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Dungeons used to be scary

Old school MMO dungeons
Guk from EverQuest 1

I like difficult games because I get a greater feeling of accomplishment when I overcome obstacles or reach certain goals. If it’s something easy then it means nothing, really. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t find reaching max level in games like WoW to be anything to brag about. I mean, if old people and eight-year-olds can do it then what is there to feel proud about? Though I probably shouldn’t knock the young and young at heart; my eight year old self somehow beat games that I struggle with today but hopefully you get my point. There are numerous topics you can get into on this subject but one of the first that comes to mind would be dungeons.

Back in earlier days of MMOs dungeons used to be insidious deathtraps. If you didn’t get yourself killed by a tough monster then it was by some kind of trap or hazard. If you were lucky you grouped up with somebody who had been there before and knew to tell you to “hug this wall” or “jump across that.” This actually brings up an interesting topic that I’ll probably get into in a future post. Getting back on track, these places where high-risk high-reward situations. If you weren’t careful you could die easily but if you knew what you were doing then you could benefit from great exp, loot, and experience awesome dungeon environments. I was a total dungeon rat and I can still remember the layout to pretty much every dungeon in EQ below level 30.

What also made the experience great was the lack of instancing. Being able to see other people and possibly join together with them only adds to the experience. Say you’re getting overwhelmed but then somebody heroically jumps in to help or vice versa. Obviously this can lead to some bad situations where these strangers can accidentally get you killed but that’s part of the charm of the dangerous experience. Probably my favorite thing about old-school dungeons would be trying to get out of them. Think about it, nowadays you clear a dungeon and get ‘ported out or even gate/hearth if you want. Sure some classes could gate back in games like EQ but that was a bigger deal when your bind point was in a place you didn’t want to be. The people who couldn’t gate where the ones who had to fight or sneak their way out. It’s a fun concept that just doesn’t exist anymore because people don’t want to do anymore than they have to. I probably don’t even have to mention that dungeons were essentially rogue paradises. You were essentially walk around naked in these joints if you could stealth or turn invisible. These kind of utilities were greatly beneficial. Do MMORPGs even have invis spells anymore?

I like dungeons. REAL dungeons, not the virtual equivalent of splash mountain. However in order to have dungeons like this you also need very different game mechanics than what  exists today, but that’s way more than I want to get into right now.

  • Completely agree. Its not just rose tinted glasses I look back at my 3 years in DAoC. Its how hard the zones & dungeons were, the challenge in getting there & surviving. Trying to get to your friends who were deep pulling skavs in Spindelhlla or trying to get to the Varulv camp in Malmohus – in front of the dragon..hugging the wall, dying because you didn’t time the patrol properly & running all the way back.

    You learnt those patrols, learnt aggro range, because you needed a group. Levelling was slow, you couldn’t solo easily, you needed a group. There was a community. /remiss

  • Kedge Keep – old EQ-underwater,need a caster of Enduring Breath,needed reagents for the spell-going ld as that caster = dead group
    Pulling issues – hard ti fight underwater,what’s up and down.

  • Being good or bad at dungeons doesn’t have anything to with with age, whippersnapper, but with how you play the game.

  • I have had some exhilarating dungeon crawling experiences the past few months while I’ve been playing Vanguard. The sense of trepidation at the possibility of wiping, the real danger of losing xp, and the respect the game forces you to have for its dungeons is awesome.

    Obviously the game isn’t for everyone. But it’s a far cry now from what was launched 6 years ago. It’s a wonderful game for those of us who fondly remember “the old school”. It’s still not as deadly as original EQ was, but it’s the closest thing I have found other than P1999 since those days.

  • @Graev I agree a dungeon should be a dangerous place.

    Hmmm while not a mmorpg, have you ever played dark souls on ps3/xbox360 or pc.
    Death stares at you at nearly every corner. Deadly enemies … sneaky traps that can instantly kill you.
    Falling of ledges or pushed by traps.

    Not to mention the bosses… oh I still feel my soar butt from that asskicking they gave me.
    The first boss encounter I think I died around 20 times before I Killed him.
    The next boss encounters… even more.

    The difficulty is described by most as almost sadistic.
    But hey… the adventure and experience is great.

  • I agree, but today everyone wants to be the greatest Sith Lord in the galaxy in 30 days or less.

    Mainstream accessibility aside, the challenge was the best part of pencil and paper D&D. In these games I spent time planning out my encumbrance carefully, as a flask of slippery oil, a shovel, and sharpened wooden staves was more likely to save me than any magic item.

    Outside of my first 3 characters and convention play, while my party would die around me I never lost a character, not because we ran easy dungeons, but because I was such a meticulous worst case scenario planner (that and because when things looked like they were heading South quickly I didn’t mind singing this song –

    I was a matter of pride to not lose a character back then when falling out of rowboat meant your death if you neglected to say that you were taking the time to first remove your armor.

    An encounter is devalued when players don’t take it as a serious threat to their character. It also puts more focus on the payoff than the effort if success in the effort is a foregone conclusion.

    I have never been a permadeath kind of guy in my mind, but perhaps there needs to be more of an emphasis on negative ramifications of dying or at least for dying multiple times in a day.

  • MMOs have gone the same way much of society has. All the kids get “participation ribbons,” so no one feels bad. There’s no greater reward for extra care or effort, because that would shame the other kids.

  • New layout is horrible.. To bright on my eyes. The former layout was fine. Why change it? “looks confused”

  • Also there is something with the size of the font. I can not read a blogpost in one go.
    Its almost like I changed my resolution back 2 steps.

  • @Zylon/Zyler: Colors haven’t changed. If anything, the contrast with the background should now be easier to read in comments. Site has always been themed white, and I don’t plan to change that. I hate dark sites.

    The font is a little big. I think I’ll lower it a size or two.

    The site was using a very, very old theme that wasn’t able to utilize new features in WordPress. There wasn’t a future for that theme, so we switched in order to do more and be set for the future.

    Please put all of your site change discussion comments in this post.

  • Mages actually had a functional invisibility spell in the WoW Beta but it got stripped out before the Open Beta phase because it was just too powerful. Although it was really only too powerful because players in WoW are so much stronger than in EQ and since dungeons were instanced with guaranteed boss spawns Mages could farm just the most valuable mobs over and over again. In EQ you could some of the same but since named and boss mobs were on much longer timers and they were single spawns for the entire server it wasn’t as much of an issue.

  • When I was playing darkfall i went to check out a cave outside of town. In that cave i fell through a hole. Down the hole was a watery cavern with a large plant that protruded the surface of the water. EVery time I entered the water something fast would attack me and I would have to retreat up the plants vines. The only exit was through the water though. I died, but that was the last cool horror experience I had in an MMO.

  • I don’t get wrapped up in this whole “entitlement” generation. Every generation since the dawn of man has claimed the generation after them is spoiled, whiny, or has it easy.

    There are a lot of gamers out there now that have tons of experience and want meaningful challenges. The problem is our current fare of games forces us to choose between time and challenge, and as adults with families, time is what we lack. This forces us into games like WoW, GW2, etc. The lack of success by the WoW clones, and WoWs declining numbers show us that people are tiring of such a shallow existence.

    A game will emerge which blends the old-school challenge of games like EQ, with the new-school time-accessibility of games like WoW/GW2/Rift. Whatever developer pulls this off will make a fortune.