This is an interesting story coming off the heels of Rift announcing its “Prime” aka “Legacy” server. Ultima Online producer Bonnie “Mesanna” Armstrong states quite clearly in today’s UO newsletter that there are no plans for UO to get a legacy server.
She cites the following “challenges“, all of which I think are a little weak.
This evening I randomly stumbled upon the UO soundtrack.
I was working on something entirely different (not this post) when this music came on. I had to stop and come write these thoughts down. Forgive my stream of consciousness as I try and make sense of it.
In my mind's eye I suddenly had images of playing a brand new newbie character and wandering around a large capital city. The world of this game is unfamiliar to me, but it's a feeling I had before of wandering around a city looking for potion shops or somewhere to find a shop keeper.
I'm reminded of asking people in local (not global or region) chat channels for directions, and having to figure things out together. I don't recall this being an actual memory, but I wandered into a group of players sitting around a camp fire waiting for day before leaving the safety of the city walls.
Slower... yes, it's a slower feeling.
The worlds today are rushed, hectic, and we're always going somewhere because we know where we have to go. We know what we have to do. We have micro objectives. Everything is prescribed, known, expected.
My nostalgic rush reminds me of days where the entire experience was so slow that logging in and walking around was itself an adventure.
The feelings are almost emotional in a way. It brought back those feelings of not knowing anything and feeling so small, lost, and insignificant in a virtual world. Yet at the same time it was (is) a glorious feeling to have no idea what the future holds.
I feel a huge nostalgia rush coming over me lately. There's an enormous pull to go play games that feel more like virtual worlds again. Tonight's 'episode' and almost day-dream vision of staring off into space while listening to these midis only fuels that desire.
There's Agnarr, the upcoming Everquest time-locked progression server. I've also been looking at Legends of Aria which has components of NWN and UO.
Perhaps Agnarr will be a good place to start once again, but I'm open to your ideas. I can't be the only one who slips into these daydreams and experiences such powerful feeling simply from memories. Am I?
P.S. Which do you like better, the Midi above or this version below?
P.P.S. I felt a picture of The Realm was entirely fitting for a featured image. Those who played as long as I did will remember it hits quite a few of these notes.
I was having one of my regular MMO discussions with a friend yesterday when we brought up a subject that started to make a lot of sense. MMOs didn’t used to be about the loot; sort of, but not really. The following are just thoughts we came up with while having this discussion.
We started thinking about a few examples of the older games we played extensively, and tried to identify in as few words as possible why it is we played — what was our drive or our reason for logging in each day.
Ultima Online – We were essentially living life. We made houses, started careers, accumulated wealth, and everything centered around making the act of living life easier.
Asherons Call – The world was constantly changing and we wanted to see it evolve; all about seeing what happens next.
EverQuest – Building relationships and creating dependencies on others was what kept us logging in. EQ (before Velious) wasn’t about raiding or looting as much as it was seeing how far we could advance and what challenges we could overcome.
Dark Age of Camelot – We lived in the world to defend our realm.
Loot can’t be the focus in a MMORPG that is going to recapture our attention. An MMO can and should have loot; we decided to nix the idea that maybe an MMO didn’t need loot at all, but can’t be the center where all roads lead.
When loot isn’t the focus, the other aspects of the game suddenly because exponentially more important and visible. There’s a reason players don’t participate in things like exploration, socializing, housing, or care about things like “realm pride” anymore. Those things do not actively drop epics, nor should they because that doesn’t make sense.
An MMO without a focus on loot is set free to be so much more. Design becomes a slave to gear when too much focus is placed upon it.
When it comes to community, crafting, and virtual worlds you can consider me a super-fan. I have written post after post since we started blogging in 2007 about UO and SWG crafting, relying on other players, creating virtual economies, etc.
There’s a new game on the horizon — a tiny speck on the horizon — worth looking at: Crowfall.
There aren’t a lot of details. Lots of little tidbits of info are dropping out there, and some bigger announcements are being teased. Their interview on MMORPG.com caught my attention. Here’s a snippet:
There are a ton of lessons to be learned looking at games like Star Wars Galaxies and EVE Online which had and still have success with their crafting and economic loops. From a very high altitude, crafters need to be able to: craft unique items, explore new recipes and profit from the results of this exploration, and create customized items for all styles of play. Crafters must have an audience to buy their goods. The loop between crafter and combatant has to exist! And, ideally, crafters need to be able to “mark” their product so that they can build a social reputation and a following.
The very concept that players can and will lose their items at some point is required, otherwise the game loop breaks. It is a very controversial topic for those who don’t like the potential of losing their items, and we understand that. But sometimes you have to embrace ideas that may not be popular at first glance, because they open up amazing areas of gameplay that are otherwise not accessible.
They’re saying the right things. Some of the leads on the team have experience with SWG, UO, Shadowbane, and other older great titles. They’ve brought in Raph Koster as a consultant or sorts to weigh in on the project’s crafting side. Sounds to me like a team looking to hopefully make a game harkening back to the games these guys enjoyed — the same games I keep preaching about.
I love the image above from a post I wrote a year ago about combat in MMOs changing from slow and methodical to fast-pace button mashing. The summary you all can already glean here is that older combat was slower in the sense that you used less abilities, it potentially took much longer to kill something, and more thinking had to occur to overcome the opposition. New MMOs focus more on using abilities rapidly, creating something that looks visually active, and killing something fast enough that you c an move on to the next before your abilities come off cooldown.
I want to focus in on the older combat and why I think it still has more depth despite having a fraction of the abilities, UI, animations, or tech of modern day games.
Complexity of Decisions
Today there are very few decisions to be made. One simply walks up to a mob and executes abilities in any order. The real decision is which order to use the abilities to kill the monster fastest–everything is about actively attacking. There isn’t much thought to being hit yourself, or minimizing usage of abilities to preserve mana or stamina. The two real thoughts that I have are, (1) Do I need to kill this, and (2) Do I want to? The HOW has been completely lost.
There are several examples in past MMOs where the ‘HOW’ of combat was king. EQ methods come to mind: Root Rot, Kite, Reverse Kite, and Charm. UO had weapon types and spell combinations like the halberd corp por, katana to rapidly poison, or mace to stun. Then grouping added enormous complexity which mostly has to do with what I discussed yesterday with downtime.
Tanks used to require a decent amount of time to get aggro. I really can’t remember the last time I grouped and waited before DPSing. In EQ a wizard absolutely would not nuke until the mob was below 80% — the wizard wouldn’t even stand up. Healers wouldn’t even heal because aggro would come off the tank. Tanking took time, monsters took time to taunt and build up a safe aggro, and players respected that or died.
This could also be called the “characters do one thing well” category. Having certain classes in your group would actually slow down the rate at which you could kill a single mob, thus slowing combat, but might improve your abilities to survive, pull multiple mobs at once and take a tougher spawn, or recover from battle quicker and move on to the next kill. Sometimes a class would literally be invited to do nothing but pull and contribute very little to DPS. Sometimes a class would do nothing but heal or buff. These days everyone is a DPS.
Managing mana consumption was often the difference between a great player and a good one. Healers who knew which heals to use and when, Wizards who knew how many times they should nuke to add the most efficient DPS to a group (the key being “efficient”), etc. Consume your resources and combat was slower. Have to worry about them at all and combat naturally becomes much, much slower.
Remember our old friend “white damage?” I love auto attack. I remember the days when it comprised of a massive portion of overall damage done by melee characters. The entire concept is all but completely done away with in favor of rotations and constant ability usage. Older MMOs had fewer abilities (most of the time).
All of these things, and more, contribute to the concept that combat in MMOs used to be a much more thought out and slower experience. That said, despite its now archaic UI and tech, no one can deny that combat in older MMOs was a much more dynamic experience and that today’s combat is trending toward the shallow side.