Posted by Stropp on
February 26, 2014
First of all, don’t panic, Asheron’s Call is not going offline. In fact today’s announcement by Turbine appears to guarantee the future of the game, only perhaps somewhat restricted, I’ll get to that in a sec.
What is happening is that Asheron’s Call is, after the February content patch is deployed, going into maintenance mode according to this forum post by Severlin.
This means that any future updates will only contain bug and security fixes, and perhaps some minor itemization updates. But no new story.
AC is unique in MMORPGs as it has each and every month since it was released on the 2nd of November, 1999 been given a story update. These updates have added new monsters, dungeons, items, and quests (though not always all of these each month.) I don’t know of any game that has achieved that.
So yes, sadly, it’s the end of an era.
Having said that, the announcement also states that the game is going Free for all active accounts, meaning that there may be no way to create a new account after this update goes live.
If we allow new any accounts the keys would be limited distribution. This isn’t to drum up last minutes subs, it’s because we won’t have the capacity to ramp up the server hardware to handle a potential flood of players jumping into the game if it is completely open. — Severlin
If you are interested in playing this game (or Asheron’s Call 2) I suggest you create a new account, quickly, and start playing. You may not get another chance.
There is also mention of allowing players to run their own servers, with the team working on that. It looks like there is a bit of work needed to separate account servers from the login servers. I imagine the code for various functions when the game was created was somewhat intertwined, and probably hasn’t changed all that much (as code is wont to do.)
With that news, the future of the game is assured. Even if Turbine take the servers offline at some time in the future, there should be enough private servers around to take up the slack.
Of course this makes me wonder if the oft rumored Asheron’s Call 3 is in the pipeline.
Posted by Stropp on
January 24, 2014
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype machine when a new game gets announced. The tendency for players is to ‘own’ the game, sometimes even before all the features are known, which is exactly what the developers want. Having players fully invested in an upcoming game is a sure way to make sales.
Unfortunately this can have bad consequences, especially when the developers announce that features will be cut, or that the game will include or exclude systems that a player likes or wants.
So it’s important for players to recognise when a game is not for them.
For me, there’s a couple of ‘recent’ announcements where, after looking at them, I can see that the game isn’t my cup of tea.
Firstly, there’s Camelot Unchained. The game actually sounded interesting at first, until I noted that it was PvP only, with no PvE. Don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoy a little PvP from time to time, but not all the time. In the Bartle Test I rank as Explorer/Achiever/Socializer/Killer (in that order) so if there’s nothing to do outside of Killer, then the game is not for me.
Similarly, Pantheon. That’s the big news at the moment isn’t it? After looking at what Brad McQuaid is aiming at here, I have to wonder if this game is for me either. All the features, somewhat generic, seemed okay until I read about the emphasis on grouping. Brad does seem to be saying that in order to get anywhere I’ll be forced to group.
Now don’t get me wrong, as with PvP I’m not against grouping. I do enjoy it, when with the right group. My Everquest 2 guild and I (with my Troll SK Bargearse) did lots of small group dungeoneering. But I often find myself playing in the Aussie timezones when my international friends are sleeping, so it is important to be able to do things by myself.
And frankly, that is something I miss in modern MMOs that existed in my first game, Asheron’s Call. I could run a dungeon solo if my character was powerful enough. Sure, there were the big dungeons: the Lugian Citadel, the Olthoi caves that swarmed with foes, but these dungeons were often filled with players too, meaning that a solo player could venture in and join others without necessarily being in a group. And then of course there were other the dungeons at Holtburg, Glendon Wood, the Drudge House, etc.
There are a couple of other things about Pantheon that make me wary, but these don’t really have much to do with the game-play; more about the management team, so not really the focus of this article, that’s for another day.
So anyway, if a game isn’t for me then what to do?
Should I bitch and moan about it?
I have done that in the past. The early days of Star Wars Galaxies development the devs talked a lot about starting a Jedi, and being able to build your own light sabre. Man, was I looking forward to that. Towards the end, Jedi was off the table as a starter character, and faced the dreaded permadeath and being targeted by other players wanted or not. Boy, did that leave a bad taste.
The same with Star Trek online when the devs announced that the Klingon PCs wouldn’t be available at launch. I whinged about that too.
Still, I reckon now that shows a bit of the old entitlement mentality, and if there’s anything we gamers have going for us, it’s that feeling of entitlement.
Maybe in the old days when new MMORPG’s were far and few between there was some justification for feeling that way, especially if the devs had made (somewhat grandiose) promises and had raised player hopes, but these days with so many games to choose from rather than getting bent out of shape it’s better to follow or play something else.
What do you think, do you feel that sense of ownership over an upcoming game entitles you to be upset when it turns out different than you expect, or not?
Posted by Stropp on
July 16, 2013
Wilhelm has a post up at TAGN where he makes the following observation:
MMOs have become pizza. They vary a bit from vendor to vendor. You might not like the ingredients from one, and another might not keep their place very clean. But they are all round and share about the same set of toppings and what not. And if you like pizza, you will probably find a place that suits you.
The purpose of Wilhelms post is to share his past ideas about Pizza, err, MMOs; but tangentially my brain works. And it provides a nice little stepping point for an idea that’s been circulating around that confused maze of neural pathways that is my head for a little while now.
I like Pizza. Quite a lot actually. A good pizza is something to behold, and it’s probably one of the most popular takeaways/deliveries here in Australia and has been for years.
But, I don’t want Pizza every night. I like variety. I love Indian food too. Add to that Thai, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Sushi, BBQ Chicken & Chips, and all sorts of cuisines. I have wide tastes in nearly everything. But I find if I indulge in anything too much I get sick of it, and sometimes simply can’t stand the thought of it anymore. That’s only temporary of course, and I find myself coming back and ordering Pizza again, but usually months later.
So, what’s the point of all this? As Wilhelm says, MMORPGs these days are Pizza. Nearly every MMORPG running today operates off the same principles, and has the same features.
It kind of reminds me when I was growing up. Adelaide during the 70′s and early 80′s didn’t have much variety in fast food. There were the Pizza places, Chinese restaurants were popular, and the standard fast food joints (fish and chip shops that specialized in fried food, and some Yiros places.) It wasn’t until the mid to late 80′s that we started to see the cafe culture arise, and other styles of food become popular enough to support a restaurant culture. We’re still slow. Up until a couple of years ago, there were only a few sushi places around, but now they’re popping up everywhere.
The MMORPG scene started off at the opposite end of the spectrum. Every early MMORPG was different. Sure the basic principles were the same, but look at games like UO, Asheron’s Call, Everquest, Anarchy Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Star Wars: Galaxies… Same principles, but different games, different styles.
Look at what is popular now. Everquest 2, World of Warcraft, Rift, Guild Wars 2. Same principles, yes, but mostly the same features, same styles, almost the same games. There are some outliers here, I think the Secret World is one of those. It’s style and progression system are different, but the game itself doesn’t vary that much from what has come before.
So here we are. The MMORPG genre has homogenized into a collection of games that are essentially variations of World of Warcraft. Rather than each of the early MMO games branching out and developing their own sub-genres, they instead merged, publishers and developers driven by desire to emulate the massive success of World of Warcraft; but none of them near as successful. Simply because, to stretch the analogy, WoW is still the most popular Pizza place, despite reaching for the lowest common denominator to gain the biggest possible market share. Don’t forget Pizza Hut and Dominoes make terrible pizza, but they’re still extremely popular.
Another thing Wilhelm noted was that there aren’t any MMORPGs scheduled for release, or update this year. Too be honest, I haven’t been following the up and comers, but I don’t remember the last time a year went by without at least one major release. Is the MMO bubble bursting? Are developers finally realizing that there are too many Pizza places now in the market?
I do hope so. I’m sick of Pizza. I’m in the mood for Mexican.
Posted by Stropp on
April 11, 2012
When I played Asheron’s Call, there was a server called Darktide. It was an unrestricted server with Free For All PvP as its main drawcard. As to be expected, this meant that anyone playing on Darktide was a target of the Player Killer (PK) especially those players new to the server. Lot’s of these players got together and formed guilds on that server wholly devoted to ganking anyone that crossed paths with them.
The there were the players who liked PvP but were opposed to the wholesale slaughter wrought by the PKer. Like the PKers, these got together and formed the Anti-PK guilds that didn’t go seeking out the weak and alone to gank, but set out to help them by protecting them from the PKers, and actively fighting against the PK guilds.
Asheron’s Call wasn’t alone in this. Ultima Online also had players who banded together to oppose PK players.
I have a question for you. I hear a lot about the corporations and alliances in Eve Online that engage in PK activities where it’s encouraged to go out and gank all and sundry. Each year (or few months) the Hulkageddon event takes place where players vie for prizes for high-sec ganking of unarmed/undefended commercial spacecraft like the Hulk. The Goonswarm alliance is about to set Jita on fire, which means that lots of highsec non-PvPer players are going to get burned.
There seems to be lots of FFA PvP in Eve focussed on ganking.
But I hear very little about the player corporations that are set up to oppose that sort of behaviour.
Can you tell me. Are there Anti-PK corps in Eve Online?
Posted by Stropp on
April 14, 2011
Asheron’s Call is perhaps one of the most loved of the early MMORPGs. You’ve heard me reminisce about the game, fondly, and the comments I’ve seen always seem to regard the game with the same feelings. It’s rare to hear a bad word about AC.
The big problem these days is that Asheron’s Call is terribly dated. While other games like Everquest have had a bit of the old nip and tuck to make them look fresher, AC has had precious little done to the graphics and even less cosmetic surgery on the GUI. There was a engine upgrade a while back, but that didn’t make that much of a difference to the look.
So here’s the scenario.
If someone made a Asheron’s Call a-like, keeping the game mechanics as they are now, perhaps with some streamlining and a modern GUI, but with 2011 standard AAA graphics, would you drop everything and subscribe?
Or, do you prefer classes, highlighted quest-givers, and the modern themepark presentation over the gameplay of Asheron’s Call?
Posted by Stropp on
December 25, 2009
It’s kind of an expected activity for bloggers these days. At the end of each year, we make a bunch of predictions for the coming year and review the ones we made last year. But since I didn’t actually make any predictions last year, there’s only one thing to do.
Make some predictions for the coming year, 2010.
I did consider writing my predictions in some form of abstract poetry like our friend Nostradamus (pictured right.) After all, anything written in an abstract and obtuse manner can be interpreted as 100 percent correct after the fact. But really, where’s the fun in that? And writing poetry isn’t really my forte — There once was a man called Enis…
So time to put on my silly hat and on to the prophetically predicted prognostications.
Prediction 1: The release date for Star Trek Online will be pushed back from the initial February date at least once, possibly twice.
Reason(s): Not many modern MMORPGs or their expansions actually make the first release date. There’s always more to do, and beta testing often reveals serious problem that need to be corrected.
Prediction 2: Blizzard will release Cataclysm late in the year around November, or early 2011 in February.
Reason(s): Based on past experience, these are the dates that Blizzard releases their expansions.
Prediction 3: The Star Wars: The Old Republic release date (the rumoured October 2010 date) will be massaged in a similar fashion as the date for STO, but I expect that EA-Bioware will announce and push for a November 2010 release.
Reason(s): EA are going to want a successful MMORPG on the streets sooner, rather than later. Since the rumours (apparently coming from EA) so far indicate a late 2010 release for SWTOR, I’m expecting an announcement sometime around June. The rumoured October date may be announced, but I expect that will be pushed back to late November in time for Christmas stockings.
Prediction 4: Corollary to Predictions 2 and 3: Blizzard will wait until EA-Bioware announce the release date for SWTOR and then announce the Cataclysm release date to be around the same time.
Reason(s): This appears to be a standard policy at Blizzard. For the last few years, when a threat to World of Warcraft’s dominance appears, real or perceived, Blizzard times their expansions or major announcements in an attempt to steal their competitors thunder. Some of this might just be unfortunate timing, but it’s happened a number of times. SWTOR is a very high profile game with a good chance to become at least number two in the MMORPG space and give Blizzard a run for their money. I’d be very surprised if Blizzard doesn’t try and slow them down, and releasing Cataclysm (which is effectively a reboot of WoW) will throw a huge monkey in Bioware’s wrench.
However, if Bioware don’t release late 2010 or early 2011, Blizzard will be forced to release Cataclysm well before SWTOR and that won’t have as much of a negative effect.
Probability: Very High if Bioware intend to release SWTOR in 2010.
Prediction 5: The micro-transaction model will be applied to more existing games.
Reason(s): A bit of a no-brainer this one. In some ways 2009 was the year of micro-transactions for Western MMORPGs with Dungeons and Dragons Online proving that the model not only works, but can re-invigorate a game that was previously struggling on the subscription model. I expect that we’ll see the DDO model adopted more and more for other games that haven’t been as successful as the developers have hoped and there will be some MMORPGs announced in development by Western developers intended to be micro-transaction based.
Prediction 6: In 2010 the MMORPG communities will be rocked by IP type lawsuits with far reaching implications.
Reason(s): I pretty much hate making this prediction, but based on the increasing number of patent troll lawsuits in other technological arenas, there’s a good chance that there will be one or more lawsuits in the coming year that will be won by the trolls, and may result in either the termination of a game or the radical modification of game play to comply with the IP requirements. In fact there is already a case going on initiated by a company called Worlds.com that has serious implications for MMORPG companies.
As an aside to this, it’s also possible that there will be at least one lawsuit between two MMORPG companies. This could be between two of the big players (which is less likely) or between one of the big boys, possibly EA or Blizzard, and one of the smaller players in the market.
Now for some long-shot predictions.
Prediction 7: Turbine will announce that they are going to move Asheron’s Call to a free to play, micro-transaction model. This will cause fuss in the AC community, but Turbine will sweeten the pot by creating a new client for the game.
Reason(s): AC is still being supported by Turbine with new content each month, so they haven’t consigned it to a maintenance status. Coupled with the increased interest on the tenth anniversary, Turbine will see an opportunity to reinvigorate the AC franchise.
On the other hand they may just announce Asheron’s Call 3.
Prediction 8: Blizzard will announce the name and details of their new MMORPG.
Reason(s): It’s entirely possible that Blizzard will announce the details of the new game sometime in 2010 simply because there’s a lot of interest. I’m giving it a lower chance of happening because the game isn’t expected until 2014ish and Blizzard don’t tend to make early announcements. It may happen in the coming year or two, but there’s a better chance of an announcement in 2012.
Prediction 9: SOE will announce Everquest 3.
Reason(s): There was some buzz a while back about SOE working on Everquest 3. It was apparently mentioned in the last chapter of a book on MMORPGs by someone at SOE. Personally, I’m skeptical. I’m not sure SOE will want to risk damaging the EQ2 population and diminishing that game.
That said however, there would definitely be a contingent at SOE pushing for a new EQ, and there’s a possibility that SOE will act (or has acted) on that push. EQ2 is now five years old, and it would take three or four years to develop EQ3. If SOE have been working on EQ3 for more than a year, there’s a good chance it will be announced this year for release sometime in 2013.
Prediction 10: EA will announce the next Ultima Online MMORPG.
Reason(s): This is a real long shot mind you, but there have been a few attempts at getting a sequel to Ultima Online. Ironically, the original sequel UO2 was canned because someone thought it would negatively impact on UO. Now, after 12 years of UO, a sequel won’t be nearly so bad for the game. You can be guaranteed someone at EA has thought about it.
However, given EA’s recent sackings, and their consolidation of their interests, it’s highly unlikely that such an announcement will be made this year. But I did want to make one really really way out prediction.
So there you have it. My Christmas-time predictions for the next 12 months. Fortunately I’m not taking or placing bets on these ham and turkey induced prophecies as things rarely turn out the way anyone expects. About the only thing I can guarantee will happen is that the MMORPG industry will continue to change and mature. But whatever happens, it should be interesting to watch.
Posted by Stropp on
November 4, 2009
I don’t usually make a habit of posting release or patch notes for the games I play. For the most part these tend to be fairly widely reported if the game is popular. But on this occasion I think there’s merit in reporting the release notes for the tenth anniversary of Asheron’s Call.
It’s worth noting that the monthly events are one of the things that are unique to Asheron’s Call. No other MMORPG releases new content along with updates to the storyline each and every month. Sure a lot of games patch monthly, or even weekly in some cases, but new content? That is the strength of Asheron’s Call, and probably the major reason the game has survived to this day in a world of new shiny.
Without further ado, here are the release notes for the tenth anniversary event.
Happy 10 Years Dereth!
Greetings and welcome to the Release Notes for the 10th Anniversary of Asheron’s Call! It has been an incredible journey so far, one which we hope continues for a long time. As our way of celebrating this occasion, we have made some really exciting additions to the game. We are really excited about these changes and what we have in store going forward. Most importantly we want to thank all of our players. Without you, none of us would be here working on the game we love. Thank you!
So without further delay, lets see what is new and exciting this month in Asheron’s Call!
Two Handed Weapons
The Viamontian masters have agreed to offer training in the art of Two Handed Combat to the peoples of Dereth. Due to the expanded use of Two Handed weapons they have become more readily available and will be available in all tiers of loot.
This new skill can either be used as a new player, or can be trained via the training temples already in-game.
With the return of the Gear Knights to Dereth also comes Gearcrafting. This skill is used by the Gear Knights to augment their abilities through a variety of implements and trinkets. The clever peoples of Dereth have quickly learned and adapted Gearcrafting.
Implements have been crafted to Expose Weaknesses of creatures through Creature Assessment, so that Leaders can increase the moral of their fellowship and with it their Health, to enhance both the Stamina and Mana of a party through tokens of Loyalty and in combination with Virindi magic using Deception to enhance understanding of Arcane Lore.
Gear Knights bring a variety of technological trinkets to Dereth. These trinkets may be imbued through the use of Gearcrafting to unlock latent magic. These magics enhance Health, Stamina, Mana, XP Gain, Damage and Damage Reduction.
You can read more about Gearcrafting here.
Players can now keep track of all their quests in the game via an editable in-game quest journal. You can read more on the Quest Journal here.
Eleven New Augmentations have been introduced with this Update! These Augmentations include:
- Foci Free Casting for War, Creature, Item, and Life magic.
- Weapon Master Augments that will increase all Magic, Missile, or Melee skills by 10 points.
- Damage Boosting and Reducing Augmentations that can enhance players Damage Rating.
- Augmentations that will increase players Critical hit Frequency and Critical hit Multiplier.
Gear Knights have returned to Dereth! Originally encountered by the Empyreans before the Olthoi Invasion, this race of mechanical beings has reopened their Portals to Dereth, seeking lost compatriots and vengeance against those who endangered them. Will you seek to do battle with this new threat to the peoples of Ispar?
New Quest Hubs
Players can now explore low and high level versions of the new Gear Knights, via quest hubs.
Quest XP will now pass up from Vassals to Patrons to Monarchs. This will help encourage more questing.
10th Anniversary rewards
For those with existing characters on actively subscribed accounts when the 10th Anniversary goes live, you may find yourselves with a new companion on your adventures through Dereth.
Special Live Events to celebrate 10 years of Asheron’s Call
On November 2nd, special Live Events will take place all day long. Asheron has discovered that the portals of Dereth have become unstable after being open for 10 years. This is causing portals from the past to open in the present. Creatures from the past 10years are suddenly going to appear all over Dereth. Asheron, Elysa, Borelean and others will need players help to contain this “invasion” from the past.
Throne of Destiny
With this update, every player will now have access to all Throne of Destiny Content. Please be aware that the migration of accounts will still be a Premium Service.
Good News! After many, many long hours of work, this issue should now be resolved!
For some time now, we have been trying to discover the cause of some players having trouble entering chat when logging into the game. While we were unable to determine the root cause, the team has added a retry on entering chat when players are logging into the game. If a player does not enter chat when they first log in, the game will see this and retry up to three times for them. This should help resolve the issue.
So there are just some of the things we have in store for Asheron’s Call in October. Please remember that along with everything listed here, there are several new quests and exciting things going into the game for the October Event.
Posted by Stropp on
November 3, 2009
Sometimes it’s hard to fathom how fast time seems to pass by.
It doesn’t seem all that long ago when I played my first FPS, System Shock I on my new 486 laptop (DX2 66 FTW!) It also doesn’t seem that long ago that I installed my first MMORPG on my PC.
That MMORPG happened to be Asheron’s Call, and it was only chance that it was AC being installed and not Everquest.
You see, I was in a bit of a gaming funk one evening around May or June of 2000 and finally decided to try out one of these MMORPG thing that I’d been hearing about. I’d previously dismissed the idea of a game (UO) where you had lots of players socializing along with playing. And the idea of a monthly subscription was ludicrous. It took a couple of years for me to come around to the idea. So when I finally got the urge to try a MMORPG, the only name I knew (aside from UO) was Everquest. I did a little research on the Internet, and headed out into the Autumn weather to a computer store.
When I got there, there was no Everquest on the shelf. Instead there was this box with a brownish artwork. It wasn’t Everquest, and to be honest that artwork wasn’t really that great. I was a bit dubious, so I studied the blurb on the box to make sure I was getting what I wanted, headed to the counter and bought the game and headed home to install it.
Of course, the best laid plans and all that. After I installed Asheron’s Call, I couldn’t log into the game. I’m taxing the old memory here, and can’t remember the exact reason (I suspect it was something to do with the Microsoft passport system), but I spent a while looking though the online FAQs and finally, disgusted, I logged a support ticket.
I was so disgusted in fact that I almost decided to write the whole thing off as a bad joke. However, a day or two later, support resolved the issue and I logged in to Dereth for the first time.
It really didn’t take very long to hook me.
It was incredible to have the freedom to run around and do whatever I wanted to do, which was die a lot early on. I spent the next few months happily playing my completely gimped jack of all trades, Axis, before I realized that it was important to properly choose my stats and skills early on and rerolling, and rerolling again. Hmmm. Maybe AC is to blame for my altitis? Nah.
And like a gateway drug, I have since gone from one MMORPG to the next. Sometimes spending a lot of time in the game, WoW had me for four years on or off, EQ2 probably the next longest stint.
Oh, and I did eventually get Everquest. It didn’t last as long as AC though. There’s something about a first game that imprints a set of expectations of game play that no other game can really ever wash away.
So yeah, all that seems like it didn’t happen all that long ago.
The 2nd of November, 2009 marks the tenth year that players have been tooling around Dereth, called by Asheron to help clean up his mess.
It’s been a good run, and I for one would be happy to see Asheron’s Call around for a few more years.