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Terra Bytes

My own personal musings, random ideas and insights at the MMO industry of yesteryear, today and the future.

Author: Sirocc0


Posted by Sirocc0 Tuesday December 15 2009 at 1:54PM
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Let's start with my real life background: I'm 26 years old, born and raised in the United Kingdom and have been an avid gamer since I owned my first Sega Master System and later my first PC running on Windows 3.1 (Does anybody else miss typing Win to load from DOS to Windows? Me neither.) I played very few games on my initial PC mainly just text based adventure games but it enveloped me in a thirst for PC gaming which was stronger than that for my console gaming. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed and still do enjoy console gaming (currently playing a lot of Modern Warfare 2 on my Xbox 360), but something about the PC made me cherish the gaming experiences more. I have been playing MMOs since the beginning of the genre but seemed to sidestep the top titles of the particular time, notably Ultima Online and EverQuest.


My first experience was with a MUD (Multi User Dungeon) using Telnet as a client. I can't remember the first one I played, but a couple stick out to me, one being Discworld based on Terry Pratchett's novels and the other was a less well known title: Sin Dome. As technology evolved so did my interest and the very first MMO  I played was a lesser known counterpart to Ultima Online called The 4th Coming.



The 4th Coming (1999) had some of the features that I still want to see in modern MMO, for example there were no classes - maybe it's due to the fact that since this was my first MMO I enjoy these mechanics more, but a classless levelling system adds a level of realism to a game for me. Sure we have professions in the real world, but nothing stops me from picking up a greataxe and attempting to swing it around, sure I wouldn't be very good but I could equip it - and that's how a game should operate in my opinion. Granted T4C did have limited content, and the developers implemented a system which enabled us to perpertually improve our characters through rebirth - becoming a Seraph (it gave you cool wings though!).

After my 2nd rebirth I remember tiring of the game, and began to look at what might be out there as an alternative and something caught my eye.



A company in Norway were attempting a Sci-Fi 3D World. Yes, Funcom were about to launch Anarchy Online (2001), and I was on board. To those that were part of it, and to those that weren't but remember, the launch of Anarchy Online is classed by some as one of the worst for an MMO. Billing issues were aplenty, some people blue screened when they ran the game, some couldn't get anywhere near installed - it was a PR nightmare. Personally, I like to give them a break. Funcom were pioneers of the industry, as much as Verant and Mythic were in my opinion. AO gave us some of the features we have in most modern MMO today, for example item linking in chat. They were also the first MMO to have digital downloads and free trials.

I got my first taste of support classes here , which is still ingrained in my pschye even today. I played a (Bureau)Crat for the evil mega corporation Omni-Tek - which meant I was always needed in groups as much as a healer, and we were rarer than healers in fact. As a Crat, I buffed, reduced XP debt and mezzed as the main provider of crowd control. I really do have such fond memories of this game, one in particular sticks out which was either questing for or making a Coffee Machine which would give buffs out, sounds weird and wonderful doesn't it? It was. And that's why I loved it.


After a long stay in AO, after countless hours grinding SK (Shadow Knowledge) my guild mates and I, were looking around for a new experience. And whilst they would soon set sail for the port of Azeroth, my love of Sci-Fi sent me to another world. I hadn't followed the development, I didn't even realise the game was in production but I was soon swallowing a red pill and jacking into The Matrix Online (2005).



The Megacity was a world I was very eager to be a part of. The original Matrix film was one of my all time favourites, and whilst the two sequels that had followed were not to the same standard, it hadn't dampened my want to be part of such a fascinating world. My love of the underdogs led me to not take up a fight for the followers of Zion, but neither did I fight for the Machines - no I followed the ambigious Merovingian and his beautiful lover Persephone. This game had classes, but trying to stay true to the lore of the world, meant people could swap classes as and when they needed. A poor mechanic for those that like to feel valued, and one that cheapened the experience for me. The community of this game was one of the best I have encountered, and whilst they were the reason I logged in longer than I would have imagined, when numbers started to dwindle I was soon to follow.  Before long I was making my voyage to the world everyone was talking about - Azeroth and the World of Warcraft (2004).



I don't think there are many MMO fans out there, who haven't tried this behemoth from Blizzard. Some will not, and that's their prerogative, but I am willing to give most games a shot, and I was already familiar with some of the canon and lore through the original Warcraft games.


What took me most by surprise upon creating my Undead Priest (Of course I'd roll Horde!) was the polish this game had right from the beginning. Blizzard as a developer take their time, and make sure they are 100% ready before they release a game, and many gamers would that other developers followed a similar business model. But real world finances mean that many developers don't get the chance, and publishers are eager to see returns on their investments. The game introduced many facets of gaming I don't quite agree with, but still didn't stop me from enjoying the world at large. I have a dislike for auto-attack, a dislike for quest indicators and the more I think of it a big dislike to the Holy Trinity of MMOs (Tank, Healer and DPS). Yet the world enveloped me and I fell big time for the beauty it held. I spent the largest amount of time in this MMO to date, than any other and there has to be a reason for that, especially considering it didn't deliver everything I wanted from an MMO, it was just the best of the bunch for me. I took a hiatus from WoW for Dungeons & Dragons Online (2006) - and it was there I made some friends for life, and again the community kept me in that game longer than I thought I would stay. When they made the jump to Vanguard (2007) I followed, but I returned to WoW shortly after. I remember when I first loaded WoW, a guy that had played since launch told me this game was like crack, and he was right. It felt so wrong, but yet was so addictive, so very moreish.


I skimmed over my time in Vanguard, and there is a reason for that. I had never played a game by Brad McQuaid, having missed EverQuest at it's height, but my guild mates had experienced his vision and they were hungry for more. They promised me Vanguard would be different, that it would be the real EverQuest 2 and that I would know the joy they once held, when they played EverQuest. I signed up to the hype and I was sold - this was going to be the game that enraptured me for years. I left before I had to pay my first month's subscription. I don't want to dwell on what happened, as it's still quite raw but Brad McQuaid took my friends for a ride, and he made sure he looked after himself. Vanguard I'm pleased to hear is going strong still, and I hear opinions from lots of fellow gamers that it is 'the' PvE experience now. But it does still have some issues, born from it's premature release and will no doubt carry some to it's death.


I eventually kicked the habit of WoW in 2009 after the launch of Wrath of the Lich KIng the previous year. I think the staleness finally hit me, and the rush for the next tier of gear through raids and heroics was all to much to bare again, and so I cancelled my account which has so many gaming hours tucked away in it - for the last time? I doubt it. I shall no doubt return at a later date when Cataclysm has launched, unless a very special game is keeping my interest at that time.




So here I am at the end of 2009, having been around in this genre for ten years now, not subscribing to any game - a lot older and I'd hope wiser to my requirements from games heading into 2010. 2009 was full of so many promises, as was 2008 before that, having played Warhammer, and in 2009 Darkfall, Aion and Fallen Earth. If I had to pick a favourite I would say Fallen Earth would be the one out of the last 2 years I have enjoyed the most, yet still didn't manage to get me to subscribe past my free 30 days. I do however salute Indie developers such as Icarus, and am very glad I supported them and their efforts for taking the path of most resistance. In 2010 I will be kicking the year off with Star Trek Online - I have played Cryptic games in the past such as City of Heroes/Villains and more recently I was lucky to beta test for Champions Online despite never being a huge fan of their work. Some things they do extremely well, such as character customization and others they perform poorly at. I also have my eye fixed firmly on Mortal Online, which I have pre-ordered already as well in support of Star Vault; Final Fantasy XIV and most definitely Star Wars: The Old Republic. I just hope one of these games lives upto it's promises and delivers a truly exceptional gaming experience that I can once again be happy with for years to come.


I have seen countless server merges, shutdowns and restarts; innumerous patches and expansions and I look forward to seeing many more in the years to come. The genre isn't dying, it's only just found it's foothold on a long ladder, the best I believe is yet to come, so please stay with me as I delve deep into issues surrounding MMOs and offer solutions where possible.