The hype surrounding this year's upcoming MMOGs continues to buzz
around us like a swarm of angry bees, with all the games vying for
their place at the front of the line in this increasingly competitive
market. The last two years have been a whirlwind of activity for
companies, as new titles have come and gone. Some have done quite well
for themselves, while others have crashed and burned like a dork at a
frat party. We gave them props for trying, but the end result was just
a little sad.
This week, I decided to deviate from my normal path and take a look
back at a few of the biggest heavy weights this genre has seen to date.
I've spent some time getting familiar with all three again in the hopes
to answer one simple question. Can we really go back home (in terms of
our beginning MMOG's), or is it a fantasy best left for those nights
we're feeling nostalgic and reminisce about "the
beginning robe may have the stats of a rag, but at least it doesn't
look like one anymore!
I'd dare to say that 90% or more of all MMOG players today started out
with one of the three following games: Ultima
. WoW may be the ruling master of the MMO world
today, but it never would have existed if it weren't for the groundwork
first laid out by EQ and UO. When WoW came on to the scene, EverQuest
was the reigning champ with subscription numbers hovering around
500,000. At the time, it was felt that the number of subscribers (500k)
represented the majority of the MMO market and introducing a new game
to the scene would just spread the audiences even thinner. Of course,
we know things are a little different now (to the tune of 11.5 million)
with the insanely
popular reception of WoW
. Not to be left out, UO broke ground
by having a completely open world that players still cry for today,
even if they've only started playing MMOG's in the last couple of years.
I started this new journey of mine by loading up EverQuest, my first
introduction to the MMOG world almost ten years ago. It had been about
four years or so since I last hopped into the world of Norrath, so with
a smile on my face, I created a new character and jumped into the
tutorial. You know, for a game that I played for more hours than any
human being should actually admit to in public, I was shocked to
discover just how much I had to relearn. It's not that the game has
changed so much as to become unrecognizable, but the way everything is
handled is so different from the big titles of today's age. I had to
re-map virtually all of my keys, just to make it out of the first room.
Fortunately, that's as easy as it always has been, so I was off and
It amazes me how we've gotten so used to how things are now. After
getting enough levels to finally have more than eight spells total, I
was desperately wishing for an additional hotbar to load them onto.
Eight spells... what the hell kind of archaic crap is that? I
about it, but it really highlighted how different
things have become. There are so many new things in the game from when
I left. There's a new race, you can hire mercenaries, and I had all
kinds of new toys to claim through their rewards system. One of the
things I enjoyed the most was having to relearn the concept of having
to time the casting of my spells to avoid being interrupted in combat.
It seems like such a small mechanic in the scheme of things, but I'd
forgot how much it made me pay attention during my play times, at least
Online's improved graphics. No 3D for you!
The second game I loaded up was Ultima Online. Flash back ten years
with me to the land of Sosaria where my first mage, Azarius, had taken
his first steps in a new, magical world. Oh look, another player's
coming towards me. Maybe he wants help with a quest... or maybe he just
wanted to kill me less than ten feet outside of town and take the hat I
had just bought. That was my first introduction to UO all those years
ago. Needless to say, it left a less than favorable taste in my mouth,
and I'll admit that I still might not be over that incident. I had
spent the last hour killing cats and deer in an attempt to earn the
cash to get that hat and had it less than 5 minutes before it was taken
away. Here's hoping that bastard's computer eventually melted into a
pile of slag in a freak accident. Issues? Not me... maybe.
In any case, I'm happy to report that while I'm still willing to bet
you can be ganked by one of the local tools in the game, UO does give
you a much better chance of survival. The game now begins with a brief
tutorial to help you learn some of the basics, but the best part of the
new system is this: for your first 40 hours, you're untouchable by
other players. It may not sound like a lot, but that's 40 hours of
actual playtime. It's not perfect, but it's a definite improvement over
the "create and gank" method we all had to deal with so many years ago.
In the latter half of last year, I wrote a piece entitled "The
". It generated an amazing amount of responses and
quite a bit of backlash. Scattered throughout those responses, there
were a number of challenges to give the game another try since I had
left before the release of the first expansion. I took them up on their
challenge and now have something to confess, which I do with a large
dose of humility. I've been playing World of Warcraft ever since.
Before everyone starts cheering and whooping it up like a cheerleader
at a pep rally, know that I still stand behind the words I wrote that
day. The issue is less worse on the role-playing server I chose to play
on with some RL friends, but it's still there. I've spent a lot of my
time crafting, or leveling simply so I can train the next crafting
I've mentioned before
. Overall, I've been enjoying my time
though, especially since Darksidia is firmly on the path to despair and
betrayal. She's already seen the weakness persistent in her Blood Elven
brethren and it will only continue to get worse.
I know you
didn't just swing that thing at me!
Going back to WoW after a break of a couple years was far less jarring
than my jaunt back to EQ and UO. The simplest of explanations is the
streamlined user interface of WoW has essentially become an industry
standard. I've been playing a number of different games since I
originally left WoW, but since future games have built upon the
foundations of WoW's mechanics, there's no sense of having to relearn
anything. With new races came some new content, at least initially
before I can get into the Outlands, but other than that, not much has
changed in the Old World content.
We've looked at EverQuest, Ultima Online, and World of Warcraft again,
but the question remains... can you ever really go back home? I think
it's safe to say that yes, you actually can. While playing EverQuest
again this week, I realized I've actually missed it and may continue
playing it again, at least periodically. There's a solid foundation of
good memories, and since all new characters start in Crescent Reach by
default now, you don't feel quite so alone.
I had such a horrible experience with Ultima Online all those years
ago, that I'll freely admit my perceptions are skewed. If you loved UO
back in the day, you'll probably love playing it again. The graphics
have been updated, but other than that, the game is still just as
immense and deep as it was before. As for WoW, what can I say? I'm
having fun and will continue playing with friends for the foreseeable
future. There are some great games on the horizon I can't wait for, but
in the mean time, if you really loved a game, you can go home.