I rolled up my first character in sixth grade. To date myself, D&D came in the little, brown books then. I had no idea into what I was getting.
The height of my gaming experience was working at a gaming company and participating in weekly gaming sessions. Our Game Master, Don, rocked. Our little PnP group rocked through some epic and dramatic adventures. I miss the take-out food and friends from those days.
I was still connected to that company when friends started talking about Everquest. I missed the bandwagon and didn't get online for another year or so. When I finally rolled up on Firiona Vie, another player gave me a shield after watching my struggles against the skellies in the newbie area outside of Halas.
I was hooked.
It reminded me of my old, PnP days. I would log on at all hours to join her and her friends. My gaming group had gone digital and spanned the globe. Usually it was just some repetitive grinding but there was something meaningful in the interaction and I kept coming back for more. My main never reached max level.
Many games and gaming hours later, I am finding it much easier to just solo. Too many times even my girlfriend and I don't group or quest together. Sometimes this can be attributed to my lousy internet connection, but it's inescapable that grouping is not only unecessary for character advancement, but even a bit of a hindrance.
My last few group experiences have been zergs: no skill, no content, no quests, not even any real interaction between group members. We just ran around, killing all the mobs in the zone. My tank barely uses her bow anymore. I just body pull as many mobs as I can and burn them down.
It is fun, but something is missing. We all want the game with the best graphics, but nobody is looking at them. We just run around, target mobs and mash buttons. We could play these games on a pocket calculator.
Old EQ tried to get us to socialize and immerse ourselves in the game world by being really hard to solo. My experience with DDO was similar with its dungeon crawls narrated by by a DM. But too many times everyting outside of the tavern was just another zerg, and there was nothing to do in the times between. I logged quite a bit of time in Warhammer's scenerios and battle groups, but rarely would I even learn the other players' names.
Listening to ingame chat and reading forums, it seems like there is a "hardcore" level that is completely alien to me. Players discuss Dungeons, Raids, and Epic Quests, of which I have never heard. Whole aspects of MMO worlds that I will never see or experience because I don't play regularly or long enough. I am left out of huge portions of MMOs because I don't want to spend my time focused on "power gaming", farming uber gear, min-max-ing an elite toon or waiting for the raid to organize.
I think it's great that, as a casual player, I can log into a game, play for a short time and still feel ike I am progressing. I can grind experience, reputation, currency and quests anytime I want. I don't have to spend time on LFG shouts. My guild is working on its thirtieth level, slowly, and only has three active accounts.
But this begs the question: why play an MMO? It's seems more and more, they just mirror and support the playstyles of nonpersistent games. Sometimes it feels like I might as well play Space Invaders with a global, internet chat-box.
I even try to socialize, but gone are the days of shouts for buffs on the POK. In an effort to ease the processing burden, MMOs have become more decentralized. The cties of EQ2 are vacant and many zones split into instances as the population rises. Just the technological need to have seperate servers seperates the players, probably even more than zones, instances, housing and guild halls.
So, it comes down to MMOs evolving. They are evolving into bigger, more lucrative, more mainstream, more user-friendly activities. And I can't help but feel like a dinosaur.