Let me take you back to the dark ages of the Internet, when you had to type your commands in for everything you did. The only thing you could play online was a MUD, unless you had a powerhouse of a computer that had a video card inside of it, high speed broadband or super patience. Games like Unreal Tournament didn't appear until 1999, but even then, to play online you had to basically break the laws of physics to get it working properly (hence LAN parties). Quake, being a bit earlier, was still limited. If you wanted to throw on your wizard hat and robe, you needed to play something called a MUD (multi user dungeon). In a MUD setting, you would play something very similar to ZORK, except it was in a persistent world. Each MUD had a variety of different ways the world was developed. For instance, a Star Wars MUD would emote out the entire process of a droid being built, allowing you to customize various descriptive parts of yourself that would be presented when anyone looked at you.

Back then, there may have only been twenty players online, with several of them being operators of the server, only as far away as your fingers would type. The interaction between the staff and the players was constant and events weren't scripted, they were acted out, as GMs created NPCs, areas, and emoted everything themselves. If something was happening, a real life Human took to the server.

This translated into games like Everquest and Ultima Online. It hit its peak with Matrix Online, a game whose story was completely ran by game masters who would interact with various guilds. It's now, dead, beyond Shroud of the Avatar, where the past remains in the modern world (and you can often find Richard Garriott hanging out in the actual game world). There is rarely talks about major GM ran events. Back in the day, GMs would invade towns, spawn enemies randomly, show up while you're questing and give you a random quest just for entertainment purposes, and more.

Actually, in the past, GMs were side-by-side with the players. I made a friend on the Dark Age of Camelot RP server, when I was trying to figure out what it was. He found me not emoting, and pull me aside to a private area, where he treated it as if I was a traitor, and if anyone had reported me I might not have been able to remain. He wanted to take me under his tuteluge, and teach me how to roleplay properly. Considering the short duration of my desire to remain, there was something very evident on RP servers that I could see, any violations of protocol, or anything that would ruin the magic, would have a GM saying hello to you.

There is a lot of elements to GM interactions, from events to just being around in a game that are lost now. One of the reasons is servers. For something like WoW, where you have well over 40 servers running, it'd be hard to get GMs to cordinate an event across every server and properly speak with everyone and have any immersion. Yet, now we're moving to single server for most games, or fewer more populated servers, it should be much easier.

For games like Lord of the Rings Online, GM interaction isn't even organizing events, its providing security. Last year, during one of the big LOTRO music festivals, there were a few concerned players upset that it seemed like the GMs weren't responsive enough. It's so true, there is a divide between player and game staff. While Blizzard's GMs will roleplay with you day in and day out as they help you with your issue, there still is a divide, mainly in the long waits to get a chat with them.

I feel that development staff have gotten closer to players, through livestreams and the such, but the game itself, lacks the interaction from the staff that we used to have in that smaller happier world. Please, return to us, oh fabled ones. For we wish to once again enjoy the snickers of giant dragons roaming towns, PKing everyone and then rezzing them again. It makes the game feel so much more fun to have a special event with a GM running things or even just having them exist, versus constantly dealing with NPCs with limited ability to emote.

Feel free to share some of your stories on our forums. I'm curious to what your favorite GM event was.

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Last Updated: Mar 14, 2016

About The Author

Get in the bush with David "Xerin" Piner as he leverages his spectacular insanity to ask the serious questions such as is Master Yi and Illidan the same person? What's for dinner? What are ways to elevate your gaming experience? David's column, Respawn, is updated near daily with some of the coolest things you'll read online, while David tackles ways to improve the game experience across the board with various hype guides to cool games.