbre of those discussions does not hint at a change in stance or policy in the immediate future.
In some places the use of macros can be an annoyance to others' gameplay experience and in those circumstances we are looking for ways to solve the problem. Steps have been taken to address the most egregious problem areas and should be implemented soon. Addressing other areas will happen in time. It takes time to remedy some issues, but the end result is better served by getting the improvement right the first time.
Macro-ers are not an influence on decisions made by the design team in terms of level-based content. They are however, a concern when creating new quests and dungeons, as has been seen with adjustments made to some dungeons and quests in recent months. Also assisting in the influence of the design team's creative process is knowledge about the areas that need to be addressed and adjusted. That's why your reports on the boards and to the online team are invaluable. By calling attention to hot spots like the Incunabula Vault or the Obsidian Plains we can raise the priorities of those areas so they are fixed soon.
Also touching upon macro-ing is Monarchies and experience chains. Each of these has received much scrutiny and attention in recent weeks.
Monarchies were added to Asheron's Call with the purpose of assisting the social aspect of the game, to increase the interaction between more established players and newer players beginning their journey through Dereth. To that end, we have seen the Monarchy system burgeon and succeed nicely. They allow large groups to communicate and join one another in experiencing the social, multiplayer aspect of the game to its fullest.
I receive many links to Monarchy sites that have been formed from the bonds created in the game world, and I do my best to visit any that I come across. I've been quite impressed by the level of devotion that our fans have to each other and to the game.
A downside to the Monarchy system is how macro characters supply monarchs with a nearly endless stream of essentially unearned experience. Involving myself in a Monarchy is for the companionship and the level of commitment that the players have to one another (sure, phat l00t doesn't hurt). Experience points, while a reward for playing the game, are not half as rewarding as the people that I meet and the friendships that are made.
I want to close with a matter of personal opinion. I consider Asheron's Call a massively multiplayer role-playing game. Others look at it as a series of levels and prizes to be garnered. I play the game in a different way than most, spending more time entrenching myself in the role-playing aspect and becoming part of the storyline or trying to get others involved. I enjoy the fact that I can enter into a world that offers me an escape from the rigors of the real world, a place where I don't pay bills or have to deal with traffic. I wear blinders when I "play," meaning that I tend to not care about those players who are more impressed with the Ph4T L3\/\/T they were able to grab from the Augmented Drudge from the island the night before. I enjoy more the stories that people tell of their near death with the Adult Reedshark the night before.
We all play AC in different ways. Choose to play the way that you want to play and you'll have a much more rewarding experience than if you try to play like other people tell you to play.
Play at your own pace and move to your own tune.
Turbine Entertainment Software
An Open Letter to the Players 2
Original Link (now dead) -http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/openletter02.asp
An Open Letter to the Players
September 10, 2001
Well, it's a beautiful Monday morning here in Boston, and I'm really glad that the artists are alive. Yep, you read this right: I'm glad they're alive. You see I left Friday night knowing they were all going to jump out of an airplane Sunday afternoon, somewhere over Maine. But they're alive and ready, and tanned (some a bit burned) and happy to be working on one the greatest games ever (besides Starcraft that is!).
We started working back in May, and most of us had only been players on Asheron's Call. The idea of doing artwork was a bit daunting. The schedule was tight and the art pipeline more complicated than what we were used to. We were however, very excited about the project, mostly because we knew the fans would love player housing, and we would have a game on the shelves before Christmas this year.
The staff on the project is all new and comprised of: The Benster (Ben Smith), Damon "Superscooper" Iannuzzelli, Isabelle Garbani (your author) and Mark Lizotte. Sean Huxter, who is the Lead Artist for Asheron's Call, has been an invaluable help to us all, and we thank him from the bottom of our hearts. Also helping on the project are Brian Labore (animation), Cyril Van Der Haegen (quest items), Jeanette Chamberlain (new map of Dereth), John Lindemuth (quest items), and Pete MacDonald (quest items). Working with the designers Chris Foster, Ken Troop, Kim Payson and Chris L'Etoile has been a pleasure, and it's been wonderful to see simple textured geometry come to life!
I usually try to avoid specializing (pigeon-holing) people into particular tasks because I feel that artists need to be challenged, and I don't want folks to get bored. But this project proved to be a bit different. Each section of the game demands quite a bit of knowledge of the existing art tools because the art tools are all proprietary, and because the graphics engine uses BSP. What does this mean, you say? Well, basically Turbine made all the art tools (the way a 3-D object becomes a game object), so people who have just started working at Turbine cannot possibly know them and have to learn them. And BSP means well, it's the old fashioned way to draw objects on the screen, dating back to the last century! It's fast but fragile. Artists then, were assigned sections of the game so no one would have to learn too many new tools right away. Damon made all the monsters, Mark made all the houses, I made all the landscape and towns, and Ben was a helper for us all.
The art process wasn't all pain, however. We were able to have a higher budget for polygon count because a lot of the content didn't have to be shared with older content. Monsters in particular got to have a facelift, and improve their "badness" factor. Houses had to be everywhere on Dereth so poly and texture counts are slightly more in line with the rest of the world. However, Mark (famed artist from the Thief series) did a fantastic job with little texture space. And I, of course, rule, and my dam is awesome.
As work has progressed over the summer it's been rewarding to see the new monsters, the new environment, and the new housing projects sprouting around Dereth. The art is looking better than anything that's been done previously and all of us have tried to push the game engine as far as it can go to improve players' experiences. I believe that being new on the project helped all of us bring a fresh eye to the game and bring fresh ideas to what we wanted to see. The end result is going to be something the likes of which the average Asheron's Call player has yet to see, and I truly hope that you all make Dereth your home!
Isabelle Garbani Lead Artist Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty
Letter to the Players
Original Link (now dead) -http://classic.zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/septemberletter.asp
Letter to the Players
September 11, 2001
As we approach the eve of the September update, I want to highlight some of the exciting changes that Microsoft and Turbine have prepared for you this month:
Traveling across the Dereth landscape, you will come upon ornate structures of wood and brick and stone --Houses. Homes. Yes, player housing is coming to Asheron's Call! With the coming of our expansion game, Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty, owners of the expansion will be able to purchase these homes that you will be seeing on the landscape with the September update. So explore and enjoy!
As you explore, you will notice other changes as well. As part of our commitment to the long-term health of Asheron's Call and our desire to present the new players of AC with fun and compelling hunting challenges, we have undertaken a massive redesign of the creature landscape of Dereth. The goal has been to make each area in Dereth appeal to a more focused set of level ranges and abilities. The creature spawn in almost every area of Dereth has been touched and redesigned in some way; for the first time in AC's history, nearly every player in AC, regardless of their level or skill levels, should find an outdoor hunting spot that is fun and challenging for them.
I want to emphasize that this will be an ongoing process as we continue to make tweaks and balance changes to optimize the fun for all of our players, high level and low level, experienced players and new. We welcome your feedback and suggestions and we will be monitoring the various fan sites closely.
With some of these changes, you might find it a good idea to make sure when you log in for the first time after the September update, you log into a town.
Finally, not only have we given you reasons to explore, but we have also made improvements to the very way in which you explore. Starting with this update, players can elect to optimize their client in a number of different ways, by going to the Character Options panel (We are planning to make the radar coordinates and spell duration options default with the October client, with options to turn them off):
Map Coordinates right below your Radar. By choosing the "Show Coordinates" option, players can see their map coordinates underneath their radar screen.
Spell duration times. Choosing the "Display Spell Durations" option will show you the duration of all enchantments cast upon you (not including enchantments from your items) in your spell-in-effect panel.
Stretch UI. By choosing the "Stretch UI" option, you enable your various side panels to stretch the entire height of the screen. For example, instead of seeing 3 rows of items in your backpack, you can now see all 17 at the right resolution.
Sounds disabled when AC is not active application. By choosing the "Play Sounds?" option, players turn off sounds from the game when they have alt-tabbed away from AC.
Ability to enlarge chat box. This is not controlled by an option, but is rather always on. Regardless of whether you have a side panel open or not, players can enlarge their chat panel.
We hope you enjoy these changes made to Dereth, and we look forward to the improvements to come in the following months.