Just recently, I went back to playing Star Wars The Old Republic again. I had played the game back when it first came out, got bored with it and then went onto something else. Recently, I was looking for a game to play, and someone recommended it, so I went back, subscribed for a couple of months of fun, and then a few weeks ago decided it just wasn’t my thing any more. This got me to thinking about all of the MMOs I’ve played over the years, and then it got me thinking as to why I’ve left those particular games. So, I thought I would give a bit of an abridged history of some of those games in my world of playing them.
Ultima Online was my first MMO, and I played it back in the day when it was basically the only one people had ever heard of. I started playing it because I was a fan of the Ultima series of computer games put out by Richard Garriott so many years back. For years, I would sign in and have fun there. At one point, I signed up for the Counselor program, and I became one of those players that worked with EA and actually helped other players. Then someone sued EA, claiming we were unpaid employees, and EA gutted the program so that we were now left with only being allowed to play the game and not help other players any more. Around this same time, a Christmas holiday season hit, and the new batch of players who came along were completely different than the ones who had played before. We encountered what has become known as the “grief” player, and they came in droves. Players I knew for years in the game started signing on less and less, and eventually they just left the game. EA tried to respond to this by building a “safer” game within the game, which was to basically clone the entire world and put it into a safer area so that people couldn’t do the sorts of griefer things that were being done before. But this was too little too late as the majority of the people who had made the game famous had already left. I, too, realizing that I was now logging in with so few of my friends playing it any more, left and went to find another game myself.
Everquest was the first “other” game I started playing after the whole UO experience. It was one of those unforgiving types of games that you might log in and do nothing productive for hours, yet you would still log in and try to get something accomplished. It was one of those games that was prior to the Internet explosion, which would kill so many of these types of games because when you needed to find something in the game, you pretty much had to rely on your network of friends and hope someone else knew where something was located, or what some item you received might actually be used for (and quite often they had no idea as well). Nowadays, if you find some obscure item in a game, there are ten web sites dedicated to that item so that you rarely have to do any work to figure out something mysterious in a game.
But I loved the game. I would sign in every day and try to do the things that made your character more powerful, or at least most significant. It was a game that made you very reliant on other characters, as you might have the greatest warrior of all time, but you needed that cleric for heals, that druid for buffs and speed increases, that necro to help you find your corpse after a bad run into very dangerous territory, and practically every other character that existed for some reason or another. The land was dangerous, and you had to be careful because you might be in an area where everything seems level 10 but for no reason some level 50 giant might be walking through the area. There were evil cities where evil characters could go, but good ones would be killed on sight (and the other way around as well). It really was a vibrant world for its time.
Why did I quit? The game just got old. At some point, you’ve done all of the things you’ve wanted to do, and their updates were only designed to do a lot more of the same but at higher levels. Because it was such a big world, the departing players made it that much emptier. And that’s probably what killed it the most.
Dark Age of Camelot came along as the “solution” to Everquest. It played a lot like Everquest, but its focus was on combat, specifically combat between three realms. It was the first of the RvR models (Realm versus Realm), and it did it really well.
The game was focused on player versus player (pvp), specifically working together with everyone in your own realm to fight another realm, which made it truly unique.
The problem for the game was that its content was really lacking. While it did a lot of things right that corrected things Everquest had done wrong (and the list is too vast to get into for this type of post), it didn’t make the game any more interesting over the long run. I’m one of those people who likes to explore a game to find unique things and discover the undiscoverable. DAOC focused on combat, and that was pretty much it. By the time they started releasing expansions, so many of us had already moved onto another game.
There’s really no way to get through an article like this without mentioning the elephant in the room, and that’s World of Warcraft. I played this game for almost as many years as I played each of Ultima Online and Everquest. No other game has actually come along that has replaced those three as the games I’ve played most, although I sure wish one would.
World of Warcraft came along at a time when a new game was needed and people were bored of the games they had been playing. What it did was take all of the models of previous games and did them better. Historically, that’s been the story of WoW. They haven’t done anything all that innovative, but they did what everyone else did, incorporated those ideas into their own, and then made them feel like they were brand new and fresh. That’s a pretty rare talent for a gaming company to do, and this isn’t a criticism against the game or its developers, but a straight out commendation. It also added humor to the mix, which was sorely lacking in previous titles. Sometimes, it even made fun of itself, which was a major part of its expansion Cataclysm, in which you started running across non player characters who were created to be very much like some of the really bad players who inhabit these types of games.
The problem with World of Warcraft is that it just got old. It’s been around for a decade or so now, and as many expansions as they’ve done, the world has never really gotten that much more interesting. The story line still makes little sense and appears to be written by amateur fantasy writers who read a couple of dungeon and dragons books, played a couple of games of Diablo (also by the same company) and then figured that really complicated story lines would totally fazzle the player base and then went with that. Every time the story line hits a point where I find myself having to pay attention, I want to throw my computer through the window, as they’ve had to doctor the story premise so many times to somehow make sense to the theme park they’ve created behind their original ideas.
As to why I left, well, you can only do the exact same thing so many times before you’re just not going to want to do it again. That’s the point I hit with WoW. It was a great game for its time, but instead of focusing on a new expansion to their overdone world, I wish they’d just develop a completely different world. But I get it that accountants run their business, not game developers, so the chances of that happen instead are slim to none.
A couple of other games that came in during this period of time that I played and didn’t give much more time than jump in and out were Earth & Beyond, a space exploration story that once you explored everything left absolutely no game to play beyond that. There was Wahammer Online (which was just an updated version of Dark Age of Camelot and not much more fun). Everquest 2 also came along at this time, and while it was interesting, nothing about it really caused me to want to dedicate much time to it. The grouping dynamic of mobs also really annoyed me, and I started to feel the game was designed for grouping only, cutting up the original world that housed Everquest and dumbed it down.
Then, of course, there was the albatross known as Star Wars Galaxies, which gave players the opportunity to explore the Star Wars universe, set during the time between Episode IV and Episode V. Why? I’m not really sure. Originally, it was hailed as between Episode 1 and 2 (before the prequels were announced), but even then it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense.
The game was original in that Everquest way, in that it had absolutely no story line whatsoever. Sure, you knew the Empire hated the rebels and all that, but there was absolutely nothing for you to contribute to the story whatsoever. Oh, Princess Leia might asked you to go kill a bunch of Empire dudes, but the reasons would be random, and the purpose behind it somewhat lacking. What was intriguing about it was to build entire towns and such in their universe. What sucked about it was that once you did, it didn’t really make any difference.
Over the years, the developers kept trying to figure out how to stop people from leaving the game. One of their horrible decisions was to completely change the interface of the game so that it was a lot more like a first person shooter. Really dumb idea. Then they decided to revamp the entire idea of the game, making it into a “you, too, can be a jedi” in a world where the jedi were now extinct, which made even less sense. The only thing they didn’t do (and I might be wrong on this) was add elves, which used to be my joke about how you know an MMO is about to close shop. In the end, they did close shop, and the experiment that was Star Wars Galaxies ended for good.
After this, there were all sorts of games that came out that were dedicated to specific intellectual properties, like Lord of the Rings Online, The Matrix Online, The Clone Wars Online, The Sims Online, and more others than I could possibly remember at this particular time. The problem with most of them was that they were very limited in their worlds, which made it very difficult to continue to wanting to play them. The former example, Lord of the Rings Online, actually was one of those universes I invested a lot of time in, before leaving it and then coming back to it again, but the second time around what mainly kept me invested in the game was that I had a lot of friends still in the game, so it seemed worth signing onto it. When they slowly left to other games, the game became less fun to want to sign into.
Which brings me to another Star Wars property, and that’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. Up until very recently, I was playing a lot of this game. I had subscribed to it when it first came out, but got bored with it and then went back to WoW. A few months back, someone recommended it based on all of its updates and changes. It had gone free to play (which means that you can play it for free but if you want some of the stellar features of a game, you end up having to shell out more money than you would have paid if it was never free to play in the first place). I had avoided SWTOR because of that model, having seen how greedy its developers were (and it being EA, I wasn’t all that surprised). But went back I did, and I had fun up until I got bored with it again. There’s only so many variations of “You’re a jedi who is going to save the universe” or “You’re an evil Sith who needs to kill your master and then become the most powerful bad guy in the universe” one can take before finally hanging up the lightsaber.
The current game I’m playing (for now) is Final Fantasy XIV, which is unique for me because to be honest, I’ve never been a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, which I’ve found to be really corny writing. But that’s the one I’m playing right now and slowly the universe within the game is opening up to me. Who knows where I’ll be at the end of this journey, or even how long it might take me to get there?