MMO nostalgia aka why you couldn’t pay me to play EQ

I’ve heard a lot of excited talk on the MMO blogs I read about the new EQ progression server. Yes, you too could travel back in time and experience what it was like to play a game with crappy graphics, arsey raiders, and where it was considered normal to camp a rare spawn for 17 hours.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a BBC article about it from 2002. (He’s talking about a 3-5 day wait for a single quest mob to spawn and believe it or not, some people actually waited and did not decide, “This game is shite.”)

So why are players flocking back to try the new (‘old’) servers?

I can only assume nostalgia, and an attempt to capture the memories of playing MMOs when communities were forced to be more tight knit, everything and everyone was new, and maybe to reclaim some of their forgotten youth, especially if other ex-players can also be cajoled into going back. You can’t actually go back to those times, people know now which the best classes are, what the best shortcuts are, and I wonder how many of them really do want to spend hours camping the same spawn of mobs to level. I suppose we’ll find out. SoE sensibly gave old players the first month for free, which explains part of the popularity.

To understand some of my disdain you also have to understand that MMO dinos (ie. old players) cut their teeth on a handful of games (note: I’m not including MUDs or MUSHes here). These in the west would typically have been Ultima Online, Meridian, EQ, Dark Age of Camelot, and Asheron’s Call. Whichever game you played will have shaped your expectations of how MMOs should be. And because games back then were so time consuming, typically you would not have played more than one if you were seriously into it.

So I think DaoC was the best old school game ever, despite its flaws, and EQ with its big breasted elven paladins, stupid long spawn times, crazy hardcore endgame players, and exclusive guilds was an evolutionary dead end which unfortunately caught on with new gamers who weren’t experienced enough to know better.

Tobold is enamoured with encouraging players to go back and try it to find out how awful it really was – actually he wants hardcore players to find out how hard it is, but I’m translating into english here. I actually think all of the elements on his list of good things about EQ have been improved by every single game since, especially WoW. And thank Thrall for that.

I would say skip it. Play the Rift open beta instead, it’s equally free. You’ll have more fun, you have way way way more chance to get the actual new game feel if that’s what you want, and you’ll be able to support a new company at a time they really need it.

Arb and I are both playing Rift at the moment so expect to hear more about that in future.

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19 thoughts on “MMO nostalgia aka why you couldn’t pay me to play EQ

  1. Dark Age of Camelot veteran here as well. Never did play EverQuest, and quite glad of it I am too by all accounts.

    If you’ve managed to decide on a class in Rift yet, please tell me how. After definitely deciding to play a Justicar/Sentinel Cleric ages ago (Final answer, Chris. Definitely a Cleric. Absolutely a Cleric. No doubt in my mind, it’s a Cleric’s life for me) I tried a Riftstalker/Bard last night, and being a self-buffing tank-rogue is rather a splendid amount of fun. Gragh!

    Thank goodness they eschewed the tank-mage as a class otherwise I would probably have had an altitus aneurism by now.

    • We’ll totally be writing more on this.

      I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, so I decided to go back to basics, pick a class I’d liked in a previous game and see if I could make something like it by mixing and matching souls.

      I went with my old DaoC sorceress, so am currently trying out Dominator (for the CC), Warlock (for the lifetaps), and Chloromancer (more dots). I’m enjoying it so far, esp since I never really liked having pets on the sorcerer that much and this is a pet free spec. But I’m still tempted to try Dom/Chloro/ Stormcaller which has more AE and debuffs, and Dom/Archon/Warlock which has more emphasis on buffs/debuffs.

      I bet you probably could make a cleric tank mage though.

  2. *Productivity level alarmingly low*
    Well, I still have to write this, otherwise it would haunt me all day! ;)

    You are damn right. Ultima Online was my first MMO-love. It greatly shaped my view of virtual worlds. It is still around, but I really can’t go back, it is just old and awful by now.

    This early UP experience is probably the reason why WoW and many other MMOs based on EQ-style don’t do it for me, which is unfortunately almost every MMO nowadays. Except Guild Wars and STO. I like LOTRO probably because of the IP/world.

    Rift is the evolution of EverQuest by Hartsman himself. So who liked EverQuest should really try it. I will be waiting for GW2 in the meantime and hope it won’t turn out to be bull.

    I don’t think anything of value will come out of a EQ hardcore vs WoW softcore discussion. I just read Hirvox and he made a good point: “But the important question is that if you strip away all of the cruft, is there still something worth salvaging in old designs?”

    I don’t think a veteran has to go back to Fippy Darkpaw to answer this, and a non-veteran has little if any chance to get into the 1999 mindset and world of MMO veterans.

    • UO really is pretty good on its own merits, at least in the “when communities were forced to be more tight knit” way. It’s closer than any to a real simulation, *death really matters*, and started out about 10x more “real” than it is now when it had a closed economy. It’s limitations and design encourage RP, and I still get more excited and seriously nervous just watching YouTube of UO than any other MMORPG.

      True story — I died once in the Lost Lands and knew I probably wouldn’t make it back in time to get my stuff. Colors started swarming into my eyes and a few minutes later I got a migraine. It’s, in my case, literally nerve-wracking.

      WoW does not produce migraines. It’s less drama, and that’s, well, different than UO. It’s partial reinforcement schedule and risk-reward setup is so elegantly timed and subtle that it’s almost pure pleasure when your, say, running around clicking dead spiders. Seriously, I’m excited by this?

      • /sigh.

        s/It’s/Its (1st and 3rd)
        s/your/you’re

        I noticed I didn’t start doing this until I was in my mid-thirties. The third-grade warnings were a little premature.

  3. Hey, thanks for this article!

    I’ve started a bit of a Sandbox challenge on my blog, and am trying to test-out every sandbox-MMO available, by release date, and Ultima Online was up first…….and I’ve been looking for an excuse to stop playing it immediately!

    I admit I’m a bit of a game-snob when it comes to ‘old’ games, and I’m struggling with this one. I just don’t like the look and feel of the old 2-d play….and now, armed with your fine, fine article, I have the perfect excuse to strike that one of the list and move on :)

    I realize I’m likely missing out on a great game but I’m not sure I can face 20-hours of it (as per my challenge rules)…. maybe one more try tonight.

    • I’ll keep an eye on your blog, the sandbox challenge sounds very cool.

      I think with these old games, the way to play them is to realise that the UI will be diabolical before you go in (this is one of the reasons that addons were such a huge deal in WoW iirc), and that the community will probably be both jaded and elitist, and to look for the things that do work. Then look for a more modern game that incorporates them.

      Also I’m sure Longasc can tell you anything you want to know about UO :)

    • I like the Sandbox challenge. Enough so, that you’ll be getting a new reader.

      May I suggest two games to not pass over?

      Ryzom. My favorite sandbox of all, hands down.

      Pirates of the B.S. (sorry for the initials. theirs, not mine) We’d be glad to add you to our production line!

      • Hey,

        Thanks all! I don’t mind a difficult, or bad UI…..Xsyon (new) has a terrible UI and I’m managing to muddle through to give the game a chance. It just seems to be the 2-d environment of UO, but like I said I’ll give it another go.

        @Sven- thanks, and welcome! I already have Pirates on my list (6). I saw Ryzon listed in MMORPG’s Under the Radar list:

        (http://www.mmorpg.com/gamelist.cfm/game/36/feature/3690/Five-Under-the-Radar-MMOs.html)

        Didn’t realize it was a sandbox, and I think I got fooled by the end bit when they said it closed down…..missed the ‘only to get resurrected’ bit. Will add it on, cheers.

  4. In Rift, the Riftblade is pretty tank-magey as it’s a warrior with a nice line in nukes. A cleric justicar/shaman/inquisitor I tried felt rather like my old DAoC friar with a dash of Mage as well… Too! Many! Choices! To! Play!

    While I’m aware that much has improved from older games, I do still have a hankering to go back to old school DAoC… I’d rather see a DAoC 2.0 with a modern graphics engine, better soloing experience for levelling, a revamped crafting system and reworked class mechanics though. Let’s have the best of the old blended with the lessons of the new. For the PvE game, Rift may well do that – but for RvR we’ve yet to see a worthy successor.

  5. It will be interesting to see what happens with it. There really is an odd subset of MMO players who are masochistic nutters. I get a few of ‘em even over at my little place whenever I write about challenge and difficulty.

    I maintain it’s really a small niche audience, but hey, it’s there, may as well serve it. It will be interesting to see if it’s commercially viable.

  6. I played EQ for a couple of weeks in 2000, decided I didn’t like it and didn’t sub past the free month.

    From time to time I feel vaguely guilty about this as people in the late nineteenth century may have done when remembering they used a Penny Black to mail a letter.

    Thanks for restoring some sanity. After too much of the old school railing on why games can’t be like EQ again I do sometimes wonder if I’m mad and there’s a totally different virtual reality to the one I experienced.

  7. For me the EQ progression server will be something of a science experiment. Will I actually still think it’s decent? Or will I hate it and wish for the convenience and features of other, newer MMOs?

    I guess I want to see what makes a MMO “good”. It it just components that comprise it or something more than the sum of its parts? Seeing what the EQ community is like on the server and how we behave when forced to play together again will be really interesting too.

  8. My first MMO was Anarchy Online; it certainly affected my perception of MMO play and I really liked the class/skill progression combo, the implant improvements etc.

    I went back to the game a couple of times over the years, but it did never lasted particularly long. Still some nice pieces in there, but also things that just feel awkward nowadays. And some of the old wilderness areas are not there anymore, because of everything that had been built.

    Whenever they get their graphical/engine revamp done I might jump in again to have a look – although I suspect it might end up to be only a short visit.

  9. I agree with everything you’re saying, although I did have to chuckle at the reference to Rift having “actual new game feel,” given that 95% of Rift is cribbed verbatim from WoW circa 2004. It’s not as old-school at EverQuest’s progression server but it’s pretty damn old-school.

  10. Playing EQ now can’t be the same.

    In the early 90s, online chat rooms were just starting and it was magical. There was infinite possibility and a sense of common wonder. Nobody had done this so nobody was jaded and we were all just making it up as we went along. Several years on, the quality of the experience was notably lower and veterans recalled how good it used to be. Almost 20 years later and the bloom is gone. The chat software, the game environment, hasn’t changed much but the people have. We’ve grown up, we’re all internet veterans who know how the online world works. Virtual communities are not new; they’ve grown, faded and moved on to arise elsewhere in a new, fragile soil.

  11. Pingback: /AFK — Fippy Darkpaw Edition « Bio Break

  12. I seem to be one of the few commenting on the Fippy Darkpaw experience who also still plays regular EQ. I think the general perception is that no-one plays EQ anymore and hasn’t done for years, but that’s certainly not the case. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that more people play EQ than play EQ2, and as a current player of both games I get the impression that more of SOE’s resources are currently being directed at the older game.

    I actually prefer EQ2011 to EQ1999. I love my mercenaries – the best addition to any MMO ever. All the same I’ve spent a lot more time already on Fippy Darkpaw than I planned or expected, for the simple reason that it’s just a boatload of fun. Extremely satisfying gameplay, that’s all there is to it. If someone would like to make a game with 2011 graphics and identical gameplay to EQ I think they’d have a couple of hundred thousand regular subscribers for a decade or so.

    • It’s quite interesting if more of SOE’s resources are being directed at the original EQ. And I’m glad the current version is an improvement on the original, after 10 years in hand.

      As for a couple of hundred thousand regular subscribers for an updated EQ, that sounds optimistic. I’m sure there would be some interest but I guess I’m wondering in what way EQ2 (and other similar style games like LOTRO) in particular fails to scratch the same itch?

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