The Asheron's Call Beta and earlier development's status in canon is disputable. This article will attempt to resolve this issue.
Beta was split in to three phases. Beta 0 was private and by invitation only. It was confidential, and covered by an NDA. Because of this, we know very little of what occurred during this phase.
Beta 1 was public, with sign-up available online. According to the Turbine beta site archive, it was planned to start in May 1999 During this phase, there was a character wipe on June 2nd, 1999.
Beta 2 was from August 3rd 1999 to October 25th 1999. Starting on on October 18th, it was open to all, with an installer freely available for download.
According to the Beta 0 Introduction letter, all the features were done when Beta 0 became available. This lines up with Gamasutra's Postmortem: Turbine Entertainment's Asheron's Call, an interview with Toby Ragaini, which stated that during beta the game placed in a code freeze, with only major bugs being fixed. With this information, we have to assume that most content that was available at release was created prior to the beta 1 and 2, and possibly prior to beta 0.
There were several world or story elements that were introduced in development but later changed or removed. For more information on this topic, see Unreleased Content. Some of the story elements from early development include:
- Tou-Tou was an Aluvian settlement, rather than Sho. Several early screenshots feature this town.
- There was a location (possibly an Aluvian town) called Rothdael.
- A fourth playable race/heritage group called Rennaj was planned.
- Viamontians were going to be a playable heritage group.
- Asheron and Bael'Zharon were originally named Aiden and Yservius Pentecost.
Call to Arms
This event occurred in July 1999, and consisted of several towns being attacked by creatures. The towns attacked included Holtburg, Rithwic, Samsur, Yaraq, Shoushi, and Yanshi. The creatures raiding these towns included Drudges, Banderlings, Tumeroks, and Monouga, including Tremendous Monougas.
Ben Ten was among the Isparian defenders. She was first spotted in Rithwic, but was also spotted elsewhere on Dereth, traveling via some magical means.
Some of the defenders spotted Virindi on the outskirts of the battles, and identified them as the source of the attacks. Others also saw Shadows, and assumed this was an alliance of the Virindi and the forces of Bael'Zharon.
This event occurred later in July 1999. Wardiel was an Isparian that was described as the chief captain of Bael'Zharon and the lord of strife. He set out on a campaign to conquer the Isparian settlements of Dereth. His campaign started with the attack and capture of Qalaba'r. He moved on to the Gharu'ndim and Sho lands, claiming towns that did not put up much resistance, and setting his banderling minions upon the towns that did. Samsur not only did not put up resistance, but actually welcomed Wardiel.
Some towns were successful in repelling the attacks from Wardiel's minions. Shoushi, Yaraq, Eastham, and Cragstone did not fall to his assaults. In Holtburg, the resistance began to solidify, and defenders openly attacked Wardiel. He was forced to retreat to Glenden Wood, where he was ultimately killed.
After his death, Wardiel's hideout was discovered in an abandonded fortress southwest of Rithwic. Defenders stayed there and settled the town of Lytelthorpe. The towns that were conquered drove out the Banderling troops and began to rebuild.
Fire in the Sky
This event occurred in October 1999. This was a cataclysmic event for the end of the beta. In this event, a red comet appeared in the sky. Shoushi was destroyed, with only a smouldering crater remaining. Glenden Wood was also destroyed when one of the hills around the town erupted into a volcano. Elsewhere, Fire Elementals appeared. Adventurers collected scraps parchment containing an ancient apocalyptic prophecy. Despite their best efforts, the people of Dereth were unable to avert disaster, and the world came to an end.
Most of the early development story elements that did not get included in the beta or release of the game. However, the Aluvian town at the site of Tou-Tou became a part of the lore. Some Tou-Tou shopkeeprs mentioned this Aluvian settlement, with the armorer stating that he heard Tou-Tou was where a failed Aluvian community once stood, and the healer stating that long ago a group tried to build there before them, but they seem to have failed.
In the Mirror, Mirror event, a town crier rumor for the Path of the Jojii Adherent quest also referenced this Aluvian settlement, describing Tou-Tou as "the Sho city that's rumored to have been an Aluvian settlement"
The Call to Arms event is referenced in the retail game. In the original manual's bestiary as well as the Zone bestiary, it is stated that tremendous Monouga recently threatened towns all over Dereth, before Isparians slew them. When the Valley of Death was introduced and Tremendous Monouga were added back to the game, the Call to Arms event was also hinted at again, with a character stating "It can't be, it's impossible. None have ever seen such since-"
Wardiel's campaign is also referenced in the retail game. In the original manual, Lytelthorpe was described as being an abandoned Empyrean fortress occupied by Wardiel and his Banderlings until a few months ago. After Wardiel was slain, Isparians drove out the Banderlings and claimed the fort. This is retold again on Lytelthorpe's town network sign. Beltslora also recounts driving creatures out and settling Lytelthorpe. An Asheron's Call 2 beta event also used Wardiel. In this event, his evil spirit returned and attacked settlements. He was defeated, and his master Bael'Zharon banished him once more into the darkness.
Even the Fire in the Sky event, which was the end of the world in Beta, is referenced in the retail game. The recap of the event stated that, while the Isparians were not successful in stopping the apocalypse, the cycle will begin again and heroes in this new world will recall the old world in their dreams. The Staff of the Weeping Witness, a reward given to a player on Frostfell for solving the puzzle in the beta, also states that the world that ended in beta was "a world before this one".
It is clear that the Call to Arms and Wardiel's Campaign events are part of the canon. At release, the Call to Arms event is described as having happened recently, and Wardiel's Campaign is described as happening a few months ago. We can also conclude that these events, which both occurred in July 1999, happened in the corresponding Leafdawning, 10 PY. This would be just a few months prior to Leafcull, 10 PY, when the the game was released.
The Fire in the Sky event also occurred, but in another world or reality. Since all the other beta event occurred prior to this, we can view this as a "failure" timeline. Perhaps for the retail servers, adventurers were successful in stopping the apocalypse, or perhaps it never started.
As stated in the overview section, we have to assume that most content that was available at release was created during or prior to beta. Because of this, most release day content and story elements would have also been present in the beta. Obviously, this all is canon. But more importantly, it may reveal the developers' intent: they were not creating separate beta content, they were simply creating content for their game.
From all this, we can draw the following conclusion: The beta events occurred and are part of the canon, and they occurred in the Portal Year timeline in the corresponding year and month to the real world time.
- 1999/11 Asheron's Call Beta - Letter to the Players
- Postmortem: Turbine Entertainment's Asheron's Call Page 4: "Project length: 40 months plus 8 months of beta"
- Asheron's Call Beta - Beta 0 Introduction Letter
- Zogblaster Archive - FAQ
- Postmortem: Turbine Entertainment's Asheron's Call Page 3: "Unfortunately, we were placed in a code freeze situation during the beta test, and only the most serious bugs were fixed. "
- 1999/11 Release - Armorer Xao Fen dialog
- 1999/11 Release - Healer Rili Sou dialog
- 2004/01 Mirror, Mirror - Town Crier rumors
- 1999/11 Release - Asheron's Call Manual: A Dereth Bestiary
- Date Unknown Asheron's Call Handbook - Bestiary: Monouga
- 1999/11 Release - Asheron's Call Manual: Lytelthorpe
- 2010/06 Shifting Gears - Lytelthorpe (Town Network Sign)
- 1999/11 Release - Beltslora's Pretty Shirt Quest: Beltslora dialog
- 2002/11 Asheron's Call 2 Beta - End of Beta
- 1999/10 Asheron's Call Beta - Fire in the Sky Recap
- 1999/11 Release - Staff of the Weeping Witness inscription