You'd think recent news about Asheron's Call 1 and AC2 would be easy to swallow. After all, we'd already been warned that Turbine was becoming a mobile company. We lived through the end of AC1 updates and a desire to give players the chance to host their own servers. Heck, AC2 had died and resurrected. We've been living on borrowed time, but anything seemed possible. Despite the fact that Turbine's games were squeaking by (when not getting cancelled), I thought that fan power would lead the company to see what it'd done right (innovating MMOs) and where it had failed (straying from monthly updates and GM lead content).
Clearly I was wrong.
The impending loss of Asheron's Call -- and Asheron's Call 2 again -- hit the MMORPG community pretty hard when the sunsets were announced yesterday, even though a lot of us saw it coming. The late reveal that WB/Turbine won't be releasing the servers to the community was salt in the wound... powdered quartz in the vitae, if you will.
We thought those of you feeling all the feels might like a trip down memory lane -- thankfully, our very own Game Archaeologist can help. Justin's penned several long-form pieces over the last year covering the history of the venerable franchise. Enjoy, and remember.
The Game Archaeologist: Asheron's Call - It's hard being the youngest child -- you get the hand-me-downs, suffer through swirlies by older siblings, and eventually develop such a neurosis that it requires seven different brands of…
The Game Archaeologist: Asheron's Call 2 - MMO sequels are funny animals. Sequels (along with prequels and "reimaginings") are ingrained into the entertainment industry so deep that it makes sense that MMO studios would follow suit. And…
The Game Archaeologist talks to the Asheron's Call super-fan - A little while back, I received a rather passionate email from Massively OP reader Diego regarding Asheron's Call. He had quite a lot to say about the game's current and…
I'm sorry to report that Turbine announced today that it will be sunsetting Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2 as part of the transition revealed yesterday that will see Turbine's other MMORPGs migrated to the new independent studio.
"It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the end of our support for Asheron's Call and Asheron’s Call 2, and will close both services on January 31st, 2017. This decision did not come easy, and we know this is disappointing for many of you. This game is a labor of love, and it's not easy for us to bring it to an end. We have had a phenomenally long run; one of the longest in the world of MMORPGs, and that in and of itself is a spectacular feat. We are proud of our legacy, and the entire Asheron's Call team has been honored to adventure with you for nearly twenty years. We thank you very much for being a part of it. It’s been an amazing run. You’ve done Asheron Realaidain proud. Between now and January 31st, 2017, the game will remain available to play, completely free, for any player currently with an account. New account creation will be disabled."
Players will recall that this is not the first time Asheron's Call 2 has sunsetted; Turbine originally closed it in 2003 due to poor reception but reopened it in 2012. Classic Asheron's Call has been in maintenance mode alongside its younger sibling since 2014.
Eleven years ago this week, the New Game Enhancements patch descended on Star Wars Galaxies, forever changing the trajectory of the game, SOE, and maybe even sandbox MMORPGs in general by completely uprooting the character development process of the MMO and gutting beloved professions, not to mention breaking essential pieces of the game's crafting economy. The ensuing fallout caused a mass-exodus from the game, tarnished gamer trust in SOE, and guaranteed that we'd still be talking about it more than a decade later. And though I've long argued that the game that sunsetted in 2011 was as far removed from the NGE as the NGE was from the game that launched in 2003, I'm first in line to declare that the NGE implemented in 2005 was an unmitigated disaster.
For this edition of Massively Overthinking, I don't want to talk about Star Wars Galaxies' NGE. I want to talk about all the other NGEs in MMORPG history -- all those other massive patches and updates and expansions that shattered or altered an MMO so fundamentally that gamers never looked at it the same way again and indeed considered it irreparably ruined. What's the most brutal NGE (that wasn't that NGE) that you can think of? That's the question I posed to our writers this week.
MOP's Justin Olivetti created the music-centered Jukebox Heroes column back on Massively-that-was and brought it along to us here, and to this day it's one of my favorites. It's also one of our most contentious, which might seem weird since it covers not pay-to-win or crowdfunding or internet warlords but... music. Video game music. It turns out that you folks have incredibly strong opinions about your video game music, and not a top 10 list of tracks goes by when Justin isn't barraged with "you forgot X" and "why isn't Y on this list" and "obviously bias, doesn't include X" commentary.
So for this week's Massively Overthinking, we're turning the whole team's attention to video game music -- specifically, MMORPG soundtracks and individual pieces. Which ones are our very favorites? Which ones do we keep on listening to long after we've left the games? We're confident you'll populate the comments with everything we're missing!
Following the news that Niantic is not in fact working on a Harry Potter AR game, I realized that even as someone who enjoyed the first three books and most of the latter movies, I don’t think the Wizarding World would quite work well as an AR game. Though I'm spending far too much time with it at the moment, I know Pokemon Go would be a textbook example of what not to do with a game if it weren't for its IP power. The thing is, Pokemon works on several levels: It's something people grew up with and played together. It has a very international world. And sure, maybe the Harry Potter Go story was believable because it was a big IP with “Go” attached to the end, but realistically, I could barely imagine the game.
There are other implementations, however, that I cannot not only imagine but crave.
MOP's MJ tackled this topic once before and focused on two MMO IPs -- The Secret World and EverQuest/Landmark -- and how they could tie ARGs back to themselves, something that even Nintendo hasn't shown signs of doing (they can't even manage to ship their accessories on time). So instead, I want to focus on older, everyday-life, internationalized IPs, and I’ve got a few ideas I’m willing to give away to any big CEOs that may happen to visit our site, free of charge!
A little while back, I received a rather passionate email from Massively OP reader Diego regarding Asheron's Call. He had quite a lot to say about the game's current and troubled state, and he was hoping that I would write up a piece on it as a result.
Instead, I invited him to sit down and talk about the game, especially considering that he was a long-time player of Asheron's Call, a beta tester for both AC titles, and involved in the fan site community. At the core of the discussion was his opinion that Asheron's Call was Turbine's greatest creation and the studio's hope for a return to MMO excellence.
Last Friday's WildStar news made me sad. I'm sad because there are two games at war within that title. One of them is a charmingly flexible sandpark; the other one is what I think our dear editor is thinking of when she calls the game World of Warcraft But They're In Space, since it launched with all of the worst parts of WoW's endgame from its original launch without much to improve upon the formula. I really like the former part of the game.
Whenever we wind up with a title in that state, of course, people ask a simple question: Why doesn't the studio just do a reboot? It worked really well for Final Fantasy XIV, which went from an industry punchline to a success story that's still building momentum. So why don't more studios just reboot MMOs that aren't working?
The answer is that it's not that easy. And it can conveniently be broken down into several bullet points for this particular column. So let's get to it.
MMO sequels are funny animals. Sequels (along with prequels and "reimaginings") are ingrained into the entertainment industry so deep that it makes sense that MMO studios would follow suit. And yet these types of games -- with their ever-growing nature and heavy involvement with loyal playerbases -- are not always conducive to such projects. More often than not, a sequel to an online game becomes its predecessor's main competition, which is not a desirable outcome for the studio.
Perhaps back in the early 2000s, studios simply didn't know better. There's good evidence that the typical "hit video games need a sequel" mindset ran rampant across the industry, from the multiple attempts at Ultima Online 2 to the release of the don't-call-it-a-sequel sequel of EverQuest II. Perhaps developers didn't realize that MMO players didn't necessarily want to be uprooted and moved to a new game every few years.
While sequels, spin-offs and remakes are still present, the genre learned a hard lesson with Asheron's Call 2: Fallen Kings in the first half of the decade. Asheron's Call was a minor success for Microsoft and Turbine, and a sequel -- with vastly improved graphics and deeper gameplay -- seemed like a logical next step. Unfortunately, it was a Greek tragedy in the making, destined for a short but memorable life in our world.
No MMO can be in the spotlight eternally. Even some of the biggest names out there -- your World of Warcrafts, your Guild Wars 2s, your Star Stables -- wax and wane in the amount of press and attention they get depending on what they're doing and how well their PR department is functioning.
It doesn't take much for a title to fall off of practically everyone's radar. In some cases it's merely a matter of passing time and slipping popularity, but in others it's just that the game or its marketing team hasn't done anything of note in a long, long time. So that's when you get MMOs that, when mentioned, cause the listener to cock an eyebrow and say, "Huh. That's still around?"
Today we're going to look at 10 such titles -- not to demean them or laugh at some misfortune but to call attention to MMOs that are still humming along even though they're not headlining news or ripping up Steam charts.
If you're anything like me, when you get to the max level in a game, there's a general flailing of hands and a feeling of inner stupidity that go along with the thought of "what do I do now?"
That's why I'm deeply and profoundly grateful for Asmiroth, who put together two incredibly helpful guides to WildStar's endgame PvE gearing and rune system. Seriously, he's doing all of the heavy 'splaining that the game should've done in the first place. It's quite straight-forward and useful, which are two qualities that I find attractive in a blog post.
If WildStar isn't your jam, don't worry. Today's blog tour includes stops at Asheron's Call 2, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars 2, among others!
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. See any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
This week we discover KingsIsle's newest game, spot hidden Easter eggs in Overwatch, open EVE Online's doors to Mac users, pimp out our ARK dinos, and more!
Most everyone who knows me well will acknowledge that I'm not generally a cynical, dark person. I'm not rooting for games to fail, for the industry to crash, for developers to be banished to the wastelands for their sins, or for the cultural return to Parcheesi. So while you might read the title of today's piece as rather grim, understand that this is more a public service announcement than a cantankerous gamer dancing on the yet-to-be-dug graves of online RPGs.
Every MMO will die, and some of those much sooner than others. Right now there are seven games that are probably not long for this world, although in this industry you never quite know, do you? But if you have any interest in the following titles, I would recommend getting in to play them now -- before it's too late and you end up posting tear-laden nostalgia pieces on Reddit, wishing for one more day in that world. OK, that might be too grim. I'm not saying that all of these are on the verge of being shut down but that they're operating on borrowed time and have a very uncertain future.