Gen Con 08: Turbine tells us what's in store for Asheron's Call

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At Gen Con, we spoke with Turbine's Andy Cataldo, the Community Manager for Asheron's Call, about the future of this historic game. Cataldo told us a lot about AC's epic 100th update. The update is coming within the next few weeks, and it's a doozy. According to Cataldo, AC players will get a whole new faction system, three land areas to battle over, tons of new loot and spells, and various other improvements to the game, particularly to enemy AI.

In addition to working its regular monthly event and patch schedule, Turbine is attempting to respond to player demand for a variety of new features in the 100th and all future updates. Particular emphasis is being placed on adding features common in modern MMOs, such as a quest tracking menu. AC has been around for almost ten years, so it has some catching up to do!

Learn more about Turbine's big push to modernize the game, add lots of new content, and more in the interview after the break.

How old is Asheron's Call at this point?

Asheron's Call in November will celebrate its 9th anniversary. So at 9 years we're still going strong. We still have thousands of players -- very passionate players! With the hundredth update we're basically going to be giving an expansion pack for free as a way of saying "thank you" to our players.

It's crazy to think that you're working on the 100th update. That's a lot of content over the years!

It is. We can proudly say we've added more content updates than any other game on the market today.

What's going into the 100th update?

We knew the event was coming up, so we said, "Okay, we're going to hit 100 this year, let's do something special!

"We can proudly say we've added more content updates than any other game on the market today"

So we went out and asked the players, "If we were going to give you guys an expansion pack with something special, what would you want?" And they said wanted elder game, they wanted land control, they wanted factions, they wanted new loot and spells. So we're giving them all of that.

There's a new faction system where you'll be able to choose good, bad, or neutral -- all based off of lore characters that anyone who's played the game for any length of time will recognize and know.

Our PvPers ... wanted something to fight over. So we're introducing three new land areas that they'll be able to fight over and control, and as they gain control they'll gain access to special loot and weapons that will benefit them and that nobody else will be able to get. They'll also get access to quests that nobody else will be able to get into without controlling the area.

So you'll have a reason. If your [faction] controls [the area], the other factions are going to want to come in and take over control so they can get it. And then they'll also want to fight everybody around there because they'll have all the special loot and weapons on them now. We're hoping to focus people in areas so they're not running around just in little skirmishes. We wanna see more of the large scale, full on assaults in these areas.

There are the level eight spells. We haven't done spell updates since Throne of Destiny, which was in 2005. So we figured it was time. And then we're putting in a whole new tier of loot which will be rewarded to players through either regular landscape hunting or completing tasks in the new faction system.

That's a lot of stuff!

Yes. I think just for the faction system alone, we're adding 30 new quests in this update and that's not counting any of the other stuff that's going in. We're still working on it as we speak. The dev team is hard at work. We didn't stop any content updates while we were working on this so we're doing both, so they're tired right now because we don't miss a month. Or we try not to.

How long has the 100th update been in development?

The 100th update has been in development now for about eight months. The team will do their content for whatever month they're working on, and then they'll spend a week or two doing something for the 100th update. As we got three or four months out, we just split a couple of guys off the team and totally dedicated them to working on the 100th update.

One of the cooler features that has been added in recently is now the creatures roam ... the AI is much more intelligent now. Which is something that was a player complaint. One of our goals now as we move forward with the 100th update and beyond is to get a lot of the features that modern MMOs have. So after the 100th update our next big project is to try to get a mail and banking system into the game, and a quest panel.

AC is kinda oldschool and hardcore in the way that you don't know what quest you're working on unless you just started it! The problem we run into with that is 100 content updates worth of content to try and port and a lot of the systems aren't cooperative to that.

It's a work in progress, and Turbine as a company is dedicated to moving forward with the game and keeping it going as long as possible.

Continue to Part 2 to read about AI improvements, the community, and character reconfiguration!

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