May 8, 2002
Hidden Vein is an appropriate name for this Event in many ways, besides its relation to the current storyline. The main topics for last month's developer's chat, and the topics that occupy most of our time recently, were the upcoming magic and tinkering changes, planned for sometime in June or July. (Right now we're hoping to get the magic system changes in June, and the Tinkering changes in July). These are big changes to big systems, and changes that we have discussed and planned and worked on for a long time. But the changes this month, while perhaps not as wide-sweeping or game-altering as those we have planned for the next two months, nonetheless play a significant role in our commitment to make Asheron's Call the most fun and enjoyable massively multiplayer online role-playing experience that exists today.
Before we discuss those changes, and our motivations and reasoning behind them, we first offer an apology. In April, we made some changes to the Endurance attribute that gave players "Natural Resistances," an ability to have natural life protections against damage. This included a resistance versus Hollow damage. We decided just before the April Event went live that the Hollow resistance was an incorrect design decision, and we would reverse it for May.
Unfortunately, making this change slipped from our production schedule for May, and by the time we discovered the mistake, it was too late to implement it for this month. The change has already been made for June, however, and it will not slip again. We apologize to everyone for this error. In addition to the removal of Hollow resistance, we will also fix in June the unintended bonuses to the "Health to Mana" and "Health to Stamina" spells, as well as the amount of health players or monsters draining off another player being based off a different number than the amount of health actually being drained.
On to the changes for May:
We had talked about making some kinds of changes to the Death penalty system for some time now. There was a lot of feedback we had gotten from players and our own play experiences. Some of this feedback was contradictory. The main threads seemed to be:
- Death penalties (with @corpse, and @consent) were too easy.
- Death penalties were too easy at high levels but too hard at low levels.
- Death penalties were too tedious at high levels (all the death items).
- Removing death penalties would revitalize PK both on DT and the other worlds.
- Acquiring your victim's items was the only thing that gave PK its meaning.
In the end, we felt strongly that regardless of how "easy" many players seemed to find the death experience, it was only easy in the context of having built up a network of in-game experience, social networks, and a large amount of items. For the new or casual player, who may not have access to any of these dynamics, the death experience could be quite painful, in some cases so painful as to alienate the player from the game.
So we wanted to alleviate that pain. At the same time, we were sensitive to not wanting to change too much without very solid reasons. While we felt that PKs advocating no death penalty, or higher level players advocating no death penalty articulated some good reasons in support of their cause, we ultimately felt that there was enough reasons on the other side of the equation to not change the PK or upper level death penalty system at all.
Here is the new system (and again, note that these changes do not affect any PK interactions):
- From levels 1-5, players will not lose any items or pyreals upon death.
- From levels 6-10, players will not lose any items, but will lose half their pyreals.
- From levels 11-20, players will lose half their pyreals, and 1 item. This item will not be an item that the player is wielding. (Wielded includes rings, bracelets, necklaces or armor, as well as weapon and shield).
- From levels 21-35, players will lose half their pyreals, and the same amount of non-wielded items that they would have lost previously to the changes in this system.
- From levels 35+, there are no changes between the former system and the current system.
We hope that the new system aids in the enjoyment of our game for new and low-level players.
One of the more frustrating dynamics in Asheron's Call is finding and picking up a piece of equipment off a fresh corpse of a marauding beast. . . only to discover you have no idea what it is or what it can do. Perhaps you started with 100 focus, or perhaps you're able to cast True Value at a high enough level to accurately identify the item. But ironically (some would say cruelly), those people who are most likely to be in need of the item--warriors, archers, or generally non-magic reliant players--are the least likely to be able to know what the item does.
While we felt that the theoretical idea of appraisal skills had a lot of potential in a game like Asheron's Call, we felt even more that their specific implementation from the start of the game had not fulfilled that potential. Rather than trying to radically alter the appraisal system so that it worked somewhat better than before, we decided to put the focus of these particular systems on where it should be: discovering different items of treasure and making educated choices about which items one wanted to keep or discard.
To that end, we decided to take two steps. The first step, seen this month, is the ability for all players, regardless of their appraisal skill levels, to identify the treasure items that they find. (Note that some special quest and monster items will remain unappraisable.) The second step, which we are planning on implementing soon (within the next few months), is a Tinkering system which replaces those Appraisal skills, and allows players to make their treasure that they find even more valuable and powerful.
While we know that this represents a significant change in the way players interact with and approach one of the major aspects of the game, we are excited at the doors this opens up for the majority of our players.
We made a number of changes to our creatures this month, dealing with both the strategies players use to fight them, and the reward they gain from them.
First, since the start of Asheron's Call, it has been possible to "lure" creatures away from other creatures in their group. The first lure attempt will bring all of its "friends" with it, but the second attempt would leave its friends dazed and confused, while the poor solo creature had to duel those menacing players all by itself.
While we had long talked about changing this behavior, we had decided not to due to our fears that this would make certain solo play styles impossible or at least much harder. However, a number of factors have changed in AC over the last few months, such as: more solo encounters on the landscape in general, increased player effectiveness vs. creatures, and fellowship xp bonuses. These changes led us to think that trying to tweak this behavior now would be a good step to increase challenge in some areas of the upper level game.
As a result, while it is still possible to lure a creature away from its group, the undertaking is more difficult than it was before. Also, in addition to these changes, we have implemented a change to how creatures react when they are "stuck" (either on a landscape scenery object, or another player that they are not attacking) for long periods of time. In most cases, such creatures will now automatically teleport back to their original home position, automatically regaining their full hit points. We hope this change helps players get a true feeling of risk for the rewards they earn.
Second, while we wanted to make creatures in some situations more challenging, we also wanted to make them have the right "risk vs. reward" balance. For a variety of reasons, many creatures in AC were far more difficult than their experience point reward suggested. So we reviewed every single creature in the game, and used a number of comparison metrics to raise the xp reward for many of them. We'll leave it up to the players to discover which creatures have changed, and by how much.
While we acknowledge that this "risk vs. reward" balance is not perfect, we feel the current changes make far more sense than the previous system did. Although our "level" indicator for monster difficulty is also somewhat skewed for some monsters, we did not make any changes to those figures at this time.
Third, we made a number of changes to the Crystal Lord. He is much more difficult for a group of players, and should be impossible for any one player to kill. This incarnation of the Crystal Lord is much closer to the original design conception of the Lord, and we feel his difficulty now truly matches his incomparable rewards (the million xp reward, and the horde of Singularity quality treasure).
Finally, we have gotten a lot of feedback from players over the last few months that the Singularity Caul was very underutilized. We decided to "spruce" it up a bit. We hope players enjoy the challenge. Note that this is not our "new high-level playground" that we have been discussing over here. As of right now there is no firm schedule for when or if we will release such a playground.
Due to the server and memory issues of last month, there were many duplicate hooks, storage chests, and Covenant Crystals created during this time. We have wiped all such duplicate instances from the servers. If you discover a duplicate housing object in the future, please report it to a Microsoft in-game admin immediately. If you have a duplicate hook or storage chest, the safest way to ensure the security of your items is to not store items in either copy of the object until one of the copies is deleted.
As for the rollout of new landscape dwellings and Residential Quarters: We are still planning on releasing new Cottages, Villas, and RQs for June. We will continue to monitor the server and housing situation in June to help us decide on the further rollout of housing.
As for future planned housing changes: We are trying hard to get the additional Mansion hooks in for either June or July. After that, our main focus for development will be non-housing related items for the next few months, such as the magic changes, Tinkering, and the storyline. After that set of changes, we will once again think about some of the improvements to housing that we have discussed in earlier letters.
There are a number of miscellaneous improvements we made for May.
- Fellowship panel improvements. Players can now see the hps/stamina/mana for all their fellows in the fellowship at the same time on their fellowship panel. While the panel does not always update immediately, we hope this feature makes playing in a fellowship even more rewarding and fun. We appreciate any comments or feedback on how the panel works for you.
- Map Rollovers. On your map panel, you will now notice that by having the pointer hover over a town symbol, the name of the town will popup on the lower section of the panel. This will work for all town symbols on the map. Additionally, some of the town settlements that had previously been represented by a white dot (which generally signifies a Point of Interest), are now represented by their own unique icon, which also are named. There is no rollover data for the white dots on the map. This may be added in a future update.
- Doubling of appearance in dual- and treble-spell jewelry, as well as the appearance of dual- and treble-spell clothing. Well, we said we wanted to do a rollout of these items slowly. With these changes, for all non-Singularity quality treasure, a dual spell piece of jewelry or clothing will appear 1 out of roughly every 50 magical clothing or jewelry appearances. For Singularity quality treasure, it will be 1 out of every 20 magical clothing or jewelry appearances. Also, treble-spell jewelry and clothing (the Dev Notes Notes mention only jewelry), will appear 1 out of every 400 magical jewelry appearances for Singularity quality treasure. We may investigate other changes for these items to make them more accessible to non-magic, or low-magic templates.
- Two additional spellcasting tabs. After a long time of not having the right resources and time to accomplish this, we finally managed to work it in for this month. We hope you enjoy it.
- The lack of effectiveness of the Hollow racial weapons. Many players have complained about the relative ineffectiveness of Hollow staff and dagger. We know this is a complicated issue, and that many players have chosen to embrace using the racial weapons because of their cheap (or no) cost, but we remain firm in our unwillingness to give any improvements to these weapons or the general racial skills at this time. If players want the most effective weapons, they should elect one of the 4 main weapon skills: Sword, Mace, Axe, or Spear. This will be true for all aspects of weapons, including Hollows.
While we acknowledge that not everything is balanced in this regard currently (Hollow katar, triple-strike dagger), we are working hard to make sure that ultimately, these dynamics are balanced correctly.
Also, while we know that some players have spent points on these skills (in some cases spending up to 12 credits on specialized unarmed if one isn't a Sho), we end up in the near-impossible position of being able to design items not just for 10 different weapon classes, but then taking into account the heritage of a given character versus what weapon that character is using. . . we ultimately decided to keep following our chosen path: Sword, Mace, Axe, and Spear will continue to be the best weapons for a melee type. They will get the maximum benefit of any dynamic we introduce in the future, or of any existing dynamic that we tweak. While players who choose to use only a racial weapon will see the benefits from tinkering, their power will not ultimately match the power of a player with a non-racial weapon. Will they be effective enough? In most situations, yes.
- Our fix for health potions has met with a lot of constructive feedback about how to alter the fix to not harm unnecessarily those crafters who were not creating health potions for gobs more pyreals than their actual cost. One suggestion we will investigate for June will be reducing the burden of Neutral Balm.
- Once we do our changes to the Magic system, Level 6 scrolls will no longer be convertible to level 7 spells. We expect these changes to happen in either June or July, but players should plan for June if they wish to maximize the value of their scrolls. Post-June (or July), players will find level 7 spells directly in the Steel Chests.
--The AC Team
Next Month and the Future
Next month, as discussed in the recent Dev Chat, we will see the beginning of some of the biggest alterations that Asheron's Call has seen since its inception two and a half years ago. We are working hard to get the magic system changes implemented and polished, and then we will turn our attention to the Tinkering system.
Next week we will send out an update on the Zone, detailing what our current system of the magic changes will be. We've been actively listening to your feedback through player boards and email, and we've incorporated some of that feedback into our latest revision of the changes.
Also next month, look for some of the Treasure system changes (including a revamp of the armor generation system) that were unfortunately postponed this month.
Once we finish our magic and Tinkering changes, we will then have a much better sense of what the next few months will bring, and we will be sure to update you then.
Our storyline also begins to heat up this month, and it really begins to cook next month and beyond. While we are very proud of the new features and revisions to game systems that we have been working on for the last few months, we are even more excited to bring you the greatest epic storyline Asheron's Call has yet seen.
See you next month.