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Developer Chat - 1999/12/01

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Archive Microsoft Zone gamingzone

Transcript of Developer Chat Held on December 1, 1999



Five hundred players participated in the December 1st developer chat with Turbine Entertainment, a new attendance record for the Zone. Unfortunately, not anticipating such a fantastic turnout, we had failed to set the room capacity above 500, so many people were undoubtedly turned away. We apologize for this, and assure you that we've already corrected the error so that everyone will be able to get in on the next major discussion with the Turbine team.


As you'll see, Turbine's Lead Producer Scott Herrington, Lead Designer Chris Foster, and Community Manager Dave Namerow, along with Microsoft's AC Program Manager Matthew Ford and Community Manager Ken Karl, shared plans for game updates, addressed concerns about adjustments to character powers, and even dropped some hints about the scope of the "Sudden Season" event taking place within the next week. Note that this transcript has been edited for length.


+MrQuazarr@Zone> I would like to first introduce the Program Manager of Asheron's Call, Matthew Ford.


Stucco@Zone> Hello! First off, I want to invite you to read a new article we have posted called "The State of the Code." It may answer a lot of the questions you have about bugs, lag, etc. The article will give more information than we can cover in this discussion.


+MrQuazarr@Zone> Now I would like to introduce our next guest, Scott Herrington, scotth@turbine, the Producer on Asheron's Call.


Scotth@Turbine> Hi once again! Let me introduce who's here from Turbine. With me this evening is Dave Namerow, our community manager. He works in sync with the designers to give them feedback about the effects each of their decisions have on the world


Dave@turbine> Hi, all.


Scotth@Turbine> And Chris Foster (aka Slapp) is the lead designer of the project, probably the guy most of you are wanting to strangle. Wait until you hear what he has to say :)


cfoster@Turbine> Don't hurt me! I'm fragile! We know that some people have been concerned about our first update. We've gotten a number of complaints about some changes . . . particularly to life mages. It seems worth taking a minute and explaining how those changes came about . . .


cfoster@Turbine> When we approached the end of beta, we realized that some of the goals of our design weren't being met. In particular, life mages were meant to be best at GIVING life, not taking it. With the incredible range on drain spells, they had turned out to be better warriors than our war mages. We thought for a long time about how to address this. Our first thought was: why address it at all? Just because things don't go as planned, doesn't mean a change is necessary. But then we realized we were facing a potential worse-case scenario, where non-life-mages were frustrated that they'd chosen the wrong skills, and life mages were bored at how easy the game had become . . .


cfoster@Turbine> We considered simply boosting all of the other professions to match life mages. However, that would have meant changing just about EVERY stat in the game; otherwise EVERYONE would have found themselves rushing through the game and getting bored. That wasn't practical. That left us with the one option that we'd wanted to avoid at all costs: removing some of life mages' power. We're sorry that we had to do it, but it was necessary to making the game more balanced and fun for everyone.


cfoster@Turbine> *deep breath* okay, that's my spiel. I'm sure I'll come up with more stuff to say when people start asking questions.


Scotth@Turbine> Jeff from Des Moines, you're on line one...


jeffhartsell> First off...addictive game...great job! Do you have plans for all creatures to use power words and a focus when appropriate, or do you intend to introduce new spells mainly via scrolls, research, or other nefarious methods? Please elaborate. Thanks!

cfoster@Turbine> We plan on using a mix of ways to introduce new spells. Some will show up first on monsters, some in scrolls, some as new components to explore. In some cases, we may do all of those at once, as each player is likely to find only one of those occurrences.


candyman107> I was wondering if you plan on making any changes to melee fighters in the near future. It seems like the game is more geared towards mages in the higher levels. Everything casts high-level war spells that do big damage that a melee has little to no chance of resisting. Being a level 42 blademaster with 255 sword as a specialized skill, I rely on life magic to survive and rarely use sword, especially since the changes to the Sword of Lost Light make it nearly unusable without creature magic or rare magic items to increase stats.

cfoster@Turbine> Candyman, we're looking at balance across professions and skills as players go up in level. In general, it looks like, for many players, professions stay in sync as they rise in level. One thing we plan on looking at is the treasure system, to make sure that high-level players have access to weapons that make them even more powerful. Those may be too hard to find now.


DA_hOsTiLe_DtH> Hi, I was wondering if maybe you guys could create some kind of NPK ring so all the NPKs can fight in a match. This would make the game a lot more interesting . . . and there could be prizes, and I was also thinking of a ranking system. cfoster@Turbine> DtH, don't you know violence is NEVER the solution? :)

Stucco@Zone> We have a LOT of great ideas on the table to keep expanding AC, and an arena is one of them! We certainly will want to do something, as always, different and better than run-of-the-mill. We won't speculate till we know we're doing anything, but yes, we do want to find more ways for players to . . . er . . . interact. ;)


Dave@turbine> Suggestions are gladly taken: comments@asheronscall.com


Voiden> Evening, all, last week my character went missing, and I have had no assistance with this problem. Is this normal not to get responses to e-mails to comments and complaints, and have other people had this problem with character loss as well?

Stucco@Zone> We apologize but we cannot answer e-mails personally. There are a LOT of them! But know that we DO read each one. Our "autoreply" was broken for awhile (oops) . . .


Stucco@Zone> As for that bug, we are looking into it. Make sure you are looking in the right world. Also, when clicking through the opening screens, be sure not to click AND press ENTER. You can accidentally click the DELETE CHARACTER button then press ENTER, which unfortunately confirms it. We need to change that.


mriell> What is going to be done about the availability of aqua incanta? Without a good available supply of aqua incanta, Fletching, Alchemy, and Cooking are useless skills.

cfoster@Turbine> Alchemy Items and Fletching items will be easier to find in our next update. They ARE too rare now.


_Jericho_X> Will all cities (even the little ones) be affected by the minions of the Frost King? In other words, will some cities see more action than others or is there a central location for the battle? ANY info on the coming event would be awesome! And you guys are doing great, no matter what others might think. Thank you for a great experience. :)

cfoster@Turbine> Frost King?


_Jericho_X> The coming coldness. There have been rumors.

cfoster@Turbine> I guess this is a good time to reveal a bit more about the event.


_Jericho_X> Don't play dumb, guys. Lol

Scotth@Turbine> Event?


cfoster@Turbine> Frost? :)


cfoster@Turbine> The event will take place across the world, but it will be a little different than our "Fire in the Sky" event from Beta. First, it will be a little more contemplative, in the spirit of the Winter Holidays. No minions of death falling from the sky. :) There WILL be lots of new stuff to play with -- new items, new monsters, a new look to the world.


Scotth@Turbine> Carrots!


cfoster@Turbine> AND there will be a major quest, spanning Dereth, for players to discover in the game. It's one of the biggest quests we've done yet -- at about the scale of the "Sword of Lost Light" quest.


silku> What is the highest level I can get in the game?

cfoster@Turbine> With a LOT of work, you can reach level 126. That's a LOT of work. A LOT. Heaps. More than is healthy. :)


kdavid1> On the Harvestgain World, I and many others experience "lag" problems. This sudden drop in response time to our computers during a fight has led the the loss of many good lives in Dereth. Killed by a drudge (shakes head).

Stucco@Zone> When is the last time you got lag?


kdavid1> Yesterday at about 8 P.M. Eastern.

Stucco@Zone> If you get a spike of lag, try contacting an Advocate right away (using /list [town]), so we can track this. Please read the"State of the Code" article. It will help explain the lag a bit more than I can here. But please know that if there is ANY lag that we can do anything about, we are working hard at it!


Lord_Xorus> How about "Random Events"? Like portals appearing throughout the land for a limited time, to a temporarily available dungeon where one could find random items. (More elemental weapons, enchanted armor, or even a secret town!? =))

Stucco@Zone> Please send any comments to comments@asheronscall.com. We read them all!


cfoster@Turbine> Random elements are possible for events, and we're starting to use them in our first one. If it goes well, expect to see them used more frequently in the future. Thanks for the question.


Spaxillian> If we have fallen victim to the dreaded "Skill we didn't want and didn't click on that we know of" bug, can anything be done to help, perhaps a sentinel can remove the skill and reclaim points (maybe with a penalty of lost experience or level[s])?

Stucco@Zone> Spax, that skill bug is very elusive, and we can't rule out any number of causes. I'm afraid that in line with our policy, we simply cannot do an equitable and safe job of restoring characters or objects. I'm very sorry it happened, and we are urgently looking into it.


RoBz26> Is it possible to get Magic Defense so high as to be immune to magic attacks, like with Melee Defense. In other words, if I keep pumping and pumping XP into it, would I be able to resist all spells up to a certain point (like how a level 20 warrior cannot be hit by a skulker :)? Or would it go by luck also? Thanks in advance.

cfoster@Turbine> There's probably the ability to block low-level spells totally, but since Magic Defense gets less boost from Magic Defense than the Spellcasting skills, it's unlikely to completely block high-level spells.


Drobb2> Any changes in the works as to how player corpses are going to be handled? Between items vanishing from them, rumors of loot bugs, and unrecoverable corpses due to lag, is the corpse time going to be increased (and can they please disappear once emptied? They're embarrassing :)

cfoster@Turbine> Turns out empty corpses ARE going to disappear much more quickly, to aid in managing "lag" (actually, frame-rate slowdown). As for the rumors of items disappearing and loot bugs, please send specifics to complaints@asheronscall.com.


SaberLayne> Great game, Visual (A+), Audio (A+), Interface (A+), Story (A+). I would like to see a more permanent-type residences in Dereth, say after a successful quest someplace to stash your loot and call home. Has this been considered for future updates?

Stucco@Zone> We really want to develop the world and part of that is a "home." For now life is nomadic and we like it that way. We certainly are considering doing residences, BUT doing them right, not creating clutter.


peterwie> I'm wondering if the monster behavior will become more complex in the future. Creature behaviors like territoriality, hunting, flight, and migration seem basic and not impossible to approximate and would really increase the "reality" of the environment. Think of shreths expanding territory into empty towns and getting fought back. Banderling guards going off-post to hunt for bunnies. Any plans down the line?

Stucco@Zone> I agree that monster AI in all ORPGs is in its infancy. We have big hopes for where we can go in this area. Some will come in updates; others we're dreaming of for the more distant future. Stay tuned; we love the idea!


S_t_r_i_k_e_r> Hi! At any time soon will some of the weapons follow their reqs, as in, let's say, a sword has no spells but requires 200 sword skill to use -- will you not let the swords be equipable? Or if that is too harsh, maybe to lower the potential of the sword, like, say, the sword needs 200 sword skill but you have 100, so maybe the damage or speed would be decreased by 50% or so?

cfoster@Turbine> The restrictions are intended solely for enchantments. If an item has no spells associated with it, I don't think it should have a restriction at all. If you have such a treasure item, it should be looked at, probably by a jeweler, or maybe a blacksmith.


ShAdOw9d9> Why doesn't Coordination affect bow damage as much as Strength does sword attacks, and why doesn't Quickness or even Swift Killer affect bow reload speed or bar speed?

cfoster@Turbine> Coordination SHOULD do as much to affect missile damage as it does for strength, I believe. As for the animations, we hooked the speed only into the attack itself, for technical reasons.


Zaynder> Why are monsters so much FASTER now?

cfoster@Turbine> Some monsters were just too danged slow. They were getting exploited. We made a last minute change at the end of beta to adjust everyone's speed, and some monsters fell out of whack. We didn't catch the problem until after we were getting the game wrapped up and off to manufacturing. So we knocked them back into line.


heIIgo> Will the frost event include Christmas presents? Or at least the equivalent of a flicker (only an ice version of course). Btw, this game needs a surgeon general's warning for "this product may cause uncontrollable addiction."

cfoster@Turbine> There will be some neat "presents" throughout the world, of a sort. And something sorta like flickers, but different. (Vagueness is fun!)


alecmuzzy> What's a good quest for someone around level 15? I'd like to find ones with a story behind it instead of some sort of Hack-n-Slash.

cfoster@Turbine> Dagger of Tikola is good for your level. Go fer it! :) It's a bit tough, but it'll be fun. You might want to bring some friends, tho'.


Scotth@Turbine> The Underground City. Glendenwood and the Glendenwood Dungeon.


DesignLord> Has there been any thought of adding some sort of coordinate logging system to AC? It seems to be quite a break in the suspension of reality provided in AC to suddenly stop and drop your mouse and keyboard to grab a pen and paper to log coordinates. Something simple such as logging the coordinates and allowing the user to add a description would work, seeing as coordinates play such a large role in navigation of Dereth.

cfoster@Turbine> That's a cool idea for enhancing our maps. It's on our list of ways to expand AC in the future. We're forming plans to keep the game expanding in lots of neat ways! In the meantime, there are some excellent fan sites with online atlases. They make navigating easier.


oPerrin> Observation: The best ways to level are finding spots where you can hit monsters and they can't hit you, preferably with monsters a good deal higher-level than you. However you have already nerfed some of these spots. Q: If you are planning on trying to eliminate camp spots, why, since many players find quick leveling and easy kills to be really fun?

cfoster@Turbine> Leveling-up quickly CAN be a lot of fun. (I'm playing Ultima: Ascension at home right now, and I'm enjoying the hell out of its AI exploits.) The problem with these exploits is that they let players tear through the game much more quickly than we'd intended. While it's fun now, it risks making the game boring in the long run. We want to keep the game interesting for the long haul. We also want to use these changes to make the game more interesting overall. For example, expect certain monsters to learn from the mages attacking them. :)


IronWolf92> Why were dual wielding (which is in your advertising and material pictured) and two-handed weapons left out? They've been staples of RPGs for years now.

cfoster@Turbine> Dual weapons weren't done, mainly because there was so much more to do. It's something we'd like to consider adding in the future.


oyouno> Are there any plans to improve enemy creature animation skating problems and rubber-banding during chase scenes in exterior combat? Currently creatures often travel great distances without animating when pursuing other players.

Stucco@Zone> Yes, I've seen that too and it does bug me. Dealing with latency, while keeping the world accurate, is a big challenge. All ORPGs can do better with it and I want us to be the best. We won't ignore it, thanks! Rest assured at least that though it looks sketchy, the code underneath is quite accurate.


Buffy_Becca> Will Turbine create any gender-specific armor, clothes, quests, etc.? I mean, even UO has female armor. I know about the polygon problem with flowing clothes, but something to distinguish gender choices.

Scotth@Turbine> Yup, there will be some gender-specific stuff coming up shortly. Armor, though, is actually gender-specific already in terms of its look.


Bytenator> Are there plans for "trade skills" like blacksmithing (ability to craft weapons/armor from supplies found), or allowing (high-level) players to make items that cast spells?

Stucco@Zone> Future plans are vast! We really like the craft skills, and as Dereth moves out of its frontier days, it makes sense for more skills to become popular. The nice thing is that we have a great infrastructure to work with, so expect good things on the way. The hard part will be choosing what to do!


war_zealot> During last Sunday's "freak accident," I was traveling up to the crater to meet my patron. In the middle of my trip, I froze (lag) and watched in horror as a male tusker bounded up and devoured poor gyran (I lost a GMC and a sweet sword), so I'm thinking retribution lol. Let's say . . . hmm, well a new GMC would be nice... but a matt coat would be better, lol. (And don't be saying you can't do that, because you said you can only do that once it's in retail, and it is in retail.)

Stucco@Zone> Well, we never released anything official about doing reimbursements in retail. If you heard that, it was not from an official representative. We decided a long time ago that we would not reimburse due to bugs. There is no way to do it equitably and not create a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of work for our staff. No game I have played has done it well. We need our staff to be helping in other ways. We truly regret any loss from bugs or lag, and we are doing all we can to prevent them, but we will not be reimbursing players. Loss must be borne as best you can.


Sir_Ralph_I> What level will the event quest be aimed at, or character type? Please more about the Quest.

cfoster@Turbine> We're not saying much about the main quest yet, but it IS similar in some ways to our epic quests, like Sword of Lost Light. That's not for novices. Draw conclusions as you will. (And expect more info in the future.)


Xforn> What new trade skills do you guys KNOW are going to be in the game eventually (which ones are going show up in the next update)?

cfoster@Turbine> We have no specific trade skills in mind for the future, but a lot of cool ideas to make trade skills more interesting. For this [upcoming] event, expect to see some of your current trade skills used in new ways.


noptov52> Will there be anything done to counteract life mages' power-leveling from magmas? It is really a problem for melee fighters on Darktide.

cfoster@Turbine> Yes, we are addressing that. Turns out magma golems are attentive AND learn from their foes... :)


Scorsha> I research everything before I buy it or have anything to do with it. AC was recommended to me by a very good friend. I located a demo to see if it was worth it, but apparently beta3 is not useable for the ten days any longer? Is this true?

Stucco@Zone> Yes, the demo is no longer active. We may do a demo later, but we did not want to risk the server load from a demo. I advise that you play with your friend's account a bit and decide. I've seen people who have played the equivalent of 13 consecutive DAYS of AC. That's a lot of value for your dollar compared to ANYthing else, besides, perhaps, the works of Shakespeare!


_7_Cha0s> Why are not all characters created equal? A skill in a certain class, let's say bow 0-100 hits for 20 max, sword 0-100 hits 20 max, mage 0-100, 20 max? That will make it more fair to everyone and give you total balance.

cfoster@Turbine> We've been looking at balance between professions. And the data is VERY interesting. In many ways, it looks like on average, characters are all leveling up at about the same speed. That makes it MUCH harder to address balance issues like this. One thing we are going to look at is the treasure that is generated, to make sure that everyone is getting what they need to support their high-level skills. Beyond that, we're going to keep surveying players, and see what we can do to balance the game for the majority of players. Changes are possible, but we want to make them CAREFULLY. The last thing we want to do is create an endless series of shifts in game balance. That's upsetting to everyone.


Azilex> What do you guys have to say and/or comment about the large grief many PVP-oriented players discussed about the "quick-log-out" ability players have to "escape" from PVP combat? And is this something that will ever be changed?

Stucco@Zone> I believe there is already a task item to look into that. Personally I think it is a bit lenient, but it's not the highest priority to fix. Do what I do: put him on Friends, and have your friends patrol the area; keep in mind it does help those who are truly picked on, and that losing your honor is worse than losing your life. (cue anthem)


Albuterol> Will you be changing the sword skill on the SoLL? I think it's a bit unfair. We need something good, ya know :) Sword skill is 202 right now. By the time I can use it, I'll be able to cast magic on it myself.

cfoster@Turbine> We set the SoLL's restrictions high so that using it would be a sign of prestige. Future quest items will probably be a bit more manageable.


Lowgrey> As a webmaster of www.pcpunks.com, a fairly large AC website, I am a little disappointed in how this patch was done, not what was done so much as that people were never consulted about what was about to be done to their game. They are also very frustrated with the product support. The Sentinels are given about no authority or power. This is how a lot of people ended up on AC from EQ. Is this what we can expect in the future?

cfoster@Turbine> Lowgrey, the patch was announced well in advance. We covered the changes being considered. We also explained some of the rationale behind the changes, but in retrospect I think we could have given more explanation. We've drafted another "Spin from Turbine " article that gets into more detail.


BoaBoa> Will it be made so that all levels can participate in all dynamic quests in some way and that they're not geared to the high-level characters? This was a major problem in EQ where you needed to be close to level 40+ to stand a chance!

cfoster@Turbine> Events are designed to cover a broad range of players -- high-level and low, lone-wolves, fellowships, and allegiances. The Beta event was a good sign of this, where there were fire children for EVERYONE to play with! :)


blueheeler> Why does ALT+TAB never work?

Stucco@Zone> If you cannot ALT+TAB out and back in, it is likely a configuration issue. Most people are able to. Please use the technical support on the inside cover of the manual. Also, make sure you have the latest video drivers; they may be the culprit.


JamesWeb> There have been rumors that Turbine has found the politics in Darktide interesting. Are there any plans specific to PvP or the DT server? (I know about the much-needed Jump/Heal and Jump/Log bug that will be fixed in the next patch.) For example, monarch radar colors, more defendable fort towns, etc.

cfoster@Turbine> We DO find the PvP situation on Darktide cool, and a good source of inspiration when planning future features. Our challenge is not just to make the PK world cooler, but to find ways to take its elements of social risk and player conflict and bring them to ALL players without making the game an exercise in frustration for devoted NPKs. Suffice to say there are cool ideas on the table.


wyvern101> Greetings, will it be possible to wear clothing over one's armor instead of under it. There are many different types of clothing in the game, and it seems a shame not to use them. If not all clothing, maybe the use of surcoats or vests.

cfoster@Turbine> Wyvern, there are technical limits right now to how armor and clothing interact. Placing clothing over armor isn't easy, but we ARE considering other types of clothing to wear. Cool stuff. I've seen it.


+MrQuazarr@Zone> Before we go, Dave@turbine would like to say a few important things. Take it away, Dave.


Dave@turbine> We are always looking for feedback from our fan base, please send comments to us. Or if you see me in-game, please say hello. I'm +Sarneho. We hope this has been helpful to you all. Thanks for coming.


+MrQuazarr@Zone> Thanks to our guests. We will be holding these monthly. Look forward to an announcement about the December chat coming soon. For those who did not get a chance to ask a question, you can send your comments to comments@asheronscall.com. Thank you and good night!

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