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Convention Coverage: GenCon 1999 -- Wrapup
Dates:Thursday, August 5th through Sunday, August 8th
Location: Midwest Express Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Event Management: Wizards of the Coast
Required System:Your feet and a willingness to have some fun.
Author:Michael Ahlf      Date: August 15th1999
Page: 1

Preview #3: Asheron's Call

Publisher: Microsoft

Asheron's Call, by Turbine Entertainment (to be published my Microsoft), is a challenger to Sony's Everquest, the online RPG. It features INCREDIBLE player customization in the appearances of the player character, with clothing customizability, an overwhelming array of facial customizability, and more. In addition, the game features some incredible new elements which aim to get veteran players to include newer players and which allow RPG players and non-RPG people alike to get into the game and enjoy it in their own fashion. With several worlds planned to run over MSN Gaming Zone, the game looks to have a large "community" banner hung over it. Hopefully the effort put into roleplaying and interaction/social work as opposed to other methods will make the game come alive.

The Storyline:While I didn't get much, expect this: Asheron's Call features its own storyline, with 2,000 years of history written down (a novel in and of itself will come with the game, for players who want the FULL history to read).

The Character Classes/Races:Asheron's Call features all human players, with three distinct "heritage groups" (cultures) that players are able to choose, and to follow the customs of or not as they desire.
  • Aluvians: These are an individualistic culture: they are big on Justice and Fairness, and are also warlike/aggressive.

  • Gharu'ndim: They favor knowledge and trade over war and bloodshed.

  • Sho: They are a society valuing duty and self-discipline.

  • Keep in mind that these are SUGGESTIONS: just like in real life, players can be any type and of any society (Aluvian thieves would be extremely possible, for example).
    Meanwhile, players can make themselves appear EXACTLY as they want: there are over 60 million facial combinations alone, with the different eye, nose, mouth, skin pigment, hair, and other options available. The clothing is equally adjustable -- and remember, if you bring a weapon to hand, it appears on your character for others to see.

    The Engine:Players can jump into the engine as deeply (or not) as they prefer: the engine is skill-based (over 35 skills, and no you will NOT get good at everything), and new players can use a cookie-cutter system to suggest their choices while experienced users can customize as they wish (so can newbies -- they only get a suggestion, not a defined character). New players can also enter "tutorial dungeons", safe places to practice their skills and use of the engine before they run off to go fight monsters in the "real" game world.

    Meanwhile, the map and graphics are incredible -- there are many start locations, to make the world seem smaller, but at the same time: the world is over 500 miles across with NO level load times: if players want they can literally run a marathon over it without pause (although this may take a while: remember it's over 500 miles to run). Emotions on faces and body language are usable and readable, and the windows in buildings will be real as well (care to snipe somebody from the bell tower in a village? Go ahead!).

    The Fighting System: Players can make ENORMOUS changes to their fighting, with a range from quick but low power attacks to large, slow, massively damaging attacks. They can also direct the attacks -- very important since the armor system is piecemeal, and while punching an armored enemy in the chest may earn pain, a haymaker to his unprotected jaw is capable of laying him out. Fighting styles themselves are more limited -- each weapon has its own, which the player may or may not be well versed in (make sure the skill is decent in the character's weapon of choice for maximum effectiveness).

    The Magic system: Spells in Asheron's Call can be both beneficial or negative, usable to aid party members as well as hurt enemies. Spell components must be collected and used for spells, and spells can be designed by careful mixing of components and researching the spell creation language in the game (experimentation is always good). In addition, the more times a spell is used, the weaker it is -- so posting your spells on the 'Net is a good way to deplete your power. This makes the game more interesting: not only do players need to know their spells, they need to watch what others are using to determine if their spells are powerful (one week Fireball of Doom may be in demand and useless, but once everybody abandons it it'll get strong again, and the new "favorite" will weaken to uselessness quickly).

    Allegiance: This is a new one, designed to bring new players quickly into the fold. Some items in the game require a player to have a certain number of followers. Followers swear allegiance to someone, in exchange for help. If a high-level player's favorite sword requires him to have 80 followers in order for it to obey him, he has to recruit -- in other words, gain allies. Allegiance also causes experience sharing -- a player with many followers will level up quickly, as he sends experience to them at a certain rate but they send to him as well, in far greater numbers. New players can expect to barter for hints with Allegiance, giving them a tool right off to learn the game and encouraging the veterans to help out and not just hang out in the game on their own. Player Killing: while regarded as a necessary evil, the game makes PK'ers learn how to play first. In order to become a player killer, one must (a) reach a certain level and (b) go on a quest (that's right, a QUEST) to earn that right. Once this is done, player killers can interact with other characters just as they did before, except that they can attack and kill other player killers. Non-PK players will still be off-limits. In addition, the death code changes. For non-PK'ers, death causes the loss of one item per 10 levels, and half the player's gold, with an additional (temporary) penalty to stats, which regenerates over time. PK'ers, on the other hand, are hurt twice as bad -- loss of one item per 5 levels or experience, ALL their gold, and a heftier (temporary) loss in stats.

    In Short: Watch this game -- it's shaping up to challenge EverQuest head on.

    Back to the main wrapup page.

    Gencon '99

    Added:  Sunday, August 15, 1999
    Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf

    Page: 7/10

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