Announcements - 2001/01 - Now In This Hush

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January 2001 - Patch Page

Contents


Teaser

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

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Now In This Hush


January 3, 2001

Img swords.jpg

Amurra, perched on a stone outcrop, blew on her hands. The late frost was sinking into everyone's bones. “I still can't believe they managed to defeat the Hopeslayer. A demon of this world, thousands of years old, and more powerful than Asheron! It is truly a testament to the human spirit, isn't it Gideon?”

Gideon looked up from fletching quarrels. Can she not see that I'm busy? One of us must have a clue as to what's going on around. These mountains are dangerous! “Yes, sure. Human spirit. Testament. Huzzah for the war mages. Why don't you stop talking and hand me that letter MacNiall gave us?”

Amurra glowered at him, but dug in her pack until she found it. Eyes narrowed, she walked over and handed him the letter with testy deliberation.

Gideon perused it while packing his gear. He was curious about what MacNiall would have to say to his cousin.

“Look Gideon,” Amurra said crossly, “I'm tired of you treating me like some second-rate vagabond. I know what I'm doing! Even the Zharalim respect me more than you do.”

Gideon frowned. How am I supposed to concentrate with her prattling on like this? He turned to her, impatient--

--and saw the Iron Golem charging from behind. An old and scathing Aluvian curse fell stillborn in his mouth. “Golem!” he simply yelped instead, and scrambled for his crossbow.

Still scowling, Amurra turned around as Gideon fumbled to load a barbed quarrel he'd paid for through the nose. Yet instead of backing away from the Golem, she began to cast, an odd purplish glow manifesting between her fingers. Titanic gouts of acid surged from her hands, reducing the Golem to its base components.

Bet you won't treat me like a sidekick now,” she proudly chirped. Bemused, Gideon nodded, wondering from where the Iron Golem had come.

Scrn irongolem.jpg


Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve with each and every month. New lands have been discovered, new creatures battled. Towns and seasons have even come and gone. Last month the dread Hopeslayer, Bael'Zharon, walked abroad, spreading terror with every step. One can only wonder what changes and additions will soon take place when we open our January event, “Now in this Hush.”
Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story -- and we'll see you in Dereth!

Rollout Article

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

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Now In This Hush


January 9, 2001

Img swords.jpg

Carefully. . . cautiously. . .

. . . cellar doors have begun to unlock. Hastily erected barricades have started to come down. Once more, the people of Dereth poke their heads back into the world to see if all is well.

Last month, the dread Hopeslayer, Bael'Zharon, walked the land. In his path -- epic terror. Many a good hero fled, or perished in trying to face him. Yet just at hope's end, a valiant quest -- organized by Lord Asheron himself -- succeeded, imprisoning the dread Hopeslayer within a second, stronger crystal prison.

Yet will this prison hold?

As the people of Dereth reemerge from their cellars and other places of hiding, they'll find that with Bael'Zharon defeated, the world has reverted to its more natural order. Along with the dread Hopeslayer, also gone are the rivers and rains of blood. The skies have cleared, and there are even signs of mild winter setting in. The world, seemingly, has recovered.

Still, no one believes all danger has been forever banished. Not here. Not in Dereth.

As a result of the struggle against Bael'Zharon, improvements have developed in certain ways of war. Veteran mages from the School of the Arm now cast spells mightier than anything yet seen before -- mighty enough to reduce fey and feral beasts to smoldering piles of ash. Then there are those warriors who took up, not magic, but blades against Bael'Zharon. From the perilous lessons learned in the fighting, many claim that deadly new feats with light swords and daggers are now possible; yet it may be that such swashbuckling tricks remain the secret of Dereth's bandits. In addition, a further quest has come about, concerning the land's most famous sword. . . somehow related to the site of Bael'Zharon's former prison, now marked with a tribute to its defense.

Is this improved sword, then, a reward from Lord Asheron? Or a subtle reminder of evil's power, from the dread Hopeslayer himself?

Following is a list of the most interesting additions made to the game this update. However, please note that not all changes have been included -- that would spoil the fun of finding out everything that's been added or changed! As usual, though, 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 listed here in their entirety.


Highlights include:

  • A new dagger quest has been introduced.
  • In addition, the Sword of Lost Hope quest was added as a result of Bael'Zharon's defeat.
  • New level VII War Magic spells have been introduced. Now you can really show the monsters of Dereth who's in charge!
  • Fellowships that consist entirely of players level 50 and above now share XP equally, regardless of how far apart in level players are from the fellowship leader.
  • Wintertime has come to the land of Dereth. Let there be snow (and snowmen, too)!
  • The level restrictions to the Fenmalain and Caulnalain portals have been increased.
  • Master archmage vendors now sell portal gems. A good way of getting rid of some of that extra pyreal bogging you down. In return, recall to some of your favorite towns.
  • The Tumerok Overlord now carries a key; his loot has been moved to a chest. The key is quest-flagged with an interval of one week.
  • On Thistledown, look for a tribute to those who defended the Soul Crystal.


In order to learn the full scope of January's event, “Now In This Hush,” be sure to read the State of the Code and Developer's Notes, January. Continue your part in this incredible on-going story. . . and we'll see you in Dereth!

Release Notes

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

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Developer's Notes


January 9, 2001

Img crossbow1.jpg



Here are just some of the additions made in the January 9 game update, “Now in this Hush.” The following list is comprised of detailed notes straight from the developers themselves. For a summary of things of most interest, be sure to consult the official event article, Now in this Hush.


Detailed Notes for Builds 2480 - 2484:

  • The ten level restriction between players joining a fellowship is now ignored if the leader and new member of the fellowship are both level fifty or above.
  • Removed "the" from wand names.
  • Changed the text string that players receive when they try to cast a beneficial spell on a monster. "You can't cast beneficial spells on monsters," now reads: "You cast the spell, but beneficial spells do not affect monsters."
  • Removed heritage group names from doors.
  • You no longer end up with a negative AL when failing to dye an item that has had its armor level raised with magic.
  • Yoroi and scale mail cuirasses no longer use the same icon.
  • Fixed the text strings and collection behaviors of collectors.
  • Master archmage vendors now sell portal gems.
  • Certain archmages now sell tapers; lead, iron, copper, and silver scarabs; and all trade notes. Other archmages now sell gold and pyreal scarabs.
  • Certain vendors have been updated to carry health potions and stamina elixirs.
  • Fixed the bug that created ten bundles of barbed arrows instead of one bundle.
  • Lightened the encumbrance of Shreth gauntlets, making them more user friendly.
  • The Tumerok Overlord now carries a key, and his loot has been moved to a chest. The key is quest-flagged with an interval of one week. This change has been made to reduce spawn camping for his treasure.
  • Fixed the Soul Fearing Acolytes who summoned portals upon death, so that they no longer cast them into a wall.
  • Fixed the Mausoleum Guardian and Warden. They will no longer be the one-eyed men in the land of the blind.
  • Placed proper exit portals in the Heart of Darkness dungeon.
  • Upped the maximum level limits of the Fenmalain and Caulnalain portals.
  • The Shade Stronghold portal generator no longer creates two portals.
  • The Empyrean Cloister portal is no longer tie-able.
  • Fixed the prison room in Aerfalle's Keep where some players were drain macroing. Players should note that two Umbris Shadows have been placed in a formerly prime buff location. Their spawn rate is ten minutes as opposed to the dungeon standard of three minutes.
  • Lifestones now have a two foot usability radius. This fixes a bug involving players using lifestones from a distance.
  • Fixed the damage types for Slithayr Tendrils and Sulthis Tendrils.
  • Fixed data errors in Skeletons and Wisps.
  • Changed the value of notes and letters in newbie quests to zero.
  • Changed the value of keys acquired for free in newbie quests to zero.
  • Changed the value of weapons acquired for free in old newbie quests to zero.
  • Changed the value of jewelry acquired for free in old newbie quests to zero.
  • Changed the value of general items acquired for free in old newbie quests to zero.
  • Quest-flagged Lou Ka's yaoji and Lou Ei's bracelet.
  • Changed the spawn rate on Lou Ei's bracelet chest.
  • There are six stackable quest items in the newbie quests that bypassed the quest flags; changing the max stack size to one seemed to fix this problem.

Letter to the Players

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

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A Message to the Players


January 19, 2001

We wanted to thoroughly explain why the worlds were brought down today (January 19, 2001), the nature of the bug we are fixing, and why a character rollback is necessary.

Late Thursday night, a bug was discovered that allowed players to quickly gain thousands of high-valued items (such as platinum scarabs and pyreal peas) for 1 pyreal. Players were able to go to a vendor that sold these items, and add them to their buy list until the value of what they were purchasing exceeded 2.2 billion pyreals. At that point, the price for what they were purchasing would change to 1 pyreal, which allowed them to make this huge purchase.

The player could then turn around and sell the items for their full resale price and make a huge amount of money, more than they would probably ever need in that character's lifetime. Additionally, players were then able to convince other players to trade their own high-value items before they were aware of the bug.

Within a few hours after this bug was discovered, a large number of players on every world were engaged in purchasing these items, selling them for cash or trading them for valuable items, and turning around and purchasing other items. We saw the value of pyreal immediately drop as player-to-player trades started involving sums of pyreals that were 10 or even 100 times greater than they had been the night before.

While we suspect this bug has been in the game for an extremely long period of time, it was not until we had high-valued items, which you could purchase in high quantities and low weight, that we were able to discover the bug. We regret that the bug has existed for this long.

As soon as we knew about this bug, we immediately began contacting others on the AC Team and started working on the problem. We also let players know, through pop-up messaging and in-game announcements, that we were aware of the bug and that a rollback was possible.

A fix is being worked on right now (efforts began late last night), and will be immediately applied to all worlds when ready. A rollback is when we revert all the characters in the world to the last backup we did. We perform these backups nightly. A rollback is necessary because this bug introduced a vast sum of wealth into the economy, which would have a permanent and negative effect on the quality of the game. Additionally, players were able to use this bug to trick other players out of high-value items.

When the worlds come back into service, you will find that your characters will be exactly as they were at some time between 12:00 am and 7:00 am on Thursday, January 18, 2001. This includes all items, all skills, all experience, all allegiance data, and location in the world. Corpses that were in the game at that time however, will unfortunately be lost.

We deeply regret this bug, and sincerely apologize for the consequences this has on our players. We will do everything we possibly can to avoid this kind of event from ever happening again.

Questions:

Q: Many players already had more pyreals than they knew what to do with. How does this make it worse? Why not just leave the economy flooded?

A: Although a certain class of high-powered players already had vast sums of pyreals before the bug was discovered, this steadily trickles down to everyone else, and the recent flood of pyreals would still have a devastating effect on the economy. We regularly get complaints from players that certain items and services are overpriced. This indicates that money is not meaningless to a large number of players. We believe that a cash economy, even an abundant one, is a key component to a good online role-playing game, and we do not wish to challenge that belief at this moment.

Q: Why couldn't the rollback be just a few hours back?

A: We do character backups every 24 hours. This backup process takes several hours and it is not practical to perform more often than that.

Q: Why not just rollback the items that people have, but not the experience points, skills, and unique (non-buyable) quest items?

A: Unfortunately our backups do not work like that. All character data is backed up together, and separating item data from other character data would be a risky, if not impossible, operation.

Q: Some people probably knew about and exploited the bug more than a day ago. Despite the rollback, these people still have a lot of money. Why not roll back even further?

A: We must strike a balance between undoing the economic damage and preserving the hard work of our player base. The amount of rollback we are performing seems to be the best balance we can achieve.

Q: Why not ban the people who exploited this bug?

A: Although we reserve the right to take action against those who exploit bugs in AC, we have always tried to do so as a last resort. We take responsibility for our bugs and we would rather fix them and contain the damage rather than lash out against those who exploit bugs. Be assured that those who discover and report bugs to us will not get in trouble for doing so.

Again, we all would like to apologize for the effects this has had on our players and we appreciate your patience and support.

The Asheron's Call Team

Pages from the Producer

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

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Pages from the Producer


January 22, 2001

Img sword3.jpg

I never really liked the title: “Spin from Turbine.” Yeah, we all like puns, but there was a connotation that I just didn't care for; the connotation that we're trying to obfuscate what's going on behind the scenes and present only the most PR-friendly face we can muster on any issue which merits discussion. Well, this is an apropos time to change some of that.

On Friday, we took down the servers for several hours to hotfix a severe bug and to perform a character database rollback of approximately 36 hours. An exploit had been discovered that allowed the creation of infinite money via vendor manipulation. By now, the details are rather well known, so I won't go into them again. What I'd like to do instead is answer a couple of the very valid questions that have arisen from this unfortunate instance.

We're proud of AC's reputation as a nearly bug-free game. We've worked hard to cultivate the feeling that we don't punish players for mistakes we make. And now we've encountered a problem that has some people questioning all of this, as the bug, and the rollback, impacted every player -- most of whom had done absolutely nothing wrong.

First of all, why did we perform a hotfix and rollback in this case, and not in response to some others (permabuffs, for instance)? This was one of those issues whose effects, without the rollback, would have lingered long after the bug was fixed. Once permabuffs were fixed, their impact on the game disappeared along with them. A stupendous glut of money, however, would have tainted the game for a very long time.

Did the rollback catch everyone that used this bug? Probably not. We didn't have confirmation of this bug's existence until late Thursday, and there were some people who knew about it prior to Wednesday night, which was the database image we restored. We considered restoring farther back, but in order to negate more of the effects of this bug, people would have lost much more time to the rollback. The 36-hour rollback seemed the best balance.

Did we punish innocent players? An equally valid question would be: Would we have punished innocent players even more by not reverting as much of the damage done as we could? That was the other question we had to ask ourselves, and the conclusion we came to was that the rollback was the best way to keep the game intact for the greatest number of people.

This doesn't mean we're happy about it. The people here at Turbine, and our counterparts at MS, all hold ourselves to a higher standard about AC. Even though events like Friday's are almost unheard of, even once is once too often. I don't expect an apology to totally appease someone who lost a night's worth of XP and treasure, but we are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience that Friday's trouble caused.

That being said, make sure to leave an inventory slot free on your character when the February prop comes around -- some database gnomes will deposit a little token of apology. It won't be ph4t l3wt, but hopefully people will enjoy it. (It's not something we plan on doing every time something goes wrong, but in this case, it just might be worth it.)

Nik “Azeraphel” Davidson
AC Producer
Turbine Entertainment Software

Letter to the Players 2

Original Link (now dead) - http://zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEletterJan2.asp

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A Note on the Hotfix


January 23, 2001

We wanted to thoroughly explain the cause of today's hotfix, and what impact it will have on you, the players.

Late Monday night, a bug was discovered that allowed players to intentionally crash the server their characters were on. Additionally, a person could use this bug and the resulting time warp (reverting back to the last time your character was saved to the database), to duplicate items. By intentionally crashing the servers, this also caused every other player on that server to crash and time warp, thus losing progress.

We were able to track down this bug and we turned off the servers to prevent additional people from crashing the servers and/or duplicating items.

The good news is that we were able to track down all the players who were exploiting this bug and crashing the servers. As we have stated in the past: Since Asheron's Call was commercially released, it has been our policy that if players make use of a bug that we did not catch or did not have time to fix before releasing the game, we would not punish them for our mistake, instead directing our efforts toward fixing those bugs as soon as possible. The exceptions to this are with those bugs that significantly affect the performance or stability of the game.

The players who were discovered repeatedly abusing this bug to bring down the servers are being removed from the game. While we dislike taking this type of action, we feel it is important that other players know that it is unacceptable to disrupt another player's game in such a fashion.

We deeply regret this bug, and sincerely apologize for the consequences this has had on our players.

-- The Asheron's Call Team
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