Thrill of the Hunt

In EverQuest you camp. WoW has you questing. But in Asheron’s Call you go hunting.

Ranging out near the edge of the safe lands. The pillars mark the edge, although it is still a transition and riding the edge can reap some rewards if careful. The pillars themselves also have a backstory — one I hope to uncover again in my travels, as it is lost to me presently.

Hunting takes many, many shapes and forms and can serve a range of purposes. My favourite approach being to roam the terrain. Rather than locking yourself to a specific camp or even area — you strike out and explore.

When I was new to Asheron’s Call this was less ‘ranging’ and more ‘puttering about within eye sight of familiar things’. Staying within a familiar locale grew to patrolling the wilderness around my home — Holtburg — in ever increasing distances. Hugging the natural line of the river became wanting to see what the nearby mountain range was like.

The first time making that next step was terrifying. The unfamiliar terrain could easily render your body full of goodies lost should you die.

But it was also exhilarating in a way I don’t think EverQuest, WoW or perhaps any MMO since has truly captured. Now I admit — Asheron’s Call was my first MMO experience ever. There is an incredible amount of positive bias that goes along with that. But in terms of unconstrained freedom to explore — I think I’m still sticking to the realm of objectivity to sing its praises above the others.

Right — opening this in all its glory is probably a little more complex than it should be unfortunately. But if you right click this link and tell it to open in a new tab or window, you should then be able to zoom in and take a look around at the nooks and crannies of Dereth.

Holtburg is in the North Eastern area of Dereth — the main landmass — resting alongside the North Western end of the river, or almost directly South East of the Crater.

Still — like I said. This was just one form. Creatures do spawn in places that make sense to them. If you had something specific in mind — you could go seek them out. Armadillos for a spine to craft the Sifili of Crimson Stars? Look to water banks.

Great Mattekars1 to craft a set of armor? Head for the hills — riiiight up the hills to the snowy peaks, leaving the valleys far behind.

And then there were dungeons. Some 700+ of them. Many containing their own story to uncover. You can find letters, or whole journals telling a perspective of a larger story. Lore hunts were a thing — looking for additional clues and insights into the stories we thought we knew. Sometimes it was through as small a clue as an inscription on an object. Although some stories were much better known, and personal to the nearby residents.

What I want to do next — is to work my way around the land of Dereth, uncovering the lore I once knew and have since forgotten. Visiting the dungeons, and places, and quests necessary to start reforming the story of this world for myself.

Not everything you find in the wild is out to get you — I came across a Healer living off the land who could sell uncommonly good healing kits.

And hell — maybe in the process remind myself of the grand sense of ‘place’ Dereth offered. From an above ground that made sense, to a below ground that times could be truly oppressive in the feeling of depth created. Some of the Olthoi dungeons in particular I remember feeling miles under ground before I reached the area I felt comfortable with — and yet, I knew from runs where I had friends along for the ride — that there was still much further to go and bigger challenges if I just kept on going.

I’m excited by the prospect of seeing all this again. And I think that without WoW Classic showing me there is actual real value in revisiting these past experiences and that it’s not all just smoke and mirrors or nostalgia glasses? I never would have bothered.


PS: I’m no longer on Coldeve — I’m now on Levistras. Coldeve had a higher nominal population count true. But this was multiboxers and buff/trade bots at least as much as actual players. Levistras has a strict no macro policy, so anyone you run into is actually — you know, a player. :)

Travel Down that Ol’ Town Road

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.)

Whoa — where did all the extra playable races come from??? How on earth is THIS explained by lore?

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.

One of the last trials of the introductory experience sees you descend into a Young Olthoi hive, to recover an orb of protection.

But all too soon it was over, and I was thrust back into the world.

A sidebar:

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.

South Holtburg Valley

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