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10 Things I Miss From Older MMOs

Ryahl Smith Posted:
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A nostalgic list of EQ flashbacks

Back in 1999, Everquest helped launch the MMO genre.  Nearly fifteen years and twenty expansions later, EQ is still chugging along. With the recent announcement of Pantheon: Rise of the Fallen led by Brad McQuaid, it’s easy to get nostalgic.  In this List, Ryahl takes a Norrathian detour from Final Fantasy XIV.  Join in and see ten surprising things he found in a return to Everquest!

Back in December, in a fit of nostalgia, I downloaded Everquest and reactivated my account.  I hadn’t played EQ since 2003, so I decided to make a fresh start and begin anew.  Obviously, with twenty-odd expansions under the hood, EQ-2013 is a far cry from EQ-1999. Even with its changes, it remains the most EQ-like game on the market. 

Graphically EQ hasn’t aged well.  This is a game which prompted people to buy their first video cards back in the digital-bronze age and it shows.  Further, EQ never had very good animations, the absurdity of some of them are even more exacerbated in the modern era.  Finally, EQ was built for older computer systems, as such it doesn’t really take advantage of some of the really remarkable things today’s technology can handle.

“Awkward idle animation or secret to astonishing abs? You decide”

Graphic limitations aside, though, the month of dabbling in Norrath was fun.  Is fun I suppose, not was, since I intend to keep logging in on occasion.  There are a lot of things modern MMO’s don’t do that first generation MMO’s did.  Some of those things, such as instances and quest hubs, are obvious. 

However, some of the things the first generation MMO’s did is largely lost to memory (or a trip back to EQ).  Over the last month, I have ran into each of the following ten things.  Many of them surprised me.  In some cases, I had completely forgotten these mechanics or features existed.  In other cases, I remembered they existed, but didn’t appreciate their presence as much as I do now, having seen them after adventuring for years in worlds without them.  Without further ado, here are ten things you may not know you missed from first generation MMO’s.

1.  If you can see it, you can loot it.

This one really surprised me.  Running through Lower Guk, it’s not a question of whether the Ghoul Savant is going to drop the mace, if he’s holding it, he’s dropping it!  If you see an Orc walking around with a mining pick, that Orc is going to drop that mining pick.  It’s not just bosses, it’s every humanoid monster in the game. 

This isn’t a major game design element and it’s easy to forget (or overlook).  It is, though, neat when you see it in action.  Seeing opposing PVE monsters using the same gear you use and getting the same benefits is a cool thing.

“I’ll take that sword, thanks!”

2.  You make good money from “trash” mobs.

Holy moley are Norrathian mobs wealthy!  I’m not talking about massive coin purses either, I’m talking about items that are very worthwhile to sell to NPC’s.  Fine Steel weapons, spell components, and other pieces of gear sell for several platinum pieces per piece.  Step-1: load up those bags with gear from trash mobs, Step-2: head back to town, Step-3: profit!  Of course, EQ is also a game where encumberance matters, so you might be taking a long, slow, stroll back to town if you lack weight reducing bags!

3.  Quest drops happen whether you are (or are not) on a quest.

Warcraft changed the MMO leveling paradigm from a “camp-grinding” to “quest-hubbing” model.  EQ, though, had its quests - lots of them in fact.  Not just the massive epic quests, but plenty of minor (but repeatable) quests too.  The neat thing about questing in EQ is that  you often found out about a quest because you came across a quest item in the world and had no idea what it was for.  A bit of research later and it might be a quest you chose to complete or it might be an item you leave on a body and yell to the zone to let someone else come grab it. 

4.  You can get lost in a dungeon, even with a map.

This is really a generational change.  First generation MMO’s had massive, complex dungeons.  Modern MMO’s have instanced, oval race-tracks called dungeons.  You can get a feel for old-style dungeons in more modern MMO’s like EQ2 and Vanguard, but even there you really don’t get the sense of just how massive some of these older dungeons were.

As an example, here’s a picture of the map for Kurn’s Tower.  Kurn’s is a newbie dungeon (level 10-30) in Everquest.  This is a multi-level, interconnected maze of ramps, stairs, bridges and passages.  You can easily get lost in this dungeon, even with the map.

By contrast, here is Castrum Merdianum, an early end-game (level 50) instance from Final Fantasy XIV.  As far as modern instances go, it’s even moderately complex in that its linear path criss-crosses itself a time or two.  It’s not possible to get lost or confused, though, later stages of the instance are handily gated off until you finish earlier content. 

5.  Runners make fights interesting

The modern MMO tends to place encounters far enough apart that there is little to no overlap between encounters.  Sure, occasionally a patrol is setup to wander through an encounter, but that’s about it for engagement complexity.  Once an encounter is begun, it’s a fight to the death with the enemy monsters heroically standing until their last hitpoint is drained.

It didn’t used to be that way and a quick tour through an EQ dungeon serves as a reminder of this.  First, there wasn’t really any such thing as an encounter pack since linked monsters were rare to non-existent.  Rather, lots of monsters would be cram packed into small places, with even more just around the bend.

Once attacked, these monsters would yell for help, bringing in their social kin.  Midway through the fight, some of these targets would panic and run off.  Sometimes the break and run happened near the end of a fight, sometimes it happened fairly early around the 50% health-bar mark.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Runners, if unchecked, would proceed deeper into the dungeon, screaming for help all the way.  For players this meant that the running target brought in friends, lots and lots of friends.  Failing to kill or corral your runners was an easy path towards a party-wipe.  It meant that you had to stay on your toes and you needed to use good positioning and important class-abilities like snares to slow down runners.

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Ryahl Smith

Ryahl / Ryahl is a columnist for MMORPG.Com. He is also the host and primary author for Eorzea Reborn and TSWGuides. He has been playing MMO’s since 1999 and remembers when the holy trinity didn’t involve DPS. You can follow him on Twitter @EorzeaReborn or just argue with him in comments anywhere he posts.