DAOC’s 10th Birthday

I have to chime in on this one.  Scott Jennings has posted Matt Firor’s recollections from DAOC’s launch day.  It was ten years ago.  Crazy how time flies while at the same time making no sense… it’s crazy to think at 2001 was ten years ago when it feels like yesterday.  Read Matt’s story.  It’s fascinating.  Mythic has a truly remarkable history that so many of you do not know well enough.

I remember walking into the office one morning towards the end of October. By that time it was obvious we had a smash hit on our hands. Our marketing/sales consultant, Eugene Evans (now the GM of the studio) had a whiteboard near his desk (right by the front door) where he jotted down sales numbers. By October 27 or so, it showed that we were not only the #1 selling PC game for October, but also the #1 selling PC product for that month. Since this was the first boxed retail product Mythic had, I asked him if this success was normal. Eugene, and old industry veteran, looked at me like I was insane and replied, “No, this isn’t typical.”

DAOC was and most likely will be forever one of the greatest accomplishments in MMORPG PvP.   While DAOC invented and captured lightning in a bottle when it came to PvP, it was also one of the few games to masterfully blend PvE and PvP together with incentive and reward (until ToA).  Furthermore, DAOC had one of the greatest communities of any game where you could be playing in a realm of a thousand people and feel like you knew them all — it was magic in every sense of the word.

There aren’t words to adequately describe my desire for another game like it.  I would give my time freely to see it done.   It’s sad that games are releasing today with problems that DAOC solved.  That says a lot about the DAOC team and about those teams making games today.

There are still amazing people out there who had a big impact on DAOC (despite how modest they may be) and you guys should be following them too.

Sanya Weathers – I was more of a player back in these days and less of a self-proclaimed MMO pundit, but I have great memories of Sanya’s work with DAOC’s community — a community that I was deeply apart of and miss.  She’s now involved with Prime: Battle for Dominus (a game sharing many theoretical qualities with DAOC).

Mark Jacobs – He’s back; in case you missed the news.  Mark has started a new company.  If you found Matt’s story interesting, enjoyed DAOC, or have a fondness for 3 realm PvP and wonder why no one has ever done it since, Mark is a guy to keep an eye on.  Mythic was his baby.

Scott Jennings – He handled DAOC’s plumbing and is mentioned by name in Matt’s story.


  • So many people herald DAoC as the best PvP game ever, and in many ways it was. But I agree with you Keen, it was a COMPLETE MMO and blended PvP and PvE well together. I enjoyed doing both.

    Any future MMOs I see myself playing for any substantial period of time will have to do the same.

    I’m worried that Prime will have little PvE content. I just don’t see myself or many other players caring about the world/background/lore/etc. or having some “realm pride” and being as immersed in the conflict as much as it was in DAoC if Prime doesn’t have a solid PvE experience alongside their PvP.

  • After discussing some up-coming releases, I have come to the conclusion that PvE is a very important part of PvP for me. I was discussing Prime with someone who suggested Guild Wars 2 as an alternative, because it would have three-faction open world PvP. To which I responded:

    It’s not the same. In Dark Age of Camelot you began in a realm totally separate from the other two. The buildings and architecture were different, the classes and races were different, even the music and sounds were different. After leveling up through an area that was unique to your realm, and encountering enemies for the first time, you get a real sense of “us against them.” That feeling is essential in making PvP seem meaningful.

    That sense of enmity is important, and many are hoping to see this happen in Prime. So far, it looks as though there will be plenty of PvE [missions, grinding spots, and limited instanced PvE to further story (something I’m not really fond of, but can see some merits in scripting as long as I don’t have to grind them over and over)] before the cap, and limited PvE after the cap. However, there will be an end-game PvP dungeon modeled closely after Darkness Falls with loads of world bosses and crafting materials. We also know there will be some nasty world bosses hidden around.

    Hopefully there is enough PvE mixed in with our PvP at end game. Tuskaran Glacier comes to mind.

  • I have to agree with others – DAoC’s great success wasn’t down to game mechanics, or even having three factions per se, but because it built a spirit of realm pride. The problem with PvP for a lot of people is that endless fighting actually gets quite boring unless you have something to fight FOR (and I don’t just mean grinding PvP points to get shiny items). DAoC did that by giving players three completely distinct tribes to be members of, and having ‘home turf’ for each one so they could feel they had to defend it. Nothing motivated players to get out and RvR quite like seeing THEIR flags flying over OUR castle…

  • Many view DAoC with the rose glasses of nostalgy. They don’t remember the utterly crappy class balance, the very poor PvE, the glitchy combat…

  • @The Merovingian – I remember it well because the first character I rolled was a Troll Shaman. OMG did Shaman suck at launch. They had craptastic healing and until buffing was buffed (no pun intended) it sucked as well. The only semi decent skill tree was Cave and you’d have to go 100% cave to be effective at all.

    Still over it’s 10yr history, it was the game I went back to the most and I’d still probably be playing it today if the one server left was classic instead of ToA. In 2005 when their classic servers came out I played those like there was no tomorrow and loved them.

    I think over the years I’ve gone back to DAoC 5-6 times because of how much I have enjoyed it. DAoC was the perfect blend of PvE and PvP and in those first two years it did what every good MMO for me has done, it made you CARE about your character and the world you played in. That is what today’s MMO’s are missing and that is why each day I find it harder and harder to play MMO’s.

  • I’m with ya Keen. I would give my right pinky toe to see someone make DAoC 2 or something that resembled it.

  • Keen says “DAOC was and most likely will be forever one of the greatest accomplishments in MMORPG PvP. While DAOC invented and captured lightning in a bottle when it came to PvP, it was also one of the few games to masterfully blend PvE and PvP together with incentive and reward”

    Sorry I disagree whole heartedly with this comment. DAoC PvE was a snooze fest that used the archaic forced grouping principle that made games like EQ never see true decent subscription numbers. I despised every waking minute of leveling in that game sitting at Witherwoode’s in Lyonesse for hours at end pulling and being bored to tears. Or sitting in the same spot Killing Pookhas all day on the Hib side. No one did groups for dungeon loot drops either since when I quit 99% of the best items were crafted gear.

    And dont get me started on RvR, from overpowered Priests with AOE Mez and Left Axe berzerker assist trains on the midgard side to Milegate camping with groups of 100+ people making playing any sort of melee class a futile and boring endeavor. I hate that game now more and more I look back at it. The only concept I will give DAoC credit for and the only thing being fun in the game was a Realm Rank Alternate Advancement system and Darkness Falls. Other then that I spent 2 years in that game and did not realize it till years later I pretty much wasted those years because I could of stuck with my original MMO of choice: Asherons Call, of which I till play today.

  • Also forgot to mention the whole If you dont have a Buff Bot alt account you wont do squat when it comes to PvP either.

  • Class balance is a very valid complaint. I did not, however, make any claims that it was balanced nor would I because it was ridiculous at times. I do not believe class balance has any impact on my original statement.

    To each his own, but I loved leveling in DAOC. I loved the grouping and reliance on others. I loved how small groups could easily take on larger groups with mez mechanics and other tools. I think you, along with many others, are guilty of cherry picking when it comes to buff-bots. The game may have eventually devolved over time into needing one, but I played for YEARS without having one and I was enormously successful.

    You said EQ never saw decent subscription numbers. Point out one game at the time that had more. Your statement is using today’s standards in a past market. It does not hold up.

  • DAOC was my first mmo and I didn’t play it until a year before labyrinth’s release. I played on the classic server’s and started about 6 months before the 3 of them were grouped together for a major population boost.

    I enjoyed DAOC because of the realm pride, the dynamic fighting supplied by the 3 factions, the awesome abilities enabled by both leveling AND RvR, the storyline was very interesting to me, having battlegrounds where people could turn off XP creating a stable group fighting at each level block of 10, having not only new frontiers to fight in but also Darkness Falls to fight the other realms (who didn’t love clearing out the other realm left behind when you gained the ability to enter DF?), the XP bonuses for rarely attended to areas and leveling in groups (high enough to really enforce group activity), and the semi-realistic graphics.

    Also, prior to the Labyrinth expansion, they had started dragons popping up in PvE and to take one of those guys down was hugely fun (not to mention plenty of items to go around). I’m not really sure if it was the cooperation required or the comrade like experience, but I haven’t felt the same about any other dragon PvE experience in another other mmo.

    Those are all things I felt Mythic did correctly.

    The clipping where your character got stuck and required assistance or a qtd to clear the issue was hugely annoying, and the Labyrinth expansion were huge mistakes by Mythic. Labyrinth itself wasn’t a horrible expansion, but it was another RvR realm that the declining population could not support. The lack of activity in the other realms due to that expansion basically took the newly created momentum (via the servers merging) and destroyed it. Very sad, because at the time it really felt like Mythic had a chance of seriously regrowing the population in DAOC.

    I apologize for any rambling.

  • Balance Schmalance…that was half the fun and half of the memories. With that many character classes it is extremely difficult to achieve any type of balance without making variables totally meaningless (like WOW and all of the future MMOs do…(you leveled…here is an increase for 1% hit chance for your character…use it wisely). What you end up with with these “balanced” classes are just boring characters that feel the same more or less…

    However, that wasnt actually my point…DAOC would have been much less fun without fun imbalances in the game…Stunguard was epic (I played Albion)…60 sec mezz spells were hilarious…speaking of hilarious PBAOE…it made it exciting if you ran around and a scout could one shot you any second…or when an infiltrator snuck up on you…on ehit you and never even lost stealth…the Albion Zerg…

    Without these “imbalances” the game would have been much more boring…(they also didnt all happen at the same time)…they added spice and character to the game…even if you were on the receiving side…

    Embrace the chaos…embrace the “imbalances”…get rid off this notion that everything needs to be balanced and fair…it is boring!!!!

  • Every time someone tries to refute another person’s opinion with “the rose glasses of nostalgy” I honestly want to throw my keyboard. By hiding behind the nostalgia argument you can disregard anything any video game has ever done or created without having to form an intelligent argument.

    Yes class balance wasn’t great. That doesn’t mean that many people didn’t have fun despite it. 10 years ago MMOs didn’t have the time, budget, or experience to release the same type of polished game that we expect today.

    DAoC IS one of the best examples of how to do a PvP MMO. It managed to pull off faction balance with 3 realms and it incorporated PvE with PvP.

    No one is forcing you to say that you had fun in DAoC. However I take offense when anyone trys to tell me or others that they never actually had fun, that it’s only a skewed memory of nostalgia causing me to THINK I had fun.

    I really hope no one takes offense at this; it’s not at any one person in particular. It just drives me nuts because I see this more and more.

  • One other thing that sets DAoC apart from current PvP-centric games is that it didn’t force PvP either. I liked the fact that I could level in peace and then go out to the frontier or battlegrounds as I pleased.

    The other things that really made it work was how each realm was truly different and LARGE. It was actually an amazing accomplishment when you look at todays releases. Seems like everything today is released early and the rest of the game is added in after launch. There always seems to be a lot of focus on not enough end-game content as well in new games. Though it took me a long time to get to 50 in DAoC, RvR was all the endgame content I needed 🙂

  • I love leveling how I please, and I think todays themepark style of bread crumbing a player through quest hubs is jsut as stupid as sitting in 1 place pulling the same group of mobs over and over ad naseum. I actually like grouping while leveling but the forms used today and the ones of latter years just dont cut the cake. grouping should be rewarded but not at the expense of someone who only has a small amount of time to play.

    Buff Bots were rampant after about 6 months into the game and all you had to do is go to any frontier border keep and see at 10+ standing around, it exaserbated the class balance even more.

    My EQ reference was to show that the first crop of MMO’s were heavily weighted toward a niche market and that games like WoW (which I now detest their gamestyle) showed the development community that MMO’s could evolve to accomidate a wider range of players. PvE was bland and boring in DAoC compared to what could of been done but this is my honest opinion and I understand others wont agree. Why PvE when the majority of the time a crafted item was superior.

    As I said DAoC did soemthing right: Realm Pride, huge PvP areas (although 90% of eveyr battle was fought in Emain Macha lol), Darkness Falls Dungeon, and the Realm Rank alternate advancement idea that puts games like WoW to shame.

    I have high hopes that GW2 will be a spiritual successor that will fix alot of what I see as faults with DAoC’s game style. My only complaint is that instead of fighting against different realms you will be fighting against different servers, somehow I think the realm pride in this concept might suffer but we’ll see.

  • There must be something positive to their faction mechanics design, as many who have played use the words “realm pride” frequently.

    I never played it so I don’t know for myself, but I wonder how much this faction loyalty also had to do with an old school (read as dedicated) playing attitude as opposed to today’s Mr. T motivated casual gaming population?

  • @Gankatron

    I think alot. Today it’s very easy to uproot and “ditch” your guild, faction, or server. You simply didn’t do that 10 years ago, everything was a commitment because of the time sink involved in MMOs.

    For a DAoC system to work today at least one faction will be under populated, more than likely two if you do 3 factions. 10 years ago we campaigned to get people to join that side or we made a pact with the other low population realm. Today people will just transfer to the populated side so they can “win”. (see WAR)

  • “Many view DAoC with the rose glasses of nostalgy. They don’t remember the utterly crappy class balance, the very poor PvE, the glitchy combat…”

    I remember all these things.

    I can safely say none of them were detrimental to me. I loved fighting buffbotted zerkers with my armsman in epic quest armor wielding a polearm that was average but keeping it simply cause it was shaped like a hockey stick. I loved how our abilities, compositions and strategies were different due to unique classes. I LOVED huge zergs in our frontiers. I loved the tiny 8man rvr groups who fought each other and occasionally got a drop on the rampaging zergs. I loved realm pride and taking over keeps. I loved shouts saying “THEYRE COMING FOR OUR RELIC KEEP” and everyone going out, because it actually mattered. I loved how if I wanted to pve I didn’t have a rogue 60 levels above me stabbing me in the face.

    This wasn’t nostalgia, I remember class imbalance very well, and I can ultimately say that until ToA, it didn’t really mean shit in regards to my enjoyment. Well except the hibs, and their stupid mushroom spam, that needed a nerf.

    Heck I solod my Armsman from 48-50. It was slow, grouping would have been faster, and DF raids were all the rage for quick easy frantic xp, but I was happy to just beat up spiders and stuff up in the far north where very few people went while chatting to friends. I even managed to spot a raid on our frontier once while leveling like that, it was good times.

    Post is long enough, didn’t even have time to address the PvE which had some negatives but a whole bunch of positives which games really don’t properly employ today. Such as having large expansive *rewarding to explore* locations that don’t just point you at them and say “go there”.

  • @Epiny – I was in Midgard during the classic server era, and we WERE the under populated realm. I actually enjoyed it more because when we pulled off a win, it really felt like something. It was also fun working with the other underpopulated realm at the time (switched between Hibs and Albs) to defeat which ever one had the the most at the time.

    The dynamics in the fighting between the 3 realms is what kept me so interested in the RvR.

    I had that in mind when I played Warhammer and found the back and forth just got old too quickly. With Prime and GW2 having 3 faction type systems, I’m really looking forward to giving both a try.

  • @SteelDragoon

    I played Midgard too.

    The ratio on our server went something like this for every 1 Hib there was 2 Mids and 3 Albs. Midgard was heavly favored in the class balance war so Mid and Alb created a cease fire treaty on Hib so that our Hib faction could encourage people to join the server.

    Later we did Hib/Mid vs Alb until Alb was on their heels then we turned on each other.

  • @Epiny – Sounds like good fun war/politics to me. 🙂 Also, Mythic in their attempt to constantly balance the factions, eventually made Hibs more powerful in the class balance. According to some of the old timers I was playing with, they had at some point before I joined nerfed a couple of Midgard’s big hitters. (I believe the warlock and berserker were the classes in question)

  • DAoC was hella fun, warts and all. Wee wolves — one of the most memorable critters in an MMO… “Hey look at those cute little wolves… oh, wait… crap! RUN!” =D

    IMO, perfect class balance is boring; you might as well not have classes at all if you’re going for balance. The “imbalance” is what provides the spice to the different classes.

  • I played DAoC all the way through Catacombs before I left for WoW, and went back several times between then and now. The levelling is simplified now, but it still has the same prioritization on grouping, which I loved so much. The XP bonus from grouping made it a lucrative process to invite pretty much anyone you could, which in turn spurred a lot of interactions that started friendships I still have today. The people I just happened to run into in Muire Tomb at lvl 10 grouped and friended me through 40 levels, eventually ending up all in the same guild, running through the frontiers and absolutely loving life. These folks complaining about balance and the tedium of levelling may have missed the point. Yeah, I remember OP LA, and OP Savages, and OP Healers (lol midgard), and op alb caster groups, but what I remember about those things is ranting and yelling and chatting about them with my ever growing circle of friends, guildies, alliance buddies, hell, the whole damn server was like a breakfast club (Guin, for anyone wondering), and even the complaints and problems brought us closer and made our victories so much sweeter, because it was US against THEM. And honestly, it sometimes brings me almost to tears, because ever since then I’ve tried to find some way to get that feeling back, and I know it never will be, because those people are gone, that game is a different beast, and all I have left is the endless grind of killing my way through players I don’t know or care about, on an anonymous instanced server, with a bunch of strangers, and wondering if those people miss me the way I miss them.
    (I do keep contact with 3 of them, so it’s not entirely depressing, lol)

  • @ Epiny

    A someone who only discovered DAOC two years ago, I do not and cannot know what it was like ten years ago. Players of long tenure do tend to be nostalgic, but I’ve noticed this seems mostly for great old friends, old guilds, old realmmates and old fabled enemies whom life has since called away to other pursuits. Nobody especially likes change, it being famously stressful even when positive, and the kind of change that’s specifically all about interpersonal loss — the departure of friends and their replacement by strangers — has to be among the worst kind. Reading between the lines, I get the sense it’s not the game that has changed for them or even the general nature of the players but the specific people, who have left, and are enduringly missed.

    But I can say what is was like to discover DAOC more recently than anciently. I started 2009 having never understood the appeal of MMOs — I used to occasionally make fun of people who “bought furniture for pixel houses.” Somewhere in there I found DAOC. The next thing I knew, I was spending hours decorating the walls of my new, bigger, two-story Hibernian house and sending proud, standing-in-my*-new-dragon-armor-by-my-new-front-door screenshots to a friend in another state; who doesn’t game at all. (He replied by calling it a “stone yurt.” I told him with considerable hauteur that it was *much* bigger on the inside than it looked.) It is safe to say I went DAOC nuts for a good year.

    PvP was the sweet cake under the frosting, though. I didn’t know too many other newbies, so I can’t say how they felt, if there were many around at all; but I had realm pride. I didn’t hate Albs or Mids (I played Hib only); I respected them as enemies. And killed them on sight. (Or tried to — I WAS a newb. Often I died on sight. But I got a few feeble blows in even then.) It never occurred to me to switch sides because an enemy realm was winning. (If one must always be sure to be on the winning team, one should stick to cheating at solitaire. I don’t get why the fun part of gaming, which to me is the “game” bit, is so dispensible; or dispensable at all. Of course I also don’t see how anyone can get any satisfaction out of using hacks. Why not just tip some quadriplegics on the ground, declare oneself the world wrestling champ of all time, and retire to enjoy really easily unearned self-esteem?)

    Anyway. I can’t say what players were like 10 years ago. I can say that the day my guild held DC against a sea of Albs for 3 1/2 hours and somehow held out until (I imagine) the Mids attacked Albion and dew them off passed like 3 minutes and also an eternity. It was my birthday, I realized later. After the chaos and screaming and struggling and random sudden jolts of terror/savage triumph had fallen into this utterly unexpected thing, silence, and I waited a minute and then typed (I didn’t even have Ventrilo working yet), “Uh, did we actually win?” at my guild leader. He answered, “Yeah.”
    I sat there stunned, suddenly bone weary and feeling like I had actually worked out for 3.5 hours. And amazed. Gobsmacked. Quietly, hilariously joyful. Amused as hell at myself. That I had cared that much, about a game. About holding a pixel keep in a make-believe world. But I had. Nor did I stop. Or feel stupid. Because what a game, what a world, what a realm that keep guarded. I thought DAOC was brilliant; I still do. I am not stupid and not given to investment in truly trivial entertainment. It was a *brilliant* game.

    As recently as 2010, when I had to stop playing because I nearly died. (For real, I mean. I’m totally fine now, but for rather a while it was all life as serious business of not departing it.)

    I have a lot of IRL business to catch up on, but I downloaded the client again the other day.

    Just so it would be there on my computer.

    One newish player’s feelings only.