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Community Spotlight: Old School vs. New School

Posted by MikeB Thursday April 7 2011 at 1:19PM
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This week's Community Spotlight focuses on the the thread "What made old skool MMO's harder than modern day MMO's" by Calerxes. Calerxes admits to having gotten his start in the new age of MMOs with Blizzard's World of Warcraft back in 2004 and he genuinely wants to know the difference between the previous era of games in the genre:

I was not there at the birth of the fully graphical online roleplaying game aka the MMORPG, I've tried free shards of EQ, UO and SWG, I picked shards that tried to produce an authentic version of the original game but really its not the same as actually being there at the beginning so I did not stay long, though I do pop back in every now and again.


So correct my ignorance as I was not there.... what makes Ultima Online, Everquest, Asherons Call, Anarchy Online, Dark Age Of Camelot, FFXI more difficult and immersive than modern day MMO's like I have listed?

Let's take a trip down memory lane!

Loktofeit kicks off the discussion with an excellent post:

Online resources weren't as prevalent. For example, wikis didn't exist and fansites were more about events and guild news than walkthorughs.

NPCs weren't marked and quest logs weren't as detailed.

You could actually do things or have certain rep levels that would get you guard-killed in otherwise-friendly towns.

In UO, there was no global chat and even when one was introduced, no one used it. All chat was based on proximity.

Ingame maps were very limited, IIRC, in EQ, I had to constantly spam 'Sense Heading' to raise the skill that told me what compass direction I was facing.

No respeccing or skill builders available. If you took cooking on your swordsman in AC and were 30 levels into the character (took al ong time to do that back then), you either lived with it or rerolled.

People also played very differently back then, though.

  • People used their first character or two to learn the game before making their actual character. The first character almost always ended up a mule with a skillset or build that was entertaining to see years later. Now people expect their frist character to be their main and, as such, MMOs are designed to support that which means less expeerimentation and more direct information, less choice and more handholding, and definitely as little consequence as possible.
  • People back then also came from group gaming backgrounds. The early MMO gamers were that cross section of PnP gamers and computer users. They were people that actively looked for groups, wanting to emulate the teams they read in their fantasy books or played in their DnD games. As such, with a group-focused audience, the games were designed to offer challenge to groups, resulting in often torturous gameplay for most solo players (*cue the jackass that has to reply with how that isnt' true because they leveled their druid/necro/whatever to cap solo*).
  • Politics were more a part of gameplay.In the older games there was more of a hierarchy, and when you had a problem with someone you didn't start spouting profanity in general/local but rather went to your guild leader who went to their guild leader to resolve it. As such there were a lot of rules, written and unwritten that players generally followed.

someforumguy isn't quite as nostalgic as some about the "good ol' days":

Back then I played shooters and RTS games. The early MMO's were too boring for me. I never had any understanding for the dull and painfull mechanics that made everything take so long. The only challenges I saw in oldschool MMO's were challenges that had nothing to do with gaming in my eyes. Camping, corpseruns,waiting for mana to replenish, travelling times even if you were just going back and forth were ridiculous in my eyes.

Not fun and not a gameplay challenge. I wanted to be challenged in skill (twitched based) or tactically. This was nowhere to be found in those oldschool MMO's. Oldschool MMO's would never become popular in current market. (Most) people have a job already.

VengeSunsoar didn't find the older games harder necessarily, but he did certainly find them more tedious:

I personally don't feel old MMO's were harder.  They were longer than most newer games, they definately had points that were more irritating.  But the game itself, how you played wasn't any harder or more challenging... just longer and more tedious.

Actually as much fun as I had in EQ I actually find that it was more limited in almost every way than games today.  Less choice in developing my character, less choice in the areas I played (eventually solved by... what 16 expansions now), less choice in the content available for single player progression.

However I did like the teamwork.  These days I team when I want and solo when I want, however I will admit that sometimes sparking up conversations and keeping groups is harder today.  There has to be some way to not only make grouping as easy and rewarding as it is today (and yes groups get more xp, more loot and more coin than soloing) encourage teamwork, while still keeping soloing as a real viable experience and not the afterthought of games gone by.


Admittedly, I wasn't around for the oldest of the old school. I got my start on Star Wars Galaxies back in '03, so I missed the boat on Meridian 59, EverQuest and Ultima Online; and while World of Warcraft was just slightly over a year away Star Wars Galaxies was pretty old school, especially at launch. As other users mentioned a lot of the "quality of life" features we take for granted weren't necessarily available back then. Galaxies launched without vehicles or mounts and only a few fixed locations per planet to fast-travel to so everyone spent most of their time walking. If you played at launch there were indeed corpse runs, loot and all. Adventuring wasn't a quick and easy affair, either; players had to stack up on consumables, get buffs, etc in order to go out and hunt and earn experience. Everything simply took longer.

In some ways, this was a good thing, and I feel contemporary MMOs often go too far in the other direction. Instant gratification is the name of the game now. I don't mind this depending on the game, but when I'm looking forward to some grand new MMORPG I'd definitely like to see a bit more of a happy medium.

What are your thoughts on the old school vs. the new school? Share 'em in the comments below!