I was playing some EverQuest again yesterday, and it reminded by of how much the kindness and generosity of other players matters to me. My Halfling Druid is bound in East Freeport, but I was hunting in Crushbone (across the world) with my friends. I died to a massive train of mobs while running from a second train, and ended up stranded without my body or any money. I went to East Commonlands and asked for a portal (quick travel saving me an hour or more of travel time), and stated upfront that I could not pay or tip for a port. I received four messages offering to take me on the trip.
When I last played, about a month ago, I met some max-level players in Rivervale who saw me and started handing me items because they knew I had nothing. They gave me gear that is actually really, really good and not easily replaced. Then they buffed me and sent me on my way. Speaking of buffing, many players go out of their way to buff other players in EQ. Higher level players can often be found in lower level areas handing out magnificent buffs.
In addition to making me feel good, the kindness of these strangers reminded me just how much different it feels like to be helped by someone in an older game compared to being helped today.
Someone might run by you and buff you in a modern game, and you never realize it. You might even be killing monsters and not notice a change. A buff in EQ changes your life. Unlike some games where you can take a mob +1 your level and a couple of its friends at the same time, in EQ it is easily a death sentence when you aren’t twinked (using gear beyond your ability to earn) to fight more than one mob. A port in WoW and a port in EQ accomplish the same thing — travel — but in EQ it saves you HOURS and even the risk of death.
When help means less to the game mechanics, it matters less to the player. Despite whether or not people still have those good intentions, and I would like to believe they do, it no longer carries with it as much meaning. That social dynamic has been removed from modern MMO’s. I miss it.