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Asheron's Call

Work on Asheron's Call's player-run servers continues

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Business Models, Game Mechanics, News Items, Sandbox, Player-Generated Content, MMORPG, Buy-to-Play

AC
Earlier this summer, Asheron's Call 1 and 2 went buy-to-play with no sub and technically went into maintenance mode, with no more content updates planned for the pair of games. But it wasn't to be game over; Turbine vowed to keep the servers up for its loyal players because it was, as Turbine's Rob "Severlin" Ciccolini put it, "the right thing to do." Critically, the studio also promised to release tools, though not the source code itself, to help players run their own servers, create their own live events, and someday implement their own locations.

Just before the holidays, Ciccolini quietly released an update about the "community-foused initiative" on the official forums.
I finished documenting and preparing the files players will need for all the SQL set up. We are working on getting documentation for setting up the patch server and and gls servers. I am also checking to see how a player can configure a local one person server with a simplified set up so they can play solo or in a LAN environment but I don't know yet if it will be possible to do without the full login process. We are moving to get things up in a place where they can be downloaded.
Severlin explained that documentation and testing continues, and there's a chance, though not a guarantee, that a "simplified server set up for solo or LAN players" might be workable.

Warner Bros. confirms Turbine layoffs [Updated]

Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, Rumors, Miscellaneous

turbine
Turbine appears to be going through another round of layoffs that are possibly affecting the Lord of the Rings Online team, according to Twitter messages.

Former Community Manager Rick Heaton seemed to confirm this in a tweet sent earlier today: "Thinking of my friends at #Turbine and #LOTRO and elsewhere today. I'm easy to find if you need me."

Massively has reached out to the studio for an official comment.

[Update: Warner Bros. has confirmed unspecified layoffs by issuing the following statement to Massively: "As part of our normal business process, we're routinely looking at the strategic alignment of our company. Unfortunately, in order for us to invest in growth areas at Turbine, we have to eliminate some positions. These are always tough decisions, which we don't approach lightly, but it's crucial that Turbine is structured in a way that reflects the current and coming marketplace."]

The Game Archaeologist: Ironman modes and elective permadeath

Asheron's Call, Dofus, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, RuneScape, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous, Wizardry Online, Star Citizen, H1Z1

wizardry online
One facet of video games that's been around almost since the very beginning is the difficulty level. This has allowed the player to choose how hard or easy a game would be from the onset, influencing factors such as the number of enemies, hardiness of bad guys, fragility of the player character, and available loot (or lack of it). I used to love how some of those '90s shareware titles would mock me for picking easy, sometimes portraying my character wearing a baby bonnet and sucking its thumb. Real gamers, the devs implied, go tough or go home.

With a few exceptions, MMOs operate on a fixed level of difficulty for all of their players. Instead of assigning blanket difficulty client-side, the game world portions difficulty into areas, usually according to level or activity. Some games have instances with adjustable difficulty levels, but past that what you get is also what I get.

This might be changing. A very fringe but dedicated group of players have championed such ideas as elective ironman and permadeath modes for their MMOs, and at least one studio is responding positively to that desire. Would you choose to make your MMO experience harder than everyone else in exchange for nothing more than a bigger challenge and a more "realistic" experience?

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Global Chat: A blast from the past

World of Warcraft, Asheron's Call, Lord of the Rings Online, Culture, Opinion, Vanguard, Guild Wars 2, Global Chat, Miscellaneous, ArcheAge

As many of you know, Massively doesn't really believe in reviews of MMOs, as they are ever-changing and shifting targets. Instead, we've provided impressions and continuing coverage of these games during their lifespans (and even after), which is something that many bloggers also favor.

In this edition of Global Chat, we have several hands-on impressions of MMOs both new and old from the blogosphere. What is it like to head back to Asheron's Call after a long time away? Is Guild Wars 2's and Lord of the Rings Online's new content hitting the mark? And what will we miss most of all now that Vanguard has departed? It's all there and more, right after the break!

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Asheron's Call is now buy-to-play

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Business Models, Events (Real-World), News Items, MMORPG, Buy-to-Play

AC1
As announced back in May, Asheron's Call (and by extension, Asheron's Call 2) has shifted from a subscription to a buy-to-play model this week.

Turbine wrote in May that the last sub payments would be processed on June 30th and that the game would become buy-to-play thereafter. Massively can confirm that logging into the Turbine account site and attempting to resume an old account currently allows players to select a "Lifetime AC Plan" for $9.99, which matches the buy-to-play price for all gamers who wish to play for the first time. Players who were subbed at the transition should be grandfathered in and will no longer be billed every month.

While both games will continue in maintenance mode, Turbine still plans to facilitate player-run servers this year.

[With thanks to Arpeggio.]

Perfect Ten: MMOs from the '90s

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, EverQuest, Lineage, Meridian 59, Opinion, Ultima Online, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

saved by the bell
The course of MMO history and the developer pioneers who forged a path to online gaming have long fascinated me (so much so that I write an occasional column about it). While we often think of MMOs as modern entertainment barely out of its infancy, the truth is that you can trace the industry back decades to see a fringe group of devs and players striving to make these games a reality.

While the number of MMOs in existence exploded in the early- and mid-2000s (and hasn't stopped growing since), the 1990s are often an overlooked decade that featured more than the one or two games that are usually mentioned in brief history overviews. There were actually far more titles than most assume, even if you dismiss text-based MUDs and the like. Today we're going to run down 10 MMOs that were born during the era of the dot-com revolution, dial-up modems, and the peak of the Simpsons (third through seventh seasons).

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Asheron's Call 1 and 2 go free-to-play in August

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Business Models, Free-to-Play, Subscription

Asheron's Call
We are in the final months of a pay-for-play Asheron's Call, as Turbine announced yesterday that it will not be charging a subscription after June 31st.

"As of August 2014, Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2 will no longer charge a subscription fee for players," Turbine posted. "The last payments will be processed on June 31st [sic], making July the final 'paid' month. Note that this means some players will technically receive some portion of July free as a result, as we have decided to absorb the cost and not run partial payments to cover it."

The free-to-play version of both MMOs will continue operating, although new or lapsed players will need to pony up $10 to activate an account. Turbine also said that the forums will remain running, that help will be limited, and that it will no longer be doing MSN Zone migrations after May 31st.

As for player-run servers, Turbine plans to offer up a "basic" Asheron's Call server and client download by the end of the year, supported by new sub-forums.

[Thanks to Jack for the tip!]

Massively Exclusive: Turbine on the future of Asheron's Call and the studio

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Interviews, MMO Industry, Free-to-Play

When has putting an MMO into maintenance mode ever signaled a bright future for a game? Even so, that's what seems to have happened for Asheron's Call, which is preparing to not only transition into a maintenance mode phase but drop subscription fees and allow for player-run servers by the end of the year.

The announcement was so unusual in the industry that we had to reach out to Turbine to get more perspective on this move. Asheron's Call Executive Producer Rob Ciccolini took the time to answer a few questions about the change for the game, Turbine's recent layoffs, and how the studio is adjusting going forward.

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The Game Archaeologist: The care and feeding of older MMOs

Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, Guild Wars, Meridian 59, MMO Industry, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Free Realms, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous, Sunsets

When an MMO has reached a certain age and dwindled to a certain player population, what do you do with it? Do you put it out to pasture, nurture it, or put it down?

With some of our older graphical MMOs approaching their 20th anniversaries, the question of what studios should do with aging titles is becoming very important. It's not just important for the games in question but as a precedent to the population of games that will one day become just as old.

Lately we've seen different studios act on this topic in a wide variety of ways, all of which I find fascinating. Some of these games have seen tragic ends, while others may be entering into the enjoyable golden years. If nothing else, it's shown me that there isn't just one set answer for this and that some devs are hoping to do the right thing by their companies and their players.

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Jukebox Heroes: Top 40 MMO themes, #40-31

Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Opinion, RuneScape, Miscellaneous, Neverwinter, City of Steam, Jukebox Heroes, Music

RuneScape
MMO main themes hold the potential to be some of the most powerful and magical pieces of music, partly because we associate them with particular games more than anything else. A great theme will dredge up intense memories or euphoria by the third note, and I see composers putting in their all with many of these themes.

A long time ago I did an MMO theme countdown of 20 tracks, but since then I've heard a lot more and have wanted to do the list all over again. So this week in Jukebox Heroes, we're kicking off a countdown of the top 40 MMO themes -- in my opinion, of course. I listened to over 150 themes and spent hours ranking them to create this list.

Because these choices are bound to be a little controversial and stir up debate (which is encouraged!), I set down a few rules that I wanted to share here. I limited myself to just one theme from a particular title, even if there were multiple themes in a game. Entries had to be a main theme or the closest equivalent of that; they had to be from MMOs, not from MOBAs; and I had to divorce my weighting of the track itself from the popularity of and my experience with that game. So no points added or subtracted based on the love of the game; I'm counting down the best music, period. Let's see what numbers 40 through 31 have in store for us!

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Asheron's Call limits updates, goes free, and plans player-run servers

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Business Models, Patches, Free-to-Play, Player-Generated Content, Subscription

AC
Once Turbine applies a March 4th update to Asheron's Call, the studio plans to move the game into maintenance mode -- with benefits.

Producer Severlin dropped the news on the forums today: "Once this next update is in the hands of the players, the updates to Asheron's Call will be limited. We intend to fix critical bugs and continue maintenance and support on the game. While there is always a chance we will put out a small update if time permits, players should have the expectation that updates will be limited to maintenance, bug fixes, and perhaps balance iterations of February content such as the new Coliseum."

Severlin elaborated that "this change of focus is necessary for the company." Asheron's Call is perhaps best-known for its monthly story updates that have gone out since the game went live in 1999.

The good news is that Turbine says there are no plans to close the game and will be working to make both Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2 free in the near future: "We are working on a date in the not-to-distant future where all active accounts will be able to play the game for free. Asheron's Call and Asheron's Call 2 will be a gift to our loyal players."

Also, Turbine is starting an initiative to allow player-run servers by the end of the year. "Our intent is to help these players build a community so these processes can be created and distributed to people interested in running an Asheron's Call game," Severlin said.

[Thanks to Padre for the tip!]

The Game Archaeologist: Is Turbine working on Asheron's Call 3?

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Opinion, The Game Archaeologist

Asheron's Call
If you look at the list of major MMO studios, it seems as though many of them have something new in the works or recently launched a title. Sequels and sandboxes are the trendy topics of the time, garnering attention and enthusiasm from the community.

And then there's Turbine. As a fan of the "powered by fans" studio and an avid player of Lord of the Rings Online, I have always kept my eye on these Bostonians. While Turbine helped lead the charge on free-to-play adaptations and has kept DDO and LotRO hopping with expansions, its last major MMO launch was 2008. The only known new game that's in the works over there is the Infinite Crisis MOBA.

Or is it? What if there's another project that's being kept on the down-low, one that could be a comeback attempt to propel Turbine back into the community spotlight? What if Turbine is working on Asheron's Call 3? I have scant proof that this is so but plenty of suspicion and speculation as to why it may be the case. Plus, the possibility stirs the imagination.

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Turbine suffers another round of layoffs

Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Industry, News Items, Miscellaneous, Infinite Crisis

Turbine
Gamasutra and Twitter are reporting that an unspecified number of Turbine employees have been fired today in a new round of layoffs.

A Warner Bros. representative responded with an official statement: "As part of our normal business process, we're routinely looking at the strategic alignment of our company. Unfortunately, in order for us to invest in growth areas at Turbine, we have to eliminate some positions. These are always tough decisions, which we don't approach lightly, but it's crucial that Turbine is structured in a way that reflects the current and coming marketplace."

Massively has reached out to Turbine for additional comments.

Forces of Nature crash into Asheron's Call

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Events (In-Game), Patches, Subscription

Asheron's Call
Asheron's Call's January update is live, pitting player versus the wild in an event called Forces of Nature.

The storyline surrounds a great magical tree that is under attack by darkness. Players will be able to help out through various tasks and three quests of the month. Other changes that came in yesterday's patch include tweaks to the Baishi Arena, a buff to the healing skill, a nerf to recall gems, and several player-killing adjustments.

The Game Archaeologist: Classic MMOs in October

Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, Lineage 2, News Items, Ultima Online, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in October
You think your fancy modern MMOs have the patent on Halloween? Mister, classic games own this holiday. They were out picking pumpkins and decapitating spooks long before you were a twinkle in the character creator's eye.

Halloween's back in many of our older titles this month, and for those of you who have been away from a beloved classic, it may just be the best time to return for another go. Anarchy Online not only has the return of Uncle Pumpkinhead but some pretty good subscription deals right now. EverQuest has the Haunting of Norrath, Pixel Pirates is offering seasonal items in the store, Guild Wars probably toggled its Halloween 2013 switch, RuneScape's got a brand-new questline, and Dark Age of Camelot is up to its standard tricks with the Pumpkin Moon.

Of course, October wasn't just about trick-or-treating; plenty of other events have happened to the classic MMO collective. From a record-setting expansion to invasions to a very happy birthday, this month kept hopping (and growling, slithering, and lurking). Let's check it out!

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