Nostalgia is Good

Have you ever seen people telling others that they’re ‘just being nostalgic’ when they reminisce about a game they played?  Maybe you’re one of those people.  It comes across as dismissive with a negative connotation as though the person being nostalgic can’t possibly be thinking clearly or that their memories are somehow wrong, inaccurate, or out of date for today’s way of thinking.  Can anyone tell me why?

I see nostalgia as a good thing.  In fact, I see it as a great thing.  Nostalgia means longing for something past.  More often than not, when someone pulls the nostalgia card, they are using a definition that includes the person longing for something in an idealized form.  Why is that bad?  Before I expect someone to answer that, I’ll tell you why I think it is a good thing so that the ball is then passed to their court.

For me, when I’m being nostalgic it’s not because I’m thinking of something that was and can not be again.  When I speak of a game and how great it was, it’s not because I’m thinking of something that did not happen.  I’m not longing to play a character again that I played ten years ago. I’m not longing for that guild I was in.  When I say that DAOC was a great PvP game that handled a multi-faction war better than any other MMO it’s not because I have some dillusional state of mind.

I know that I can never experience EverQuest again.  I know that I can never experience Star Wars Galaxies again.  Ultima Online will never again see the light of day in its true form.  Even World of Warcraft’s original form “Vanilla WoW” is something of the past.  Those games are gone.  Their spirit lives on and we can all love them for that.  However, when someone like myself truly gets nostalgic about those games it’s because I see more than just the great game I can never have again.

It’s about gameplay.  When I get right down to it I am talking about the design of the game.  When I think about games of the past and I wish for games of today to adopt their enormous worlds, their level of content, their complexity, their ability to evoke an emotional response,  and a specific mechanic it’s because those things factored into the whole.   If one insists on telling me that this is nostalgia then I would say nostalgia is a good thing.  If nostalgia allows me to remember good game design, remember exactly what I liked about a particular game, and then want to implement it in a newer generation then that is a great thing.  We can and should learn from the past.

Personally, I think it’s more than nostalgia.  MMORPG’s today are missing something – more than something – and I really long for them to get back to at least having what they did a few years ago.  As I mentioned in my ‘We’re Working Backwards‘ entry, I think that we need to seriously reevaluate where we’re at right now.  If we’re “moving forward” then why are the games so severely lacking compared to yesterday?   I challenge this perceived forward motion as being nothing more than a more efficient way of treading water at a profitable point.

That’s a subject which I intend to explore soon.  However, this entry is purely about nostalgia.  If people insist on telling me and others that we’re being nostalgic then I ask them to tell us why it is bad; I’ve told you why I believe it is good.  If nostalgia allows me recall what I know to be better, even if its my opinion, then why should that ever be used as a way to dismiss one’s argument?  In the context that I have spoken about today, the only context of the word I know to be true in relation to “longing for the past” in games, how could this be a bad thing?

  • nostalgia by itself isn’t bad, but the way human memory works is that we tend to gloss over the bad parts of our memories. I have many times fired up old NES or C64 games i was nostalgic about, only to find them completely unplayable.

    You raise one important question though: What was it that we liked so much in the old games (excluding the bad parts), can it be recaptured in a new game where the bad parts are made better?

  • Well usual argument is that people forget the bad and remember the good. Which is partially true. What is most frustrating is that certain lessons that were apparent in from old games were never learned or used. From DAOC.. use real life Mythology people know it and you save a ton of $ in developing it, 3 sided war, Realm Ability system, few other things.

    DAOC 2 could be set in Midleeast with 3 sides being Crusaders, Muslims and Byzantium. Now that would lead to some serious realm pride/animosity 🙂

  • Seems recent advances in MMOs are not in concept, but in visuals. When UO came out there was nothing like it, same for EQ, and same for DAOC. I think of WoW as taking all the innovations before it and mass marketing it with polish. so, pretty much everything after WoW has been a let down.

    There are a few envelops that could be pushed. In the DAOC days people started running multiple accounts at once. This was mostly due to botting, but I always wondered why wouldn’t a developer make a MMO that would give the option to try play a group of players at once. I think the Bonedancer might have been a step in the direction, but wouldn’t it be cool to try to push multitasking as a part of game play?

  • @ Dr Ed
    Sword of the New world did something like that. To be honest, i never got into it much, but it seemed like a neat concept.

  • “If nostalgia allows me recall what I know to be better, even if its my opinion, then why should that ever be used as a way to dismiss one’s argument?”

    The problem with this statement is that, no offense, but you are insane. I have never seen someone more all over the place with what he claims he wants (and with this same ridiculous certainty in it).

    You are the same person who complained when playing the Aion beta that there was too much questing, that it was too much like WoW. You claimed you were looking forward to the promised grind at 30. Then, you quit the game specifically because you couldn’t bring yourself to grind after 30.

    DAOC is still around, Keen. You don’t have to pine, go play it. I played DAOC myself when it was first released, to the point of leading relic raids. I know what you’re saying is just idiotic, the PVP in that game is pure unquestionable sh*t compared to today’s standards. After your standard two months of playing before you hate a game, you would be brought to your senses.

  • @smthin: If you completely ignore the bad then yes, you’re having selective memory and definitely only remembering an idealized form of something. I can remember what I didn’t like about SWG, DAOC, EQ, etc. So can a lot of people. I think that big strides have been made to remove what a lot of people didn’t like in those games.

    The problem is, not only the bad things were removed. A lot of good things were cut out too. I see nothing wrong with looking back at a game and remembering how fantastic it was (not that the bad would be forgotten) and to figure out how to take those great things and implement them into a newer generation.

    And then as was mentioned, a lot of the lessons that should have been learned were not — both good and bad.

    @Samus: I should probably delete your troll, but I’ll leave it up. No offense, but I want people to see what it looks like when someone talks out their ass.

  • I agree Keen. As long as we can articulate WHY we liked specific game features from older MMORPGs it is a good thing.

    Something else to consider, that most people don’t like to admit, is that some of the bad game features in the older MMORPGs are what made the other features so good.

    EQ wouldn’t have been the game it was if you could have easily solo.

    East Commons was the epicenter of the game for many years before an Auction House was implemented. It created a large portion of the community but at the same time it was an “un-user friendly” feature.

  • In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by an aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine.

  • What can we as players do to help future games avoid cutting out the good stuff?

    I understand the frustration of the cut. “Very cool, you guys are doing some nice new stuff here but… well where’s this thing? And that, how do you not have that?” Ugh, I hate those moments when I’m trying a new MMO, but some times it feels like it’s just too late to even mention it by the time it’s in beta. Some times that stuff needs to be in the design from day 1. Is there anything we can do to ensure those features stay in the mold?

  • I have been thinking that the “Quest Centric” model of WoW and EQ2 was a double edged sword. On one had it gave you a some direction to go and a means to level. However, for the most part everyone was funneled into the same areas and the quests themselves became trivial.

    IMO, I think DAoC had the right mix and idea of quests. Enough to point you in the right direction and give you some nice rewards, but not the be-all of the game. Exploration and good old spawn camping were the name of the game. I suspect that spawn camping is more conducive to building community then “group quests.”

    Spawn camping really did allow PUGs to be fluid. You did not need a full group, and you did not worry about the composition too much. (Though there were some oddities with group xp, but that can be tweaked) Now some good spots did require some more dedication, but for the most part you could easily meet new people and not worry too much about them messing you up.

  • Nothing wrong with nostalgia but it is not a good source of information to draw into a rational discussion. Trying to redefine it as something more than idealized longing of the past serves no purpose.

    Instead I would agree that you have a real point here and it really isn’t only nostalgia. But as stated before this is one of those rare things that you can really go back to, DAOC is still around. Give it a go again and see how much of it was nostalgia.

  • I’ve always thought that a GOOD sequel (or “spiritual successor”) will remind you just of the feeling you had playing the original game, but if you were to go back and play the original game, you would feel like it was really not very good.

    Blizzard tends to do this better than almost any other company, in my experience. Diablo 2 feels a LOT like Diablo when you are playing it, but then you go back, and Diablo feels a little clunky by comparison, even though you would swear they play almost the same. Similar with the Warcraft (RTS) series, and I am hoping they pull off the same things with Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3.

    Half Life 2 is similar (though Half Life 1 remains pretty good). It FEELS very Half Life 1, but when you go back to Half Life 1, you feel a little like you are handcuffed by comparison.

    “Feel” is kind of a nebulous word, and you can’t really capture it with any sort of quantitative measure. This might explain why Valve and Blizzard have succeeded though. They have the resources to spend YEARS iterating until they get what they want, when a lot of other companies are happy to get everything working at all before it goes out the door.

  • @ermansup: I would have to play on a free shard/emulator in order to do that. I want to, but the download is giving me troubles and I haven’t followed through with it. Like I said though, there’s no going back to a game from the past. It’s the elements used in the design of that game for which I feel nostalgia. The game design itself, not necessarily the exact game.

    DAOC was a great game. It was designed well. Does that mean I should go back to DAOC? No. In my opinion we should be looking at what made it great and introduce those things back into the mmo’s today.

    Same for other games. Many of the major achievements have been abandoned. The result: Today’s MMO’s.

    @Mahlah: Very true. And it all boils down to how the games are designed. They’re able to capture that same feel, accomplish the same things, and succeed because they are designed to do so. That’s what I’m getting at. Why can’t that happen again and/or more often with MMO’s?

  • Nostalgia is a form of biased perception. You remember the good things, forget the bad. So nostalgia is fine when its limited to buying memorabilia or putting a James Dean poster on your wall. It’s bad for making any sort of objective decision making. Many people are nostalgic for the 50s, and they think about big finned cars, rock’n’roll, and good times. They forget about racial segregation, the cold war, polio, and all the other bad things that didn’t get covered on Leave it to Beaver.

    So you want to wax nostalgic? Fine. You want to put your idealized memories of old games against the non-ideal present? That’s bad. It’s not a valid form of argument.

    If you want a valid argument, go back and PLAY Everquest 1, UO, and the games you hold up as ideal. See if, as examples of superior gameplay, they still hold up as something great. You may find that you still like them. You may realize the only reason you liked them was because you didn’t know any better. But that would be the way to do it.

  • I think the reason so many people have problems about your “nostalgia” of old games is that you’re like “Let’s keep the good things and of course let’s forget about the bad” without thinking that the bad things contributed into the development of the good things.

  • @toxic: You missed the point and you’re not understanding. I’m not saying to state something based on perception. I’m saying to look at the FACTUAL DESIGN of the game.

    You seem to be in the camp of people who think that memories are inaccurate because they are memories. I see absolutely no way you can justify saying that. I’ve already disproved it by stating it’s not just the game’s themselves I miss but the design. I’ve already said I can acknowledge the bad as well as the good

    @Ming: No one has really tried correctly. They’ve either tried to remove all the bad and keep only what they felt was good or they tried to keep what was good and bad and “modernize” it (incorrectly). You get the picture.

    I agree about some of the good being a product of the bad. When I ask myself which mattered more, I obviously enjoyed the good since I played each of the games for years. I also believe strongly that the good can be separated from the bad if people will simply try. NO one is trying though. They’re too afraid of abandoning this efficient profit point of mass producing MMO’s.

  • If you go strictly by the definition of nostalgia then yes, I agree nostalgia implies harkening back to happier or more idealized times. However I think that Keen’s mmo nostalgia isn’t him remembering only the good times and repressing the bad. Everyone who play’s mmos regularly will most likely remember fondly the first mmo that really drew them in. for me that mmo was FFXI, I played off and on for 4 years. I am often nostalgic about my time spent with it, I can however still list off at least 50 reasons why I don’t play it now and will again.I think it’s more akin to Keen taking a mental inventory of the good bits from those games. Then commenting about how much he enjoyed them and why.

  • and never will again* in reference to returning to FFXI.

    (I wish I could edit my comments)

  • I said it in a recent post, and i’d like to reiterate: This might actually be an interesting project for your blog, Keen: Git dat DAOC client downloaded and play on a freeshard for a month or so (not 24/7 but enough to get somewhere in the game). Then make a nice objective report on your impressions of the game, how it held up to nostalgia, and what you felt.

    I don’t want you to do it so ‘that i can prove you wrong’, i genuinely think it would be an interesting thing to do ‘scientifically’. Make a list of the things you remember being awesome about DAOC, the things you remember sucked (you could even use other people’s memories). Then go back and play it, and see how the memories hold up to the real thing. Then write an article about it, and end it with some South Park-esque “i learned something today”. I dunno.

    Would make for an interesting compare/contrast article about modern/’classic’ MMOs too.

    Also, there are freeshards that give you instant lvl-50 dings (some even with the classic frontiers), so that you could do some leveling, then pop into the RvR too.

  • @Rybnik: Wish I could work out a way for you guys to edit your comments. 🙁

    You understand me correctly.

    I’m making lists of the good and the bad. Now I’m taking the good and saying “Why can’t these good things be in games today?”. I’m looking back to the games I played a decade ago or even as early as Vanilla Warcraft and wondering why the good ideas are ignored.

    People tell me that this is notsalgia. If that’s nostalgia then I say nostalgia is good. However, like I said, I don’t think it’s nostalgia. I think it’s simply realizing that the games today lack what was once fundamentally apart of mmorpgs. Wanting to return many of those things, reintroduce them in some way, is my goal.

    @Office Jerk: I’d have to find one like Uthgard that doesn’t have ToA. I stopped playing a bit after ToA because I didn’t like the direction the game went after that. Essentially that is why I stopped playing DAOC, on top of wanting to play new things. It would be the same with SWG. Get me a pre-nge server and I’m back for the long haul.

    There are conditions. There has to be people to play with. A community is what made many of these games work. If I’m the only one playing then the “massively multiplayer” is gone. I’d also need them to be true to form, and not highly modded. Help me find those and I’m more than willing – heck, I’m excited – to do it.

  • I don’t use the term nostalgia as a bad thing but I use it in it’s true meaning which is remembering only the good things about the past. Human minds have a strange ability to blank out all of the bad stuff or recall it in a positive light and thus stuff in our bad always seems better than it was. Hence the old expression “you’ll look back on this and laugh one day”.

    I think it’s wrong to try and create a modern MMO based purely on nostalgia because you’ll end up with another Vanguard but are definitely lessons we can learn from our pasts and memories and use them to help evolve and drive the genre forward.

  • I believe the next round of good MMO’s need to follow and adapt to both the past, and the future. I see no reason why we can’t recall of good memories and game models that we enjoyed. It is starting to feel like a lot of these current MMO’s are not “growing” above the successes of previous games, but on the failures of bad ones. The past three mmo’s I have played were in my opinion a gigantic disappointment (AoC, WaR, Aion.) Heck you are hard pressed to find a good game lately that can keep your attention after the first free month expires.

    The publishers/investors need to stop putting their greedy hands in the pot and ruining games. Game companies need to stop using mirror images of each other to make the next greatest thing. For example: “Hey we have in game calenders and ranks for guilds!” … So what?!

    How good is the actual pvp in your game? Is it all instance based? Does the crafting even mean anything or is it purely cosmetic? Do you have to grind mindlessly to level up or have we come up with a better system in all of these years? At the end game is everyone basically the same or can you be different than the person standing next to you?

    Frankly, I’m tired of high fantasy games myself. I’m bored of the treadmill, linear driven, dungeon loot dependent models that copy off of each other. We will see what the MMO genre pulls out of its hat in the future, I’m frankly a little skeptical and will be much more wary of what is to come before purchasing.

  • I’d like to point to my posts near the end of this entry:

    As I stated before, I don’t believe 2 years ago from DAOC on classic servers (paid for servers with no ToA) with 13000 people on one cluster (compared to 820 or so max on the free shard servers such as Uthgard) makes me nostalgic, @office jerk – or that my memory has been glossed over in that time of the negative aspects, @toxic – or biased perception.

    Here’s the deal – I played DAOC 2 years ago (granted that was about my quitting date). I played for about a year. It was a wonderful game that had been updated to a Labyrinth expansion pack that did more damage than it did good and here is why: They had clustered the servers so that there were 13000 people playing with each other in world PvP lands. That made 300 people battles available from the 3 different realms which were AWESOME!!! The new Labyrinth expansion spread out an already dieing population from people trying new mmo’s. Most of the people in my guild had been playing from the start so they, after 6 years wanted a change. Sometimes they’d come back because of how enjoyable DAOC was compared to those mmo’s, and others found parts of their lives where they were too busy to play any mmo’s any more. Mythic never freak’n advertised the classic servers to those who hated ToA so the population never grew except by word of mouth.

    So many reasons why DAOC died instead of prospered after putting out classic servers, but most of all, it died from lack of marketing … not because the game wasn’t good. It seems most if not all here never new of the Classic servers with no ToA and that they were clustered to offer major PvP battles. Most of you guys may not even know that the graphics were updated 4 years ago to something semi respectable at the time (laughable compared to Aion though).

    So do I think my desire for DAOC from just 2 years ago is nostalgia, glossed over memories, or biased opinions winning over the bad of DAOC? No. The negative is still there. DAOC isn’t as fun without the population and I won’t go back until the population is there. 100’s need to be in those battles. You need people to make a PvP game truly fun. When that is fixed, I will return.

  • @We Fly Spitfires: I can’t find that definition in any dictionary. Nostalgia means longing for something past or longing for something ideal from the past. Nowhere does it say in any dictionary that one only remembers the good when being nostalgic.

    I agree, making a game completely on nostalgia is dumb. But one can remember what was good, what they enjoyed, figure out why it was enjoyable, and apply it.

    @Subtraho: I like you. It’s like a melding of the minds.

    @Steeldragoon: Well said. 🙂 I agree.

  • Most of you guys completely missed out the point that Keen was trying to do.

    What he is trying to say is that many of the good points of the old, original MMOs that made them ground breaking and good SOCIAL games is lacking in the new generation.

    Despite the fact that the new generation of MMOs removed the bad features of the older generation (like severe death penalties, excessive grinding, out of control CC, a complete lack of viability of solo play) they also didn’t implement the features that made the old generation of MMOs, great social games.

    For example, WAR is a more incomplete product compared to the games of its generation than DAoC was compared with the other games of its generation. The two realm war didn’t work well compared with the 3 realm system, the tier system was rubish, the PvE bland and with a very crude crafting system WAR isn’t half the experience that DAoC was in comparison with the competition of its time.

    The current games coming out are lacking a lot of the stuff that made the older games excelent.
    And they could improve this simply by doing things differently:
    – As old games used punitive and restrictive mechanics to force people to do what they wanted (severe death penalties and very though mobs forced people to group with each other in EQ) new games could use moderate incentives to direct people to do what they want (give XP bonus to people that level in group, or the one thing that WAR did right: give the option of leveling through PvP)

    – However, one other thing i have noticed is that new MMOs are introducing less and less features in their games. Although they may introduce a great PvP system (WAR, excluding the endgame) or a great character creator (CO) they usually don’t introduce the other features at the level of the industry standards, be it content, animations, more features besides the main feature of the game.

    MMOs coming out right now are too one-dimensional. They excel at one particular thing but they fall flat in comparison in most other features with other games. This is what allows WoW to shine: it has an enormous number of features that are polished, deep and provide enough satisfaction and you have the option of doing a completely different thing without changing game. It has great PvE, so if you like PvE it’s the game to play, however if you get bored you also get a decent PvP experience even if there’s better games out there. Then they also have a vast crafting system that also occupies your time and lets not talk about pets, mounts and so on…

    While on other games the variety of activities you can do is by no means close to what you can do in WoW. In WAR you do PvP, the crafting system is restricted to 4 professions and the PvE is vulgar. In CO there’s a lack of content. In LOTRO and DDO there’s barely any PvP. AoC was a mess when they launched after Tortage (i believe they’re better now).

    Unfortunately, new games simply lack in the variety of things that you can do in them since release. If i get bored of doing one thing in one of these new games i am hard-pressed to find another thing to do in that game.

    The old MMO’s allowed you to do a variety of things besides their main activity and because the games barely had any mechanic to help players do what they wanted people developed communities to do those things. They gave you more options with housing, fully fledged crafting systems, PvP and they allowed people to do more stuff through socialization than alone.
    Even vanilla WoW was like this (and still is). They simply polished the game features and removed the harsh penalties of older games.

    That’s why the only game i played nowadays that evoked me this feeling is Allods (haven’t played Aion though).
    Here’s a game with a decent crafting system, decent animations and graphics, decent to great PvE, a PvP system, something unique that is the ship combat system that requires people to coooperate plus a complex skill/talent system. A game that has plenty of features and stuff to explore that will take months to explore. Tell me how many MMOs launched that felt like they had stuff that could entertain for a big amount of time? The ones that came out, after you played them for a month you already knew how everything would work out.

  • Nothing wrong with nostalgia. It can be used in good or bad ways. Different people also tend to have differing amounts of past-orientation or future-orientation, how much you’re guided by what has gone before, versus excited by what the future holds.

    Personally, I like hearing old stories about the games I missed playing. It seems the amount of time and involvement we vested into the older games yielded a much richer emotional trove of memories.

    (Whether we’re still willing to do the same these days is up for debate…Hearing someone tell the stories is a more abbreviated form than actually playing through it.)

    I think though that the issue some readers have with the old posts is the apparent inconsistency or unfair use of nostalgia to try and squash a modern game (which was purposefully designed to be a square peg) into the round hole shape of an older game.

    On paper, figuring out what made the old game so enjoyable and applying it to a modern game sounds easy and fair enough. In practice, it can be tricky as you get conflicting priorities.

    Lots of people claim they love an open vast world for exploration and immersion.

    Then when it gets down to nuts and bolts of playing, they bitch about getting lost, about not knowing where to go, not having enough content in the spaces between places, the map not being good enough to find their way around, or the map being too good at taking away any sense of discovery, wanting quick-travel options so as not to waste time, and ultimately vote with their wallet by dropping the subscription because there’s too little people spread out over too big a space, and all its attendant problems like too hard to find groups going in the same direction as you. 😛

    I’m taking a free trial spin through Vanguard and quite enjoying the openness of the world level design and Isle of Dawn layout.

    But I’m also equally aware that the pace of the game is much slower, that advancing the three lateral paths of adventuring, diplomacy and crafting/harvesting mean significant time investment, and there’s very much fewer players in my vicinity than the newer MMOs. Doesn’t matter to antisocial me, but it’s never going to gain mainstream popularity or critical mass that way.

    I’d actually like to hear a bit more of the crunch behind the nostalgic sentiment. How would you propose applying what was good in the old games? What portions of game mechanics and systems would you keep?

  • What a timely commentary to make. I do wonder if you read Rock, Paper Shotgun and subconsciously assimilated their recent link to this study:

    “Consumers frequently consume items to the point where they no longer enjoy them. In a pilot study and two experiments spanning three distinct classes of stimuli, we find that people can recover from this satiation by simply recalling the variety of alternative items they have consumed in the past. And yet, people seem to exhibit “variety amnesia” in that they do not spontaneously recall this past variety despite the fact that it would result in a desirable decrease in satiation. Thus, rather than satiation being a fixed physiological process, it appears that it is at least partially constructed in the moment. We discuss some of the theoretical implications of these findings and provide some prescriptive measures for both marketers and consumers.”

  • i,like almost everyone also think back so fondly of the first mmo i played,and whenever i go back to it after a week or 2 i remember why i dont play it anymore.

    u talk about:the FACTUAL DESIGN of the game. but u cant look at the factual design of a game when ur just thinking back on the game,because this is how the human mind works,it emphasizes the good memories and greys out the bad ones,its some sort of survival startegy of the mind…prob against depression or something,cause if ud always remember all the bad stuff…

    this is what nostalgia is,and thats why alot of the comments are:u cant go on nostalgia and memories to claim that things used to be better.

    old people always say that life was better when they were young,still in school and had no worries(its a false memory)when i think back at school it at first seems like a better time,but when i realy think back hard on the bad times i realize school wasnt such a worrieless/fun time as memory would trick me into believing.tho worries now may be more important when i was young those worries were just as important to me at that point.

  • @ Subtraho : Great post.

    Nostalgia, in my opinion, is what we tend to fall back on in all facets of life. Gaming is really no different. We tend to remember the good things about an era instead of everything in totality. Ever thought about an old spouse or girlfriend? Typically, you’ll wonder why you ever ended the relationship in a moment of nostalgia. You’ll remember all of the wonderful things you had in this relationship.

    Most of the time, if we dig deeper, we’ll find out you broke up with your EX because he/she was a crazy train wreck.

    The point is, humans typically when being nostalgic tend to forget most of the negatives and focus on the positives. Gaming is no different. For those of us who enjoy it, it’s a very personal experience. MMOs are even more personal by grabbing you and attaching you somewhat emotionally to your character(s).

    Looking back, there were some great games, however, I think they were great because just like your first love, it’s new,different, and it’s something special.

    I think nostalgia is a bunch of hogwash. I’m not giving a pass to current games or game designs whatsoever. It has been very lackluster the past 2 years in the MMORPG genre.

    However, that being said, I think we aren’t dealing with nostalgia here. What we are dealing with is a genre that’s flatly refused to evolve beyond the same model for the past 10 years. It’s tired, it’s old, and it’s not holding our attention because we’ve been playing the SAME GAME for the past decade.

    Different environments, different heroes, different lands, but the same game at the core.

    What we need is for this genre to evolve and give us something that is:

    1. Well designed
    2. Polished
    3. Different mechanics
    4. Innovative ideas

    That’s really what it is. Until this occurs, we’ll be damned to playing the same game, over and over, all the while dreaming about the glory days gone by.

    Those games weren’t any better. They were just shiny and new.

  • Nothing drove me more mad while playing WoW than whenever discussing the bad decisions the developers made and how things were changing for the worse…. only to have every CM chime in with nothing more than “That’s just nostalgia talking.”

    … no, maybe we don’t like your game anymore.

    Canceled in ’08 and haven’t looked back.

  • Seems like this is a thread is largely about semantics. If we need a dictionary to make our point perhaps we should just drop the offending word and use complete sentences to make our point instead? I think most people would actually not be in disagreement that we need to identify the best aspects of different games and try to incorporate them into new ones when possible, Perhaps it is topical that we got onto this discussion as Allods, the other major topic of discussion of late, does just that.

    As far as the word nostalgia is concerned, while a given dictionary may not specifically mention the avoidance of negative aspects in favor of positive aspects, I hope we all can agree that frequently that turns out to be the case; that is one reason we get back with our ex’s only to come to the sudden realization of “same sticky wicket, different day”…

  • Vote for Pedro! I concur with what he said.

    Just because an MMO fails, it doesn’t mean it’s a total right off and there weren’t innovative or enjoyable aspects of it. I mean I was ticked off at a lot of the aspects of Warhammer Online which is why I left it, yet at the same time I truly believed it had some innovative aspects to it as well (which is why I wanted the weak aspects to be fixed so badly).

  • Also it seems that another reason there is this impasse of opinions over the word nostalgia here, is that some people seem nostalgic over an aspect of a game, while others are focused on the game in its entirety.

    Bob: “Dude do you remember my ex Sheila? She was smoking hot”
    John: “True. Too bad she was also screwing your dad behind your back”
    Bob: “Yeah she was hot…”

  • I appreciate your profound passion for games Keen, it serves you well. And your nostalgia reflects that. It makes this blog worth reading.

    The emotional response you have to those games is an emergent property of endless concrete choices they made. It is a gestalt. And it’s difficult to reproduce because it inherently arises out of complex interactions.

    I love the feeling I get when I recall Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. I wish someone could produce a new painting that reproduces the sense of beauty and mystery without being a base copy. But what is it that makes the Mona Lisa special technically?

    In the same way, a MMO developer needs to build a concrete system with concrete choices. Those choices will construct an experience. I can’t program fun directly in C++ or HLSL.

    In many ways, what might be considered bad choices in older games (severe death penalty and lack of solo play for example) are key features that helped give rise to the sense of camaraderie that I often hear former EQ1 players recall.

    But putting those choices into a new game has implications too. You have to consider the ecosystem here. If you build a new game that tries to encourage grouping through adversity, what effect does having World of Warcraft, etc. available as an alternative do to your player’s choices?

  • Gankatron makes a good point. This is why I hate analogies too. People tend to fixate on how you present your idea rather than the idea it’s self. They are basically nit picking.

    If Keen had never used the word “nostalgia” this would just be written off as a post about some older games that had good features that are no longer used… which is sort of long but more specific then nostalgia.

    MMOs didn’t start with WoW, however it seems most of the big budget developers can’t seem to look farther back than 2004.

    WoW will only ever be duplicated by Blizzard… in about 3 years when their new MMO comes out. Once other game developers except that they can focus on making games for 300k people. I think the entire MMO community will be better then.

  • I used the word Nostalgia because I’ve been accused of being “nostalgic” with a negative connotation. Talking about games and parts of them that were designed very well gets me accused of being nostalgic. If that’s nostalgic, then I say it’s a good thing.

    Like I said though all along, I don’t think it’s nostalgia at all.

  • Keen in your defense I googled the definiton of Nostalgia from 3 different sites.

    a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.

    In all three definition it says nothing about ignoring or glossing over the bad. Just returning to what you liked. Which is exactly what you are doing. You want the happy/good of old MMOs back.

    People have just twisted Nostalgia into a bad word.

  • “You seem to be in the camp of people who think that memories are inaccurate because they are memories. I see absolutely no way you can justify saying that. I’ve already disproved it by stating it’s not just the game’s themselves I miss but the design. I’ve already said I can acknowledge the bad as well as the good”

    I can justify saying that because its extremely true. Memories are often wildly inaccurate. Ever get in an argument with a family member over diverging accounts of the same story from your childhood? Or have family members totally forgotten some event that you clearly remember?

    Or, your memories might be accurate as to your perception AT THAT TIME, and if you went back today as a different person, you would perceive it differently. (I loved Mallrats when I saw it at 16. I thought it was great until I rewatched at 20 and thought it was childish crap). While a game might have been entirely satisfactory in 2000, and you remember it being totally satisfactory, its quite possible (even probable) that it would not evoke the same satisfaction if you played it today and were comparing it to all the MMOs you’ve played since then. Also, relying on decade old perceptions of games is just silly. If you gave a book report on a book you last read in 2000, you’d get an F. Finally, asking us to rely on your memory is a bad idea as well; you see, my memories of EQ and UO were of impossible boring, grindy, confusing, and pain in the ass gameplay that kept me away from the genre entirely for nearly a decade. In a debate between your version of events, and mine, I pick mine. You pick yours. That’s why you need evidence to make an argument, not just your perceptions. You may well be RIGHT, but you’re arguments are still weak, because it’s based on nothing of substance. Your evidence is very substandard, your argument is based on nothing besides the evidence. I don’t see how you can expect people to be persuaded by what you have written.

  • Epiny, nostalgia is fine as a thing for people to enjoy. It’s not an argument, because whether its a prior time in your life, your homeland, or w/e, people focus on what they LIKE, which is never the complete picture. Nostalgia is not a valid basis for an argument, because nostalgia never presents a true and accurate picture of w/e is being idealized. Never. It’s certainly not a valid basis for a persuasive argument. At heart, nostalgia is wanking. I like wanking, it can be a lot of fun. But it’s still wanking.

  • @toxic: No one is using nostalgia as an argument. You’re fixating on the wrong thing here and taking this entirely away from what I’m really getting at here.

    Please, just reread the entry.

  • I think that you’re copping out by saying that you can’t go back and play DAOC without having thousands of players. The argument that the community makes the game is valid but you could make that about *any* game, pretty much.

    I agree with you though one of the fun aspects in DAOC was the fact that there was a community with realm pride that got organized, shelling out thousands of gold on realm keep upgrades and repairs (think something like that could EVER happen in World of Warcraft?), besieged keeps and spent even more cash on siege equipment.

    But the community CHOSE to make that game what it was, it wasn’t directly designed in. You could have thousands of players online, but if everyone just wants to run the battlegrounds on alts, craft, or farm seals and never gave a crap about the realm keeps, then it would be the same game as with only 50 online.

    But yes, i do agree there was something with the DAOC end game model that was really really fun. I remember wow in its starting days, the player base tried to make Wow into their game. Remember the huge fights between tarren mill and southshore? Awesome, right? Blizzard had it right there! it was the budding of their open-world all-level all-out war! Then they had to kill it with the battlegrounds, instead of spurring it on, molding it from there.

    But despite that, i won’t go out and say that daoc was the pinnacle of entertainment, it had too many flaws to make up for the end game (ToA being one of them). In the end, Mythic killed their own child … When you are tuning for a radio station, you don’t make wild adjustments when you’re starting to hear the music.

    i guess i derailed into something else there, but meh.

  • @Toxic

    The Mallrats analogy might fail because that change in perception was due to you maturing, whereas someone who played DAOC at 25 probably isn’t going to have such a radical change in physiology up to this point as you did in your formative years.

  • @Officer Jerk: Didn’t say I needed thousands. I can play with Uthgard’s population. I just need other people to play with, which we all do in a mmo. I have to get the download to work though. It starts at 30 kb/s then tapers down further.

    As for DAOC being the pinnacle of entertainment — no. It’s the pinnacle of faction based pvp in a released game. All Pre-ToA mind you. I agree that ToA destroyed it.

    It’s not nostalgia when I say that I remember playing DAOC and how great the realm war was. There’s a reason it was good. It was designed that way. If people insist on telling me that this is nostalgia, then I’ll tell them “okay, nostalgia is good”. <-- That's the point of the entry.

  • @Toxic… sort of turned into a rant at everyone.

    You can’t disregard opinions about previous games because we are using our memories to recall them, that is just asinine. I’m totally in the boat with Keen on this one, but I include EverQuest and DAoC as my memory bank of ideas to draw from. These games had good GAME FEATURES that some of today’s games lack.

    Just because we like a feature that existed in a previous game does not make us nostalgic. If you are going to label that nostalgic then I’m going to reverse that into a positive thing, just as Keen is doing. Nostalgic is a term used in an attempt to disregard past experiences… or in this case game features. Keen is referencing game features that made these older games good. That isn’t an idealized romanticized view of the past, its actual events and corporeal things. (assuming code can be corporeal)

    Keen, and myself, both admit these games had very bad ideas implemented as well. However there is no need to harp on the bad ideas of these games because most MMOs have already omitted them from their development process. The problem here is that they have also omitted the good ideas of the past. No one should have to try and justify an older GOOD game idea by always mentioning the bad ones. It is just redundant to tell game developers to not put ideas in they already aren’t using.

  • I don’t think it is being nostalgic to know what features worked great on older games and made them unique. Even people that didn’t play DAoC know that the 3 faction system worked great because it allowed the non-winning factions to ally against the winning one.

    And sorry, but i do rely on my memory to back up my arguments that some of the games i played were awesome games and to know what made them great.