Announcements - 2007/04 - Strange Sightings

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April 2007 - Patch Page


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Strange Sightings

Ardry opened the front door of his Uncle Aliester's cottage. The smell of brewing tea greeted him as he stepped inside. Sighing in satisfaction, he grabbed a seat by his uncle's desk and set down a pack full of oddities and trinkets he'd acquired in his last scouting expedition. Moments later, Aliester the Loquacious, pre-eminent sage of Dereth, shuffled into the study bearing a tray with two steaming mugs of green tea.

"Ardry, my boy! Just in time! Come, have a cup of this fine tea that Ben Ten sent me, and we can discuss your latest trove. Big things are afoot in the realm, I can smell it in the air."

Ardry snorted and pulled a sheaf of musty cloth from his pack. "You must be smelling this, Uncle."

The old man's bushy eyebrows shot upward and his eyes widened when he saw the scraps. He took them from Ardry and wrinkled his nose. "Yes, I can see what you mean about the smell... Though it is a familiar smell. Reminds me of my more adventuresome days, when I used to accompany you on your forays into the Sho lands..."

"That's the smell of Drudges, Uncle. Cragstone is swarming with the beasts and some of them were carrying these bits of cloth. Eventually I collected enough of them to realize they were all parts of the same larger picture. I think I have a complete set here. I had to kill a lot of Drudges to get them." He paused and looked his uncle in the eye. "I mean a lot of Drudges."

Aliester let out a high-pitched noise of excitement that sounded suspiciously to Ardry like a girlish squeal of delight. Before he could comment on it, his uncle shoved the pile of cloth back at him. "Drudges are assaulting Cragstone? We must waste no more time, then, my boy! Please, assemble the pieces into their proper order!"

Ardry looked over the clutter that packed every available inch of Aliester's desk, and decided to assemble the pieces on the floor. He got up from the chair and sat on the floor, arranging the scraps until he'd re-assembled the whole picture. It was a crudely drawn, brightly colored rendition of Drudges creating havoc around a human settlement, and the depiction of a flaming windmill identified the town as Cragstone.

Hitching up the bottom of his robe, Aliester got up from his own chair and squatted on the floor in front of the picture. He sipped his tea while his eyes roved over the entire piece, tracing significant parts of the image with the index finger of his free hand. Ardry spent more time watching his uncle's eyes, bright with excitement and intrigue, than he did looking at the picture that he'd already examined several times.

When he was done with his inspection, Aliester sat back on his haunches and looked at Ardry. "Well, what do you make of this?" He sipped at his tea as he waited for his nephew's reply.

Ardry shrugged. "Not very useful. It clearly spells out a plan to raid Cragstone. Aside from an unusual degree of coordination and planning among Drudges, I'm not sure what this tells us. They've been the pawns of bigger and smarter creatures for as long as we've known them, so I don't see how this –"

"Ah, but there is something different here, my boy!" A little tea sloshed out of Aliester's cup as he gesticulated wildly, and it spilled onto Ardry's lap. Ignoring the spill, he pointed at one part of the image.

"Look here, Ardry, in the upper left corner. See the lines of purple light coming off this Drudge here? He's clearly some kind of leader among their kind. The purple light must denote some kind of magical power. There is no suggestion of the normal Banderling or Virindi overlords who are usually behind Drudge agitation. A powerful, magic-wielding warlord has risen among the Drudges, it seems."

Ardry shuddered. Drudges were not the most powerful of the humanoid creatures that plagued Dereth, but they were remarkably hard to stamp out and were capable of mustering great numbers when sufficiently motivated. If some warlord was uniting the Drudges of Osteth, they could be a major nuisance to the Aluvian capital city. At the very least, an infestation of Drudges could steal everything that wasn't nailed down, and they'd probably be able to make off with a lot of things that were nailed down, too.

As he considered the possibilities, his uncle spoke again. "It was well you brought this to me when you did, Ardry. You see, the council of sages has recently received reports of unrest among Mosswarts and Banderlings too, in other parts of the realm..."

"Let me guess. You need me to check it out because all the other scouts are too busy."

"In fact, they are. A great number of them are cooperating to investigate new activity at this graveyard in the Direlands."

"So I'm the only one left to get my skull pounded in by Banderling and Mosswart warlords. Got it."

"My dear nephew, your work is a noble service to the realm! And even if other scouts were available, I would have asked you anyway. Who else would have been conscientious enough to gather all the extant pieces of their map? Only you, Ardry, first among the council's scouts. This is why you get the most difficult and unpleasant assignments. Because you are the one we can trust to do the job right!"

Ardry could see his uncle's smile was innocent and guileless and that his praise was sincere. He sighed and stood up. "That's a comfort, I suppose. Very well, Uncle, just tell me where the Banderlings and Mosswarts are, and I'll do what you ask."

Aliester clapped his hands together in satisfaction. "Ardry, your dedication should be a lesson to us all."

Ardry snorted. "Yeah, and that lesson is that no good deed goes unpunished."

Rollout Article

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Rollout Article

Captain Tharnoch crouched over the shattered corpse of an undead sorcerer, picking through the skeletal remains for anything noteworthy or useful. It was night in Dereth, but moonlight provided enough illumination for an experienced guerilla like Tharnoch to make his way through this ancient and recently re-surfaced graveyard.

"Who were you people and why have you awakened from your long sleep?" Tharnoch muttered to the corpse as he rifled its belongings. It was obviously a futile question, as the corpse had been unlikely to answer even when it was still animated. But Tharnoch had gotten into the habit of talking, to himself or to anything else, in the years in the wilderness when he and his small band of Aluvian soldiers had been living on the run from King Varicci's monstrous army. The sound of a human voice was a small defense against the madness that had threatened to engulf them all during those long, bleak years.

The question also came of frustration. He'd spent three days and three nights scouting the graveyard, killing as many of the wandering undead as he dared, searching for some clue that would explain what had brought this graveyard and its buried souls to the surface after thousands of years under the shifting sands of the Direlands.

Just as much of a mystery was the identity of the graveyard's denizens. Earlier scouts had discovered pages from an ancient journal, recollections that named the undead of this area as victims of some great campaign by Lord Rytheran, one of the most powerful of the Dericostian undead who still lingered in Dereth millennia after the crumbling of their empire. These unfortunate souls had once been the nobles and retainers of a house that fled the court of Dericost in the earliest days of the court's undead corruption. Rytheran had hunted down the disloyal house and subjected them to the very perversion of undeath that they had tried to escape.

"It's a terrible thing, to take away the prospect of a good death," Tharnoch mused to himself, reflecting again on the strange lifestone-bound undeath that was common to all denizens of Dereth. "I hope this isn't me in a few thousand years..."

Finally, under a pile of tattered cloth and leather, Tharnoch's keen eyes detected a glint of metal. Pushing aside the scraps, he turned up a small, charred metal disc. As he brushed away the grave dust, the features of the disc became more evident. It looked like some kind of coin, bearing a mark unfamiliar to his eyes. It put him in mind of other insignia he'd seen in texts about the ancient noble houses of the vanished Empyrean kingdoms. Pleased with his find, and certain that it would help the Council unravel the mystery of the graveyard, he put the coin in his belt pouch.

He intended, at that point, to return to the Council and show them the coin. He got as far as reaching into another belt pouch to withdraw the proper portal gem when he stopped. He felt a chill creeping over him, and the intuition he'd come to rely on during his time as a guerilla leader served him well. He glanced behind him and saw five ghostly figures drifting among the gravestones, headed in his direction. He turned to face them, keeping to a low crouching stance, and readied his sword and shield. They didn't seem to have noticed him yet, but they would if they moved much closer, and he was sure they'd notice him if he tried to run for it.

As Tharnoch waited for the inevitable confrontation, he took the time to study these five ghosts. The figure in the center looked like the leader. It was taller and dressed in a finer cut of robes than its companions. Its ravaged face was too withered to reveal anything about its identity or even its gender, but somehow he formed the impression that it was a female. He tried to memorize as many details as he could, in case he was defeated in this fight and had to give a report without being able to inspect the remains.

The ghosts finally came close enough to take notice of him. As one, five wraithlike heads turned to face him, and the air somehow grew colder. The leader stood back and waved her arms. The other four advanced, hissing, with fell magic crackling from their spectral hands. Tharnoch straightened up, spat on the ground, and braced himself for the fight. "Come on, then!" he growled, waving his sword. "See if you fare any better against me than you did against Rytheran!"

At the mention of that name, the leader of the ghosts fixed her empty eyes on him and let out a shriek of pure, keening rage. Tharnoch roared a war cry and charged forward into the ghostly gauntlet.

Release Notes

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April 2007 Release Notes

Hello there and welcome to the April 2007 event: Strange Sightings. This is the first of our new style of Release Notes for the monthly updates. This month we are hoping to get some answers about the strange disappearances happening all over Dereth. Who is behind them and why?

Below we will list some of the new things and improvements to the game for the month of April. Please note that not all of the new content going in to the game will be listed on this page.

New Content and Updated Functionality

  • The Graveyard in the Direlands has had some new things added to it. Make sure you check it out when you get a chance. One of these things is Alternate Vendor Currency. This tech allows certain vendors to sell their wares using something other than the traditional currency in game.
  • Some members of the Council are getting suspicious of Lord Kresovus. You may want to speak to an agent for the council in Cragstone.
  • It appears that there are some Banderling troubles near Ayan Baqur. A royal guard stationed there is seeking out some answers.
  • The rest of the baby creatures have shown up on the landscape. This marks the official beginning of the spring season in Dereth.
  • The Decorative Repugnant Staff presently counts against the number of hookable casting items in the home. It should not do so, as it is not a hookable caster. This has been fixed for the April event.
  • The rate at which Mushrooms spawn in the Bur Catacombs has been increased. It should now be easier for people to collect these little fungi.
  • An issue with Ulgrim's Drinking Contest, which could cause some players to not get their reward, has been fixed. If for some reason you do not get your reward, simply beating Ulgrim once more will allow you to get the rewards.
  • The quest Digging in the Shadows (given by Melaverre in Sanamar to Viamontian loyalists) had an issue which would not allow players to repeat the quest. This has been fixed and players should now be able to repeat this quest.
  • On the Tanada House of Water quest there was an issue with the order in which players turned in their items to complete the quest. If you turned in the amulet before the note, you could not then turn in the amulet to complete the quest. This issue should be resolved for the April event.

Game Discussion

During this month we wanted to take the opportunity to speak on some of the recent changes that have gone in to the game. More specifically, this month we are going to look at the decision making behind Asheron's recent armor changes courtesy of Kintani, who was one of the driving forces behind Asheron's new look. Think of this as a sneak peek into the development process that many have never seen.

Rebuilding Asheron

From the words of Kintani,

When it came time to reintroduce Asheron into the world, we decided he needed to show some of the changes that came from his time missing from Dereth. After many discussions, we decided the best way to do this was up update his appearance. What would a being of Asheron's power do, if he went through such an ordeal? Would he feel safe anymore, if he now knew there were forces in the world that could capture and contain him for so long?

We figured some changes were in order, so we looked at several options, and brought in some outside help. First off, we had to decide what direction we wanted to go in. Asheron had been captured by forces known to him, but clearly underestimated if they could hold him for so long. Given that situation, it made logical sense that he would move to increase his own defenses after being freed. Among those changes, creating and wearing armor is a great place to start.

Given Asheron's lineage, it made sense that he would draw on the resources of his late father, Lord Atlan, in designing armor to protect himself. We wanted to keep Asheron looking like Asheron, however, so we decided to create a suit of armor that also suited Asheron's previous choices in appearance. This led to the basic idea of the armored robe. It maintained Asheron's style, while adding in defenses well suited to his present desires. Now that we had a path and an idea, we needed to come up with what it looked like.

To design Asheron's new armored robe, we contracted a very talented artist by the name of Claire Hummel, or "Shoomlah" to those people familiar with her work. She created a robe for Asheron that was a blend of his original robe, and armor pieces styled off of several existing Empyrean armor sets, including the Thaumaturgic Plate and the Auroric Plate armors. With the design set, we set to work rebuilding Asheron for the game world.

Claire created all of the textures used in the present model of Asheron, while I created the 3D objects to use those textures. After a good bit of collaboration and tweaking, the Asheron you now see in home was born.

Last but certainly not least we are proud to present you with the 2007 edition of the Producer's Letter courtesy of our very own beloved Producer Dave "Crowley" Javier.

Hello from Turbine! It's been a good year for Asheron's Call™, and we're looking forward to more good things in the upcoming year.

Before I discuss our plans for the future, I'd like to review our accomplishments in the last year.
One of the first things we did last year was to fulfill a promise to the PvP community. We rebalanced the damage and mechanics of PvP combat to make fights faster, more lethal, and more exciting. We based our changes on feedback and discussion with PvP players on our boards, and we are pleased with the way things turned out. Now that we feel good about the way PvP combat works, it's time to focus on another way to improve PvP: giving people something to fight over. I'll get back to this issue when I discuss future plans.

Click here to read the entire letter.

Producer's Letter

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2007 Producer's Letter

Hello from Turbine! It's been a good year for Asheron's Call™, and we're looking forward to more good things in the upcoming year.

Before I discuss our plans for the future, I'd like to review our accomplishments in the last year.

One of the first things we did last year was to fulfill a promise to the PvP community. We rebalanced the damage and mechanics of PvP combat to make fights faster, more lethal, and more exciting. We based our changes on feedback and discussion with PvP players on our boards, and we are pleased with the way things turned out. Now that we feel good about the way PvP combat works, it's time to focus on another way to improve PvP: giving people something to fight over. I'll get back to this issue when I discuss future plans.

In addition to the PvP rebalance, we added a lot of new in-game features over the year, including cast-on-strike weapons, equipment sets, the title panel and expanded powers for monarchs to appoint officers and manage their allegiances. And of course, we completed the massive Throne of Destiny story arc, which started with the Viamontian invasion of Dereth and culminated in the unified efforts of two monarchs, King Varicci II and Queen Elysa, to defeat the threat of the ancient demon Grael. We recently completed a "mini-arc" that sent players to the world of Bur to investigate Asheron's mysterious disappearance from Dereth.

With all the great things that went into the game in the last year, perhaps the most important development happened outside the game. Near the beginning of last year, we made the Asheron's Call client available for download online, through the Turbine store and through arrangements with online file hosts. Now, people who are interested in the game but unable to find copies at their local game store can buy a digital version of the game online. In 2007 we plan to even further expand our digital distribution partnerships for Asheron's Call™.

We followed the online distribution of the client with new marketing and advertising initiatives over the course of the year, capping with the launch of a free trial program in the late summer and fall that has infused the game's population with new and returning players. In addition, we recently announced bulk subscription plans, where players can contact Turbine customer service to pre-pay their monthly subscriptions in convenient three-month, six-month, and one-year packages. Watch for our continued marketing initiatives, featuring impressive new artwork, in print and online media.

Obviously it's not just the AC Live team that's been responsible for all of these great initiatives. The marketing, billing, and customer service folks at Turbine have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support Asheron's Call.

So with all that great stuff under our collective belt in the last year, what is the AC team planning to do with the next year? We will, of course, continue to put out compelling content updates and an evolving storyline, but there are three major initiatives we'd like to focus on this year. Please keep in mind that these are our goals, and we cannot make guarantees or set timelines about when you can expect to see them in the game:

Quest Experience
One of the issues nearest and dearest to the hearts of many in our community is frustration with grinding in high-level dungeons or hunting grounds for character advancement. After a lot of impassioned internal discussion and with copious feedback from players, we've decided to increase the amount of experience that players achieve through quest completion. This should allow players to advance at a healthy rate through questing, so that you won't feel like you need to grind Olthoi just to keep competitive. Starting with this year's first content updates, we've increased the amount of experience each quest grants as a reward. For now, this increase affects new content only. As time permits, we will start retrofitting old content to be commensurate with our new standards.

Quest Tracker
A key feature of current MMO's is the quest panel, which allows you to keep track of quest objectives and locations with a single UI panel. We'd like to bring this functionality to Asheron's Call. However, we have over seven years of quests, major and minor, to be updated. Much like the new quest experience guidelines, the quest tracker will only apply to new content at first, and then will gradually be retrofitted onto older content over time.

Elder Game
This is the biggest and potentially the most challenging of our initiatives for the year, but I wanted to announce our intention to start development on an alternate "elder game" mechanic. I may be doing it a disservice by calling it an "elder game" because we do not intend it to be solely for high-level players. Our goal is simply to provide an alternate method for players to compete and have fun, beyond the well-loved traditional activities of questing and hunting. The starting point for our design will be the land control system we had in the works as part of Throne of Destiny, but it will likely change a lot as we develop and refine the system. We don't intend for it to be solely PvP-based, but there will certainly be a PvP component to it. We intend to have a great amount of discussion with you, our players, so that we can tailor our work with community input.

That sounds like a pretty ambitious list, right? We're looking forward to the challenge and we think there's still a lot of great work ahead of us.

So in closing, I'd like to thank all our players, whether you've been with us for seven years or you're in your first month. We cherish the opportunity we have to work on this game and keep providing content for you to enjoy.


Dave "Crowley" Javier

Producer, Asheron's Call
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