February 2004 - Patch Page

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The Madness of Men

Posted on 06-Feb-2004

"It’s the laughing, you see?" The guard was disheveled. His clothes were torn and bloody, his eyes set deep in their sockets, his skin covered with grit and his hair matted and greasy. He reeked of filth, and smiled to reveal teeth that were stained brown from neglect. He swayed from side to side in constant motion, eyes darting toward the walls of the hall and the shadows cast against them.

Elysa recognized him still through the grime and stench—Roderick Largent, once a member of her castle guard. He had been assigned to investigate the disappearances on Marae Lassel, went missing two months prior, and was found preaching in Zaikhal only a few hours ago. He stood before her now, flanked by two guards who watched him with wary eyes. She felt pity.

"Roderick, where have you been, what did you see?" she asked in a quiet and steady voice, trying to calm him down.

Roderick’s eyes locked onto hers. Now his demeanor changed—he stood tall and stopped shifting. No more laughter, no more smile, only ice-blue eyes staring through her. The room seemed to warp; sound and light bent in awkward directions as he began to speak.

"I have seen the end. I have seen the coming of a tide that shall scour the face of this world and wipe clean the prophecies of the golden age. There will be a call to children who were forgotten, buried and lost. Their wrath shall be barbed with poison that courses through the veins of the world, and all shall rot. Auberean is forsaken by the light and so it shall be consumed." He cackled madly, but his lips did not move; his eyes still held hers in place and the room slowly turned dark. "First, there shall be a time of respite. The shadow will creep through its halls, falling silent but working, ever vigilant, while the warped souls of man are drawn closer to its call. The halls of the frozen city will be strengthened, a place of battle shall cull the weak from the land, Ispar will turn against Ispar. The heavens will break and a scream both holy and unholy will shatter a barrier that has long protected us all."

Flames burst up behind Roderick, and his crazed eyes bore through Elysa like knives. The wound in her back throbbed and the sound of blood roared in her ears.

"You ask me what I have seen? I have seen the folly of sending the Lightbringer away. Now the darkness shall grow, unchecked, unabated. You are the architect of this world’s demise! Damned is your name!" The laughter began again and Elysa screamed in defiance.


When she woke, Antius placed his hands on her shoulders.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Antius, recall all those investigating the Raven Hand." She touched her hand to one of his as she tossed the covers aside. "I need reports from all the cities, I need to know of anything strange that has happened there, anything that is…not right." She pulled herself out of bed and moved towards her armor. "Get anyone that we sent to that damned island back here!"

Antius rubbed his face and ran a hand through his hair, "Elysa, where are you going?"

"The city of ice." She looked back at the bed, but he was no longer there. Across the room, he shouldered his armor. Elysa smiled, despite herself. "What are you doing?"

"Coming with you," he said.

"No, I need you to get me those reports, and bring our scouts back home." She strapped on one pauldron, then the other. "I’ll take a group of guards with me. Please, Antius."

Antius nodded with resignation. There was no arguing with her once she had made up her mind. But even his confidence in her could not completely erase the worry. He—and Ispar—had almost lost her once. "Be careful."

She smiled, "Always."

Rollout Article

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Rollout Article

Posted on 23-Feb-2004

Four days without feeding, four days without wash and four days without any sign of his quarry. He drew a hand through his greasy hair and looked at the shreth beneath his boot. Hardly worth killing, true, but at the moment he would settle for a drudge. He spied the note on a corpse nearby, likely some poor sod who had wandered too near the pack of shreth. Kneeling, he caught the scent of crisp cold air. Snow was coming soon. The letter was odd, but it made him think of the witch. He smiled in spite of the aching pain within his soul and headed north.


"What is it?" Wah Chon asked Ye Te. The two stood outside their shop doorways looking out across the town crossing. Snow fell, obscuring their vision.

"I don't know. I don't think that I want to." There was a long pause. Wah Chon started moving cautiously down the hill.

"What are you doin'?" asked Ye Te.

"I want to know what it is." Wah Chon snapped, startled and nearly leaping into the air. "Stop yelling, you fool!"

Ye Te shook her head. "Remember the last statues that appeared in town. These could be the same," she chided her friend. "Best you wear your armor and prepare to fight."

Wah Chon waved a hand at Ye Te to show her displeasure and stepped closer to the small statue. Her face became pale as she turned to her friend. Ye Te took a step towards Wah Chon, who turned and ran, slipping up the hill. Ye Te spied glowing red eyes and black wings through the snow. She grew pale as well as she retreated into her shop and slid the door closed.

The Ongoing Saga
After the eruption of darkness on the island to the southwest, many adventurers assailed the transformed Caul in an attempt to discern its secrets. New horrors were discovered, as were new trophies and rewards. As the reformed Council tries to respond to this new threat, additional dangers seem to be found daily, some much closer to home.

Now let's take a look at some of the changes in this month's event.

Tuskers and Physics
After the January event, we began seeing a number of unusual server-side lag spikes, generally occurring alongside strange reports of invisible monsters and players who suddenly found themselves in total darkness, unable to move.

Over the course of this month, we have taken several steps to resolve these issues, such as temporarily removing all monsters from the most frequently affected dungeons and restarting the servers with increased logging.

With the February event, we believe we have resolved most if not all of the bugs that caused these situations. We have also added improved logging to help us stamp out any remaining issues.

Speedhack Auto-enforcement
In August of 2003, we enabled auto-enforcement of speed-altering violations on Darktide, in addition to the auto-detection which had been active for some time. This meant that if you tried to use a speed-altering program like Gear or Speedhack on Darktide, you would get booted on your first three offenses, and banned for additional offenses.

Since that time, we have made some improvements to the auto-detection and auto-enforcement system, and we are now prepared to activate auto-enforcement on the seven NPK worlds. The same rules will be used as on Darktide.

  • On your first, second, and third detection, you will be automatically booted from the game.
  • On your fourth detection, you will be booted from the game and given a one-day ban.
  • On your fifth detection as well as any further detections, you will be booted from the game and given a three-day ban.

We will be rolling out auto-enforcement in waves to ensure that there are no unexpected snags. Approximately a week after the February event, Frostfell will be briefly restarted in order to have auto-enforcement activated. The other six worlds will most likely follow in the March event.

Chat Improvements
This month, we've made some improvements and bug fixes to allegiance chat, as well as adding several new commands for general chat.

  • @filter allegiance no longer filters global allegiance chat. It still filters all @m, @p, @v, and @c messages.
  • You should no longer see text from characters that you have squelched in allegiance chat.
  • There is now an option in the Character Options panel, "Global Allegiance Chat." Checking or unchecking this option will enable or disable allegiance chat for your character. You can also toggle this option via the commands @allegiance chat on or @allegiance chat off. Existing characters have this option on by default.
  • You can now set allegiance chat as your default chat mode by clicking on the Chat button to the left of the chat bar.
  • Allegiance chat is now orange instead of pink.
  • When you type @r, the chat bar will now autoreplace this with @t . Now, if you receive a tell from a second player while you are typing your reply, it will go to the correct recipient.
  • We have added @mr, which will autoreplace with @t .
  • We have added @pr, which will autoreplace with @t .
  • You can now map keys to the following commands via the "Configure Keyboard" button in your Options panel: @r, @mr, @pr, and toggle allegiance chat.

Treasure in February
As we mentioned in the Letter to the Players, we are in the process of rebalancing treasure in much the same way that we rebalanced creature difficulty and experience last year. Our goals are twofold: we want treasure to be 1) useful and 2) interesting.

February is only the first stage of our rebalancing, and although some changes you will notice are obvious steps towards our goals, the value of other changes will only become clear as the process continues. In particular, here are some areas in which things are not yet perfect:

  • Spell scrolls: The level of scrolls that you find on creatures is badly out of whack right now. Truthfully, it has been for awhile, but our other changes in February really emphasize this issue. We plan to have spell scrolls of appropriate levels dropping with the March update.
  • Wield Req. Weapons: The distribution of weapons with wield requirements at extreme levels (80+) is not satisfactory. We will be working on this aspect of treasure over the next several months.
  • Spells on Items: The distribution of item and creature spells on items at extreme levels (80+) is not satisfactory. We will be working on this aspect of treasure over the next several months.
  • Chests: February concentrated on creature loot; March will concentrate more heavily on chest loot. So during the February update you may run across some chests that are not yet properly adjusted for the area in which they appear.
  • Armor in general, and Covenant Armor in particular: We have some interesting plans for loot armor, but it is likely going to be many months before you see these plans come to full fruition.

So keep these factors in mind and remember that we're going to be working on treasure for the next several months. And enjoy the changes!

NPCs and Stacks
There are many NPCs who will reward you for items that can be stacked. In the past, if you had a stack of these items, you had to split them up into individual items before you could hand them in.

Starting this month, you can now hand a whole stack to any NPC that accepts an item that can be stacked. The NPC should take only one item off the stack, leaving the remainder in your pack, and then give you your reward.

Town Criers will still take whole stacks of items and dispose of them for you.

Fellowship XP and Trophies
Last month, we made a change to the way fellowship XP was handled with regards to player location. One aspect of this change that resulted in a great deal of feedback was the increased difficulty in sharing XP from trophies, such as the Olthoi Queen's head or the Olthoi Pincers. If a character in your fellowship happened to be standing outside Behdo Yii's house when you turned in an Olthoi Pincer, for example, he would receive no XP as you were indoors, and he was outdoors. Fellowship XP doesn't share between indoor and outdoor characters anymore.

Starting this month, XP rewards from trophy turn-ins are no longer subject to the fellowship restrictions. Those rewards that are shared among your fellowship will be shared no matter where any individual member of that fellowship is standing. So when you hand in the Queen's head, you won't have to worry about everyone in your fellowship having to crowd into Aun Hareltah's tent in Timaru.

Secure Trade Window
We've seen a number of complaints, both on the forums and in reports to the Admin team, regarding players who close the secure trade window in mid-transaction, in the hopes that their trading partner will accidentally hand them an item or drop an item on the ground.

To prevent this behavior, we have made the following change: if a player closes the trade window, the other player's trade window will not close automatically. Instead, the other player will receive the "The trade has been canceled" message and the trade window will stay open. The other player can close the window at his or her leisure.

Release Notes

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Developer's Notes

Posted on 24-Feb-2004

New Functionality and Content

  • All players now have access to Asheron's Call: Dark Majesty content, regardless of whether or not they had purchased the expansion pack in the past. Please see the Letter to the Players for details.
  • The Allegiance Experience system has been changed. For details, please see the following articles: Allegiance Experience and Allegiance Experience Follow-Up.
  • Two existing quests Frore and the Bunny Master have been updated.
  • The first phase of creature and chest treasure revisions has been implemented. Please see the Letter to the Players and the Rollout Article for details.
  • Several improvements to allegiance and general chat. Please see the Rollout Article for details.

Miscellaneous Changes and Improvements

  • We have made changes to reduce and/or prevent the severe server-side lag and black screen client bug that were experienced after the January event. Please see the Rollout Article for details.
  • This month, we will be activating speed-enhancement ("speedhack") auto-enforcement on the NPK worlds. Please see the Rollout Article for details.
  • The opening splash screens now show the name of the monthly event.
  • Snow has stopped falling in most of Dereth, although the accumulation on the ground has not yet melted.
  • The Fellowship Experience changes made last month no longer applies to experience earned from trophy turn-ins. Please see the Rollout Article for details.
  • @day is now an option on the Character Options panel, and it is persistent across logins. You can still toggle it via the @day command as well.
  • All existing characters on Darktide are eligible for a one-time award of experience and items. Please see the Letter to the Players for details.
  • You can now hand a stack of items to an NPC instead of having to split one item off the stack first. Please see the Rollout Article for details.
  • One player closing the trade window should no longer automatically close the window for the other player. Please see the Rollout Article for details.
  • Removing characters from your house guest list or squelch list is no longer case-sensitive.
  • A bug that was preventing use of Vincadi's Harbinger portal has been fixed.
  • The collector at the Yanshi refugee camp should now give the same rewards as the other collectors.
  • The Listris Nefane should no longer drop its trophy 100% of the time.
  • All Nefane were doing too little damage with their tentacles, this has been resolved.
  • The Dolls on the Singularity Caul should no longer be casting level 1 debuffs.
  • The run speed of Marguls has been increased.
  • The highest level of Runed Chests should once again spawning on landscape.
  • You can now recharge Ulgrim's Casting Stein if it is wielded by using a full mana stone or charge on your paperdoll.
  • You can now use the Fish Stamp on stampable shields, if you meet the requirements.
  • The Sleek Dress should look correct when dyed.
  • The rings received from Darhy, Nuhmudira's assistant, are now ivoryable.
  • The Mace of Dissonance is no longer attuned.
  • The Quintessence Sickle now has a correct wield requirement. If you are wielding a Sickle when you log in, and do not meet the 325 base Axe wield requirement, you will unwield the Sickle. Please see the Letter to the Players for details..

Minor Details

  • The Nexus Town Information Guide handed out by Society Agents at each town has been tweaked to be easier to read.
  • Enchanted damage modifiers on missile weapons should now be properly shown in green in the ID panel.
  • Several buildings on the Singularity Caul have been tweaked to improve how they sit on landscape.
  • Scrum no longer casts war spells, but his debuffs have gotten nastier.
  • The NPCs in the Hidden Cavern are a little more talkative.
  • Your girth area should no longer flash when equipping a Rendeath Shreth Coat.
  • New Rendeath Shreth Coats will no longer have a white girth area when dropped or hooked. This does not change existing Coats.
  • You should no longer get stuck on the ledge above the cage in Oolutanga's Refuge.
  • The second guard in the Training Academy no longer repeats himself unnecessarily.
  • It is no longer possible to write in the untranslated Elemental Tomes.
  • Signs in Al-Jalima should no longer be on the ground.
  • The text in a Samsur town sign has been fixed.
  • The bags sold by the Candeth Keep tree vendors are now the correct color.
  • The Hieromancer's Gauntlets are now spelled correctly, as are Banderling Hierophants.
  • The Peerless Drudge Charm Necklace now has the correct name.
  • Tachis wielded by high-level Drudges no longer have an incorrect icon.
  • Several creatures have been tweaked for balance.
  • A typo in the Book of Quests for New Explorers has been fixed.
  • The Surface portal in the Unicorn's Grace dungeon no longer says "Exit to Sruface".
  • A typo in Samuel's speech has been corrected.

Letter to the Players

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Letter to the Players

Posted on 02-Feb-2004

Welcome to the February 2004 Letter to the Players! You may be a little surprised at how soon after the January event this letter arrived, and I don’t blame you. Several months ago we began planning to move our events to the second week of the month, starting in February. Combined with our need to delay the January event until the very end of the month, however, this means that there will only be about two weeks between the January event and the February event.

In Dereth, the full power and malice of Ler Rhan – Aerbax’s so-called mirror – has been revealed with the eruption of darkness on the Singularity Caul. While the populace looks fearfully to the southwest, High Queen Elysa Strathelar and the council continue working to improve the lives of all people on Dereth.

Now let’s take a look at some of the changes coming up in the February event.

Dark Majesty Unlocked For All
I’ll cut right to the chase: Starting with the February event, all players will have access to Asheron’s Call: Dark Majesty content, whether or not they purchased the expansion pack. That means that all characters will be able to access Marae Lassel and all characters will have the ability to purchase in-game housing.

We have decided to do this for a number of reasons. The first reason is... well, because we like to give things to you, our fans, who have stayed with us and made our purchase of the franchise possible. Those who don’t have ACDM will now be able to access that content and adventure with their friends who have ACDM currently.

We are also very aware of the current problems with obtaining new copies of AC:DM and we are doing this to help those who only need it to upgrade existing accounts. We also know that our recent announcement has sparked a lot of interest in older players who are looking to return to the game, some who may have left before the expansion pack was released, and we want to give them more incentive to return.

In the meantime, we are working hard to make copies of the game available to new players. We want new players just as much as we want previous players to come back! This is just a quick fix to one part of the issue. As soon as we have a solution to availability in place, we’ll let you know; we’re working on it as you read this.

Incidentally, this change is being handled by the game servers themselves and not by the billing system at the MS Gaming Zone. Because of that fact, this will not change your listed subscription, nor will it change which lobbies you use to enter the game. If you currently use the non-Dark Majesty lobbies, continue to do so. You will be able to access Dark Majesty content even when entering the game via these lobbies.

Allegiance XP Changes
The February event brings with it sweeping changes to the means in which the allegiance system creates and passes-up experience.

Please refer back to our article on these changes. We’ve also posted a follow-up article with some changes and clarifications.

Treasure Changes
February will see the beginning of a rebalancing of the treasure system in Asheron’s Call, similar to the monster rebalancing that was done last year. Some of our goals for the treasure system include:

  • Creatures in a particular level range should drop loot that is useful to characters in that level range.
  • More creatures should drop items that have been modified in some way by the treasure system. There should always be a reason to check a creature’s corpse.

As with the monster rebalancing, this is a process that will take several months. This month, you will see small to moderate changes in the loot dropped by almost every creature, as well as that found in many special chests.

Darktide Award
As referenced in this article, this month we will be providing all characters on Darktide with an award as an apology for the downtime and rollback a week and a half ago. Starting on the day of the February event, all existing characters on Darktide can talk to a town crier for the following one-time award:

  • Two random pieces of high-level loot.
  • Enough experience to gain three levels. Characters who are level 126 will receive three times the experience required to go from 125 to 126. This XP will not be shared in fellowships and will not be passed up through the allegiance system.

This award must be claimed before the March event. Make sure you leave two empty slots in your backpack!

Quintessence Sickle
The updated Quintessence Sickle has an activation requirement of 325 Axe. This was intended to be a wield requirement, and this has been fixed for the February event.

If you are wielding a Quintessence Sickle when the worlds come down for the February event, and you do not have a base Axe skill of 325, the Sickle will be moved to your backpack when you enter the world after the event. If your backpack is full, it will drop on the ground.

To be safe, we recommend that those players who do not meet the wield requirements not have the Sickle wielded when the worlds come down for the event.

Content Revisions
We’re continuing our plans of retouching outdated content. In February, you’ll be seeing the return of one of Dereth’s most elusive citizens, as well as an update to one of its oldest and most legendary quests.

The Future
We’d like to let you know some of the larger tasks that we’re working on for the next several months. These include:

  • Additional updates to treasure, such as more mutations for wands and bows and improved damage over time balance.
  • A focus on player vs. player gameplay, including general improvements and resolutions to known PvP issues.
  • Some magic additions, such as fellowship spells and improvements to the buffing process.
  • An assortment of quest and town upgrades.
  • Asheron Call’s next story arc!

We’ll be providing more information on many of these changes, especially PvP, long before they enter the game. We know you’ll have a great deal of feedback for us on these topics.

In addition to all of this, we’ve got some exciting new content lined up for February. See you in Dereth!

- Ibn

Developer Comments

A Note on Majors

Feb. 25, 2004 - Link

A note on majors:

The general level range of creatures that can drop majors has increased. That is, you may have found majors on lower level creatures before than you will now. We may be revisiting this change depending on player feedback.

The number of creatures that can drop majors has increased. Almost every creature in the 80+ areas can now drop majors, which was not true before, and the number of creatures that have an increased chance of dropping majors is vastly increased. (Hmm .. That's a bit unclear. In short, creatures generally have a small chance of majors, or a larger chance of majors. There are now a lot more creatures with a larger chance of dropping majors.)

The chance for a particular item to get a major cantrip has decreased very slightly (about 1%).

Overall, we expect majors to be as common or more common as before, but spread more evenly over a greater variety of creatures.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

On Loot Changes

Feb. 25, 2004 - Link

Just a quick comment on this:

The largest changes to loot were at the lower levels, and they were almost overwhelmingly positive. More loot in general, a tighter range of wield requirements (so less 325 wield req weapons for level 10s), a lot more item enchantments, and a tighter range of spell levels on items, for instance.

The highest tier of loot changed very little, and in a generally positive way. (For instance, average workmanship on weapons and armor came down a little bit.)

One thing to keep in mind, though, especially when you are talking about lower levels, is that a lot of the creatures that rerolls were used to hunting dropped loot far above their level. I'm thinking specifically of certain Olthoi here. This meant that a low level -- or anyone, really -- could make a lot of money off of them fast, but that they tended not to drop equipment that was useful for the level of players they were meant for. As part of the overall loot rebalancing, these creatures were adjusted to better fit their intended level. That worked out to more useful equipment for those levels, but to anyone used to what they dropped before it may look like worse loot. It's not worse -- it's just different.

So, as I said before and as I'll say many more times today: if you were in the habit of hunting creature X for some particular kind of loot, and you're not happy with what creature X is dropping, try hunting some other creatures.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

On the Value of Loot Changes

Feb. 25, 2004 - Link

I keep seeing this meme that value on loot has changed in some drastic way. Let's talk about that.

There were no explicit changes to the value of loot. Now, before you start arguing with me, read this: there were changes to the underlying system of loot levels to make them better match character level ranges. Since loot level is the primary indicator of value, that's going to have some effect on value in the field.

In other words, loot level 2 still generates loot of the same value that loot level 2 always did, but different creatures drop loot level 2 than did before. (There are 6 levels of loot, by the way. I'm just calling them by number here, but for reference 5 is what you used to call noble loot, and 6 is what you used to call sing loot.)

What effect is this going to have? Depends on the creature. A lot of creatures saw an increase in their loot level -- so we expect them to be dropping more valuable treasure than they did before. This is especially true at the lower levels. The bottommost and topmost loot droppers saw no change in loot level -- and therefore no change in value. And certain outliers -- creatures whose loot level was out of whack before -- are now more in line with their intended level, and the loot on those creatures is likely less valuable than it was before.

Overall, we expect these changes to be fairly subtle. So what is everyone talking about? Well, before this update a lot of people were in the habit of hunting those outliers I mentioned above for money. Since the value of loot on those creatures may well have gone down a bit, if you stick with those creatures you may see a change in how much money you can make.

The other change which is affecting value is that the types of loot that creatures drop has, in many cases, changed quite a bit. For instance, Olthoi used to drop a lot of peas. Now they drop more equipment and less peas. If you were hunting Olthoi to collect peas for money, then you are going to notice a change.

Incidentally, here's something to keep in mind, and I'm going to be saying this a lot: if you were in the habit of hunting creature X for a particular kind of loot, and you're not happy with what creature X is dropping, try hunting some other creatures.

I noticed that in another thread, someone asked me if this means that they can't hunt Olthoi anymore even though they most enjoy hunting Olthoi. Of course not -- if you enjoy Olthoi than hunt Olthoi! But if you were hunting Olthoi because you enjoy making the most possible cash each hunting trip, then maybe Olthoi aren't your best target creature anymore. But, you say, you can't afford to hunt Olthoi and still resupply yourself? Well, honestly the evidence we have -- from player reports, from our tests, and from playing ourselves -- suggests that this is at best an exaggeration. But rest assured that we will be keeping an eye on the situation and closely monitoring player feedback, and if it looks like we need to raise loot values for some levels or creatures, then we will do so.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Missile Mods

Feb. 25, 2004 - Link

The maximum possible damage mod on 290 wield crossbows went up. The maxiumum possible damage mod on 290 wield bows did not change in either direction. (Nor did the damage mod on atlatls, by the way.)

Crossbow could stand a little bump in DoT (and it is a very little bump, we know), but bow and atlatl are exactly where we want them right now.

We also wanted to diversify the missile launcher treasure mutations a bit. Previously, you could only find one damage mod per wield requirement on the 250/270/290 missile weapons. Now you can find any of four damage mods per wield req. Crossbow, though, had less space between its mods on the top end, so adding that extra 5% gave us a bit more space to work with in adding mod mutations.

Now, I'll admit that you *can* see this as a minor nerf if you try hard enough. Your chance of finding a 130% bow has decreased slightly. However, 3% damage mod really doesn't make that a whole lot of difference in terms of DoT or, more importantly, usability in the field. So what did diversifying the missile weapon mods get us?

Well, if you absolutely positively have to have a 130% bow, they are slightly more rare -- and therefore worth more in player trades. And if you are just looking for a good solid useful 290 wield bow, then your chances of finding one have actually increased -- both because more creatures are dropping 290 wield bows, and because the average workmanship of 290 wield bows has dropped. So you are more likely to find a good 290 wield bow now, although slightly less likely to find the best 290 wield bow now.

Incidentally, here's something to keep in mind, and I'm going to be saying this a lot: if you were in the habit of hunting creature X for bows (or any particular kind of loot), and you're not happy with what creature X is dropping, try hunting some other creatures. Loot distribution has changed -- alot. But if you take a look around, I think you'll find that most of the changes are beneficial, a few are ambiguous or sligtly negative depending on what you're after, and some -- which we mentioned in the Rollout Article and elsewhere and which we are working on getting fixed ASAP -- are really out of whack.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Loot Changes Incomplete

Feb. 25, 2004 - Link

I apologize for the delay in responding -- I want to make sure I read everything before I jump in.

The most important thing that I see folks forgetting is that the treasure changes are not done yet. This is very similar to the creature rebalancing -- many players were upset to find that their traditional hunting grounds were no longer profitable, XP-wise. Then they found other, new, hunting grounds that made them happy.

When the treasure changes are complete, this will likely happen again. There are a number of things that are VERY wonky in their current state, because the changes are incomplete.

All I can ask is that you reserve final judgment until you have seen the final results. Changes this large cannot be done all in one month.

In the meantime, try hunting in new areas, and checking out different monsters -- you may be pleasantly surprised.

Turbine Icon Ibn
Live Team Alumnus

On Scrolls

Feb. 25, 2004 - Link

Q: ... Indeed, you have done the exact opposite: level 60 olthoi dropping plain healing kits, level 3 scrolls, and fire katars not worth their weight in gold, is not "in tune."...-Vehementi

A: We mentioned in the Rollout Article that the level of scrolls that are dropping are badly out of whack. They have been for quite some time, but the changes to loot this update really exacerbated that. We tried hard to get the scrolls straightened out for February, but we ran out of time. They will be straightened out with the March update.

(As an aside: I've seen a few people ask why we couldn't do all the loot changes at once. We're actually talking about thousands of data files, hundreds of tables, and a big chunk of code. Our first priority was to make the underlying changes that would simplify the rest of our work. Our second priority was to roll out the changes in such a way that players would not be completely inconvenienced for a month -- and in large part we succeeded at that. Yes, we're getting a lot of feedback about the changes, but as I continue answering some of your questions and discussing more details about the changes, I think you'll see how most of them balance out or are overall beneficial.

In addition to the sheer amount of work we are talking about, we also have a number of interesting ideas that you won't be seeing for a few months just because we need to get all the underlying work done before we can start layering on the coolest new stuff.)

Anyway .. back to your comment. Healing kits and other unmutated loot -- like mana stones and potions or food -- are another area that will be changing in the future. Again, they weren't very well synchronized with character levels in the old loot levels, and they are even worse off now. But this was an area where we were not as concerned with the temporary out-of-whackness, in large part because the old system was so badly out of whack to start with. What I mean is, the healing kits that players were finding on most creatures last month were not, in the main, terribly useful to the players finding them. This month they still aren't. When we get the selection levels straightened out for healing kits in the near future, they will be.

Incidentally, this does bring up one point that one of the team made to me this morning. Players are used to judging their loot by certain indicators. That is, when you open a corpse and see a alevel 2 spell scroll or a poor healing kit, you "know" it's bad loot. When you see a level 6 scroll, you "know" it's not sing loot. It doesn't matter what the other items it the corpse actually are -- you're past experiences have taught you to "know" that these things are true.

But with the treasure changes this month, what you know is true may not actually be accurate anymore. So when you're looting this week, keep that in mind -- even if you see a mere good healing kit on a corpse, that doesn't neccesarily mean that the loot is terrible. Take a look at the other items -- you're going to find that the weapons and armor have on average more spells than they would have before, that those spells have a slightly tighter (more useful) level range, that the workmanship is on average slightly lower, that the wield reqs ranges are slightly narrower (more useful), etc.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Things Have Changed

Feb. 25, 2004 - Link

Things have changed. That isn't neccesarily a bad thing, but it is something you need to be aware of if you are expecting things to be the same. We should have done a better job of preparing you for these changes. Honestly, with our knowledge of exactly what changed, we didn't expect such a negative reaction. We know exactly where things improved, after all. But you don't, and we should have better prepared you for that by sharing where things would be better, and where things would be different.

But hindsight is 20/20, and here we are now. So let's talk about some of these treasure changes.

The biggest thing we did was change what level of loot different creatures dropped. Before, most of the loot levels were concentrated at the lower levels (say, 1-50) and the higher levels had to get along with just a couple of loot levels. So we redistributed loot levels so that each character level range could have its own loot level, pretty much. This means that while a mid level creature may have been dropping loot level 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 before, depending on the creature, it will now most likely be dropping loot level 3.

By itself, that would have been a nerf to most treasure, so then we went back through and changed what the loot levels actually mean so as to reduce any negative impact on players and increase the benefits of the change.

In particular, we fixed up wield requirements on weapons. You can now find wield requirements that better match the intended target level of creatures. For instance, you won't be finding no-wield weapons in the highest levels of loot anymore.

We also fiddled with the spells that generate on items. Weapons and armor in general have more item enchantments, and the levels of all the spells they get (item, creature, and life) occur in a narrower band. In other words, where you might have found an item with level 3, 4, 5, or 6 spells before, you'll now be finding items with level 5 and 6 spells.

By the way, as we mentioned in the Rollout Article, we're not entirely satisfied with either wield requirements or spell levels at the highest levels of loot, and we'll be working on these more in the future. But even as they are right now, they are overall no worse and in several places a bit better than they were before these changes.

So, what else did we change? Well, those were really the only explicit changes. (I'm not including here the small bumps in max damage to a couple of weapons, by the way, but we did that as well.) Some other side effects you may notice, however, include the fact that average workmanship has decreased slightly, and that value may have increased or decreased slightly depending on what creatures you were hunting. Average loot value stayed about the same -- a little higher at low levels, a little lower at mid levels, the same at the highest levels -- but how much cash you can make off of loot is highly dependent on exactly what types of items a creature drops, and that has changed on a lot of creatures.

In addition, as we mentioned in the Rollout Article, the spell scrolls that you can find on creatures are badly out of whack. In truth, they have been for some time, but the changes this month really exacerbate that issue. We wanted to get them fixed up in February. but we ran out of time -- and they will be fixed up in March. Similarly, things like healing kits and potions are a bit out of whack -- they were in the past, and we didn't help them this month -- but we will be fixing them up soon.

Incidentally, this does bring up one point that one of the team made to me this morning. Players are used to judging their loot by certain indicators. That is, when you open a corpse and see a alevel 2 spell scroll or a poor healing kit, you "know" it's bad loot. When you see a level 6 scroll, you "know" it's not sing loot. It doesn't matter what the other items it the corpse actually are -- you're past experiences have taught you to "know" that these things are true.

But with the treasure changes this month, what you know is true may not actually be accurate anymore. So when you're looting this week, keep that in mind -- even if you see a mere good healing kit on a corpse, that doesn't neccesarily mean that the loot is terrible. Take a look at the other items -- you're going to find that the weapons and armor have on average more spells than they would have before, that those spells have a slightly tighter (more useful) level range, that the workmanship is on average slightly lower, that the wield reqs ranges are slightly narrower (more useful), etc.

And I've said this several time already today, and I'll be saying it some more: Things have changed. If you were in the habit of hunting creature X for a particular kind of loot, and you're not happy with what creature X is dropping, you may want to try hunting some other kinds of creatures.

We're watching your feedback about this quite carefully, and we'll be making adjustments as neccesary. Our goals for the treasure system are simple: loot that is 1) interesting and 2) useful. We're not there yet, but we are closer than we were last month, and we're going to be using your feedback to fine-tune our efforts as we work towards our goal.

Edit: I need to make one minor correction. Because hiltable daggers and shortswords cannot generate with wield requirements, you may still find no-wield versions of these weapons in high levels of loot. Sorry for that confusion.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Why Now?

Feb. 26, 2004 - Link

There are several reasons why we decided to implement these changes now.

  1. Things were out of whack.
  2. Things would only get worse.
  3. The underlying work we did allows us to add some cool new features to treasure in the future.

I think I mentioned above, or possibly in another thread, that of our 6 loot levels, 4 of them were bunched up at the lowest character levels and the other two got strung out over the rest of the game. For various technical reasons, its extremely non-trivial for us to add new loot levels, so if we wanted to add any better higher level loot we had to redistribute the loot levels. Since we have a lot of high level players these days, adding cooler high level loot is going to be important for us in the near future.

In addition, the bunching of loot levels at lower character levels, as well certain irregularities in creatures at lower levels, made lower level loot really hit or miss (and generally miss) for actual newbies. With a downloadable client and an expansion pack in our future, we want to make sure that the AC experience is consistently fun, especially for true newbies. So this change made sense from that perspective as well.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Making Room for the Future

Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: While loot levels are now spread evenly from level 1-126, the power curve over those levels is not the same. Let me try to demonstrate with an ASCII graph. -Juztyn

A: A big chunk of this was actually a problem before we made any of the changes... one of the reason that we made these changes was to create space at the top of the loot system where we could put new things as the game progresses. As it was under the old way, we couldn't add something new for very high level players without it showing up in loot that was received by much lower level players.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

On Phase I

Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Yes, this is good useful feedback, Falconoffury. Thank you. I'm glad Ibn pointed me at it.

I did want to make a few short comments. These are to some extent all in the "this is phase I" line of thought, which I know is not entirely satisfying to some players, but I hope I can share with you what we've got planned and why it's not done yet.

First, you mentioned quite a bit about armor. I'm just going to say this up front: we're not happy with armor either, but it’s a huge mess and it's going to take us some time to straighten it out. This is one reason we mentioned armor explicitly in the Rollout Article. In the meantime, it's nowhere near perfect, but then it hasn't been for quite some time. We made the decision not to hold up our other cool plans for treasure as a whole while we work on armor, but armor revisions are on the way.

You also mention the incidence of 'poor' weapon classes like dabus, tungis, etc. in the mid and high levels. I agree with you, and in fact we're at work on a change that will address this issue.

Next, you mention spell levels on jewelry. Spell levels on items is something else we mentioned in the Rollout Article, along with weapon wield requirements, and for much the same reason. The distribution of both of these properties is stretched further than we like at the high end. Let me explain what I mean by that. We'd like you to be finding higher level spells and a narrower range of wield requirements at mid and higher levels, but if we follow that progression we end up with the highest loot having only 325 weapons and only level 6 spells -- and that's just not enough variation. So we stretched the distribution of spell levels and wield requirements to include lower levels of these properties at each level loot. What we really need here is more levels of wield requirements and more levels of item spells for higher levels. That's not to say that we are definitely adding these things, mind you, but we are hard at work on a solution to the underlying issue. And honestly we are very excited about some of the ideas we are considering.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Some Specifics

Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: ... Srand you mention being concerned with ending up with 325 weapons that purely lvl VI's on them. Can you not do as was suggested elsewhere and start 325's dropping in the 60's range with no to 1 or 2 lvl IV's to VI's (item or creature) and then move up the number and quality as you move up in the hunting ranges? ... -Darro

A: That is exactly what we do. Right now, you will start seeing level 325 weapons dropping on creatures targeted at players of level 60. These weapons may have spells of level 4 or higher. At higher loot levels, you will find more 325's and the spells will be only level 5 or 6.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Wield Requirements

Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: You do realize, of course, that weapons with 300 wield reqs are dropping off level 10 dolls? -Trai

A: Tell me which dolls exactly and I'll take a look.

One of the reasons the changes this month took so long -- and therefore why we didn't have as much time for other cleanup of out of whack things -- was because we had to touch each creature individually to set the new loot profiles. We built some tools to deal with the issue, so in the future this will not be as much of an issue, but especially for this first run it is perfectly possible that some individual creatures are not dropping what they should be. I mentioned this in another thread, I believe, but if you find something that directly contradicts what we've said the changes should look like, please let me know exactly what creature dropped the loot and we'll take a look and verify it.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: After some more hunting, levels 1-20 may be a bit too good. I have also found the mentioned wield 300 weapons. It would make sense to have the 250 wield weapons only start appearing after level 20. Have the wield 300 weapons maybe start appearing after level 40. Then, at level 40, the wield 250 weapons could be quite common. At level 60, the wield 300 weapons would become quite common. At level 60, the wield 325s make some appearance. Then they can become common at level 80+. Then, of course the level 120+ loot would have the really great weapons with the +15% mods, cantrips, and spells.

I recommend breaking the loot into roughly every 20 levels. -Falconoffury

A: Oddly enough, this is exactly what we have done. And the ranges you recommend for wield requirements are also exactly on target with our changes. Of course, there may be some disagreement between us as to what constitutes a creature aimed at a level 60 player, but we agree with you on the underlying level to wield req correspondence.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

More Responses

Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: What monsters are you targetting at level 60? I only ask because I *am* level 60 and I played a bit yesterday. In OHN, I fought nobles [level 79] and eviscerators [level 85]. I never got any 325+ wield items, or indeed any items with spells higher than a IV in an hour's time. In that time, I received exactly two items that were worth more than 5000p - an Orb worth 6800p and a chainmail hauberk worth 12000p. None of the non-magical items of interesting material (steel, iron, etc.) were above workmanship 4, so they were useless for salvage. -Action

A: Nobles and Eviscerators are very close to the mid-high border, but both fall slightly on the mid side. So no, you aren't going to find 325 weapons on them right now.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: Then I went to hunt around Neydisa Castle for 1-2 buff cycles. -Action

A: Remember that Neydisa Castle is in a mid level area, as you can see on the creature redistribution map.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: What really seemed wierd were the golems - crystal [level 85] and gold [level 90]. They didn't seem to drop weapons or armor at all. Again, I wasn't taking notes as closely as I was with the Olthoi at that point, so there may have been 1-2 but it was significant enough to stand out. Either a really wierd coincidence or something strange is going on there. -Action

A: Those golems drop less weapon and armor than some creatures, but they still have a decent chance to drop weapons and armor.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: This experience leads me to a couple of important (to me, anyway) questions:

Since I am level 60 and I am not finding loot that's useful for me in any of the four key ways (keep to use, keep to trade, keep to salvage, keep to sell) and 325+ wield weapons are on monsters "targetted" by Turbine for level 60, then I must not be hunting the monsters Turbine thinks I should be hunting. Which monsters are "targetted" for level 60? -Action

A: You might try hunting creatures in the high areas of the landscape. One thing that we may need to consider is lowering our mental cutoff line for 325 weapons (and other ranges) so that you can start finding these on the highest level mid creatures instead of the lowest level high creatures. This is something I will take up with the team today.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: If the monsters "targetted" for level 60 have a chance of dropping 325+ wield req items for with level IV spells, is this the quality of loot you think a level 60 wants to use/should be using? That's a pretty big change from what the playerbase is used to, based on these surveys: -Action

A: A high level creature also has a chance to drop a 325 with multiple level 6 spells and minors. There needs to be a variation in each range -- you can't always find the best stuff. Having said that, however, I will also reiterate that, as I mentioned above, the spells on items in the middle and higher levels of loot are not where we want them, and we will be adjusting them somewhat.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 27, 2004 - Link

Q: If the character development system allows me to have base 325 in my melee skill, base 310 in my melee defense, and a base 210 arcane lore at level 60 (and I know from personal experience that it does), why shouldn't I have a chance (albeit small) to find a 325+ melee weapon with nice mods and a few VIs - or am I supposed to have this chance now if I was fighting the level 60 "targetted" monsters? If not, is the intended effect to have characters who meet all of the prerequisites for an item wait 60+ levels in order to find and use them, or to beg higher level characters for them? We certainly won't be able to trade anything with higher-ups as the loot system stands now; even salvage, the great trade equalizer, has been taken from us in large part. -Action

A: Keep in mind that AC is not a level-based system. We are very much, and we will always remain very much, a skill-based system. However, when we're talking about skill levels it is very often a useful shortcut to translate that into average levels. What I am getting at here is that if you have a 325 melee weapon skill, we don't actually care what your character level is -- we know that your skill is high enough that you will be able to fight creatures with a certain level of stats. As a shortcut in speech only, we say that those creatures are targeted at a particular level, but what we really mean is that they are targeted at a rough range of skill levels.

In other words, if you can use a 325 weapon we expect that you can kill the creatures that drop them based on your attack skill, and ignoring any artificial shortcut names we've given them.

Action, this is also very good feedback. You've highlighted some current difficulties for us (namely that we may need to drop the dividing line down a few levels so that the highest mid creatures have a chance for 325 weapons). And you've asked some pointed questions that I hope I have been able to answer for you satisfactorily. Thank you. :>

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer

Special Loot Monster

Feb. 28, 2004 - Link

Q: First, there are a few special monsters with especially high loot profiles for their levels. -Falconoffury

A: The special loot monsters were intended to stay special. Some of them did not -- an oversight we are fixing. Some of the monsters that players think of as being special loot monsters were just incorrectly stat'd before, however.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 28, 2004 - Link

Q: Second, it is very important for you to know that the highest loot level doesn't exist in this current system. -Falconoffury

A: Well, I'd be upset too if that were true. But it's not -- the highest level of loot occurs on different creatures than before in some cases, but it still occurs. And we're making some adjustments in March -- adjustments directly prompted by your feedback (well, and other people's feedback too, of course *grin*) that will bring a number of the qualities associated with the highest level of loot back into the reach of lower level characters.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 28, 2004 - Link

Q: Lastly, use Danilo Thann's idea. Nothing would make us open corpses more than the slim chance of getting something far above our level. -Falconoffury

A: You don't actually want loot from one loot level higher, especially not at low levels, because that's usually going to have wield reqs and activation reqs you can't meet. What you really want is the chance to find loot that's usable at your level, but better in the other ways that are associated with the next loot level up -- so it's still no-wield but has a higher defense mod, for instance. And that is indeed something we are working on.

Edit: Whoops .. I wrote out an answer to Lenin and then forget to add it

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
Feb. 28, 2004 - Link

Q: I'm mostly curious here as to why this patch was propped with these changes *now* instead of perhaps next month or the month after with inclusive changes from feb/mar and possibly april.

It really could've waited an additional month, or at least only partially been propped. -Lenin

A: The sheer amount of work we have to do -- and still have to do -- made that course of action infeasible for us. I'd also like to point out that we did our best to make the change as neutral or actually positive as possible, although I admit we failed in that in a couple of rather noticable places. In other words, our goal was not to nerf you for a month while we got things straightened out; it was to present you with ongoing changes that overall worked out to a decent balance for you.

Turbine Icon Srand
Lead Engineer
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