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Thread Recap (last 10 posts from newest to oldest)

Oct 30, 02 at 8:42pm
chibon


I see you're keeping up on the updates. Thanks for your time and love of these games to keep us all informed. What I'm trying to say is:

Thank You!



Sep 28, 02 at 11:48pm
RPG_Master44


*Update*

The first Asheron’s Call rode the wave of popularity stirred up by massively-multiplayer online RPGs such as 1997’s Ultima Online and 1999’s EverQuest. Released in October 1999, eight months after EverQuest, Asheron’s Call differed importantly from the aptly-named MMORPG, with features such as a cohesive overall plot and a retreat from RPG standards such as elves and dwarves in favor of three separate races of humans, among other differences. The game also had monthly events introduced by the programmers, adding new story elements, dungeons, quests, items and monsters to the game world, helping it evolve and stay fresh.

But gradual evolution can only take a game so far; eventually, a leap forward is required. Asheron’s Call 2, due out late this year, still takes place in the first game’s land of Dereth, but long after the original’s timeline – Dereth has been ravaged and changed by clashes between three powers warring over the land. After centuries of conflict, the three nearly destroy all of Dereth in a cataclysmic clash. This installment allows players to experience the rebuilding of the land over a long period of time as the three civilized races of the Dereth come out of deep shelter.

At the heart of this story is the Vault Campaign, a multi-month, epic adventure that every player can start from the time they enter the game world, allowing anyone to be a hero to the world. Instead of three races of humans, there are three distinct species to choose from: Humans are skilled at ranged combat, the massive and burly Lugians excel at close-quarters fighting and the speedy, wild Tumerok employ more magic. Characters’ appearances can be customized, offering a range of options for everything from hair and eye color down to build and height.

Like the first game, Asheron’s Call 2 uses a skill-based character building system in lieu of a more traditional leveling-up experience system. Though each race has its own advantages, disadvantages, special powers and bias toward a particular fighting style, each can also gain skill in other areas with practice. The skill system starts off small and limited, but branches open as players spend points to strengthen old abilities and gain new ones. Progression is up to the player, and unwanted skills can even be “worked off” to regain some spent skill points.

The battle engine has been tweaked, as well, with more intelligent enemies who respond with greater tactical skill than before, changing attack patterns and preemptively attacking a party waiting in ambush. Though a single player can take on the game if desired, teaming up with other players can be very helpful for dealing with trouble spots.

Like the first installment, the game also allows players to strip down items for their raw materials and craft new ones; swear allegiance to a more experienced player, providing extra experience points in exchange for assistance and guidance and form into fellowships, traveling bands unified under one leader, to take on tougher quests.

The way death is treated differs from other games; instead of characters losing all items or gold when they die, the dead are reborn at various Lifestones scattered across the land. Death does come without a price, however; the restored character comes back with a penalty to its “vitae,” or life force, which weakens it until a certain amount of experience is earned. In this way, the game makes death something to be avoided without unduly punishing the inexperienced or unlucky.

The visuals are improved as well, with more detailed environments, architecture, and character and monster models which show injuries as they’re received. Though the landmass in the game is smaller than in the original, there is more packed into it and there are no discrete zones – just a contiguous world. And while the first had no in-game music, Asheron’s Call 2 will employ a dynamic music system that will generate music based on a character’s current situation.

With its improvements over the original Asheron’s Call and with a style distinctly different from other MMORPGs, Asheron’s Call 2 could be the most massive of them all when it comes out late this year.


*Another Update*

"The game is about the people in it." I've never heard a better summation of what MMOs are all about. With all the time and effort invested in adding passive story elements to online RPGs, it's nice to hear a game maker hit the nail so squarely on the head. In this case, the concise insight is offered by Ken Karl, program manager for Microsoft. He's currently working on Asheron's Call 2, the sequel to Microsoft's previous MMO. He stopped by today along with Turbine producer Ken Troop and Microsoft's PC RPG product manager Christopher Lye to discuss some new ideas for the sequel.

While sitting through a demo of the game, the team discussed their three-part approach to fulfilling Ken Karl's definition of the genre. First, they want to emphasize that the game actually has real stories that progress from a beginning to an end. Second, they want to allow players to feel that they're influencing that story and the game world as a whole. Finally, they'll be offering monthly updates (as they have every month since the original Asheron's Call was released three years ago) to respond to player needs.

The guys claim that the original Asheron's Call had (and has) the best story in the entire MMO market. The problem was that you had to seek out the story and many players, myself included, never actually stumbled upon it. Now, they'll be including short, in-game vignettes each month to outline the basic path of the story and indicate a few directions it might head. These will be anticipated by some cool movie teasers on the Asheron's website.

We've already covered the basics of the story in previous previews. The three player races leave their underground homes to reclaim the aboveground world, the world that their ancestors inhabited before a cataclysm drove them underground. Fortunately for gamers, their emergence is somewhat premature and there's still lots of danger to be found throughout the land.

The three races -- Lugian ,Tumerok and Human -- and the classes are just two forms of player identity. Players from all races can also ally themselves with a particular kingdom. The kingdoms represent philosophical ideologies. The kingdom of Order reveres Asheron and the rule of law. The Vivendi kingdom (or Dominion) takes this idea twenty or thirty steps further and perverts it into a new brand of fascism. Finally there's the kingdom of Shadow, which holds chaos and disorder in high regard.

The competition among the three kingdoms is definitely a feature of the game, but one that lower level (or uninterested) players should probably be able to safely disregard while still having fun. The kingdom versus kingdom dynamic is more geared towards higher-level players anyway. Players of all levels will benefit from a new quest and map window. The team wants to avoid the aimlessness of most MMOs by ensuring the player knows what to do next.

As I said at the start, the Asheron's Call team has added significant updates every month since the game's release and they're committed to doing the same with the sequel. The live team is actually twice as large as the first one, so we can expect even larger downloadable updates. (In related news, the team is still committed to the idea of expansions and it's likely that Asheron's Call 2 will get one of its own.)

If they're going to spend all this time and effort making changes to the game world, then it's important that players notice the differences. The team places a high priority on building a sense that the world is changing, particularly in terms of visuals. The rise of a particularly evil influence will be accompanied by things like reddening skies or scorched land. If players let a town fall in to ruin, a visual change will let players "read" the environment fairly easily.

These visual changes will also come with other changes. The strength and vitality of a town will determine the range at which monsters spawn. A thriving city might push spawn points well beyond the walls while a run-down town may eventually have monsters spawning within the town.

When asked about the balancing issues involved in making such changes (especially across separate servers), the team dismissed my objections pretty quickly. It's not a matter of changing core abilities or skills, they explained; it's more about giving the players an experience to remember. "We don't have to balance the awe factor," they explained. Thinking back to events like the first sunrise I saw in Norrath or the first snowfall in Dereth, I think I have an idea of what they're talking about.

But with so many planned content updates, balancing is an issue. "The trick," says Ken, "is making player choices matter without breaking the game." To help with this process, the team will have access to a real-time database that collates and analyzes the game. It will tell them which quests are being taken and how often they're completed. If a skill is going unused, the database will reveal it. If a monster is continually killing players near its lair, the team will know about it and adjust the game accordingly. In the past this type of balance has been more art than science, relying on intuition as much as data. This time around the team will have a much better idea of what's going on within their game.

But perhaps the biggest (and heretofore unmentioned) feature of the sequel is the inclusion of player-owned mounts. It's been a feature a lot of MMOs have overlooked and I'm glad to see it's being included here. The mounts in this game will be able to go anywhere a player can go and won't be tied down to rails as in some games.

Each race has a particular mount associated with it. Although there are no official names for these beasts, they're divided largely in terms of habitat. The Lugian mounts are at home in the mountains while those of the humans are best suited to the plains. The Tumerok mounts make their home in the swamps. The team is considering subdividing these species based on function as well. There may even be a form of flying (or at least floating) mounts.

The team is currently trying to figure out exactly how to make these mounts available. They may be tied to particular quest objects, allowing you to summon mounts wherever you want. There may also be a skill-based requirement for mounts, particularly the specialized ones -- those tied to combat or swimming or things like that. Initially the mounts will just be extensions of the player but the team is exploring ways to make them more pet-like.

Asheron's Call 2 will also feature new forges that will allow players to improve their crafting skills. Forges will function at a level proportionate to the amount of resources players provide them. Since the game includes no NPC vendors, we're not sure how the economy will work exactly. We do know that players can own storefronts and set prices for items that other players will buy. The team is also considering a few new ideas for player banking as well. Cities will probably function the same way as the forges, thriving when players pour resources in to them and falling in to decline if neglected.

While some of these items are in the game already (or planned for launch), Turbine and Microsoft are working on the schedule for the monthly updates. They promised that all of the ideas we talked about today will make it in to the game within a year from launch.

This has been another update by your favorite RPG Info Man .



This message was merged with other messages by chibon (moderator)



Sep 06, 02 at 5:27am
RPG_Master44


The first Asheron’s Call rode the wave of popularity stirred up by massively-multiplayer online RPGs such as 1997’s Ultima Online and 1999’s EverQuest. Released in October 1999, eight months after EverQuest, Asheron’s Call differed importantly from the aptly-named MMORPG, with features such as a cohesive overall plot and a retreat from RPG standards such as elves and dwarves in favor of three separate races of humans, among other differences. The game also had monthly events introduced by the programmers, adding new story elements, dungeons, quests, items and monsters to the game world, helping it evolve and stay fresh.

But gradual evolution can only take a game so far; eventually, a leap forward is required. Asheron’s Call 2, due out late this year, still takes place in the first game’s land of Dereth, but long after the original’s timeline – Dereth has been ravaged and changed by clashes between three powers warring over the land. After centuries of conflict, the three nearly destroy all of Dereth in a cataclysmic clash. This installment allows players to experience the rebuilding of the land over a long period of time as the three civilized races of the Dereth come out of deep shelter.

At the heart of this story is the Vault Campaign, a multi-month, epic adventure that every player can start from the time they enter the game world, allowing anyone to be a hero to the world. Instead of three races of humans, there are three distinct species to choose from: Humans are skilled at ranged combat, the massive and burly Lugians excel at close-quarters fighting and the speedy, wild Tumerok employ more magic. Characters’ appearances can be customized, offering a range of options for everything from hair and eye color down to build and height.

Like the first game, Asheron’s Call 2 uses a skill-based character building system in lieu of a more traditional leveling-up experience system. Though each race has its own advantages, disadvantages, special powers and bias toward a particular fighting style, each can also gain skill in other areas with practice. The skill system starts off small and limited, but branches open as players spend points to strengthen old abilities and gain new ones. Progression is up to the player, and unwanted skills can even be “worked off” to regain some spent skill points.

The battle engine has been tweaked, as well, with more intelligent enemies who respond with greater tactical skill than before, changing attack patterns and preemptively attacking a party waiting in ambush. Though a single player can take on the game if desired, teaming up with other players can be very helpful for dealing with trouble spots.

Like the first installment, the game also allows players to strip down items for their raw materials and craft new ones; swear allegiance to a more experienced player, providing extra experience points in exchange for assistance and guidance and form into fellowships, traveling bands unified under one leader, to take on tougher quests.

The way death is treated differs from other games; instead of characters losing all items or gold when they die, the dead are reborn at various Lifestones scattered across the land. Death does come without a price, however; the restored character comes back with a penalty to its “vitae,” or life force, which weakens it until a certain amount of experience is earned. In this way, the game makes death something to be avoided without unduly punishing the inexperienced or unlucky.

The visuals are improved as well, with more detailed environments, architecture, and character and monster models which show injuries as they’re received. Though the landmass in the game is smaller than in the original, there is more packed into it and there are no discrete zones – just a contiguous world. And while the first had no in-game music, Asheron’s Call 2 will employ a dynamic music system that will generate music based on a character’s current situation.

With its improvements over the original Asheron’s Call and with a style distinctly different from other MMORPGs, Asheron’s Call 2 could be the most massive of them all when it comes out late this year.




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