If you don’t know me as the guy who loved EverQuest just how it was then you probably haven’t been reading this blog very long. Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires wrote a blog entry yesterday titled ‘Good Riddance To These Game Mechanics Of Yesterday’ in which he lists a few things from older MMO’s that he does not miss (it happens that they’re all from EQ). I would like to write a response of sorts to his entry and state why I feel the exact opposite about not only some of the things on his list, but several others as well. In fact, I’m going to make this a multi-part blog entry and go through a few mechanics that I absolutely loved but would be willing to bet you can’t stand.
Most all of these mechanics or features were present during a time when the community in-game was much better. It was also a time when the game worlds were actually much more dynamic and created a sense of adventure and life. You might be one of the people who hates these mechanics because they sound inconvenient, but I hate what has come from their absence.
Most people will complain that this is an inconvenience and will actually cite the fact that it’s realistic and logical, but still do not want it in their games. Item weight was a mechanic of depth. Ogres, trolls, and bigger races could carry more and the smaller races were able to carry less. It depended upon your strength which, back in these days, was used for more than determining your melee DPS. It also created diversity in classes because, as Gordon points out, some classes were forced to carry under a certain amount or become penalized (ie: Monks because they needed to be unburdened which makes sense).
The depth of this mechanic also kept you aware of where in the world you were at and how you would have to actually plan what you were going to do. Going out hunting became a much more planned event since you knew you could only carry so much. If you went over that cap it meant you were going to have to find a place to sell. Money and items back then were a lot more important to a character than today’s “junk loot”. It felt like every penny was important to us and carrying copper coins and other currency actually added to that weight. Add in the fear of death and having to get back to your corpse and this mechanic gets all that more deep.
Heaven forbid it actually be dark at night. When it’s dark you can’t see — that’s the point! This more than anything else shows how something so simple can add so much to immersion in a game. Entering a dark forest was really scary. You couldn’t see very far ahead and a monster could jump out at you from anywhere. As a newbie human with poor eyesight it was really unnerving to not be able to see much past the safely lit entrance to the city. Players would stick together and make sure that someone always had a torch out. If we ventured far from the town’s torches we would kill something and quickly run back to the light to rest. The darkness created a sense of danger and unknown while creating an atmosphere of reliance upon others and now lost interaction with the world.
This mechanic was also one that lent itself to character diversity. Humans had poor eyesight but other races, like dwarves, had forms of vision that helped them see better in the dark. The races that lived in caves could naturally see better. This also created a really neat economic benefit. Will-o-wisps dropped these stones that lit up which could be carried to let off light. They were fairly common in parts of the world where races could see better and we used to take them on the long journey to the human lands and sell them for great profit.
Falling off the Boat
This sounds funny, but it’s really serious business. ‘Falling off a boat’ represents about a dozen mechanics in one that are no longer present — mechanics that you probably hate. Boats used to arrive once ever 15 minutes or so and would carry you from one continent to the next. One boat in particular would travel from the dwarf lands to the human lands. This isn’t like the boat from Booty Bay to Ratchet though… oh no… this boat actually takes you on a journey. Once you zoned out of the dwarf continent you were taken to an intermediate zone where the boat actually sailed out in the ocean for a long time. It made a stop or two at various islands but for the most part took you great distances that were actually represented in the game world.
So what was the big deal you ask? The zone wasn’t named “Ocean of Tears” for nothing. If you fell off this boat it could mean one of many things. First, you may be lost at sea for hours because there was no map and the world was enormous and confusing. You may find yourself swimming (which not everyone did well since a low swim skill meant you swim slow) a long time to get back to land in order to wait for the boat. Worst case scenario was that you died and your body sunk to the bottom of the ocean… the ocean is dangerous and full of sharks, islands with goblins, sirens, cyclops and other monsters.
Did this suck? Man, this sucked so much! At the same time, the existence of such a mechanic made the journey all that more enjoyable. Knowing that the distance I traveled was actually vast and dangerous gave meaning to the trip. The world itself was a dangerous place and the game made it feel like something as simple as not being stupid enough to fall off was important. This was such an immersive mechanic that today is taken for granted in MMO’s which are becoming increasingly transparent.
Part 2 coming tomorrow!
[UPDATE] Due to the LOTRO incident, I am delaying Part 2 until Saturday.