I sat down with Elite Dangerous Senior Designer Sandy Sammarco again at E3 2017, and while the information I’ve got in terms of game info may be a bit old hat for hardcore Elite players, I want to be clear on something: MMO players should take note of how Frontier is doing community events. Even if you aren’t interested in the game itself, the design strategies and execution are things that are reminding this jaded MMO-enthusiast about what got me into the MMO genre in the first place. I don’t really do space sims, and haven’t touched my VR for months (though I could probably hop on normal PC or PS4 versions), but my time with Sammarco has gotten me closer to hitting the “buy” button on the game.
Official Site: Asheron’s Call
Studio: Turbine, Inc./Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Launch Date: November 2, 1999
Sunset Date: January 31, 2017
Genre: Classic Fantasy Sandbox
Business Model: B2P (Maintenance Mode, One-Time Fee)
See Also: Asheron’s Call 2
It’s weird to think that it’s already been a few months since Asheron’s Call and its sequel were shut down by Turbine. Yet there’s a hint of a glimmer that the studio might not be done with its proprietary franchise, as Turbine renewed the Asheron’s Call domain name in April to stretch through June 2022. The registration was about to expire come this June.
OK, so before we get a little too giddy about a possibility for an Asheron’s Call resurrection or continuation of sorts, it’s much more likely that this is simply to protect the domain name that belongs to the studio’s only original IP. In other words, Turbine wouldn’t want someone else snagging Asheronscall.com and doing… something with it (currently, the website is down and the old URL doesn’t do anything).
Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.
“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.
“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”
Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
This week’s Massively Overthinking comes to us from Xijit — and I think you’ll agree it’s quite timely.
“In light of The Secret World getting reworked into more of a single-player or online-but-not-actually-an-MMO title, what other MMOs would you like to see downgraded from the full MMO format and turned into a single-player-focused or limited multiplayer title?”
I’d like to say I can speak for everyone and say NONE ZERO NEVER STOPPIT. But I bet our staff — and you — can probably think of a few MMOs that might be better suited for a different format. Let’s dive in to this pool full of poop jello and fight it out.
A couple of weeks ago, Justin and I fielded an epic podcast question from a listener (heya Josh!) about guild systems, specifically about the Asheron’s Call monarchy system. As far as we know, that specific system — a pyramid-like system of patrons and vassals whose social interactions created experience and benefits for everyone without the formal hierarchical structure of a stock guild — has never been fully duplicated. It’s a damn shame because it was amazing. Turbine solved the guild problem in 1999: Instead of dumping people into military-style guilds to be just another worker bee for the queen, it incentivized individual, personal relationships, upward and downward.
That got me wondering what else hasn’t ever been duplicated. It seems like it could be a pretty short list, as so many retro MMORPGs have popped up in the last few years promising to resurrect a ton of old-school features, good and bad. So you help me fill in the gaps: What’s the best old-school MMORPG feature that has never made a comeback?
“We owe it to the players and, I think, to the world to do something like that. […] What I don’t want to do is be like, ‘Okay, team, next character, whatever you do, has to be lesbian.’ I don’t think we’ll end up with something good there…. From the beginning, it has to be the character’s identity. I’m sure we’ll do it at some point. I don’t know which character or when it will happen.”
If and when it does happen, Street says, it’ll likely be in “storytelling outside the game.”
Blogger Tobold recently wrote a provocative piece on social play in MMOs, as pointed out to us by our dear tipster Sally. In a piece cheekily titled “Why I can live without other players in my games,” he writes that far from being the foundation or glue of MMOs, guilds are actually one of the worst bits of the genre, being platforms for selfishness and drama.
“Guilds were never designed for positive social interaction, they were always a means to an end of individual character progress. You needed those other people to get the most powerful gear in the game. And the way there wasn’t exactly a constant stream of friendship and happiness. Look at what MMORPG blog posts have been mostly about when talking about their guilds: First people complain if others aren’t investing as much as they do and become a hindrance to killing raid bosses, and then when the raid boss is finally dead they complain that somebody else got the loot.”
“The people most loudly complaining about the lack of other players being forced to play with them,” he finishes with a zinger that resonated most for me, “are the kind of people with the most predatory play styles.”
I’ve presented Tobold’s piece to our writers for this week’s Overthinking. Do they — and you — agree with his thesis? Let’s Overthink it.
Asheron’s Call is dead; long live Asheron’s Call!
While the long-running fantasy MMO went offline at the end of January, one fan is looking to keep its spirit alive in an interesting way. Redditor Zebideex heavily modified the Dungeons & Dragons player manual to be used as an Asheron’s Call sourcebook for tabletop campaigns. The author drew heavily from the Asheron’s Call wiki for its information and is continuing to update the manual.
“This will never be for sale and was created so my friends and I could run an AC campaign,” he posted.
Even though it’s been cobbled together from several other sources, it’s pretty neat to see that the spirit of Asheron’s Call endures in a different format.
Over on The True Saviors of Asheron’s Call, a non-sanctioned fan effort to preserve and restore the game via emulator has taken its first big step by backing up as much info as possible before the shutdown.
“Thanks to the MASSIVE amount of data that was collected over the last few weeks, our developers now have the means to hopefully re-create AC as close as possible to what we once knew and loved,” the site posted. “In the end, our valiant data miners were able to capture over 131 million packets containing over 224 million total game messages.”
Just before Christmas, we learned the sad news that Turbine would not be transferring Asheron’s Call and its revivified sequel to Standing Stone as part of its Daybreak deal. No, Turbine planned to sunset both games on January 31st along with their forums, which provoked outrage, attempts to save the games, and open distress from players and developers alike.
But now it’s done, and no last-minute reprieve or sale has materialized.
While it’s still fresh in our minds, I wanted to collect our streams, retrospectives, and community efforts all in one place. Enjoy.
It’s never a good thing when a game goes away, and today the MMOverse loses two. In a double whammy, both Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 are riding off into the sunset. To celebrate and commemorate all that the games were, Massively OP’s Andrew and MJ spending the final moments in both games. Tune in live at 10:00 a.m. to join them in bidding the games a final farewell.
Massively OP’s MJ really enjoyed her first foray into Asheron’s Call 2, but there are so many more places to explore. So what better thing to do before everything goes away than a mount quest so you can try to see even more of the world faster! Massively OP’s Andrew convinced MJ that there’s a doable quest for a mount that mostly likely doesn’t involve many deaths. We think. Join us live at 9:00 p.m. as the two hoof it through more AC2 adventures.
What: Asheron’s Call 2
Who: Andrew Ross & MJ Guthrie
When: 9:00 p.m. EST on Monday, January 30th, 2017
Enjoy the show!
As Asheron’s Call 1 & 2 are going offline shortly, I thought I might give it a final send-off with a list of things I learned from the series. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I really did grow up in Dereth. Some kids get their life lessons from sports, girl/boy scouts, farm life, church life, alien abduction camp life, and so on, but I learned a lot with the help of the AC series and the people I played with. I’ll focus on 10 life lessons learned from the Asheron’s Call series, but trust me, it’s more than that.