Chances are good that if you read Massively, you either currently play or have played multiple MMOGs in your life. Whatever your reasons are, you're one of those players for whom "MMO" is a genre instead of a game. Not all players are like this. A lot of players get their start somewhere and then stick to that game for years, denouncing all other games as being incapable of being better than their chosen virtual playground. I used to be like that with EverQuest (can you tell?). For four years I played it pretty much exclusively, not even trying other games. But eventually, I got bored.
Thus started my lengthy and storied history of game-hopping. Traveling from world to world like some sort of virtual nomad, fueled by my love of the online massively multiplayer game, I sampled much of what the genre had to offer. While I eventually found a new home and anchor in World of Warcraft, it only served as a nice place to return to every few months. I still ventured out into each new and exciting world that various companies served up to me. They all had things I liked and didn't like about them, and I honestly have yet to play a game that I couldn't find something good to say about. Every online game has its own cool quirks that are pretty neat from a design standpoint. This is why it's tough to identify an objectively "best" game -- they're all so different! I thought today I'd talk a little bit about what I've played over the years and how I ended up with the many and varied opinions on the MMOG genre that I have.
Sometime in the mid '90s I stumbled onto my first MUD. I don't remember how I got there or which MUD it was -- I just remember the absolute thrill of being in a virtual world with other people for the first time (even a text-based one). One of the things that really sticks out from my MUDding days was the idea that when you got to maximum level on your character, you could start over on a new class with that same character. I've always thought that was really cool and wished other games would use the mechanic. Anyway, I spent a lot of time in that world of black and white text -- at school during breaks, and at home in the evenings. It was a lot of fun, but very challenging.
A few years later, Ultima Online came out and was big news in all the gaming magazines I read at the time. People were waging virtual wars, having fantastic adventures, and making big money by selling their virtual castles. I wanted in! Being a teenager at the time, it was no easy task to convince my mom to let me use the credit card. This was before the days when everything was done through online credit purchases, and she was wary of putting her card number "out there," but eventually my brother and I won over. This was also back in the days of dial-up, so we had to take turns playing online (that was definitely the source of a few scuffles). UO was fun, but it wasn't fantastic for me. I liked the skill system, and I liked taming animals, but I could never figure out what I was supposed to do.
Then, in 2000, I tried EverQuest for the first time. For some reason, I had avoided the game until The Ruins of Kunark, but I bought it on a whim. I remember my first character: A barbarian warrior. From the moment the game loaded up a three-dimensional virtual world on my monitor, I was hooked, hard. Talk about immersion. I wandered around Halas, lost, for 20 minutes. I was promptly killed when I decided to attack a dog. Still, my love of the game continued and sparked a passion for MMOGs that continues to this day. I'll spare you all of the things I liked about EQ (you get enough of that in my other posts).
For the next few years, nothing could shake my dedication to EverQuest. Asheron's Call tempted me, but I never actually got to play it due to some weird connection issue that I didn't have the technical skills to solve (I didn't even know what a port was when I was 15). Despite the guy at Gamestop always talking to me about how awesome Dark Age of Camelot was, I didn't try the game until years later. I played Anarchy Online for a while in 2001, and I really enjoyed the Sci-Fi setting, instanced missions, and unique classes (loved my Adventurer and Martial Artist), but after a few-month hiatus I still went right back to EverQuest.
Shadowbane was another game that really caught my eye. By the time it launched in 2003, I was starting to get a little tired of EverQuest. I rolled up a ranger of some sort and checked it out with some friends from school. It was definitely something different. Open PvP, anywhere, anytime, was really cool. I remember the amusement of putting an arrow in a friend's back when he was annoying me and making him run back from his bind point. I also really enjoyed the unique races the game offered (centaurs and minotaurs? Sweet!) and the grouping incentives. Unfortunately, being the carebear that I am, I didn't last all that long in open PvP and moved on to safer pastures.
In 2004, I was ready for something new. I had been a longtime fanboy of Blizzard's various games, and the rumblings of their MMOG in progress had started to reach me. While I waited for whatever masterpiece they were going to conjure up, I picked up a little game called City of Heroes and was absolutely blown away by it. I couldn't believe how much fun it was! The character creation was absolutely amazing when compared to anything up to that point (or since, honestly). It was also more action-oriented than anything I had played before. I loved that I could send a trio of enemies flying off of a roof with a wave of my Defender's hand. I had to upgrade my computer to play it at the time, but I figured it was worth it, given all the cool games coming out.
Late in 2004, however, I abandoned City of Heroes to explore two different late-stage betas I had gotten into (yes, I was using them as free trials instead of betas *wince*). EverQuest 2 and World of Warcraft were like night and day for me. EverQuest 2, at the time, felt stiff, ran poorly, didn't seem at all like my beloved EverQuest, and left me decidedly unimpressed and unexcited about the game. I felt like SOE had failed me, somehow -- I was looking for a sequel to the game I knew and loved. What I found was a different game with the same name, and it wasn't very fun. World of Warcraft, from day one of my beta experience (bugs and all), was just an amazing ride. Again, I won't go into specifics since most of you play WoW and know exactly what I mean, but nothing that preceded it was as fun, exciting, or easy to get into as WoW was. I knew I'd be there for a long, long time. EverQuest, for everything I liked about it, was old news.
That pretty much takes us up to present day. In between WoW breaks I played a lot of other games, too. I tried a bunch of the older ones I had missed, and I played all of the new ones that looked even moderately interesting: Asheron's Call 2, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, City of Villains, A Tale in the Desert, Guild Wars, Tabula Rasa, Vanguard, and a whole host of free-to-play games from overseas. They all had things I really liked about them, but after a month or two I'd always go find my home in World of Warcraft. Now, I'm pretty much with WoW where I was with EverQuest four years ago. I know the game inside and out, I've seen almost everything there is to be seen, and I'm ready for something new. While raiding is still fun, I'm really hoping that Blizzard can drastically revitalize the game with Wrath of the Lich King, or that Age of Conan or Warhammer Online will be interesting and different enough to grab me and convince me that they're my new "home game."
So that's my story. That's the rambling and lengthy explanation of how I got where I am today, pouring my twisted and tangled thoughts out to all of you in the form of a daily column. Hopefully that gives you some context when I go on my next rant.
So, what about you? I'd love to hear some of your stories too, if you feel like sharing.
|Cameron Sorden is an avid gamer, blogger, and writer who has been playing a wide variety of online games since the late '90s. Several times per week in Player vs. Everything, he tackles all things MMO-related. If you'd like to reach Cameron with comments or questions, you can e-mail him at cameron.sorden AT weblogsinc.com.|