Announcements - 2000/02 - Shadows of the Past

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February 2000 - Patch Page

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Teaser

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ashenewspast.asp

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Shadows of the Past


February 14, 2000

Asaina al-Arqis read late into the day, poring over ancient texts for some reference to the gigantic bridge-like structure appearing and disappearing over the river near Holtburg. At dusk, soon after she'd lit her candle, a weariness stole over her that could not be explained by the warm spring air, and she soon bowed her head upon the desk. When she finally awoke much later, the larger moon had just begun to rise, and by its light, she could see the dead candle with barely a dimple around its wick. She began to stretch her arm, then stopped -- the desk was bare where her manuscripts had been.

Something rasped on the floor behind her, and she leapt from her chair. A bone-white figure clad in tatters emerged from the stacks. Its attention as bent over a book in one hand. In its other, it held the missing parchment. Heart pounding, she cast about for escape as it slowly raised its head, to reveal eye sockets like pits floored with angry-hot magma. Instinctively, she averted her eyes. A lich! But who, and why?

"The fools in Frore," said the undead monster, "made a toy of the prism, and now the old magic is loosed; the suspended war resumes. Many hidden things will return, and the heretic will kidnap and toy with your people. Reassemble the weapons and fight him! Rally your feeble people, Asaina al-Arqis. Tonight I let you live."
She understood none of this. "Who is the heretic?" she asked, but received no answer, and realizing too late that she should not look up, she stood transfixed by those burning eyes. The horror of that stare lingered with its afterimage glow as the lich grinned, faded, and was gone.


Continuing our tradition of rolling out monthly world-altering events for Asheron's Call, "Shadows of the Past" will bring many changes to Dereth. Look for new features on the landscape, new dungeons and quests, major new items, and even a new monster. Spring has arrived, warm and welcoming, with its flowering plants, drifting motes of pollen, and impressive new generation of rabbits, but rumors abound that heroes have gone missing, and Shadow creatures remain on the landscape, standing impassive as if awaiting a summons, while artifacts from an ancient war begin ominously to reappear. Look for these developments by the end of the week. We'll be seeing you in Dereth!

Rollout Article

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ashenewspast2.asp

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Shadows of the Past" Have Been Cast Over Dereth


February 17, 2000

Baby bunnies, drifting motes of pollen, and new flowering plants have appeared, and sorcerers and workmen across the land have been creating huge safe havens for public affairs, but nature and humanity are not the only powers altering the world of Dereth. No one yet knows the full consequence of the Quest for Frore, where bands of heroes broke an artifact responsible for the land's killing winter freeze. For a month, dreadful new Shadow creatures have been stalking the wilderness, accompanied by floating crystals that launch pyrotechnic attacks. While searching for guidance in ancient texts, scholars have found mention of powerful weapons that once defeated the Shadows. But can they be recovered before the battlefield is set? Already, a vast bridge of volcanic glass has materialized over the River Prosper; mysterious new catacombs have been discovered; and weary and bedraggled adventurers report harrowing trials at the whim of a godlike, invisible being.

"Shadows of the Past" continues our tradition of advancing the Asheron's Call story through major monthly events. Characters of all levels will find new mysteries to explore and challenges to face in the common effort to oppose the massing Shadows. We look forward to meeting you in Dereth!


(For more information on the latest game update, please read Build Notes, February 17, and the new State of the Code.)

Release Notes

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ashenewsFeb17build.asp

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Asheron's Call Build Notes, February 17



Here are all the tiny little details of the game update that was made on February 17, 2000. This list is culled from "check-in" notes submitted by the game developers themselves.

We won't reveal many changes concerning the Shadows that have advanced upon the land and other story development, as these include major new opportunities for players to drive the saga forward. We don't want to take away the fun of discovery. As usual, the Town Criers, Barkeeps, and Scribes may know the latest news! Also, the trades of crafting and selling are always in flux, so changes to prices and abilities of items are not always detailed here.

Detailed Notes for builds 2270-2277:

  • Spring has sprung. Pollen drifts, bees buzz, and bunnies make baby bunnies.
  • The damage done by melee weapons -- such as swords, maces, daggers, spears, and so on -- is now affected more by the strength of the combatant. Strong warriors will find that they do more damage per hit than before. This does not affect missile or unarmed combat. Note that this applies to monsters as well, so be careful when facing monsters that wield weapons!
  • Players using melee weapons have a slightly faster attack speed than before. This also applies to a small subset of weapon-wielding monsters.
  • Amazing new things to do for all levels of players, some of them worth many many hours of fun. If only we would tell you what they are?
  • New Meeting Halls, ideal spots for large groups to gather, have been unveiled near every major town. The scribes sell books that tell you where they are.
  • Anyone want to buy a bridge?
  • Loot has been improved for a few monsters.
  • Objects contained in corpses will no longer be deleted by housekeeping (until the corpse rots and they are dumped out on the ground). This may help fix reports of empty corpses, though there still may be more to such reports, and we continue to investigate.
  • Mage robes are a bit more useful than they were. They drain mana more slowly and cast another helpful spell.
  • Gharu'ndim robes should now be wearable. Other errors in mage robe names also fixed.
  • Swift Killer spells 2-6 had wrong descriptions. Spells worked properly, but the text for the spell description had the old value by which the spell adjusted the item's speed.
  • The range of thrown weapons is now no longer often displayed as zero. The range now assumes a Strength of 100, though . . . your mileage may vary.
  • All Koujia Sleeves produced by the treasure system will now be wearable. Unwearable sleeves that have already been created, however, will remain unwearable. Please don't sell them and continue the pain; drop them somewhere secluded, or give them to a collector.
  • Explanation text on Urgent Assistance and Abuse panel has been modified. If your abuse report goes unanswered, feel free to repeat it every few minutes until you hear from an Online Team member.
  • NPCs are now restricted to moving no more than five meters when giving an item to someone.
  • There was a bug that made lightning quarrels too easy to make, as compared to other elemental quarrels. They are now just as difficult to make as their elemental cousins.
  • You are less prone to have your ability to move curtailed by an automatic emote your character does while standing around.
  • Fletchers, start a-whittling . . .
  • Typo in success string when making Carol's Carrot Cheese Soup fixed.
  • Double-clicking on parchment in a corpse should now pick it up, not attempt to write on it.
  • MacDugal (Bandit Castle NPC) is wearing a girth now and his underwear isn't showing anymore.

Letter to the Players

Original Link (now dead) - No Link Available

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Letter to the Players


February Edition (2000)

Greetings to everyone!

I am Brian Haines, the Event Team Manager for Asheron's Call. Some of you have no doubt seen me lingering in the game as Jaraq or in the game lobbies as Jaraq@AC. I just wanted to introduce myself to the community and give people the scoop on what I do. As Event Team Manager, I am tasked with helping you the players organize and run your own events in the game. This includes parties, scavenger hunts, weddings, or gatherings to venture out and smite evil monsters! These are just a few examples as Events are limited strictly by one's imagination. However it is important to note that the Event Team can't conjure up monsters or quest items to help, such things would have to be from the game environment naturally. Large scale events such as the Sudden Season's events are done by Turbine and Microsoft.

There is now a Web page available where players can go to and check on upcoming User-Run Events/Gatherings and you can also fill out a form to have your own Event posted/promoted for everyone to see. This will serve as a valuable resource of information for you, the players . One I hope you'll visit often. :)

Please check this out and list your own event by going to: http://www.zone.com/asheron-oldscall/tournament.asp. The Web page will not be the only thing to help you in running Events as I will be forming a group of volunteers to make a team which will help in the game. Exact details are still being ironed out, however these individuals will be called Scribes. Should you be interested in becoming one, an email to me would be the first step. Please have the subject set as ATTN Scribes: so that I can easily identify the content of the email. Scribes will basically be there to help players run their events. They will not be able to create items in the game however.


More details will be posted soon as they become available. I look forward to working with you all to make Asherons Call as enjoyable as possible. Please do not hesitate to email me with questions or comments, my box is always open. ;)

State of the Code

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEnewscodestate1.asp

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State of the Code


February 17, 2000

My name is Matthew Ford, and I am the Program Manager for Asheron's Call at the MSN Gaming Zone. This is the latest installment of a frequently updated series of reports on "The State of the Code" for Asheron's Call.

In this report, I want to keep players informed as to the state of some of the more technical aspects of AC.

Major Game Update on 2/17/2000
On 2/17/2000, in the early hours, we introduced another Dereth-shaking update. This ushered in the next worldwide development as the infestation of the Shadows across the land precipitated new discoveries by brave adventurers. The update also fixed bugs, improved the lot of melee fighters, and made AC an even better game. Look for News articles on the Zone that tell you of the changes made.

I'm seeing "The tool has been destroyed" messages that I don't understand.
When using one object on another, you may get the message "The tool has been destroyed," even when you don't see any tool involved. In this message, "tool" refers to any object that can be used on something else. Therefore, you will get such a message when certain objects vanish during use. In some cases this is not a negative message and should be ignored, such as when two objects are combined into one. In other cases, this message means that the use of a tool has resulted in either the tool or its target being broken by the act of using it, in which case it will need to be replaced.

I went right to my corpse soon after dying, but my corpse was gone, or it was empty!
This is a rare and elusive bug. We think we fixed part of it, making it so that objects in corpses to not "decay" over time like they do when they are on the ground. Still, that does not seem to explain some anecdotes we have heard. We are looking carefully into this hard-to-track bug.

State of the Code Archive
Below are items from previous State of the Code articles. Some items have been retired from the archive below because we believe they have been fixed. If they turn out not to have been fixed, we will revive those items.

All-world downage on 2/12/2000
At about 1:30 P.M. Pacific time on 2/12/2000, all AC worlds, especially Frostfell, started experiencing lag and disconnections. Our Online Team quickly detected and reported the problem, and our Operations staff, after analyzing the situation, restarted the database server and all game servers at about 3:30 P.M. The total downtime was approximately two hours, with all worlds back in service by 5:30 P.M. This was the second unscheduled all-world downage that we have ever experienced, following a few days after the first of its kind (see below); however, its cause was unrelated to the 2/9/2000 downage.

The problem was excruciatingly simple. A scheduled automatic backup of the Frostfell database two nights before had failed to complete successfully, which blocked the database server from doing its usual process of truncating a log of transactions for that world. As a result, the transaction log grew until it exceeded its drive space, which precipitated the lag and disconnections. Canceling the backup process required a restart of the database server and the game worlds.

This is a problem similar to the one that affected Leafcull on 1/20/2000, and we thought we could head off incidents of a similar nature. Unfortunately, our method for doing this failed, and we have resolved anew to head off this problem before it happens again.

The good news is that we found a way to reset the world without clearing out corpses on the ground, which hopefully reduced the inconvenience and loss to players. Also, no "time warp" similar to 2/9/2000 should have happened to anyone, with the possible exception of a very short "time warp" on Frostfell.

We sincerely apologize for the problem. We hold ourselves to a very high standard, and want to continue to be the most reliable massively multiplayer online game in the world. We take these interruptions seriously, and will not rest until we give you 100% reliable service.

All-world downage on 2/9/2000
At approximately 5:00 P.M. Pacific time on 2/9/2000, all AC worlds began locking up and shutting down, soon becoming entirely unavailable. This was the first all-world downage -- and one of very few server disruptions -- that we have experienced since bringing AC to the public. Our Online Team quickly detected and reported the problem, and our Operations staff quickly restarted the database server and all game servers. The total downtime was approximately two hours.

The problem was that our main database, which stores character data among other crucial functions, locked up -- though it had not crashed, it got into an inactive state. As a result, the AC worlds either sensed this and shut themselves down, or hung up waiting for response from the database.

This is not related to the problem that led to the loss of allegiances on Leafcull. It does not seem to have anything to do with AC's steadily growing population. We do not yet know what caused the database lockup; however, since that database server has never crashed before, we have never rebooted it since we went public. It is possible that three months of 24-by-7 service gradually took a toll. We now plan to make it a standard practice to reboot this machine during every major update, as a precaution against this happening again.

As a result of the database being locked up, some information about characters in the world at the time may have been lost -- a small backward "time warp" may have caused your character to revert to its last good saved state. You may have lost the location you reached, items you gave or got, and experience points you earned in the last 30 minutes or so before the reset. Unfortunately, there is no way to restore this information; it is as if that half hour never happened.

As always happens when the server is reset, all items on the ground, including on corpses, were lost. This was an unanticipated reset across all AC worlds, so we were unable to give people our customary warning about this effect. Unfortunately, there is no way to restore any of the lost items.

We deeply apologize for the disruption, and sympathize with the effect this had on the advancement of your characters -- some of us were hit as well! We will do everything we can to make sure it does not happen again.

Sometimes I get stuck in a combat mode where I cannot attack anything, or I cannot enter combat mode.
There are a few causes of this, which we are tracking down and fixing one by one. Leaving and re-entering the world should always fix this.

I was in the water in a big river and hit invisible walls.
There are spots in large bodies of water that prevent you from going further, sometimes resulting in a maze of invisible walls. We want to fix this, but it's a bit tricky. Meanwhile, please consider these large bodies of water a hazard. If you hit such an invisible wall, go in the opposite direction -- you cannot "slide" along such a wall.

I was just walking near a cliff edge, and all of a sudden I fell off it!
We are tracking this down. We apologize for this problem. Meanwhile, beware of such spots as best you can.

I cannot use accented characters in chat anymore. I used to be able to. What do you have against accents?
Nothing! We are looking into it, and soon you will enjoy accented characters again.

People are holding chests open even if they are not there!
Some clever types have found ways to hold a chest open even if they are not there. Even though this should not give them an advantage in looting chests (which always close as they regenerate their objects), it is annoying. We plan to fix this in the next update (we could not quite fix it for February's update, sorry).

Player-written books and pages are being wiped blank.
In rare conditions of high Internet lag, if you open a book or parchment written by a player, and close it before the text appears, it can wipe the book or parchment clean. We are investigating this and hope to fix it soon. Meanwhile, be sure not to close such books or parchments until you see their text.

I cannot connect at all, or I get booted out of AC frequently.
Though we strive to allow 100% of our customers to connect 100% of the time, there are still some particular configurations that need some more work in order to connect. On the AC Web pages on the Zone, click "Game Help" and look for "Connectivity FAQ." There you can learn of ways to fix any connection problems you may have.

Why am I not supposed to jump onto steep slopes?
There is currently a bug where certain steep slopes are trapping players. This seems to happen when you jump onto a slope that you cannot naturally walk onto. Until we inform you that we have fixed this bug, please avoid jumping onto slopes, particularly steep ones. If you happen to die on such a slope, you will not be able to recover items from your corpse.

I've told you about a bug. Why isn't it fixed?
We do read every single report of bugs, and strive to make AC completely bug-free. However, we will not make changes instantly. We want to group fixes together into major updates to prevent undue inconvenience to players. We also want to maintain a rigorous testing process to assure that our fixes do no harm. We value your reports of bugs, and we are hard at work to fix them as soon as we can. Thank you!

What's up with portal storms?
Portal storms prevent people from massing too densely in any one small area of Dereth. When a small area gets too crowded, portal storms thin out the crowd by transporting some people a small distance in a random direction. Those who have been in the crowded area the longest will be the first to be transported.

Because it often will be a while before you become the one who has been there the longest, you should generally have enough time to do your crucial business. If this still is intolerable, consider visiting one of the dozens of other fine towns in Dereth. You might be surprised to find better prices, more exotic merchandise to buy, and interesting sights in less popular towns.

Portal storms are a necessary thing in AC. No 3D massively multiplayer game can tolerate arbitrary numbers of people in close proximity. The bandwidth needed to give everyone updates about everyone else rises rapidly with density. Please understand that these limits are designed to keep everyone's play experience as smooth as possible.

Large groups that want to meet may try doing so in one of the "Meeting Halls" that are near every major town; scribes sell directions to these halls. Though Meeting Halls are exempt from portal storms, the presence of many players will make performance slow. Please consider that in the feudal system, on which the AC allegiance system is based, monarchs would never meet with all of their subjects down to the lowest-ranked vassals. Commands were passed down through many layers, and this allowed the intrigues that characterized politics in the Middle Ages.

What is going on with the lag?
"Lag" is a term commonly applied to any perceived slowness with your connection to the game. It manifests as your movement being slowed, and a long period of time between your action and the world's reaction -- such as doors taking a long time to open, attacks to occur, or objects to move.

A few things look like lag but are actually slowdowns on just your system. For example, if you are in an area with a lot of complex geometry, such as a crowded town, your computer and graphic card may have a hard time keeping up, and your screen will only be updated a few times a second. This may only happen when your screen is showing rain falling, for instance. This is not really lag as it is commonly called. A visit to our technical support resources (see the inside cover of your AC manual) may help you get the most out of your computer's performance.

"Bandwidth lag" can crop up when you are in a crowded area, especially when you first enter. The game servers are rapidly sending information about all of the many things going on there, and you are using up your entire allotment of the "pipe." This is unavoidable, but Dereth is a huge place with many places to visit -- spread out a bit!

There are a few things that can cause true lag. One is the game servers bogging down with too much to do -- too many people and objects demanding too much calculation for the server computers. This will affect everyone in one particular area of Dereth, such as a town or dungeon. Fortunately, with the exception of a few dungeons crowded with former beta testers in the first days post-ship, we have had none of that type of lag since AC made its premiere.

A cause of lag that was improved in December and does not appear to have returned is been "datacenter lag" -- issues with the datacenter in which the AC servers are housed. We are constantly on the lookout for these issues and will work tirelessly to fix them.

Another area for lag to develop is in your own connection through the Internet to our servers. Signals from your computer go through many "hops" on the way to our datacenter (where our servers are), and any of those hops can cause a delay in that signal, which causes the perception of lag. It will usually not affect many people at once. While you are lagging in this way, the person next to you may not be. "Internet lag" caused in this way is utterly beyond our control. The Internet is indeed chaotic and nobody can guarantee good Internet connectivity all the time. If you suspect this kind of lag, try a different Internet Service Provider, and use an Internet diagnostic tool to find out where the slowdown might be occurring. A "traceroute" to www.zone.com may be indicative of your connection to the AC servers, though not always fully indicative -- your route to www.zone.com may end up looking better than your route to the AC servers actually is. We are working on better ways to help you diagnose your connection.
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