I Miss The Trains

One of my first, and fondest, memories of MMORPGs is playing Everquest and hearing the screams of “TRAINNNNN!!!!” whilst adventuring in Blackburrow. That word usually meant that you either had to make a very quick exit to the zone line or face death. Ah, how I miss the trains.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, the word “train” was used to describe a stream of mobs (monster or beasts!), forming quite literally a train of evil, chasing a player until they zoned. See, in the original Everquest, mobs never stopped chasing you until you killed them, died, or zoned away. They were like the Terminators of MMOs. They also had an unfortunate habit of being very aggressive and attacking anyone that happened to get in their way which is what made trains so dangerous. If a player was running with a train of creatures chasing him, they would stop and attack everyone they encountered on their path. Fortunately this style of A.I. was quickly phased out in later games.

Train in Steamfront Mountains, Everquest

Train in Steamfront Mountains, Everquest

Trains were usually caused in dungeons when a player or group got in over their heads. Mistime the spawn rate or accidentally aggro a roaming mob and you’d be forced to either die in glorious battle or run for your lives. Players being the cowards that they are *ahem* following their natural instinct for survival tended to opt for the latter and leg it for safety as quickly as possible with little heed of the consequences to others in the zone. Most at least had the courtesy to shout “TRAINNNNN!!!!” when they did it – I even had it as a macro on my hotbar.

So why do I miss those trains? No, I’m not a masochists, I just miss the memories and challenges that they brought. Trains gave players the opportunity to be cowards or to be heroes, to be scared or to be brave. Without trains I wouldn’t have the memories of running for my life through Blackburrow or being miracously saved by some huge Ogre Warrior.

Trains are about creating social interaction and co-operation through challenge. It’s not about making life frustrating for the players (although I dare say it was to some) but rather it’s about creating an element of risk and consequence which in return made our endeavours that much more fulfilling. Without risk, there can be no reward.

So next time you’re running for your life in some dungeon in some virtual world in some MMORPG, stop, think, and try to start a train. Bonus points go to the most inventive scream.

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  1. Longasc says:

    Give Aion a chance. I have two Macros there. ELYOS – ATTACK! and ELYOS – TOO MANY, RUN!

    The RLSG-maneuver (run like a screaming girl) is very dominant in PvP. AND … *DRUMS* … there are trains in the dungeons. Yup, really.

    Dungeon mobs do not lose aggro till you are dead or zoned out from the dungeon. But guys who caused zero aggro, i.e. did not attack, heal or use CC, are ignored by the train.

  2. Kane says:

    Brings a tear to my eye. I didn’t spend much time in EQ1, but helping to save someone from death by train was always a great experience. You right, though, that current MMOs have very little risk to reward. While I’m not saying we need something as punishing as EQ1, something a bir more than WoW or EQ2 would be nice. Hell, I wish their was a resurection quest! Every time you die, you have to do some sort of…I don’t know…retrieval quest? Kill quest? Maybe a combo. Fight off death spirits for your corpse while your a ghost! Something…

  3. Jason says:

    Five monks and a druid, camping the exit and breaking trains in Sebilis. One of my favorite EQ1 memories.

  4. [...] I thought about the issue of fun while reading Gordon’s latest post at We Fly Spitfires entitled I Miss The Trains. Gordon discusses how he misses old-school type trains in EQ1, where a monster would pursue you to [...]

  5. I, too, miss those days. Paludal Caverns in Luclin was my favorite place in the world to hunt for XP, and there was ALWAYS someone training level 30+ mobs on us sub-20s.

    It brought real danger to the game that was entirely based around game mechanics that allowed other players to control (to an extent). I miss the safe haven lots of MMOs have now.

    Oh, and I thought mob was an acronym for “mobile object” from the MUD days. I could be wrong, though.

  6. Brent says:

    Oh how I remember the trains. I played EQ with some guys I worked with, and we’d try to get through Blackburrow or Mistmoore Castle and have so much fun laughing about our misadventures. Our characters would literally be racing for the zone line spamming our “TRAAAAIIIINNN!!!” macros. It was both horrible and hilarious all at the same time.

    Its much easier for me to look back fondly at the train mechanic than it is for me to look at the naked corpse run mechanic. No good stories were told of the times we sat around looking for higher level players to help us recover our corpses because we simply could not continue playing the game until we did so. Ah EQ…

  7. Gnomeaggedon says:

    I get the chance to play a coward every day in WoW… I play a Mage… I run or die…

  8. Ramon says:

    If you’re feeling nostalgic, give Shards of Dalaya a try (http://www.shardsofdalaya.com), it’s like classic EQ, only much improved :) Even when server population drops below 100, I still usually see people running about in random outdoor zones. The world is much more compact. Trains can also happen here, especially in Blackburrow, and it’s great fun to see some high-level wizard on the way to Everfrost AoE’ing everything to death with one spell at the BB zone towards Centaur Hills.

    That said, I think you found a nice gameplay mechanic there: Feeling heroic by defending random strangers. EQ had a lot of interactions like that. In modern MMOs, you are usually alone, doing quest after quest until max level. If you do happen to meet some other human, they probably wouldn’t dream of helping you when you’re in trouble.

    I’m speaking of the-game-which-must-not-be-name, of course. Some other games seem to have more mature audiences; I think there, a “save the guy/girl and get some reward” type of game mechanic would work. Thoughts?

  9. Dblade says:

    FFXI had legendary trains. It wasn’t unheard of to get 15-20 mobs all capable of stomping a level 75 player each following a fleeing party, and a lot of the older zones you could get killed easily by returning mobs, with no escape unless you managed to evac before the mobs got back to you.

    However though it made it really a dice toss to actually play. Parties would just disband because they couldn’t party safely due to accidental or malicious trains. So its a mixed blessing. They fixed the train issue, and the “mpk patch” is still an issue of contention today.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, trains can become a little extreme. There’s a infamous bard in EQ (forget his name) who tried to get himself banned by just repeatedly training people in the Oasis. It was a nightmare for everyone trying to play.

      • Dblade says:

        One of the bad sides was that RMT would also use trains to kill off players competing for named monsters in a zone, and one of them was a giant scorpion called Serket in the basement of one of the zones. However in that same basement level 50s often partied and got the fallout. One of my memories of that time was that the RMT pulled Serket over us.

        Literally over. Serket is not the largest NM Scorpion there, but she is large enough to where your head will brush against her underbelly. The RMT pulled her right over our party, and we died in short order, until other players tried to train the RMT back to steal claim from them. That zone had a hideous rep in those days.

  10. This reminds me so much of my days playing MUDs. The same thing would happen but mobs would chase you everywhere. Literally, there was no escaping them unless they were killed. They’d stalk you into the safe zones and glower at you “with utter hatred.” The same thing with ghosts. On one hand, it was annoying because they’d find you next time you left the safe zone and engage you. On the other, it made you think a little bit more before taking on a mob that might be too tough for you. Plus, it was nice for the community interaction when you had to ask other people for help.

  11. Rivs says:

    BAH DAOC had he best trains!

  12. Ferrel says:

    I really miss trains as well. It all comes down to the fact that in EQ1 players actually acted in a way that slightly mimicked real life. Death was to be avoided at all costs. Even if that cost meant killing many others to save your sorry hide.

    These days the fear of death just isn’t present in MMOs. It is a minor annoyance at best and it changes the way we play and act. Now we’re more like teenagers who have no real concept of mortality. “Yeah guys, it sounds like an awesome idea to jump our bikes from one building to another with nothing more than a plank, three cinder blocks and a dream.”

    • Gordon says:

      Very true. And without an element of risk, there can be no reward.

      Things is, I think it’s perfectly possible to make MMOs that are both accessible and casual yet still have an element of challenge and risk to them. Just because I don’t want to grind for 7 hours to get from level 9 to 10 doesn’t mean I don’t want trains :)

  13. Gordon says:

    Ah here’s the Bard I was thinking of – Fansy!


    Thanks for Psychochild for the link :)

  14. Main reason why most of my toons never reached lvl 18 in EQ 1!! Black Burrow with its legendary “TRAIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiN” shouts!!!

    I remember my first train shout!
    That time I played a Human Paladin (totally blind at night and in early hours even more confused where I ended up running in the dark…)
    So by accident I found the entrance to Black Burrow and was fascinated! All of a sudden I read “TRAIN” and had no clue what the heck was going on…A few seconds of wondering I saw 6-9 guys running to the zone line with millions (as it seemed to me) gnolls chasing them! Of cause I was to slow and got killed.
    Next time I entered BB I was walking down the path to the slightly more powerful gnolls and read “TRAAAAIIIIIIN”. So I paniced and decided (clever as I was) to hide in the tree close to the edge where the pit was (if you remember that spot) Well, that “tree” was a fake/ trap or whatever and I fell down into the pit where I got attacked by LOADS of other angry gnolls!!! Of cause it was my death and I really cant remember how I managed it to get my corpse down there!!! Hahaha!!
    Hilarious I tell you!!!

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe yeah, good memories :) I have to say that I found the whole night vision thing really difficult for a human. Maybe they changed it after a few years because I don’t remember it being so bad later on but initially I remember getting lost constantly. For example, that tunnel in between Surefall Glade and Qeynos Glade was impossible to navigate!

  15. oh damn yeah I remember lol!!!
    And in Qeynos Hills I always had the wandering landmark called Guard Nash who roamed between the cross roads and the tower…I night I just waited for him to walk by and followed him for not getting lost!! haha

  16. Dickie says:

    Used to happen all the time in FFXI as well. A lot of groups would try to stay as close to the zone lines just for that reason. It was …. well, it was a memory, not sure if it’s good or bad ;)

  17. Blue Kae says:

    I don’t miss trains at all. Trains along with XP loss from death, grinding mobs for XP, and forced grouping were all reasons I burned out on EQ and moved on to DAoC. I think the last straw for me was losing a level in the forests west of Freeport because I was repeatedly getting killed by the griffon that wandered there as I kept trying to loot my corpse. Of course, I’m as a gamer, I’m interested in experiencing content not over coming challenges.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, trains were no doubt the cause of a lot of frustrating. Personally I like EQ2’s idea of having overland zones as solo only and dungeons (open or instanced) as group content. It gives a nice divide to the player and keeps things simple. Plus it means the solo content can be more friendly and the group content more challenging.

  18. One of my favorite EQ1 memories.

  19. Ninja says:

    I miss trains as well! Sometimes, it was both scary and hilarious when you saw players running and a huge stream of monsters chasing. Lots of players got killed along the way. Sure, you get frustrated but at the same time you have to chuckle a little bit.

    It sure is funny to see that many monsters hellbent on killing those players! XD

    I can’t remember the name of the game. But, there was an online game where you could lure monsters into the city and they could cause chaos. You could also try and attack the
    shop keepers but they were practically immortal and would chase you forever.

    Some, old MUDs had rooms where players normally entered when logging in….nasty and sneaky players would lock a monster into such a room or a nearby room….

    I love it when games (whether online or not) have it where the monsters are fighting each other. Or, when you can lure NPCs into encountering and fighting monsters.

    MUDs were crazy, notorious for players exploiting the open nature of the world and the vicious AI of the NPCs and monsters. Nowadays, MMOs are becoming more restrictive and less freedom. Well, of course most players don’t like sneaky game play.

    But, I miss the 100% PK MUDs where you can also steal from other players. Those MUDs often made one had more adrenaline and a fear factor that no survival horror game came emulate. XD Even if you were a master pkiller. Players would gang up on you. The irony is that is what Pkillers want! Made it fun to be notorious. Ah, the insults one would get. Players take it too seriously.

    I wish MMOs were more competitive. Most aren’t anymore. Most are too safe. Whether it be the train issue….or pkilling. Very few allow one to do as much as possible. It would be so much fun to have a MMO where you can play a totally chaotic character.

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