Asheron’s Call had (technically has) in-game paper you could write on. You could get a single sheet or an entire book. This may sound weird to the modern MMO player, but it was important at the time.

RPers, lore-hounds, and fan fiction writers would write stories in them. Some might exist in a single copy, or amateur scriveners might copy from one book to another. There was a library near Hebian-To (and elsewhere, but Hebian-To was the active spot I knew on Morningthaw) where people would gather to read the official in-game stories or share their own. There was not such a thing as a bookshelf where you could contribute player-written lore, but people might drop books for others to find or stand about as librarians/booksellers.

Beyond RP, books were extremely useful because Asheron’s Call came out in 1999. In 1999 you did not have wikis, extensive spoiler sites, or even a second monitor to refer to while playing on the other. Even if you had a second monitor, as the previous sentence suggests, finding info was a different matter; Google was still a new thing at the time, founded in 1998. Having a book of locations and directions was really helpful, and getting a book of location coordinates from a guild leader patron was a huge boon for a new player.

Sometimes it does not feel that long ago, and sometimes I remember that some of our readers have never known a world without MMOs.

: Zubon


And now gamer-linguist nerd crossover content that may not be for everyone. You are warned.

A discussion of the word for “nerd” in Chinese included a note about Chinese usage of the term “PK,” which is comparable to English “pwn” or “versus.” (I hope that usage converges, otherwise you need strong context to tell whether the word implies simply opposition or also the result of that opposition.) Excerpt:

5. As so often happens when words cross from one language to another language, it does not mean exactly the same thing in Chinese (“to thoroughly dominate; to beat” [in one-on-one or multiple competition]) that it means in English (“player killer”).

I note that the English usage is also ambiguous. In our MMO context, I am most familiar with “PK” as an abbreviation for any sort of PvP player, but my usage arises from starting MMOs with Asheron’s Call, where characters had a PK flag that indicated whether they were participating in PvP. Victor Mair suggests that Counter-Strike players use “PK” where I would use “TK” (“team killer”) or perhaps “griefer,” someone who intentionally shoots people on his/her own team rather than the enemy. Feel free to contribute from your own idiolect in the comments.

The researchers Victor Mair mentions in his post (Matt Smith and Brendan O’Kane) have graciously forwarded me their notes with permission to use them for posting. They track the term back to MUDs. This is your chance to be on the cutting edge of Chinese gamer linguistics and potentially contribute to research in its advancement. Are you excited? I’m excited.. Continue reading PK

Supply Creates Its Own Demand

The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.
— Homer, The Odyssey, although I cannot find a translation online that uses that exact phrasing.

It is not a slippery slope argument to say, “Developing the capacity to X makes X much more likely.” Beyond the tautology that you cannot do X if you cannot do X, we find that humans are more likely to pursue options that are readily available. Once you have the ability to do something, you start finding occasions for it. This is a driver of progress and source of anguish.

Continue reading Supply Creates Its Own Demand

The Lessons of History

I often cite smaller games because people are unaware of them or vastly underinformed. So if you like Darkfall’s prowess system, you can go play that right now in Asheron’s Call 1. Seriously, that system existed in 1999, although games did not have achievements at the time. You could even be playing the PvP version on Darktide!

To explain from the comments on that post, AC1 never had level adjustments. Levels are (were) estimates of relative power, not like in most MMOs where you must fight within the range of a few levels or there will be massive penalties that mean instant death. Level 30 archers can (could) hunt level 100+ monsters just fine with the right preparation. Levels give you more skill options, but the rest of the xp/skill system work(ed) exactly as described: doing things gets you a pool of xp that you can spend on whichever skills and attributes you like.

AC1 did mix in a bit of use-based skills by giving extra “practice point” xp for skill use. This involved an interesting formula that rewarded you for doing increasingly difficult things (rather than repetition), but it may not even still be in the game, so I am not going to spout algebra just now.

: Zubon

Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Google, and NCsoft

[Warning: there are some TV Tropes links in here.]

I have confessed to contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies: if you do not commit to something/one because s/he/it may not be around for long, s/he/it probably will not be around for long. So how do you invest yourself in something when the producers have a left a wake of unfinished and canceled projects?

Continue reading Chris Carter, Joss Whedon, Google, and NCsoft

…And Ye Shall Receive

In 2010, Ethic suggested that Tubrine bring back Asheron’s Call 2 under F2P. It’s not there yet, but there is a free beta available to Asheron’s Call 1 subscribers. Questions that spring to mind:

  1. Is any of the old AC2 team going to be on this project? A different set of developers yields a very different game. Granted, given the commercial success of the original, changes might not be a bad business idea.
  2. How do I go about reclaiming an Asheron’s Call account that has been lying fallow for perhaps a decade?

: Zubon
via Ethic via Massively

Interaction Options

Assassin’s Creed 3 lets you pet dogs. Asheron’s Call lets you tip cows (and even added a quest for it). Guild Wars 2 uses some animal and NPC interactions for its hearts, such as feeding cows or watering crops.

Every now and again, it’s nice to have options other than “kill them,” you know? You may not spend much time tipping cows or petting dogs, but just knowing the option is there makes the game a bit less of a murder simulator.

: Zubon

Every time I see the abbreviation for Assassin’s Creed 3, I think, “They’re making Asheron’s Call 3?!?!!”