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As someone who has been heavily invested in several MMORPGs over the years, I certainly wish it was commonplace for the developers of any shuttered title to release the server code for the game so it can live on, but, alas, that practice is not yet occurring today:
Asheron's Call (AC to the fans) was released in 1999, a few years before the meteoric rise of titles like WoW and Everquest 2 brought the MMO to the attention of the wider public. The game's servers shut down last year, amid an outpouring of heartbreak and frustration from the community, many of whom had been playing the game for nearly two decades.
Contacting the ReefCull team was difficult. Many of the active members of this private server project for Asheron's Call were outwardly fearful of any media attention. There's a very apparent concern among the majority that some lawyer is going to show up and destroy everything they've worked towards.
To be fair, this caution is understandable. Many of these former customers were sold 'lifetime subscriptions' to the game back in 2014, only to have the servers go down a few years later. When owners Warner Bros. announced the plan to pull the plug in 2017, it removed the option to create new accounts, ensuring that previous players couldn't roll up a fresh character and experience the game one last time. Finally, it sent a cease-and-desist order to the first team that attempted to set up a private server, further cementing the idea that AC was being killed off in the minds of its former players.
ChosenOne is the alias of one member of ReefCull's small development team. When speaking to him, the frustration is immediately evident. "How can any of us be understanding?" he asks. "If they'd followed through with their promises we would not be having this discussion today... We had promises of private server files, which never happened, and now we're re-creating an emulator of something we were promised. I'd say we're all still bitter about their actions and how it all unfolded."
ChosenOne's feelings on the closure of AC are typical of the wider community. Like many, he started playing back in 1999, when his uncle was in the beta. He vividly remembers searching all the software stores in his local area for a boxed copy on release day, then waiting several hours for his 56k modem to download the updates before he could log on. There is real love for Asheron's Call in this community, as well a deep sense that the team are protecting and preserving a work of art from those who would have it permanently hidden away.