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The Game Archaeologist and the Girdle of Anarchy: Your stories


I have to admit that I have a particular soft spot for Anarchy Online. It was, for better and worse, my first MMO -- on launch day, no less. That experience terrified me so much that I became convinced my machine could never run an online game, and so it wasn't until Shadowlands released that I returned to Rubi-Ka for another go. Fortunately, that time things went more smoothly, and I cut my teeth on that content. Sure, it was mostly over my head, and I'm pretty sure I gimped my character by level 3, but the otherworldly atmosphere and giddy newness of MMOs in general more than made up for it.

After last week's brief overview of the many years of Anarchy Online's operation, vets poured out of the grid to share their own screenshots and stories. It may not be the hip new thing these days -- more like, it needs a hip replacement -- but to hear these players tell it, AO isn't as washed up as you may think.

Read on for sordid tales that would make any of the Game Archaeologist's own adventures look like a dip in the kiddie pool!

Raquel "T MA" Laurence: The gamer mom

A 100-word maximum is a hard limit to enforce when one has played Anarchy Online since launch and has hundreds of favorite stories she could share. Sure, I guess I could settle for a "remember when" story or a story that would make most e-peeners green with envy. However, I think I'll take a different approach -- as a mother.

In 2001 my children were begging me to allow them to play this online game called Anarchy Online. It would be their "birthday, Christmas, and everything forever gift," they said. I knew nothing about computers or video games. According to the news at the time, MMORPGs were evil and children should be kept away from them at all costs.

Long story short, I relented and allowed my children to play this "evil" game under strict parental guidance. Longer story short, they got so tired of their mom's 101 questions and constant vigilance (you never know when evil will strike!) that they sat me down and helped me create my first character. I was completely taken by surprise at the complexity of the game. My son showed me about twinking and PvP. My daughter explained the social dynamics. I just kept getting lost, both figuratively and literally. My son delighted in ganking me at every opportunity. I enjoyed teasing him about grounding him for life. My daughter tried in vain to explain to me about not believing everything I was being told in a "virtual" world. What can I say – I'm gullible and the roleplayers loved me.

All kidding aside, Anarchy Online has enriched my life beyond my wildest imagination -- from the priceless time spent with my children to meeting people from all over the world. Some are now real-life friends who, like my children, have grown into wonderful adults with children of their own. If MMORPGs are evil, I don't want to be good.

Ian "Recon" Benson: The young newbie

I started the game when I was only 10. Coming straight from Runescape, I still thought that "cool-looking" armors were better and QL didn't exist. I managed to make it all the way through level 40 before quitting for a while (to return later when I could actually grasp the concepts of it). Within those levels came some of my fondest memories in gaming.

I remember building a small 20-person org on the clans. All of the members were all as inexperienced as I (although perhaps a tad older), and we heard about this city thing. Naturally, we figured it would be some sort of epic tactical takedown of a random city. I had myself and a few of my buds go through the Tir whoompah from Athens and proceed to "sneak" around using prone. At one point, we all gathered and tried to take down a guard. It didn't go so well.

Matt "mttgamer" Trenton: The fixer

I was an Omni fixer, and I remember the epic quest of getting into the fixer grid, which essentially was teleport like a mage in World of Warcraft but 10 times better! The details of this quest is outlined here. The most memorable part of that quest is this part: "The last person you will need to speak with is Sirocco; you can find him in Old Athen. This part may be tough for those Omni fixers trying to complete the quest. Usually, Ramon Bauer of the Clan Vanguards is guarding the grid terminal. So you may want to have a friend fixer Grid you in or Beacon Warp you into Sirocco. He resides at the coordinates 212x216 in Old Athen. Once you speak to him, he will give you the NanoCrystal (Hack Grid Data Stream) and a Hacker Club Member Chip."

I didn't have a friend do any of that for me; I actually had someone guard me though as I tried to sneak into Old Athen. Someone spotted me and reported a bunch of guards, but my friend distracted the guards long enough for me to talk to the guy. As I was casting my teleport spell, I got away the second the guards reached me! It was truly epic.

Gaute Godager: Former game director of Anarchy Online and Age of Conan

I read your piece on AO and liked it very much. Brought back some memories, I must say. Anyway, I was a bit unsure if it was meant as a joke or not when you said it had inspired two straight-to-television movies, the botched launch I mean. I guess so, but it would have been fun to see one of those.

If you want you can also have something rather special. I have a 38-meg Anarchy Online Shadowlands strategy doc that we used to position the game and sell it to the people (inside the organisation and in managment) as we were about to embark on making the expansion. I have looked everywhere for something even more interesting, but I guess it has been lost in time. It is from 2003 or something, just before I started on AoC. In many ways I'm more proud of Shadowlands than anything else I have ever done. It was dark, twisted and artistic.

Barren28: In love with the world

AO was my first love MMO-wise. I played daily for just under a year. My most memorable experiences were PUGs in the Temple of Three Winds and soloing the Subway. Overall it was the alien world, the atmospheric music and unique classes that kept me there. I have played 14 MMOs and none has given me the sense of immersion that AO did. I loved the world so much that I would sometimes just sit on a mountain and watch the sun set while listening to the music.

But Shadowlands killed it all. It gated everything and separated us all. I left soon after. I wish they would make a sequel to this game. I miss it often even as a six-year EQII vet in a large guild with a maxed-out character. No game had the immersion, unique environments or the completely different classes that AO did.

Ross "KlanBear" Ledger: Escaped convict

One of the funniest moments for me in early AO was the introduction of "Prison" missions. Due to a geometry glitch there was a hole in the jail bars so you could get stuck. On this occasion the whole team got stuck by accident! A petition was sent and an Ark turned up to warp us out. He asked where the hole was, after which every person demonstrated by jumping back in, and for the next 15 minutes it was warp/jump back. A GM then had to warp everyone out to stop the high-spirited fun.

Robert de Lambert: Eddie's pal

Thanks for starting this project -- it will be quite a treat to revisit the interesting and odd events from our history on Rubi-Ka. For me, one of the fondest recollections was my first encounter with Eddie in Last Ditch. I still make it a point to stop by and chat with him every time I walk (yes, I still walk and swim most everywhere) through that area.

Georgina: Have it your way

Anarchy Online was pretty unique in that you wereg able to play the game your way. We had no tank or doctor in our small organisation, so to take aliens we used a Martial Artist popping evades, a Crat to AoE calm and an MBC and an MP's heal and DPS pets. It was hard and didn't always work, but we always had superb fun. Can't even consider that kind of thing in MMO's any more, and I miss it.

Gallery: Anarchy Online | 46 Photos

When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

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