In my mind's eye, the original EverQuest looks like it is running on some future Crytek engine. Norrath gleams with lush landscapes, arresting vistas, and incredible inhabitants. There is simply no better looking piece of software than the one that Sony Online Entertainment created way back when.
Of course, this is a fantasy. While in my mind Qeynos Hills is a roving and downy piece of country side splendour, it in fact looks two steps away from the Atari 2600. There are a few sloping inclines. A dozen trees. A bear. A skeleton that giggles. Oh, and a really crap pond thing somewhere near the back. It actually looks crap. Really crap.
Technology seems to run along at the same pace as Usain Bolt, and so places such as Norrath have been left behind in a vommity fog. Older games generally look like the work of a couple of lazy children, rather than the toiling efforts of dozens of professionals. But why does it have to be this way? Why haven't they adapted? Why hasn't somebody cared enough?
HD remakes, love them or loathe them, are coming thick and fast. Whether it is Nintendo repacking the pointy ears of a decade old game, or instead Sony pumping out 'collection' after 'collection', the revamp of old software is becoming quite the force.
Which is a good thing, right? Just because technology marches forward, it doesn't mean that gameplay has necessary lurched forth with any sort of impetus. So when it comes to those 'oldies, but goodies' it's always nice to see developers apply some much needed licks of paint, and perhaps a few tweaks here and there.
The criminal thing however, is the fact that very few MMORPGs have ever received this treatment. In recent memory, the only two online adventures to obtain a noticeable tune up are EverQuest post-Luclin, and Ultima Online.
Which, I think you'll agree, is fairly odd. MMOs have the ability to spin cash over a number of years, out weighing the financial potential of everything except The Sims and Call of Duty. Given the fact a game such as Ultima Online is older than most Xbox Live users, and is still active, shows you something of brand loyalty and the ability to keep people interesting in returning to a virtual world.
Why is it then that no developer has ever stopped to metaphorically tie the, long since undone, shoe laces of their older products? Why is every studio hitting out in search of the 'next big thing' rather than nurturing what they already have?
Take for example the craze to convert to F2P that started just a handful of years ago. The genius behind this model wasn't the publisher’s fast and loose usage of the word 'free' but instead the fact that it effectively allowed for the relaunch of certain MMORPGs. Just look at Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online in comparison to a few years ago for the proof of that particular pudding.
By publicizing a new cash shop, it effectively allowed for whatever MMORPG to beat its chest and scream "I'm still here! Look at me!". And it really worked. How many of you reinstalled EverQuest 2, LotRO, DDO, Age of Conan, Rift, Aion, SWToR et all, just because of the increased profile of these games?
So by the same logic, wouldn't retuning, and reinventing, the majority of older titles also have a similar effect? When EverQuest went F2P, I can't say I was particularly moved to play because it looked like the drawings of a nursery child. But if they were to give it a 'HD Remaster'? I'd be there in a heartbeat.
The fact is, most of us want to check out our old haunts, but effectively are put off, like everybody else, because there is little future within them. While you might have a few pangs of nostalgia, the code, the engine, it all creaks just too much, so can we really justify spending any real time within those particular worlds?
But what if the engine was reworked slightly? The more ugly, older elements refined and reworked? What if the developers also threw in a few vanilla servers, reverted a few rules, and essentially followed a progression locked system, and one that couldn't be achieved in under 48 hours by a crack team of Russian no-lifers?
I'm sure that any older MMO, from Anarchy Online (more of which later) to Dark Age of Camelot, would get an enthusiastic response if they updated and welcomed a newer audience. A lot of MMO players bang on about wanting to go back to the glory years, so why don't we ever see developers bending to our wants and wishes? You only have to witness the opening of a vanilla EQ server to see the rabid demand for such an experience - the limiting factor is only the technology and the age old UI.
Funcom have been one lone company that have promised this very thing for several years. Unfortunately, due to a few mishaps, it seems as though the relaunch of Anarchy Online has been dragged into the mire where The Secret World and Age of Conan currently stand. If things had gone differently for those products, would we now see a reinvented AO? And would it be popular enough to kick a few more of the old guard into action? It's food for thought.
So, would you play a 'HD Remaster' of your favorite old MMORPG? Is it more than the graphics that keep you from ever returning? Or as ever, am I wallowing in the filth of nostalgia and refuse to see the real, modern world? Comments in the section below.
Adam Tingle / Adam Tingle is a columnist and general man-about-town for MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and FPSGuru.com. He enjoys toilet humor, EverQuest-themed nostalgia, and pointing out he's British: bother him at @adamtingle
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