Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hopped on an old game, and now I see why new MMORPGS are getting stale

Way back in 2004, I quit Everquest for World of Warcraft and thought it was the greatest thing on the planet in comparison. This has been my thinking since Mists of Pandarea released, because surely the pain of Everquest back in the day couldn't have been "good"! Over the years, WoW has inspired countless clones and all of them take the formula and make it even more standardized. Looking back at my EQ days while playing wow, I scoffed at what I used to have to deal with... but I've grown pretty bored of this model. I wanted that Everquest feel back.

Expecting rose tinted goggles and an hour or two of playtime before I quit, I subbed to Everquest for the new progression style server (Ragefire), that essentially takes it back to 2000 with a few interface bells and whistles to make it slightly more modern as it climbs through each expansion in 3-6 month blocks. The core game is very much oldschool though. 1 1/2 weeks and 25 levels later (yes, it takes that long), and I'm addicted.

So why is this old game with all of it's inconveniences and incredibly long grinds entertaining? Some things I've noticed:

My character is a bard, and we need to buy song scrolls (skills essentially). Unlike modern MMOS where they literally just pop up on your bar when you level, I actually have to travel around the world, to different cities (all races have unique, simplified cities for flavor, another cool thing), because different merchants in different cities have different selections of spells. At first i thought this would be a pain, but hunting them down and exploring these different cities is actually a lot more immersive. You feel like you are making your way in the world.

Quest items drop everywhere, and you figure out where to take them and if they are important to you. Everyone has quests specifically for their class, and you never have to be "on" the quest to do them. It's again, a lot more immersive to be out there killing skeletons, find a runed bone quest item, and find out it's for a quest you can do. These quests tend to be world wide, with specific monsters to kill in several different zones, giving you more reason to venture out into the world outside of killing 10 boars in 30 seconds for the 50th impoverished, exclamation-point-touting farmer in a row.

Without any form of auto-queue LFG stuff, and the need to travel everywhere, the game forces you to socialize. I have yet to group with anyone who isn't friendly, and my friend list is pretty much double what I have in WoW after just a week. Everyone connects to each other because the leveling takes a LOT longer and the best way to do it is with an easy to pull from pool of cool people you actually get to know. In WoW I hit a button, do a dungeon, and leave. I don't think I remember anyone's names from the past year of pugging raids and groups. When I run around in EQ, I see people I grouped with all the time. Even at my humble level of 25, people are gaining reputations and having an impact on the community. Cross server stuff in WoW and new games has all but destroyed any form of server community.

I could go on and on, but this is already too long. I'll leave it at this. New MMOS have such a massive focus on getting to endgame, streamlining, and immediate gratification, that I feel like they have lost any kind of challenge or community. The idea of a virtual "world" has died, being replaced by what are essentially just giant lobbies. People guild hop like crazy, completely ignore their fellow player unless they need something, and generally make me wonder why these games are massive multiplayer online at all anymore. You might as well just replace all the players with bots in WoW. That is pretty much what they are for most people, including myself! When I play WoW, everyone is just a faceless means to an end.

I sometimes wonder what would happen if WoW decided to completely drop a lot of it's streamlined features for a month. Would everyone up and quit because they have to run to town for their spells? Would dungeons be ghost towns because people don't want to LFG in chat and build connections? I've been spoiled by, and loved these systems for years, but going back to the old days has opened my eyes to what we lost in the process.

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