the end

All aboard the feels train.

Yesterday was hard. This whole thing’s been hard. Wow. Yeah. Asheron’s Call. What a trip.

Sorry, I’ll try to stop typing in disjointed sentences.

It was announced in very late December that the game was going to be sunsetted on January 31st, 2017. I wasn’t happy that this was happening, but aside from winning a very large lottery pretty damned fast, there wasn’t much I could do about it but wait for the end. I actually went through all of January without feeling any pull to log in. I saw a couple of Facebook groups and subscribed to two, one wherein it was proposed that we try to save the game, and a group devoted to the server I played on.

A number of people wanted to present WB with some sort of proposal to buy the rights and intellectual property of AC, to host it ourselves and whatnot. That proposal was ultimately rejected; for whatever reason, WB was not interested. The end was still coming.

I don’t think I would have logged on, where it not for one fan’s poignant post, in which he wrote, “After I’ve said goodbyes, I’m going to type /house recall, so that the last thing I see on my screen is, ‘[Character Name] is recalling home.’ Rather fitting, I think.” That comment has fueled a great many spirited tears. He posted that the night before the game was to go offline.

I had to go download the client and see if I could log in, and did. I was up late, crying, and looking at my inventory while loitering in marketplace with [Hroth]. I had to go to sleep. I set an alarm early for the following morning so that I could be there.

I was awake at 6am with T-minus three hours to go, and immediately logged in, my eyes absolutely puffy from last night’s waterworks. My roommate, who rarely sees me in any particular strong mood but amusement, ribbed me a bit for crying over a video game. I don’t care. I am unabashed about my strongest feels, particularly for this game, which someone said was the Rodney Dangerfield of video games. lmao Our lovable, goofy, old primitive game.

I spent some time with my friend from the Netherlands, Pol, who I had known back when I started my main character in 2002. Pol was my grand-patron at the time. She’d friended me on Facebook after seeing me come up for air in the groups, she asked if I had logged on, and logged on with me. I had packs full of stuff and no particular need to do a quest or do anything. I had a mind to log out in Hebian-to, where I had spent literal years with my patron, who eventually faded away but who I will always think fondly of. It seemed like a good place to view whatever was to happen.

Pol asked if I wanted to do a quest, I answered in the negative, and just hung out by that town’s lifestone, watching a few other people come and go on their way to wherever they were going. It didn’t take her long to do her quest, (for posterity, it was Walking Boots) and then she asked if I wanted to visit the old Hub, I said sure, and we galumped our way to the underground city portal. We ran around for a little bit in there, before I mentioned wanting to go back to Hebian-to, as it was now an hour before whatever was going to happen happened. She wandered off to do other things.

I had kept an eye on allegiance chat this whole time (I didn’t know anyone who was typing, but they tolerated my presence well enough), and I saw that a large number of them had decided to go to Eastham, and then to Asheron’s Castle, to spend their last moments there. I decided that sounded like a good place to go, and galumped my overburdened way there as well. I mentioned to [Skyla] where I was going, and she ended up there too.

A large number of us gathered there, before the NPC Asheron himself. We faced him, and either knelt before him, or stood around emoting various things. A few people were PKLing each other because why not, and so there were various magic spells and attacks flying around willy nilly. I chose to *meditate* before Asheron, kneeling on my knees, head bowed.

I watched chat as I waited. There were a large number of people on, and so chatter was lively, and I saw character names I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. It was good to see. Chat scrolled by almost faster than I could read it. That was gratifying.

The appointed hour neared, and I split my attention between my own in-game presence, and someone who was streaming the end on their own server. The streamer was choked up and becoming more emotional as the moment neared, and I shed my own tears. I’m very, very certain that most everyone in that streamer’s chat and live in this game were experiencing a similar sense of loss, dread, and anticipation.

It became time. We all became more tense. The PKL noise stopped, for the most part. And we waited. 9:02am PST, the green text of a global message appeared. Shutting down in two minutes. Please log out.

One minute. Please log out.

30 seconds. Log out now.

The servers are shutting down NOW. Log out!

The moment had come. I had tissues ready, and was using them quite liberally, eyes glued on the screen. General chat was now flying by so fast that I couldn’t keep up, but most everything was a message of love, gratefulness, invitations to join the Facebook groups, and a few jokesters either typing about seeing a bright light, or wanting to buy a lockpick key or a group to do a run of some quest or another.

I watched my character rise to her feet. I saw everyone else stop what they were doing, emoting, kneeling, waving, running, and collectively, we all raised our hands, the pink swirl of impending disconnection enveloped us, and our characters disappeared.

My character is in here somewhere. Image credit to Skyla.

I could not have anticipated what happened after, but for several minutes, we hung there that way, in whatever spot we had been in last. Our characters were not there, but our weapons were floating at our sides, rising and lowering as if a character were still holding the weapon. The world remained. The clouds continued rolling above. There were the ambient sounds of crickets, insects, birds, and people.

The game streamer had taken off his headphones to blow his nose, and laughed when someone said, “Ghosts in the servers.” That seemed very apropos. Finally, the game client shut down completely. “Server connection has been lost!” The dialog box read, with a single button to click, “Quit”. I let the game client hang there like that for about five minutes, before I clicked that button. As someone else would mention later, “That last click was really ominously loud…”

I took a little time to collect myself, everyone who had just been streaming the shutdown stopped their broadcasts, and I browsed on Facebook to see how people were reacting. There were other videos of peoples’ last moments, and a lot of threads of disbelief, sadness, and recounting where they had decided to log off for the last time. Lots of screenshots, a few videos, and a lot of text. A couple threads appeared that I contributed to, people identifying the characters they’d played, and where they are located in real life.

I did not see my patron’s name mentioned anywhere. I wasn’t expecting to, but it would have been a really neat surprise. Perhaps I will be bold and ask.

There’s talk of potentially working on an emulator for our erstwhile game, or continuing the fundraising and negotiating to acquire ownership of this game’s servers. Even if we had to start over from level 1, I think quite a few of us would take that over not having a game at all. Anything would be better than this permanent-feeling limbo.

Someone wrote about what this game meant to them this morning, and they mentioned that they felt as if their childhood home were being sold, or that they had lost a favorite, old relative. *nods* It isn’t from major sadness or despair that I cried (and still cry), it’s just intense feels for 17 years of memories in this goofy little virtual world. It’s the loss of a game I quite enjoyed. I’m not thrown into a deep depression about it or anything, but it definitely had and made an impact on me.

Good feels, just good feels. I’ll blither more about this later.

Janky, but lovable.

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