Monday, January 4, 2010

Figuring out what I want in a MMO Part 1 of ??

Over the past 10 years I have played a large number of MMOs. Last summer during a gaming lull I went out of my way to try the free trials of the few major MMOs I had missed. The only one I have yet to play that I consider “major” would be Lord of the Rings Online.

Out of all of these MMOs only four have held my attention for more than 3 months and only two of those have held me for over a year. Of the two that held me for over a year they each held me for multiple years, so if a MMO can keep me for 12 months then they can keep me for 24 or 36 rather easily.

I played Dark Age of Camelot of 4 months at release plus 1 ½ months during beta. I played Warhammer Online for 11 months off and on after release and 5 months of beta. I played World of Warcraft for 2 ½ years starting 3 months before the launch of Burning Crusade and I played EverQuest for 5 years starting at launch.

Considering how many MMOs I have played I’m an currently trying to figure out why I liked each MMO and to come away from this with a better understanding of what I’m looking for in a MMO. This isn’t a blog about what I think the perfect MMO should have. This is a list of things a I’m going to look for in an existing MMO to better make a decision on purchasing and playing it.

Let’s start with EverQuest and what I loved about that game. Obviously it was my first MMO so the first one always gets a little extra helping of love when looked back upon but EQ really did have some good qualities. EQ was by far the most immersive MMO I have ever played. There were times where I would get lost in the game for hours just being an Iksar or High Elf wandering around your home city and exploring. When you went to a foreign city you really got a sense that you didn’t belong. Depending on your race and faction the guards would kill you out right and most merchants would ignore you at the very least or attack you.

Every race had their own home city. You leveled up in this area and it was extremely difficult to travel anywhere. Most low level areas were surrounded by areas with much higher level monsters that could kill you in one shot. In a way you felt trapped early on in the starting areas but it fostered a kin ship with other players. If you were a Gnome the first few levels were spent exclusively with other gnomes. You developed pride in your race as the first challenges you overcame were always with your own race.

It wasn’t just the feeling of immersion that fostered my long time love for EverQuest, it was the challenge. EverQuest was an unwritten rule book of how to play a MMO. Prior to it we had no basic training on how to conduct a raid, manage threat, how to conserve mana or do healing rotations. There was no boss walk through web sites to go and refer to. Each and every raiding guild kept their strategies a secret because raiding was hyper competitive. We had to die countless times to learn what a raid bosses abilities were, how much DPS he did, how much threat we could manage and so on. No one told us how to beat the bosses so when we finally did down one it was that much more of an achievement.

EverQuest didn’t just provide difficult raid encounters, the 5 man group content could be just as difficult at times if you cared to challenge yourself. In EQ we really did dungeon crawl. You had to move your group as a whole unit through tunnels avoiding respawns and killing deeper and deeper to get to whatever goal you had set, be it an item or rare quest piece. You could take a 5 man group and attempt some raid level content as well, I remember the first time we broke Plane of Fear with 5 people. Breaking a zone means clearing enough mobs to make it safe to enter. (PoF was one of the hardest zones to break in the game)

EverQuest provided a deep and never ending list of challenges for a truly dedicated gamer. You had to think outside the box to overcome challenges simply because we didn’t yet have a box. It also provided you with a sense of belonging, where everybody knows your name. You could run a pick up group every night of the week, it would be successful, and you would recognize friends from other guilds.

EverQuest fostered everything that I loved about online gaming. Community, evolving challenges, and immersion.

Note tomorrow will be on World of Warcraft. This is going to be a series of what I liked about certain MMO’s and next week I will do what I disliked about each one. By the time we are done I should know what I’m looking for in a MMO in the future.

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