Istaria preps for 10-year anniversary, big content patch

Istaria dev blog for tues or weds  see team email for details
Can you believe that Istaria will be 10 years old in December? Well, technically the game was called Horizons way back when, and while the name has changed, the focus on playable dragons has not. Virtrium community manager Amarie Ancalimon has penned a new dev diary that features some exciting news for fans of the long-running fantasy MMO.

Join us after the cut for this developer exclusive that talks crystal-shaping, pets, and more!

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Dev blog by Amarie Ancalimon

Istaria, the MMORPG developed by Virtrium LLC, has not seen an expansion of this size in a long time. Because this latest update is something special, Amarie has pulled the whole team together to get the scoop on what has changed recently as well as getting some sneak peek information on what will be coming in the future.

The primary focus of this content update is the addition of the Crystalshaper school. Crystalshaper is the first new school for Istaria in a number of years. It adds the ability for Dragons to shape crystals usable by players out of materials found around the world. Unique to the world, this school uses special abilities that players of all levels and races can obtain to inspire different emotions in the enemies they fight every day. With a particular ability active, when fighting a specific category of monster, there is a chance that a Sliver of Emotion will drop as part of that monsters regular loot. This new system allows cooperation between adventurer and crafter in a different way than has been previously utilized in Istaria. Adventurers need the crystals that the Crystalshaper can make, and Crystalshapers need the adventurer in order to obtain the Slivers to make the crystals. In this way, the developers' plan is that the Istarian economy gets a boost on both sides of the crystalshaping equation.

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A long-term project that the design team has been working on is to improve player abilities with long recycle timers to make them more useful (but still balanced within the overall scope of the game). The Sorcerer, Battlemage, and Paladin schools especially will find that many of their abilities have been improved with this latest content update. Other schools, both biped and dragon, have seen a reduction in the recycle timers for various abilities. In addition, some abilities that once shared a recycle timer with another ability have had that interconnection removed, thus allowing both to be used much more frequently.

No one likes to find themselves sitting out of a combat, watching everyone else fight while they are permanently stunned or mesmerized. And with recent changes to the world of Istaria, now no one will have to. The design team has gone through and taken a close look at stun and mez abilities to ensure that their durations and reuse timers are set up properly. Also, a new ability has been added to the game to give immunity to a stun or mez after the current one wears off. The goal is to prevent both players and monsters from being perma-stunned and effectively taken out of combat by one or two enemies with stun ability. In addition, some epic level mobs are also now immune to stun and mez abilities of players, making them a greater challenge than they were previously. So hunters beware!

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But it isn't just the design team that has been hard at work in recent months. The team that makes the magic happen behind the scenes, often called "the tech guys," have also been making improvements and changes to Istaria. The most visible of these changes is with the game's launcher. For those who haven't tried Istaria in a while, the latest version of the stand-alone launcher will be a big change and an improvement to how you connect to the game.

In addition to being able to see all your account services on one page, players can also see basic information about their characters from this login screen. So now you can tell which character has the most coin or what class and level your character has active, as well as what property is owned, all from the launcher. And with the new Deliverables system on the launcher, players can now earn Loyalty Reward Tokens as well as have the option to change character name, archive their characters, and set up characters for copying to Blight -- all from the game launcher. And, of course, our newsfeed on the right-hand side of the launcher allows us to provide players with better information on what is happening with the game in real-time, including maintenance updates and the latest information about patches.

The new client also has a feedback feature that streamlines the connection between a player who is experiencing game crashes and the "tech guys." The ability to gather and submit logs directly to the developers via the game client is an invaluable tool to help troubleshoot and improve the overall performance and stability of the game's client.

And now for the promised sneak peek. As fans of the game know, in December the game will turn 10 years old! Originally released under the name Horizons: Empires of Istaria, the game was groundbreaking at the time. And while the years haven't always been kind to Istaria, and it has changed hands a few times, the team is still very much focused on improving existing content and offering new content with each update. To celebrate the 10th anniversary, Istaria will be introducing something which players have asked for in the past... pets!

Initially the pets will be limited to social pets with no bonuses to crafting or adventuring, but over time, pets that do offer bonuses and other features will become available. The plan is to offer pets as part of the Loyalty Rewards program as well as a special pet for anyone with an active subscription when the anniversary event is released. As December comes closer, we'll release some screenshots of the new pets that will be available.

As 2013 is rapidly coming to a close, and the game turns to double digit years, we at Virtrium are more excited than ever to welcome players into our world of dragons, bipeds and, of course, the ever present Withered Aegis. So whether you're someone who has been with the game for all 10 years or someone who hasn't ever given Istaria a try, we hope you'll take a look at the many changes to the world. We'll continue to provide you with new content to keep you adventuring in Istaria for another 10 years!

This article was originally published on Massively.