Tell Me What You Want (What You Really, Really, Want)

I think MMO nostalgia makes us funny people. Just yesterday I was thinking about EQ and the amazing times had there with people I still consider ‘amazing’. Hell, I even went to my first ever guild message boards (circa 1999) after a 3 year hiatus to go say “hi” and see who was still kicking around and posting (long after the guild being retired). Funny enough there were people still poking their heads around there from time to time.

Of course, that led to a EQ1 trial download, and boy, is that game ever ugly. After dying to starter mobs a couple of times (yes, that’s right, starter mobs can kill you!) and running out of mana halfway through my second fight, I had to laugh at myself. This was the world that made me fall in love with MMO’s and the concept that gaming can reach a far greater audience than a saved game file on my hard drive. It had slightly less graphical appeal than minecraft. I lasted all of fifteen minutes before logging off, promising myself to actually give it a fair shot when I had more time, and left to go read some blogs.

My first MMO was EQ, then DAOC, then WoW. I played pretty much every MMO in between in either beta tests, short stints, or trials, but those three are the only three that captured my playtime for any significant period. All three are very different, of course, and are as reflective of a time period than anything to do with MMO.

What do we want from a MMO? Hard to figure that part out when I’m not even sure I know what *I* want. My off the cuff response to ‘what does Isey want from a MMO’ is pretty quick and easy to answer:

“A non-instanced, strategically paced, skill based, single world, sandbox style, relationship conducive, emotional driven fantasy world that I can enjoy in chunks of one hour (or less) two to three times a week (or when family/work time allows).”

Long answer, I love the thoughts behind this guy, and this guy, although it’s hard to envision how the three would combine into an actual playable game (and I could easily link another half dozen bloggers who write about games I would play).

Ok! Easy enough. Let’s get to work on that.. wait a minute.. does that really sound so good?

A lot of the systems and styles us fogeys keep discussing and clamoring for are things that have been already been dismissed in current and future game design as ‘quality of life’ improvements. As much as I say (and think), I want that 30 minute boat ride to Freeport, or having to speak in different languages to a complete stranger on that boat to improve my Erudite (15) language skill, it’s easy to remember fondly but harder to actually play that way again. That 30 minutes would be half (or all) of a current play session for me.

And, while I can sit here and write about the systems, styles, and innovations I want (or think I want) from a MMO, the systems themselves do not really matter. I want a MMO that can illicit the emotion of the games I used to love. And  I’m not sure that is entirely possible, but still remain hopeful.

What I do know is that in 10 years from now I probably won’t be searching down my old WoW guilds to see if anyone is still kicking around.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. My first MMO was Asheron’s Call 1. I played it with my father and cousin. (Also circa 1999). I was roughly 14 or 15 years old and we had just gotten broadband internet.

    Distilling the memories of what I loved in that era of MMO (in AC or my other go-to, Anarchy Online) comes down to emergent social gameplay. I suppose it still happens once in a blue moon, but unscripted adventure isn’t something I’ve run across in an MMO in many years.

    I remeber getting mauled by wasps in a swamp. In AC your death penalty was significant. A reduction in stats as well as the top 2-3 most exspenive items would remain on your corpse, forcing recovery efforts.
    My father and cousin spent over an hour, waste deep in a wasp filled swamp, running for our lives, desperately searching for the body containing my Red Garnet Lightning Ken. These stories are countless.

    Emergence. Give people the world, populate with risks and rewards, and let them loose. Minecraft has this appeal. It’s somthing I feel we’ve lost in favor of hand holding and linear progression.

  2. Failing helps build character =) In EQ ALL of your items were left on your corpse, and you only had 24 hours to retrieve it before they disappeared forever. Eventually they created a /corpse command so friends could drag your body to you, but boy, when you went exploring solo in unknown areas it was exciting – because there was an inherent risk. It did make it fun in many ways. I actually lost a complete set of main gear on my Troll Warrior that way.

    The internet spoiler sites are killing that adventure, and design would have to be done in such a way that a) players would have to accept that all content wasn’t permanent, and you could miss out and b) content changed enough that it wasn’t worthwhile to record and post things.

    I posted recently elsewhere that the hand holding actually has a bigger negative aspect – it’s training the new MMO players to certain expectations, which makes it even less likely they will be open and accepting to emergent game play sans the hand holding.

  3. You’d also have to design a non-gear centric system. If 50% of your combat effectiveness is from gear and you get ganked out in the bush, that’s not exciting to get back, it’s a kick the groin.

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