Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/?page_id=568
The Beast With Many Heads - February
On a windy northern beach, amidst a riotously colored assortment of coral outcroppings and relics from the bottom of the sea, a pair of Merwart brothers sat on white sand and scanned the horizon.
One brother, Urglurg, older and more than a little smarter, cocked his great, melon-sized blue head and turned to address his brother, who was currently picking at a knobbly protrusion on his forehead, instead of watching the sea for the boxes that their patron arranged to have wash on shore regularly.
"Angry Grandfather says we must watch the tides for more man bodies now, too."
His brother Gurglurg blinked wide yellow eyes, carefully considering this news. Higher thought and cause-and-effect was still a little new to these Merwarts, raised from the savagery of their Mosswart cousins by the intervention of one scholar with a potent, mind-expanding elixir…
Finally, after some visible effort, Gurglurg spoke. "Does this mean more mans want to speak with the Voice of the Deep Waters?" The Merwart community was used to seeing mutilated human corpses wash up on their beach, adventurers who had attempted to penetrate the mysteries of the island's depths, or of the Dark Isle nearby… Sometimes the humans re-appeared near the Merwart settlement's floating blue stone and went to recover metal and shiny objects from their own corpses. Sometimes these appearances inspired a moment of religious terror among the Merwarts until somebody, usually Urglurg, reminded them that this was the magic of the blue stone, and that Angry Grandfather had shown them the way of this, as well.
Urglurg nodded condescendingly, proud of his position as the oldest and wisest of Angry Grandfather's brood, and the sole representative of their small colony that actually received messages from their patron and deity. "Angry Grandfather says that they are coming to the Voice of the Deep Waters to cleanse themselves. Or maybe they come to clean something that they carry. He says that it all has something to do with the tentacle demon of the mainland and the sky-islands he made to make war on the humans."
Gurglurg sucked in his breath. "Sky-islands? Who puts islands in the sky? How are they held up?" For demonstration, he grabbed a handful of sand and let it trickle through his fingers. "I am not the smartest of us, not so smart as you, but I know that ground is down and sky is up."
Urglurg waved his fingers dramatically, mimicking the gestures he saw when their patron used his own magical powers. "Magic. Some humans can do those things, and the tentacle demon can too. In fact, Angry Grandfather says the tentacle demon made these sky-islands above the black, broken lands not that far from Angry Grandfather's home. He says that more people can do more terrible things like this because…" He searched his memory for the right word. "Because of… ley lines. Where the magic of the world flows, like beer from a tap, as he said. You know, like that place in the jungle that gives you a headache when you go near."
Gurglurg shivered. "The tentacle demon is scary. I hope he never comes to our island. This place is bad enough with the flying jaws and the landsharks and the dead mans. Angry Grandfather told me once that the tentacle demon even raised up one of our Mosswart cousins, on some stinky hot island far south of us. He made the Mosswart crazy and it tried to become king of all Mosswarts." He paused. "He said that the tentacle demon put his eyes and voice inside the poor Mosswart, so he can always see what the Mosswart sees and talk inside the Mosswart's head. Can you imagine if Angry Grandfather had been so cruel? I think we are lucky that Angry Grandfather found us, instead of the tentacle demon."
"Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, if the tentacle demon didn't yell all the time like Angry Grandfather does. Sometimes Angry Grandfather seems like not a god to me," Urglurg confessed. "Sometimes when he forgets things and we remind him, I think it is because he really forgot them, and not because he is testing our… limited mental faculties and recall," he said, reciting the last words as he'd heard them.
Gurglurg looked a little scared by his older brother's doubting words. His first impulse was to react in shock to Urglurg's doubts. Then he realized he might agree with Urglurg, especially on the days when Angry Grandfather was particularly angry. He didn't want to voice these doubts, though. And then thankfully, he was distracted by motion on the horizon. He peered out to sea and narrowed his eyes, and he saw a great brown crate bobbing on the waves, like Angry Grandfather had promised. "I see the box," he told his brother, and they both stood up to stride into the surf and bring it in from the water.
Angry Grandfather told them that these deliveries of metal weapons and other objects sought by humans were because of his benevolence toward the Merwarts he'd raised up from their primitive existences. There was no reason to doubt Angry Grandfather – not with the deliveries coming regularly, as he promised…
As they came down the shore and got a better look at the box, they could see a dark shape clinging to it like a big tangled mass of seaweed. They could eventually tell that it was a human body, slumped over the box, floating towards them. The brothers clucked regretfully as they brought the box ashore with its additional cargo.
Setting the box aside for a moment, whose contents had long ceased to inspire wonder or surprise, they investigated the corpse. It was a human male in dark leather armor, with much darker hair and less wrinkly skin than their Angry Grandfather – though the salt water hadn't done much for his face. His hand was gripped tightly around something – some kind of bar of mottled purplish metal, which tingled with power and gave out a faint red light, even visible under the noontime sun. Gurglurg sniffed it and recoiled. "Yech! It smells like the place in the jungle that gives me headaches!"
Urglurg sniffed it as well, and wrinkled his nose. He then tried to pry it out of the human's cold, clenched hand. "Very heavy," he muttered. The human's grip, even in recent death, was unbreakable. "I wonder what this has to do with the tentacle demon."
A voice came from behind them. "That's corruption you smell, little fella. The ingot is tainted with the Living Darkness." A shadow fell over the two brothers as they fussed with the corpse. It was the dead man, back to reclaim his corpse. His back was to the sun so they couldn't see his face clearly, but they could tell it was him. They heard, but did not see, a blade being unsheathed. "Step away, friends. That ingot's very important – to me, to my employers, to everyone on Dereth, and even your weird little colony. Young Kei told me what I had to do with it, and I'd hate to have to kill you two to get it to where it's supposed to be purified. I'm sure your blood is not the blood I'm looking for."
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/?page_id=570
Rollout Article - February
In a forested valley somewhere in the highlands of northern Osteth, a lone adventurer sat by his campfire, cleaning his boots and waiting for his tea kettle to boil. He had built his fire by a large fallen log, upon which he perched while he cleaned his boots. A large Banderling skull with a strange triple crack pattern along the top of the brainpan sat on the log by the adventurer's side, and a close observer would have noticed that this person was muttering comments to the skull as he worked.
"… And of course, if Qalidheen had not just purchased new boots, would he even be up in these smelly, cold northern forests cleaning Mite scat from his boots? Surely not. Surely our beloved elder brother Nomendar would have found someone else to go chasing after phantom bandits in the brush, right, Lumpy?"
Qalidheen al-Rakh looked up from his boots and looked deeply into the eye sockets of the quite inanimate skull next to him. As always, he found the answer he was seeking.
"No, you're right, Lumpy. Nomendar does not realize how much we hate it up here, where mold starts to grow in our armor after a few days in the damp. Nomendar lives for his books and his geomantic maps and his analysis of other people's reports, and does not understand that we feel most at home in the deserts and the Direlands. He does not understand that we would much rather be in the Obsidian Plain, fighting the servants of the Virindi apostate, or investigating the graveyard to see for ourselves what kind of foul energies pour from that unhallowed ground, so recently forced to the surface by geomantic anomalies…"
He laughed and shook his finger at the skull. As he took the kettle off the fire and poured some hot water into his mug, already full of herbs and rare spices from Ispar, he continued to address the skull.
"You are unkind to mock us for our sophisticated vocabulary, Lumpy. Our parents spent the better parts of their fortune educating Nomendar and myself at the new academy in Nishadina before the portals brought us to this world. Just because we chose the way of the staff and blade over the way of book and scroll, does not mean that we must speak in grunts and single syllables like so many of our fellow soldiers. Surely there is no conflict between being a soldier and a scholar. Surely a man trained to fight blindfolded can still illuminate his mind with the written word."
He sighed and let the herb mixture steep for a few minutes as he finished cleaning his boots. Finally satisfied with the condition of his footwear, he set the boots aside, wiped his hands with an alchemically treated rag. Done with the need to work by light, he turned his back to the fire and looked out into the dark forest around him, to acclimatize himself to night vision again. As he turned, he turned the skull to face outward as well, then picked up his mug. He blew over the surface of the herb tea to cool it, then took an experimental sip.
"Ahhh, that is just right. Is there a greater pleasure in life than properly brewed tea at just the right temperature? Surely not. Such a pity that such simple pleasures are lost to you now, Lumpy, and that my conversation is your sole avenue of gratification. Still, one could do worse, eh?"
As Qalidheen sipped his tea and enjoyed the company of the silent skull, he became aware of a very faint rustling in the bushes behind him, on the other side of the fire. He smiled to himself and glanced down at his side. Leaning against the fallen log, and largely camouflaged against the eyes of any interested observers, was his favored weapon: a very solid and very heavy Elariwood staff banded with steel rings at both ends. It was a single strike from those rings that had cracked the heavy bone of the skull on Qalidheen's other side.
Smiling wickedly, Qalidheen addressed the skull again. "Perhaps Nomendar was right, Lumpy. We will have to remember to tell him that he was right, this one time. We are not infallible, after all, and have never claimed to be." He spoke in full conversational tone, as if he still believed himself alone with this skull in the woods.
Qalidheen closed his eyes and sipped his tea again, listening to the very subtle sounds of crackling underbrush. The ground up here was a little crispy and crusty from the snow, and it was hard for even experienced sneaks to move silently. In his mind, he filtered out the crackling of the fire and constructed a soundscape of the intruders approaching him. Three of them… two approaching from one side, and one from the opposite…
Satisfied with the mental map he'd constructed, Qalidheen gulped down the last of his tea, just on the edge of acceptable temperature before it became too tepid. "The worst part of these cold northern nights, of course, is that it forces us to rush to drink our tea before it becomes too cool to properly express its flavors." He sighed regretfully, then cupped the earthenware mug in his left hand, rolling it experimentally around in his fingers.
He listened very carefully to confirm, one last time, the situation around him. Then he grabbed the staff with his right hand and vaulted himself into a standing position with one explosive movement. In a blur of motion, with his eyes still closed, he spun and whipped the mug into the darkness to his right. There was a solid crunching noise and a grunt of pain as the thrown mug hit the single attacker. Then he centered both hands on the grips of his staff, vaulted over the fire, opened his eyes, and charged into the woods to his left.
Ignoring the lone interloper for a moment, Qalidheen closed quickly on the pair that had been approaching from the other side. His opponents had been closing in on the light of the campfire for too long and were not prepared for a sudden attack by a fast-moving attacker coming directly from the direction of the fire. It was as if he were fighting blind men. He found them stumbling against each other in the flickering light and bashed their heads in with two lightning-fast cracks to the temple. He hit each of them again on the backs of their heads to make sure of the job, then spun and turned his attention to the one he'd hit with the thrown mug.
This one was still reeling from the hit, but was alert enough to stab at him with the rapier he carried. Qalidheen sidestepped the thrust and crushed his weapon hand and kneecap with his first two strikes. He danced back a step, watching the man's defenses drop. Then he stepped forward again, swinging the staff in looping arcs to break ribs, knock the breath out of him, and sweep his legs out from under him. In the space of five seconds, the third stalker was curled up on the cold dirt, whimpering, crippled, and in agony. Qalidheen smiled again as he put one bare foot on the man's wheezing chest and poised the metal tip of the staff over his throat.
"We have chosen to let you live, friend. What nice armor you wear. Scale mail, is it? A very tasteful shade of blue. But how unchivalrous to sneak up on a man enjoying his tea by the fire, who didn't even have his boots on! And then to be disarmed of your elegant little blade and beaten so thoroughly by one bootless man with naught but a stick to defend himself! The humiliation must be a pain as keen as any you feel from your crushed fingers or cracked ribs!" He ground his toes into the man's chest for emphasis.
Quickly now, Qalidheen bent over the wounded man and tied up his hands and ankles, and his none-too-gentle treatment inspired more cries of pain from the man, especially as he bound the man's broken hand against his healthy one with several thick coils of rope. With the man trussed and helpless and propped into a sitting position against the log, he fetched the skull from its sitting place and held it in front of the man's terrified eyes.
"Now then, friend, we are going to ask you some questions. We think you are out here searching for ley lines, or nodes, or something like that. Surely you have little to fear from a gentle soul like Qalidheen al-Rakh, who grew up in the finest sort of family in Gharu'n, the most civilized nation on Ispar. Regretfully, however, we are not on Ispar and Lumpy the Banderling skull has forgotten what little pity he once had, back when he had a heart. Lumpy can still sniff out lies, however, so it would behoove you to answer our questions thoroughly and with all the candor at your disposal. The honor of Qalidheen's elder brother is at stake, you see. So please, tell us, who sent you?"
Original Link (now dead) -http://ac.turbine.com/?page_id=567
Release Notes - February
Hello there and welcome to the February Release Notes. This month we see what could be the culmination of what Aerbax has been working towards. Will the People of Dereth be able to stop Aerbax from completing his master plan? We are also going to take a special look at what goes into making a new Loot Tier for Asheron's Call as written by our very own Lupus Argenteus.
Let's see what else is new and exciting this month!
Due to a bug, the XP players have been getting in this particular section of the Claude's Mind/Vision Quest is much higher than we wanted it to be. In the February event, high level players choosing to hunt in this section will now get approximately 250 million XP per hour, which is much more in line with what we originally intended it to be.
The portal in The Black Death Catacombs which led to the Deeper Catacombs was accidentally reverted to the original unusable version from a previous month. This has now been fixed and players will once again be able to use the portal.
In January, once a player had finished the Shadow of Bael'Zharon quest, they could not gain entry again in order to help other players complete the quest. In the February event players who have already completed the quest will now be able to gain entry to the dungeon in order to help others complete it.
Hoshino Kei has moved into Asheron's Tower. Players may want to go speak with her to see why she has decided to change locations.
Once again it seems the Tanada are up to something. It appears that they may have issued a challenge to other great warriors.
Travelers have reported seeing new floating structures over the Obsidian Plains recently. Perhaps these structures have something to do with Aerbax.
There seems to be some shady characters around some of the Ley Lines. Any players willing to investigate these reports shall be rewarded.
The Drudge's that are a part of the Direland Champions hunting should no long one shot players. The spell that was the cause of this has been removed from their profile.
Life, Love and the New Loot Tier
One of the most fun things in Asheron's Call is the loot system. Randomly generated treasure has always been one of the cornerstones of our game, with the sheer variety of colors, statistics, and endowments which items may have leading to a sense of anticipation anytime a player is actively involved in seeking treasure. Many of us can recall the time we got that Celdon breastplate with just the right color veins, or that Major Bloodthirst max damage fire sword, or perhaps your favorite triple major crown. Treasure is, quite simply, rewarding (pardon the pun).
However, the current loot options have been available since 2004 – 4 years without a major update. There have been many forum posts lamenting the quality of loot distribution in an area where the best loot profile in the game is already available. Unfortunately, many players have mined the current treasure options to exhaustion, and are looking for better loot than what currently exists. It's time for us to introduce new loot options that will hopefully rejuvenate high level players' interest in loot.
The first question to answer would be, "How is new loot going to be available?" Currently, we have treasure profiles globally on most monsters and on most treasure chests. We're going to make a slight change to that.
We want to reward players who complete quests first and foremost. Therefore, the reward for completing a given difficult quest might be a key to a treasure chest using the new loot tier, as an example. We hope that this will improve the quality of the rewards from quests, while simultaneously maintaining our "loot items should be better than quest items" design belief.
We're probably not going to make the new loot tier available on monsters you can grind. We don't want to encourage more grind. Instead, achievement should be based on accomplishing great deeds. That's not to say that we won't ever have, say, a kill task where the reward is a key to a chest which uses the new loot tier – just that we don't want every single monster corpse dropping the new loot tier in addition to the kill task reward.
We're escalating the nature of rewards, but not necessarily in the same ways that you have become used to. For example, one radical choice we have made is not to increment armor levels that are available in loot, instead electing to increase other attributes instead.
Here's a small selection of things we are improving in the new loot tier:
Melee, Missile, and Magic damage – We'll be introducing souped-up weapons and elevating damage potential for all three playstyles. Weapons (and casters) are designed to hurt people, and so we'll try to help them perform that role more effectively.
Staff-variant Elemental Casters – As requested, we're going to see about adding an elemental version of these, to complement the current scepter option.
Epic Cantrips – Players have been able to access Epic cantrips on items for a little over a year now. The next step is to get them into the loot system. All your old Major favorites will be available in Epic form.
Armor Sets and Set Spells – In addition to Epic Cantrips, though, players will now have access to pieces of armor which grant additional bonuses (above normal spells and cantrips) if the proper set is worn. These will range in power and effect as the player wears more of a given set.
New Armor Types – We have plans to introduce four different new types of armor into loot. I won't say what they are yet, but I'll give one hint – two are based off of pieces that you've previously seen static, non-dyeable versions of before, and two are all-new types.
Base Armor Level Rebalance – Currently, the lower-quality material armors aren't just lower-quality – they're unusably low. We're going to set the AL spread to be much narrower than it is currently.
Components for Level 8 spells – Sometimes we on the dev team wonder if you guys have spy cameras in the building at Turbine. We've been seriously bouncing around ideas for the level 8 spells for months, but someone made a thread about them just last week. We're not going to be introducing an entire array of level 8 spells, but we will be introducing a significant number. We'll definitely be introducing level 8 war spells to keep mage damage on par with the other archetypes, for example. When I say components…well, I'll save that for the next section.
We'd like to see the economy of the game spike in popularity. We believe that several of the changes we're putting in will stimulate growth in the adventuring sector…alright, I'm not Bernanke and you guys don't want to hear economic theory. We think a lot of the changes to the loot system will stimulate trading in a few ways.
For one, completing your armor set is going to be difficult. Previously, you were looking for the right color on the right type of armor with the right dual major (well, OK – I've seen some of your armor sets when I've run live ops and some of you definitely don't care so much for the right color). Now you'll have cantrips, set bonus, AL, type, and appearance all to factor in. You can get functional quickly, but to be perfectly where you want to be is probably going to take a lot of luck or a lot of horse trading (obligatory disclaimer – no, we're not adding horses). But it can be done, and we think the process of doing this will increase player interaction.
Assembling your magic spells will also take some economy management. Spell scrolls will no longer be found in chests. Instead, you'll get to craft them yourselves, using four different types of components. Some will be found in loot, some…well, you'll find out where those will be found soon enough. It's important to note that these tradeable components will be multi-use – you might use a Glyph of Corrosion to create an Incantation of Acid Blast or an Incantation of Acid Lure. Either way, you'll have two options on how to get these spells – looting the components yourself or trading for the components or scrolls you want. It's a way of introducing a smaller version of spell research while still making it accessible for those who don't want to bother.
We're pretty excited about the new loot system. It's a new incentive for the upper tier players to keep playing, to find that one perfect item, while still having a shot at useful items in the meantime. In fully discussing the new loot system with past and present devs, there's been an excited buzz – we think the new system catches a bit of the old spirit of the game, while still being accessible to newer players as well. We look forward to when we can unveil it to you!