High Noon for Asheron’s Call

We learned last month, the money making MMOs at Turbine have been split off to be run by a new company called Standing Stone Game.  That meant Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeon & Dragons Online would both be leaving Turbine.  That left Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2 in the lurch.

asherons_call_full_logo

Staying with Turbine rather than being spun off with the new MMO running entity Standing Stone Games seemed to indicate a short future for the two titles, something quickly confirmed in a statement from Turbine:

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the end of our support for Asheron’s Call and Asheron’s Call 2, and will close both services on January 31st, 2017.

This decision did not come easy, and we know this is disappointing for many of you. This game is a labor of love, and it’s not easy for us to bring it to an end.

We have had a phenomenally long run; one of the longest in the world of MMORPGs, and that in and of itself is a spectacular feat. We are proud of our legacy, and the entire Asheron’s Call team has been honored to adventure with you for nearly twenty years. We thank you very much for being a part of it.

It’s been an amazing run. You’ve done Asheron Realaidain proud.

Between now and January 31st, 2017, the game will remain available to play, completely free, for any player currently with an account. New account creation will be disabled.

Yet hope springs eternal… only to be stomped on.  In an earlier time of greater optimism at Turbine, there was talk about letting players be able to setup private Asheron’s Call servers, a promise that immediately led to, “Hey, maybe we’ll get something!”  And then Turbine came back and said no, private servers would not be a thing.

We had hoped to be able to hand off our servers to the community, so our most loyal players could continue their journey through Dereth. Unfortunately, this is something we were unable to do.

So that was that.  Turbine further clarified the end time for Asheron’s Call, saying that the game would go dark at noon Eastern Standard Time on January 31, 2017.  If this post went live as scheduled, that was two minutes earlier, so the game should be down by the time you read this.  Hopefully, if you were a fan, you got in your final look at the world and didn’t get hampered by the last minute attempt to ruin the closing.

MMORPGs are strange beasts, and their passing are always sad and strange.  The social nature and persistent world aspects of them make them different from games where you play for a session and then everything resets.  As we have gone on about, and demonstrated ad nauseum, people get invested in MMORPGs.  And Asheron’s Call, being one of the “Big Three” late 90s MMORPGs that, along with Ultima Online and EverQuest, popularized the genre, all the more so.  It was a “first” MMORPG for people in the pre-World of Warcraft era, with its own special features, quirks, and lessons.

It is hard for me to imagine the day that EverQuest goes dark.  All those memories… mostly good, since we forget or repress the bad over time… that I could no longer pretend were just a patch update and a login away.  I don’t play anymore, but I could… and that I could makes a big difference.  So I feel for those who are losing their first MMORPG today.

That said, I do wonder at hope continuing to spring up.  Some are pinning hopes that there will be an announcement of some sort about Asheron’s Call tomorrow.  As the somewhat detached outsider, it is tough for me to see the hook one can hang that idea from.

Asheron’s Call was one of the big three, but it was the smallest of the bunch, topping out at half of UO’s numbers and a quarter of EQ’s subscription peak, so it doesn’t have the legacy of success that the other two had.  Furthermore, in the pantheon of Turbine titles, Lord of the Rings Online is their big success.  For Origin and SOE, their first MMORPGs remain their most popular, while Turbine has long neglected AC in favor of the two games that went with Standing Stone.  And then of course, there is Turbine, a shell of its former self, and WB, a media company from which one can expect no favors.

So while I don’t want to stomp on anybody’s dreams, I haven’t seen anything that would make me think there will be a post-closing announcement.  But we shall see tomorrow I suppose.

But whatever happens tomorrow or in the future, today we mark the end of what once was.

9 thoughts on “High Noon for Asheron’s Call

  1. chipva

    AC was my first MMO and I loved playing it. I haven’t missed it since I quit (darn kids take up all your free time). But I always compare any other MMO to it’s “glory days” usually negatively. The freedom of skills and making your own character simply had too much appeal for me to enjoy the forced groupings the current landscape (or the rest of the OG landscape) required.

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  2. Krumm

    Hmm you know they may not need turbine’s approval to begin creating private servers. Look at Ultima Online. UO private servers have existed for years and legally as the copyrights of the age did not protect against it. I am sure someone will find a loop hole, a earlier addition that they can do legally or as in the Wow Servers do just because they can. And what is a business going to do to police private servers of a game that they closed. It no longer would be cost effective for litigation.

    Lastly on UO, they stubbornly keep their head in the sand refusing to do what SOE has done in making retro/nostalgia/classic servers. They still refuses to go F2P, which if the free account let you do all but own a house would still generate larger sums of income, and I have no hope that it will ever be otherwise. It will remain as such until it finally fails…due to leadership teams that cannot see that F2P actually increases income.

    Which brings us to EVE… F2P is here and alphas give new players the chance to get a good taste before they decide to sub. I highly doubt that eve is lost any money in allowing f2p accounts, it just made it so that people no longer half to create endless trials if they where doing such. that makes numbers easier for CCP to track for one and it improves the chances that some of those accounts get paid at some point.

    F2P wont save a game after a certain point but by god if you decide to can a long lifed online game give it over to prosperity and fans to keep it going.

    All this talk past glories has me wanting to go over and sub my UO account for a peek back.
    …maybe Ill go fishing in UO while I mine in EVE.

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  3. bhagpuss

    The saving grace for the disenfranchised communities of more than a few MMOs has been the EMU scene. I completely understand and empathize with the feeling that “I don’t play anymore, but I could”. The two closures that most affected me have been Rubies of Eventide, a small game that I played only sporadically but which I returned to again and again until one day it wasn’t there any more and, of course, Vanguard. I can also work up something of a sour feeling over Free Realms if i put my mind to it.

    Vanguard would have been by far the most upsetting of those three, though, had it not been for the magnificent efforts of the small team currently bringing it back to life. I do log in every so often and just fly around on my free-for-testing griffin, reliving the memories and listening to the music. It’s odds on I’ll never play regularly again even if they do get the entire game restored (although I might take a serious run at Diplomacy) but just knowing I could if I wanted to is hugely comforting, as is the knowledge that if and when EQ finally closes down as a commercial enterprise it will with certainty live on in the form of the multiple, already-established, emulator projects.

    I hope there’s someone out there who can make something like that happen for Asheron’s Call.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Krumm – I think the expectation is that Turbine will do something or officially sanction something regarding AC or AC2.

    That somebody is going to go out and try and create an unsanctioned emulated server is almost a given. The emulator effort is practically part of the standard issue MMO end-game at this point.

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  5. Brian 'Psychochild' Green

    As someone quite familiar with old MMOs, reviving them, and IP laws, usually letting people have access to the servers is a mess. There are a ton of licensing issues for software because there was probably something licensed at one time that you can’t just throw out there. I could even be something like a particular tool that requires a special license that the system relies on.

    Sad to see AC go, but I think at this point we do need to make peace with the thought that MMOs don’t stick around forever.

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  6. Stropp

    I share your lack of optimism in Turbine or WB (or anyone else for that matter) reviving AC other than through an emulator, but there has been some commentary on the speed in which all mention of the games have been removed from the web. The official web pages, forums, and Facebook pages have apparently all been completely scrubbed. (Their Twitter is still there though.)

    The suggestion for this rapid removal is that there may be something else on the way. Why else have someone spend the time and money to so quickly remove all the info?

    Maybe, maybe not. But I can hope.

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  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Stropp – That sounds a bit like grasping at straws. I mean, how long did it take SOE to scrub their site of Free Realms, as an example? It didn’t linger for weeks or even days.

    If you are sunsetting a product, you have a plan and that plan includes removing it from your web site. What is the business argument for letting all those things linger when you’re cutting the product? They shut things down at noon EST, which gave them half a day to wrap up the web site and social media.

    Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the last day for the person who took care of that sort of thing, so the haste was to avoid paying them for a single day longer. No more LOTRO, DDO, AC, or AC2 sites to care for at Turbine, right?

    Something could be happening, but I wouldn’t hinge the argument on how quickly the web site was taken down.

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  8. tothebreach

    AC was my first MMO after playing MUDS for years, all MMO’s i’ve played since get set against AC. I’ve tried a few fantasy MMO’s over the years but never ‘felt’ the love, they have always felt generic after I made it to level 5 in WoW. So I’ve stuck with Sci-Fi; Eve, STO and E:D.

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