Saying goodbye is never easy. In 2017, thousands of players said goodbye to the friends they made while playing the MMO Asheron's Call as the plug was pulled on its servers after 17 years. We were there to document the final moments and reminisce with a few of the community's most dedicated players about their time spent in the world of Dereth.
The end of Asheron's Call was not climactic. There was no epic battle, no apocalyptic finales, and no perfectly-timed jumps to lightspeed. Instead, Asheron's Call ended with a somber gathering of thousands mourning the loss of a game that they had invested years of their lives into. Huddled together in the streets of their favorite towns or around landmarks that would soon cease to exist, they took pictures and said goodbye one last time.
Some players like Julien "Black Heart," the 74-year-old grandfather who had been playing since 1999, decided not to show up at all. "I've said my goodbyes," he'd told me days before. "That's where it's going to end, I think."
Others like Maggie the Jackcat returned to say one final farewell after quitting years earlier. She had always imagined that one day she would return to play Asheron's Call with her son when he was old enough and in the final two weeks she managed to do that. I met her in-game just as they were setting off on a quest together. "I always thought that I would take my kid back on one day and he'd start playing it," she told me. "So I took him through the town I grew up in and I took him hunting." One of her friends, Capt. Justice, even took her son out on a few quests. "As I was saying goodnight to my friends in the game," she said, "he was sitting there rubbing my back because he knew how sad it was that our game was going away forever."
Insanely Corrupted is one player who has always drifted back to Asheron's Call over the years. When he learned that the game would be ending, he helped start a community-wide movement to petition Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to find an alternative that would still allow them to play. Being a father, he didn't always get to spend as much time in the game as he'd like, and wouldn't even be able to see its final moments for himself. Instead, his goodbye happened the night before. "I'm going to do the same thing I did the first time I started playing it. I'm going to sit down at my computer, make a brand new character, have a glass of vodka next to me, and just enjoy it."
Twitch streamer loud_lou was there for the final moment, and you can watch him say goodbye. As he pleaded for people not to forget the memories and relationships they've made over the 17 years, Warner Bros. pulled the plug. In an instant, the forums that players had gathered on for decades vanished, the website disappeared, and soon the game would too.
As the chat window filled up with goodbyes, one by one characters raised their arms to the sky as a pink energy enshrouded them. And then, just like that, they were gone. Moments later, each player was booted from the server with a message.
"The connection to server has been lost."
And that's how 17 years of history vanished in just a day.
Thanks to the Asheron's Call community, who filled my inbox with their stories and offers to help me find the people I needed to talk to. More specifically, thanks to Dantae, Joe S, loud_lou, ImmortalbobMT, Prjkthack, Denman17, Rob Williams, Jennifer Tidmore, Joshatdot, Cadwal, We Sleep Talk, and Lunar_Space_Wizard who all helped contribute to the video.