You should return those glasses to their rightful owner

Syp over at Biobreak has a post talking about the pre-2003 MMO market and todays, and how you can’t pay him enough to go back to that time.

First I find this odd, as looking at his About page, I’m not seeing pre-2003 MMOs on his list of games he has played extensively, but maybe that’s just an omission on his part? Maybe he is a pre-2003 MMO vet? Is he just hiding the fact that he was Dreadlord Syp?

Anyway, here is his list of reasons why the genre is better today:

The quest system, dynamic events, full voice-overs, customizable appearances, public grouping, hybrid gameplay (such as STO’s ground/space combat), genre blending, business models

The quest system of 2012 is Cataclysm and SW:TOR. I’ll leave it at that.

‘Dynamic Events’ are a buzzword today for games like Rift, which are painfully static. Dynamic events in games like UO or EQ, which were player-driven, were actually dynamic. And actual events. The killing of Lord British anyone?

Voice-overs – Yup.

Customizable Appearances – In UO you had more options for this than you do today in WoW. With more impact as well. The game also had customizable housing on a scale most games today can only dream about (or declare technically impossible, depending on how little the devs think of their player-base).

Public Grouping – UO had this feature. Only it was called “Talk to that played, see what they are doing, and do stuff together”. When this happened regularly, it was called a guild. And since people actually lived in those worlds, rather than just ‘progressed’ through one hub to the next, knowing the locals meant something. I’d be dying to hear how someone who has experience with that prefers the random dungeon finder instead, as relates to group quality and the overall enjoyment of grouping.

Hybrid gameplay – The genre is better now that we have a poor man’s version of Starfox that we have to pay $15 a month to play? Odd, I was under the impression that when I loaded up an MMO, it was because I wanted to play an MMO, and when I loaded up Starfox, it was because I wanted to play Starfox. That said, UO had chess, although it required two players, so I understand why it would not work today.

Genre blending – We sure are.

Business Models – I love Pay-2-Win enhanced games like Atlantica. That game would suck as a pure sub game. I also love an immersive experience like LotRO turn into a slot-machine. Finally how can you not love what accounts being free does to server communities (lulz what is that?). In all fairness this can work sometimes. LoL being F2P is cool. EVE having PLEX is nice. Games like DDO/EQ2/LotRO/AoC not shutting down but instead milking a few dummies is cool, I guess.

And finally on to his real argument as to why those who enjoyed the genre pre-2003 love it today.

Oh wait he’s done? I see. Fine, let’s move on to the horrors of pre-2003 games, shall we?

You think the quest grind is bad today? Try simply grinding mobs endlessly for no reason other than a lack of other options. Or the horrible death penalties. The lack of real support for solo players. The incredibly obtuse nature of game mechanics and stats. The lack of free-to-play resulting in fewer gaming options on any given day

What game was Syp playing where he was grinding mobs endlessly because he had no other options and that was it? Doesn’t sound like UO to me. Nor AC. Nor DAoC. EQ1 players? The original carebears? Is it you?

Death penalties – The funny thing about WoW-only players is they just don’t know better. Tell them that if they die they lose all their stuff, and their heads explode. Now Syp, I guess being a pre-2003 vet, (right?) knows better. So he knows why the death penalty in UO was awesome. Just how much gameplay came out of the penalty in AC (Darktide, the only version of the game that mattered). And how many of you original carebears have epic corpse-run stories? I don’t think I need to talk about dying in DaoC, do I?

Solo players – What a horrible crime, that in a genre called massive MULTIPLAYER, we don’t cater to solo players. One can only imagine how horrible server communities and guilds were back when the only people playing were those who wanted to be social, who wanted to play something with others, who cared for group progression over personal. The horror! What would I do without little solo-Billy never talking and always being in his personal instance? Do you know how much worse my MMO experience would be without people like him… not around?

Game stats – I’m so glad the genre moved away from needing a website like EJ to play ‘the real game’, where groups are no longer formed based on gearscore, and that we no longer suffer with FOTM builds in games like Rift. That finally, we did away with obtuse things like being stuck playing a character in DAoC and making the best of it, rather than just re-spec’ing. That finally, rather than having to work towards a new build like we did in UO, you can just instantly hop from one solo-build to another. Amazing progress has indeed been made, and it’s clearly reflected in not just the games, but their communities as well.

Lack of free-to-play – Ah yes, the land of infinite quality, where only the best and brightest games dwell, and where only the finest of citizen reside.

I think I get where Syp is going with this. Now that I think about it, the 1997-2003 years were indeed horrible. Dealing with server communities, playing with tight-knit groups that stuck around longer than a month, building a server reputation, being judged not by my epics but by my personality. Just terrible, nightmarish days.

And remember all those awful days of Relic keep raids? Of invading Darkness Falls? Or all that time spent ‘grinding’ away in Minoc? Just talking to other players around your house because, damnit, you had no other options? Remember how painful it was to go into a dungeon in AC-DT, only for it to escalating into a server-wide brawl? Do any of you know how much time I ‘wasted’ fighting over a city in that game? How many people I knew by reputation, how deep the connections were? It was just awful man, awful. Not a single solo instance around, no ‘epic’ gear handed to me, absolutely no way to instantly teleport to a dungeon with some bots to go on an ‘epic’ quest to kill a god (for the 400th time).

Syp didn’t mention these things, but I will. You know what’s awesome about 2012? That thanks to $300m budgets, the games of today are bug-free (just don’t /dance), that they get prompt content updates (delayed until next week), look amazing (SW retro 2004 vibe is great), run great (just don’t turn on those now-gone high textures), have awesome server hardware (up to 10 people in one area) and they offer such a wide variety of things to do compared to games of old.

I mean look, when I’m tired of listening to those B-rate voices on my main solo-quest, I can go and do this side-quest. Solo. While listening to B-rate voices. In only one zone (sorry, planet) See? It’s awesome. So much better than being ‘forced’ to grind the same mob camp (one out of about a few thousand, if we’re talking UO) all day. Assuming I’m not a crafter. Or a shopkeeper. Or a PK. Or an anti. Or exploring. Or sailing. Or acting like an orc. Grinding mobs all day, yo!

Man I’m glad it’s 2012!

(Apologies for it not being Friday)

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Asheron's Call, Atlantica Online, EQ2, Housing, MMO design, Random, Rant, Rift, RMT, SW:TOR, Ultima Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

82 Responses to You should return those glasses to their rightful owner

  1. Just to take the contrarian position, if UO was so great, why aren’t you playing it today?

    I mean, that was part of his point, all talk about the good old days and no action, no actual playing those games.

    • SynCaine says:

      One: I’m playing EVE, a 2003 game.
      Two: I played Darkfall, a UO remake.
      Three: 97UO no longer exists. Primarily because it’s no longer 97, but for other reasons as well.

      • EVE – Cool, glad you used so many examples from it in your post.

        Darkfall – “Were” playing it. Not still playing it.

        97UO – So if it no longer exists, then your argument about how great UO was in 1997 was about what then? I mean, it is not there for a reason, right?

        • SynCaine says:

          Since you play, you know very well that I could have used EVE for every single example in this post.
          Darkfall – Not playing it now, nope. Did for 2yrs though. Waiting for DF2.0. Playing the space version now. And…?
          97UO – Is this were I bring up WoW and the whole hardcore angle? Followed up by how well WoW-clones have done since? I think it is.

        • saucelah says:

          That is kind of like saying that if SWG was better pre-CU it would still exist, which ignores all the variables that went into the CU.

          A bit of a straw man, really.

        • SynCaine says:

          Listen, obviously the CU worked. SWG is thriving. People love the new game. Just like UO is thriving. People love the new game.

          “Oh SynCaine, those MMOs are old, old MMOs naturally die. It’s how things work. Raph said so.”



    • Nils says:

      Is the wish to play an UO-like MMO with modern-day 3D graphics really that hard to understand ? *sigh*

      • No Nils, it is not. But I didn’t see him say that. I just read a whole tract about how great UO was. If you spend a dozen paragraphs telling me how great UO was and then you aren’t playing UO, then it smells like so much bullshit.

        • SynCaine says:

          But… I am. As best as I’m able to in 2012.

        • Noted. I just couldn’t resist.

        • Mobs says:

          I hate when people make this arguement, because it is stupid. UO isn’t even the UO we remember anymore, the option to play doesn’t exist anymore, our only chance would be to find a UOX shard (if those even exist anymore) that is dated something like Project 1999, and play that. Then again it wouldn’t be the same because the community would be itty bitty and it wouldn’t offer what we were so fond of so many years ago. Dummy

  2. Dril says:

    “Solo players……”

    This a very unfair point, to my mind. Shooters like MW3 have added RPG elements to their guns because, obviously, a lot of RPG players went to play the previous versions of the Modern Warfare series and were not only bamboozled, but down right ANGERED by the lack of RPG options. It is only right that when you play a game, regardless of it’s *actual* gameplay and intended gameplay, you should be able to demand that it be changed to suit your tastes; after all, MW3 has such a great story, but I want to be able to play through it without having to worry about my aim skill not going up by +1 points every time I kill an enemy. I am thus in the right by demanding the devs accommodate my playstyle; and, thus, your argument about not catering to solo players is invalid.

    • SynCaine says:

      You need to start using a /trolling tag. I honestly can’t tell when you are writing intentional nonsense, and when you are attempting to make a serious point.

      • Dril says:

        No, I don’t actually worry about my aim skill not going up by +1 when I’m playing an FPS (I don’t even have MW3).

    • Loire says:

      You sir deserve a gold star.

    • saucelah says:

      Just had my first close-up experience with this in Glitch, after an impromptu Q&A with Stoot.

      There was a player who so strongly does not want to be part of a player-driven economy, does not want to have to interact with other players in any way, that she accused Stoot of “bait and switch” and compared buying and selling to and from other players to being forced to add friends to the game in Farmville.

      That’s right, player-driven economy = farmville, so apparently Eve = Farmville, all because she wants to be completely solo at all times no matter what.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    That was a rant-and-a-half! +1 for entertainment value.

    Did you notice Jef Reahard has a Soapbox piece on Massively making much the same argument you do? Seems to the theme of the day.

    I absolutely loved MMOs back in 1999-2003. Played non-stop, pretty much. Then I played non-stop from 2004 til today and guess what? I still absolutely love them. I loved the old school ones and I love the new ones.

    If you ask me if I want to go back to having *every* MMO be like 1999-2003 then no I don’t. That would be horrible. If you’re asking if I want *no* MMO to be like 1999-2003 then no I don’t. That would also be horrible.

    Is it too much to ask for a range?

    Oh and on the topic of “grind” I LIKE leveling up by killing lots of mobs. I prefer it to questing and it’s how I level even in quest-based MMOs that don’t penalise you for it. It’s one of the things I like most about EQ2, as it happens. You could level from 1 to 90 without doing a single quest if you wanted to and it would probably be faster, at least until the last ten levels.

    Oh yes, and one last thing. I played DAOC from launch and it had the heaviest grind I ever encountered. Much, much slower and more arduous than EQ at that time. The main reason I only got my Mercenary to 42 was the remorseless nature of the grind. Hour after hour in full groups in that werewolf dungeon or out in the Swamps with the xp bar barely moving. As I said, I actually like that sort of gameplay but that was too much of a good thing.

    • Dril says:

      “Did you notice Jef Reahard has a Soapbox piece on Massively making much the same argument you do?”

      I can’t help but wonder if this mysterious (and often very agreeable) Jef Reahard fellow is Syncaine’s alt IRL.

      That would be a great plot twist.

  4. saucelah says:

    Like I said over there, I miss the variety and the innovation. To go further, I would rather play a 2012 version of SWG pre-CU, but since that simply doesn’t exist, what else am I to do besides remember the game fondly and hope someday, somebody, somewhere figures out how to build a modern game around long-term goals and cooperation.

    It’s not that hard. And the droves of people I know leaving SWTOR at the end of this month are proof that it’s not a bad idea to actually create a long term game rather than a race to cap theme park.

    • Loire says:

      I’d almost say pre-CU SWG was the better successor to UO then Darkfall. That game, for all it’s bugs and miss steps has always held my best MMO memories.

  5. Stylx says:

    I would do just about anything to get the old Luclin EverQuest Community back together for gaming… in EverQuest.


    Some of my best memories online were there.

    I miss you 1999-2005.

  6. Aerynne says:

    I was feeling a bit peckish about Syp’s blog when I saw the track-back to this article. Turns out, Syp’s post was worth reading after all, despite the resultant elevation of my blood pressure, because it led me to this excellent post. You, sir, have been bookmarked!

  7. Mobs says:

    I would suck a bag of bleedy dicks in an alley in order to have my “teenage years” back, which were spent being a PK scourge for many years all over UO.

    It was nice that you knew who people on your server were, from the things they did. I was in a guild called V.C. (viet cong) led by a guy named Ho Chi Minh, we were terrifying back in the day on our server. I was an active known PK on 3 servers and it was awesome.

    I was also in a guild called M.S.T. (Moonglow’s Sexiest Thieves) We had one reason to exist, steal stuff in Moonglow and have house wars out front. No one has any fun in MMOs anymore, I barely have enough fun to sustain me for 60 days at a time. I played UO almost 10 years…

    Another thing I miss is websites built around these communities, like Ronald McDonald ( he was a douche but his shockwave movies about GMs were awesome )
    Skunkies, Dr Twisters, Bone dude and plate dude, Lum the Mad, Grey Hawk.. god nobody is anybody in MMOs nowadays. Just a bunch of randoms that never do anything interesting or noteworthy.

    I think people like me and Syncaine may need to come to the hard conclusion, that this entire genre isn’t for us anymore, at all. I have come to that conclusion, but I still do it to kill time. I really have any phone that I want to even talk about the next day.

    • Mobs says:

      The closest thing I had to UO was Shadowbane, that was an incredible amount of fun, and most likely the official last gasp of being an actually thief in games, not this bullshit where thieves were more or less just weird ninjas

    • Nils says:

      I think the conclusion should rather be that this genre stopped existing in the AAA market, except for, arguably, Eve.

      Current MMOs are completely different games than the MMOs 10-15 years ago. They are called MMOs, too, for historic reasons alone.

      • SynCaine says:

        I would 100% accept this if current-day AAA themeparks were all like WoW, all had 11m subs, and all of them brought in boatloads of cash for everyone. I’d admit defeat and concede that yup, the style of game I like doesn’t make money and solo-hero themeparks rake it in.

        But they don’t.

        Only WoW did, and that too is now dying. And no matter how much money companies are throwing at themeparks, they all end up in the same place, bleeding and F2P.

        While I can point to the one game that has stayed true to it’s roots, the one game that is AAA quality, and point out that after 8 years, its not only around, but thriving.

        • Nils says:

          I am by no means saying that the year-2000 MMO is dead. I am just saying that these MMOs don’t (really) exist today in the AAA market.

          I am absolutely convinced that eventually this will change. MMOs that rely on player-generated content are inherently superior to those dependent on developer-created content – especially from a business point of view. The only problem is that it may take a while until the industry understands this.

        • Wyrmrider says:

          Actually I think the industry is starting to understand it.

          A few years ago, WoW seemed unstoppable. Investors were doing the Disco Stu (“If these trends continue…!”), and “designers” were happily riffing on WoW’s magic formula.

          Now, we’ve seen game after game fail to match or even approach WoW’s success… including, most recently, a HUGE project from a highly-respected developer featuring the mother of all IP licenses.

          Various pundits have claimed SW:TOR will be “the last big-budget MMO” (or “the last great MMO” or “the last uninspired WoW-clone MMO” depending on who you ask), and I tend to agree with them. Nobody sane is thinking “we can make that same game, but better” anymore.

          Of course, we won’t see the results of this change in mindset for another few years…

        • adam says:

          People were copying WoW, yes, but they were largely missing what made WoW such a draw in the first place. I’ve seen a lot of people point to WoW’s “accessibility” as the reason, and companies pick up on that and think “hey, if we make a game that LOOKS like WoW and ACTS like WoW, we’ll surely have a hit!”

          WoW wasn’t “accessible.” It was fun. That was it. Fighting mobs was fun. Gear improvements were fun. Quests were fun. Exploring was fun. Running dungeons with people was fun. Leveling up was fun. Other games felt reminiscent of (vanilla) WoW, but in various ways didn’t capture the magic. They just weren’t as fun. You can make your game as “accessible” and “WoW-like” as you want. Doesn’t make it fun.

          Of course, at some point WoW stopped being a game and started being a job (if even an easy, tedious job), at which point it became just another cheap mockery of its old self. But that’s a different story.

      • saucelah says:

        Was recently watching an episode of Extra Credits where they talked about a time, maybe 6 to 8 years ago, when all publishers became convinced that consumers would not buy FPS games unless they had competitive multiplayer. Publishers refused to support work unless the developers tacked on multiplayer, which took away resources from planned single player experiences to tack on multiplayer and led to games that didn’t really do either that well. Like the last Turok. But games like Fallout 3 and Bioshock have come along since then and proved that the publishers’ panic was in their heads — single player only FPS games are just as marketable now as they were before. And frequently quite successful.

        I believe the same thing is happening in the MMO world. Publishers look at WoW’s success and attribute it to its theme park style, while ignoring all the other factors that contributed to its unusual success, so they push developers to ape that style, which has never managed to achieve WoW numbers again.

        Eventually, someone will release a triple-AAA sandbox MMO, one in which even gamers who normally encounter such an open world, ask “what do I do now” and when they hear “anything you want” immediately ragequit will be able to enjoy. They’ll probably even argue that it’s not a sandbox because it has content and some structure, proving they really never understood what a sandbox was and never really disliked sandboxes — they just didn’t like Eve, SWG pre-NGE, or Darkfall. At that point the same publishers that pushed for multiplayer in Turok, that push for theme park game play only, will quietly slink back into the shadows and stop mucking up design. Just like they did last time.

        • Carson says:

          Hmm, I’ll have to see if I can track that episode down and watch it. 7 years ago I was working on an FPS, which we were tacking multiplayer onto, for no apparent reason other than the publisher wanting it. What was emerging was a reasonable single-player game with poor Quake-clone deathmatch action that served no purpose at all. And then the money ran out and the game was cancelled.

        • saucelah says:

          comes up around the 6 minute point, btw, though as someone in the industry you’ll probably enjoy the whole thing.

        • adam says:

          “Publishers look at WoW’s success and attribute it to its theme park style, while ignoring all the other factors that contributed to its unusual success”

          This exactly. It’s amazing to me that 7 years and countless hundreds of millions later, no theme-park has managed to really even come close. Allods Online was pretty cool until they self-sabotaged. TOR doesn’t have the long-term fun factor (sorry, wish it did).

          I like the idea of a AAA sandbox, but I’m not sure I see it happening until a small, low-budget sandbox ends up surprising everyone and being hugely successful (like the Minecraft of the sandbox MMORPG). EVE is too niche, and its numbers, while respectable, aren’t crazy enough to demand enough attention. Who knows when/if it’ll happen.

  8. Shadow says:

    *Internet hi-five*

  9. Gazimoff says:

    Interesting post. Before I respond in detail, I’ll come clean and state that I wasn’t playing MMOs before 2003. Although I started gaming sometime in 1983-ish, I wasn’t playing MMOs until 2004 with the release of Horizons.

    But where have all the challenging MMOs gone? I tried EVE and it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but where are the other options? I’ve heard mention of Darkfall, but is that really it? Have all the others closed down, shut up shop or moved on?

    I think that most of the innovations have been in easier MMOs because that’s where the mass-market appeal lies. But I also reckon that there’s enough of a market for a Demon’s Souls grade MMO that picks up all of the genre evolution without making it a solo snoozefest.

  10. Luk says:

    Everything was cool in 1997 because we had tons of time to waste and no worries about bills and crap like that. Maybe we are getting old, or maybe the games are not being made for players who grew up playing UO, maybe they are made for kids who never had to walk 10 miles in the snow to get to school, lol.

    A throw back in time like EvE will not survive on bitter vets alone, because once those move to more target rich environments who’s alts are going spend hours upon hours mining all that ore to make more ships to blow up. What a waste of time and money. I’ll wait until it goes F2P or what’s not. Space vikings be damned.

  11. Ahtchu says:

    ‘Arguments’ I never, ever understand, because ultimately, they are 100% void of actual substance:

    ‘I play to have fun, not [mundane activity]’ So then, if grinding/raiding/PvP/etc isn’t fun to you, what IS? People who use this argument, in my experience always fail to actually, you know, define what ‘fun’ constitutes.
    ‘If it was so much better, why aren’t you playing it now?’ Um, because ‘now’ is not ‘then’? Because times change, games change. I am not legally ALLOWED to play WoW v1.0 (example), so I can’t, even if I wanted to. Also, genre standards (such as art) advance. We might long for the gameplay but perhaps the eyesore is too much? Perhaps the controls are too clunky and cannot be changed? And no, this in no way means the game is inferior by today’s standard.
    ‘You’re wearing rose-colored glasses’ Why is my perfect recollection of all the details and pains of FFXI and WoW v1.0 labelled as nostalgic just because I prefer it over the atrocities of shallow gameplay and timewastes that are today’s offerings? No, my perspective isn’t colored, yours is for being unable to comprehend the history of the genre.
    ‘You’re just mad they don’t cater to you’ The ‘funny’ thing is, they’re not catering to ‘you’ either, they’re catering to an arbitrary group of non-existents. Read any forum, blog, newsreel be either with an old skooler or even a newbie, and the most cherished memories (ancient OR recent) always involve other people. So, with the greatest times being about yourself interacting with others, why are so many damn modern titles so focused about removing this element? I don’t care about your dance, I care about my dancing partners. And so do you, newbie-lover, as well.

    Sorry for the mini-rant. The OP brought it out.

  12. D says:

    All but maybe a half dozen mobs can be solo’d in Darkfall. You can’t solo the Magic-Immune Menhirs, the Devil, the Demon, the Fire and Ice dragon. There might be a couple others but I think that covers it. One of the most profitable mobs, the Selentine golem, can be solo’d by any character with one of the level 1 bolts(takes maybe 8 hours of /played to get one of those if you are a total newb). Certainly Darkfall has 1001 other problems but if you look past the pvp aspect and just consider pve on its own, Darkfall is one of the most solo friendly mmos.

    Hybrid gameplay/Genre blending: Ships, mounted combat, land-based siege equipment, city building/geopolitics.

    Dynamic Events: I dare an mmo today to beat sieges, gm run events, player run events, or for the crown of dynamic events.

    Too bad the grind is killer :(

    • Beleg says:

      The Menhir are quite solo-able. However, you missed an important part of DF PvE – it doesn’t exist in an instance. And you have a much higher chance of coming out net positive if you are farming with a friend. Risk vs. Reward, my friend.

  13. Wyrmrider says:

    At the risk of veering into off-topic rant territory…

    “Hybrid gameplay” and “genre blending” seem like overly charitable terms to me.

    I would probably say “misguided and ham-fisted attempts to create The One Game To Rule Them All by trying to please everyone.”

    SW:TOR is running on my other machine right now. It’s a good RPG! But it’s a bad “world” MMO… and a bad PvP game… and a fun but very shallow starfighter game.

    What’s the opportunity cost of spending nine figures and five years on this monolith? I’ll bet they could have made not only a good RPG (KOTOR 3), but a good “world” MMO (SWG 2), a good PvP game (Dark Age of The Old Republic), and a good starfighter game (X-wing vs. TIE Fighter 2).

    And I didn’t even ask for innovation.

    • Truff says:

      I would KILL for a good remake of X-wing vs. TIE Fighter or Wing Commander.

    • adam says:

      That’s the hilarious thing about TOR. Who was asking for this game, really? Who was asking for voiced quests and detailed class-based stories? Where were all these MMORPG fans going around saying “you know what the problem is with MMOs these days? NO FUCKING VOICE ACTING.”

      I’m not saying this stuff doesn’t belong in an MMO, but why? Not that many people play single-player games for hundreds of hours, let alone thousands. I’m not convinced of the logic.

      I would have loved another KOTOR, I would have loved to try out a SWG 2. Even that much would have greatly pleased me and could have been done well with half of TOR’s budget.

  14. Truff says:

    Everything posted above gave me a ton of mental replies. I remember “grinding” outside of Minoc. I remember Moonglow reagent runs and all of the precautions that went with avoiding having that nice fat stack of caster goodness disappear out of my bags and before I could recall out. I had a nice mental wall of text defending why I’m not still playing UO today after 6 years invested in it before WoW. Thing is, all of those points are pretty decently covered in here already. I’d be preaching to the choir or at the least adding nothing new to the conversation.

    So I read Syp’s post and here’s what I’d like to add that hasn’t been mentioned yet:

    He states
    “Parents play MMOs with their families, because they’re understandable for all.”
    as if this was something NEW.

    In my guild in UO we had a Husband and Wife team. Later, as their son grew up, we also had a young teenager in guild. We had his friends. We watched our language or switched channels in Teamspeak for years. We watched the pack grow up. We consoled him through breakups, counseled him through all of the pain that went with being a gamer geek in high school, and in his senior year, our grammar nazi college professor pulled strings to get him into a better school than he’d have otherwise been able to attend.

    Maybe that kind of community exists in other games as well, but I never ran into anything like it in WoW (Release through WotLK, more servers and guilds than I can remember,) nor have I seen it in Vanguard, LotR, Vanguard, my little bit of time in EQ2, or even in the few months I’ve been playing EVE.

    Theme-parks are just too linear, too selfish, to lead to that sort of long-term community. Even in early WoW, I don’t know how many people I talked into trying the game out swearing I’d run with them, only to leave them a few levels behind and be forced by game mechanics to effectively abandon them to their own devices. By the time they’d catch up at 60, they’d made new friends, or gone to new guilds, which they’d later leave when the gear grinding machine started moving either too slow or too fast to suite their tastes.

    In my opinion, that was where it all started to come apart.

    • adam says:

      Vanilla WoW fostered this kind of community. The end-game and expansions destroyed it. At least, for me and my guild.

  15. Bernard says:

    As Bhagpuss says, there is now a range of games in the market. I am glad to see that WoW’s dominance is waning a little, as this will encourage a wider spectrum of gameplay types.

    Maybe there isn’t a 2012 UO, but if there were, I’m not convinced that the commenters on this post would necessarily play it after 30 days. Nothing can compete with nostalgia.

    • Mobs says:

      I would absolutely play it, I very literally think about UO every time I play any other MMO. We aren’t running off nostalgia, some of those games were amazing and offered things community and fun wise that no game has been able to compete with, yet. You didn’t play UO, you LIVED in UO.

    • adam says:

      I’d play it. If you took every feature of original UO and expanded it to today’s standards (world size, graphics, etc), I would definitely be playing that for at least a couple months.

  16. Azuriel says:

    While I can point to the one game that has stayed true to it’s roots, the one game that is AAA quality, and point out that after 8 years, its not only around, but thriving.

    Just out of curiosity, why is EVE not considered the sandbox exception counterpart to WoW?

    Darkfall and a A Tale in the Desert (etc) aren’t exactly tearing the market up. What would you actually consider a successful “real” MMO outside of EVE?

  17. Pingback: It’s Friday somewhere, I guess, in some dimension | Gaming with Sauce

  18. Keen says:

    I don’t do this often. Take note, because it probably won’t happen again.

    I agree with Syncaine.

    • Keen says:

      P.S. You can borrow my cake analogy to fend off the “Why aren’t you playing X game now if it was so good?” crap.

      There’s a chocolate cake on the counter. It was delicious the day it was made. It was still pretty dang good some time after. But who wants to eat chocolate cake that’s been sitting there for years? It has changed. Chocolate cake is and will always be good, but everything has a shelf life.

      Unless that chocolate cake was specially preserved, chances are it’s not the same chocolate cake. Bake me a new chocolate cake today, and I’ll gladly eat it up.

  19. Is it really that bad that people enjoy modern day mmos? Is it bad that they didn’t have to drudge through 3 virtual miles up a hill in the snow, to and from, to finish their corpse run?
    Is it bad that your self-perceived “leet hardcore” playstyle isn’t seen as that important to game developers? Is it bad that some people can’t get over the past, thus attacking anything and everyone that they feel is wrong?
    Is it bad to be so arrogant that only your opinion matters on such a trite thing as video games?

    • adam says:

      You’re missing the point entirely. No one is saying games have to be tedious and frustrating to be worth playing. The tedious and frustrating mechanics of those older games were incidental to the style of the game–which was, namely, you earn your place. People complain that they shouldn’t have to “earn” anything in a game. After all, it’s a game!

      Guess what else is a game? Basketball. Or football. Or baseball or tennis or hockey. If you want a rewarding sports experience, you put in the work. If you skip practice, skip exercise, and show up to the game, do you still expect to win? You won’t. Unless your opposition is nonexistent. Congratulations. Are you really that proud of yourself?

      No thanks. I’d rather earn it.

      • The people saying they don’t want to “earn” something — who are they? The people on gaming forums? Elsewhere? Do they have a different idea of what needs to be earned in an mmo?

        Hardcore gamers may feel like “those” players want everything handed to them, but is that really the case or is it just that some hardcore gamers want to have everything earned, while “those” other players think some aspects of a game should be taken for granted?

        • adam says:

          Of course, no one just goes around saying “I don’t want to earn my rewards!” They hide it by saying things like “imbalanced” and “overpowered” and “underpowered” and they complain about not being able to keep up with the hardcore and so on and so forth.

          The problem is not that they are hitting a wall and wigging out. That’s only to be expected. The problem is that the game design has hit a wall. It sucks a dick. If progression in your game is gated by tedious, un-fun mechanics that only a “privileged” few have the time or motivation to master, then the solution is not to simply remove the gate and let the masses rush in. It’s to make opening the gate a challenging but enjoyable experience that doubles as an achievement commensurate with the potential rewards.

          Let’s examine vanilla WoW’s “too hard” end-game gate:

          1. Forcing players to group up for attunement quests which rewarded no one who had already done the quest.

          2. Mustering 40 players when up to that point the largest group most people have been a part of was 5. Assuming they didn’t solo their way to 60 (which Blizzard basically encouraged due to party-play resulting in less experience gain).

          3. Use of teamspeak/vent/whatever being mandatory to coordinate those encounters. What is the sense of this?

          4. Use of 3rd party interface mods being mandatory. See #2.

          5. Forcing players to learn new mob (boss) mechanics that basically involve moving around and dancing in sync with their group, “gameplay” which isn’t, in and of itself, any fun.

          6. Forcing players to not only compete with these bosses but their own friends and peers for rewards, engendering jealousy and bitterness instead of fostering community and friendship (the inevitable outcome of this, of course, was the “gearscore” generation. love those guys).

          7. Forced players to grind for consumables/resist gear in order to remain competitive both as guilds and individually within their guild (wouldn’t want to lose your starting spot!).

          8. Forced players to spec their characters against their will in order to participate.


          So once Blizzard saw how many people were being excluded from their end-game and how many people were complaining about it (and rightfully so), saw fit to A) inexplicably destroy the leveling game in an insane attempt to funnel people to a “new and improved” end game which B) saw most or all of the above “tough” (read: boring and annoying and stupid) parts of said end-game neutered. Instead of making the “tough” parts enjoyable, they just removed them.

          Does that make any sense to you?

      • Mobs says:

        I just miss actually existing in a virtual world instead of just participating in something that is closer to a lobby for an XBOX game.

      • Torcano says:

        Analogy fail.

        99% of those who play sports do so recreationally, with little to no practice, effort, or skill required.

        They play purely for fun, without needing ANY of those things.

        • SynCaine says:

          Losers excuse being loser because they are play ‘for fun’.

          Winners have fun because they are winning.

          In sports/life/MMOs.

        • saucelah says:

          I know some people in a 40+ hockey league. There is no incentive to win. But they are damn sure to practice because they want to be skilled, they enjoy the effort, and they want to show improvement from one game to the next.

          I don’t actually know anyone that plays sports without any effort, except for these drinking and kickball leagues that are around, and I think of those less as sports and more as dating services.

    • Mig says:

      Ya, Syncaine, quit taking up all the internets with your arrogant opinions on trite subjects on your own blog. You should only post opinions on important things like porn, lolcats, and bowling.

      • I never asked Syncaine to stop giving his opinion. I basically asked if it’s bad that there are other gamers who like games for other reasons.

        • SynCaine says:

          But do they? Oh sure, right now people playing SW say SW is awesome. What are they going to be saying in 3-6 months?

          And, if the answer is “who cares, I had fun for a month”, then I’ll reply with BioWare cares, because if everyone only has fun for a month, you will never see another SW:TOR again.

        • I believe they do. Look at all the people who love WoW. Even with a hit to subs, there’s still millions of players who love that game. I’m not one of them, but I can see why they like it. I believe it’s the same with SWTOR.

          As to what those players will say in 3-6 months — who knows? It’s fruitless to try to predict the gaming habits of players.

        • SynCaine says:

          But WoW is the only exception. EQ2/WAR/AoC/Rift, they all show what happens when you follow the WoW model, especially the 2011 version. And as I’ve said many times, 2011 WoW is not the reason WoW still has millions of subs, 2004-6 WoW is. It takes a long time to drive away 11m, but Blizzard is getting there.

          Point being, this is not about telling people how to have fun. It’s about those people realizing that 1 month of fun at 300m is not sustainable.

        • I agree, Syn. I think we’d get better games if developers weren’t investing hundreds of millions of dollars. I don’t agree that WoW 2004-6 players are still hanging around in the game because they are unhappy with the game’s current state or that they feel Blizzard will change the game back to the way it is. I think it’s because they genuinely enjoy the game.

          @Mobs: Pre-order cash-ins are not cash-ins at all. Pre-order bonuses are not something that publishers and developers created, they’re something that retailers created. It was retailers who wanted to give consumers a reason to buy a game at their store. It sucks, yeah, but it’s not going to go away, not with the current market.

        • Mobs says:

          It’s not fruitless at all: MMO gamers for the most part have been doing the exact same thing for years now. Jumping on the latest for a couple months, if that, and then going home.

          I am so sick of the pre order cash ins. I am so happy that SWTOR has an incredible chance at failing in so many ways, because I am hoping it marks the end of themepark pre-order frenzy cash ins. Devs may start concentrating on providing things that contribute to player retention again. That’ll be exciting! >_>

        • Coeur-de-fer says:

          “As to what those players will say in 3-6 months — who knows? It’s fruitless to try to predict the gaming habits of players.”

          Given the volume of derivative dreck with which we’ve been inundated for decades now, the gaming industry would seem to disagree. We’ve seen how often they miss the mark, but it would appear they think they can derive some degree of predictive power from their imperfect information; if not, it seems odd that so many people would throw around such large sums for the purpose of aping the “last big thing,” whether we’re talking MMOs or FPSs. If gamer habits are really that capricious and amorphous, you’d think they’d be churning out an array of low-cost titles, as wide as it is diverse.

        • SynCaine says:

          “I think we’d get better games if developers weren’t investing hundreds of millions of dollars.”

          Money is and isn’t an issue. (Lack of) money hurt Darkfall. Endless money did not help SW:TOR. I’ll make a post on this later.

        • It would be premature to say SWTOR didn’t live up to the financial aspirations that EA and BioWare had. It’s only been one month. WoW didn’t start off with 11 million subs.

  20. Mobs says:

    SWTOR is by no means doing anything for the genre in comparison to what WoW did…

  21. Bristal says:

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is context. Likely those games were great and amazing, possibly because they were groundbreaking and unique at the time. Now, not so much.

    Online communities fondly rememebered in those game experiences are now ubiquitous. I have much easier and more satisfying ways to connect with people online, I’m not going to funnel that energy into a clunky chat session, or organizing cool events.

    I think the energy people put into player generated content now has too much competition.

    It was magical and amazing because it was new. It was also arcane and difficult to access without lots of help.

    The other thing that wasn’t as prevalent then is the blogosphere.

    I spend almost as much time here as I do in my game. This is my gaming community; where I go to get help, get to know other gamers, recognize names, follow my favorites, and actually get to speak out.

    Any chance it’s us who have changed the gaming atmosphere by moving the community out of the game itself?

    • saucelah says:

      I just don’t think bloggers or blog readers represent a majority, or anywhere near half really, of MMO players.

    • Coeur-de-fer says:

      Mr. Koster addressed this a bit in his GDC presentation back in October; a lot of what online games have traditionally done can be achieved a lot more easily with other non-game tools and media; a persistent virtual world was incidental to much of what went on. The context has definitely changed.

  22. Hudson says:

    Had someone the other day say that LFG tools make your games a cesspool. I didnt find RIFT to be a cesspool. Same people that hate that also hate going back to LFG and learning to meet people and not solo leveling to Cap. So what makes them happy? Nothing. Because they are all rookie post WoW MMO playing scabs. They cry and whine and complain until they can do everything they want on their own and no game gives them a challenge

    Syp is a shill that writes what will get him noticed by the companies he now kisses ass for. You cant take his writing seriously, if writing a blog article about in game hand holding is really “writing”

  23. Red says:

    I played WOW at launch on the server dethecus. Wow had dynamic events call world PvP and cities raids. None one on the server raided the MC, rather we attacked and defended towns for bragging rights. I was in the very first raid to kill Thrall on my sever. Despite the lag, the graphic freak out, and terrible run backs it was 1000 times more fun than anything they have in wow today. Hell we used a diversionary raid to attack the front of Org to fool the horde into thinking the battle was out front while our main raid slipped in the back. Horde got us back by summoning 2 entire raids into the basement of the cathedral during prime time. Epic fight, and great fun even though we lost that fight. Our sever’s history was the game. We made our own stories.

    Today wow is all BGs, and collecting points, nobody does anything fun. I hate what wow’s become.

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