Announcements - 2000/05 - Heroes' Respite

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Teaser

Original Link (now dead) - http://classic.zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEnewsrespite1.asp

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Heroes' Respite


From the Circle of Sages

My sagacious colleagues,

Our recent victories against the Shadows have restored the world to a much more propitious condition. The sun is no longer dimmed to a bloody hue, and the fearful winged silhouette appears less often in the lightning. Perhaps most importantly, Jaleh al-Thani succeeded in his quest to found a new Direlands settlement. Now we must consolidate our gains. Jaleh's new town and the old outpost of Fort Tethana are launching more sorties against the local monsters. They need scholars as well as warriors. Already, Jaleh has recruited many of the best minds in magic, alchemy, and metallurgy to his service, and managed to improve the entire cataloging system for magic formulae, in addition to producing a superior new sword and several types of potions.

I am arranging an expedition to seek Jaleh's fort. Until we know the purpose of the spires floating over our towns, the goals of the Shadows, and the location of their leaders, we must not rest from our studies. In the Direlands, we will have the opportunity and resources to share many exciting ideas, not to mention adventures. Consult with your acolytes and report back whether you will join me and if so, when -- and from where -- we should set off.

Yours truly,
Aliester the Loquacious


After defeating the Shadows' harrowing campaign in April, Dereth's heroes have earned a respite, but for preparation, not idleness. Sometime in the first week of May, we continue our monthly tradition of rolling out a major, game-evolving update, with "Heroes' Respite." A new Direlands outpost has been founded, blacksmiths have created a superior new thrusting sword to exploit the weaknesses of many common foes, mages have revamped the entire spell-reference system to make magic easier and faster to access, alchemists have created new potions, and the designers of Asheron's Call have added great new features, like temporary attack immunity after resurrection, the ability to restore accidentally deleted characters, a command to permanently block the messages of bothersome players, and many other game refinements. Bring your improved mages and blademasters and help us expand this new foothold in the Direlands!

Rollout Article

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEnewsrespite2.asp

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The Heroes' Respite Has Been Declared


May 2, 2000

Creatures of living shadow advanced by legions from the wilderness to blot humanity from Dereth, but the island's heroes checked the foe at every turn. In the Direlands, in Northern Osteth, and ultimately outside several major towns, each Shadow battalion moved to the telepathic will of a powerful Captain. In the ultimate confrontation, heroes followed the leaders of the invasion into the floating "Shadow Spires," and some into a terrible new dungeon, where they destroyed a gemlike device of unknown purpose, the so-called Nexus crystal. Soon afterward, the invaders were quickly overcome, whether due to the destruction of the Crystal is not clear.

No threat has yet replaced the Shadow invasion. But Dereth's champions remain vigilant. They have built a new town in the Direlands to support travelers and serve as a base for launching sorties against the local monsters. After much experimentation, weapon smiths have perfected a new class of thrusting sword -- the rapier -- which allows for unsurpassed piercing attacks. Alchemists have invented new potions. And spellcasters have consolidated years of research to make the referencing of spells far more efficient. A mood of quiet satisfaction and restfulness has replaced the horror of the Shadow assault; however, all but the most fatuous have kept in mind the leering apparition that appeared among storm clouds in the north, the Nexus Crystal, and the invisible presence that tested and interrogated selected heroes. The Heroes' Respite, they know, must be just that -- a temporary rest.


Continuing our commitment to bring you a major, world-impacting event every month, we introduce "Heroes' Respite." Far from a time for idleness, the calm after the Shadow invasion is an opportunity to consolidate our hold on the Direlands and work on new skills. The developers have finished a long list of bug fixes; changed the spell UI; increased the loot to be found on monsters; introduced the rapier, a powerful thrusting sword; created new alchemical potions; and more. See the State of the Code and Build Notes, May 2nd, for full information on this extensive game update. See the State of the Code and Build Notes, May 2nd, for full information on this extensive game update.

Release Notes

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ashenewsmay2build.asp

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Asheron's Call Build Notes, May 2nd



Here are all the tiny little details of the game update that was made on May 2, 2000. This list is culled from "check-in" notes submitted by the game developers themselves. Things of greatest note are listed first.

Some changes are not in these build notes, because that would spoil the fun of finding all that has been added or changed! Some changes include major new things players can do to drive our evolving story forward, which we won't entirely reveal here. 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 2331-2336:

  • The "<Character> has been saved" message no longer appears in the chat window. This was actually old beta code and has been removed because the message was misleading. Actually, it did not mean you'd been saved but that the servers had verified your location in the world. Your characters are still "check-pointed" like this as normal, and regular backups are still done to ensure that your characters are in fact saved. No code has changed except for the removal of the message.
  • Introduced limited functionality that allows you to restore characters that were accidentally deleted. Deleted characters may be restored up to the hour time-limit as was previously given to the temporary slot. However, not all attempted restorations are guaranteed to be successful, and the deleted character will lose its Allegiance information. Also you cannot restore a deleted character whose name has been taken by another character. Until the other character is deleted, the deleted character with that name cannot be restored.
  • The "Are you sure?" confirmation dialog for character deletion now has a red font.
  • Characters are now invulnerable to all attacks for a minute after they die. They forfeit this immunity if they are teleported, cast a spell, or attack.
  • The squelch system has been overhauled. Typing just @squelch or @unsquelch will list all the people you have "squelched" -- that is, those characters whose chat you have chosen to ignore. In addition, players' characters you have squelched will remain squelched across logins (even after shutting down the client). Even though you can squelch Non-Player Characters (such as shopkeepers), only players are permanently squelched. You have a separate list for each of your characters, not one for your whole Zone ID, so you will need to make a new squelch list for each character you play.
  • Added multiple tabs to spell-cast panel -- players can now sort their spells in nice, tabbed panels. You can switch tabs in the Magic panel by pressing the <insert> and <page up> keys to cycle through the five tabs. These are the same keys used to increase / decrease attack power / accuracy in the Combat panel.
  • Magic Defense used to have as its base value the sum of your Self and Focus, divided by 10. This made it hard to get your Magic Defense as high as we'd like. So now it is divided by 7 instead of 10. As a result, every player's Magic Defense has gone up, and raising your Focus or Self will help much more than before. However, this only affects players, not monsters! Monsters will have the same effective Magic Defense as before.
  • We had a problem with certain generous chests that gave players an incentive to wait in long lines to get their booty, usually at little or no risk. All you had to do was wait your turn. This is not very heroic, and unfair to those players who want to get a nice chest of loot but have better things to do than wait in a line for hours. It also created lots of complaints about players who did not follow the “etiquette” of how to wait their turn. Therefore, we made some changes. The good news is that these chests will regenerate their treasure much faster than before, so if you are waiting your turn, you will have to wait much less time. The bad news is that the chests are locked, so just waiting there won't do any good. The good news is that the keys to these chests are now part of monster loot throughout the world. So go out and fight powerful monsters anywhere you like, and if you are lucky, you may end up with a key that will unlock any one of these wonderful chests. You can then make it your quest to fight your way to such a chest and, without having to wait in a line, open it up and enjoy your booty. Though players who did not mind the wait are sure to be disappointed, we know that far more players will be pleased by this change, as it rewards true adventurers with mini-quests that yield great rewards.
  • Treasure generators (such as chests) will now create new items even when they are partially emptied. This should also fix the problems with generators that were failing completely.
  • Fixed problem where putting containers in inventory was causing the ground container window to open and stay that way
  • Fixed the movement of the spell-cast panel so it works well with slow machines.
  • Lesser celdon shadow girth encumbrance set to 1625, per spec.
  • There was also another subtle bug that got fixed: AIs will no longer use self-targeted transfer spells to boost stats that are already full (they were doing this check only for boost spells before).
  • Perch eliminated. Some rock pillars still had physics. Removed it months ago, but somehow it didn't get checked in. People were using these as perches to plink Olthoi. Now, the objects have no physics. No more perching! Fixed all instances of this that I could find.
  • All swords now have a 50% variance instead of 75%. Unf! This should really help the sword wielders.
  • Kicked up variance of the Olthoi Sword to .5 (that wily Olthoi was hiding in a funny bunny directory).
  • Eastham Tailor had a max buy price of 0 -- set to 7500 now, per spec.
  • You will not be able to see the level of a PK player if you fail to successfully appraise him or her. The deception skill therefore becomes much more useful to a PK.
  • We added an @deaths command that prints out how many times your character has died. We thought players would be curious to know this info.
  • Gain PP in Arcane Lore for successfully reading scrolls.
  • Granite golem now has chance to drop motes.
  • Lowered encumbrances and improved elemental resistances of all pieces of Shadowhunter Armor.
  • Hot kimchi mass and encumbrance swapped.
  • Spell-cast panel didn't realize when you deleted readied spell -- fixed.
  • In some cases numbers were showing up incorrectly and with ":" in them. This should be fixed now, using a better formatting function.
  • Monster loot improved for many creatures.
  • Monsters were camping out near a lifestone southwest of Zaikhal. We removed the monsters from this area.
  • Olthoi Sword now looks like an Olthoi Sword.
  • Road now goes right up to the Obsidian Span on both sides. The artisans of Dereth decided that such a bridge deserved a road and set to work!
  • Cows' and Aurochs' turn rates are now increased.
  • Lower levels of the Shoushi grotto are now harder.
  • Samsur Library portal was the wrong color -- fixed.
  • Shreth Hive portal was the wrong color -- fixed.
  • Stone Cathedral portal was the wrong color -- fixed.
  • Dungeon Mei portal needed level restrictions -- fixed.
  • Dungeon Binar portal was the wrong color -- fixed.
  • Folthid Cellar portal needed level restrictions -- fixed.
  • Removed some generic gems located in the Colier Mine. They were useless and cheap.
  • Trapped in the Sclavus Keep -- I placed a button on the other side of an activated-only door.
  • Lockpick Ineptitude Self spells have a red outline around the icon now.
  • Olthoi at the end of the Incunabula Vault once again fall to the ground!
  • Empyrean Foundry -- activated door now linked correctly.
  • Mountain Fortress -- lanterns replaced with candles.
  • Rabbits were defending each other. This was a result of changes made during the spring event. They no longer defend each other.
  • Removed a duplicate healer in Zaikhal. Replaced the healer sign with a tailor sign because the healer is in the other building up on the hill!
  • The gravitational constant of protein has been changed; the weight of cooked foods has been dropped by 25 - 50%. Also, rabbit carcasses no longer weigh as much as cow carcasses.

Letter to the Players

Original Link (now dead) - http://classic.zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/ashenewsspin8.asp

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The Spin From Turbine


May Edition (2000)

Well, it's been one heck of a month for us.

First, as you all know, in the May update we accidentally introduced the "XP reduction code" that we'd been testing for the last three or four months (yup, some of our game-balancing tweaks go through testing for that long!). While most of us at Turbine and MS felt pretty comfortable with the effects of the change, there was a very vocal group that had reservations -- so we pulled it.

As a side note: this did not affect those who perch and drain through walls in order to fight things that are reasonably close to their ability. If you could kill it fast, no worries. The intention was to prevent people from slaying things that are way too strong for them by wearing them down over time with no risk. Also, this did not stop those players from doing this, it just made it so that they didn't gain XP faster than those players who do play at a risk, with all the hardship and struggle that entails.

Does this mean that we won't introduce the same "fix" in a future update? No. But it does mean that we need to look closer at the objections that were brought up and address them. Both MS and Turbine have to give every little thing in each update a full vote of confidence before we prop it to the live worlds. That involves design, test, art, and our tech guys all signing off on each item. As much as we strive to always "give" you something, rather than "take away," all of our decisions are based on two basic principles:


1) Is it good for the long-term health of AC?


2) Will everyone hate us if we make this change?


Without a doubt, the highest priority goes to question #1.

We rationalized that by reducing the XP granted to people using exploits in the game, we were, in a sense, rewarding those who play heroically. Should the guy cowering behind a door and attacking a monster that is levels beyond his abilities get the same reward as the valiant hero who bravely charges in? Legends tell us of great warriors and magicians who stood toe-to-toe with monsters to do battle . . . Little is written about cowards who slew the dragons without any personal risk.

This patch was intended to reward the heroes in each of us -- for taking the risk to achieve the greater reward. I hope that if/when we do reintroduce the exploit hole, you'll take it in the spirit it was intended.

In other, unrelated news, a group of us got a chance to attend the E3 expo in Los Angeles last week. While it was a busy trade show for us, I have to note two highlights for you.

First, I'm proud to say that Asheron's Call won the AIAS (Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences -- our “Academy Awards”) award for Best Computer Adventure/RPG game of the year! We thought that the odds of us winning this award were slim at best, and when they announced the winner, we were in shock as we took to the stage to accept it.

While a few of us were at the awards show, a larger group of Turbinites were out having dinner with one of our fansites. A quick cell phone call across town, and they heard the news at the same time as the Turbine folks dining with them. Needless to say, there were a lot of high fives and cheers passed around the table that night. (So much so that the waitress asked to get into E3 so she could see what the hubbub was all about!)

Lastly, I have to say thank-you to all the fan sites and the fans who approached us at the show. It was great to finally meet many of you face-to-face for the first time in RL. Your words of encouragement and praise (and even your critiques) were great to hear. Hopefully we can get together more often in the future. Thank you.
Anyway, have fun in Dereth this month. We've got a lot of new cool stuff coming up in June that should please many of you. It's been a heavy development month, and I think that you'll be amazed at what we've done.

Scott Herrington
Producer, AC
Turbine Entertainment

P.S. -- Anyone got any good armor? I'm getting my level-16 butt kicked up at Collier . . .

State of the Code

Original Link (now dead) - http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ashenewscodestate1.asp

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State of the Code


May 10, 2000

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, we keep players informed as to the state of some of the more technical aspects of AC, particularly bugs we are working on and technical limitations of which you should be aware. Look on the “News” page on the Zone for other articles about recent additions and changes to AC.

Minor game update on 5/10/2000
On 5/10/2000, in the early hours, we made a minor code update to all AC worlds. The only change in this update was the removal of experimental code referred to in a State of the Code item previously published. As a result of this removal, you will now get experience points from kills in exactly the same way you did before the major update on 5/2/2000.

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.

My long sword variance was not changed. What's up?
In this update we changed swords so that the least amount of damage they do went from 25% to 50% of their maximum damage. However, we've discovered a bug that kept regular long swords -- but not elemental long swords -- from being readjusted. We will fix this problem in June.

Major game update on 5/2/2000
On 5/2/2000, in the early hours, we introduced another major update. Our ever-evolving storyline continues as the heroes of Dereth celebrate the defeat of the Shadows and a new outpost is founded. The update also fixes numerous bugs. Look for News articles on the Zone that tell you of the changes made.

Help! I am no longer being “saved”
You may have noticed that the "<Character> has been saved" message no longer appears in the chat window. This was actually old beta code and has been removed because the message was misleading. Actually, it did not mean you'd been saved but that the servers had verified your location in the world. Your characters are still "check-pointed" like this as normal, and regular backups are still done to ensure that your characters are in fact saved. No code has changed except for the removal of the message.

My character is gone/has been looted!
Unfortunately, not everyone you meet on the Internet is trustworthy. We have had several reports of players who downloaded programs from the Internet or directly from a new “friend” they met online, ran these programs, and later discovered that their Zone password had been changed, or that their character had been looted or vandalized, or even deleted. This is because the programs these players ran were “Trojan Horse” hacking programs in disguise. These programs are designed to give a hacker remote surveillance or control of your computer.

Protect yourself: use an up-to-date virus protection program with “real-time monitoring”; use “firewall” software or make sure your computer security is at its maximum; and do not have your Zone ID password be automatically saved on your system. Unfortunately, the Internet still presents many security challenges beyond our control, but “safe computing” practices will protect you from almost every threat. Learn more by reading the MSN Insider system security article.

If you think that your Zone password has been changed, first make sure you are remembering it correctly. By going to any Zone Web page and clicking on the "Services” link, you can find out how to recall your password. However, if that does not seem to work, the hacker likely changed the e-mail address associated with your account. Your best recourse then is to click on any “Services” link as stated above, use the pulldown menu to go to Billing/General Help, then look on the Table of Contents on the left side of the window for “Report Problems,” where you can go on to report your problem to the Zone's Billing Support staff. Be sure to include an e-mail address that they can use to contact you.

Attackers are sticking to me like glue!
If an attacker is faster than you, it is a serious threat. It will be able to catch up to you and hit you repeatedly as you try to run away. Likewise, if you are faster than a monster, you still will be able to hit it repeatedly. This is a necessary aspect of game balance.

It's easy to mistakenly come to the conclusion that you are faster than a monster, when this may not really be the case. There is a “blip effect” that can contribute to this conclusion when a monster attacks; see below.

To figure out if you or the monster is faster, try antagonizing it (coming just within its awareness range, or hitting it with a spell or missile) while it is as far away as possible. Then, immediately run away from it. Watch its dot on your compass while it is still chasing you. Does that dot get any closer to you over time? If so, that monster is genuinely faster than you, and is a serious threat. Note that there is no way to be sure of how fast a monster is just by examining it. A monster has a Run skill as well; Quickness alone does not determine its speed.

We have done extensive testing (with average Internet latency) and determined that in no case did a monster that is genuinely slower than a player land more than one or two hits before falling and staying behind.

However, we also found that Internet latency can have a strong effect on how successfully you can run from a monster. If your connection through the Internet is slow or spotty, or if you are downloading more data than your connection can handle, it can allow slower monsters to catch up to you. Also, please realize that when you go from standing still to trying to run from a monster, it takes time for that signal to cross the Internet and reach the server. Until the server knows that you have started running, it thinks you are still standing there. Therefore, to avoid attack, you need to start running before the monster can reach you, and the slower your connection, the sooner you should run.

Monsters that attack me while I am running seem to fall back, then blip right on top of me. Can I get some of that magic?
Currently, there is a less-than-ideal visual effect when monsters attack you while you are running. They appear to fall behind you as they stop their running animation, in preparation for their attack animation. Then, when they do their attack animation, they suddenly appear to be right on top of you.

It may appear that you are outrunning a monster, which then suddenly gets a free “teleport” on top of you. You may think that you are faster than a monster and that it is cheating with this “teleport.” In actuality, the opposite is true: the monster has always been right on top of you, but it erroneously appears to stand still for the few moments it readies its attack animation. We hope to fix this soon.

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. Also, keep in mind that you can only have two corpses in the world at a time; if you make more, your oldest corpse will vanish and its items will end up on the ground, where they will quickly vanish. Still, that does not seem to explain some anecdotes we have heard. We are looking carefully into this hard-to-track bug.

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 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. By doing so, you not only can be trapped but also may take repeated falling damage. If you happen to die on such a slope, you will not be able to recover items from your corpse. Use the "Urgent Assistance" option to request help getting unstuck. We are still working on the fix.

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'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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