Announcements - 2003/08 - Into the Darkness

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August 2003 - Patch Page

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Teaser

Original Link (now dead) - http://microsoftgamesinsider.com/AC1/aug-teaser.htm

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Into the Darkness


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"High Priestess?" The whisper-soft hiss echoed off the walls of the earthen tunnel.

"What is it, Issk?" Nuhmudira looked at her protg, closing the book she had been reading over her forefinger so as to not lose her place. She was dressed in her midnight blue and white robes, overseeing the construction of tunnels that stretched deep into the world.

"We have reached the inner chamber. So, too, have the virindi." Issk, a chomu sclavus, bowed his head and spread his hood wide. The gesture was an honorific offered only to the High Priestess of the faith. "She who sings" was due this reverence, especially when the news her underling delivered was disheartening. He awaited a response.

"Send your best warriors to deter their progress. I will sing for assistance." She opened the book and watched as Issk rose to leave her presence. She called after him. "Issk, once warriors are in place, climb to the surface and recruit others to our cause." In her left hand, a new, simple-looking book appeared. "Give them this book. It will explain our cause more fully. The Isparians may question why I send you to speak to them, but they must be made to know that Aerbax means ill with his goals."

Issk took the book, bowing his head and flourishing his hood once again.

*****

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Alatar is going to have a fit. That was Antius' first thought as he cleared the ridge and looked down into the valley. All of the existing maps of the area would need to be changed.

The first terrified reports had come from the Sennon Valley and Hand-on-Sword settlements. Almost overnight, trees and grass had died, replaced by enormous mushrooms and other fungal growths. The whole area was now a twisted wasteland, utterly alien in the pale moonlight.

If we can't stop them, all of Dereth will look like this. It was a sobering thought. He might have speculated further, had he not been frozen by the chittering sound behind him. Antius turned slowly, looking up at the blue-black armor, the burgundy eyes, the pincers poised to attack. One hand reached into his pocket for two of the gems that Ciandra had prepared for him, and he mentally thanked the Arcanum for their work. As he crushed the stones and their magic exploded around him, he drew his sword in a flash and lunged.

*****

"capable of boiling the most corrosive of materials I have ever seen." Hiro grumbled, crumbling a sprig of henbane into a bubbling concoction. "I'll be, it did work. Do you see that, Ciandra? Who would have ever thought?"

Ciandra smiled and turned back to her class.

"With the discovery of aqua vitae, we have ushered in a new era for alchemy on Dereth. I will be collating the notes for this latest find and distributing them as I can. Please, remain vigilant in your research and remember to turn in your findings to either myself or Hiro." She dismissed the class and pocketed the gem.

*****

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"Garsh has failed." Niarltah said across the large stone table.

"So too have your heroes." Muldaveus leaned forward, speaking directly at the leader of the tumeroks. "Our forces were routed despite being well provisioned and prepared." He leaned back as the tumerok leader nodded in agreement. "The question now is, what do we do next?"

"When I led the massacre at Holtburg, so many years ago, it was only through tenacity and perseverance that I was able to bring my troops to victory. Even then, one Isparian proved to be a difficult foe for many. I have not forgotten those days." Niarltah paused. "Redouble our efforts. We have chosen our place for victory; winning at Fort Tethana will make that battle all the easier. If we fail at Tethana, there are always other options, newer options."

"Yes," the gray giant agreed, then drew in a quick breath. "But what of the olthoi?"

"For the moment they are of little concern. The ona I sent to track the whereabouts of the olthoi hives will return to us and warn us of how great the threat is. Let us focus upon the task at hand, Muldaveus."

Niarltah stood and walked across the room toward an enclave of great tumerok and lugian warriors. Muldaveus rose and followed close behind.

*****

Elysa stood on a balcony, unable to sleep. She saw nothing in the night but starsAlb'arel was behind her and Rez'arel had not yet risen. And yet she knew that, somewhere in the night, Asheron was instructing his golems to repair the damage done to his tower. Somewhere in the night, Antius scouted the new hives on her command. Somewhere in the night, in the darkness...the olthoi waited.

She remembered the weight of the quiver on her shoulder, the feel of the bow in her hand. She remembered the horror of the Queen's hive, over a decade past now, remembered watching Thorsten die. She had thought that it would be over, that her people would never face such a nightmare again.

So nave, so wrong! The olthoi were coming, and now she would have to take her people into the darkness once again.

*****

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A single claw reached over a shoulder and unfastened the mask; three tentacles stretched out to drag along the corridor of the newly constructed tunnel. A consul, independent entity Vincadi, made his way to where Aerbax stood. As Aerbax watched Vincadi in the tunnels, the mirror spoke to him from the energy source.

"Master Aerbax. Flesh being Nuhmudira has acquired the objective's locality. The tunnels of the flesh beings fill with a force set to invade our current position."

It requires more power to make the shift to the Singularity. Collect the specimen at any cost and fulfill your goal. You have progressed well. Do not allow a failure now.

"Our progress astounds even those who cannot comprehend our undertaking. See that the flesh beings are shackled. We will achieve our objective." The claw replaced the mask and the tentacles retreated beneath his tattered cloak. "I will bring forth the fleshless eyes. Vincadi, recruit the flesh beings to our cause and conduct your research, as well."

Vincadi's mask tilted slightly. "You believe that the meatbags will assist us?"

Is it wise to rely upon flawed beings to accomplish your work?

The questions came simultaneously and were parsed to different receptors. His answer came swiftly and without difficulty, "The 'meatbags' have proven ever predictable and reliable in assisting a cause they know nothing of. They will assist us, as they have before."

"Excellent."

Excellent.

Release Notes

Original Link (now dead) - http://microsoftgamesinsider.com/AC1/devnotes_august03.htm

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Into the Darkness


Pain erupted in her mind as hundreds of her children cried out in unison. The creature she hunted was nowhere to be found. It hid in a structure that could not be entered. It called littler creatures to serve it, to protect and defend it. They hurt her children.

They used poking weapons and weapons that crushed, and they called upon the same light that it had used once before. Then she began talking to other children, the children of her firstborn, and she learned that these littler creatures had been hurting them for several years. Anger flooded through her.

She issued new commands to her children. Her mind spread into theirs and she stirred. The diggers turned their attention west, toward where the littler creatures lived. She could smell them. She could feel them moving about on the surface. She summoned the builders and her first children and their children. New hives needed to be constructed and defended. Nests needed to be built to call her children, while she made the ponderous climb to the surface.

Terror needed to make its presence felt in these littler creatures. Itthe tall oneneeded to suffer as she now suffered, knowing that a littler creature had slain one of her firstborn. It had seen to that death; she could feel that much from the straining voices of the children of the firstborn. It would suffer as it watched its children die.

New Functionality and Content

  • The new Direlands stronghold, Candeth Keep, is nearly finished and bustling with activity!
  • New Alchemy gems! Alchemists now have the ability to craft gems that cast life protection spells. See the Letter to the Players for the details of these new effects.
  • The Sword of Lost Light quest has been updated! For more details, see the Letter to the Players.
  • Dereth's artisans have quickly responded to the new Sturdy Steel Keys by designing a new keyring!
  • A combat defense modifier has been adjusted to allow players to hit monsters more reliably. For more information, please see the most recent Developer Diary.


Miscellaneous Improvements and Changes

  • The town criers are talking again! Whatever their grudge was last month, they seem to have gotten over it.
  • Aaminah of Ayan Baqur now points the way to her husband's final resting place.
  • Runed Chests can now be found at many more points of interest.
  • Isparian Weapons (but not Weeping Weapons) are now hookable, as is the Panaq.
  • The Apprentice Mask Makers, in an effort to prove their worth to their employers, will change a repaired Virindi Profatrix Mask into a more modern style.
  • The level restrictions for the olthoi hives on Asheron's island have been adjusted slightly.
  • You can no longer charge a mana stone by using it on a retained (tinkered with leather) item. This prevents retained items from being accidentally destroyed with a mana stone.
  • Tinkering an item with Moonstone now increases its maximum mana by 250. This will not affect items that were previously tinkered with Moonstone.
  • The allowable movement radius for healing and casting spells has been increased for PK players, and the restriction radius has been removed altogether for non-PKs. See the Letter to the Players for more details.
  • The Nuhmudira Quest (Nuhmudira's Gorget and the Encrusted Bloodstone) has been changed slightly:
    • You can no longer choose to both save her and abandon her. Your choice is now permanent. When faced with the choice, it should now be clearer how to proceed.
    • If you've gotten stuck somewhere in the quest, speak to Balthazar in Lin.
    • You can now pick up one of each type of the Encrusted Bloodstones each week; if you've lost your Bloodstone you can get another.
  • Item Magic changes: Wielded weapons will now take on the Magic Defense of their wielder against negative spells, unless they have their own intrinsic resistance. Also, it is no longer possible to cast Item Magic on individual pieces of missile ammunition. For more information, see the Letter to the Players.
  • Your radar coordinates should no longer disappear when you have the radar in the 3D area of your screen.
  • You should no longer be forced to run back towards a container or corpse if you abort opening it and then go into combat mode.
  • ID'ing objects should now be considerably more reliable. See the Letter to the Players to more details.
  • A bug that prevented the special qualities of the Renegade Bow and Renegade Crossbow from working should now be fixed.
  • If you are wielding a Renegade Bow or Renegade Crossbow but do not meet the wield requirements, upon first login it will be removed from your hand. For more information, see the Letter to the Players.
  • Older quest weapons that had negative Mana Conversion modifiers have been fixed.
  • The Melee Defense and Missile Defense tattoos were intended to cast Moderate cantripsthis has now been fixed.


Minor Details

  • The Dauloi's damage variance has been improved slightly.
  • Porcelain salvage should now be easier to find.
  • Aun Mareura in Timaru seems to be interested in uncarved Singularity Keys.
  • Feruza ibn Salaq has increased his library of wall and ring spells.
  • Ulgrim's new Golden Gromnie is firmly nailed down.
  • You can now drop stoups and flagons properly.
  • The snowman who was on vacation near Ayan Baqur has packed his bags and gone home.
  • A handful of creatures have been tweaked for balance.
  • Minor artwork issues with Koji's Beast and the Renegade Bow have been corrected.
  • Grammar fixes: Remmick's speech is improved, and no more Bandageses!

Letter to the Players

Original Link (now dead) - http://microsoftgamesinsider.com/AC1/letter8-03.htm

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August Letter to the Players


Welcome to the August 2003 Letter to the Players. Before we get into game changes, let’s take a quick look at what’s come before.

The Ongoing Saga

Last month, a number of old enemies attacked Dereth – from the renegade Tumeroks and Lugians besieging Fort Tethana, to the deep holes beneath Martine’s Retreat dug by the minions of Aerbax, to the terrifying invasion of Asheron’s Island by the Olthoi. No, this is not a safe time to be a human in Dereth, and the dangers continue to multiply. Most recently, the power that rests below Yanshi has stirred – and thus come to the attention of two major powers, Nuhmudira and Aerbax. Both seek it for their own purposes, and it has brought them into conflict with each other. But this power is not easily harnessed, even by the likes of these two.…

While all of this rages on, some Derethians are turning to older sources of power in the hopes that these may prove to be more useful than previously thought.

The Sword of Lost Light

The August update includes a number of changes to the quest for the Sword of Lost Light, one of the original signature quests in the game. The basic flow of the quest has not changed, but there are a number of changes to the swords themselves that deserve some comment. For instance, it’s important to note that only new Swords of Lost Light, obtained after the August update, will be significantly different. Pre-existing swords are no longer attuned (which means they can be given and hooked), but they just aren’t as good as the new swords. The new swords are also not attuned, but infusing a new Sword of Lost Light not only improves it, but it also causes the sword to be wieldable only by the player who infused it. Note that the infusions themselves are still attuned.

Both the new Sword of Lost Light and the new Sword of Lost Hope have some other special properties, but you’ll have to discover those yourself.

New Alchemy Effects

Good news! The enterprising alchemists at the Arcanum have discovered a new use for their skills. Starting with the August update, alchemists will be able to craft gems that cast a beneficial spell on the user. Gems can be created to cast the full suite of life magic protections (including Armor), as well as Regeneration, Rejuvenation, and Mana Renewal spells. The strength of the gems ranges from a level 3 spell to a level 6 spell; experienced alchemists will find it fairly easy to create the lower gems, but the higher gems will be challenging for all but master alchemists. These alchemy gems can be sold or traded, but be warned – one of the most important ingredients is not available in stores.

Alchemists should visit the Arcanum settlement near Xarabydun for more information.

“Your movement disrupted healing!”

Some time ago, we countered an animation exploit by enforcing a limit on how far a player could move during spellcasting and healing. If you moved too far while attempting either of these actions, you would get the message, “Your movement disrupted spellcasting!” or “Your movement disrupted healing!” and the action would fail.

After listening to your feedback and examining the system, we’ve made two small changes. First, Non-Player Killers are no longer affected by this restriction at all. As the exploit was primarily used during PK fights, we felt that the limit was unnecessary in NPK play.

In addition, we have increased the allowable radius for Player Killers slightly. This should still prevent the exploit while reducing some of the frustration that players feel when lag or other issues cause them to fail their actions due to movement.

Item Enchantment Changes

Starting with the August update, we’ve made two small changes to the way players use Item Enchantment – casting spells on your opponent’s weapons, and casting spells on individual ammunition.

Enchanting Wielded Objects

In the past, casting Blood Loather on an enemy’s sword or Brittlemail on an enemy’s shield was quite easy. If the item had no inherent magic resistance—and as long as you could target the object and cast the spell—you didn’t have to worry about being resisted. Unfortunately, this had the side effect of making high levels of Item Enchantment skill less valuable than high levels of other magic schools, as there was no resistance that you needed to overcome.

Starting this month, however, wielded objects that do not have their own inherent magic resistance will now be able to benefit from the Magic Defense of their wielder. This will only affect negative spells cast by an outside agent, not beneficial spells or any spells innate to the object. In addition, if an item is unenchantable, it remains unenchantable.

Enchanting Ammunition

Previously, it was possible to cast Item Enchantment spells on a single arrow, bolt, or atlatl dart. This led to situations where, with proper preparation, players could cause large amounts of damage with single shots. This was unfortunately causing some difficulties with balancing quest monsters, so starting with the August update, ammunition is no longer a valid target for Item Enchantment spells.

Bugs Stomped

We’re very pleased to announce that we’ve tracked down and (we believe) fixed a number of long-standing bugs. Although we would normally save this type of announcement for the Build Notes, these particular bugs have caused us more than enough grief, and we are very excited to see the end of them.

  • Coordinates should no longer disappear from below the radar when it is in the 3D part of the screen.
  • If you start to open a corpse or container, and then change your mind, you will no longer be forced to run back to it the next time you go into combat mode.
  • Sometimes players would have difficulty IDing an object – they would find that for some reason the game simply wouldn’t display any details about the object. This could be fixed temporarily by IDing a different object and then returning to the first. We believe we have fixed this issue. (As a side effect of this fix, you may notice the ID panel closing more frequently. For example if you ID an object in a container and then close the container, the ID panel will now close as well, although before it would sometimes remain open.)
  • In addition, you can also now ID objects that are in packs even when the packs are in another container, such as housing storage.


Renegade Bows and Crossbows

As many of you know, the Renegade Bow and Renegade Crossbow initially came into the game with incorrect wield requirements. Our July hotfix adjusted these requirements, but if you had wielded one of these weapons before the hotfix, it was possible to continue wielding it even if you did not meet the new requirements.

The first time that you enter the game after the August event, these weapons will check to make sure that you can legitimately wield them. If you do not meet the wield requirements, the weapon will be removed from your hand and a message will be displayed on your screen. If you have room in your main pack, the weapon will be placed there. If you do not have room in your main pack, however, the weapon will drop on the ground in front of you. We suggest that if you are currently wielding one of these weapons, and you no longer meet the wield requirements, that you unwield the weapon now in order to avoid being surprised after the update.

Those are the most important updates for this month. Of course, in addition to the changes mentioned here, you can expect plenty of exciting new content and the continuation of our ongoing storyline. See you in Dereth!

PKLite

Original Link (now dead) - http://acdm.turbinegames.com/featuredarticles/?action=view&article_id=237

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PKLike: A Request for Comments


By srand
Over the past couple of months, the AC Live team has spent some of our marginal free time discussing the notion of 'PK Lite'. Although this feature has not been a high priority for us, we think that this could be a fun addition to Asheron's Call. And at this point, we believe that we have both a plan and the resources to get a simple form of PK Lite into the game relatively soon. There are, however, a number of limitations to our plan, and many decisions still to be made. So we'd like your input on this matter. This article outlines our current plans and the choices that we want your feedback on. What Is PK Lite?

PK Lite is essentially PK with different rules. You can think of it as an equivalent system to PK, but wholly separate.

PK stands for Player Killer - to be PK means that you are flagged as a Player Killer. Any PK can attack any other PK at (almost) any time. Player Killers have a lot of special rules - like how and when they can use portals and spells, how jumping and movement works, and what happens to them when they die. In addition, PKs cannot harm Non-Player Killers, and NPKs cannot interfere with PK fights. For instance, an NPK cannot buff a PK player, since that could interfere with a PK fight.

PK Lite is very similar to PK in many ways. To be PKL means that you are flagged as a 'Lite' Player Killer. Any PKL player can attack any other PKL player, and all PKL players operate under special rules. However, those special rules are different for PK Lite than they are for PK. (We'll discuss the difference in the rules below.) The most important fact here is that, like PKs, PKLs cannot harm Non-Player Killers, and NPKs cannot interfere with PKLs.

In fact, because PK Lite is a separate but equal system, the idea of non-interference now goes even further. Player Killers cannot interfere with PK Lite players, and PK Lite players cannot interfere with PKs. The following charts outline which actions are permissible in each situation:

Table 1: Who Can Harm Whom (Attacker)

Target Player Killer PK Lite Non-Player Killer
Player Killer Yes No No
PK Lite No Yes No
Non-Player Killer No No No


Table 2: Who Can Help Whom (Caster / Healer)

Target Player Killer PK Lite Non-Player Killer
Player Killer Yes No No
PK Lite No Yes No
Non-Player Killer Yes Yes Yes


What is PK Lite NOT?
As important as it is to understand what PK Lite is, it is perhaps even more important to understand what PK Lite is not.

1. PK Lite is not a formalized system for one-on-one or many-on-many dueling. Like PK, PK Lite is a free-for-all - all PKLs can attack all other PKLs.
2. PK Lite does not provide a secure system for wagering on the outcome of fights.
3. PK Lite does not include a system for tracking number of kills, nor does it include any sort of ranking system, nor trophies for kills.


All of these are features that we would one day like to add to Asheron's Call - but they are not features that are currently feasible. It's important to understand this, because after you've read this article we would very much like for you to give us your thoughts on PK Lite. We know that many of you have a great many brilliant ideas about ways that this system can be expanded, but we would ask you to please confine your comments to the outlines that we have laid out below. We know that this system as we have outlined it is feasible for us to accomplish in the near future, and we also know that most of the expansions on the system that fans have shared with us over the past fours years are not feasible for us right now. But even within this outline, there are still a large number of decisions to be made. So please keep your immediate feedback focused on what we can actually accomplish.

Why PK Lite?

Before we get into the details, let's discuss one last topic: What is our goal for PK Lite? Why would we want to add this feature to Asheron's Call?

We believe that PK Lite can allow all sorts of players, even those who normally don't enjoy Player Killing, to experience the excitement and competition of player vs. player combat in a 'safe' context. We want PK Lite to have all the exhilaration of PK, without the more permanent side effects (like losing your stuff) that can frustrate NPK players and keep them out of PK proper. The goal here is to provide something fun for an allegiance to do on a Sunday afternoon, a party game, a way for friends to test each other's mettle. We are not trying to replace PK in any way - but we are trying to expand the appeal of direct player vs. player combat.

So, what are these special rules for PK Lite, and what decisions remain to be made?

Becoming PK Lite

In order to become a Player Killer, players must find and use an Altar of Bael'Zharon. We could do something similar for PK Lite, but we would prefer to make entering the PK Lite state very easy. The goal here, after all, is to make PK Lite something fun for an allegiance to do while hanging out at the mansion, not a 6-hour epic quest. So our current plans call for a new command - perhaps @pklite or something similar - that immediately changes your status from Non-Player Killer to PKL. It is important to note that this command will not work for Player Killers. It won't even work for Player Killers during that short period after they die when they appear to be NPK.

But what do you think? How should players enter PK Lite?

  • By doing a real quest?
  • By talking to an NPC in each town?
  • By using a command?
  • In some other way?


Leaving PK Lite

Similarly, we'd like to make leaving PK Lite quick and easy as well. We do, however, need to avoid situations in which a player attacks another and then immediately leaves PK Lite before the other player can retaliate. There are a couple of possibilities here, but our two favorites are: 1) a command that plays a long animation, similar to @lifestone, during which you are vulnerable to attacks; and 2) a command that can only be used when you have not been involved in a PK Lite battle for at least 20 seconds, similar to the way portaling works for PK players.

In addition, logging out will always reset your status back to NPK. This makes sense because PK Lite, unlike PK, is meant to be a temporary condition.

How should players leave PK Lite?

  • By doing a real quest?
  • By talking to an NPC in each town?
  • By using a command?
  • In some other way?


Should logging out while you are PKL set your status back to NPK?

Death Penalties

A PK Lite death is defined as when a PK Lite player is killed and another PKL did at least 50% of the damage. No special rules apply when a PKL dies to a monster (that is, when a monster does most of the damage to the player), but when a player dies in a PKL death, then the special rules kick in. These are the death rules that we are leaning towards at this point:

1. The killer gets no experience for the kill.
2. The victim does not accrue vitae.
3. The victim does not leave a corpse.
4. The victim does not drop any items.
5. The victim becomes NPK and stays that way until they decide to use the @pklite command again.


Point #3 - leaving a corpse - is pretty negotiable. Not leaving a corpse is a slight savings to the server, but leaving a corpse means that all your friends can see who killed you, and point and laugh.

How do you feel about each of the death rules listed here? Are there other death rules you like that we didn't include?

The Recall Timer, Et Al

Player Killers are subject to a number of special limitations that don't affect Non-Player Killers. These include things like the portal and recall timer - PKs can't portal for 20 seconds after being involved in a PK battle - an extended logoff timer, additional stamina penalties when they jump, and others. Should these limitations also apply to PK Lite? In general, we think so - we'd like the PK Lite combat experience to feel very similar to PK - but this is a question upon which we would especially like your feedback.

Should PK limitations such as portal and recall timers also apply to PK Lite?

An Important Note

It's important to understand that the PK Lite system has not yet been implemented. We really want to get your feedback on PK Lite before we go any further with this. But this means that we need to solicit your feedback well ahead of time - much earlier than we normally discuss possible changes. In other words, don't expect PK Lite to magically appear in the August update, because it can't possibly happen. We may be able to incorporate PK Lite into the September update, but - no promises.
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