Can We Get It Back?

If you read this blog, it’s pretty safe to assume that you have played an MMO before, and if you have, chances are you have very fond memories of your first. It will always hold a special place in your gaming heart, and you will never truly forget the places and the people you encountered in your time there. For me, this is Asheron’s Call, though for many others it’s EQ, Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, WoW, AC2, or pretty much any MMO to date. For me, I’ve always been looking for something to replace the euphoria and obsessive behavior that accompanied my time spent running around Dereth, but I’ve never quite gotten there. I’ve played over a dozen MMO’s since Asheron’s Call, but nothing has really drawn me in the way it did. I suppose this is to be expected as the first time is usually the most memorable with many things, MMO’s included. That said, is it fair to say that we shouldn’t or couldn’t try to get as close to that feeling again as possible? I don’t think so. If this were the case, we should have stopped playing MMO’s after we tired of the first one we played. We don’t, however, because we understand that improvements are being made every day to MMO’s currently out and those being developed for the future.

So why is it that our positive experiences don’t really seem to carry from our first MMO experience to all the others we’ve played since? The obvious response is that no two games are the same and expectations change as these games evolve. The reasons we loved our first might have been an afterthought or purposely minimized or not included at all in another game. No one with any common sense would ever implement Asheron’s Call melee combat system into a game now, and this is true for many of the systems that these games used. The problem is that by the time you change all of these systems to modernize them, the game that you loved so much is nothing more than a shadow. This is typically why sequels struggle so much. Just look at AC2 for evidence. Not only was it plagued by bugs on all levels, but they altered the game so drastically from the first that most of the AC1 players hated it. It’s reasonable to speculate that if the bugs hadn’t been there it would have had a much different result, but I think regardless, they would have been shooting for different market because the game was so incredibly different. The combat system was changed, the skill tree was added to replace the skill system that was used in AC1 (one that I truly miss and would love to see again in the future.) These two changes alone were enough to make it feel as though this wasn’t a sequel at all, so it made it very difficult for AC1 players to jump straight over, and instead many went on to other games completely.

Not only do we have to consider the game itself, but the way our lives have changed since then. Back in 1999, I was just entering high school with far less responsibilities than I have now. Granted, I am currently unemployed, but between looking for a job and taking care of other things, the time I have to play is much more limited than it was back then. I would literally spend 3-5 hours every night after school playing, and this is simply not feasible, or really desired, now. So since I have less time to play and less desire to spend that much time playing, does this mean that I can’t get as invested in a game, and therefore, won’t get as much out of it? I don’t think so. At least, I don’t think that should be the case. If I’m forced to spend 30-40 hours a week playing an MMO to fully enjoy it, then it’s not something that I’m going to be willing to do. If I WANT to play that much, it’s a completely different story (not that I actually would play that much) and I think it’s serving it’s purpose.

Taking into account that these games are constantly being upgraded and changed, can we really get back that experience that we long for? I really don’t think so personally, but I do think that when we find the game that suits us best that is a really good product, we will create a new set of memories and consider them to be equally valuable. Whether that means a fantasy-based game or not, I don’t know, but I do know that as long as I enjoy MMO’s, I will be looking for this type of experience again.

~Kanthalos

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4 comments so far

  1. Thallian on

    Can you get your innocence back? Yes, but can you get your naivete’ back? Never 😛 Its part of living life and having experience in things.

    I know what your talking about tho. My first MMO that I enjoyed was City of Heroes, then WoW, then Lotro. By Lotro I was tired of same old things but it did let me appreciate what was new more. My friends who started with WoW I can’t even get them (for the most part) to try Lotro for very long cuz they keep comparing it to their old game. However there have been a couple who have given it a long enough try to see past the paint to the guts and fun of the game. I think it really takes a while to “fall in love” with an MMO and the month or two isn’t alwyas enough. (Not sure if thats the right term but you know what I mean)

  2. Garumoo on

    What was the AC combat system, in a nutshell?

    (and is there a MMO wiki someplace, one which profiles all MMOs and their various game mechanics, without necessarily delving deep into the MMO specific content?)

  3. kanthalos on

    In AC, you had skills like Axe, Sword, Dagger, War Magic, Life Magic, etc. and as you gained experience , it was put into a pool that you could then spend on either the skills themselves or on attributes that would then increase certain skills (for instance, your dagger skill was raised by your total coordination divided by two.) There were no melee skills that were used in combat, just a speed vs. power setting and high/medium/low height attack on the mobs. All spells could be used from level 1, they just had different levels which could be reached by increasing your skill level in say life magic or creature magic. You had a certain number of skill points at creation, and continued to accrue more as you leveled which you could use to train or specialize certain skills. If skills were untrained, you could sometimes use them, but you couldn’t put experience points into them to raise them. If skills were trained, you could put points into them, but the cost to raise the skill increased far more drastically than if it were specialized, however, specialization cost more skill points, which meant you couldn’t train as many skills.

    This was an excellent system that I really enjoyed, however, if it were to be used today, they would have to make it so that skills could be used from the first level, and their effectiveness increased as you progressed. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure why no other MMO has used a system like this.

  4. Aaron on

    For me, regaining innocence in MMOs means choosing to ignore the culture that pervades them. I try best I can to ignore the acceptance of grinding, ignore complaints about class balance and other basic design elements (i.e., I enjoy the game as a “finished” product), and largely ignore the chat channels so I can embrace myself in the world… alone or with a few friends.

    EQ was my first MMO experience. I remember it and SW:G fondly, but I have different expectations than I had then.


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