MMOG Gold RushPutting the "Massive" in "Massively Multiplayer Online"MMOG Gold Rush - RSS 2.0
Finding shortcuts across mountains or through particularly treacherous areas was an endless quest in itself. It wasn't just the terrain you were fighting against; a large population of foul-tempered nasties awaited you behind every brush, tree and hill. This made the radar on the user interface a welcome, but not always reliable, tool.
The radar showed the position of nearby players and monsters, but relying on the radar was dangerous; some of the nastiest monsters in the game didn't show up on your radar until you had already stumbled into their effective attacking range. By the time you knew they were there, you were dead.
In an area full of high-level, radar-resistant monsters, the radar was practically useless. You had to actively watch where you were going and constantly adjust your course to avoid deadly groups of monsters, lest you be drawn into an epic struggle with no hope for survival.
In other MMOGs, one need only run away to the nearest zone border; players pass through, monsters do not. This is called "training"; fleeing aggressive monsters, who then follow behind you, forming what looks like a train. A train of death.
In AC there were no zone borders to train to; you couldn't count on an easy escape. Monsters would break off pursuit after a certain distance, but with enough monsters - especially the more lethal monsters - the odds were good you would die before your train even left the station. As you fled, you would invariably flee into more monsters, coupling even more critters to your train.
One particularly existential solution to this dilemma was the act of jumping off a cliff, which, while perhaps a bit insane, would actually occasionally save your life. Unfortunately, the train of death would sometimes be so intent in their pursuit, they might jump off the cliff right after you. If they landed on you, you could expect to take damage (more than from the fall anyway). It was a sorry adventurer who, having survived a desperate jump from a great height, believed he was safe only to suffer death from above in the form of a monster bouncing off his skull.
Sea To Shining Sea
A continuous, seamless world is more than just a hook. It gives players in AC a truly unique experience, with a great sense of a massive world that wasn't present in games before Dereth was introduced. AC isn't perfect, and it's certainly gone through its share of problems, but it still stands out as the first real "massive" game, due in no small part to the ingenious design of its server architecture.
Asheron's Call never came close to dethroning then-leader EverQuest, and today, compared to the millions of subscribers boasted by World of Warcraft, its subscriber base is pitiably small. But after nearly 10 years and two expansions, Dereth remains a diverse, fully-explorable world full of adventure on a truly massive scale.
Shawn "Kwip" Williams is the founder of N3 (NeenerNeener.Net), where he toils away documenting his adventures as the worst MMOG and pen-and-paper RPG player in recorded history.