From AGC – Thursday October 27th, 2005
On the night before AGC I got the chance to talk to David Bowman, CEO and creative director of Horizons: Empire of Istaria. With many events and updates in the works, players will be kept on their toes with an influx of content and contests. David also hinted at a big announcement that he will reveal at GenCon.
Last year, for one weekend near Halloween, the land of Istaria celebrated the Fall Festival. This was a ‘trick or treat’ event where players could visit various NPCs, some of which would give them special candy, which in turn could be exchanged for masks. The Fall Festival is an annual event now; this is its second year of celebration, and it has become a much larger event. The Festival now lasts four weeks and has tons of side quests, unique items, special festival grounds, and a high-end boss in addition to the old traditions.
The Fall Festival grounds are located between the human city of Dalimond and the draconic city of Chiconis. The area is decorated with uncarved pumpkins and other half-constructed decorations; the players have to help make sure the area is set up and decorated. NPCs (in costume, even) wait in tents to sell unique and new foods/recipes, as well as give special quests. The area is also inhabited by spooky spiders, ghosts, and other halloweeny villains. Also in the Fall Festival area is a crypt where more NPCs wander. When you interact with them, they tell ghost stories written and submitted by Horizons players.
Like last year players can obtain masks, both through ‘trick or treating’ and through some of the quests that the special NPCs give. This time, though the masks are even more unique; all of the masks were made by players and submitted through a contest. Players can also receive full body costumes that change the appearance of your character for as long as they are worn (i.e. a gnome wearing a skeleton costume would look like a skeletal gnome).
For the higher end players, there’s another special surprise that Bowman did not want to spoil just yet. Let’s just say that a new challenge is roaming the world of Istaria, a powerful creature who is angry about the “mocking” holiday. The rewards for taking him down are well worth the effort.
Meanwhile, there’s another event in progress, a more long-term event helping high level crafters by unlocking a formula that outdates the lengthy but until now necessary transmuting to create high level materials. In this event, players must help rebuild cenotaphs to release souls imprisoned inside of them. Each cenotaph unlocks one high level construction material (with some exceptions).
October also saw some important updates to Horizons, and November will see even more. Most exciting, dragon lairs have been added to the game, though are not yet buyable. Auctions are in the process on the test server, and will move to live soon, but for now dragon players can check out the locations and pick their property. There are 331 dragon lairs so far, and more will be added in later updates. Once purchased, dragons can learn Lair Shaping and use Azulyte crystals to build their lairs.
While bipeds have had player housing longer than dragons, the lairs will take it to a new level — literally. Land plots, until now, occupied the 2D surface of the landscape. The latest update extended land plots into the third dimension; the plots now extend downward 600 ft, as the lairs are built underground. Lair rooms, which can be small hallways or Grand Halls up to 96 x 96 x 96, can overlap in the underground area, providing dragons with a huge amount of space to build in.
When a player first buys their lair and lays out the plans, the mouth of their lair is blocked by a wall of crystal. Lair Shaping is the art of carving a lair out of that crystal by adding components such as metal, stone, gems, crystal, and essence. Any player, provided they are a member of the Lair Shaping school (and thus a dragon), can work on lairs. Not only does this provide them with experience, but lair owners can offer coin to anyone who contributes to the lair. Lairs were also included in guild housing; lairs were added some of the old guild communities as well as two new lair-only communities.
Less exciting but perhaps more important, the game client has also been improved with a smaller memory footprint. This means the game will take up less memory, so less lag!
Last of all, Bowman told me what the near future of Horizons promised. Confectioners will be entirely redone so that they are more fun and have more to do and more advancement to gain. In addition, the biped tutorial is on its way sometime in November.
Horizons is also finally adding some of their long promised features. Crystals are being reintroduced to the game. When the game launched, crystals could be used to enhance weapons, but their improvements were tiny (i.e. +1 or +2 damage). Seven hundred new crystals are being added with different effects, many of which are percentile based so that they scale up. Once everything else is complete they will begin work on The War, the backstory high end content for adventurers.
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