Simple Mechanics, Complex & Dynamic Experience

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Playing EverQuest always brings the same thoughts to my mind about why I can find so much enjoyment in a game that is 17 years old. I just keep going back. I seemingly never tire of the adventure, even when I start over only months into a server.  I had this continual thought going through my head last night: This is simple. This is pure.

EverQuest is straight forward. You make a character, kill monsters, level up, and camp some stuff to get a few neat items. While some of the mechanics can have depth, the true depth is actually in their simplicity and how they are used in their simplicity to do extraordinary things.

I’m playing my Necromancer who practically had to melee monsters from levels 1-4. Levels 1-4 took me like 5 hours — I’m slow, I know. I felt weak. I felt incapable. I felt like I had to fight tooth and nail for every percentage of experience. Some fights had me on the edge of my seat, and I was always darting around looking for mobs that would kill me.

Let’s evaluate the mechanics at play here. All I did was auto attack and occasionally cast a few lifetaps or a dot. I pressed a button, then sat back and watched. Monsters can out run me, never stop chasing until I zone, and higher level monsters are mixed in with lower level ones. Mana and health regen would mean I had to sit often between tougher fights. This meant constantly checking for that Mountain Lion who kept killing me all evening.

Auto attack, downtime, and danger. Simple concepts, but they made the first four levels not only memorable but something I had to engage and focus on overcoming. Modern MMOs are all about just going through the motions and neglect the simple things to the point of introducing so many overcomplicated features and mechanics to the point that we lose sight of the simple things.

There’s enormous depth in simplicity. Just some food for thought.

  • Simple mechanics that create a dynamic experience, yes… I think this is why I always log into my favorite text based MUD every now and then too. Old EQ always felt like a MUD with graphics. I remember reading the original manual and I believe they included a special thanks to the creators of DikuMUD.

  • This makes me miss the days of menu-based combat now that so many games have gone the WoW route with hot bars. Sure the new methods accommodate a lot more stuff on the fly during a fight, but there really was something nice about the simplicity of the menus. It’s something that I’ll always associate with the early days of MMOs whether it’s EQ, Final Fantasy XI, or a bunch of others. If anything, the menu-based system seems more of a logical progression out of traditional RPGs given their often menu-based combat as well especially in the late 90s when games like this were coming about.

  • I still play my mud, but even that requires more personal activity than EQ.
    The autoattack + be aware is just not enough anymore for me, and the absolute boredom of early EQ2 ruins the game for me. I don’t even feel the danger like you do. To me it was just slow and boring

  • Agree, but it’s not auto attack. It’s because it’s hard and is dangerous with huge spikes in the risk/reward formula. Which essentially means you can “win” against 90% of the dumbasses playing the game.

    You can’t “win” in today’s games. You can pour your time into it but it doesn’t really matter, the rest are just a few weeks behind you. All your armor is going to look the same as everybody else in a month unless you dye it. Phhhht.

    It’s also about not being able to solo anything meaningful. Which again gets back to risk reward. It’s so obvious, I don’t get why game companies miss it. Unless they get way more money from having a larger audience playing for a shorter time. They might.

  • I still feel the actual combat is miles better today while everything else is worse.

    I’ll take the exploration, danger, risk vs. reward, and group interdependence to get anything done of older MMO’s. The combat on the other hand was always lacking. Waiting around for auto-attacks was never my thing.