Publisher: Turbine, Inc.
Developer: Turbine, Inc.
Distributor: Station Publishing
Availability: May 11, 2005
Asheron's Call: Throne of Destiny is the second major expansion to the classic online massively multiplayer fantasy RPG Asheron's Call®. Boasting a completely rebuilt graphics engine, the game is more immersive than ever before. The game's epic storyline pits players against the encroaching menace of the Viamontians, a new race bent on conquering all of Dereth. In their battle to defeat these would-be rulers, the people of Dereth will uncover new mysteries and experience new challenges. Asheron's Call: Throne of Destiny opens the portal to fantastic adventures for players of all levels.
Major graphics update
The entire graphics engine has been updated, with thousands of new textures and improvements to key models.
Completely new user interface
The UI has been totally rewritten to allow for cool new features in future updates.
New playable heritage group.
The game introduces the Viamontians, a fully playable race bent on world domination.
New weapons & armor
A full complement of weapons and armor will be available to players who choose to play as Viamontian characters.
Raising the level cap
The level cap is being raised from 126 to 275 with the game now offering more rewarding play to the most dedicated players.
Players can acquire Augmentation Gems to enhance their abilities in amazing new ways, such as improving combat abilities or adding additional storage.
Hundreds of special rare items can be found by any player!
These rare items will range from interesting and useful tools to very powerful weapons and armor.
Players who join this adventure can explore the Halaetan Islands and the city of Sanamar, launching point of new quests and adventures.
Dozens of new creatures and quests
These fresh additions increase the already impressive depth and breadth of the world of Dereth.
Hundreds of new items
With new items in nearly every category, players will be rewarded in ways never before possible.
One of the following operating systems:
Microsoft Windows 98
Microsoft Windows 2000
Microsoft Windows XP
128 megabytes (MB) of random access memory (RAM)
733 Megahertz (MHz) processor
2 gigabytes (GB) free hard disk space
32 MB 3D DirectX 9.0 compliant video card
4x CD, sound card and speakers or headphones.
Microsoft Mouse, or another compatible pointing device.
56 Kilobits Per Second (Kbps) or faster connection. You must have Internet access to play.
One of the following operating systems
o Microsoft Windows 2000
o Microsoft Windows XP
256 megabytes (MB) of random access memory (RAM)
1 gigahertz (GHz) processor
2 gigabytes (GB) free hard disk space
64 MB 3D DirectX 9.0 compliant video adapter
4x CD, sound card and speakers or headphones.
Microsoft Mouse, or another compatible pointing device.
56 Kilobits Per Second (Kbps) or faster connection. You must have Internet access to play the game.
FAQ - Level Cap and Augmentations
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbinegames.com/index.php?page_id=281
AC:TD Level Cap and Augmentations
Posted on Oct. 2004
What is the new level cap going to be?
Throne of Destiny will increase the level cap from 126 to 275.
What will my new level be?
Treestats says that I'm level 210 already. Will I be level 210 after I install Throne of Destiny?
Either 210 or a level very close to it. Your new level will be calculated based on your total available and invested experience, which is generally how most third-party applications calculate it.
Will the caps on maximum skill level be increased?
Not in Throne of Destiny, no.
What about the extra experience?
So... if I can't spend it on capped skills, what do I do with the experience I earn at the highest levels?
You use it to buy Augmentation Gems! Augmentations will grant one of a range of interesting abilities, stay tuned for examples.
What about fellowships?
Will the level limits on XP-sharing fellowships be changed?
We don't anticipate that this will be a huge issue immediately at the launch of the expansion, so we're not planning on changing the system as part of Throne of Destiny. We are, however, considering redesigning parts of the fellowship system through the monthly updates in order to make it generally more social and inclusive, and we will doubtless address this issue at that time.
What about monarchs?
What will you do about the fact that my level 126 character used to be able to have anyone swear to him, but now won't be able to take the same characters as vassals if they're over 126?
We are considering several different options here, including:
Leave the system intact, with the understanding that players have the next five months to arrange their allegiances in whatever fashion they wish;
Allow any character over level 100 to swear to any other character over level 100;
Allow any character to swear to any other character with some safeguards related to experience pass-up, i.e. no experience pass-up from vassals who swore to you when they were lower level than you.
Our goal is to facilitate the management of allegiances without leaving so many loopholes for fast experience gain that the social purpose of allegiances is occluded. We will be paying close attention to feedback from the community before we make any decision on this question.
What about creatures?
If I get up to level 275, won't the experience that I get for creatures that are listed as level 150 decrease because they're now well below my level?
The expansion will include a number of new higher level creatures, and we're considering other possible fixes, including:
Revisiting the display levels (but not the difficulties) of creatures that are targeted at level 126+ characters to take into account the fact that these characters are now 150 or 200 instead of 126;
Providing Augmentation Gems that ameliorate the effect of the scaling;
Revising the underlying system of experience scaling.
What's the curve?
What is the exact XP curve from 126 to 275?
The exact chart is rather too large to be posted here, the best way to describe it is that the well-known extrapolations of this table that currently exist in the player community are close enough for basic planning.
What about skill credits?
Will we get more skill credits?
Our current plan for skill credits is to award these at the following levels, although please understand that this is subject to change:
The cap on the number of credits you can spend on specialized skills will not be changed.
What about rate of advancement?
Will there be any change to the rate of advancement for uber-level characters, or is this high level just for folks who macroed and used XP chains in the past?
We recognize that there's a real need for more content for uber-level characters and up, and we are definitely committed to creating it.
What about death items?
Will the number of items I drop on death go up?
Yes. At level 126 you can drop up to 14 items, at level 275 you could drop up to 29 items. That's a lot of items, and a large burden on very high level players in terms of pack space. We're considering several methods to ameliorate this burden: possibly an Augmentation that allows you to drop fewer items on death, or a revision of the vitae system to focus the penalty of death more on vitae and less on item loss. We will be discussing this question more in the near future, especially as it concerns changes to the PK dynamic, and of course listening carefully to your feedback.
For additional technical details on the level cap increase, please read this article.
FAQ - Level Cap Update
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=374
FAQ - AC:TD Level Cap Update
Q: What is the new level cap going to be?
A: Throne of Destiny will increase the level cap from 126 to 275.
Q: What will my new level be? Third-party apps tell me that I'm level 210 already. Will I be level 210 after I install Throne of Destiny?
A: Either 210 or a level very close to it. Your new level will be calculated based on your total available and invested experience, which is generally how most third-party applications calculate it.
There are actually some situations in which a character who is under level 126 will gain a level after installing Throne of Destiny. When you train a skill at character creation, a small amount of experience is put into that skill in order to give you 5 additional points in the skill. (This is as opposed to specialized skills, which receive 10 points free, without any experience.)
This small amount of XP will be taken into account when your new level is calculated, so it is possible that characters that are very, very close to their next level will gain that level the first time they log in. This will also happen to level 1 characters that were created before Throne of Destiny – some of them may be recalculated at level 3 the first time they log in.
Q: Will the caps on maximum skill level be increased?
A: Not in Throne of Destiny, no.
Q: What about the extra experience? If I can't spend it on capped skills, what do I do with the experience I earn at the highest levels?
A: You can use it to buy Augmentation Gems! Augmentations will grant one of a range of interesting abilities; we'll be publishing the full list of gems very soon.
Q: Will the level limits on XP-sharing fellowships be changed?
A: We don't anticipate that this will be a huge issue immediately at the launch of the expansion, so we're not planning on changing the system as part of Throne of Destiny. We are, however, considering redesigning parts of the fellowship system through the monthly updates in order to make it generally more social and inclusive, and we will doubtless address this issue at that time.
Q: What about allegiance swearing? What will you do about the fact that my level 126 character used to be able to have anyone swear to him, but now won't be able to take the same characters as vassals if they're over 126?
A: We're making some major revisions to the requirements for allegiance swearing in order to make it more flexible. After Throne of Destiny launches:
Any character will be able to swear to any other character, regardless of level.
If you swear to a character who is lower-level than you, you will not pass up any experience to that character (or the characters above him/her) until that character's level is equal to yours.
Once you begin passing experience up to your patron (or if you are currently doing so) you won't stop passing experience to your patron, even if you outlevel him or her.
These changes will be true for all characters, whether or not they purchase Throne of Destiny.
Here are some examples of the new system in action:
My level 100 character is sworn to Aldryth's level 80 character. I currently pass experience up to him. Nothing will change in AC:TD; I will continue passing experience up to him.
Meanbeard wants to swear his level 100 character to Aldryth's level 80. Right now, he simply can't do it. After AC:TD, Meanbeard will be able to swear to Aldryth, but he will not begin passing up experience until Aldryth catches up to him. If Aldryth hits level 100 but Meanbeard has gotten to level 105, Meanbeard still will not pass experience to Aldryth. Once Aldryth does catch up to Meanbeard – if Aldryth hits 105 while Meanbeard is still 105 – Meanbeard will begin passing up experience. After that happens, Meanbeard will continue passing experience to Aldryth for as long as Aldryth is his patron, no matter which one is higher in level.
We decided to use this system to create maximum flexibility – in many ways this is even better than the way things work now. For example, right now if I outlevel my patron and then accidentally break from him, I can't re-swear until he catches up to me. Once AC:TD ships, I'll be able to re-swear to him immediately, although I won't pass up experience until he catches up. The new system allows players to focus on the social aspect of the allegiance without being restricted by experience pass-up concerns.
One last note on this topic – Throne of Destiny will also remove the penalty for breaking from your patron. This penalty will be removed from all characters regardless of whether or not they have purchased the expansion pack.
Q: If I get to level 275, won't the experience that I get for creatures that are listed as level 150 decrease because they're now well below my level?
A: No. We are removing the experience scaling system completely. Under the old system, if you were killing a creature that more than a few levels below you in level, you received only a fraction of the experience for that kill. This was meant to prevent high level players from camping low level areas for experience. However, because of the exponential experience curves in Asheron's Call, even the full experience value of a creature more than a few levels below you is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to what you are likely to need for your next level or another skill point. So high level players aren't going to be camping low level areas for experience anyway, because that practice just isn't very efficient. Given that, it makes more sense to simply remove the scaling system.
Q: What is the exact experience point curve from 126 to 275?
A: The exact chart is rather too large to be posted here. The best way to describe it is that the well-known extrapolations of this table that currently exist in the player community are close enough for basic planning.
Q: Will we get more skill credits?
A: Yes. You will receive a skill credit at the following levels:
This means that a level 275 character will receive 46 skill credits over the course of his or her lifetime, not counting skill credits received from quests. The cap on the number of credits you can spend on specialized skills will not change.
Q: Will there be any change to the rate of advancement for uber-level characters?
A: Throne of Destiny includes some content specifically designed to improve the rate of advancement for very high-level characters, without unbalancing the rate of advancement for lower-level characters. We'll be posting more information about this content in the near future.
Q: What about the number of items that I drop on death? Will that change?
A: Yes. The number of items that you drop on death currently depends on two factors – your level and the cause of death – that is, whether the death was caused by PK combat, PKL combat, or by some other cause. We will be adding a new factor to this: is the character on a Throne of Destiny account?
The "old formula", ignoring all other factors, is currently your level divided by ten, with a chance of dropping an additional one or two items. This formula will generally apply to characters on accounts that have not purchased Throne of Destiny.
The "new formula", again ignoring all other factors, will be your level divided by twenty, with a chance of dropping an additional one or two items. This formula will generally apply to characters on accounts that have purchased Throne of Destiny.
Here's the full system:
PKL Deaths: No change – No items dropped, as before.
NPK Deaths at or below level 10: No change – No items dropped, as before.
NPK Deaths from level 11 to level 20: No change – 1 non-wielded item dropped, as before.
NPK Deaths above level 20: Changed.
Non-Throne of Destiny: Uses the old formula, but only non-wielded items may be dropped.
Throne of Destiny: Uses the new formula, but only non-wielded items may be dropped.
NPK Deaths above level 35:
Non-Throne of Destiny: Uses the old formula. Since characters without Throne of Destiny can only reach level 126, the maximum number of items dropped is 14.
Throne of Destiny: Uses the new formula, for a maximum of 15 items dropped.
PK deaths will always use the old formula but will cap at an effective level of 126. So a PK death will never drop more than 12-14 items (126/10 items plus a chance of one or two additional items). This is true whether or not the character has Throne of Destiny.
So in conclusion, characters on a Throne of Destiny account will generally drop fewer items from an NPK death than they did before, and at the very highest levels the number of items dropped will be about the same as at the very highest levels before. We felt it was best not to change the death penalties in PK – taking a foe's death items is one of the rewards of a successful PK kill and we didn't want to change the existing balance.
Q: What about vitae? Will that change?
The vitae system has not changed substantially since Asheron's Call launched in 1999. Since that time, the experience awarded by killing creatures has increased considerably. This means that a 5% vitae loss currently is much easier to work off now than it was in the past. In addition, the maximum cost to work off a point of vitae was capped at 12,500 experience points.
Currently it takes, on average, 2-3 creature kills to work off 5% vitae loss, up to around level 55 or so where that begins to drop off because of the 12.5k cap. With Throne of Destiny we are revamping the vitae curve. After the expansion pack, vitae will scale higher for higher characters, as it was always meant to do.
A low level character will still be able to work off 5% vitae loss by killing 2-3 creatures of an appropriate level. (By "appropriate level" we mean creatures intended to be fought by characters of that level.)
The cost to work off a single point of vitae loss increases based on character level. By level 15 or so, it should take about 5 kills to work off 5% vitae loss. Around level 70, it's 10. It reaches 15 around level 160 and 20 at level 275. This is true for all characters, whether or not they are on a Throne of Destiny account.
Yes, this does make death sting a bit more – however we feel that this balances out well in combination with the lowered item drop described above.
Q: Are there any other new level-related systems coming with the expansion pack?
A: There is one that we'd like to mention here, which is tied to the Rares system.
If you kill a creature that is lower-level than you, and is lower than level 100, it has no chance of dropping a rare. This is to prevent high-level characters from, say, farming Drudge Skulkers to try and find rares. At higher levels, the difference in power between creatures and players begins to flatten out enough to counteract this concern, so we chose the arbitrary cutoff of level 100. It's a nice easy number to remember if you're hunting for rares.
Q: How will %-based rewards like Tusker Tusks and Gaerlan's Sword work for level 126 characters and above after Throne of Destiny?
A: Experience rewards based on the amount that you need to get from your current level to the next level are referred to as "PXP" rewards. After Throne of Destiny, all characters – those who have the expansion pack and those who don't – will have PXP rewards correctly calculated. There are two caveats – the first is that characters that have hit the maximum level cap of 275 cannot earn more experience at all, so they will not gain experience from these awards. The second is that many PXP rewards will have their maximum reward capped so that very high-level characters can't get a reward that isn't appropriate for the comparative difficulty of the quest.
In all of these cases, the cap is at least the amount that you can or should get for completing the quest at level 126. For example, currently a level 126 character who turns in a Gaerlan Sword receives an experience award of 15 million points. As the quest is intended for characters up to level 126, we've set the cap on the reward to 15 million. Characters above level 126 will receive 15 million experience for handing in the Sword.
For another example, consider the Tusker Tusks. Currently the tusks that grant a PXP award do not properly award level 126 characters. This will change with Throne of Destiny – characters at level 126 will receive an appropriate reward; the rewards will also cap at the experience reward for level 126. A character at level 250 who hands in a Rampager Tusk, for example, will receive a reward as if he were level 126: approximately 11 million experience.
Under no circumstances will a character receive less experience for a PXP reward after Throne of Destiny than they would receive today.
Raising the Level Cap
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbinegames.com/index.php?page_id=285
Raising the Level Cap
Posted on 11-Oct-2004
At Turbine Nation we announced that the upcoming Throne of Destiny expansion will raise the Asheron's Call level cap. We also announced that players who purchase the expansion will be able to use Augmentation Gems to develop their characters in new and unexpected ways.
But what does all of that mean? How will it affect you? Since Turbine Nation, you've been asking for answers to these questions, for more details about exactly what we are doing and exactly what it means to you. This article means to provide those answers in exhausting detail. Some of this gets a bit technical, however, so if you're looking for quick answers to basic questions you may want to start with the FAQ.
Before we start discussing the changes in store, it is necessary to have a thorough understanding of the current advancement system in Asheron's Call. It is especially important to understand some of the odd side effects of the current system.
First, some definitions. Characters earn experience (XP) in a variety of ways, including by killing monsters, by completing quests, and by using skills. When a character earns XP, the amount they earn is added to a counter of total experience. Total XP is used only to determine that character's level – it cannot be spent to develop the character; and it can only go up, never down. Depending on the source of the earned XP, the amount earned is also added either directly to a skill or attribute, or to a counter of available XP. Available XP can then be spent to raise skills and attribute.
This gives us three generic types of XP we can talk about:
Total XP: The absolute total of experience the character has ever earned. This XP cannot be transformed into other types of XP.
Invested XP: The sum of the experience that is invested into all skills and attributes (including secondary attributes). This XP can be turned into available XP through skill sellback.
Available XP: The XP that the character has available to spend on skills and attributes. This XP can be turned into invested XP by spending it.
The following diagram provides an example of these definitions:
The Level Cap Today
It's easy to see that total XP should equal the sum of available XP and invested XP. In AC as it stands today, however, that isn't always true. There are some minor ways that these numbers can become out of synch – for instance, when you break from your patron and then swear to another patron, the swearing costs a small amount of available XP without increasing your invested XP, so the sum of available and invested is now less than the total. More common, however, is the situation in which invested XP far outpaces total XP – this happens whenever a character hits the current level cap.
See, in our current system, all the XP values of a character – including the counters for total XP, available XP, and the XP invested into each skill and attribute – are stored in 32-bit integers. This means that there is an implicit cap on these values. You cannot store a number larger than about 4.2 billion in a 32-bit integer. So total experience is capped at approximately 4.2 billion – or, using our handy XP-to-level table, level 126. So a player character can never exceed level 126.
Invested XP, however, can continue to increase even after total XP has run out of room. Because invested XP is the sum of the XP invested into each skill and attribute, and each skill and attribute can hold up to about 4.2 billion XP, the maximum possible invested experience is almost 150 billion. That's 26 skills with capped XP – the most you can afford with every skill credit in the game – plus 6 attributes, and 3 secondary attributes all capped at 4.2 billion. Note that different character templates have different numbers of skills available to invest into, and therefore different maximum possible invested experience.
It is important to understand that invested XP is the only XP that actually increases the power of a character. Because AC is primarily skill-based and not level-based, a character's total XP does not actually confer any direct benefits to the character (except the ability to enter certain level-restricted dungeons or use certain level-restricted items). Total XP – and thus character level – is merely a measure of how much XP a character could have invested into skills and attributes if they invested everything they earned. In a sense, then, character level is a rough measure of the maximum potential power level of a character.
But after level 126 the character level no longer reflects the relative power of the character in any way at all. And this is not a small discrepancy: 4.2 billion vs. 147 billion is a pretty big difference. To counter this, some players with characters above level 126 have extrapolated the AC XP-to-level table all the way up to 150 billion and now use their calculated invested XP to figure out their effective level.
So, to sum up: There are currently two level caps in AC. The true level cap occurs at level 126, when total XP can no longer be increased. The effective level cap occurs somewhere between the extrapolated levels of 233 and 261 (depending on character template) when invested XP can no longer be increased.
In the Throne of Destiny expansion, we are fixing this entire mess and raising both of these level caps. Read on to discover how!
The Level Cap Tomorrow
Level is just a reflection of your total XP, so in order to raise the level cap we must increase the highest possible total XP. And indeed that's just what we are doing. By switching the internal storage of total XP to a 64-bit integer, instead of a 32-bit integer, we can store numbers as large as 18 quintillion. That gives us plenty of room for new levels! We're not initially going to use all of that space, though. We've decided that the new cap will be level 275, which can be reached with about 191 billion XP.
But if we just allow total XP to increase without fixing the current mess – in which total XP and invested XP are terribly out of synch over level 126 – then we've merely added more confusion to the system. So in addition to increasing the storage for total XP, we are also going to recalculate total XP based on the sum of available and invested XP. We'll do this once for each character, the very first time they log in after upgrading to the expansion pack. During that recalculation, characters will also be awarded any new skill credits for the levels they pass.
For example: Let's say that your character is level currently 126, and in fact you've been level 126 for almost a year now. You have 4.2 billion total XP, 1 billion available XP, and 8 billion XP invested into your skills and attributes. The first time you log in after upgrading to the expansion, your total XP will be set to 9 billion, you will advance to level 146, and you will receive 2 skill credits.
Or, another example: Let's say you're one of those driven players who has trained as many skills as possible in order to drive your invested XP as high as possible. You have maximized every skill possible, plus all your attributes, and you've even capped your available XP. It is not physically possible for you to earn XP anymore – there's nowhere for it to go! The first time you log in after upgrading to the expansion, your total XP will be set to about 150 billion, you will advance to level 261, and you will receive 8 skill credits. Note that you will not be at the new level cap of 275 – you will still have about 41 billion XP left to go to get there.
Okay, so that gets everyone on the same page again as far as total XP is concerned. But what about going forward? What happens when the first character reaches the new cap? Currently, you stop earning total XP at level 126, but you continue earning available XP until you eventually maximize all of your skills and attributes and your available XP, at that point you stop earning experience all together. With the Throne of Destiny expansion, things will work fairly similarly: you will continue earning total XP and available XP all the way up to the level 275 cap, and then you will stop earning both total and available XP. This means that the next time we want to raise the level cap, we can do it quickly and easily without all of this fuss.
A technical note: Yes, this means that the storage for available XP is also increasing to a 64-bit value. One side effect of that change is that it will no longer be possible to lose experience during skill sellback. Skill and attribute XP will remain in 32-bit values, with a maximum of about 4.2 billion. We're not prepared at this time to deal with raising the maximum possible skill levels, although we are seriously considering it for the future.
Now, if you've been paying close attention, you may have noticed a small issue with all of this. It's great that you'll be able to get to higher levels than ever before, but what use are those extra levels? In AC, experience is only useful if you can spend it on something. Since we're not increasing the amount of total XP that can be invested into skills and attributes, then in what way does the higher level cap actually benefit players? Is the only purpose to give your character a slightly higher number to sport around?
The answer to this question is twofold. Firstly, a higher level means more skill credits, which mean more skills trained and therefore more XP invested into skills. Note that you can still only spend a total of 64 skill credits on specialized skills, so those extra skill credits will probably be more useful in broadening your character than in deepening it.
Secondly, we're introducing new ways to spend XP called Augmentation Gems. These are special gems, somewhat akin to skill sellback gems, that you obtain via a quest. Each Augmentation Gem has a unique effect and an associated cost in experience. When you use the gem, the experience cost is subtracted from your available experience (only if you have enough, of course!), your character receives the benefit, and the gem is destroyed.
All Augmentation effects are permanent, some can be repeated and some cannot, but they cannot be undone – there is no Augmentation sellback! On the other hand, with enough time and experience, it is theoretically possible for any character to collect all the Augmentations. It will take some time, however – we currently plan on a one-month timer for completing the Augmentation Gem quest. With more than 30 Augmentations planned, that's over two years of character development.
It's important to note that Augmentation Gems can be used by anyone who can obtain the gem and who has enough available XP to purchase the Augmentation. In other words, you don't have to wait until you are level 260 to use Augmentations. Note that the quest to obtain the gem is targeted at characters of level 100+ and is restricted to those players who have purchased the expansion.
Let's look at a simple example: One potential Augmentation that we announced at Turbine Nation was the ability to carry an extra backpack. Let's say that the cost of this Augmentation is 4 billion XP. (This cost is subject to change, but it is interesting to note that this Augmentation is planned to be one of the most expensive available.) So you do the quest, obtain the gem, and use it. 4 billion XP is drained from your available XP and invested into this Augmentation, and now you have an extra backpack slot on your UI. This slot is yours for the rest of eternity, and you can place any backpack you like in that slot.
We are in the process of finalizing the list of Augmentations and their associate XP costs, but you can anticipate more information on these effects in the coming weeks.
So that's the basic plan for raising the level cap and providing alternative character development through Augmentation Gems. There are a number of additional issues related to the level cap – these are addressed in the FAQ.
October Letter From the Team
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=282
October Letter From the Team
Posted on Oct-11-2004
Hail and well met!
It really seems like just a couple days ago that we stood before you at Turbine Nation and unveiled some of the details of the upcoming Asheron's Call expansion pack, Throne of Destiny. Hard to believe it has actually been two months (!!!); time to start talking in even more detail about what you can expect to see when AC: TD ships.
Beginning this week and continuing every week until the launch, we'll be posting one or more new articles, FAQs, forum threads, art pieces and/or dev diaries from the Throne of Destiny development team. The goal here is two-fold; let you know some of the details of what is happening, so you can comment and ask questions about them, and, frankly, to tease y'all a little bit between now and the launch, because we haven't yet revealed all of the new features that will launch with TD (why, yes, I was a marketing puke once, briefly; does it show?). We'll cover everything from the new minimum machine specs you'll need to run the game to how the level cap, augmentation gems and rare items will work in the game to just what the graphics upgrade will look like when the 6,000 textures have been replaced. Every subject we cover will have a forum thread assigned to it, so you can comment and ask questions.
I can anticipate a number of your questions right off the bat, so we might as well get those answers out of the way now:
Yes, we're still on track to launch in the first quarter of 2005;
Yes, we're still upgrading the engine to DirectX 9;
Yes, the plan is still to have Throne of Destiny available at retail shops; we consider this a key not only to TD's success, but in attracting more players to Asheron's Call throughout 2005;
Yep, we're going to spend some pyreals on marketing to support the TD launch. Quite a few of them, in fact; I need to hit a vendor and change out some large notes.
To get us started, today we've got a Throne of Destiny overview FAQ, an article on raising the level cap and a dev diary and bio from srand, our Lead Engineer for the expansion. Later in the week we'll be talking about augmentation gems and have a bio of another one of the team members and we'll just continue on from there.
All of us on the AC franchise – the Live Team, the expansion pack team, QA, NetOps and the Envoys – want to thank you again for supporting the game, especially since we reacquired it last year. It means a lot to us that you still play and enjoy AC; you're the reason we're investing millions of dollars and tens of thousands of development hours in the game.
Jessica Mulligan, Exec. Producer
Developer Diaries - Srand
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=284
Posted on 11-Oct-2004
By Turbine (Srand)
I'm going to let you in on a little trade secret today. I'm going to tell you about my number one tool, the primary and consummate method I have in my repertoire for dealing with an ancient, largely undocumented, and extremely fractious code base. This is not knowledge to be used lightly nor to be disseminated without caution. This is the end result of over three years of working with the Asheron's Call code base, the by-product of years of toil and travail, and I offer it to you today. And this secret method is: Find in Files. Yes, the simple ability to search thousands of code files all at once for all instances of a particular text string.
Let's look at an example. Last week I began the work of switching total experience from a 32-bit integer to a 64-bit integer. I started by finding the name of the value that stores the player's total experience: TOTAL_EXPERIENCE_INT. (For the record, this isn't the data member itself, but the key enumeration of it's entry in the flexible hash table we use for most player data storage.) As it happened, I knew exactly where to find the name of this value, but if I hadn't I would have started by searching the entire bloody code base for the word 'experience' and seeing what turned up.
Once I had the name, I searched the entire bloody code base to see where it was referenced. And I do mean the entire code base, including networking, graphics, data preprocessing & Most of our game systems code is confined to a few well-known locations on the client and server, but you never know where something is going to turn up. PK status, for instance, was assumed to be game-agnostic and so was originally defined deep in the engine code. We never did end up building another game on this engine, so it's somewhat moot now, but it does make things interesting to track down.
So, what did I find when I went looking for TOTAL_EXPERIENCE_INT? I found two nice clean accessors on the server, plus a bunch of places where the accessors should have been called but weren't, and a lot of nasty hard-coded references on the client. Well, the client is like that. We're working on it, but that's a work in progress, so I set that aside for a bit to deal with later. On the server, I marked the places that should be accessors with a nice 'TODO LEVELCAP' comment and went searching for everywhere that the code called the accessors. At this point I knew that the code was pretty well confined to a class called WAgent (players and creatures and NPCs, more or less), but I still searched the entire bloody code base anyway – it's better not to be surprised.
That search lead me to two methods called AddCharacterPoints (the old name for available experience) and AddProficiencyPoints (the experience that goes directly into your skills). When I searched for everywhere these methods are used, I found about what I expected. AddProficiencyPoints is called by NPCs (for quest rewards) and when using a skill gives you skill experience. AddCharacterPoints is called by NPCs (for quest rewards), by the allegiance system (for allegiance XP), by the fellowship system (for fellowship XP), and by creatures when you kill them. It's also, however, called by AddProficiencyPoints – because 10% of the XP you earn by using skills is also added to your available experience. I knew that, at some point, but I'd forgotten it, so it's a good thing I did a search or I might have missed this case.
I continued searching backwards from there, but I didn't find anything terrible interesting so I'll spare you the details. At any rate, all my searching gave me enough information to decide where in the code path we need to start supporting 64-bit integers and pointed out all the locations on the server I would need to modify to match. It also allowed me to make some minor improvements to bits of the code path that were less than optimal – turns out we were doing some silly stuff to figure out if you had leveled every time you gained XP – and reminded me of extra test cases to write up in the specification. You can see why I say that searching is one of my foremost coding tools. There's nothing magical about working with our code base; it's just a matter of finding a starting point and unraveling things in a logical fashion from there.
Now, on to the client!
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=294
Augmentations: Augmentation Gems
Posted on Oct-18-2004
Throne of Destiny provides a brand new way to spend experience points: Augmentation Gems. These gems provide new and unique ways to enhance your characters. By completing a quest to acquire a gem and paying an experience point cost, you can add a new permanent ability to your character. These gems are a new form of character advancement for the most powerful heroes in Dereth, and can only be found in the Throne of Destiny expansion pack.
To acquire an Augmentation, you first need to obtain a Blank Augmentation Gem. Once you've found one of these, bring it to one of the NPCs listed below. Each NPC carries a different Augmentation Gem, which he or she will exchange for a Blank Gem or one of the other Augmentation Gems.
Once you have the Augmentation Gem you want, and enough unassigned experience points to pay for it, simply use the Gem and the new Augmentation will be added to your character! Some types of Gems can be used more than once to further increase your new ability, others can only be used one time. You can always open your Character Information panel to see which Augmentations your character has acquired!
Below is the complete list of Augmentation Gems and providers that will be available at the launch of Throne of Destiny.
Innate Attribute Augmentations
Cost: 500 million experience
Each of these Augmentations will increase one of your innate attributes by five points. No innate attribute can go above 100. You may use up to ten of these Augmentations over the life of your character.
Example: My character has an innate Coordination of 75. After using an Oswald's Enhancement gem and paying 500 million experience, my character will have an innate Coordination of 80. I could then use nine more Innate Attribute Augmentations by acquiring the gems and paying the experience point cost, although I could only use 4 more Gems on my Coordination.
The Keepers of these gems can all be found at the Fiun Outpost in the Halaetan Isles.
Name: Reinforcement of the Lugians
Keeper: Fiun Luunere
Name: Bleeargh's Fortitude
Keeper: Fiun Ruun
Name: Oswald's Enhancement
Keeper: Fiun Bayaas
Name: Siraluun's Blessing
Keeper: Fiun Riish
Name: Enduring Calm
Keeper: Fiun Vasherr
Name: Steadfast Will
Keeper: Fiun Noress
Tinkering Specialization Augmentations
Cost: 1 billion experience
Each of these Augmentations will allow you to Specialize a Tinkering skill. The skill will use the Specialized rate of advancement and will receive a +10 innate bonus. You must have the skill trained to use this gem. If you complete the quest to unspecialize a Tinkering skill after having used this Augmentation, you will receive back the experience you have spent in the skill but will not actually unspecialized on untrain the skill. The Keepers of these gems can be found in Cragstone. Each Augmentation may be used once.
Name: Jibril's Essence
Skill: Armor Tinkering
Keeper: Joshun Felden
Name: Yoshi's Essence
Skill: Item Tinkering
Keeper: Brienne Carlus
Name: Celdiseth's Essence
Skill: Magic Item Tinkering
Keeper: Burrell Sammrun
Name: Koga's Essence
Skill: Weapon Tinkering
Keeper: Lenor Turk
Name: Ciandra's Essence
Keeper: Robert Crow
Might of the Seventh Mule
Cost: 1 billion experience
Keeper: Husoon of Zaikhal
Each use of this Augmentation will increase the total burden you can carry by 20%, and this Augmentation can be used five times over the life of your character.
Example: My character can carry 10,000 Burden Units of equipment before he becomes overburdened. After using this Augmentation Gem, he can carry 12,000 BU before he becomes overburdened.
Cost: 1 billion experience
Keeper: Piersanti Linante of Sanamar
This Augmentation grants your character a 25% chance to avoid taking a critical hit in NPK combat and a 5% chance to avoid a critical hit in PK/L combat. If you have this Augmentation and are struck with a critical hit, you have a chance of reducing it to a normal hit. When this happens, you (and your attacker, if you avoided a PK/L critical) will receive a special text message. This Augmentation may only be taken once.
Cost: 1 billion experience
Keeper: Kris Cennis of Cragstone
A character with this Augmentation will gain an extra 25% amount of material each time he or she salvages. This Augmentation can be used four times over the life of your character, for a total of 100% extra material.
Cost: 1 billion experience
Keeper: Alison Dulane of the Bandit Castle
This Augmentation will greatly increase a character's rate of regeneration of Health, Stamina and Mana – when lying down. This Augmentation can be used twice – the first use will give your character a regeneration rate of double the base; the second will give your character triple the base regeneration rate. Again, this is only when the character is lying down.
Cost: 1 billion experience
Keeper: Nawamara Ujio of Tou Tou
Any spell that has a duration, when cast by a character with this Augmentation, will have its duration extended by 20%. This Augmentation can be used five times, each time granting an addition 20% of the base duration, for a maximum duration increase of 100%. This applies to any spell with a duration that you cast, including spells that you may cast on items or on other players, even Fellowship spells.
Clutch of the Miser
Cost: 2 billion experience
Keeper: Rohula bint Ludun of Ayan Baqur
This Augmentation reduces the number of items dropped by a character upon death. Each use of this Augmentation reduces the number of items dropped on death by five. The Augmentation may be used up to three times over the course of a character's life and can potentially even reduce your death items to zero. This Augmentation does not change the number of items dropped in a PK death.
Cost: 2 billion experience
Keeper: Lug of Oolutanga's Refuge
A character with this Augmentation gains an extra 5% to the chance of successfully imbuing an item. This can increase the maximum chance of a successful imbue to 38%. This Augmentation can only be taken once.
Innate Resistance Augmentations
Cost: 2 billion experience
Each of these Augmentations will grant a character 10% innate resistance to one damage type. Only two of these Augmentations may ever be used, but you may use any combination of two. For example I could use two Fiery Enhancements to give my character 20% innate resistance to Fire damage, or I could use one Fiery Enhancement and one Icy Enhancement for 10% resistance to Fire damage and 10% resistance to Cold damage. The Keepers of these gems can be found in Hebian-To.
Name: Enhancement of the Mace Turner
Keeper: Nawamara Dia
Name: Enhancement of the Blade Turner>
Keeper: Ilin Wis
Name: Enhancement of the Arrow Turner
Keeper: Kyuoju Rujen
Name: Storm's Enhancement
Keeper: Enli Yuo
Name: Fiery Enhancement
Keeper: Rikshen Ri
Name: Icy Enhancement
Keeper: Lu Bao
Name: Caustic Enhancement
Keeper: Shujio Milao
Shadow of the Seventh Mule
Cost: 4 billion experience
Keeper: Dumida bint Ruminre of Zaikhal
This Augmentation unlocks an eighth pack slot on the character that uses it. It may be used once.
Cost: 4 billion experience
Keeper: Erik Festus of Ayan Baqur
This Augmentation will cause any spells cast on a character to persist after that character dies. This includes both beneficial and harmful spells. This does include PKL deaths, but does not include PK deaths. This Augmentation may be used once.
Cost: 4 billion experience
Keeper: Rickard Dumalia of Silyun
Any character with this Augmentation will earn an extra 5% experience from all creature kills. This does not apply to quest experience, PK kills or experience earned in any way other than creature kills. The extra experience does get shared with the character's fellowship and passed up to the character's patron normally. This Augmentation may only be used once.
Developer Diaries - Shuggypud
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=297
Posted on 26-Oct-2004
By Turbine (Shuggypud)
Creating art for AC1 is buried in tons of specs and questions. Even discovering what those are is an ongoing process, and mixed in with that is business as usual.
My first job this morning was to answer emails from our out-sourcers concerning the specs on Rare objects. To ensure that we can get as much art as possible into Throne of Destiny, we've outsourced some of the load to a dedicated art studio. Naturally they have questions. How many polys can we use? How big? What does the Rare look like? I also had to remind them to make them clean enough so that they don't get hung up in the integration process, and also to make icons to go with them. I had sent them sample objects for reference on size and placement a few weeks ago. They definitely helped, because I'm getting the setups back with the new objects correctly placed. The next task was answering questions about the opening cinematic. We have to think about the characters, landscape, building designs and lighting renders. Then I mocked up reference materials to display what the process of palletizing textures is and how it affects colors in specific sub-palette registers.
All this is done in conjunction with Ming, our in-house implant from the out-source team. I sure do admire him. He knows how to use Excel.
Next I reviewed the last of the building texture batches that came back from the out-sourcers. That's 1000 down, 5500 more to go. Whew! Unfortunately I had to send back 23 because they needed a few improvements. So only 977 down, 5523 to go.
Chris, "DarkDagon", has been working on creating the new Viamontian objects and buildings. Integration has been the real tear-jerker on this. The geometry has to be just right. At times it feels like creating a ship in a bottle. I'm scheduled to help him create this art but lately other issues have been higher priority. I've been throwing other things his way also. He concepted most of the art for the Viamontians, I'm asking him to help with the website and forum art requests that Ibn sends us, and he's also reviewing textures as they come in.
It's also in our best interest to keep him creating the new in-house objects and building at this point. The problem is that, because of some of the engine work we're doing, we can't see our new buildings in game yet. So, to help get the designers started placing the new POI's and buildings we're integrating the buildings without textures. When the engineers tell us that the game is ready to display the new textures, we'll reprocess the same objects.
I've now come full circle. I'll be trying once again today to do the Viamontian face art. Yesterday in a discussion with Ming I discovered that it will be necessary to create a drawing template to provide to the out-sourcers, so they know where not to redraw all the face parts. These parts get put together on geometry and if the seams don't match it becomes noticeable. This is good to start from, because I needed to know this before I started the new heritage faces. Hopefully I'll get to those today, or tonight.
Long hours. I'm lonely...
November Letter From the Team
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=307
November Letter From the Team
Posted on 04-Nov-2004
Well, here we are coming into the home stretch before the holidays and things are really popping on Throne of Destiny development. We're working like dogs to get everything in shape to declare a key milestone, Code and Content Complete, a.k.a. CCC. This is the stage where all the mechanical bits and pieces have to be in the code build and available for testing. We have to get to this point to start the detailed, soup-to-nuts QA testing, as opposed to "unit testing," where we test separate tasks at our desks before checking it in for further QA attention.
We're at that stage where we can see the major pieces starting to come together and it is very satisfying to see your work beginning to take shape on the screen. Our current plan is to hit CCC before the Christmas holidays, when people start taking off to see the family. Unless something slips, we'll actually beat the holidays by a comfortable margin (and I hope to god I haven't jinxed anything by writing that).
So, you might ask, what are we working on just now to get to that point? Here's a quick survey of what we've been working on the past couple of weeks:
We've been spending a lot of time on large palette issues the past week, specifically: What is the best way to convert the texture files we're getting back from our outsourcers to the new format and integrate them into the Throne of Destiny build tree? Basically, we're just trying to find a way to do it in batches, so we don't have to open all 6,000 textures by hand to get it done.
That isn't as easy as it sounds, due mainly to some legacy code we're dealing with now. We'll no doubt have to write a new tool to handle it efficiently; Lodestone, a consultant group that we're working with on the graphics upgrade, has some clever ideas we're going to try on for size.
Other art tasks we've been working on recently include vetting and approving the art for the new rare items, integrating the new Viamontian buildings into the AC:TD build tree so we can play around with them and really digging into modeling the new quest objects. This week, we're also heavily into animating the new monsters; the Eater is the first up.
On top of that, there are hundreds of textures to be looked at every week as they come back from the artists. We check for quality, send back some of them for another revision and update an Excel spreadsheet with the results (and if I never have to look at another 6,000-plus line spreadsheet again, I won't complain; there are days when my eyes bleed).
The real question here is: What haven't these guys been doing lately? They've been working on everything from finishing up the new code to raise the level cap, cleaning up the Augmentation Gems code, doing some polishing on Rare Items code, to some scary, low-level work on the engine to support DirectX 9 in the graphic upgrade.
We're also porting back, where it makes sense for AC, some core engine and server code changes in the Middle-Earth Online development tree. This doesn't mean we're porting back the MEO graphics engine; the incompatibility between using Maya and bones in MEO and the segmented limbs in AC is just too great. Rather, we're pulling back some nice bits of code that should optimize some functions (and I think I'll save a full explanation of just what we're grabbing for a subsequent Letter; it is actually pretty interesting). The Core Software team in Westwood has been doing some nice work and we decided to add a couple days to the current milestone to grab some of it.
Crowley and the Content crew is currently finishing building out the dungeons and quests from their spec documents, polishing up more web lore stories for posting and working on revisions with the in-house artists as they model and texture the objects that go with the quests. All of this involves a number of separate tasks for each component; for example, checking the quest object textures to make sure they portray just what the designer intended and that the object itself is what the designer is looking for.
Of all the crews here, this one is the most likely to be finished first, even though they are building out a large amount of content; five years of work on the Worldbuilder tools have eased the way. They are taking advantage of that to add quantity to quality.
Our Production Director, Steve Kaminsky, who is also my co-Executive Producer, has been spending a good amount of time honchoing work on the cinematic trailer that will be included with the expansion pack. He's the right man for that job; check out his credits at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0436756/.
As part of that, he's negotiating with a 'name' Hollywood actor to provide the voice-over for the trailer; more on that as it happens, but we've got our fingers crossed. The actor visited the studio to see what we're doing and you would not believe how shamelessly srand threw herself at him. I mean, really, now; I had bruises over half my body from the way she tried to elbow past me.
In addition to all that, Steve has been maintaining the production schedules; if you've ever worked on a game development project, you know what an excruciatingly detailed – and thankless – task that is. It isn't just making lists; it involves talking to everyone on the project, looking at results and making sure everyone knows the state of everyone else's tasks. He's an ace at it; this is one of the few projects I've seen in game development where we actually know the true state of every single task and how close to completion each one is. Rather mind-boggling, considering the thousands of separate tasks that need to be tracked.
And that is where we're at right now. We're still on track for release in the first quarter of 2005 and things are starting to come together nicely. You'll be the final judge, but we truly believe this will be a worthy addition to AC.
Developer Diaries - Crowley
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=320
Posted on 11-Nov-2004
By Turbine (Crowley)
One of my favorite parts about working as a game designer is creating backstory and lore. It draws upon the same energies and skill sets as one of my favorite pastimes, which is playing in or running tabletop role-playing games.
So it was pretty nice to come on to the Throne of Destiny team and have the opportunity to help create the backstory for the Viamontians. When I started on Throne of Destiny, Brandon "meanbeard" Salinas had already been working as a designer the project for a few weeks, and had done a fair amount of work on the recent events back on Ispar, plotting out what caused great numbers of Viamontians to leave what seemed like a powerful position in their own world to brave the unknown dangers that lay beyond the portals. He'd also gone into laying the foundations of their early history. In a series of conference calls with Allan "Orion" Maki and Jessica Mulligan, we bounced ideas back and forth, came up with proposals, discussed them, shot them down, approved or modified them. It was a pretty exciting and stimulating time, and it felt good to get back into brainstorming and creating a lore framework and history after a couple of years spent mostly as a world designer. Before long we had worked out a solid lore foundation, which would read like a good story and offered a lot of quest hooks.
We needed to build upon that foundation when it came time to start writing some of the fiction and articles in advance of the expansion pack, some of which have been posted already. Several of these articles dealt with the Viamontians and their place on Ispar, before the portals started appearing in their lands. Previously, the Viamontians had played a part in some fairly significant events on Ispar, but the details had not been fleshed out. Oh, we knew from some in-game Aluvian and Gharu'ndim lore that they conquered Aluvia and established a puppet king over Gharu'n. We had the bare bones of a timeline and a personality for them, but there was a great deal of "filling-in" work to be done.
With only those few clues, writing out a more complete Viamontian history took a lot of research, and the last thing I wanted to do was to write something that contradicted something already published. There is no centralized lore "database" at Turbine. We mostly rely on scattered specs and an oral tradition ("Hey Allan, what's the deal with this character?") to keep track of lore. To dig up all previous mentions of Viamontians in the history of Ispar, I literally had to run an Agent Ransack search on the in-game writing directory. I spent a couple of hours just reading through all the lore I could, making notes, soaking it in and getting a feel for their activities. Most of this is lore I had read before, but it's one thing to pick up a few isolated events, and quite another to have a feel for the whole of their narrative. Writing the Viamontian history was kind of like navigating a long hike through the mountains with no trail to follow – just a series of landmarks.
With the landmarks established, I began plotting a course from their founding history to their recent political squabbles, drawing upon the discussions we'd had several months previously. Obviously we knew that the Viamontians were a warlike people, but how did they manage to conquer all those other nations? We decided they were not a race of brute-force conquerors that overwhelmed people with sheer physical strength or advantage of numbers. It's much more interesting to have a race that conquers through boldness, ruthlessness and cunning. How far did their conquest go? We decided that they would be the ones to push over the tottering Roulean Empire, which the Gharu'ndim had already critically weakened with their conquest of Tirethas, the City of Lore. We also decided that, around the time of the expansion launch, they would have been in the middle of another war of conquest, but that their war would eventually fall apart as factions within the Viamontians fell to infighting.
People may notice that the expansion content and lore have an underlying theme of "blood." When I say blood, I mean in two senses of the word: quite a lot of literal blood is spilled in our lore, as wars and battles are fought; but the figurative sense of blood, meaning lineage and family, comes up a lot too. This is rooted in the founding history of Viamont, which is dependent upon clan-based tribes, tied together through bonds of blood and hereditary lines. The history of almost any nation in the real world can be traced back to squabbling clans – family, after all, is a natural organizing principle. By emphasizing the clannishness of the early Viamontians, we set a good background for the divisions and blood feuds that we had decided would be a central part of the new story – the rebellion of the house of Bellennesse against the royal line. We just needed a way to make the fractious clans into a nation unified enough to conquer half the known world.
Brandon had come up with the mythical Viamontian founder Karlun. In that series of conference calls, we had set him up as something of a Genghis Khan – the first to unite a collection of independent clans and direct the fighting energy of an entire people to a common goal. Karlun provided a great character upon which to build. We decided some pretty juicy things about him that I won't go into here, for fear of spoiling any further lore developments. So Karlun provided a unifier for the clans and a way to establish a "royal" bloodline, which promptly intermingled with the most prestigious of the existing bloodlines, again carrying forth that theme of lineage and descent. The Viamontians' emphasis on blood and lineage is also why they refer to the other nations of Ispar as the "Bloodless" – not benefiting from the mythical blood of Karlun.
As I fleshed out the details of the history, I tried to seed it with elements from our quests and stories. I placed emphasis on the names of important figures and families. I think you will notice a few names from the history cropping up in future stories and in the expansion quests. I thought it was important that the names of quest NPCs and fiction characters feel like parts of a long, living history, a history that is consistent and contains its own internal logic. I think this is one of the best parts of AC's lore, and I did my best to continue the tradition.
So in the writing of the Viamontian history, I incorporated the lore decisions we'd made, left hooks for current and future quest content, and emphasized the themes of blood and family ties. I tried to make it a good story, but what I wanted to make sure of above all was that there was a rich enough background for future stories and quests to come from.
When I was done with a first draft, I sent it out to Allan and Brandon for their feedback. After a few rounds of feedback and revision, we had come up with a robust history, which I hope will help with future lore-writing for Viamontians.
I'm pretty happy with the way Viamontian history and lore turned out. It's especially nice that this is a result we achieved through a liberal amount of idea-sharing and collaboration.
Now about those Milantans...
Rares: Rare Item Images
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=339
Rares: Rare Item Images
Below you can see some examples of the unique appearance of Rare weapons. Click on an image to enlarge it!
Rares: Frankenstein Lives!
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=340
Rares: Frankenstein Lives!
Posted on 11-Jan-2005
By Jessica Mulligan
It started after the third drink at a Friday "girl's night out."
Wouldn't it be neat, someone said, to have very rare items drop in loot? Like, you know, really cool stuff, potions that boosted your health 200 for a short period or a pearl that increased strength by 250 for a few minutes. Now, wouldn't that be way cool?
Pulling my Cosmopolitan-tinted gaze from the cute guy at the end of the bar, on whom I had been unsuccessfully practicing mind-control techniques, I fixed my eyes roughly in the direction of the speaker and said (somewhat snidely, it must be said), "Why stop there? Why not a healing kit with a +500 skill modifier or a dye pot that never fails? How about foolproof salvage for perfect imbues? And no skill or level restrictions; anyone can use any rare item, whether they be a level 1 player or level 126-plus."
This is how Frankenstein was born.
The next day, while downing prodigious amounts of orange juice and aspirin and trying to explain again to my steady why he had to come get me at a bar at 2am, I remembered that conversation. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. The advantages were obvious: a way to reinvigorate the in-game economy, a new class of items we could add to every month, something to help push the lore along occasionally. And it would be just plain fun to come up with the items.
Of course, there would be potential downsides, too. We've been reading the threads in which you've been commenting about the plan for rares and we agree that there are some issues with the plan as it exists now. For example, balance will be a tricky issue; we wouldn't want to make a one-shot-kill weapon, for example, or PvP would become an absolute joke and never able to be balanced again.
And if rare items were only found in loot, then UCMers would have a natural advantage in finding them. Heck, it would encourage pharming just to get the items to sell on eBay. There isn't much more we can do about UCMs than we are already doing, e.g. find and ban them. However, we can do something about making sure the hunt for rares doesn't become a pharmer's paradise. We've put our heads together and come up with a two-pronged approach, which we now propose to you for discussion:
Rare items from loot will be rare.
The easiest thing to do would be to pull rare items out of loot drops altogether. However, we feel there ought to be at least a small chance of finding a rare in a loot drop, even if it is a really small chance.
At Turbine Nation, we gave some figures for how often rare items would drop in loot. Throw those numbers out the window; loot rares are going to be a whole lot harder to find than that, as much as an order of magnitude more difficult to find. This ought to keep the pharmers from monopolizing rare items from loot drops; the 'ROI' (Return on Investment) of pharming for rares will be very, very low. In this case, the time investment spent to acquire even one rare by pharming will be extreme, so there won't be much sense in trying to create a business out of it.
For the Future: Everyone gets a chance.
While the rares implementation for Throne of Destiny is just about complete, we're considering an improvement to the system that we could add shortly after launch as part of a monthly update.
We want everyone to have a chance to find a rare, on a more or less equal footing. In fact, we'd like you to have a small chance of finding a rare item every day that you log in – and I do mean small; they are called 'rare' for a reason. What we propose is that each day, when you log in for the first time in a 24 hour period, there will be an invisible die roll. If your number comes up for receiving a rare, you'll see a special message, such as "You feel especially lucky today! You might want to go to the nearest Temple of Rares and consult a priestess."
If you receive that message, you'll need to go to a special temple or other building we'll set up in each of the starter cities, where a priestess (or Guide or Acolyte or whatever) will guide you to a special chest. When you open the chest, you'll receive your rare item. As to which rare you receive from the chest: that will be random chance. You could get a tier 1 item, you could get a tier 5 item, you might get something in between; you just never know.
The only limitation here is that every character only has one chance to get lucky every 24 hour period. For example, if you log in 15 times in one day, you don't have 15 chances to be awarded a rare; you only have one chance, the first time you log in. It also works in the reverse; if you don't log in for three days, you still only get one chance the next time you log in, not three.
Again, this is in addition to finding rares on loot. Active hunters will still have a better chance of finding a rare than those who do not hunt, but that chance will be much smaller than initially presented.
As we said, this new system would not be in the initial release of Throne of Destiny, but would follow shortly afterwards as part of a monthly event.
So, after reading your comments and contemplating on them, that's our current thinking on rare items. Now we want to know your opinions. Fire away; I have on my rare Level 5 Everlasting Pantaloons of Fire Resistance.
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=347
February Letter From the Team
Posted on Feb-08-2005
Ah, much to discuss this time around. Much news, as well as much that is new; this is going to be a long one covering a wide range of subjects. We had intended to post this a couple weeks ago, but several dates had to be firmed up and confirmed with our partners; we wanted to be confident talking about them. So, to paraphrase Bette Davis: "Buckle up, boys; it's going to be a bumpy ride."
About Throne of Destiny, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is: we have merged the two separate development trees, the User Interface/Graphics Upgrade tree and the Content and Game System tree, into one big honking tree and it works pretty well. Well, for the most part. This merged the new UI code and graphics engine work with the new quests and game systems and much of the new art, so we could debug more effectively.
It also gives us a chance to see just how the new content and systems will react to all that new UI code and graphics engine changes, which scared us a bunch every time we thought it. One of the larger risks of this project, if not the largest, is the sheer amount of old code we've had to touch to get an improvement in the graphics display and make the user interface easier to deal with. In the biz, we call this "legacy code."
Some of the legacy code we're working with is going on eight years old; that's enough to make any sane engineer mad as a loon. As an example, imagine you are an engineer and someone gives you the task of upgrading one of the top ten selling games from 1997, such as Dungeon Keeper or Diablo,* but because you don't have two years of development and six months of debugging to work with, you have to keep most of the underlying code. You need to make sure it works on today's machines, graphics cards and operating systems, which have changed a number of times in those eight years, and that it has a better graphics look to it, but you can't just toss is out and start from scratch, which is what you'd normally do.
And just to add to your joy, imagine some of the previous developers who wrote some of this the code, people long gone from the company, didn't provide frills such as documentation or commenting the code, so that those who followed after would know what those various bits of the code were supposed to do.
Can you imagine the conflicts you'd run into trying to do that? That old legacy code is going to be an issue every step of the way. It can be done; it just has its own set of unique issues with which you have to deal and you never know when something you didn't anticipate is going to rear up and bite you in the butt.
Which brings us to the bad news: We are running into some of those legacy code issues and it is slowing us down. We actually expected to be code complete by now and into nothing but bug fixes; however, because of some of those legacy issues and the need to get them scoped out and fixed right now, we're behind schedule. That's going to affect our release date; more on that below.
And because someone is certainly going to ask: Yeah, we did plan a lot of extra slack time into the engineering schedule long before we began coding, more than I've ever planned into a project before; I'm talking about a full man-year of padding just for legacy issues. We ended up being bit harder than we thought we would by those issues.
First up, you've probably already heard about the distribution agreement with Sony Online Entertainment's Station Publishing. Throne of Destiny will be on the shelves of most, if not all, of the major retailers, not just GameStop and EB. There will be very strong retail support including pre-order boxes, posters, and even shelf and counter displays at key locations.
This is all to the good; it means wide distribution of the game and, we fervently hope, bunches of new players coming in the door for a look-see. To back up the launch, you'll also be seeing advertising in major game magazines and online sites. All this takes time to get in place; for example, advertising, box covers, compositions of the boxes, manuals, et al, takes time to design and approve, then to be duplicated and be ready to go for the gold master. For another, the major mags need everything in place 60-90 days ahead of the street date. All in all, though, this is coming together nicely.
We also have a price cap: We expect the Suggested Retail Price to be at or around $29.99. If the SRP is going to end up much different than that, we'll let you know immediately.
Right now, pre-orders of the retail package are scheduled to be available about a month before ACTD launches. You'll be able to pre-order at retail software stores and we're offering a couple incentives for doing so. All those who pre-order Throne of Destiny will receive both:
A new gem for each character when that characters logs into the Expansion for the first time. This gem is called Asheron's Benediction. It is an eternal, bonded and attuned gem that provides a 10% increase in health for 24 hours. It may be used as often as you wish. If you die, for example, you can reuse it immediately. The effect does not stack; for example, if you use it three times in a short period, you don't receive a 30% increase in health, only the 10% increase.
Blackmoor's Favor, a gem that increases Natural Armor by +50 for 24 hours. As with Asheron's Benediction, this gem is eternal, bonded and attuned and is 24 hours per use and may be reused immediately at any time. Again, the effect does not stack.
These items will automatically be dropped into the inventory of every character when they log in. If there is no inventory slot available, the game will just hold onto it until the character logs in with an open slot.
Since the gems are bonded and attuned, they won't be tradable; they'll only be useful to the character they were given to originally. Essentially, we're handing out perma-buffs, two of them if you pre-order, one if you just buy the expansion when it hits the shelves.
Testing: Closed Player Beta Coming Up
We're ready to start inviting more people into the testing. Beginning next week, we're going to start offering invitations to some players to be involved in the first round of closed Beta player testing. We've had plenty of requests to be involved and we thank you for those; later on, we're going to throw open the doors to more people for load testing. However, for the first round of player pounding, we're going to stick with a core group of about 300.
So, if you don't receive an invitation for this first round, don't worry, you may get a chance to preview it later on. There will be a pretty hefty download involved, around 400 MB; you've been warned. You'll also need an active account on the Turbine Billing system to be part of the test or preview. If you haven't yet migrated your account and want to be involved with the test or preview, now is the time, :D.
Right now, we're currently deep in internal testing. On the front lines, we now have a larger dedicated team assigned from QA exclusively to the Throne of Destiny project, including a couple senior testers with years of MMO testing experience that we stole made the move to Turbine from a competitor. We also have large external teams standing by to do hardware/software compatibility and performance testing on the CCC builds; the sheer number of hardware configurations among personal computers boggles the mind and we have to test as many as we can. For example, every test that is performed on a computer running Win XP with an Nvidia card has to be completely duplicated on a computer running Win98 with an Nvidia card, and then on a PC running Win98 with an ATI card... you get the picture. This takes literally thousands of hours.
As you might imagine from the Development section of this letter, we're spending quite a lot of time on graphics upgrade and UI issues. Sometimes, the bugs we see can actually be pretty funny. Check out the screenshot of a data bug from an older build. We wanted to check that the building texture redraws from our art outsourcer were lining up and degrading properly, so we put them in an old ACDM tree for a quick look. The buildings ended up looking like they were designed by crazed tuskers:
Thankfully, this was one of those bugs that can be – and was – easily fixed, though it had us scared for a few minutes.
The test hardware for the player betas is being set up and burned-in now. This will be a new world, matching the number of servers and the software set-up of our current worlds, so we can get an accurate measurement of how the server-side of this expansion is working. Testers will be accessing it from the Turbine launcher with a special build of the game.
While this isn't directly related to the expansion pack, I want to discuss hardware in general. As most of you know, when we bought the game back from Microsoft, we inherited the old equipment used to run the game – servers, routers, hard drive arrays, et al – as part of the deal. Some of those servers are seven years old and are starting to act funky; remember the SQL servers that died last year? Some of these funky-acting game servers are bound to start failing soon; hey, you'd keel over, too, if someone kept you working for seven years straight without a break.
We've been replacing hardware as it fails, but we're going to accelerate that process a bit. We can't replace everything all at once; my budget doesn't allow spending the millions needed to do that. Our current short-term plan is to replace the seven or eight machines that are showing signs of senility and all the machines on two worlds with fresh hardware. Then we'll take the old machines that still work adequately and distribute them among the other worlds to A) help increase performance and B) act as a safety net in case one or more machines on a world dies.
After tossing out the senile machines, this should result in at least two extra servers on every world still using the old hardware and, in most cases, three of them. If we can recover the senile machines without having to rebuild them (trying to find parts for seven-year-old quad processor servers is about as easy as finding a politician at an honesty contest), we'll add them in, too.
Our NetOps crew has much of the equipment in hand and we're hoping to get this done before the expansion launches (everyone send good vibes, please; those guys are so overworked that it isn't even funny). When we do make the replacements, the two worlds that are getting the fresh equipment will be down for most of a day while we transfer the databases; we'll give you plenty of advance notice on that.
Which worlds, you ask? This question scares me, because everyone is going to want the fresh machines for their main world and we can't please everyone. One world is an obvious choice: Darktide. The nature of the combat on that world is such that it makes sense to have it running on our best hardware, so Darktide will be getting one of the makeovers. As for the second world: we'll look over the logs and make a choice based on a number of metrics, including the number of active accounts and overall use. If two or three worlds are close on those metrics... I don't know, maybe we'll hold a raffle or take bribes, :D.
And what you really want to know...
So, one might ask, just when will the expansion pack ship? If you've read this far, then you know we're running behind where we wanted to be and that player testing is starting late. And we want to have a meaningful round of player tests, so that we can have multiple iterations of the test/debug/retest process and catch everything we can before the launch. It doesn't make much sense to do that until we've run our own tests internally and with third party compatibility and performance testers to fix the obvious bugs. On top of that, we need to turn out the master duplication disc (the "Gold Master" in game-dev jargon) at least one month earlier than the launch date, so the game can be pressed onto discs, slipped into boxes and trucked to the stores in time to hit the shelves.
To make a ship by the end of March, which would be in our original ship range of the first quarter, we would have to make that Gold Master sometime in the next two weeks. Folks, we're just not ready to do that. Based on that, we're pushing out our original ship range of "1st Quarter 2005" to May. Our target date is May 11 and we're basing all our testing, manufacturing, box distribution to retail, marketing and PR schedules on it (as some GameStop customers know from last Friday's posting at the GameStop web site). This is a six week push from the end of the 1st quarter, but we think it is absolutely critical that we have a chance to react to as much player feedback as we can before we launch.
So, please accept my apologies for the delay, but I hope that you understand– and believe that you do understand – the necessity of it. I think we'd all rather take the extra time than ship too early.
The really tough news here – certainly the toughest to talk about – is that the delay has other consequences. To have a
April Letter From the Team
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=367
April Letter From the Team
Posted on 22-Apr-2005
It has been a while, hasn't it? I have two messages to deliver to you today:
1: We're pushing the expansion pack launch back. The new launch date is July 18.
There isn't any way to sugarcoat that and you probably like it as little as we do, but there are good reasons for it.
The main reason? As you probably know, we did some closed focus testing with several groups of players last month, in preparation for the upcoming general Player Preview. Before we put the Preview in front of the toughest audience in the world, AC players, we wanted to put the game in front of, well, some of the toughest audience in the world, just to make sure we had the game we thought we had. This seemed only prudent, and we made sure we had players from a wide range of servers, including Darktide.
The upshot is: Boy, are we glad we did that. It was interesting, if your definition of 'interesting' is having your flaws pointed out in graphic detail. The feedback we got from the players was great, very detailed and specific and delivered with tough love. What they told us is that we had some changes to make. And we took that feedback to heart and have started to make some of those changes, but it is going to take some time.
Don't get the idea I'm blaming the delay on the players; if anything, we should have caught some of the issues they noted earlier. As we all know, however, we can all get too close to our babies; that's why you have testing. The testers have improved Throne of Destiny with their comments and we're indebted to them. Besides, I don't know the development team that doesn't want more time to optimize code.
We'll still be having the Player Preview; Ibn will deliver more info on that next week.
2: I'm leaving the AC Team and Turbine. Today is my last day here.
Before the conspiracy theorists drown out the rest of us, this is in no way connected with the launch delay discussed above. In fact, I, among others, lobbied hard to get that delay and the fact that we got it – even though Turbine is going to take a financial hit on marketing and distribution money that has already been spent and a confidence hit with some of your fellow players – should prove that this company is committed to giving you quality. In the old adage of "You can have it good or you can have it Tuesday," the company chose the former. How many times have we seen companies choose Tuesday, instead? It doesn't guarantee a flawless launch, but it does reduce the risks to one and that's the best any of us can hope for.
So, no, the reason I'm leaving isn't about the delay; my reasons are my own and don't involve dark portents. (Remember, the Illuminati have nothing to do with my leaving. No, really. Honest.) In the meantime, you are in good hands with srand as Live Producer, backed up by Ibn, meanbeard, Scenario and the rest of the crew, some of the best developers I've ever worked with. Almost all of them came to the team as AC players – one of you and a part of you, in fact – with years of experience in the game; I don't think any other MMORPG can say that about their Live Team.
I'll still be around the industry, but I'm going to miss the team and I'm going to miss you guys. AC is still my favorite online RPG; I played it long before joining Turbine and I'll be exploring Dereth years from now. For all that a few of you are the most cantankerous players on the face of the earth, as a whole you're the best community I've been part of to date. After nineteen years and being part of more MMOGs than perhaps anyone in the industry, that's saying something. It has been a privilege to serve you, truly.
And who knows? Maybe one day I'll actually make it out of the Training Academy on Darktide without getting ganked.
Open Preview FAQ
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/index.php?page_id=377
Open Preview FAQ
By Turbine (Ibn)
Q: Who may participate in the Open Preview?
A: Anyone. All you need to do is get the client and a key from FilePlanet. However, there will be a cap on the number of people who can log in all at the same time.
Q: Why are you asking for a credit card? Are you charging for Preview?
A: We ask for a credit card in order to confirm your identity and better enforce the Asheron's Call Code of Conduct. You will not be charged for Preview.
Q: Can I use my character from the Live Game in Open Preview?
A: If that character resides on the world of Leafcull, yes. Make sure you register your Preview Key using the same Turbine Billing account that you use to log in to Leafcull. Any changes that take place on Destiny will not be transferred back to the Live World at any time.
Q: How can I quickly level up to check out new high-level content?
A: Go to Sanamar – you can either start there with a new character or take one of the portals located in Holtburg, Shoushi and Yaraq. In Sanamar you will find Turbine Vendors and a Turbine Emissary. Buy a level token from a Vendor and hand it in to the Emissary.
Not all of the highest-level tokens will be available when Open Preview starts on the 22nd. We will be releasing higher-level tokens at predetermined times, watch the official forums for more information.
Q: When will Destiny (the Preview world) be available?
A: We do not expect to take the world down for a significant amount of time. We may bring the world down to prop a new version of the game, if so this will be announced in the news page on the Launcher as well as in the forums.
If the world happens to go down unexpectedly late at night, or during the weekend (including the Fourth of July weekend) it is possible that it may not be brought back online until regular US east coast business hours.
Q: Will there be customer service on Destiny?
A: Yes, the Envoys will be patrolling and the Code of Conduct will be enforced. Issues that arise on the Live worlds will take priority over issues on Destiny, however.
Q: How can I report a bug or send other feedback?
A: We're glad you asked! There are two places to report bugs or let us know what you think of Throne of Destiny:
-- You can email bug reports to ACTDPreviewBugs@turbine.com.
-- You can post bug reports and feedback on the AC:TD Preview forums. The Preview forums will be opening on June 22. Note: DO NOT post any bugs that can be considered "exploits" such as bugs that allow you to level rapidly or the like. Those should be emailed to the above address.
In general, you want to provide as much information as possible when filing a bug. The exact steps that you took in order to reproduce the bug and your system configuration are both necessary information.
The movie introduction to Throne of Destiny that comes on the game CD. It explains the story behind how the Viamontians came to Dereth.