Asheron's Call 10th Anniversary Interviews

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Turbine's Asheron's Call, WarCry has published a series of interviews with various members of the MMORPG's development team. Part one chats with designer Brian Cottle, part two chats with lead QA "Jared", part three chats with designer Eric Deans, and part four chats with producer Robert Ciccolini. An excerpt from the final installment:
What is the best thing you've personally worked on and have had implemented in game?

Behind the scenes there is lots of new tech I have implemented that the players will never directly see. The ability for objects to send local messages to each other and start scripted actions is the type of tech that players only experience through new types of content. I added tools so our designers can make creatures move along paths through the world. I added tools so NPCs can fight each other.

For player systems, I think adding Two Handed Combat had a large impact because it introduced a whole new character template. Trinkets are pretty cool as well.

As far as content goes, I don't have much time for it. I implemented most of the graveyard just so I would have a place to create quests that used the new tech I was creating. I kind of liked the story of a doomed settlement that was a precursor to the history of the game marked by a creepy graveyard so I built one to test my tech.


Has World of Warcraft affected how you design AC's updates?

All games that we play have to some extent affected our design. There's actually not that much we can draw from World of Warcraft for several reasons.

First, it relies on many traditional fantasy elements that do not exist on Dereth so there is very little inspiration to be drawn for us from their story or lore.

Second, their encounter design is almost entirely based on the holy trinity of tank-healer-DPS. Since Asheron's Call does not draw on that model at all we really can't be that influenced by their encounter design. It just doesn't work in AC. Most of their group content makes the general assumption that the group or raid will be organized that way.

Third, World of Warcraft character design is class based and makes liberal use of lots of individual abilities that need only be balanced within the context of that class. Asheron's Call is entirely skill based with archetypes that are created by players mixing and matching various skills. We can't draw inspiration from any of the World of Warcraft class design.

Fourth, World of Warcraft has no real customization in the visual look of their characters. Classes are given a set look as they progress through loot tiers, and as characters reach the upper tiers of loot all members of a particular class tend to homogenize. This is how they maintain the look and feel of their IP. Our loot system randomizes the visual elements of the armor, allowing even top end characters a lot more variety in loot. In addition, Asheron's Call is moving toward even more character customization with the addition of tailors so players can move the visual elements from pieces they like over to pieces with favorable combat statistics.

Finally, the design philosophy of the content is really different. In Asheron's Call, we try to keep content relevant by allowing players to repeat the quests they like. World of Warcraft generally makes the quests unavailable after you complete them once, and it wasn't until their Burning Crusade expansion that they began to incorporate any kind of repeatable quest model with their dailies. I find it interesting that as time goes on they have been moving more and more heavily towards the repeatable quest model for new quest hubs.

In the end there isn't much there for us.