Original Link (now dead) -http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/novemberteaser.asp
The Gathering Storm
November 9, 2001
The loud sudden rumble of thunder was followed by a gasp and then a predictable shattering of porcelain on the rough stone floor. She would miss the pot, its once vibrant cerulean streaks long since faded to grey, but the tea that now pooled darkly on the floor was no loss. She had not had any worth drinking in over twenty years, and no crimsonthorn blend would ever be coming from Ispar. This Aluvian swill had become tolerable, over time.
She dismissed the shaken serving woman and her apologies, though not unkindly. It was the nature of people to be surprised easily. That was why she was necessary, after all. She twined a single thread of silver hair around her gnarled finger. Once the hair had been a lustrous red, and the finger elegant and smooth. She would not be here forever. But it would have to be long enough.
"I have found one suitable for your wishes." The voice came from behind her. She had not heard him enter, nor was she aware of his presence until he spoke. It was annoying, that; but she had not stirred at the words, and she knew that annoyed him though he would never show it.
Lightning flashed outside as the rain first started to reach the castle. She turned slowly to face her visitor. "You could have been seen," she said, more to release some of her irritation than any actual concern. He merely smiled.
She stood, not as swiftly or easily as in years past, but without tremble or pain. She wanted to look him in the face for this. "They will call me worse than 'Monster' should I be discovered at this game." First her petulance, and now doubt. What benefit age if one was still afflicted by the weaknesses of the young?
"They already do," he whispered, that damnable smile never leaving his face.
"Aye, true enough.” Would this be easier if she were younger? “It matters not. We do what we have to. Let the fools play with the infant queen. Let the Arcanum busy itself with the how of disruptions to portalspace instead of the why. We will not be diverted." The horror of her intent paled against the horror of her inaction. She tried not to think of the book. And how it filled her dreams some nights. It was not about the book. This action is what Dereth required.
"Bring him to me." She knew it would be a man. He would never bring her a woman for this. The smile disappeared as he nodded once and stepped back into the shadows of the dark room. She never heard her door open, but she knew he was gone.
Light filled the chamber as the cacophony of thunder resonated throughout the castle. She sat back down as the echoes of light faded from the room. A storm is come. The storm is coming.
* * *
Rain. He marveled at the rain. Wetness falling from the sky. A free and precious gift from the world. He wondered if it was possible that he could have ever taken the rain for granted. Had he ignored it? How foolish he had been.
The water continued to fall to the earth, each drop soaked up by the greedy dirt. But in a very few places the earth had had her fill and regurgitated the water back onto ground, letting its murky pools sit softly on her surface. He thought it was a fit metaphor for his situation. Except that he would not sit softly.
He knew Martine would be late. It would be his way of displaying superiority. And, indeed, he was superior. The man could not deny Martine's power. He depended on it.
Lightning illuminated the small copse of trees he had taken shelter in, turning the trees and ferns to bleached, bone-colored ghosts of themselves. And in the white aftershock of light and sound, a violet shimmer appeared, coalescing before him into the figure he'd been expecting.
Physically, Martine seemed the same as he had appeared in previous meetings. But the glassy, disjointed look in his one human eye was new. Martine grimaced and muttered something too low for the man to hear. The man had suspected for awhile that the madness was worsening, but he wondered at what contingency plans would suffice should Martine prove too unstable. There were none. The man waited, knowing Martine would eventually speak.
"You continue to waste my time. You still have not provided me with the location. Where is he?" Martine's voice sprung directly into his mind. The man sighed. He thought they were beyond this nonsense.
"Forget him, Martine. He is useless and old. Do not lose sight of your goal. It can happen. I can make it happen, once you assist me. Remember that. Remember what I can do for you. Why engage in a fool's chase when all we could want is before us and near in hand?" The words had their intended effect. The vocal muttering stopped, and there was once again a hard and focused gleam in Martine's eye.
"We have an agreement, then?" The man tried to keep most of his eagerness out of his voice, but not all. Let Martine concentrate on how he could exploit the man. That kept him from concentrating on other things.
Martine looked at him and raised his one eyebrow. The man almost laughed at this one human trait in someone who so little resembled one. But when laughter risked death, it was easy to bring under control.
"An agreement? That would imply we are equals. I make no bargains with you, lesser. You will eventually provide to me what you have promised, or I will destroy you. There is your agreement."
"And have you accomplished it?" The man had to shout over the boom of the thunder. While Martine could talk into his mind, he couldn't read from it.
"It has begun. The process will take some time." Martine turned away, perhaps upset over this admission to the limits of his power. "I will come find you again when it has finished." Martine raised his hands and disappeared in another shivering blast of violet.
The man moved to the spot where Martine had been. How strange that for all his power Martine still relied on these physical gestures, like a child that still crawled after it had finally gained the strength to walk. Lightning flashed bright overhead, and for a brief time the man was once again lost in amazement at the beauty of the world. How rich and vibrant it was.
But this world was so very empty. He would fix that. As the rain soaked into his skin, and thunder assaulted his ears, he reveled in the storm. He reveled in the thought of the storm to come.
Unlike any other gaming experience, the world of Asheron's Call continues to evolve. After Her Majesty has arrived, what further tricks can be expected from Dereth's mortal enemies? Join us, as The Gathering Storm event opens soon.
Be sure to continue your part in this incredible ongoing story, and we'll see you in Dereth!
Original Link (now dead) -http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEnov01rollout.asp
The Gathering Storm
November 15, 2001
The Virindi have been defeated, and their allies, the Tumeroks, have retreated to the desert and Direlands from whence they came. The Virindi fortresses, marring the skylines of the capital cities, have been banished with the defeat of the rogue contingent, their taint removed at long last.
This is a time of great joy. Housing settlements established by the Zaikhal Arcanum are filling quickly, yet the Order continues to fund the building of more homes. To further assist new deed holders, the magi of the Arcanum have established a system of portals to housing communities, and placed them throughout the established cities. Each system is easily recognized, resting beneath the watch of a stalwart sentinel.
As the demand for houses increases, the Arcanum and their agents have made efforts to beautify the communities they have built. They have transported trees and added fountains to the central square to enhance the community feel. To assist in the growth of these communities the Arcanum has lifted the ban on trading the Writs that they supply.
Dereth has entered a new age of growth. Expeditions to Marae Lassel have yielded impressive rewards, with adventurers hunting together in greater numbers for the experience of a day shared in the fellowship of friends. These forays are bolstered by comrades-in-arms, new and old, banding together with crossbowmen and macers, respectively faster or lighter on their feet than before. New qualities to weapons, armor, and jewelry have further eased the hunt by including a way for users to gauge the mana remaining in an item.
Even the tales of a new Olthoi Brood Queen cannot dishearten the spirits of the Isparians. The efforts of Queen Strathelar and the Zaikhal Arcanum have given the people a new hope that they cling to with a ferocity they have not displayed since the time of the Hopeslayer's defeat. There is nothing they cannot face.
At the horizon, storm clouds gather.
Following is a list of the most interesting additions made to the game this update. However, please note that not everything has been included--that would spoil the fun of finding out all manner of things 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 features are not always listed here in their entirety.
Allegiances can now purchase their own Mansions on the landscape. No longer will you have to go to Meeting Halls to hold your meetings!
More homes! More hooks and more items to put on them! What more could you want?
Further enhancements to the fellowship system make hunting together worth more than ever! Go get your friends and enjoy the experience!
Items now display a Mana bar to let you know when they need to be refilled.
Mosswarts have undergone a change--check and see how they look.
Some weapons have had their burdens lowered to make them easier to carry--mace users and thrown weapons experts rejoice!
Creatures will no longer spend the experience they gain. NPCs will hand back items that they cannot use. The night is not so dark anymore.
Players now regain Stamina and heal a little bit faster than before.
Original Link (now dead) -http://www.zone.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEnov01build.asp
November 15, 2001
Here are just some of the additions made in the November 15 game update, “The Gathering Storm.” The following list is comprised of detailed notes straight from the developers themselves. For a summary of things of interest, be sure to consult the official event article, The Gathering Storm.
We appreciate your feedback and bug reports in helping to ensure that the world of Dereth is a stable and fun place to be. Please submit any such bug reports to http://bugs.zone.com.
Monarchs of large allegiances can now purchase Mansions on the landscape. Monarchs can use /house guest add_allegiance to allow all their allegiance into their Mansion and /house guest remove_allegiance to remove them all and turn this function off.
Players now get significant bonuses in earning experience points while in fellowships. The percentage of experience points one gets is in proportion to the size of the fellowship. See the November Letter to the Players for more details.
Magic items now display “Mana bars” below the name of the item when selected. This makes it easier to determine the Mana remaining in an item.
Owners of houses can now use @house hooks on/off to turn the visibility of their hooks on and off.
Miscellaneous Improvements and Changes
Last month we fixed a longstanding bug where certain monster generators in dungeons randomly stopped spawning. There were no cases of “broken” dungeons reported in October, so we believe this bug has been laid to rest.
There was a bug where certain high-level monsters could spend their earned xp to raise their skills with extreme speed, potentially making them nigh-invulnerable to players in a short amount of time. These monsters have been flagged in such a way that they no longer gain experience points.
The Mosswarts were sad because all the other semi-sentient races were getting makeovers and they weren't. Now they are less sad.
The hit points regeneration rate for characters has roughly tripled. The Stamina regeneration rate has increased slightly. Mana regeneration rate remains untouched.
Server-side checks have been introduced so that players' spells or healing kit attempts are interrupted if they move too far from their starting point when they began their action. As a result of this fix, the limitations on jumping too frequently have been removed.
There are 150 new Cottages in the game.
Writs are now givable.
New portal networks have been added to Dereth, allowing easier access to many housing settlements. These housing settlements now have official names.
Cottages now contain 50 total hooks, 25 of which are usable at any one time. Villas and Mansions will undergo similar makeovers in the next few months.
Most weapons, and some other items in the game, can now be displayed on house hooks.
NPCs, except for Town Criers, will no longer “eat” items that they don't know how to respond to. They will instead give these items back, letting you know that they can't use them. Town Criers will still accept any item, allowing you to dispose of unwanted equipment, so be cautious when interacting with them.
Most town vendors now have their function (e.g., “Bowyer,”“Blacksmith”) in their names.
@help files have been given an extensive revamping.
Nighttime visibility has been increased.
Dabus, maces, morningstars, and tofuns have had their burden reduced.
Most thrown weapons have had their burden reduced.
Crossbow's reload time has been reduced.
There was a problem where players' characters other than their house-owning character would log in and receive a message stating that their house had been lost due to non-payment of maintenance. The message was erroneous, and the message bug has been removed.
The Mansion placed in the Dires has been removed. At present all housing will be placed in Osteth.
Housing hooks have new art.
Many existing housing settlements have been gussied up.
Radar coordinates and spell durations are now the default display options.
The bug where using the “Give Selected” keyboard shortcut crashed the client if the selected person had logged off has been fixed.
Inventory panel now functions smoother with the stretch UI.
Certain dresses and certain robes will now have unique colored icons when dyed.
Blackfire Atlan weapons now have a new particle effect.
The two Canescent Mattekar robes have been graphically updated.
The thrown vision of Railrea's harpoon had a description for a spear, not a thrown weapon. This has been fixed.
The Siraluun unarmed weapon had a bug where it was not enchantable. This has been fixed.
Tumerok landscape invasions and the Virindi towers have been removed.
The Virindi purple haze has been dispelled from Dereth. The rainy season has taken its place.
There was a location where one could run up to the level-limited Marescent Plateau on the island. This bug has been fixed.
Destination point for Singularity Caul portal has been moved so that players don't get teleported out through the exit portal.
The reward for Olthoi Claws for the ML collector has been reduced to 5,000 xp and a treated healing kit.
The Tumerok-wielded Palenqual weapons have been made unappraisable.
When selecting an item, a green bar flashes under the name of the item. This green bar was so bright it made reading the text difficult. This bar has been dimmed so that the text is instantly readable.
There are now Pawn Shopkeepers in the various gambling halls.
Miscellaneous typos in the use strings of Town Criers on Marae Lassel have been fixed.
The anonymous use string on the Beer Keg has been removed to stop players' spamming of it.
There was a bug where collectors on Marae Lassel would send out local broadcasts when awarding experience points (making everyone in the area get a text message saying they had been awarded experience, even though no actual experience was awarded), instead of directed tells. This has been fixed.
The Olthoi Queen has been tweaked so that she hits for more damage. Her other stats remain unchanged.
Original Link (now dead) -http://classic.zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEplayerletter.asp
Letter to the Players
November 15, 2001
There were so many new dynamics and changes in November that we felt it important to give an extended description of some of the items covered in the Developer's Notes. We also wanted to give players a few peeks ahead at what will be arriving in the near future. Here are some updates on important topics as we head into our November event, The Gathering Storm :
a. New fellowship system--Over the past year we've wanted to find ways of making fellowshipping more attractive to the general player base without hurting a soloist approach to the game. This month we introduce a brand new dynamic to Asheron's Call: bonuses to experience points earned while in a fellowship. The system works in the following manner:
2 players in fellowship earn 75% of normal experience (previously 50%).
3 players in fellowship earn 60% of normal experience (previously 33%).
4 players in fellowship earn 55% of normal experience (previously 25%)
5 players in fellowship earn 50% of normal experience (previously 20%)
6 players in fellowship earn 45% of normal experience (previously 17%)
7 players in fellowship earn 40% of normal experience (previously 14%)
8 players in fellowship earn 35% of normal experience (previously 12%)
9 players in fellowship earn 30% of normal experience (previously 11%)
Note: Currently the xp formulas shown in the fellowship panel do not correctly display this information. This should be fixed in the next event.
This bonus occurs only in groups where the players are within 5 levels of the group founder, or if all players in the group are above level 50.
We hope that this makes adventuring in fellowships a more fun and viable option. While we respect the desires of people to play our game without companions, we also recognize that a large part of the fun of Asheron's Call is playing with friends and meeting new people, and we think this change allows more people to experience that type of gameplay.
b. New regeneration rates--As the game of Asheron's Call grows and progresses, certain design dynamics have become outdated. The hit point regeneration rate has become one of those antiquated systems. We wanted to decrease downtime, especially the downtime for those without life magic who also don't have healing. We think we've struck the right compromise with the current hit point and Stamina regen rates.
c. Mana bars (think Health bars, but for a magical item)!--We've long wanted a way to make the process of monitoring Mana totals and Mana depletion in magical items easier. We finally managed to fit a solution in this month. We hope you enjoy the change. This is also the beginning of the first of many steps to move the focus of the appraisal skills away from appraisal and more into a whole new realm of different and more useful abilities.
d. NPCs no longer stealing items--One of the more frustrating things that the Quest Designers have to deal with is trying to fathom what possible items people might try to give an NPC, and then scripting these exchanges. All too often, we fail to think of an obvious item, leading to a very upset player who can't get it back from the ignorant NPC. This dynamic also led to some of our more wacky or “bonus” NPC exchanges never even being found, because people didn't like to risk the loss of certain items.
With the November event, NPCs will now give back any items that they don't have a scripted response for, fixing both of these concerns. The one current exception to this dynamic remains the Town Criers, who will not return any item given to them.
e. Newbie love--We've implemented a number of changes to improve the new player experience (and will also make the game more fun for all players):
Making the nighttime brighter with more visibility;
Letting people identify a vendor's function through his name;
Updating the @help text system with new, useful, and accurate information.
And coming soon, the new player situation will really change. . .
a. Writs of Refuge--You'll see a whole new way of acquiring Writs in November. These changes, combined with the fact that Writs are now givable, move the Writ system much closer to its intended design: a separate currency system for players to acquire and trade as they see fit. We decided to make them non-givable in October because we didn't want players who had the benefit of being part of large social alliances to have too much of an advantage over those who did not have access to these networks. But the Writs will stay givable from now on. Tweaks will continue to happen from month to month, but players should expect that each month there will be multiple ways of acquiring Writs, both from trading in pre-existing inventory, as well as hunting for newly introduced items.
b. Supplies of housing--For November, we're adding in 150 Cottages. For the next few months after that, our goals are an average of 300 additional houses per month, with some of those houses being Villas and Mansions. During this time we will also be exploring alternative methods of housing for players unable to obtain a housing structure, so as to provide access to some type of housing and storage space for all our Asheron's Call Dark Majesty players who desire it.
c. Hooks and items to be placed on hooks--We knew we had to be cautious with how many hooks we placed in houses due to server performance issues. This is why we started with only 15 per Cottage. For November, we're happy to introduce a new system: There will be a total of 50 hooks per Cottage. However, a player can only have items on 25 of these hooks at one time. Once a player has used the 25th hook, all other hooks turn invisible and cannot be used until a player opens up additional hooks. Our goal is to allow players the maximum amount of flexibility in decorating their homes. Players can also turn on the availability and visibility of their hooks with @house hooks on/off commands.
Also, hooks aren't that valuable unless there are items to decorate the home with. For November, most of the weapons and shields and casting items in the game can be placed on hooks. We will continue to expand the range of what can be placed on hooks with each month. No-give or no-drop items are not hookable at this time, and there are no current plans to implement this in the near future.
d. Allegiance houses: Mansions--This event sees the opening of the first allegiance houses. Currently, these are limited to monarchs of rank 6 or above only. They can then open up these houses to their entire allegiance. Further, if the monarch ever drops below rank 6 or is no longer a monarch, the monarch and the allegiance will lose the Mansion (including all items in hooks and in storage) by the next time the maintenance payment is due.
Coming soon, we will allow monarchs to open up their Mansion's storage chests to the entire allegiance, and we will develop further features for allegiance housing in the next few months.
e. Transportation to houses--In addition to the house recall functionality, for November we've added new portal networks linking towns to most of the housing settlements in the game. We believe this will address many players' concerns regarding inviting guests to one's house or traveling to the houses of friends and allies. In the upcoming months, portals to settlements will generally lag behind the creation of those settlements by one month.
For Mansions, soon we will be altering the dynamic slightly. In addition, for all types of houses we will experiment with new and interesting ways for players to give their guests and friends transportation access to their houses.
Also coming up in a near future event, we will investigate letting all characters on an account be able to use @house recall functionality.
III. Melee and Missile and Magic, Oh My!
a. Archery and thrown weapons issues--This month sees the first step in some small balance tweaks to archery over the next few months. After numerous tests and playing at various levels on our test worlds, we decided to make a change to the reload speed for crossbows. Coming soon, there will be other changes made to the game specifically designed for higher level archers, both bow-users and crossbow-users alike.
Also, and this is not a joke, by the time we get done with these changes, Thrown Weapons might just be an actual viable skill. You heard it here first.
b. Mace and other melee weapons--While the reduction in mace burden was long overdue, our next set of changes to a large percentage of melee weapons will not take nearly so long. Expect to see an exciting and entirely new dynamic over the next few months with many of the melee weapon classes.
IV. Player vs. Player
a. “God-Mode”--With the change this month to jump/run casting, we hope we've addressed one of the longest running issues in the PvP AC world. We may continue to make tweaks to this dynamic over the next few months. We're very happy to take out the awkward jumping restrictions, which was our “temporary” fix, although it lasted much too long. We've dropped the ball here, and we apologize to our players for taking so long to fix this issue.
b. Hollow weapons--We're working on a solution to the problems of both the “Katar vs. other Hollow Weapons” discrepancy issue and the “Hollow Weapons vs. Magic” discrepancy issue. We plan to have a definitive solution in place within the next few months.
V. Miscellaneous Bugs
a. Dungeon-spawning bugs--Another very long-lasting problem that affected a lot of players' gameplay was the infamous “The [insert favorite dungeon here] is completely empty and no monsters are spawning!” bug. We wanted to wait to confirm the fix after we were sure that it survived a month in the live worlds, and after having zero verified reports in October of dungeon monster spawn breaking, we're happy that this bug has finally been resolved. (We also thought that we had removed Larry the Bunny Master's wanderlust, but alas, Larry still can't commit to home. Maybe this month. Would you believe the disappearances are part of the Quest?)
b. Monsters becoming invulnerable, or “The Harry Defense”--It's a long and interesting story about why this bug occurred in the first place. A story full of good intentions and cruel consequences. A story of love and hope slowly transforming into bitter despair. One day we may reveal the incredible truth. For now, just know that the high level monster who just resisted your Magic Yield three times in a row won't suddenly become Uber-Creature anymore.
We were going to remove the possibility of any monster leveling, but enough people begged and pleaded to change our minds. “Think of the rabbits!” they cried. “Think of the children!” And so the masses may still level up rabbits.
c. Singularity weapons quest--Yes, there were supposed to be Singularity Bows and Crossbows and Racial Weapons obtainable on the mainland in order to be exchanged in the new expansion Singularity Quest. Yes, these weapons were supposed to be in for October. Yes, failing that, they were even supposed to be in for November. Yes, it is true that they made appearances neither of these times. However, we have a strong suspicion that these items, while shy, will overcome their reluctance to enter the public spotlight and be seen in a future event coming soon.
VI. December's Event and Beyond. . .
It's an exciting time to be playing in Dereth. We hope those of you who have purchased Asheron's Call Dark Majesty are enjoying the new island and housing. And we hope that all of you are enjoying the changes and new gameplay dynamics that we have introduced for November.
Things will really start shaking with the December update. As Martine's and Nuhmudira's plans become more clear, and Elysa striving to marshal the forces of her kingdom against foes both known and nebulous, players will be witness to the start of a brand new and compelling storyline.
The plotting and scheming of some of Dereth's highest luminaries will not leave the continent unscathed. . . a brand new beginning for new players and an extensive revamping of the higher ends of the treasure system are just two of the exciting changes coming your way very shortly.
future months we will focus on satisfying the demand for housing amongst the players, as well as adding some very cool features to add to your house. Another major push in the next 4-6 months will be the revamping of our appraisal and craft skills, adding in some wonderful new gameplay, and finally making those appraisal skills worth their cost. And there might be a surprise or two as well. . .
As always, we at Turbine and Microsoft thank you for being a part of our game, and taking the time to share with us your thoughts and ideas, praise and criticisms. It is because of you and the time you spend in our world that drives us each month to produce the highest quality monthly event possible.
Original Link (now dead) -http://classic.zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEletternov2.asp
Letter to the Players
November 16, 2001
Over the last few weeks, a few players have engaged in hacking their clients and sending messages to our servers for the purposes of crashing those servers. Using our server logs we have identified and removed those people from Asheron's Call.
Although we cannot always go into detail about the specific nature of the exploits or their fixes, we do understand the seriousness and passion with which you desire a game free of exploit and injustice, and we are committed to providing you that type of gaming experience every month.
One of the consequences of the crashing servers was the repeated appearance of a major bug in which players' items on hooks and storage disappeared entirely from their houses.
Before November's event we had performed a hotfix which we thought would solve this problem. Unfortunately, a server crash on Darktide soon after the hotfix showed that the bug continued. We made some additional code changes for the November event to fix this problem, but we are still getting reports of this nature. From the various instances of the problem, we have received a number of informative player reports, which we are currently investigating.
Fixing this bug so that storage is completely safe and free from item loss is our highest priority.
Original Link (now dead) -http://classic.zone.msn.com/asheronscall/news/ASHEletternov3.asp
Letter to the Players
November 28, 2001
Today we will be paying the maintenance costs for all the houses' first month period on all servers. Due to a bug on Darktide that occurred as a result of our "speed-wand" fix, players have been unable to pay maintenance costs to their Covenant Crystals for the last five days. As some players who bought houses when they first appeared will soon have their first month's maintenance due, we decided to not risk someone losing their house because they were unable to interact with their Crystal for that time period. We then decided to pay housing maintenance on all servers due to the recent instability this weekend of some of those servers, and the problems that may have resulted from that instability.
Please note that players will still be responsible for the next 30 day maintenance period of their house, which for some players will start as early as this Friday.
Our search continues for the cause of the bug that empties a player's storage and hooks of items. We appreciate all the reports people are sending to http://bugs.zone.com and we are investigating these reports thoroughly. They have been extremely helpful to us in further pinpointing the nature of the bug. Please continue to report such instances to both in-game support staff and to http://bugs.zone.com. We believe we are close to solving this problem and we will continue to send out updates during this process.
Very soon, we will be updating the servers to eliminate the recent server instability. We apologize for the inconvenience.