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Treasure in Asheron's Call
Posted on 23-Mar-2004
The treasure system is perhaps one of the best gameplay systems in AC. It’s exciting, it’s flexible, it’s addictive, and it integrates well with other aspects of the game. But after four years and a lot of plastering, patching and mending, it was beginning to show its age. So recently we started on a multi-month project to reinvigorate the treasure system.
This effort has raised a lot of questions with players. It’s not intuitively obvious to you what we’re doing to treasure or why we want to do it – or what benefit you’re going to get out of it. And changes of this scope are understandably a bit discomfiting. So we’ve written this article to tell you a bit about where we want to go with treasure and how we plan to get there. And, of course, we’d like your feedback on our plans. After all, this treasure is meant for you.
Before we start talking about the changes to treasure and our goals for the future, it’s going to be necessary to tell you a good bit about how treasure in Asheron’s Call works.
All treasure generators in AC – both creatures and chests – figure out what treasure they will actually generate based on a treasure profile. This profile controls treasure generation in fairly broad strokes. For instance, it specifies how many items can be generated – perhaps 3 to 5, or 5 to 15. It also specifies what types of items can be generated and how likely each type is to generate. For example, an Olthoi might drop pretty much anything, but an Elemental might drop more gems, and no lockpicks at all.
It is important to understand, however, that the types of items that the profile can specify are very general. For instance, the profile might specify that a chest generates mostly armor and weapons with perhaps a few gems thrown in, but not which kinds of weapons, armor, or gems.
(Interesting fact: With very few exceptions, trophy items like crystal shards and little green seeds are not handled by the treasure system at all, but by another system entirely. This can occasionally make things rather confusing. The wall spells in a Steel Chest, for instance, are actually handled by the trophy system, while the bolts and arc spells are handled by the treasure system. That’s because the treasure system requires that a spell exist for all 7 levels, and that’s not true for wall spells.)
Perhaps the most important property that the profile specifies is the wealth rating. There are six wealth ratings – from 1 to 6. (In the past we’ve also called these ‘loot levels’, but considering how many levels we have to talk about these days – player levels and creature levels and skill levels and loot levels – it seems best to stick with ‘wealth ratings’ for now.) The wealth rating of a profile is used in two distinct ways during treasure generation. First, it is used in selection to select the exact item that is going to be generated; and secondly it is used in mutation to determine how that item is going to be changed by the treasure system.
Let’s look at an example. The treasure profile used by the Broken Fragment says that when the creature dies, it’s going to create 3 to 5 items. One of those items is going to be either a healing kit (15% chance) or a mana stone (15% chance) or a scarab (70% chance). The profile also says that this is going to be an item with a wealth rating of 1. So when the fragment dies, it rolls a random number – and let’s say that it decides that one item is going to be a healing kit. Then it checks a table for the possible healing kits that can occur in wealth rating 1, and determines that the healing kit can be either a crude kit (75% chance) or a poor kit (25%) chance. It rolls again to decide exactly which kit it will generate.
That’s how the profile and the wealth rating control selection, but what about mutation? Well, all crude healing kits are just crude healing kits, but for something like a dirk the selection of the item is only the first step. Once we know that we’re generating a dirk, we still need to figure out all sort of things about it: how much damage it will do, its attack and melee defense modifiers, its speed, its burden, what item enchantments are on it, what creature endowments it casts, if it has cantrips, how much mana it has, its wield requirements, its skill and heritage requirements, etc. Each of these properties is assigned by mutation, and for each of these properties, we are going to consult a table that is organized by wealth rating.
For example, if the profile has a wealth rating of 1, then a dirk generated by this profile has a 10% chance to have a base damage of 7, a 15% chance to have a base damage of 8, a 25% chance to have a base damage of 9, and so forth. A dirk from a wealth rating 2 profile will have different possible damages and different chances to get those damages. Mutation is one of the most complicated – and one of the coolest – parts of the treasure system, and there are hundreds of data tables devoted to describing this behavior. These examples just give you a taste of the system.
So now you know in general terms how the treasure profile controls the types of loot that you find. And you know that the wealth rating is probably the most important property of the profile because it controls the fine-grained selection of treasure items as well as their mutation. With that knowledge under our belt, let’s talk some about how treasure has worked historically in Asheron’s Call.
Where We Were
Although the basic structure of the treasure system has remained the same for the past four years, the way that we use that structure has changed. The best example of this is the way that we use wealth ratings.
Wealth ratings were originally intended to control the quality of treasure – the higher the wealth rating, the better the loot, period. There was no notion of treasure being best for a particular level of player, because the higher treasure was always going to be better for everyone. You can see this philosophy in many places still today – a peerless healing kit is always better in all ways for all characters than an excellent healing kit, an excellent healing kit is always better than a good healing kit, and so forth.
This was originally true for weapons and armor as well, but that all changed with the addition of wield requirements at the beginning of 2002. Wield requirements are controlled by the wealth rating of the treasure profile, so in a sense they correlate to the quality of the treasure. But wield requirements also define brackets of treasure that corresponded (roughly) to character levels rather than to simple quality. In other words, a 325-wield sword is just not as useful to a newbie sword character as a no-wield sword, and so you can’t really judge the quality of the two swords on the same scale for all characters.
As a measure of quality, wealth ratings have suffered from somewhat random assignment to creatures over the years. Asheron’s Call has always had exactly six wealth ratings, but when the game first shipped, only the first five were commonly available to players. The lowest wealth ratings were assigned to the low level creatures; wealth rating 4 was assigned to the high level creatures; and wealth rating 5 was assigned only to very special creatures like Olthoi nobles. Keep in mind, however, that the high level creatures at the time were aimed at characters of perhaps level 20 or 30.
Later on, as players reached higher levels and higher quality treasure became more widespread, the middle wealth ratings were pushed both down into lower level creatures (in an attempt to keep lower level players interested in treasure) and up into higher level creatures (in an attempt to keep from running out of wealth ratings). After a year or two, wealth rating 6 was made more available to players through Singularity Troves, which helped the high level issue temporarily, but then the addition of wield requirements confused the issue – because wield requirement weapons occurred at relatively high wealth ratings, but realistically lower level players needed more access to those weapons. And finally, creature rebalancing and redistribution came through like a whirlwind last year and shredded whatever tatters of rhyme or reason may have remained in the assignment of wealth ratings.
This lead to a situation in which the wealth ratings were all bunched up at the low end and spread terribly thin at the high end, with some just being completely out of whack. We might have gone on this way for years, if not for two factors: 1) a desire to bring new players into Dereth, and 2) the growing issue of high level players.
New players want a consistent world to play in and live in, and they probably aren’t going to understand offhand why all the treasure they are finding just plain sucks and that they should go hunt Olthoi Harvesters. High level players, on the other hand, need high level content and high level content should drop high level loot, and the fact was that once you were past level 60 or so you were pretty much looking at the same treasure for the rest of your character’s lifetime was just not exciting to us, or to you. So somehow, we needed to straighten the system out.
It didn’t help matters that traditionally each creature and each chest had its own individually named treasure profile and so any changes to treasure would need to modify over a thousand data files. That may sound good on paper – each creature has its own unique profile – but in practice it didn’t quite work out the way you might think. The main difference between two particular golem profiles, for instance, was that one had a 67% chance to drop a gem, and the other had a 70% chance to drop a gem. Unfortunately, the sheer number of data files involved meant that slow, step-by-step change was not feasible for the treasure system – we were really looking at a second creature rebalancing.
So between the changing game environment and the maturing of the players themselves, you can see how the treasure system was stuck in a hard place. In order to grow, it first had to change. But how did we want to grow the treasure system?
Well, as we said in the February Rollout Article, our goals for treasure are pretty simple: we want treasure to be useful and interesting. To expand on that a bit, we want creatures in a particular level range to drop loot that could be useful to characters in that level range. Now mind you, that doesn’t mean that every single piece of treasure will be the best you’ve ever seen – that might be useful, but it would very soon stop being interesting. But it does mean that you should have a good chance of finding something pretty darned useful. We want everyone to have good reason to check the corpse of every creature they kill, because they might just find something fantastic.
Where We Are Now
In February, we started the laborious process of cleaning up the treasure system. First, we defined a set of generic profiles for use with all creatures. By limiting the number of profiles that creatures used, we made the entire system easier to work with and we ensured that further changes to treasure would be more feasible and easier to test.
Now, some players were worried that standardizing the treasure profiles would rob the treasure system of a lot of its richness and flexibility. This is an understandable worry, but in context … Well, you have to understand the scale here. We started with approximately 1200 treasure profiles – roughly one for each creature and each chest. There are approximately 500 treasure profiles in use today, and ideally we’d like to reduce this a bit further, say to 250 profiles. But even 250 different treasure profiles still gives us an awful lot of flexibility and opportunities for individuality among different creatures.
We also wrote a tool to help us set the treasure profiles for every creature in the game. The tool helped us quite a bit, but because of the sheer number of changes involved we still only managed to get about 2/3 of the creatures done for February. Most of the rest will be changed with the April update, but we’ll probably be dealing with stragglers – quest creatures, mostly – for another several months.
In order to assign profiles to creatures in a rational fashion, we correlated each wealth rating with a target level range. Initially, each wealth rating lined up exactly with the main level ranges on the creature distribution map: newbie, low, mid, high, extreme, and uber. However, after reading a good bit of player feedback we realized that we needed to tweak the ranges down a bit, so that you can start collecting equipment for the next level range before you actually get there. These tweaks will go live with the April update, and you can see the effects of these tweaks in Table 4 below in the April section.
Of course, changing the treasure profiles on creatures had a lot of side effects. Some creatures saw changes in the types of items or in the number of items they dropped. But the biggest side effects were tied to changes in the wealth rating, and these included both changes in selection and mutation.
In terms of selections, for example, a creature that previously used a wealth rating 3 profile would have previously dropped mostly good healing kits. If after the realignment, however, their profile had a wealth rating of 2, they would now drop primarily poor healing kits. Likewise, selection changes also affected what types of weapons (tungi vs. silifi), what kinds of armor (leather vs. yoroi), what kinds of gems, which healing kits and lockpicks, and what levels of spell scrolls you might find on a particular creature.
We knew that all of these areas would need to be addressed eventually – and some sooner than others – but we also knew that it wasn’t feasible to address them all at once. Spell scrolls we addressed in March, armor types will be addressed in April, and the others we hope to address in the near future.
But we felt it was more important for us to address the some of the nastier mutation side effects immediately. A good example of this can be seen with the wield requirements on missile weapons. Before February, you could only find 250-wield missile weapons at wealth rating 4 or above. Had we left this unchanged when we adjusted the profiles, you wouldn’t have had any chance to find 250-wield missile weapons until around character level 60. So it was important for us to adjust the wield requirement mutations, as well as other mutations, to account for the wealth rating changes. Table 1 shows the distribution of wield requirements for weapons after the change.
Table 1: Weapon Wield Requirements
Melee Weapon Wield Requirements
Missile Weapon Wield Requirements
250, 300, 325
250, 270, 290
250, 300, 325
250, 270, 290
250, 300, 325
250, 270, 290
One thing you may notice here is that the top three wealth ratings are all identical. In actual practice, your chances of finding each level of wield requirement are different, but the range of possibilities is the same. This is one area in which we have plans for the future.
(Incidentally, please keep in mind when you are looking at these tables that because some creatures have not yet gotten their new treasure profiles, you may occasionally run across treasure that doesn’t fit neatly into these tables. Feel free to tell us about it, and we’ll get it fixed.)
In addition to weapon wield requirements, we also adjusted the mutation of weapon variance, adding more possible levels of mutation and smoothing out the curves so that the best mutations were not so rare. We increased the maximum damage mutations for the racial weapons, which were falling rather behind in terms of damage over time, and we raised the maximum damage modifier for the crossbow slightly for the same reason. Finally, we broke the possible damage modifiers for all the missile weapons down into smaller chunks. All of these actions supported our goal, presented above, of providing more diversity in treasure.
One mutation that we did not adjust – but which we should have – was that of the offense and melee defense modifiers on weapons. Because the frequency and magnitude of these mutations depends on the wealth rating of the treasure profile, weapons in February were generating with fewer and lower modifiers than players were expecting. In March we adjusted the magnitude of the modifiers, and in April we will adjust the frequency.
As you can see, we concentrated mostly on weapon mutation and did not adjust the mutation of armor. In retrospect this was a mistake, but at the time we were hoping that we could update the entire armor system in March at the same time as we incorporated our new racial armors. That wasn’t ultimately feasible, and so we are making interim adjustments to correct the mutation issues with armor in April.
Another major mutation change in February involved the levels of enchantments that can be found on items, and the wealth ratings at which you can find major and minor cantrips. After player feedback, we adjusted these spell levels again in March.
Finally, we adjusted the treasure profiles on a number of special chests. Generic chests we tackled in March, but in February we changed the wealth ratings of chests like the Virindi Troves, Runed Chests, VoD chests and the like to bring them into line with the target character levels.
Due to some peculiarities in our schedule, the March update took place only two weeks after the February update. Because of this, the treasure changes in March were generally more subtle than the February changes.
First, we updated the profiles of the generic chests – you know, those plain old treasure chests that hang out in dungeons but aren’t special or part of any particular quest. This actually left us with an interesting problem for the future: because the content designers were well aware that the old chests had low quality treasure, they would often place only wealth rating 3 and 4 chests in their dungeons, regardless of the target level of the area. Now, of course, this means that a lot of those chests are out of whack and need to be revisited, but there are an awful lot of them and it’s going to take us months to find them all.
As part of this change, we also added a new treasure profile for the lowest level of Runed chests and adjusted the existing Runed chests in places like Holtburg and Yaraq – those Runed chests should no longer try to give newbies 325 wield requirement weapons!
Secondly, we fixed scrolls drops. Previously, you could only find scrolls of one level in each wealth rating, but with some clever hackery in the treasure code we diversified scroll drops and brought them down where they were more useful to players. The following table illustrates exactly what we did.
Table 2: Scroll Levels
Scroll Levels – Previous
Scroll Levels – March
1, 2, 3
3, 4, 5
5, 6, 7
At the same time, we also adjusted the levels of the spells that you can find on items. We had done the first pass of this in February, but we weren’t satisfied with how the levels played out, and neither were you. So in March we adjusted them, as the following table shows.
Table 3: Item Spell Levels
Item Spell Levels – February
Item Spell Levels – March
1, 2, 3
1, 2, 3
2, 3, 4
3, 4, 5
3, 4, 5
4, 5, 6 + minors
4, 5, 6 + minors
5, 6 + minors, majors
5, 6 + minors, majors
5, 6 + minors, majors
5, 6 + minors, majors
5, 6 + minors, majors
One thing you may notice here is that the top three wealth ratings are all identical. In actual practice, your chances of finding each level of spell are different, but the range of possibilities is the same. This is one area in which we may want to expand in the future, possibly by adding level 7 spells to treasure or possibly by adding some new sort of cantrip-like spell effect.
Lastly, we made some adjustments to the mutation of offense and melee defense modifiers. We had overlooked these in February – an unintentional nerf – and so we wanted to get them in somewhat better shape as soon as possible. We ended up adjusting them again in April, however, so see that section for more details about the final state of these modifiers.
There was one other very important – but fairly subtle – treasure change in March. At the beginning of this article we talked a bit about how wealth ratings used to indicate quality but are now used to indicate target character level. That leaves us without a handy way to indicate quality, however – and one aspect of our treasure system that we would like to maintain is the notion that some creatures and some chests and just better for loot. So in March we added a new ‘quality’ property to treasure profiles that indicates their quality level.
Now ‘quality’ operates within the wealth rating, but it means that treasure produced by that profile is more likely to be near the maximum that that wealth rating can produce. For instance, a high quality profile of wealth rating 3 cannot produce major cantrips, but it is a lot more likely to produce minor cantrips. Likewise, a high quality profile of wealth rating 1 will still produce spells of levels 1, 2, and 3, but it’s a lot more likely to produce a lot of level 3 spells and rather few level 1 spells.
This new property only appears in a few profiles in March – namely in the Virindi Troves, Runed Chests, the Golden Gambling Chests, some VoD chests, and a few special quest chests – but in April it will also appear on special creatures
The April update isn’t live yet, of course, and as I write this we have another week of implementation followed by a week of polish. So some of the information presented here may change before the April update.
As we mentioned in the February section, one major change in April involves tweaking the target character level for each wealth rating, so that you can start collecting equipment for the next level range before you actually get there. Table 4 illustrates this tweak.
Table 4: Wealth Ratings and Target Player Levels
Target Character Level – February
Target Character Level – March
In addition, we are extending the new ‘quality’ property to a host of creatures, including randomly spawning boss monsters like the Lord of Decay and Plaguefang, as well as creatures like Crystal Golem and Reedshark Slasher. We also added larger treasure profiles to group-oriented creatures so that they drop more pieces of loot.
Many of the other April changes have already been discussed in the March Letter to the Players Follow-Up, but we’ll list them again here in short form as well:
Offense, melee defense, and mana conversion modifiers will be more common at all wealth ratings. In fact, at higher wealth ratings items will almost always have these modifiers.
Magic casting ‘weapons’ such as wands, orbs, and magic staffs will generate with melee defense modifiers just like missile and melee weapons do. Magic casters will use the same mutation tables as the other weapons, so the chance to get a modifier and the maximum possible modifiers will be the same for all three types of items.
In conjunction with this, magic casters can be enchanted with Defender and Lure Blade spells, and tinkered with brass.
Magic casters will also have the chance to generate with appropriate item enchantment spells (Defender and Hermetic Link) and with appropriate major and minor cantrips (including skill cantrips for things like alchemy, but not for things like sword).
All weapon types – magic, melee, and missile – will have a small chance to generate with very small bonus modifiers to magic defense and missile defense. To begin with, these modifiers will have a maximum of 2.5% and they will not be able to be enchanted or tinkered in any way. We’re excited about these new modifiers because they offer some really neat new options for weapons of all types, but because of the balance implications, we want to start off slow.
Some 'second-class' melee weapons such as jittes and shou onos – weapons that are far behind the more popular weapons that use the same skill – will get a small boost to their damage in order to make them more attractive to characters of all levels.
In addition to these changes, we are also addressing many of the issues with armor in April. First, we are adjusting the selection phase – what kinds of armor you can find at various levels. The following table illustrates the difference. Note that ‘plate’ refers to platemail, scalemail, and yoroi, and that ‘heritage’ refers to Amuli, Koujia, and Celdon.
You’ll notice that in wealth rating 5 and 6 there is a listing for ‘New Heritage Armor’. The artwork for these is still in production, so they may not make it into the April update. But the plan is for these new armors to be very similar to Amuli, Koujia, and Celdon – except that they will look much cooler.
We are also addressing many of the concerns about the mutation of treasure armor in April. The main change is that all treasure armor will mutate – which means no more AL 20 armor in the Valley of Death. We are also adjusting the magnitude of armor level mutations so that the distribution will better match the distribution that you were used to before February. In addition, some of the lower types of armor – like leather – may end up with higher maximum armor levels than they could achieve before.
Finally, we will also be updating Covenant Armor. Previously, Covenant armor used a mathematical formula to determine its wield requirement based on its armor level. In other words, if you had a piece of Covenant armor with AL 213 and a melee defense requirement, then that melee defense requirement was going to be about 208. This wield requirement might also be increased more if the piece mutated its protections.
In April, however, the wield requirements on Covenant armor will work much more like the wield requirements on weapons: if the piece has an armor level between 300 and 350 and a melee defense requirement, then that requirement is going to be 300 regardless of the exact armor level or the protections. The following two tables describe this behavior.
Table 6: Covenant Armor – Wield Requirements vs. Armor Level
Profile (Used in Table 7)
Melee Defense Requirement
Missile Defense Requirement
Magic Defense Requirement
100 - 200
200 - 300
300 - 350
350 - 400
400 - 440
440 - 470
470 - 500
* Shields do not occur with these profiles.
Table 7: Covenant Armor Mutation
Profiles (from Table 6)
1, 2, 3
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Two important things to note: Covenant armor will be able to occur with a magic defense wield requirement as well as melee and missile defense requirements. In addition, most pieces of Covenant armor will be available with higher wield requirements and higher armor levels than previously. We wanted the best Covenant armor to be able to compete with fully tinkered non-Covenant armor in terms of armor level. The one exception is Covenant shields, which for balance reasons we have limited to lower armor levels.
Going forward, we still have a number of changes that need to be made in order to meet our goals for the treasure system. We also have a lot of cool new treasure features that we’d like to add.
We need to revisit a lot of the selection tables for supplies like healing kits, lockpicks, mana stones, scarabs, potions, food, etc. One option that we are considering is removing most of these items from creature treasure and instead making them more available at vendors. Another option is to change these items so that items from higher wealth ratings are not always better than items from lower wealth ratings in all situations.
For instance, healing kits have two important properties – a skill bonus that increases your effective healing skill, and a healing boost that increases the maximum amount that you can heal. Right now, healing kits from higher treasure have both a higher skill bonus and a higher healing boost than kits from lower treasure – they are just better in every way. But perhaps we should change that so that kits from lower treasure tend to have a higher skill bonus, while kits from higher treasure have a higher healing boost. In this way, lower level kits would presumably be more useful for lower level characters.
Another area that we’d like to revisit is arcane lore, and in particular how arcane lore requirements are affected by rank and skill requirements. This may fit in well with adding level 7 spells to treasure items, if and when we do that.
In terms of cool new features, we’re considering adding higher level wield requirements to missile and melee weapons, and adding wield requirements to magic casters at high levels. For melee weapons, it would be sufficient to increase the damage of these weapons, but for missile weapons and magic casters we have a slightly different idea in mind. In short, missile weapons would get a flat damage bonus (similar to the bonus from Blood Drinker) *only* when the damage type of the arrow in use matched the damage type of the bonus. Similarly, magic casters might have a damage bonus multiplier that worked the same way – applying the modifier only when the damage of the war spell matched the damage type of the bonus.
The following table presents our current thoughts on the skill levels we would like to see in the future for wield requirement. Note that magic casters come in at a higher level, because below that level the spell levels provide an effective scale of damage.
Table 8: Future Weapon Wield Requirements
This is only one option we are looking at for higher level wield requirements on weapons, but we are pretty certain that we want to add them in some fashion. Some players have expressed concerns already that higher level wield requirements will further encourage a ‘min-max’ mentality, and that more well-rounded characters will be left behind. For this reason, we want to design these higher weapons so that they provide only a negligible benefit in terms of damage but function more as a status symbol for high level characters.
We would also like to revise and expand our armor system in the future, both by adding more types of armor and by possibly adding more types of wield restricted armor. These are the most tentative of our plans right now, however.
So there you have it – a detailed explanation of how the treasure system works, why we wanted to change it, where we want to go with it, how we’ve changed things so far, what’s in store for the near future, and some ideas we have for the far future. Hopefully you’ve managed to stay awake all through this article, and it’s answered some of the questions you may have had. As always, we are extremely interested in your feedback, so let us know what you think!
We've introduced part four of our ongoing treasure revisions.
Art Items and Casters
We're moving "art items" (mugs, plates, and the like) and casters into several loot tables where they previously did not exist. This will result in both being found in places where you could not find them before – for example, in May you'll be able to find casters in the casino golden chests. This will make casting items – as well as certain types of salvage – easier to find. You will also be able to find art items with spells on them, such as a bowl with Alchemy Mastery for example.
This category covers all the "other" things found in loot – spell components, mana stones, healing kits, lockpicks, and potions. These categories of items have not changed much since the early days of Asheron's Call, and the treasure revisions have only highlighted this.
To improve the situation, we will be adding new types of mana stones and potions, and low-level healing kits are being improved and renamed. Then we'll be redistributing all mundane items across different levels of treasure.
Healing kits will also now provide more information regarding their effects. Healing kits can provide a bonus to your skill check, or a bonus to the amount you heal, or both. Now you'll be able to see which is which just by ID'ing the kit.
Just as an example, here's how the changes would affect the types of items you could find in wealth rating 5 treasure, intended for level 80+ characters.
In general, we've made existing items show up sooner and created new items to fill the gaps at the high end. You'll note that there are no new lockpicks yet – don't worry, we're working on some ideas for interesting high-end lockpicks.
Chests and Fishing Holes
One effect of the treasure changes is that a number of newbie and low-level chests had their treasure bumped up considerably. This resulted in many newbie chests generating treasure that no newbie could possibly use. We've adjusted the loot in many of these chests, and will continue tweaking additional chests in the coming months.
We've also adjusted the magical jewelry that could be generated by fishing holes in rare cases. After the treasure revisions, fishing holes were generating jewelry that was much better than intended. We'll be bringing them back into line in May.