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Retrospective: What We’ve Left Behind With Progress

In the last 10 years, we’ve come a long way as a genre. Sometimes, I feel a little bit spoiled, like I ate the whole damn cake, when all I asked for was a cookie. Or, maybe I’ve turned into the Cookie Monster, and want the whole friggin’ plate.

The point is, the things we used to think about as special, or never going to happen, have happened. We’re here, the next generation, which is why a lot of us look back with nostalgia; two steps from being our grandparents talking about “back in the day, my mother beat my legs with a wooden spoon.” Or something like that. Forced grouping, you know. We had to be kept in line.

Anyways, listening to Side A of the latest View From the Top podcast got me thinking about progress and what that’s meant. Today I’d like to look at some of the things that are special to me that have been left in the wake of progress.

The mid-game, end-game

Ah, the side-effect of grind based progression. Since getting to the level cap often meant months of monotonous grinding (Tobold recently stated that it took about 2,000 hours to cap out in the original EQ), usually limited by your ability to group, a lot fewer people ever maxed out. There was end-game, sure there was, but the journey meant so much more than the destination back then.

Not only were we closer to our role playing roots but, heck, we needed something more to do to pass the time during the grind. So, we RP’d. We explored. We did more while leveling than most of us do when we’re done leveling now.

Progress brings us to a place where the game doesn’t really begin until you stop questing. It’s not bad but it presents a whole separate set of issues. Where do horizontal expansions fit in a game based on getting to the end before you start? Where would they fit back then?

I want you to want me

There’s something to be said for having to group up. Don’t get me wrong. If we were still in the EQ days, I probably wouldn’t be getting anywhere fast. Still, part of me really loved getting together with other people and tackling a challenge. I feel like I made more meaningful relationships with guild mates and felt better about the challenges we’d overcome.

In the end, I’m glad I can solo. But those days will always have a special part in my gamer make-up.

Diablo, what?

Okay, this one might be small, but I loved the fact that gear wasn’t so totally random as it is now. I remember begging one of my friends to help me get an amulet that he’d discovered dropped on a special vampire mob. I didn’t know where to find count dropula and he did. And this wasn’t a “Shiny Necklace of the Monkey.” It was “Count Dropula’s Bloody Fang.” Knowledge of the game world meant something. Time and connections meant access to things other players wouldn’t have access to because they plain out didn’t know about it.

We gear up with raids and badges now, using sites like WoWhead and Atlasloot. That kind of streamlining is worth appreciating. Yet, I have fond memories of planning out a whole character with the different named drops I’d need from all around the world. I was plotting my adventure through a wide open world. I wasn’t hitting instance Y for drop X. I was storming the castle for the king’s gauntlet.

It’s alive!

Lastly, I guess one of the things I miss most from the early days of MMOs is the idea that we can create living, breathing, worlds to play in. Look at Ultima Online and what was dreamed for that. I talk about it a lot, I know, but I feel more and more like the Game vs. World binary really defines how a game will play out.

With classical MMOs, I feel like we skewed more heavily towards “game within a world” rather than “world within a game” and it showed in where some of our optimism laid. That actually has a lot to do with why I prefer named loot, too. I don’t want a staff of the boar, I want Lord Stark’s Ice.
Overall, I’m happy with where we’re at. Still, there are things worth looking back on. Sometimes the rose colored glasses can be more truthful than others. For me, I’m happy that I was around in the days of MUDs and onward. It helps me appreciate where we are to know where we’ve been.

Good times await. Just imagine the next 10 years.

How about you, is there anything you look back fondly on?

1 comment

1 ping

  1. Tesh

    I feel that yes, we’ve traced an evolutionary path, but I’d rather have wandered the path not taken, with a greater emphasis on virtual worlds and the journey, not the destination.

    (Though I still detest forced grouping. If I want to wander the virtual world on my own, stop screwing me over with group gates. Few things make me quit a game faster.)

  1. /AFK – Never Before, Never Again Edition « Bio Break

    [...] Chris thinks we’ve left behind some good stuff on the road to progress [...]

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