On November 2nd, 1999 the fantasy MMORPG Asheron's Call was released. Developed by Turbine Entertainment Software and published by Microsoft, Asheron's Call was the third major MMORPG to be released, and one of the first to offer monthly events and updates to players.
Asheron's Call features a complex story-driven quests, an open-ended system of character development, and an ever-changing world. Asheron's Call takes place in the colorful world of Dereth, a land that has suffered for generations as a result of a powerful wizard's failed experiments. Asheron, one of the mightiest wizards ever known to Dereth, had accidentally opened portals to the homeworlds of powerful evil creatures, most notably the giant insect men Olthoi, thus allowing them to enter Dereth. Asheron realized his mistake and opened portals to other worlds to call upon hardy adventurers to come to Dereth and help battle the new menace, then he disappeared in a climactic battle in which he collapsed one of his own magic portals on himself and a group of exceptionally powerful creatures.
The launch of Asheron's Call was staggered, with only two retail chains receiving shipments of game boxes. While this allowed dedicated players from beta testing phases to get copies of the game, it also prevented a large influx of players logging in on launch day had the game been carried by more retail stores. When the first thousand players began logging into the game, the development team braced for catastrophes similar to those that had plagued competitors. To their surprise, nothing went wrong. They credited this stability to effective beta testing, smart project management, and effective data-center equipment deployment. For the first several weeks, the server software did not crash once, which was a major accomplishment given the technical problems that often arise from the complexity of massively-multiplayer games.
Watch the original introduction video from the Asheron's Call retail disc: