A piece of what MMORPGs have lost over time

I’ve been reminiscing about EverQuest, back from the Trilogy days (up to Velious, but not past it – what I consider to be the true EverQuest), and I’m remembering details about what made the game enjoyable for me.  Yesterday I spoke about the leveling process being my favorite thing in MMORPGs. [Note: Not all leveling processes are created equal – some suck] This led me to start thinking about specific things I did while leveling up in games like The Realm, EverQuest, and DAOC, that are missing from today’s games.

As I mentioned, while reminiscing about EverQuest I remembered the adventures I took to obtain certain items.  I remember being a low level druid and hearing about this quest for the Paw of Opolla.  It was supposedly this great off-hand item for wisdom casters and to obtain it you had to do a long and involved quest chain.  I wanted that item though, and I set my mind on obtaining it.  That quest alone took me weeks.  I spent time gathering the materials I would need to satisfy the NPC’s and planned out when and where I had to be to camp the rare monsters that would spawn and drop items I needed.  I worked at it while I leveled and made it a part of my character’s progression.  It was a quest, an undertaking, and an adventure I won’t forget.

Not all items were difficult by the Paw’s standards to obtain.  Some simply required you to kill the right mob, yet they were not a guaranteed drop.  I remember being on the main continent of Antonica in EQ and hearing about a place where the Elves lived.  This place supposedly had a village up in the trees surrounded by a vast forest that bordered the home of an Orc Clan:  Crushbone.  In Crushbone you could simply kill an Orc Trainer and have a chance at getting the Shiny Brass Shield – I wanted it!  I was playing a Human – or perhaps a Halfling… maybe a Dark Elf… I digress… so that meant I was on the wrong side of the world.  I decided to make the trip over to Greater Faydark, on the continent of Faydwer,  and obtain this shield.  The trip took over an hour but I finally arrived, at a lower level, in Gfay and began my adventures.  I needed to level up a little bit, find this Crushbone place, and begin hunting there.   And so I did.  [Side note:  Anyone else still hear this in their nightmares:  “Ambassador DVinn to zone!”]

Those single items, that one place, and those ideas of achieving something great set the tone for how this particular character would progress.  That is simply never seen anymore.  Today we’re busy thinking about how best to finish leveling up.  Why?  Sometimes it’s because the leveling process is expedited to get players to the “end-game” where the “content” begins and other times it’s a part of games that is simply neglected altogether and we get stuck with a quest grind.  In general, the focus has shifted away from the journey and focused squarely on the destination.  I saw it in the comments of yesterday’s blog entry – that sentiment of “Leveling is a chore that I want to finish to get to the good stuff” – well, what if the leveling up was good stuff too?

Little things matter.  It’s from the little things that great heaping amounts of content can be born.  A few very, very sought after items can turn into epic quests, journeys across the world, and even create the foundation for a zone themselves.  I want to see that emphasis return to MMORPGs where we can stop and plan out our day, our week, maybe more.  Everything is planned out for us and we have so few choices.  We know that today we’ll be questing in this hub, and tomorrow we’ll be in the next.  Where is the sense of world?  Where is the sense of accomplishment and achievement?  Give me back that adventure and that opportunity to make something of my journey to the end.

[Note: I might turn this into a series of entries.  If so, consider this Part 1.]

  • I think I understand what you are saying..I’ve been playin WoW the last few weeks and I know exactly where to go to grind the quests out to level up my character. There is no thought really involved, you just do it. I remember FF11 (my first MMO) I played a white mage and It was epic just trying to get from the tarutaru home to the other places to get all the teleport stones, it was hard, but I felt a greater sense of accomplishment. I also remember gathering a bunch of friends and questing for carbuncles ruby to become a summoner, it took almost a day just to do that part. I didn’t really like the forced grouping or the inablity to jump but it seems I Enjoyed this game and felt more accomplished in it than any since. Just my reminecent thoughts heh…

  • It seems we reminisce about those days when questing meant something, regardless what level you were. Now, it is about hitting level cap and getting the best loot. It’s too easy. Well, back in EverQuest I was excited just to get to level 20 to add my surname – took me months just to hit level 20! Traveling from Halas to Blackburrow was scary – because if you died the corpse run was a pain, especially if you feel in the burrow! Working on your class armor was another long quest line which took you many places in Norrath – and this was around lvl 20! Having a full set was pretty uber back then. And the trains! EQ was tough, but the enjoyment was accomplishing the many varied quests. Back then there was no sparkly for quest items, no QuestHelper, hardly any maps (sometimes I would map it myself on graph paper), and certainly no mods to guide you. It a was a true MMORPG that forced you to work together on quests.

  • @ Aloran: I think you understand pretty well, Aloran. You probably felt that the world was wipe open in front of you when playing FF11. I bet you had choices of where to go, when to go there, and decided “today I want to get those stones” or “tomorrow I’m going to work towards becoming a summoner”.

    I bet that you had some items you wanted to get or places you wanted to see and simply set off in a direction that interested you. The catch is, the game actually supported you for thinking that way instead of making you feel like you’re playing it wrong or wasting your time.

    @Off_world: I like how you mentioned the reliance on other players (That’s big with me lately). I too remember it taking months to get some characters past level 20 because I would go so many places and see so much. I remember making that trip from Halas to Freeport on the SECOND day of playing EQ. It took hours because we would hide in the barns at night in the Karanas because we were scared of what might come out and night (and we couldn’t see either, hah!). That sense of accomplishment when I finally arrived in Freeport will never be forgotten.

  • EQ will always be my favorite MMO. It’s like your first love. I think if I had as much free time as I did back then I would probably go back to EQ just for alot of these reasons. I remember on my Enchanter I had to start grouping at level 5 because I couldn’t solo mobs anymore. Imagine that in a MMO today, having to group starting at level 5.

    I remember getting the Epic for my Necromancer at level 55. It was a great feeling. We camped Ragefire for 5 days to get our first Cleric Epic in my guild.

    In EverQuest every kill, every time you traveled, it felt like you were accompishing some feat. In WoW and WAR it feels like you are just following the Yellow Brick Road they made for you.

  • @Nobs: I remember my Necro epic too. What a beast. Don’t get me started on the Cleric epic camping. 😛 Grouping at level 5 was not only beneficial, it was FUN. I remember being in North Ro forming groups for stuff that early. I remember we would set up camp near that stone slab… I forget the name we had for it. It was fun pulling big scarabs to it and running for our lives when the Madmen would come wandering by or Dorn would get pulled.

    @Thallian: Heh, thanks. 😉

  • Hey Keen

    I had the same love for Everquest as you did. My first real MMORPG. I was so addicted to the game back then, that my parents had to threaten me that they would take away my computer if I didnt use less time on the game. Great times :D. I then moved on to DAOC which almost gave my the same feeling, just different since it was about defenting your realm. Later on WoW, EQ2, WAR ect. But non that gave me the same joy as when I played EQ.

    My Brother then suggested to try Vanguard. I was not that into the idea since I tried it back when it was released. Back then it was a mess IMO. But he claimed it must have gotten better since it was pretty high rated according to mmorpg.com. I then gave it a shot. And I must say, lots have changed since the vanguard release. I actually enjoy it. At last a gave with some great PVE, some real good character development, no classes that look alike, fun dungeons / questlines for groups all the way to the end game. Im addicted again. Nice feeling.

  • I really agree with what you wrote in your article Keen. It seems that the focus today is about rushing to hit “max level” where all the cool dragons and fun is. What happened to the game within the game?

    In SWG my friends and I would take long adventures that would last a full day of real time and just explore the world. We would sit and talk in the camps, kill mysterious creatures, and try and find things that no one had seen before. It was at times scary because we didn’t know where we were going, or what we would encounter on the other side. It seems with sites that tell all the best strats and where to find what that you are really taking out the adventure in games.

    I think the problem is two fold, and I think that it will be hard for developers to pull people out of the current trend. Vanilla WoW at first was great because it was all new and you could still do *some* minimal exploring. We need to revisit this theme in MMOs, instead of rushing to the end and BAM you are done… Time to sit in the capital city of your choosing and play the “Massive Multiplayer Instant Chat Game.”

  • I often look back and compare EQ (the first 3 like you said) and while I don’t miss the boringness of certain activities, I miss the challenge a lot.

    Being level 50, or 60, etc was a great feat.

    Getting somewhere, especially without a mage or a druid was a commitment, that may take 2-3 hours, so when you were in a zone you really wanted to be there. I learned to appreciate some of the zones beauty as i traveled, looking for shortcuts, and running from monsters.

    Having only 8 spells ready, so you had to be tactically aware and ready for your challenge. And of course the joys when some of the barriers and difficulties were lifted (Who didn’t play a spellcaster that cheered with joy when they didn’t have to have the spellbook open to meditate finally!)

  • Couldn’t agree more with this post. The journey has been sacrificed for the destination, and it’s a shame.

    Re; Vanguard…ughh. What a total and complete disaster. That game had more potential than probably any I’ve ever played, and the dev team just completely obliterated it. I remember reading the faq on the original Sigil website and just knowing that would be the game i spend the next decade of my life in. It should have been the true “EQ2”.

    I pray Silius and his evil cohorts never get within a thousand miles of any other mmoprg i’m ever interested in. I do check in from time to time and now it seems Silius is in the process of trying to undue a lot of the idiotic design choices they’ve made over the last year that most people still playing the game knew were dumb moves well before it apparently ever dawned on him. Now they have a ridiculously small player base with no hope of ever recovering.

    Truly a shame.

  • I definitely remember EQ fondly, but I think it’s easy to let nostalgia take over. EQ was unforgiving. EXP debt, long travels, camping for hours and hours, if not days. Required classes in the “Holy trinity.” Taking forever and a year (or three) to level. It was epic and earned, sure, but it was also stressful and brutal. Obviously that sort of thing doesn’t have mainstream appeal. And, even today, I’m not sure if we’d enjoy EQ the same way, post-WoW. I know I have neither the time nor energy to sit in the same spot for hours killing the same creature on the hope that an item I’ll use for, at best, 8 levels will drop. But that’s what this “epicness” is. Lots of time invested.

    I don’t know. I’ve never been as engaged in an MMO as I was with EQ. I wish I could recreate the experience of engagement I felt, in some respects. But in others, I don’t want gaming to be a job or my “second life.” And that’s what I think EQ had to be.

  • EQ was my first MMO and still my favorite. However, I never camped mobs for drops, nor did long quest chains. I never even attempted to get an epic weapon (though I helped many, many people get theirs).

    When the forums were full of complaints about grinding and timesinks and kill-stealing and camping, I just roamed, set my own goals and had the best time of my MMO life. I certainly did try to get the SBS, Hadden’s Earring, Pyzjin’s stone, JBoots and countless others, but I never, ever camped anything for even one spawn into boredom.

    One of my favorite things was just to take a new character, around level 5 – 8 and run them to Thurgadin in the hope that people had sold Tizmak or Ulthork armor to the vendors, or even a crystalline blade. And the velium scimitars I sold in South Karana… happy days.

    But the thing is, it’s still how I play now. And it’s still as much fun, when a game supports it.

  • I liked this post .. but really its a critique of the mmo-community and not necessarily (key word here) the games and game design.

    I bet if EQ were magicaly rereleased today, that very game that you look back on so fondly would be quickly mapped and guide-ed to death.

    Immersion in a game world (that sense of an open world) and the feeling of participating in something epic has more to do with the gamer than the game. Don’t read forums, don’t go to quest or level-ing guides. Turn off world/spam chat.

    Now this doesn’t excuse poor quest design or even absent development (AOC at release) for many of the levels and areas. But really, those ‘good ole days’ of EQ were precious because there wasn’t yet hordes of min/max-ers rushing to get through the game and broadcasting the quickest way to do it.

  • It’s like looking back on your youth, you can never go back. We can never have a game that is as hard as EQ was and be even considered a moderate success. The casual gamer wants items and rewards. They don’t want adventure. I think it really comes from the type of gamer playing MMO’s now as oppose to 10 years ago.

    10 years ago 95% of your MMO gamers were D&D or hardcore nerds. They loved the fantasy world and the adventure. You don’t play D&D to win, it’s about the adventure.

    As more and more gamers from other genre’s, which emphasized winning rather than exploring, came to the MMO community the majority of our playerbase’s goals changed. The developers changed the games to match the new market. That is what created WoW. What Tigole did in EQ was legendary, and with the help of Blizzard, he gave everyone a chance to experience it. The problem is that changed what MMO’s were about.

  • I think a lot of the wonderment of EQ came from the fact that items were hard to obtain and quests were actually meaningful, not just something to bash out for exp. The whole journey was fun, not just the destination as we find now in modern MMORPGs. WoW for instance just wants to push people through content as quickly as possible to get them to level 70+. I want to enjoy the game again, not just play to hit max level as quickly as possible.

  • I think a large part of what has ruined the MMO genre is mainly… the internet.

    I really love exploration, I love reading the quest text and just exploring and soaking it all in. So many players aren’t into those things now it seems, they don’t read quests, and if they can’t immediately find what their quest leads to, they go to WoWhead, or whatever. The communities are so large that, getting help in game via word of mouth is more likely to get you flamed “lol l2thotbott nub”. Takes a lot of the social aspect away.

    The games all have maps that are more than magical… they mark exactly where you need to go, they have the name of every little point of interest marked… whatever happened to having a map that just had a basic idea of what the zone you are in looked like with basic directions, and lose the markers, and create more landmarks. Its lazy game design for lazy gamers.

    Sadly I doubt that we will ever go back to those experiences from EQ and UO. No game I have played since EQ has ever caught captured the terror you would feel when you heard, “Ghoul train to the zone” (granted I absolutely DESPISED losing xp for something like this…which probably caused the real terror) Games have changed for the better and the worse, they will continue to evolve and they will continue to get easier as sad as I am to say it.

    One thing I wish they would do though, is stop using the word quest for every little thing. To me a quest should feel epic in scope… like the EQ epic quests, or Frodo taking the ring to mount doom. THATS A QUEST. They should rename these other tasks… oddjobs or something. Dunno, its semantics I know… but it drives me a bit batty.

  • @easychord: I don’t completely disagree with you about the gamer being partially responsible, but in this particular situation I am speaking solely about design. Game worlds are not built around the journey – in fact many are built not to have one at all. Whether players are willing to embrace a journey or not, it means little when one does not exist.

    We can’t even theorize how it would be if developers are not willing to make games remotely close to the ‘good ole days’. As Nobs is saying, the problem we face (those of us that do enjoy the adventure) is that MMO’s are not about that anymore. I’m saying they should be.

  • I agree with everything you are saying Keen. BTW did you know EQ opened a new server a few weeks ago called the 51/50 server where all characters start at level 51 with 50 aa’s? I’ve been playing again for the first time in years and having a blast. EQ has changed quite a bit but it is still a game dedicated to grouping and leveling. I actually like the non-instanced world where you are dungeon crawling with other groups. It makes the world feel so populated. It is very much like the first time I played.
    My only wish is that someone would just take Everquest and update it with modern graphics and a modern UI. You wouldn’t have to change another thing about it.

  • Good points, Keen. You seem to have the exact same view of what an MMO should be as me.

    EQ was the best cause it was hard and it was long. It took so long to level you actually SPENT time doing things, not running from one quest to another. You leveled in a zone for a LONG time (Unrest…level 15…up to what, 30+ if you wanted to? etc). It gave more quality to the game, you got to know areas like your second home.

    And seriously, why aren’t there awesome named mobs that drop sweet loot in game as much now? Vanguard has some (for obvious reasons), but I can’t really think of any others. WoW has those stupid “rare” mobs with the grey dragon…but big surprise, what do they drop? Some crappy green item IF you are lucky, and you won’t be using it anyway 😛

    Stein of Moggok quest ftw! Crushbone was bad for trains, Unrest and Mistmoore were worse 😛 Oh and Karnor’s Castle was bad too lol.

  • I’m with Gravymonkey. It’s just … too easy and tempting to go find the optimal path. And even if you don’t, everyone else does. Want to explore some instance, see what might be hiding around corners? Too bad, everyone else in your group has read the guide and done it 5 times and all know exactly what path to take.

    Part of it is the designer’s fault; when they put in traps like huge piles of monsters if you take the wrong turn (beyond handle-able amounts), then of course people are going to look it up online, to avoid the ‘Do it again, stupid’ gameplay. But part is just … popularity harms the feeling of exploration.

  • I haven’t read what everyone has written yet, so I apologize if this has been stated. Much of what you describe, Keen, I felt with my first mmo: Asheron’s Call. I too have been missing a lot of the feelings you describe missing. I wonder, though, did those feelings have something to do with that game / those games being our first experiences? The very concept of “mmo” was new, much less the gameplay – the ability to log into a persistent world with thousands of other people, the closest thing to actually being able to live in a “fantasy” world. It was wonderful; it was magical. I do agree that game design plays a big part in this (I love a good, open world), but I must wonder if as we play more and more of these games, as the genre itself matures and grows older, and as we simply get used to these games that some of that initial “magic” dies away.

    I guess I don’t really know. I certainly hope I’m wrong. I hope, as I’m sure many of you do, that one day a good, solid game comes out that has all those wonderful things we’re missing. I want a game that feels more like a world and less like a game.

  • I started with UO and loved it, but my true passion came with Everquest. I was so addicted that thinking back on it now I don’t know where I found all that time. I’d play 16 hours a day on weekends. The time would just fly.

    My first experience was starting a Dark Elf necromancer. I was gonna be evil and twisted. I was so excited.

    I logged into Neriak and was just amazed to just walk through the city. When I finally found my way out I got lost in Nektulos Forest and loved every minute of it. I remember I was so lost that I had died in a river from alligators and could not find my corpse, and my wonderful friend that had been playing for weeks actually trudged himself all the way there to help me get my poor soul from those hungry bastards. I finally got it, but it took over an hour and it didn’t phase me at all.

    In new games, can you imagine anyone taking over an hour to get a corpse back in a newbie zone? They would hit the cancel button as soon as they logged out.

    As for Vanguard. I also loved that game, I even stuck with it through the early bugs because I knew it was truly the EQ2 I wanted. I finally quit over the RMT fiasco which was a fairly recent patch. I will NOT pay a monthly fee on top of an RMT system. It’s really too bad. I miss my Gnome Psioncist. I was awesome at CC in VG. I could CC 3 or 4 when needed.

    Gah… the good ol’ days.

  • Wow ruined the level process. And by that I mean they made it so the end game was the only thing that counted and people are used to that now.

    for instance, I loved playing UO, had a blast. Then I played EQ, once again, fun times, took my paladin to lv 44, had my soulfire sword, good stuff, never saw the raids.

    Then about a 8 months after Wow came out I gave it a shot. hey this is pretty fun I thought, a variety of weapons at all levels. So I looked up a pretty cool sword around lv 26 when I was 20 and made that my goal. I went to the instance with friends, and we took over the entire place, killed everything…and you see this coming…no sword of course. wtf? it is just a random drop from there, suddenly from questing and leveling I went back there two more times but no sword, then I found a new one that was better at a higher lv. So I thought, why the hell bother working hard on getting cool loot, when I will just out level, better to just level up to teh end and the cool stuff. So then it became a race to just level up adn not take the time to enjoy anything because the way they designed the looting and drops.

    Now all those WoW freaks will be used to that and a new game will come along and they will automatically think “rush to the end for fun” then they will bitch when they get there and dont have fun, so the developers will put stuff at the end, same problem as before.

    The best thing is to educate the players and keep them from rushing to an “end” game. So make it fun the entire time, make levels mean nothing. make the game fun to play and not rush to the fun. I really enjoy my memories from EQ but there are horror stories there as well, kill stealing, camping for hours, hell took 25 hours for that damn frog to drop my sword I needed, crazy crazy

  • It gets old after awhile. It took me months to get my ochiudo’s kote in FFXI, and it was just tedium, with no redeeming quality. You sat in a zone, camped a mob against other players for four hours and got lucky and got claim or not. Same with other NMs.

    The first time, yeah it’s great. once its over? Either you get nostalgic for it, or you are honest and realize that the crap often outweighed those moments. Most of “it was better in the good old days” was pure nostagia. Do your third corpse run in a day, and then see how much you like it.

  • #Dheovan: I didn’t play AC beyond beta, because I was into EQ so much, but one thing that sticks in my mind as a great feature was that to learn new abilities you had to experiment with combinations, and that it was random by character.

    I could be remembering it entirely wrong, but that to me is something no modern MMOs do any more, and it’s a great way to avoid the whole “pre-planned journey that you look up online” scenario.

    MMOs need more of that, things that you have to figure out for yourself – maybe not quite at the level of randomly clicking things together until you get a result; but something more engaging.

  • To me the reason leveling is not fun is because you spend most of your time alone doing relatively simple combats, which is always going to be really repetitive. The story isn’t worth it unless, maybe, it’s Bioware. The immersion factor is only there in games with great responsive engines (which makes it my pick for the most overlooked “little factor” in games… Aion will be a test of that theory). Make the combat more complicated and it becomes prohibitively expensive to build a big world with lots of different mobs. Again, maybe Bioware can afford this but nobody else can. So the cheapest option for entertainment is to shake things up by encouraging grouping. Give good incentives for grouping and natural hubs for groups to meet with your world design.

    Then the problem is that the average grouping experience in WoW makes random grouping while leveling unpleasant. A lack of a mentoring system in most games makes it difficult to play with friends and guildies. Making the game too difficult for morons will solve the problem of bad groups but cost you a large fraction of your playerbase… Aion may be on the verge of doing this. If only there were a server you had to take maturity and IQ tests to join.

    As for the sense of the unknown, it dies when a game is popular. WoW has more PVE area than probably any non-EQ game out there, yet no mysteries because everything is datamined weeks before a patch goes live. Your long-planned quest example gets reduced to an annoying grind for materials. Players will complain about how difficult the item is to get unless it’s a best-in-slot piece. And then other players will complain that BiS always has to be the raiding item or why raid. Or, if you make it have really unique effects outside of the normal stats progression, it has a good chance of being imbalanced as I understand many things were in EQ. It’s hard to nerf items. I guess you could always just not read anything about the game, but then it’s difficult to get into a guild with people who are decently skilled.

  • I see endgame as the real world in an MMO; when you are finally the hero. The leveling process is your education in the gameworld. During that time, you are taught how to play your class, how to group effectively, and why you should care about the world you inhabit (the lore.) The problem with the modern MMO is that that education process has very few real tests of your skill and knowledge. Wouldn’t it be fun to be given a hard-ass challenge to overcome in order to advance to the next level bracket? Imagine if your XP gain stopped at level 79 in WoW and you were required to pass a challenging class-skill quest to advance to level cap. Maybe something like the old WoW epic weapon quests for Priests or hunters. Level advancement tests could be required for every 10th level.

    That would be a great way to reintroduce meaning to character level as opposed to just an inidicator that you killed enough rats to hit the end-game dungeons. Make level advancement an indication of your skill! Screw gear.

  • @Deigh: Are you referring to the skill system? If so, I miss it. When you created your character you could pick from a bunch of pre-made templates, or you could create your own. You would gain access to every available skill right at the beginning, and, with a certain allotment of skill points, you would raise up however many skill to either “primary” (cost more points) or “secondary.” In this way, you could make a truly unique character. The other cool feature was the ability to numerically assign all of your attributes at the beginning (strength, intelligence, etc.). Basically, you got to create your own class. Of course, as awesome as that sounds, it’s practically impossible to balance. By the time I came along to AC, if you weren’t a heavy magic user you were incredibly gimped. Even a melee fighter was more mage than warrior. The game became incredibly unbalanced, but that skill system has always stuck with me.

  • @Nissl – Your post is interesting because it is one of the new school views, in the sense that since WOW is a certain way, that is the only way it can be successful. I feel you are setting yourself up for disappointment around BIOWARE.

    In regards to maps and looking up things ala thottbot, designers could adopt a wealth of little tricks to make things exciting. For instance random traps or teleporters that you could unsuspectingly cross that change over time. You would know an area is ‘dangerous’ without having it mapped out.

    Another aspect I LOVED about EQ was the day/night difference. There were zones I sweated running through as the spawns changed. You could have spawns less static. You could have bad weather actually mean something, like a storm rolling in with monster 5 levels higher etc. The – I can kill monsters 3 levels higher to 5 levels lower could be tweaked.. make some monsters much harder for their level etc. THERE ARE MANY THINGS THAT COULD BE DIFFERENT. Like many have said here.. it really is lazy, narrow-minded programming.

    There will be a game at some point that will break new ground, saying that MMO’s are doomed is ridiculous. We are just at a very low ebb. The relative failure of WAR, VANGUARD, AOC etc. reinforces this. A game that gets the 10% hardcore market share of nerds today will be bigger than EQ at its height in subscribers. The right convergence of studio events just hasn’t materialized yet. (WAR was such a disappointment..)

    Yes, there are things that we won’t be able to go back to in regards to EQ, most notably IMO are trade all items (not BOP). BUT some things could still work. Trains for instance.. I LOVE TRAINS! That was one of the things I missed in WOW more than any other. Longer times spent in levels means that the gear of those levels means something…

    People who dismiss EQ as just nostalgia are the worst kind. They are not the thinkers, they are akin to the party of ‘no’. Sure no one needs to meditate playing jewels for 5 min between fights, but actually sweating as you run through a zone.. priceless…

    The good news is WOW is getting even more theme-park like, they can’t corner every market forever.

  • Couldn’t agree more with this post. The journey has been sacrificed for the destination, and it’s a shame.

    Well said. I agree that part of the problem is players trying to optimize their advancement, but a lot of it is in the design of the games. More and more, MMOs seem to be designed to speed players through content as quickly as possible. The quest icons, trackers, quest arrows, teleporters, and such have made questing just a matter of checking off boxes on a list.

    What’s really missing is a sense of adventure. In Everquest, exploration and discovery was a big part of the game, the world was a dangerous place, and monsters were fairly challenging. In more recent MMOs, everything is designed to be as safe, convenient, and predictable as possible.

    I’d love to see more MMOs designed not to focus so much on the endgame. Give players a big world to explore and challenging content right from the get go. Then let them play the game at their own pace. It may not get the same audience as WoW, but I’ll bet there’s enough demand out there to support a good, strong niche game.

  • Yes we remember the “glory” years of the old Mmo’s but there are a few reasons we hold them in this light apart what you state.
    ” Your only a virgin once”
    Back then it was all new and exciting because we had never seen anything like it. Things like sitting and waiting for mana and health are a real annoyance now and would just not fly. We didnt know better then. Waiting endless hours for 1 mob to spawn and fight to be the one who got the kill would not fly today. Endless running to get to a spot would not fly today etc.

    I started with Asheron’s Call in 1999 and I remember 2 things i’ll never forget. someone traded with me and gave ne a few pieces of armor and I was amazed that I could log off and then back in later and I still had these pieces. The concept alone of persistent was kinda mind blowing for online game. The other thing was I recall someone sending me a private message asking me “How do we save the game” again another thing that was kinda mindblowing that the game saved everything automatically. Little things like that we take for granted now all were unique and new then and were thought to be really cool. It just can never be that way again.

    I loaded up AC like 4 years after I quit in 2005 and I couldn’t take it. I had no patience anymore for the stuff i thought was cool then just felt completely tedious, unnecessary and time sinks.

    Again.. “your only a virgin once”

  • For me the problem with leveling and what makes me rush through it is the levels. I prefer playing MMOs together with a friend but the problem then is that if one of us has time when the other one doesn’t we can’t play on that character without out-level the other guy.

    Having a mentor system is for me just a bad solution to the real problem. Remove levels and let players start with a basic skillset that you can do everything in the game with and then over time through quests, dungeons, random drops etc let them have variations of those skills such as start with a 5 second root and then find a 3second root that also does 20 damage.

  • I’d like to say that I disagree with all the people here saying that you can’t have the same type of experience you had all those years ago, that it’s all changed and all about end-game and nothing post-WoW can ever be like it used to be.

    I’m playing WoW now. Never played it in the 5 years it’s been out. I am finding it to be nothing like I expected, but very much more like EQ circa 2001/2. Yes it plays faster, but it doesn’t play different. I am doing just the same things I did then: exploring, wandering about, finding camps and clearing them, finding nameds and trying to kill them to see what they drop, and if they are too tough getting others to help; trying to make money by finding out what I can get that other players want to pay me for; working out what my character can do, what the stats mean, what gear I need and then where I might get it.

    My gameplay is virtually unchanged from how I played EQ nearly ten years ago and it’s just as compelling, absorbing and addictive. I think about it at work, talk to my girlfriend (who’s playing too) about what we’ve discovered and learned, what we want to try next. I’m playing five characters at once (she’s playing more) just like we did in EQ back then.

    We play MMOs the same way now that we always have and when we find a good one (we loved Vanguard, played EQ2 for years, enjoyed LotRO for a few months) the pleasure is always there. The fact that nowadays there are more resources avaialable and progression is smoother and faster only means that it’s possible to do more, not that the experience is devalued.

    Internet guides are a resource, not a master. I used EQAtlas and Allakhazam in 2000, but only to confirm or consolidate what I had chosen to do in-game. It’s no different now. Maybe other people are more easily jaded or bored than I am, but I can’t see any reason why I would ever tire of my version of MMO gameplay, any more than I have tired of reading because I’ve been reading since I was five years old.

    In the end, there has to be content there, but it’s as much about what you bring to that content, and how you choose to use it.

  • I really don’t play ‘end game’ content in any mmo. My game is the journey, the adventure. I like to level, to see new things for the first time, to climb that mountain just to see what is on the other side.

    I have never power levelled to the level cap so I can go on endless repeat runs of the same dungeon waiting for a loot drop. Never have, never will, that isn’t fun to me (your mileage may of course vary).

    But that said, there is still a reasonable amount of adventure in many mmos. Even those that have plenty of ‘end game’ to them. Lord of the Rings I found particularly enjoyable, but also the likes of Tabula Rasa. Whether Aion will turn out to be a boring treadmill I don’t know. After having fun in the last closed beta I’ll leave my account on hold until the final release. Don’t want to spoil the fun!

  • I think there is not only a problem that something got “lost”, but also that the genre all in all is not nearly as creative as it was in the early years.

    We already have some back to the roots movements, like Darkfall – but who is going ahead?

    Even ArenaNet/Guild Wars show some alarming trends of rather going back to the supposed WoW standard mmo roots of today with GW2 than going ahead. But I am hopefully wrong, they are pretty secretive about Guild Wars 2 right now.

  • I’m very much in agreement with you Keen. What truly saddens me is that with the homogenization of playstyles in modern MMOs, classes that I loved playing are extinct. For instance, I fell in love with the Enchanter early on and never stopped playing it. There just doesn’t seem to be a market for purely support roles anymore. Even VG which was attempting to be a successor to EQ didn’t go all the way with the Psionicist and made it a damage dealer with an emphasis on CC, whereas in EQ many times I never even had a damage spell on my hotbar. Can you even imagine that in a modern MMO? To a lesser extent I miss my monk and his feign death too, as the art of pulling has gone the way of the dodo.

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Mortal Online in your last couple posts. They are really trying to recapture much of what you are describing, or more specifically the “good ol’ days” of UO (pre-trammel). I’m one of those suckers who preordered it for 75 bucks, call it an investment.

  • @dude: I don’t think WoW ruined the leveling process, at least not initially. I had a blast leveling 1-60 when WoW first came out. When I hit 60 with my first character, there was no emphasis on end-game beyond doing UBRS or farming for an epic mount. The problem creeped in after raiding changed from exploration to farming, guides came out and the battlegrounds/rep grinds were introduced to the game. I haven’t played WoW in a couple of years now, but the first 6 months of that game I remember fondly.

    Like Keen, I think a problem with MMOs now is their de-emphasis on grouping and the social aspect of the game. AoC was the first one I remember where it felt like there was absolutely no reason to play the game with anyone. The other problem is the dumbing down of the questing system. Now there are arrows and beacons to direct you every step of the way (Aion, WAR, etc). Somehow devs believe that the majority of the MMO consumers want a game with hold-your-hand quest mechanics and no emphasis on anything but PVP. Personally, I don’t believe that MMOs are the best vehicles for that team vs. team style of gameplay. I like PVP in MMOs, but if that is really what I want out of a game I would much rather play COD or Battlefield. In other words, pvp for me is a cherry on top but not the sunday.

  • Wow, great post Keen – as an old Everquest hand, I really agree with a lot of what you’re saying. MMOs may continue to be fun, but they’ll never be the same. The only game I’ve seen that even has some of the old social vibe is Lord of the Rings Online, and that’s because the old-school “D&D nerd quotient” as Nobs brilliantly pointed out earlier in the thread, remains higher than most.

    Two things I’ll always remember (among so many) about the old days in those earlier games:

    1) I was able to make in Everquest, a cleric who worshipped an evil god, and was considered evil, but lived in the good city of Qeynos. Wow, you could never see that again. It was so crazy, but so fun! We worshipped in caves, had to hide in the sewers to train and shop – all the guards that were there to protect people from the bad guys, tried to kill me! I had to sneak in and out of the city, usually under the cover of night. The mind boggles at even having that as an option today.

    2) When I was in the amazing RP guild Shadowclan in Dark Age of Camelot (on the kill-everyone PVP server Mordred.) There was such total comraderie in that group, you basically took your life in your hands just walking down the street, so we travelled together, in large packs, and we could really and totally play a clan of xenophobic, battle-hardened kobolds who would kill anyone who messed with us. We had our own village of clan and individual houses, and it was just a total blast. We even had our own language, made deliberately to make it hard to understand us – super, super cool. Gug’yu lats – gruk latz bi bubhosh klompirs. I gu slibh agh nub wayk ub. Hoowah!

    Then I was in the same clan when we tried to move to World of Warcraft – just didn’t work. Too focused on individual achievement, too many idiots, and we couldn’t kill the ones on “our side,” even though we tried to be a xenophobic gang of orcs. The end of an era, I guess (though SC is still making a go of it on a different server in WoW. Great people.)

  • @Silverfly

    Guilty as charged on the new school thing. I missed out on EQ entirely. The idea of random spawn locations or day/night changes in spawns is a good one. I remember LOTRO had some nameds spawn at night, that was a nice little rush that unfortunately they didn’t do much with. Certainly rare spawn nameds that actually drop semi-worthwhile stuff is a good step. Change up their spawn locations and you prevent camping or farming. Maybe take them off the leash and/or let them call nearby adds for help, and yeah I know some of this stuff has been done in EQ. Open dungeons, maybe not a bad idea. I dunno, just spitballing ideas here.

    I don’t think my post is an example of “WoW is the only way” thinking. In fact I dislike that solo questing is the fastest way to level (minus RAF and/or instance PLing). And that endgame is so distinct from leveling that everyone rushes to max, which makes leveling even more barren, so more people rush through, so…. And that dual gathering/AH playing is easily the best way to gear yourself on a new server rather than doing group stuff for good loot. A UI as good as WoW (not that WoW UI is great, it’s terrible for some jobs, just that most UIs are worse) and an engine/animation combo as responsive as WoW are requirements for a game I’d like to play… everything else in the game design is negotiable.

    As for Bioware… I don’t invest anything in any game until I see a good chunk of gameplay footage and get basic designer docs. TOR isn’t there yet. I was more trying to say that there are some other solutions as far as immersion/shaking things up, but they require a lot of cash. If I see a game that is not doing something different as far as design I’m unlikely to play it unless it’s Bioware… and the writing is why.

  • Mmorpgs have lost some things over time but the real problem(my pov) is what they have gained. Everyone plays mmorpgs these days not just “nerds”.

    By nerds I mean guys like me who reads blogs and who wants to be challenged. I don’t just want the reward at the end of the quest I want the journey to be fun and challenging aswell. I want it to be an achieviment, something not everyone has done. The reward does’nt have to be items it can also be braging rights and so on.

    Unfortunately “nerds” are a minority on the internet and in mmorpgs now.

    Rewards produce a chemical in your brain and i think, unlike “nerds”, the average person gets that chemical by just spending 20mins solving some easy task.

    I do not mean to offend anyone reading this blog with the “By nerds I mean guys like me who reads blogs”.

  • @HXstak: I totally agree about the shift in the player base and the disapearance of achievement. The devs see their audience as wanting a casual friendly game which has resulted in video game communism where we have a bleak and uninspired experience. I’m not what I would consider a “hardcore gamer” at this point in my life, at least from a time/played perspective, but I am someone who wants to develop a unique and complex character in a game world over a long period of time that has its own story that isn’t exactly like every other character in that world.

  • When i read this artical it so made me want to go back to EQ1. I miss the days of a game like that. I remember the quest i took to get that cloak on my mage started in the high elf city and took me all the way to odus and back (not to mention killing that named ghoul in unrest). Man that was one fun (and very long) treck accross the world. just the four boat rides took 3-4 hours not to mention the running. and the oh shit the gryphon…. crap wheres my body. I miss the days of a game that required thinking and wasnt just spoon fed too you. not to mention the sheer size and options of the world. You could probably cross all of the contintents in wow in around an hour to hour and a half. I dont even remember how long the first trek took me from the wood elf city to odus but pretty sure it was in the neighborhoood of 10 hours and alot of fun in between. Wish they would make another game like this but sadly i doubt it will ever happen. Just between the ammount of work they would have to do and the lack of interest in a game that isnt easy seems to be beyound todays gamers. Its sad when the idea of mmo is only based around the end levels and even when you get there i mean really how long did it take someone to beat dragon soul on wow? first week. yep thats hard. In comparison ive played both wow and eq about four years. in eq i only ever had one max level character got close with a 2nd one. in wow depending on the expansion ive had up to 9 max lev chars. I miss the challange of a game like that and the sheer immersion of a game that big. Also the differnces between chars. with every patch wow just makes the differnt classes more like each other. How many buffs are shared between more then one class now. why bring a shammy any more 4 different classes have heroism/bloodlust. great for all you who want there class to have everything but i want a unique class that different from the rest. Anyways my moment of reminiscing is over and if they ever come out with another game like that im there

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