With the recent announcement of Crayta coming to PCs, I was reminded of some discussions on the Asheron’s Call subreddit about making a battle royale fan server. While I’ve always hoped fan would generate AC-themed projects, I also wonder whether recycling assets might be a cost-effective way for WB Games (which still owns the franchise) to test the real-world viability of the series.
Now, before anti-battle royale brigaders light their torches and march on my virtual cottage, let me admit that I am not a battle royale fan either, and when it first occurred to me as a possibility, even I didn’t like the idea. But then I did a little thinking and considered not only the benefits but how such a game might fit into the lore.
In terms of actual game development, a super simple solution would be to take either AC1 or 2 (as the sequel’s aesthetics are less dated and could attract a wider audience) and put players on one of the maps’ many islands. I’m sure devs could create time-based triggers to cast, say, a modified Bael’Zharon’s Demon Fists to rain boulders down on people as the traditional “mists” that kill players outside the zone of action. Mobs, especially AC2’s dragon-like tyrants, could be useful as well to “softly” enforce a danger-zone, though I believe players could trick mobs into attacking each other (a holdover from the highly aggressive and intelligent AI in beta that literally created roaming packs to recruit fellow mobs and attack players or fight each other).
As Redditors noted, one difference could be having more mobs on the field. As AC was always more about treasure hunting than preformed loot, setting all characters to a maximum level (probably with pre-set builds, possibly with players able to choose a few skills during the match) and arranging loot tables to grant max level items would give it a fun spin. Think of it kind of like Guild Wars 2’s structured PvP.
Now, that would technically be functional, but how long until it would get boring? What would be the overall progression system that keeps players coming back? One reason I suggested AC2 assets is that the sequel MMO had factions with unlockable abilities based on player rank. Turbine put in a way to increase rank with items, so I wonder if there could be reasonable tools in place so that – depending on well a player does – he could receive rewards that would help him unlock abilities in future matches even if there’s no way for WB Games to easily make Faction Points carry over on entire accounts or maps.
For example, the game could essentially create a FFA zone on an island that players must enter via portals. As with vaults, you must have a key, but each key would be non-tradeable and would be sent to a player character once upon log-in for each “match.” Upon entering the portal, each player could be forced into/merged with a fellowship (party), and a theoretical WB Games could turn off the recruitment and kick options. Have the respawn button (or forced respawn) instead trigger an item granting trigger based on the number of players left in the gameworld before sending the players out to the shared overworld they’re bound to. Naturally, if any other items/progress need to be adjusted, those should be stripped before the player receives their progression item, and for good measure, have it automatically consumed upon respawn. The original game did have a fairly good built-in macro system that WB Games could make use of and lock players out of for easier hand-waving.
As for victory, several minutes into the match could trigger a requirement that the world population in that area needs to fall to one fellowship (or even just to one player, forcing the fellows to turn on each other), at which point a lever could spawn, granting the survivor the ultimate prize and possibly more before sending him out to the next match.
In a sense, it would be similar to Crowfall, where you have a character in a persistent world, but you select the virtual “world” to log into for battles. Matches could progress with slow-moving “mist” to last as long as it might be fun, or force matches to end within minutes. Think about how Fortnite went from, well, PvE Crowfall to kiddie PUBG and now basically defines the BR genre. I’m not saying an Asheron’s Call 2 resurrection as a BR would do the same, but I wish WB Games had gambled on something like this to try out out-Crowfall Crowfall before it really hits the ground.
Great, so we have a general idea of a simple kind of post-match progression that carries over, but what of the larger game? How could WB Games move forward with minimal investment? This is where we could tackle things from a lore perspective.
While I’m sure WB Games could just reuse the assets and give the game a whole new name, I’ve previously discussed why it might be a bit easier to keep what’s there. The short version? It was modern before modern games, so many choices in setting, race, characterization, and gender (among other factors) would land even better than some games that have come out in the past few years.
What’s more is that it’s fairly expansive. An AC BR could be said to take place before the first game, back on Ispar, as the human characters had geopolitical wars that matched our own. But if we’re going for simplicity’s sake, I can think of two options: AC 1.5, maybe in the days leading up to “The Last Battle” (summarized above) or, if I’m missing a lore point, AC 2.1.
An AC 1.5 could be explained as a kind of time loop players are stuck in during the mystical cataclysm between the two games that forced the sentient races underground. We saw some defenders stuck as ghosts and even had server quests where ghosts essentially took over towns because their souls were stuck fighting past battles. Clean and easy out!
Conversely, the game could be an AC 2.1. As the past game had players return to the shelters again, maybe some people stayed outside like last time, perhaps still fighting for their factions (freedom-loving Shadows, hive-mind Virindi, and republic-esque Asheron’s Order made up those Elemental Emissaries the old coot was so fond of), trying to duke it out and sway the layout of the land for AC3, should there ever be enough interest to support it. I mean, if Splatoon can do events that determine the fate of a sequel, why can’t ol’ AC do it?
The initial release could simply be based on the original three player races, level 50 cap/abilities (though with the most recent balance changes), and a few maps. Since this is Asheron’s Call, devs could possibly make each “season” a kind of voting competition, where winners cast their victory lever pull for certain changes. Maybe WB Games could let winners choose which old feature it’ll allow to be unlocked, like a sub-set of traits or adding a new player race (especially if using AC1 assets). On the other hand, it could also restrict it to lore, with maybe some end-of-season “parties” that make the lore progress, such as a faction leader appearing in-game or a map being cycled out and considered “taken over” by a faction.
Is there any chance WB Games is going to do this? Nope. But the pieces are clearly there if somebody over there wanted to pull a free IP out of storage. I haven’t mentioned anything either game didn’t already have triggers for, and we have seen other successful games do this, though nobody’s expecting AC to take over a major genre. But as long as WB Games isn’t willing to sell the IP, this could be a very low cost and reasonable way to use assets it already has – or perhaps an outline for fans to start with if they decide to make their own project.