What are lawyers good for? Pouring lemon juice on the open wounds of an MMO community desperately trying to hold on to the remnant of their closed game, apparently.
The closure of at least one Asheron’s Call emulator earlier this month was confirmed this week to be what many assumed: a cease-and-desist letter from Warner Bros. One of the main forces behind the emulator projects, a player named Pea, posted an account stating how he initially wrote to WB about the game’s closure and his growing involvement in the emulator scene.
Pea noted that prior the game’s shutdown, Turbine had released some information about the client that made creating emulators “significantly easier” from fans. He also assumed that WB did not care about the Asheron’s Call franchise and had abandoned it, which fed into the emulator projects taking root.
Just this week, a long-running Star Wars: The Old Republic
fan-made website mentioned that it was shutting down
, one among many that have come and gone since the launch of SWTOR
. I was just mentioning the other day to a friend how Darth Hater pretty much faded into nothing and how many of the old fan-shows and websites no longer exist. It seems to be a rare thing for creators to make content since the launch of the game, and it’s even rarer for them to have created it before
the game launched.
And now SWTOR-RP is shutting down, one of the last sites to have been reporting on SWTOR for over seven years. I know this because I was one of the three founders, and now the three of us remaining have decided it’s time to move on and let the site go.
So where does a SWTOR fan get content now? Are there still fansites that report on the latest news coming from BioWare Austin? I can hear Massively OP readers now: “Larry, your content is great and all, but I need more than a thousand words in Hyperspace Beacon every week.” And I hear you; I need more than that, too. So that’s why I’ve compiled another list of 10 podcasts, YouTube channels, and websites where I get my SWTOR information.
When Asheron’s Call shut down last winter following the spinoff of Standing Stone Games from Turbine, one of the few hopes the community had to cling to was the player-run emulator. Now, it appears those hopes have ended too.
Last night, Redditors began reporting an outage of what is known as the Megaduck emulator following a brief and unexplained system blast. Lest you suspect it’s merely tech issues or someone forgot to turn it back on again, players have further reported that the two administrators of the emulator have vanished and apparently deleted the websites and file hosting for the emulator as well.
It’s all led players to suspect a Turbine-emitted cease-and-desist order, although we cannot confirm that rumor. As we’ve previously pointed out, it’s still not clear exactly why the Asheron’s Call franchise wasn’t part of the spinoff deal; neither Turbine nor Standing Stone would comment at the time. Turbine has moved increasingly into the mobile space but nevertheless renewed the Asheron’s Call domains through 2022 in May – months after the sunset.
There is another emulator for the game, Fenntide, though it’s apparently struggling under the influx of newbies too.
Next Games, the company behind The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, recently announced an AR game based on the Walking Dead IP.
What’s interesting is that unlike Pokemon Go, the Walking Dead’s AR seems to be a key feature of gameplay, not an add-on, and it’s being marketed as such. Players will need to follow AR clues to find survivors and physically move around to find and combat zombies which may surround them. While that does seem highly engaging, I know I’ll have to worry about non-gamers reacting to AR weirdness in meat space, sort of like in Pokemon GO raiding situations in high-traffic areas.
In addition, comparing the demographics of The Walking Dead TV series to Pokemon GO player demographics reveals quite the overlap in terms of gender and age. Both have nearly equal appeal between the genders and primarily seem to attract people in their 20s and 30s. This means Niantic might actually have competition from another AR game based on a strong IP. It’ll be interesting to see how the community responds once The Walking Dead: Our World arrives.
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.
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?
League of Legends
will probably introduce non-straight characters eventually, a new interview on Polygon
with Riot Games’
Greg Street suggests. The publication asked Street questions about LGBT representation during GDC 2017, noting that Blizzard’s Overwatch
) has proven that it’s a hot topic and something millions of gamers want to see. League of Legends
currently has over 130 characters to Overwatch’s
24, but Street says that Riot has to be careful what it adds lest one region or another blockade the game.
“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.
Now more than a week following the closure of Asheron’s Call, the fight to save the game might only be heating up.
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.”
Warner Bros. and Turbine previously stated that it could not discuss Asheron’s Call until February 1st, but a hoped-for announcement has so far failed to materialize.