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RIP: Asheron's Call, 1999 - 2017

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  • RIP: Asheron's Call, 1999 - 2017

    I don't quite know how to begin this. And I don't know if this is the right forum for it, but I figured this is the least risky to put it in. (Edit: Oh bugger, sorry, I meant for this to go in the Very Special Forum, somehow I musta accidentally put it in the main forum. Sorry.)

    Asheron's Call was an MMO that debuted around the same time as the original Everquest. It never got the success that EQ had, which is a shame because it was a very unique, very wonderful experience. I would go so far as to say that it was an entire different branch of the MMORPG tree of life -- where EQ begot WOW which in combination begot a thousand imitations, AC was off doing it's own thing. Open world, classless skill based progression, and procedurally generated loot -- lots of stuff AC did are being rediscovered by other MMOs as Convergent Evolution occurs.

    In December WB/Turbine announced that they would be spinning off their MMORPG properties to Daybreak (aka SoE), with the devteams moving to a new company, Standing Stone Games. LOTRO and DDO were announced but noticeably absent was Asheron's Call. We all were worried, and with good reason -- because someone, possibly someone from Standing Stone Games, logged onto the official AC Facebook page to give us the bad news.

    AC was not part of the SSG deal. It would shut down at the end of January, and just for fun, they disabled new account creation. As a cherry on top - and possible hint that the employee wasn't happy either - they referred us to a WB Support page that didn't even list Asheron's Call as a property WB owned.

    3 years ago when Turbine set AC into stasis, a museum piece dedicated to the first age of 3DMMORPGs, they made a promise to the community. We'll run it as long as we can, and when we're done, you can have the servers, so AC will live forever.

    They lied.

    One of the things this anonymous employee on the AC Facebook page said this day said was that they were unable to do this. There would be no private servers, and AC was doomed.

    Welp. That gave us 5 weeks. 5 weeks to save a world? Pssh, no problem, We're MMORPG Gamers. We've worked with tighter cooldowns than that.

    So the community banded together. We formed a small business -- Save Asheron's Call LLC. We reached out to WB and asked: Can we buy AC from you, since you're just shutting it down anyway?

    "We are not entertaining offers to buy the AC IP at this time."

    Huh. Well, ok. Can we lease the game, run our own private server? You'll still own the IP, but this will let us keep playing.

    "We are not considering leasing the IP at this time."

    Um.... Can we just pay the server bill ourselves, take away all financial risk from you?

    "We consider this discussion closed. If the situation changes we will contact you."

    Welp. So the community shifted focus. Immediately, thousands of players installed packet sniffing and logging tools that were hastily put together. We may not be able to run an official server, but light willing, we have enough information to create one ourselves.

    So the 31st came. The shutdown happened. But scant days before the shutdown, a random employee logged onto the forums and announced that they would also be shutting down the forums at the same time.

    They wouldn't even allow us to have the community built up around the game.

    Asheron's Call and it's sibling shut down at 12:02 EST, January 31st, 2017. Thousands of people were online, the highest server count in years. Thousands more were watching streams, their access cut off because WB cut off account recovery / creation / migration the same time they announced the end, or trapped at school/work because WB chose the middle of a Tuesday to close it down. In their own special way, the infamously toxic PK community also said hello -- DDOSing the servers going into the final weekend, but stopping by the end.

    At 12:00 EST, they also shut down the forums.

    At 12:00 EST, they shut down the official website.

    At 12:00 EST, they shut down the official facebook page.

    A few minutes later, when they remembered, they purged all mention of the game off of WB and Turbine's official homepages.

    It's not just that they want this game buried. They want it forgotten.

    WB's actions make no sense. There are theories abound -- that AC has a "poison pill" that would trigger if it was sold or leased outside of Turbine, that there already is someone -- possibly EA's Broadsword? -- who has purchased AC, that WB plans to make a mobile game using the AC IP as a cash grab.

    There are no answers, and WB is silent. Turbine is silent. Standing Stone Games adamantly refuses to speak about it.

    We had 5 weeks to save a world, and as far as we can tell, corporate greed and bureaucracy doomed it.

    Asheron's Call
    November 2nd, 1999 - January 31st, 2017
    Last edited by KiTA; February 1st, 2017, 01:15 PM.

  • #2
    To follow up on this: Two private server projects started around the time I posted that. One open source, one closed source. The closed source one was an already existing project that got taken out of mothball.

    They were making amazing progress. The aforementioned packet sniffers had hundreds of millions of packets, supposedly more than any other effort in history. The private server was fully playable, with a few quirks that needed to be ironed out, and the only remaining missing feature -- Asheron's Call's Roguelike random loot system -- about to be added in the next update. They even added features missing from the original game -- including a hardcore, permadeath mode.

    Of course, I'm speaking in past tense, because Warner Brothers decided to send the lead dev a C&D a few weeks ago. For a dead game that had maybe 200 concurrent players on it's most busy evenings at the end.

    Even in death Asheron's Call is clawing its way out of the Zapper, tens of thousands of dedicated fans desperately trying to give it a hand as it goes. And Warner Brothers is doing it's best to push the charred corpse back in.

    Amusingly, the AC community is having some fun with it -- having posted tens of thousands of 1 star reviews on WB's facebook page. Will it help? No, probably not. But hey, at they can say they treid.
    Last edited by KiTA; September 17th, 2017, 09:58 PM.