[MUD-Dev] Preview of Asheron's Call

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Mon May 4 12:25:11 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


Preview of Asheron's Call

Developer:Turbine Entertainment Software

Publisher: Microsoft

Target Release Date: Fall, 1998

System Requirements: (for early beta test, subject tochange) 
Pentium 133 MHz, 
Windows 95 or Windows NT, 
32 MB RAM, 
50 MB of Hard Drive Space, 
Video Card and Monitor Capable of 800x600 and 16 bit color (1 MB VRAM), 
Modem speed of 14.4 or faster, with Internet connection.

General Description:

An online massively multiplayer role-playing game that will be played
over Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone (www.zone.com). Turbine
Entertainment Software and Microsoft are creating an expansive gaming
world that has a rich, unique history. Asheron's Call is set on
Dereth, an island that was formerly inhabited by a mysterious race of
people known as the Empyrean. The Empyrean were a race of people who
were very advanced in magical and arcane lore, but who have all
disappeared, perhaps through the magical portals scattered throughout
the island.

Characters start Asheron's Call by realizing that they have been
mysteriously brought, or "called", to this island, and they must
uncover its secrets in order to survive. In a step away from
traditional fantasy role-playing convention, player characters will
all be human (elves need not apply), but will come from one of three
"heritage" groups, which will be roughly modeled on the cultures of
medieval England, the ancient Moors of southern Spain and feudal

Players are able to view the true 3D world of Asheron's Call from a
variety of perspectives (the default is a first person perspective).
Players will be free to explore on their own, but are encouraged to
form parties of adventurers. To curb anti-social conduct, all
characters will initially be unable to attack other
players. Characters can acquire the ability to attack other characters
only after completing a particular quest, and even then they will only
be able to attack other "player killers". A feudal "allegiance" system
will increase the fame and strengthen players who actively recruit and
protect new players. Turbine and Microsoft are hoping to create a
world that will truly expand and evolve based upon the actions of

Key Features:

  -- An expansive gaming world - characters will be able to explore
approximately 575 square miles worth of varied terrain, which to scale
is over twice the size of Hong Kong or half the size of Rhode
Island. Terrain types include icy mountain ranges, deserts, forests
and swamps.

  -- Characters must be from one of three distinctive "heritage"
groups, and can combine attributes and skills to create characters
that are truly unique.  Players can choose to work from a series of
templates which will pre-set their characters attributes and skills to
specialize in one of 16 "professions" or character classes. The
skill-based development system allows you to further individualize
your character at that point, as well as automatically increasing your
skills in those abilities you most frequently use. Experience points
can also be allocated to help you develop those skills you use

  -- A true 3D engine, where all characters, monsters, items and
scenery will be comprised of fully 3D texture mapped polygons. The
engine is capable of dynamic lighting, seamless integration of indoor
and outdoor environments and latency compensation techniques to handle
inherent Internet lag. 3D graphics support will either be included in
the game's initial release or will be added shortly after the game is

  -- Unlike other massively multiplayer role-playing games, Asheron's
Call will put all players on one gaming world, instead of spread out
over various "mirror" worlds.

  -- An elaborate "Allegiance" system, which encourages higher level
characters to recruit less experienced characters as apprentices. This
symbiotic relationship gives the more experienced character a
percentage of the experience points earned by the apprentice
(apparently "pyramid schemes" aren't illegal in Dereth) and also
increases the experienced character's nobility. The less experienced
player, in turn, gets protection, training, or whatever the mentor
chooses to provide as compensation.

  -- Non-player characters will play a minor role in Asheron's Call,
essentially being limited to merchants and enemies. Player characters
can have a significant impact on the world through the social
structures within the game.

  -- Real time combat that has a number of tactical elements. Weapons
will vary in attack speed, and characters will be able to control the
strength of a particular attack and the height at which it is aimed.

  -- Hundreds of spells that players can develop through a malleable
system of spell components. In a unique touch, spells will become
weaker the more frequently they are cast, creating a "spell economy".

  -- Characters will only be allowed to kill other characters once
they complete a specific quest. Once that quest is completed,
characters will only be able to attack others who have completed that

The Good:

  -- Lots of originality for a fantasy role-playing game. In addition
to an intriguing background story, Asheron's Call offers a variety of
unique gaming elements, such as the inclusion of "heritage groups", a
spell system that can radically change depending upon how it is used
by players, and real time combat with an unusual number of tactical

  -- All players will be the same gaming world, as opposed to spread
out over a variety of mirror worlds on different servers. The single
world should create more of a "community" and give players additional
opportunities to influence the development of the game...plus it'll be
easier to find your friends.

  -- Excellent graphics and a powerful 3D engine capable of a variety
of effects.

  -- The feudalistic "allegiance" system and the ability to remain
safe from player killers should make Asheron's Call less intimidating
for new players than most currently available online role-playing

The Bad:

  -- Competition. Established games like Meridian 59 and Ultima Online
already have loyal fans, and there are a variety of new massively
multiplayer games in development or on the verge of being released,
such as Everquest and Underlight. Asheron's Call will have to
establish its own unique identity in order to successfully compete in
the increasingly crowded market for massively multiplayer role-playing

  -- Having all of the game's players on one world will be great -
provided that Asheron's Call's technology is capable of handling the
resulting difficulties of operating such a large scale,
graphic-intensive game played over the inherently quirky Internet. But
the development team is well aware of the technical problems other
online games have experienced, and have designed Asheron's Call's
engine with a variety of latency compensation techniques to help avoid
Internet lag problems.

The Bottom Line:

All massively multiplayer games are ambitious projects, and a lot can
go wrong.  Without giving Asheron's Call a "test by fire" with
hundreds of players online, it's difficult to judge how successful the
game will be at managing Internet lag and other technical issues. But
the support of Microsoft and its established Internet Gaming Zone
should help Asheron's Call get off to a running start.

There are a lot of things to like about Asheron's Call. In addition to
the excellent graphics provided by the game's powerful 3D engine, its
development team has created original spell, combat and social
systems.  Although innovative in its own right, clearly Turbine and
Microsoft have learned from the experiences of other online games, and
have carefully designed Asheron's Call to avoid making the same
mistakes other games have made.  Asheron's Call marks a step forward
for massively multiplayer online games.

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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