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Asheron's Call

Perfect Ten: MMO industry moves I didn't see coming

Asheron's Call, City of Heroes, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest, MMO Industry, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Vanguard, Final Fantasy XIV, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous, WildStar, Defiance, The Elder Scrolls Online

Perfect Ten MMO industry moves I didn't see coming
Despite -- or more accurately, because of -- my love for video games, I would never want to work in the games industry as a developer or what have you. I think it's an industry that doesn't have a good track record of job security, sane hours, or products that you could feasibly spend years working on that might not make it to ship. But I love writing about the industry. I love the news. That's why I adore being at Massively.

I also love the news because MMOs and studios constantly surprise me. Hey, maybe you're an amazing clairvoyant person who can not only predict but accurately foresee all of the jukes and twists that the industry makes. I am not. When mental superpowers were being handed out, I got "setting people on fire with a mere thought" instead of what appears to be the widespread "know it all" ability. I don't regret it. I mean, you probably already knew that I was going to post a picture of Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi being attacked by bees on the front page of Massively.

But I think that the surprises are part of the fun. No matter what we've seen in the past and no matter how knowledgeable any of us is about MMOs, the strange developments keep on coming. So this week I want to list 10 stories that I really didn't see coming at all.

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The Game Archaeologist: Classic MMOs in August

Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, Dungeons and Dragons Online, EverQuest, Lineage 2, PlanetSide, The Matrix Online, News Items, Opinion, Ultima Online, Vanguard, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in August
How few players do you need to have before operating an MMO becomes ridiculously unprofitable and in need of closing? In the case of The Matrix Online, we found out that the magic number was 500. I wouldn't have even guessed that so few people were in that game when its shutdown was announced, especially considering the vocal anguish that arose when SOE lowered the boom.

I guess it goes to show that we're often quite clueless what goes on behind the curtain. There's always this balance between the number-crunchers (who need players and money to justify continued operations) and the passionate creators (who are often developers putting in the effort because they simply love the game and its community). If nothing else, it reinforced my belief that SOE does bend over backwards to keep these games running as long as possible, much longer than some other studios would in a similar situation.

So what other news regarding classic MMOs happened this past month? It's time for another one of my patented roundups, complete with archaeological commentary!

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The Perfect Ten: Literal kill 10 rats quests

Asheron's Call, EverQuest II, Fallen Earth, Lord of the Rings Online, Star Wars Galaxies, RuneScape, Humor, Runes of Magic, RIFT, Allods Online, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

The Perfect Ten Literal kill 10 rats quests
Webster's Dictionary describes "kill 10 rats" as "something nerds do, now shut up and read a few intelligent words." I think the editors are getting a little lazy there at Webster's, but that's nothing compared to the OED crowd that routinely slips in paragraphs of cut-and-pasted Hunger Games fan fiction just to pad the volumes.

Anyway, we all know that "kill 10 rats" is a derogatory term for those quests that make you slaughter a certain number of things to make life happier for the quest giver. Why that quest giver has a very specific number in mind has always fascinated me, but never mind. It stems from a long-standing RPG tradition by which lowbie characters typically start their career by doing a little rodent culling in the basement of a tavern. That's how all great people got their start, Abraham Lincoln included.

With "kill 10 rats" already being a trope, developers have this habit of trying to be coy and meta by actually putting quests in their MMOs where you, yup, kill 10 rats. I get the feeling that they think they're doing something clever and cheeky, even though practically all of their competitors have done the same. So here we go: ten literal "kill 10 rats" quests that you can find in your games today.

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The Game Archaeologist: Classic MMOs in July

Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, EverQuest, MMO Industry, Warhammer Online, News Items, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, RuneScape, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist Classic MMOs in July 20
It's been over a month since our last round-up of news, events, and community features covering the classic MMOs we know and love. You wouldn't think that a lazy summer month would contain a lot of new information regarding these older titles, but these past few weeks have been absolutely hopping.

We've had several anniversaries, patches, player celebrations, mobile adaptations, and more. I'm constantly encouraged to see how players keep the memories of deceased games and the spirit of currently running ones alive throughout the blogging community as well, so we'll look into that today too.

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The Perfect Ten: MMO commercials that take us back

World of Warcraft, Video, Asheron's Call, Final Fantasy XI, Guild Wars, Opinion, Star Wars Galaxies, Ultima Online, Humor, Perfect Ten, Miscellaneous

The Perfect Ten Commercials that take us back
I don't see a lot of commercials these days. I like to imagine that I'm a one-man force out to frustrate advertisers, ducking and weaving whenever they try to wing a 30-second spot at me. A lot gets through, but I've long since canceled cable, and the only traditional commercials I sit through are the ones for the occasional YouTube video.

But there's something about a good commercial that can take us back on a wave of "remember whens?" and community bonding. I hear more discussions about creative ad spots the day after the Superbowl than the game itself. Commercials can even be a time capsule that unlocks memories for us of favorite movies, toys, and experiences.

But what about MMOs? Well, they have commercials too, although not as many have made it to the standard airwaves. They're out there, though. Lurking. Emitting nostalgia rays from the past. And I've been hunting them down, looking for commercials that take us back to a simpler, goofier time. A few thousand dead brain cells later, I've got 10 of the margh make it sop pleaze pleaaa...


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Asheron's Call 2 prepares quality-of-life update

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Patches, Subscription

Asheron's Call 2 prepares qualityoflife update
Asheron's Call 2, its community, and its small dev team continue to endure after the title's resurrection last winter. And Turbine's been preparing a quality-of-life update for the game that is aimed at smoothing out some of the rough spots of the title. In a recent post, producer Severlin said that the team is looking at a late June release for the patch, although he said there's a chance it might slip into early July.

The update will improve quest flow, bump up quest XP rewards, adjust mob placement, and make it easier for solo players to forge their way in AC2.

"Exploration will be no less rewarding after these adjustments," developer NoWorries assured players. "We want to make sure that players don't hit walls where they have no idea what they can go do next, especially at the early stages when they are still getting used to the game."

[Thanks to Dengar for the tip!]

The Game Archaeologist: Checking in with classic MMOs

Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Lineage, Lineage 2, PlanetSide, MMO Industry, News Items, Ultima Online, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist Checking in with classic MMOs
What's this, you say as you rub your eyes in disbelief. Is it... The Game Archaeologist, long since thought lost in his expedition to Atlantis (and the trials therein)? It is indeed, my friends. TGA has been a long-running passion of mine on Massively, but I needed a break for a while to recouperate and refocus. However, as of late I've felt the call of neglected classic MMOs and wanted to make sure that they were getting some column love here on the site.

So going forward, expect to see The Game Archaeologist pop out of his hidey hole once or twice a month to talk about our old favorites and perhaps pontificate more on the history of MMO development. Sound good? Did you miss me at all? You totally didn't, did you.

If you've been out of touch with classic MMOs, I've done the legwork this week to provide you with the 10 important and relevant news items that are sweeping through this aging yet still vibrant community. Read on, McDuff!

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One Shots: Paging the burn ward

Screenshots, Asheron's Call, Guild Wars, Culture, Tabula Rasa, One Shots, Vindictus, Miscellaneous

One Shots Great balls o' fire!
It's a little amazing, when you think about it, that all of these magic-users who prance around in extremely flammable robes don't suffer from third-degree burns more than we see. Or maybe the game is hiding the awful, scarred truth from us. In any case, our opening screenshot this week should have resulted in a quick trip to the ER for both parties.

"This is a simple yet fun battle in Vindictus' early levels," reader Carolina says. "I love the detail of the damaged shoe on my spellcaster character."

Forget the human element; now the shoes are the ones suffering for our casual disregard of fiery magic! If you can get past the misery of the moment, we've got plenty of other great one shots this week for you to admire.

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The Game Archaeologist: When sequels attack!

Asheron's Call, Darkfall, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars, Lineage, Lineage 2, Neocron 2, PlanetSide, RuneScape, Guild Wars 2, Global Agenda, Final Fantasy XIV, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous, PlanetSide 2

The Game Archaeologist When sequels attack!
Sequels are both the bane of and a fact of life for movies and video games. Well, "bane" is a strong word, and you're probably thinking of Batman right now anyway, but personally, I'm always willing to give the benefit of doubt to any continuation of a favorite franchise. While we don't see sequels pop up as often in MMOs, they do exist and have significant effects upon the original title that bears the same name.

It's here that MMOs diverge from movies and other video games. With those, the original is not in any sort of danger, other than the perception of having its legacy dragged down into the muck (Caddyshack II, anyone?) and perhaps overstaying its welcome. An MMO sequel, on the other hand, can cause serious consequences to its ancestor.

Here at Game Archaeologist, we look at classic games that have often seen their time come and go. But what happens to one of these titles when a sequel attacks? Almost anything, it turns out.

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Turbine's servers down 34 hours and counting, studio comps players

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

Turbine's servers down 34 hours and counting, studio comps players
A period of global maintenance for Turbine's servers is now pushing well into its second day of downtime for all of the studio's games. Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and both Asheron's Call titles have been offline since 6:00 a.m. on February 14th. The servers were scheduled to be brought back online after 24 hours, but as of the time of this writing, they are still down as the studio works on issues that "cropped up during the night."

The downtime was to overhaul the billing system and other back-end projects.

LotRO CM Sapience posted this update at 4:20 p.m. EST:
"We are working to resolve ongoing issues with our system maintenance. At this time we do not have a specific estimate for when the game servers will be available. Our goal is to make the games available as soon as possible. However we would like to advise players that the service may continue to be unavailable this evening. We will continue to provide updates as we have them.

"As a thank you for your understanding and patience during this downtime, all Premium and VIP players who have logged into their account in the past 30 days (as of 6:00 a.m. EST on 2/14/2013) will receive 250 Turbine points. In addition, all VIP players who have logged in during the same period will have their accounts credited one day of VIP time for each day of downtime, plus one additional day. All points and additional time will be granted automatically as soon as our regular service is restored and stable."

Asheron's Call heeds the Darkest Night

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

Asheron's Call harkens the Darkest Night
It seems quite fitting to the season for Asheron's Call to name its newest event Darkest Night. The January event continues the game's story with an attempt to put down Hoshino Kei once and for all.

Several new quests are being added to the game for the event, and an interesting "tell the story from the villain's point of view" lore tidbit gives some insight into the challenges that lie ahead for adventurers. There is also a quartet of screenshots from the event that include a lock with no key, a treasure room, a deadly pit, and a key. Hm. Going to be hard to figure that one out, eh?

Free for All: The second annual Frindie Awards

Real-Life, Sci-Fi, Asheron's Call, Contests, Culture, PvP, Ryzom, The Matrix Online, Wurm Online, PvE, Opinion, Second Life, Vanguard, RuneScape, Free-to-Play, Browser, Mobile, Casual, Virtual Worlds, Mabinogi, Kids, Alganon, Free for All, Family, Miscellaneous, Enter at Your Own Rift, Sandbox

Frindie Awards logo
It's time once again for the Frindie Awards, my attempt to shine some light on the best indie, browser-based, free-to-play, and unusual MMOs that are all-too-often ignored by press -- and players. This one is for the little guys! Well, mostly. It's also for those games that seem to have passed under the collective radar of Massively readers or that seem to be very misunderstood.

Picking the winners this year is just as hard as it was last year, maybe even harder. 2012 was an incredible year for MMOs, so I would rather have just put together an article that highlights every single favorite. In the end, it's more helpful to make myself pick out a winner. It's a rare thing for some of these games to even receive a nod on a major website, something I still can't figure out. Either way, it's best to think of all of the MMOs on this list as my favorites from 2012.

Anyway, let's get to the awards!

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The Game Archaeologist's top MMO stories of 2012

World of Warcraft, Anarchy Online, Asheron's Call, City of Heroes, EverQuest, Final Fantasy XI, Meridian 59, Culture, MMO Industry, Ultima Online, Vanguard, Shadowbane, Everquest Online Adventures, The Game Archaeologist, Miscellaneous

The Game Archaeologist seals up 2012
As another gaming year spins to a close, we here at the Institute for Digital Interactive Entertainment have been holding our archaeological department hostage with a trained buffy-tufted marmoset until it delivered a final report. After hours of begging and infected monkey bites, the head of that department, Prof. Justin Olivetti, Ph.D., handed us a scrap of urine-soaked paper with the following article inscribed.

While the Institute strongly suggests that you ignore this report and instead work on your button-mashing exercises, the board of directors stated that all such papers must be posted for the public to see.

This report is presented in the Yetbari typeface and contains a sequential series of items that number between 11 and 13.

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Leaderboard: Is Asheron's Call 2 a long-term home or a short-term novelty?

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Business Models, MMO Industry, Opinion, Leaderboard

Asheron's Call 2: Legions screenshot
So Asheron's Call 2 is back. And if that's not the strangest sentence I've typed all year, then I don't know what is. Turbine's 10-year-old fantasy sequel dropped off everyone's radar seven years ago and was suddenly reanimated last week seemingly out of the blue.

It's hard to know what motivated the resurrection, as AC2 wasn't a hugely successful MMO even by the genre's incredibly modest pre-World of Warcraft standards. Is Turbine simply looking for a bit of extra end-of-the-year income or does it plan to actually develop the game over time? Is this merely a way to wring a bit more revenue out of the original Asheron's Call minus any significant production costs (you must sub to AC to access AC2, currently), or is AC2 going to implement its own subscription plan or some sort of cash shop?

Whatever the reasons, it's a feel-good story and an early Christmas present for fans who wrote the game off years ago. With the rash of MMO closings over the past 12 months, though, I suspect that some folks are wary of settling down in AC2 even though they might want to. For today's Leaderboard, tell us how you're playing Asheron's Call 2. Is it looking like your long-term MMO home, or is it merely a novelty that you're checking out while you can? Vote after the cut.

Ever wish that you could put to rest a long-standing MMO debate once and for all? Then welcome to the battle royal of Massively's Leaderboard, where two sides enter the pit o' judgment -- and only one leaves. Vote to make your opinion known, and see whether your choice tops the Leaderboard!

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The Game Archaeologist: Asheron's Call 2 returns from the dead

Fantasy, Asheron's Call, Launches, MMO Industry, Opinion, The Game Archaeologist

The Game Archaeologist Asheron's Call 2 returns from the dead
No, the above picture is not some sort of long-forgotten, dusty archive picture of Asheron's Call 2 from back in the day; it's from the live game this past Thursday evening. How incredibly, insanely weird is that?

Turbine absolutely stunned the MMO community the other day when it casually announced that it was bringing back its second title, cancelled since 2005, on a new server. Our editor-in-chief burst into the office chat room screaming, "AC2! AC2! AC2!" It took us a minute to realize that she wasn't just discovering the Assassin's Creed series but had in fact learned that the impossible had happened: An old, deceased MMO had been brought back to life.

As the resident MMO historian here at Massively, I felt this was kind of like going to Jurassic Park and seeing all of those dinosaurs after spending most of my time merely reading about them. In the blink of an eye, Asheron's Call 2 went from the ancient past to the playable present. We've got a lot to talk about today, including my hands-on experiences with the title and thoughts about what this means for classic MMOs. Let's not waste any time!

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