This week’s going to be a little different for Independency, because I have a confession to make. The MMO I love most is not something sterling, not one well-informed with character customization or elaborate quests. In fact, I'm not sure if it even had quests when I first started playing it. By today's standards, it would be yawn-fest, a grind-heavy excursion bereft of purpose. I'm talking about Ragnarok Online in its nascent years, when there wasn't much to do outside of beating on Porings and stalking the ever-terrifying Baphomet.
Yet, in spite of the fact the cutesy Korean Ragnarok Online had little to offer in the way of perspective-changing content; it was responsible for (I think) what the most pleasant experience in my MMO career. Over the next few years, I would find myself constantly discussing the good old days, the guild-run events that consisted of little more than attempts at unearthing the latest MVP, the sense of camaraderie we had and the ridiculous amount of fun that was to be fun. Even today, I occasionally find myself, head cocked and expression quizzical, glancing at my most recent MMO and thinking, "MMOs are nowhere near as fun as I remember them to be."
So, all of this going me thinking the other day: why did I feel that way?
More importantly, why did I find myself constantly beset by this urge to find a good open-world sandbox game? Why the compulsive urge to play in such an environment? I wasn't even much of a Minecraft fan. After extensive amounts of navel-gazing, the realization hit.
I missed the novelty of being completely and utterly confused. I wanted to make my own adventures. I didn't want to have it dictated by someone else. I missed the innocence of unadulterated perplexity. Ragnarok Online had been great not because it was populated by bug-eyed, no-mouthed isometric sprites but because it was new, fresh and no one had any idea what was going on. Back when I was playing the game, guides were few and far between. Character builds were bartered between friends, new items a thing to marvel upon as opposed to a temporary acquisition. While hardly anything we'd call a sandbox today, it fitted the spirit of the idea: it was a place that let us built dream castles out of tiny, pixilated corpses.
Sadly, however, those days are gone, replaced by data-rich wiki and forums chock-full of guides on how best to optimize your leveling speed. While I'm sure that there are those who still easily get lost in a new world, the magic, I think, is gone for most of us. Innocence, much like childhood, is a fleeting experience.
But, is that it? I'm optimistic it isn't. With big-name MMOs doing their level best to come up with something new, there's hope for that sense of enchantment to be reignited once more. More significantly, perhaps, is the promise held by the growing number of indie MMOs. For all my pessimism about the idea, it's hard not to get a little bit excited. Bereft of the budget and expectations found in mega-corporations, indie MMOs have a potential (and the reason) to evolve out of what is standard, to make something that is entirely new.
That's enough of my ramblings. I've got a question for our readers out there.
What do you miss? What was your first MMO and what do you remember of it? What do you long for, more than anything else? If you could have your dream MMO built right this instant, what would it construe? What would the essentials be? Forget the trimmings, the unnecessary frills – what would make the heart of that perfect new MMO for you? Leave our thoughts in the comments.