Everquest isn’t the only old school MMO in town with an emulator scene. Asheron’s Call does too. Until recently I’d resisted making any attempt to return. I was alright with just leaving my memories as they were and in the past. To be occasionally plucked to the fore and examined kindly before being put away again for another day.
Until that was, WoW Classic blasted onto the scene. One thing in particular that WoW Classic demonstrated was that sometimes there is value in revisiting what came before. And that the old game worlds can still be played for enjoyment quite successfully.
That in mind, along with the longer-running thread through the community of enjoying Project 99 in all it’s glory, I set out to get myself up and running in AC again.
Getting setup was not too much of an ordeal, I just followed the instructions found here on the GDLEnhanced page. Despite what the instructions say, you can change the paths as you go. Just so long as you take account of the changed paths in subsequent steps. Otherwise though, pay heed to the details in each step as some of them are critical to success!
GDLEnhanced is one of the two major AC Server emulator projects at the moment. The other being ACEmulator — fortunately regardless of which server type you end up on, the instructions on the GDLE page work just fine.
And just like that, I was ready to go on to the character creation screen. (On the Coldeve server, incidentally. It seems the most populated — and I’m not ready for the PvP experience just yet anyway.)
This was the first sign that something was awry.
Now — truth be told, I do have dim memory of this (and the subsequent horror of the changes to the skills on the next page) — being something brought into the ‘real’ AC nearer the end of its life. But I didn’t play very much during this era, and when I did I essentially buried my head in the sand and played existing characters.
But starting fresh I had no choice now but to look at it.
It didn’t feel like my Asheron’s Call any more. It was some undead beast lurching about in AC’s skin. And I already didn’t like it.
Even so — I persisted. I created an approximation of my old Sho Unarmed (now ‘Light Weapons’) build and logged in.
I was greeted with a familiar introductory sequence. It wasn’t there at launch but had nonetheless been a part of the AC I knew and recognised and therefore it was OK. The New Player Onboarding sequence sees you run through a few quick tasks to familiarise you with the systems and how XP is earnt and spent.
But all too soon it was over, and I was thrust back into the world.
Holtburg has ever been my ‘home’ in Asheron’s Call. I’ve bound and lived at other places, possibly for longer times all up than I ever spent at Holtburg. But it doesn’t matter. Holtburg (West, in particular) was where I very first started in Asheron’s Call.
The place I took my first timid steps out into the world around, my awe constantly growing at the realisation there were no ‘levels’ or loading screens.
I never ranged far afield at first, as I ever wanted to be certain I could get back home. Holtburg was safe, and had everything I ever needed as a young player.
Of course eventually, confidence grew — at least sufficiently that I was willing to travel by road to some of the nearby towns I’d heard of. Apparently people were selling elemental weapons in Cragstone, a little to the South.
/ End Sidebar
Right. So here I was, thrust into the world on my new character — and into Holtburg.
But… It was so different. There were too many NPCs. Additional buildings. New adjoining structures. And there was a town portal network, just… there? What happened to having to know your way around the world and where the portal loops of old could take you?
Character creation had been taken from me. Now it appeared Holtburg had too.
Asheron’s Call needed its own ‘Project 99’ it seemed, I was despairing of finding any common ground with this iteration of the game.
Still, not quite ready to logout yet, I ran from town in a southerly direction and soon found myself trotting the well-worn path to Cragstone.
Coming around one corner of no particular note, I was presented with the following sight and my breath caught.
Now if you’d simply asked me, ‘Do you remember the valley south of Holtburg, toward Cragstone bordering the river and the road?’ I would have said ‘No, not at all.’
You could have further prompted me, ‘It has a hut in it, with a peddler inside’ and I still wouldn’t have been likely to recall it.
But seeing it… Oh boy, seeing it.
When you die in Asheron’s Call, there is no map marker or anything else to tell you where your body is. You have to just know, or else be able to find it again. This is a skill you learn over time, especially if you’re hunting in an area you’re familiar with.
But for characters starting out — the best advice I ever received and could hand out in turn was to hunt around a landmark.
This valley? It was a spot my friends and I often guided young players to, and suggested they keep within the bounds of the valley until they were a little more confident. Behind me in the screenshot is a Lifestone — so should they perish, the valley is right there and is a confined space to search.
Across the river in the old spawning rules of the world was slightly higher level creatures than what was in the valley itself, so it offered a natural progression as well.
To see it again, after the despair just moments before, was quite a stab to the feels. And it gave me some hope that maybe I can adjust to the changes made — that the core of the game I loved so much in some fairly fundamental ways is still here.
Still… I’d really love for at least one of the emulator projects to go down the P99 route. Or at LEAST consider stopping before the race and skill change were made. :P