“Excellent,” Emperor Geraine said pleased. “Everything is falling into place, as I foretold.”
Emporer Geraine sat in his dark throne, gazing into a silver bowl that lay on the table before him. Unholy light made eerie shadows on his determined face. On the black marble table, next to the scrying bowl was the fabled Book of Eibhil, opened to a page covered in twisted symbols that shuddered on their own accord. Geraine's long fingers drew a pyreal knife out of a most unusual chalice. The bowl of the chalice was made from bleached skull of a Ruschk Shaman from the North. He held the knife over the whispering pages, allowing the dark blood contained within the vile cup to drip onto the book. The blood bubbled and hissed before disappearing without a trace.
From the darkness in front of the throne, a huddled form slowly shambled into the sickly glow cast by the gazing basin. The figure waited, uncomfortably shifting its weight, waiting to be acknowledged.
“Out with it,” ordered the emperor.
“Master,” the man began, “the kidnappings for the Aluvian queen's hidden castle continue as you ordered.”
“Good,” Geraine said without looking up from his dark work. “Are they still blaming those Mhoire wretches?”
Detecting a slight hesitation, Geraine said, “Are you certain?”
“From what we have been able to learn, M'Lord.”
“Make certain. The kidnapping must continued as planned. The stress they are placing on the feeble Isparian leadership is crucial to all the changes I require to upset their little ‘Golden Age of Peace.' Pathetic really.” Geraine placed a hand on the Book of Eibhil. “Soon enough they will pay the price of their arrogance. They underestimated me. Underestimating what resources I have at my disposal. Mastering these magics has allowed me to pierce the veil of the future, giving me the tools needed to handle these small parasites. They will regret leaving their world to meddle in our affairs. But let them think they are the Masters of Dereth. Let them bask in their ignorance until it is too late.”
Geraine dropped more blood onto the book, which almost appeared to shudder with delight, which echoed the pleasure on the Emperor's face. The magic only showed the most likely outcomes, but that was the efficient weapon when wielded by the right hand. His hand. “They shall pay. As will they're little keeper, Asheron.”
“Yes, M'Lord,” the shadowed servant toned, trying to ignore the disturbing smile on his master's face.
The sharp pyreal blade drew a twisted arcane symbol onto the page beneath Geraine's gaze, who stared unblinking until the blood was ingested by the book. He nodded at the whisperings that hissed forth from the tome. Turning his attention back to the bowl, he asked, “How are the plans for these ‘Gear Knights' progressing?”
“The Apostate Virindi continues to harass the Gear Knights in a manner that places the blame on the Isparians.”
“And the rogue element you mentioned earlier? What of the Gold Gear Primus?” the Emperor asked.
“We have managed to stall his success thus far, Sire.”
“See that you continue as such. And make sure that you're feeding the proscribed information to the Apostates exactly as I dictated. There needs to be just enough misinformation to keep the pressure on the Gear Knights constant, but it must be a slow choking wire around their foolish necks. Too much too soon and they might suspect a trap and go searching for the truth. Then all could be lost. The Gear Knights hate of the Isparians must be so ingrained it will cloud their logic. The Isparians need to lose their pet guardians before any of our more overt plans take place. I would be disappointed if accidents led to the full alliance of the Gear Knights and the Isparians. If that happens, then none of my plans may advance as needed.”
The servant flinched at Geraine's mention of disappointment and the horror it promised, but he did not let his fear touch his voice as he spoke. “The Gear Knights will fully hate the Isparians before we are through, Sire.”
“Do you wish anything else of me, my Lord?”
Geraine paused for a moment to think. “Yes. Keep an eye on the Shadows.”
“As you wish, Sire.”
“The premature formation of this Shadow Kingdom presents some interesting concerns,” he said tapping the knife point to a dark mandala on the bottom of his current page. “As well as opportunities. Isin Dule has always been an unpredictable gamble even in the best of times. We may need to do something more blatant against him in the near future.”
“As you command M'Lord.”
“And have the three Archons watched,” Geraine instructed. “Quietly. I wish to make sure they continue to stay loyal to me. Understood?”
“Yes Sire,” the man said, realizing he was dismissed.
“Excellent,” the dark lord said as he dipped his knife once again into the blood held in the skull before him. He was already engrossed again in his foul work before the servant was gone.
Greetings and welcome to the May Release Notes! Love is in the air as we finally get to attend the wedding of Hoshino Kei and Prince Borelean. Almost all of the dignitaries of Dereth will be there, and so should you! After the big April update we had some adjustments that needed to be made, and the team has been hard at work making they got as much done as possible. So Let's see what is new and exciting in Asheron's Call this month!
Updated Content and Functionality
The new armor we previewed here is now in the game. It can be found on the same loot drops as the Olthoi Armors.
Shadows who may have been missing 2 skill credits will find they once again will have the correct number of skill credits.
Creature Types should now be displaying properly on all of the creatures of Dereth.
Item XP now has commas in the XP amounts. This should make these numbers much easier to read, even for Ulgrim.
The Fury Sigil armor set now has an Endurance boost.
Wisps in the Aetheria Dungeon should no longer fall into the holes throughout the dungeon.
Viamontian Laced Boots should now show up the proper stats.
Monster corpses will decay even if someone is holding them open. This should reduce the issue of corpses staying locked open and not rotting. (Decay takes longer then if the creature corpse were not opened)
Chest should no longer spawn with just one loot profile.
It is a time of Celebration in Dereth! Make sure you attend the Wedding and the Reception. Make sure you check out the Dereth Wedding Developer Diary that we put together for this event.
So there are just some of the things we have in store for Asheron's Call in May. Please remember that along with everything listed here, there are several new quests and exciting things going into the game for the May Event.
Join the AC team as they discuss the creation of the Wedding of Hoshino Kei and Borelean Strathelar!
Art imitates life. That's the saying anyway… but we're inclined to believe it after our hard work on the April update “Shedding Skin”. What started as a plausible story reason for some of the great changes coming to Asheron's Call in Spring 2010 quickly evolved into all the trials and tribulations that come with traditional wedding planning!
It's not often that this sort of topic is broached in online gaming. Usually updates tend to present cataclysmic dangers or the vilest and most diabolical of enemies. Next to those kinds of menace, a wedding may not seem like the sort of event that can be highlighted in an MMO, but why couldn't a wedding be the focus of a major game update? After all, “weddings” are important social events of great significance in countless cultures – especially when the pair to be wed holds a prominent place in the society! Asheron's Call is more than just a “game,” it's a community; in that sense, a wedding between important lore characters is an important occasion for our community. It's an excellent time to celebrate, and it's the perfect vehicle to introduce new additions to the game!
“It kind of started as a ‘wouldn't it be cool if…?' and pretty soon it took on a life of its own. It's been nice to go in a different direction.” – Frelorn, Community Representative
In our 10 years of operation, we've had 118 updates. You'd think that this update would be like any other update, if not easier, because it's not one of those “doom and gloom” types of updates. Our work on this event has highlighted the amount of effort that has to go into a wedding, even if it's a wedding that only lives in the 0's and 1's of our game.
Getting the bride and groom of the wedding together was the first – and arguably simplest – task. We needed to look no further than the lore of Asheron's Call to find characters we could work with. Players will recognize Borelean, Queen Elysa's son, the helpful black knight and now husband-to-be. We hinted at the identity of the bride with some subtle lotus flower references, so it may come as no surprise to players that the bride is Hoshino Kei, the Sho Archmage apprentice who helped the players open the portal to Bur.
“The Lotus is more important to the Sho culture in general, as it is part of the symbolism of Jojiism, one of the two religions of the Sho.” – Kintani, Content Designer
From there, however, the update started to take on a life of its own as more and more “wedding-centric” talk proliferated around the office. We needed a “venue” that was the right size for the “guest list” and we had to figure out how the “ceremony” was going to happen and so forth. At least we didn't have to suffer through color swatches and vendor comparisons!
…Or did we?
Hosting an in-game wedding shares the same pitfalls and challenges as one in the real world, particularly the common problem of finding a place to have the wedding. The aim is of course to find a wedding venue that will accommodate everyone, but also be within your means. Just because we're operating in virtual space doesn't mean these aren't primary considerations for an event like this.
We needed somewhere that was conveniently located for our guests and could accommodate a crowd. Yanshi was a natural choice with its central location and pre-existing festival grounds. Then we had to consider what we could get away with in terms of performance. The wedding location had to look nice while keeping details simple. Simple and elegant can be a classic look for a wedding, so team members spent some time researching pictures of “outdoor weddings” looking for inspiration. Ultimately a gazebo style area proved out as the most effective in both performance and style.
“An outdoor space has much more of a wedding feel in our game. Also - continuing on the ‘uniting the world' concept - it feels more accessible than being put in an indoor area that people must portal into. It makes it seem more inviting. It also gives players more room to move around and hang out, whereas if it were indoors players would be forced to be within the bounds that we create.” – NoWorries, QA Lead
Decoration was an important aspect of the wedding location, since it couldn't just be a lone gazebo gleaming white on the horizon. Some elements worked really well with very straightforward effort, like the stone benches, hedges, and the colors of the gazebo itself. Others took some… fussing.
“NoWorries liked making flowers. There was one point where he was complaining because his flowers kept falling out of their planter boxes." – Kintani, Content Designer
Once you have your venue set up, the next challenging part of a wedding is typically the guest list. It was no exception for our virtual wedding either.
The “Guest List”
The natural inclination for planning the guest list of a wedding is to include everyone you can who would want to attend. This presents a challenge when you're dealing with an MMO where players may span a broad level range, but they're all interested in participating. We wanted to keep to the theme of “unifying the land,” so much of the questing and tasks were designed around encouraging players to come together and help with the wedding preparations, no matter where or what level they were – such as constructing the ceremony location on their servers.
“It's difficult to make an event that will seem ‘cool enough' for all level ranges.” – Severlin, Producer
Having a large guest list also meant that we had to select a good time to have the event. We wanted to allow as many players as possible to experience the wedding, and it can be tricky picking a time frame that works for “everyone.” It also meant we had to deviate a little from our original plan of having live performers to play the roles of our famous characters.
Fortunately, we don't plan on making players wait for the bride and groom to complete their wedding trials before the show can get started. Hoshino and Borelean will already have bested the K'nath and acquired their Emblem of Marriage and other ceremonial accessories.
It wasn't feasible for us to get as many performers as would be needed for all the important roles, much less have those performers available across all the worlds at times convenient to our guests (the players). This meant putting work into crafting a ceremony that could play out for all the game worlds at the same time, featuring iconic Asheron's Call characters.
“Queen Elysa should be an obvious attendee, as should representatives of the Aun Tumerok and Linvak Tukal Lugians…Traditionally, a wedding is performed by a Sentinel, but in this case, it'll be Asheron himself.” – Kintani, Content Designer
Any time you deal with an event that involves a lot of pre-scheduled tech, it also increases the amount of work in a different way. Rather than working to prep performers for what their NPC dialogue would be, the team had to juggle creating new features as well as putting together the actual ceremony. Sometimes the crush of update work and wedding work was very stressful for us.
“It's been tough. There's so much new tech - item leveling, crafting, display tech, UI… it's nice that we're able to move faster since it's our own IP, and additions can be easy thanks to our tech.” – Severlin, Producer
“The 10 year old game is getting things listed as ‘impossible' when I started on the team in 2005. For me, the toughest thing was tweaking all of the art needed to make the new things we've added cool. I edited about 1,000 files just to make the new race work.”– Kintani, Content Designer
Like any wedding preparation, sometimes you have to sacrifice small elements of your wedding ceremony. Brides often have to forego little things – like having all the bridesmaids wearing the exact same kind of shoes – as the wedding rapidly approaches and time is at a premium. Hard choices must be made for the greater good of the wedding.
“With how quickly our month to month patching goes by I had to leave out the last couple of art pieces I wanted to make sure what I did have was fully working…” – NoWorries, Asheron's Call QA Lead
There were times when we wondered if we could pull off the ceremony in the way we wanted in the time we had left to make it happen. The nice thing about having a wedding is that those around you always want to lend a helping hand, which can really keep things moving smoothly.
When you plan a wedding, your family and friends often are the first to start offering advice and help. We think of our Turbine co-workers as “extended family and friends,” even if they're not directly on the Asheron's Call team, and their reaction to the wedding was equally as excited and helpful. When the first images of the ceremony area were available, a crowd of co-workers huddled around Frelorn's desk to gawk. Some of our female employees were particularly inquisitive about elements of the wedding – had we picked a color? Did we have invitations? What were the favors for the guests? etc.
“The gals on the community team were trying not to frighten the single gents on the team too much. It's so easy for us to get carried away brainstorming about all the ‘fluffy stuff." – Tolero, Turbine Community Team
It really was a very communal experience in some ways. Turbine team members volunteered their time to help with fictions, developer diaries, videos, and more!
A “New Life”
After the aisle has been walked, the cake has been eaten, and the drunken relatives have embarrassed themselves on the dance floor, wedding participants can't help but reflect on the hard work that went into their wedding, and the good times involved. There's also a tendency to think about life beyond the wedding day for the new couple. In our case, we're thinking about all our hard work and what's ahead of us for Asheron's Call.
“It's great to see how players are responding, watching everyone's reactions and excitement… The best part is players getting to enjoy the payoff for some of our lighter updates while the team multi-tasked; these developers are the best plate spinners ever and their work is mind-bogglingly awesome. It amazes me!” – Frelorn, Turbine Community Team
“I always have fun bringing new art pieces and new content to the players. The gazebo turned out really well and matched my original idea of it almost exactly.” – NoWorries, Asheron's Call QA Lead
“The game is marching forward at a faster pace, and it allows us to show continuity. We're already fleshing out what our big plans for November will be.” – Severlin, Producer
It goes without saying that sometimes the most memorable moments of a wedding are the little outtakes that can happen, like when a flower girl does something unexpected or a part of the ceremony goes awry. We've gathered a few choice quotes from the team spoken during the work on the updates that make us snicker, or sounded entirely too much like actual wedding chatter. Names have been removed to protect the innocent!
“Oh my god, this is so much work!”
“I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh, but you both sounded way too much like people planning a real wedding just now. It's like ‘eeew I don't like that color'!”
“I don't think people ever want dark or overly bold colors in their wedding ceremony. Just doesn't fit.”
“GO HOME! Get some rest and relax!”
Employee 1: “Oooh we can make invitations!”
Employee 2: “We can?”
Employee 1: “OMG you HAVE to have invitations, it's a wedding! What are the colors of the couple?”
Employee 2: “Uh….”
Employee 1: “OMG how can you not know!?”
Employee 2: “I don't know anything about this wedding stuff.”
Employee 1: “Wait, aren't YOU engaged?!”
“Would it be appropriate to kill all the guests after the ceremony? I think they'd like it…”
We hope you are enjoying all the new features and changes, and we can't wait for the wedding! Enjoy all the great new additions in Asheron's Call, and get ready for the celebration!
“Expect a Dereth interpretation of a wedding. Expect to be surprised, and also to see a little mischief, because a little mischief is always fun.” – Frelorn, Community Representative