Older MMORPG’s were able to immerse me in the moment. Newer MMO’s don’t have that power, and I’ve written about the subject and heard from many of you these past few days who agree. Someone asked me if the older games are still able to do it for me if I go back and play them all these years later. The answer is yes.
A few months ago I went back to Ultima Online and played the oldschool Second Age era gameplay. Hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, others were there living in the world already. I didn’t know what I was, who I was, or where I was going. A friend of mine, who compared to me is a pro, asked me what I want to be. What do I want to be? What a foreign question. What DO I want to be? I decided I wanted to make stuff. I didn’t know why, but I did. He pointed me in a direction and said, “You’ll find some mountains that way. Here’s a mining pick. Go mine.” I went and began my life as a miner, then a blacksmith. I made things. I chose what I wanted to do, and made it happen. There was no right or wrong answer to his original question, “What do you want to be?”
Today I once again booted up the Project 1999 client for the original EverQuest. I played a few months ago, and a few months before that. Today I was once again struck with a sense of being overwhelmed. This wasn’t EQ with 10 years of development. This was EQ when Kunark first came out, and I was a master of this game years ago. Yet, somehow, I log in today on a new character as a Dwarf in the Butcherblock mountains with not but a club in my hand and a dangerous, unforgiving world ahead of me. I felt so alone, so timid, and so unprepared for what was nothing more than a few feet ahead of me that I shrank back to the safety of the guards to gather my thoughts. I went on to play for hours doing things I hadn’t done in MMORPG’s for years.
So yes, older games can still do it for me. By today’s standards their graphics are ugly, their polish that of rust, and their mechanics simple and cruel. Yet I find myself immersed. Is it because they are so very different than today? I think so. Is it because older games all seemed to have some sandbox in them and be less newbie friendly? I think that’s part of it as well, but the key really is how different they were from each other, and how different they remain from today’s MMO’s. That difference changes my mindset every time I log in, and sometimes that’s all one needs to be immersed.