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Playing MMOs After Their Prime

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MMOs are always healthiest right around that launch window in the first three months. The community is fresh, the game is relatively unknown, and the excitement levels are always highest for the community right from the start.

Personally, I think the best time to play a MMO is around launch. Few, if any, MMOs have given me as much enjoyment later in their life as they did when they first came out.

Now that the MMO industry has slown to a crawl, and there's not an MMO around the corner every 3-6 months, we're left having to choose older ones to play.

How do you feel about playing MMOs after their prime? Can you just jump right in and play like you would a new MMO coming out?

I always have that sinking feeling deep down where I know it won't last and I'm just a tourist. Something about going into an older MMO feels like an older used car, or going to a cheap amusement park instead of one of the really cool ones. 

Games that keep things fresh, like WoW for example (despite its plethora of shortcomings), do make it easier to jump in. But I can't say that same feeling is there for a game like EverQuest 2 or Guild Wars. Going and playing an old MMO feels like starting behind the 8 ball.

I'm curious how you feel about playing older MMOs, whether for the first time or going back to one.

  • The fear of being so far behind, and having missed out on so much keeps me from exploring “old” MMOs (I’m not talking ancient like EQ or UO, but “old”, like EQ2 or Guild wars, or NVN) So many of those old MMOs understand that their player base is what it is, they don’t reach out to new players making things more enticing because they are to busy keeping their current player base. I hate joining a game where everyone is so far beyond my level 1, that I quickly loose interest. I’d easily play an old single player game, before I would start fresh on an MMO that has been around for several years.

    Another challenge to MMOs are simply the amount of lore they have. Example: How many wilbily gibits and zinkady doos killed the slaplagors, or god XIleeeen death that caused the continent of Beablebrox to explode is just one more critical thing needed to explain a story which is hard to even understand. Just trying to understand Destiny’s lore jumping in at Destiny 2 was a mountain of a challenge and I wanted to like that game. T

    WoW even with its simple premise to start (orcs vs humans), takes you through this ass backwards timeline of being in a timeline the blew up the world, then you go back to a time in another world before the world blew up, then back to the world which still isn’t blown up yet but is fine on a different continent, then back to the world blown up, back to another new continent now after the world blew up but this parts ok and has pandas, then back in time before all of that happened but kinda like the second place you went to but not really cause now its a new timeline. Now once that is done you go to another new continent in the old timeline because you helped the other timeline but it did nothing to the current timeline because reasons to fight a space god that has you traveling again to another planet. Then after all the flying around in spaceships you decide to have a war with the only group of people that have been helping you fight space gods and lich kings and crazy panda feeling old dead god memories… but now you have to go to a new continent, because reasons, and fight each other because the world is dying because a space god put a sword into the world all the while the other timeline is doing stuff that may or may not be important later.

    Then assuming you’ve gotten past all the hurdles the game puts in front of you like the complicated lore, or ancient quests no one plays anymore, or servers so empty you wonder if you are playing a single player game. Lets assume you get past all of that, you finally make it to a point in the game with the “regular player base”, if you aren’t downright hated for being a “noob” at beast you’ll be scorned for not playing the most optimal and be told to “git gud.” Lets assume you make it past all of that, you find the perfect group of people so inclusive they hold your hand and make you feel awesome, you will still find out that cool thing you see them flying, wearing or wielding is something that was available for a limited time only and that was years ago.

    • I agree with pretty much everything you said.

      – Being so far behind you feel you can’t catch up
      – Having no idea what’s going on in the big picture lore/story/world
      – Finding people to play with who have something in common
      – Feeling like no one else is playing
      – Missing out on years of experiences

  • The simple answer to this problem – if, indeed it is a problem – is not to stop playing. I’ve played EQ for 19 years, EQ2 for 14, GW2 for almost 7. I’ve fallen behind, finally, in EQ but I kept up for a dozen years. I’m still au fait with current content in the other two. It’s not difficult to do and it’s enormous fun or i wouldn’t be doing it.

    I’d also dispute that MMORPGs are at their best at launch. They are often at their most exciting but they’re frequently more rounded, more satisfying later on, particularly around the time of the first or second expansion. After that you probably do need to have committed. That said, I left it five years before I tried WoW. I came in somewhere near the start of WOTLK and had a great six months. I came late to W101 and loved that too, and still play it on occasion.

    • I agree that MMOs often come into their own within the first couple of years after launch. We all often say how we wish the game launched in ‘this’ state. Usually, by the time that happens most of the players have moved on — that usually means my friends or the group I was playing with from the start.

      For me the overall experience is best at launch, all things considered.

      As I mentioned in my post, I think WoW does a really good job of pressing the reset button every couple of years. Other than an overwhelming amount of lore and convoluted story, you’re pretty much capable of jumping back in at any major patch (during a soft gear reset) or an expansion when everything is back to square one.

      For most older games, though, there isn’t that luxury. There’s usually several things stacked against you. Yotor’s comment highlighted a lot of those things.

      – Being so far behind you feel you can’t catch up
      – Having no idea what’s going on in the big picture lore/story/world
      – Finding people to play with who have something in common
      – Feeling like no one else is playing
      – Missing out on years of experiences

      One or two of those can be overcome, but a lot of these older games that I would want to go back to simply have too many of them. I feel like those barriers to entry can’t be overcome.

  • I’m one of many currently trying FFXIV for the first time. And it’s an interesting example of the old MMO, as it won’t let you skip ahead in the story. You’ve got to play through all the stuff the V2 and V3 story contained before you can get to “current” content. Yet, they’ve built a world where it doesn’t feel like that matters.

    I’m deeply charmed by it. And even if I doubt I’ll make it much beyond three months (for now), that’s fine.

    • Interestingly enough, FFXIV is still one of the newer MMOs despite being six years old. We’ve been in a drought pretty much every since.

      Having to catch up on that story is why I didn’t make it past two months when I went back.

      • Keen, have you ever gone back and played Rift. Don’t hear many talking about it. I am looking for an MMO to go back to while I’m waiting for Camelot Unchained.

      • I did actually. I played it for a bit on one of their progression/legacy server things. I just couldn’t get into it. Nothing about the classes resonated with me at all, and combat always felt off to me.

        I believe the game was also sold to a German publishing company. It hasn’t been doing so hot.

    • I’m actually doing the same thing. I am very much enjoying FFXIV so far! ^_^ I really like how you can be all the classes and tradeskills on one character!

  • The simplest way to solve most of those issues, is to just release new progression servers every couple months. maybe every 6 months you do a big marketing spend and hype the new servers coming out. they could do basically what classic wow is doing and start with the base framework from the latest patch, but withhold the content and release it in the order it was released in the original game. I honestly don’t know why more games don’t do this. i’m hoping classic WoW is so successful that other companies take notice and start doing the same thing.

    you could argue that it fragments the player base, but with server merges and everything always happening anyways, i feel like it’s not that big of a deal and could be overcome.

    • I was just about to respond “it would fragment the player base,” but then I read your second paragraph. It’s definitely an issue for all but the oldest and already smallest games where the majority would hop from one progression server to the next (EQ).

      • Well if the alternative is the game stagnates and loses players, then i feel like having players hop from one progression server to another isn’t so bad. if it keeps the game alive and players interested, then it’s gotta be better than just letting the game die, right?

        my thought is that once the first progression server catches up with the initial release game, and a second progression server opens up, then the first 2 “completed” servers get combined. that way you really only have 1 progression server and 1 completed server at any given time (or a handful of each depending on the player numbers). I could be wrong but i feel like that would keep a decent balance and prevent the completed server from being too unpopulated… and of course you can tweak things as needed if the playerbase does something unexpected.

  • For some reason that not even I know, I decided to install Tera Online about 3 weeks ago. I played a couple of hours during the beta something like 7 years ago and wasn’t impressed and I’ve never felt inclined to go back…. but it’s installed and I’ve been playing it pretty much daily since then.

    TBH, it’s not great, but it’s not bad either, and it’s VERY casual while leveling up, so I’ve been enjoying it. There are only 2 servers — 1 pve and 1 pvp, and it’s said that the pve server is about 80% of all players. Even there the population is low and if you run dungeons you sometimes see the same people in your group multiple times, so it doesn’t appear to have that big a pool. That said, no matter where I’ve gone there’s always been a couple of players around, so it doesn’t feel like it’s unpopulated, at least.

    Still and all, as a casual way to pass a few hours in the evening it’s not bad. I don’t see it ever being a real “main game” for me, and TBH, I probably won’t play much longer once I get a character or 3 to 65, but we’ll see how it goes.

    • That’s cool you’re enjoying it. I was never able to find it fun. I feel the same about most of the eastern/asian MMOs.

    • i actually really liked TERA when it released. fighting BAMs was fun, the dungeons were cool, the combat is great. the main issue is that the “game” systems are just too obvious. i don’t want a game to split up mobs into aoe packs and solo pulls for me in such an obvious way. i don’t want little icons over everything, etc:… i want it to feel like a real cohesive world where i have to figure stuff out for myself and it’s not spoon-fed to me in such an obvious way. maybe change the art style too, it just didn’t feel quite right… glad some players are still having fun in it though, i get the itch to go back every once in a while.