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Turbine, Inc. | Official Site
MMORPG | Genre:Fantasy | Status:Final  (rel 11/01/99)  | Pub:Turbine, Inc.
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Asheron's Call Interviews: Why It Still Calls

By Garrett Fuller on December 20, 2011

MMORPG.com:

Asheron's Call has just passed the 12 year mark, Congrats! Can you talk about the game's longevity?

Robert Ciccolini:

Asheron's Call has many features that make it stand out from other traditional MMOs. The game play has action based elements and real time dodging that reward player skill. The world does not rely on typical fantasy elements and has a rich treasure system that rewards both group play and solo play. These unique game elements have attracted a passionate player base over the past 12 years. Many players continue to play Asheron's Call because they cannot find these designs and features in other MMO.

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MMORPG.com:

What ares ome of your favorite parts about working on the game?

Robert Ciccolini:

One big joy of working on Asheron's Call is the passionate player base. The players like to keep us on our toes. It is also satisfying to be able to experience many different aspects of game development. Traditional teams tend towards highly specialized roles. The Asheron's Call team relies on team members who are knowledgeable in a variety of different game development roles.

MMORPG.com:

The community which has lasted for many years seems to have an active voice in shaping the game. Can you tell us how you work with them to improve the game?

Robert Ciccolini:

We work to encourage and respond to player feedback. We have special forum threads for players called "A Day of Dev's Time" that encourage the players to suggest small updates that take a day of our time. In essence we ask the question "what change would you make if you were a dev for one day?" We take the best suggestions and try to implement them.

For February, with the potential changes to character builds that weapon skills and the additional melee skills represent we posted our design early to get player feedback while we had enough time to make significant changes. As player feedback was gathered we presented players with different proposal options based on that feedback to try to represent as many different viewpoints as possible. The final design is the direct result of that discussion. Once we develop these features we will continue to gather player feedback from our test server so we can fine tune the changes and really improve the options and play of a variety of different characters.

MMORPG.com:

You are working on some updates to balance Racial skills in the game. Tell us how you came to this decision?

Robert Ciccolini:

The decision to update the racial skills came, again, from player feedback. Players have long had the concern that some of the original races did not have good racial skills and those original choices prevented them from being balanced. Long term players did not like the fact that their original characters, some over a decade old, might not be able to achieve the same balance as other characters with more advantageous race choices. Our goal with this design change is to fix that imbalance.

MMORPG.com:

You also made changes to the Weapons tables. Did the Community have a lot to say about these changes?

Robert Ciccolini:

Our goal with melee updates, including a revamp of existing skills and the introduction of brand new skills, was to give melee players more options for both building characters and playing them. We knew that weapon skill revamps and the addition of new skills would change existing templates and require weapons to be updated. It is for that reason we sought player feedback as early in the process as possible.

The community was involved with the design from the beginning. Originally we had melee weapon skills consolidated into two skills, for example, with a special Mastery that would allow players to focus on one weapon type. That design turned into several different proposals, and the final proposal actually has three base melee skills derived specifically from player feedback; Heavy Weapons, Light Weapons and Finesse Weapons. The process of evolving the design based on player feedback involved at least five major proposals and over a hundred total pages of player feedback to help shape the changes.

MMORPG.com:

What is it like developing and managing a game twelve years after its release?

Robert Ciccolini:

The hardest part of managing and developing an older game is bringing improvements to the game without disenfranchising the players. This can be a difficult balance to achieve. Keeping the game exciting demands new features and revisions. With an audience as diverse as our Asheron's Call community, there is a wide variety of opinions about what makes the game fun. Gathering player feedback and turning that into a design that represents the best interests of the players can be difficult.

MMORPG.com:

Many MMOs hope to reach this level of depth in their lifecycle. Do you have any tips on keeping the player base happy and active?

Robert Ciccolini:

We endeavor to have our long term plan provide something for everyone. We want the players to feel that even though one update might not have something that appeals to them, a future update will likely do so. Our goal is to have a series of small updates which, in total, engage as many players as possible.

MMORPG.com:

What is around the corner for Asheron's Call? Can you give us some insight into future plans for the game?

Robert Ciccolini:

We continue to provide the players with monthly updates containing all sorts of goodies. Our next big update will be February. In addition to our normal monthly content, this update will have a melee weapon revamp, new skills for melee based characters, a few new skills for missile based characters, and Lugians as the new playable race.

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