Chat with Turbine Entertainment
November 3, 1999
Just after the final release of Asheron's Call, the developers of the game, the folks from Turbine Entertainment, held a public Zone chat to answer questions about their plans for the coming months. The chat was extremely well attended, with nearly four hundred people looking in. Amid all the excitement, and despite many reminders, questioners forgot the one-query-per-customer rule, but the generous Turbinites did their best anyway to come up with answers. What follows is an abbreviated, edited transcript. If you've submitted any questions to either Turbine or Microsoft before, we encourage you to read the following, as Turbine shared a wealth of updated information.
Scotth@Turbine> Hi, on behalf of Turbine Entertainment -- the developers of AC -- welcome.
+MrQuazarr@Zone> Toby [auberon@Turbine] and Chris [cfoster@Turbine] would like to say a few things right now. The floor is all yours, guys.
auberon@Turbine> Thanks for coming, everyone. I want to make an announcement of sorts. With the retail release of AC, I'm going to be taking on a set of new responsibilities. I'm transitioning from lead designer to design director of Turbine. Since I won't be full time on AC, I've asked Chris Foster to take on the role of lead designer. So without further ado: Mr. Foster.
Scotth@Turbine> Chris will be posting some designers' notes on the Zone from time to time that will let you all know what we're working on. Chris, care to say a few words? Or maybe a whole bunch?
cfoster@Turbine> I've been involved with AC for the past two and a half years, and it's been really cool seeing the game come together. I started out designing the game's interface, and then stepped in to help sort out the last design issues as the game got ready to ship. So I'm really excited to see the game hit the shelves and to help bring AC to the world with new events and, um . . . other neat stuff!
cfoster@Turbine> (I also want to apologize for Turbine at this chat... we just shipped, and everyone's a bit giddy.)
Dave@Turbine> Hi, all, my name is Dave Namerow. I'm the Online Community Manager for Turbine.
+MrQuazarr@Zone> Now on to our first questions...
MKT_TopGun> *CLAP CLAP CLAP FOR the lovely family of TURBINE* FIRST OF ALL, I WOULD LIKE TO SAY HOW HONORED I AM TO SPEAK TO THE MAKERS! I love you guys!
MKT_TopGun> I never played the game before, *STUPID ME* but I plan on getting it. Where can you find the SoLL [Sword of Lost Light]?
rei@Turbine> Find the clues and talk to the right people. Some players may be willing to help you, but I think most people want everyone to work for it.
Panzoid> When will the lands of Dereth start to change? Also, will there ever be an expansion pack for AC?
cfoster@Turbine> Our hope is to provide so many new events and content in Dereth, that you don't NEED an expansion pack. You should see changes to Dereth in the next month or so . . .
ProfitLoop> Great game. I was playing like mad throughout beta2 and hopefully when I receive my copy of the retail here in Canada (damn city), I'll do the same. I'd like to know what kind of surprises are going to be included for the first month of the game (quests)?
jason@Turbine> They wouldn't be surprises if we told you.
rei@Turbine> If you're talking about normal permanent quests, we'll be continuing to add those. Events, however, will also be occurring, and we can't really give those away!
Fallout16483> Hi, first I would like to congratulate you on making a truly monumental game. That said, concerning the problem of many people not being able to be in the same place at one time -- does this mean there will be no large battles, or have you found a good . . . alternative?
cfoster@Turbine> Our solution to that is what we did with the "Fire in the Sky" event, where we had new content and encounters appearing ALL OVER the world at once. We'll have encounters and larger battles happening across the entire continent, rather than concentrated in the cities.
Cyberkiler2> If you unsubscribe for a month and then subscribe, say, two months later, will your character still be on the server? And what server upgrades and major events do you plan on doing as more people start to play AC? Maybe just a little hint to the first event?
Scotth@Turbine> We'll be doing server updates on a fairly regular basis.
cfoster@Turbine> The first update should happen in the next couple of weeks, if all goes well.
cfoster@Turbine> We'll be announcing more about that during the chat. We don't have the server-techs here, so we can't answer the question about the account. Sorry...
+MrQuazarr@Zone> The characters will stay in the DB should you cancel your subscriptions and come back later
dog320> Are there any plans to balance the abuse of the mage system? That is, the mage is basically unstoppable in the wilderness.
cfoster@Turbine> We're working on some tweaks to mages that make it a little fairer for everyone else, and ALSO make it a little more fun to be a mage. If it all works out, you'll have to be a little bit more of a thinker to be an effective mage.
ElectroTechno> Can you create new unique magic items, spells, and creatures? I'd love to see lots of unique items and creatures in AC. I mean, not just alter existing creatures, items, and spells but to create totally new things =P And can players build houses?
cfoster@Turbine> We can add more unique stuff to the game easily. New spells, new objects, new monsters -- all with only tiny little downloads.
jason@Turbine> AC was designed to allow new content to be easily added to the game world at any time with little to no downloads.
Scotth@Turbine> Like we did for the end of the beta event (ask someone who was there for the details).
cfoster@Turbine> As for letting YOU make more items and property . . . It's on our list for future enhancements.
Memorex4> I see many/most spells being "weakened" inevitably by "spoiler sites" on the Internet. How will this be combated, if at all? What measures will be taken to keep spells fresh? New ones added frequently, some type of rotation?
cpierson@Turbine> I'm currently maintaining a big ol' list of possible future spells.
amr@Turbine> We hope to add many new types of spells in the future to keep things interesting.
Scotth@Turbine> We're going to be adding stuff constantly, including new spells, features, etc. It just takes us some time to get it all done.
RoBz26> First off, thanks for the great game. Now, on to my question... I've been in beta since beta 0, and I was wondering, what caused you guys to give higher level drudges (raveners, stalkers, etc.) magic? With the decrease in loot, it doesn't make a lot of sense to make them harder to kill, especially when most people have low magic defense.
cfoster@Turbine> We needed to balance Drudges, because they were providing too much experience. So we made them tougher. As for the loot, we gave them a bit more treasure at the very end of beta. And we're working to keep balancing treasure as the game goes forward.
rei@Turbine> We will be rebalancing monster treasure in the near future.
HonestRocket> With all the land in Asheron's Call, how did you guys develop that large of an area? I read that it's over 500 square miles! That must've taken a lot of time! Thanks. BTW, AC is great.
jason@Turbine> It did . . .
cfoster@Turbine> I wish Pete Macdonald was here to take a bow.
rei@Turbine> We have special systems that allow us to develop that fairly quickly. However, the buildings and forts you see were done by hand.
Scotth@Turbine> brick by brick
jason@Turbine> We have some very cool tools which allow us to make rapid changes to large parts of the world. Very cool stuff.
cfoster@Turbine> A lot of Turbine's tech is devoted to making it easy to make a little content go a LONG way. Hopefully, we need to make content for a LOT of players to have fun with!
KoLDeron> Hail! 1st I'd like to send congrats for AC turning gold from a long-time (60+ hours a week) beta tester! How has spell consumption improved in the gold version? My mage carried 249 spell components at one time 'cause of burning them. Didn't have room to carry anything else.
cfoster@Turbine> We're looking at component burn. However, having to carry extra components is one of the ways we balance mages. If you want to carry more, then consider raising your strength.
jason@Turbine> And having a higher skill burns fewer components.
JarJarBinksII> Hello there!! Love the game! When will the Heraldry feature that I read about be added to the game, and when will the ability to buy houses or horses be added?
cfoster@Turbine> Wow! That was an old article! :) Heraldry is one of the things we might add in the future. In the meantime, allegiances have gotten pretty creative "striking their colors": matching outfits and such. One person's even been making pictures out of ASCII text in our parchment pages!
jason@Turbine> On that front, I'd also like to add some more clothing/armor options in the future that aren't being used right now.
cfoster@Turbine> As for horses and houses, we're trying to plan out with MS when we might add features to the game. Let us know what you consider important! There'll be a forum set up soon for players to see what updates we're considering, and to comment on them.
JediSmj> I have one question. What is the most powerful monster in Asheron's Call? Thanks for a GREAT GAME too...if only it was out in Australia ;( please tell if u can when it's coming to Australia! Horses will be good too!
cfoster@Turbine> You don't have horses in Australia? :)
rei@Turbine> [Judging the toughest monster] depends on whether you have armor, magic defense, melee defense, missile defense, or whatever; what spells you have on you; who your friends are.... And besides, you never know if a new nastybad is lurking in the dungeons, one never seen before.
cpierson@Turbine> And there are certainly big baddies we're not gonna tell you about. Yet. Last I heard, international release of AC might happen next year. That's in MS' court, really.
avalon_grey> Great job on the game, and thanks so much for the beta. Are there any changes being planned to introduce more role-playing elements into the game? It's really quiet most of the time. I see very little role-playing (beta and retail). Am I just in the wrong places? (Final night was exception.) Maybe changes in the chat commands to make it easier.
jason@Turbine> If you didn't know, you can use things like /t instead of @tell.
cfoster@Turbine> Avalon_grey, a lot depends on where you go, and who you know.
cfoster@Turbine> For example, there's one allegiance monarch who was hanging out in Tou-Tou, holding council with his vassals on most nights. I visited him once and was blown away by how well he carried himself. It was honest-to-goodness regal. I could see why he had over 500 people in his allegiance.
yazikcr> Great game, AC team! Loved my time online during the beta test period and am ready to get my copy of the real thing! This question is for whoever deals with the social issues of AC. I wanted to know what you envision for the role of religion in AC. Will there be churches and such (and what role might they play, other than healing places)?
cfoster@Turbine> Eri, your thoughts?
rei@Turbine> For the most part we have let that be up to the players. The Heritage Groups each have their own beliefs (the Sho, for instance, have a belief in elder spirits). But we aren't going to force the issue with people. So if you want a Revival, go for it!
Scotth@Turbine> Uh oh... it's bad enough there are sorcerers, now we've got to add religion? I can already sense the hate mail.
cfoster@Turbine> That said, it was cool to see people start prophesizing when the world started blowing up at the end of beta. :)
rei@Turbine> Yes, the backstory supports religion, but how it's "enforced" is up to you.
sSs_ThRiLla> Can you list five good reasons why my parents should let me get this game (they're not too crazy about the monthly fee)?
cfoster@Turbine> We'll each take one.
rei@Turbine> Friends online.
Scotth@Turbine> Social skills and teamwork.
cpierson@Turbine> You get to be part of an ongoing story.
rei@Turbine> If you went to the same kind of high school I did, you'll find your best friends online.
cfoster@Turbine> It gets you in front of your computer, where they can keep their eyes on you. :)
jason@Turbine> Well, I think you'll find that in many cases it's cheaper than many other forms of entertainment, or even gaming. Hour for hour of entertainment, it's probably the cheapest thing going. And most games aren't played nearly as long as MMP games are.
letoile@Turbine> Cheaper than cable.
Scotth@Turbine> Good Code of Conduct rules to keep out the Internet nasties that your parents worry about
cpierson@Turbine> Cheaper than a couple movies a month.
+MrQuazarr@Zone> Cheaper than one movie . . . with treats, of course.
jason@Turbine> many people play 20-40 hours a week, and that's really cheap when you consider it at $10 a month.
The_Evil_Eye> Hello, Turbine, congrats on AC! Best mmorpg so far in my eyes. My question is . . . how will u tell the story development? Will u use Web pages to tell the story like in beta2, or will u connect the story-telling more to the gameplay itself? I missed in beta2 a real storytelling. Okay, I could read stories and visions on the Zone AC page. There were 15 parchments of a vision, but the real story -- how will it be told?
cfoster@Turbine> Evil Eye, we'll do more INSIDE the game to tell people about the events as they happen. The Beta event was really just a test. Look to the festival stones, barkeeps, more parchment pieces, etc. Or just call me! My home phone is 555-xxx<cut off>
rei@Turbine> Have you found the libraries? Definitely, [there will be] more backstory in the game.
_EE_ST_Amoeba> Why didn't you make different races or body frames for AC like in EQ? Or are you planning on doing this?
cfoster@Turbine> To be honest, we thought that making facial and clothing variety, as well as different human heritages, was more interesting. But looking back, we probably would have split the variety between those subtle changes and body-types. There's a chance we might add it down the road, but it's a lot of artwork to download. We'll see.
_Cyber__> Hi, people, I tried the game in the 10-days demo, and I really loved it, I am hooked, but I don't have a credit card. Will there be other ways to pay for the monthly fee (like for Ultima Online, they sold three-month packs at retail stores)? And horses are a good idea too . . . since the map is soo Huge!
cfoster@Turbine> Um, that's really in MS' court. Any thoughts, Ken? What's the deal on having "Asheron's Calling Cards?" :)
Scotth@Turbine> Right now, billing for Zone premium games is only with a CC. Sorry...
+MrQuazarr@Zone> Right now there are no plans for having alternative payment methods such as UO's.
cfoster@Turbine> But remember that you can use debit cards too, depending on your bank. That's what I'd use (if I had to pay :).
+MrQuazarr@Zone> Yes, we do accept debit cards with visa/mc logo on them
DiReCtX4> BTW, I think being able to carry an AC card in my wallet would be nice . . . I'd like to say *Hi* to all the **Turbinites** and *Hi* to **Ken** . . . and now my question =) There's only so much you can do with the events. Monster invasions, town destruction, new monsters and towns, etc. After awhile the events may get dull. How are you gonna keep people on their toes on the events? It was just WAY too clear with the "Fire in the Sky" event that towns would be attacked. It was how, and by what, that was unknown. There has to be more than just attacking towns and changing the land.
cfoster@Turbine> Fair question, DirectX4.
cfoster@Turbine> (Hey, weren't you upgraded?)
cfoster@Turbine> Anyhoo, the events can have MANY facets.
Scotth@Turbine> Who says events have to deal with monsters or invasions, or town destructions?
cfoster@Turbine> The prophecy-puzzle was just one way to make them something other than big monster-killin' sprees. We'll be finding more cool ways to involve groups of players in events.
jason@Turbine> Don't forget the disco . . . haha . . .
rei@Turbine> Everyone thank Jason and the interns for the disco.
cfoster@Turbine> There'll also be smaller, more social events, hosted mainly by players with help from the Zone staff.
BBQ_Bob> Will the retail version have events, you know, big ones? BIG, like the apocalypse in the beta? Town-melting big? Can I have a cow -- you know, in the game? Not a horse, a pet cow, that follows me around.
cfoster@Turbine> Bob, try attacking a cow, and you'll get your pet.
cfoster@Turbine> We have BIG stuff planned. That's all I can really say. The beta was only a warm-up.
Dave@Turbine> It's gonna be awesome.
MTF_S_L_> Hi, will there ever be any type of banking system to store some of your stuff in so you might not lose as much if u die?
cfoster@Turbine> That's on our list of possible future features. When we take a look at property ownership, we'll be looking at storage as a feature of houses, too.
Zen_Skier> First off, as I played the Beta I got more and more involved, meeting new people and making allegiances. It sucked me in, and I got hooked. Just what you like to hear, I know. =) The End of the World was great, except for the few MAJOR LAGS that happened as you pushed the system. But it was the best role-playing I had seen and I even liked just standing there chatting, since I couldn't move. I wish I had seen one of the giant monsters, but anyway my question: just before the End of the World I found the Archmage tower, and inside he sold me two scrolls, the flame blast and volley. I read them and learned the spells on the first try. Now my problem: I tried that exact sequence of ingredients MANY times and could not learn the spells. Is learning off a scroll different from testing them yourself? I am hoping that you make magic totally unique to each person and that they can trade their flame bolt spell for yours via scrolls (IE: same spell different ingredients???). This way you can introduce new spells via scrolls no prob (maybe a new skill scribe, to write/trade the higher level spells) and cheat sites can't be made, since you need to read the scroll to actually learn a spell you didn't create/invent yourself.
amr@Turbine> If you have the wrong target selected while testing a spell it'll fizzle. That sometimes gets me
cfoster@Turbine> As for the lag on Sunday, yes, that was a drag . . .
Scotth@Turbine> . . . but that's what a stress test is all about.
cfoster@Turbine> Exactly. And that's NOT anything we're planning in the live game. We have better ways to make our invasions and assaults happen.
MoonW> What incentives do you plan to offer to veteran players to make a lasting impression on the community, such as housing? For instance, in the beta, it felt difficult to make a place for yourself in the world, though I am sure this will change.
cfoster@Turbine> MoonW, I guess that depends on your perspective. Some people made significant impacts by forming lasting allegiances (like that person in Tou-Tou I mentioned before).
rei@Turbine> (We're in awe :)
sean@Turbine> Home is where your friends are.
cfoster@Turbine> That said, property ownership and such are being considered for the future, as are ways for people to rank themselves against other players.
Silverion> Guys, first I must say that I was amazed with great planning and technology already seen in game. It was a way to go. Thanks to all! Allegiance system in PK world can show its real strengths. It needs a system to take over a city or an allegiance's main base . . .
cfoster@Turbine> Nothing like a little competition... :)
Silverion> . . . and also a system to guard against city against attacks, for resolving a problem of not all members online at all times. A takeover can be scheduled only once in a week, so all allegiances can concentrate their forces to get a major battle on. Do you plan any similar systems of massive takeover of cities soon?
cfoster@Turbine> Silverion, making the PK experience more interesting is something we'd like to do in the future, and not only in the PK world.
cfoster@Turbine> We're watching to see how the systems play out with thousands upon thousands of players involved, to see how you all want them to develop. And then we'll rip off all your ideas. :p
jason@Turbine> I personally do most of my playing in the PK world. While it's much more dangerous and annoying sometimes, you see some really amazing things happen.
war_zealot> What has changed from beta? Will there be new base equipment anytime soon?
cfoster@Turbine> Right now, we're focusing on making the game run smoothly for our first group of customers, and balancing game systems. We'll probably start bringing in new content with our first event.
war_zealot> [I mean] base equipment as in not magic, not gold, just different stuff from chain, plate, and yoroi.
cfoster@Turbine> That's possible in the near future.