Gen Con 08: Turbine tells us what's in store for AC, Part 2

Samuel Axon
S. Axon|08.19.08

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Given that the game has been around for so long, do you see this addition of modern MMO features as something that the player base is really clamoring for, or are you sort of scaling that against what other games have right now?

Really, it's what the players are asking for. That's one of the things we pride ourselves on: listening to the players. Feedback and player concerns are very important to us.
I'll log in during the week and actually ask the players in the worlds: "What would you guys like? What do you think of this? How is this?" Their feedback has been the stuff that we're adding into the game. We don't just rely on the forums; the forums are an important part of feedback but you only get a small section of the player base on the forums. So my whole thing is I go in and I'll ask them.

I'll even pull people aside. I'll see them out hunting somewhere and I'll log in with my dev character and say, "Hey, I see you're hunting here. What do you think of this area? Pretty cool, right? What would you do to improve it?" Every week we sit down in meetings and go over all that feedback to decide what the next step is.

Do you see it as one of the advantages for a game like Asheron's Call that the community is very close-knit and focused, where you can reach out to those individual players?

Absolutely. Our community is comprised of some of the most passionate people that you'll ever meet in a gaming community. I've had the pleasure of going to several player gatherings and it absolutely amazes me how much they know -- how much passion they have for the games.

A lot of people will say, "You should do this!" because they're very selfish ... for the most part when making suggestions or feedback [our players'] goal is for the better of the game. They won't always say "I think you should do this because it'll make my life easier." Our players are more like, "If you do this, you'll get more players to play the game!"

They're always wanting to help us make the game better. I think that's a very unique thing in a community nowadays so I definitely look at that as a good thing.

How long have you been working on AC?

I have been working on AC in one capacity or another for almost 5 years. I was a player. I started playing in 2000 right after the game launched. When Turbine bought the rights back from Microsoft, I came in and started working on customer service for Asheron's Call and then moved into community and I do community and associate producing -- a little bit of everything.

I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for this game! Those nights that my wife wanted to kill me because it was 4:00 in the morning and I said, "I've got one more quest, honey -- one more quest! I've just gotta finish this." I can now look at her and say, "It was job training!"

How would you compare the game today to the way it was five years ago when you joined the project? What are some big changes that you'd point out?

More outdoor hunting. Smarter AI, as I mentioned earlier. More of the features that players like. The addition of tons of quests; that was another feedback point. They didn't necessarily not like the way quests went but they thought "maybe they could give better rewards."

"A lot of games hold the hand of the gamer too much now. For a lot of people that's fine, but we're all about freedom."

We listened to that so our reward structure became different. We now will reward more experience points.

Players want the freedom to change their templates. You get to a certain point where you decide "I don't like this guy!" so we put in the ability to -- in a quest fashion -- to go in and change their character. You can be a mage today and decide, "I don't want to be a mage anymore, I want to be a dagger character!" You can go in and wholesale swap out everything and start playing your dagger character. Our big thing is freedom. A lot of games hold the hand of the gamer too much now. For a lot of people that's fine, but we're all about freedom. You should have the choice of what your character does as it progresses.

And you should also get that "ding" factor every time you play. You should feel like you've accomplished something every time you play. If we're not holding the gamer's attention, they're not gonna keep playing. You play for an hour or two hours, then you go to your character panel and you say, "I accomplished something today! I put four points in my sword skill! That's fantastic!" And on top that, the loot system where no creature drops the same loot twice and you're always gonna be able to find better stuff. Not a lot of titles offer that now.

Thanks, we really appreciate it!

No problem!
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