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Whatever Happened To...? Great MMO Failures: Asheron's Call 2

by: John Hewitt ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

We learn from failure. Also, it's kind of funny... the life and times of Asheron's Call 2 by Turbine Entertainment.

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    AC2 - Images

    That dragon? He's unemployed now. Way to go, gamers.
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    I just wanted to play as a Lugian

    Oh, Asheron's Call 2. Where can I start with you? You were bad in so many ways. More than I can count. But I picked you anyway, until I got bored and canceled my subscription. Just like most of the other people who bought you.

    AC2 was one of the first high profile MMO failures. Microsoft still had a working relationship with Turbine Entertainment back then, and pushed the studio to put out the game in late 2002. Turbine had already built up good will with the gamer community with the first Asheron's Call - sure, some people dismissed it as a shallow grind at heart, and they wouldn't be too far off the mark; but it at least had the charm of the monthly updates, the exciting half-twitchy combat system, the YMCA dance and the run skill. AC2 promised some more of the same, along with an entirely player-driven world with no NPCs, an in depth crafting system, three races to choose from and an advanced graphics engine.

    It was pretty for the time, sure. Every monster in the game - and your character - displayed progressively more serious wounds as each of you lost health. That was kind of cool. You could play a Lugian Tactician, who for some reason could construct automatic turrets. It was a pretty good idea, but it just basically meant that you could set up your little camp and sit around for hours while your turrets killed everything with two legs.

    The game was released early, in an unfinished, buggy and unbalanced state. Human Defenders were essentially unkillable - they could solo any monster in the game without trouble, and any other class that tried to kill them would find their attacks glance off harmlessly. There was almost no content past level 30 - in a game that went up to level 50. The crafting system was bottlenecked at low levels by impossibly rare drops that you had to spend hours killing. Many of the early issues were later worked out, but it's enormously difficult for a development team to recover from the negative buzz that comes from a launch that catastrophic.

    It's not clear whether or not AC2 might have benefited significantly from more time spent in development. Many of the early ideas for Lord of the Rings Online - Turbine's current flagship game - and the engine that runs it were essentially test-driven in AC2, as it had a series of story-based instances that ran through the game. One issue was that the original AC hadn't been that popular to begin with - it did break 100,000 subscribers, but the name itself didn't sell itself to fans of the original, who were quite happy with the game they were in already, and didn't attract outsiders who had likely never heard of it in the first place. AC2 was unable to recover from the weak launch. The expansion, Legions, released in May 2005, failed to boost subscriber numbers significantly.

    The game was finally canceled in December 2005.