Asheron’s Call (AC), released in November of 1999 and developed by Turbine Entertainment, was the third major MMO to hit the market. Just as with EQ, most of the servers had very limited PvP with the exception of the Darktide server, which was a free for all Thunderdome-like world without rules. AC never reached the heights of popularity of either UO or EQ, but it’s believed that it peaked at approximately 120,000 subscribers. AC was fully 3D, and had a much larger world that wasn’t broken up into zones. The surprisingly realistic landmass was hand crafted to mimic the geology of the real world, and it was populated by plenty of monsters.
The standard servers were remarkably free of abuse. The ruleset made kill-stealing largely a waste of time, and most of the "abuses" were simply taking advantage of the game system rather than going after other players. The allegiance system – AC’s answer to guilds – was an interesting addition that hasn’t been mimicked in other titles. Characters would "swear" to others in the allegiance and pass up a portion of their experience further up the chain. In turn, patrons were expected to reward their vassals with equipment and guidance, and their vassals in turn would try to recruit others to help boost the experience that they gained. Some allegiances stuck to the model, while others exploited their vassals as in a pyramid scheme, stringing them along with promises while the people at the bottom continued to pass experience up the chain.
Darktide, however, was a different matter. The typical newbie experience was to spawn in front of the tutorial area and then to be murdered over and over again by a bored higher level player. Leveling up required a great deal of resilience, or a masochistic streak if you prefer. As any player could kill another one at any time, it was often wise to stick to the vast wilderness or to join a large alliance to avoid being obliterated by higher level players. You dropped a few of your most valuable items whenever you died, but it was simple to keep a few high-value but worthless items on your person to avoid your prized items from coming off of you. It was a harsh but exciting world in which danger lurked from every corner, and monsters were more like resources to be farmed than actual threats. Any time that you went to sell your booty at a vendor, there was a good chance that you would be interrupted by an electric arrow frying your brain. Experienced players took to running in zig-zag patterns just in case.
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