Good Riddance To These Game Mechanics Of Yesterday

I loved the original EQ UI. The small viewport made concentrating on the action so much easier.

I loved the original EQ UI. The small viewport made concentrating on the action so much easier.

Let’s face it, most veteran MMORPG old-timers love to sit around virtual fireplaces and reminisce about the good old days and how everything 10 years ago was so much more rewarding, challenging and sensual (OK, maybe I’m the only one who felt that way). Nostaligia is a powerful thing and I’m guilty of giving into its dreamy whims on occasion too but here’s a list of a few MMO game mechanics that I’m definitely glad to see the back off. Not surprisingly most of them are from Everquest.

Sense Heading

When Everquest first came out there was no in-game map system so the developers came up with an utterly brilliant way of compensating for that fact. Instead of, y’know, just giving us maps, they allowed all characters to train the skill of Sense Heading because apparently being able to magically determine what direction you’re facing is far more realistic than the ancient art of cartography.

Like all Pros I soon learnt the clever trick of binding my Sense Heading command to my move forward key and thus was eternally bombarded with the words “You have no idea what direction you’re facing”. Eventually the magical Wizards of Norrath developed the compass and all were happy across the realm.

Item Weight

Items have weight. Logical. People can only carry so much weight until they become encumbered. Logical. Monks have their fighting skills lowered proportionally by the weight of their possessions. Not so logical and not very bloody fair.

Out of all of the mechanics that are used to enhance our sense of realism, item weight isn’t a bad one I’ll give you that, but it was incredibly frustrating nonetheless. It was bad enough not being able to carry anything as a puny Mage while the Ogre Warrior ninja looted until his heart was content but penalising Monks who went over a minuscule weight limit was sheer lunacy. Play a Monk in Everquest and prepare to be poor. Until, of course, you can afford a magical bag with 100% weight reduction. Which you won’t. ‘Cause you can’t loot anything to start with.

Darkness

Hello darkness, my old friend. I’m so glad I can see the world at night now. Having to equip a torch in my second hand slot just so I could see three feet in front of me was a huge pain in the arse. Especially when I died in a cave somewhere and leaving my torch on my body (silly me) and thus had absolutely no hope in hell of ever finding my corpse. Oh well, at least I’ve got an in-game map and a compass to help…. d’oh.

Weapon Skill Levels

OK, so technically this still exists in most MMOs… but not for long. Cataclysm is going to see the removal of all weapon skill levels from World of Warcraft and no doubt new MMOs will follow suit. Not that I’m particularly sorry to see the mechanic go as the idea of of having to level up skills to become more proficient at a weapon is contrary to the design of most theme park MMOs but undoubtedly many people will cry foul play and cite it as an example of Blizzard dumbing down the game again. And they’d probably be right.

Have you got any old game mechanics that you’re glad are gone?

-Gordon

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52 Comments

  1. scrappa says:

    maybe im just a grumpy veteran but I liked those features – i found them endearing. to this day i miss these more hardcore features in the cookie cutter mmos. i mean if most modern mmos are based off EQ anyways, they’re all really just lesser versions of the original with minor refinements.

    • Gordon says:

      The line between creating a sense of realism and plain frustrating is a very thin one. I played EQ for 6 years and loved it utterly but I’m not sure I could ever go back to a game as unforgiving as it was.

  2. Klepsacovic says:

    Very short duration buffs. Somehow Blizzard thought blessings would be some sort of tactical decision, failing to realize that there’s generally a best buff, and we’d always want it, so a duration of 5 minutes is obnoxious.

  3. Carson says:

    I guess you won’t be rushing to play Mortal Online, then, Gordon? I seem to recall it implements most or all of these “features”, and the developers are very proud of them, too. :-)

  4. Stabs says:

    One of the worst experiences for me was trying DAOC in 2007. I had missed this game first time round and I thought it would make a great replacement for WoW after I’d burned out for the first time.

    I pootled around doing some quests until I got one that sent me to a cave. North of the village. Now north of the village covered an area about half the size of The Barrens and I dutifully went off hunting. Couldn’t find it. Logged off in disappointment.

    Logged back on the next day feeling determined. Searched every inch of the north part of the zone for 3 hours. Would have found a freaking rabbit hole had it been in the north part of the zone. Logged off in disgust.

    Logged on the next day. Decided to hunt for it online. Read strat sites for about an hour before finally getting a clue in the comments of some ancient wiki that pointed me to the solution.

    You see when they used the word “North” what they actually meant was a compass direction about 1 degree above due West. Not N, not NW, not even WNW but WWWWWNWWWWW.

    It was at that point I realised I could never play an old-fashioned MMO again.

    • Jason says:

      That’s more a fault with the quest text than the game design. “North” is a perfectly valid direction to give if the thing being sought is actually North and not West.

      • Stabs says:

        It’s just an example of a problem that crops up over and over in games designed that way.

        Quest text either contains mistakes or is misleading or the zone was redesigned after the quest text is written. I found examples in every game in the mid 2000s including several in WoW.

        • Jason says:

          Even so, that’s a QA problem (and QA is something nearly every game spends too little on) not a design problem. The design that quest text tells you where to go and what to do isn’t flawed, the implementation is improperly tested before release.

          And bad QA is not something we’ve moved beyond yet.

    • Gordon says:

      I’m far too impatience for quest text reading so big aroows and map locations are perfect for me. I just like to smash stuff. In fact, I liked how EQ had almost no worthwhile quests at all! Kept things simple :) Grouping was far more fun anyway.

      • Jason says:

        EQ had plenty of worthwhile quests. I know by “worthwhile” you mean the experience and/or item rewards, and I mean being fun to figure out and do. People always like to point out EQ’s lack of quests, but truth be told, I played for 6 years and in that time there was never a day I wasn’t on a quest of some sort. I’ve yet to do a single quest in WoW, they are all tasks.

        Besides, EQ, by the time of Velious and Planes of Power, had plenty of quests with great item rewards.

        • Gordon says:

          That’s a very good point actually. In terms of what we think of as questing now, EQ totally sucked but when you put it like you did, yes it did actually have a lot of very worthwhile (and more engaging) ones. I loved doing the Iksar illusion quest with my Enc and the epic quest for my Rogue! I think I actually prefer that style of questing than just using it as an exp grind.

  5. I’ve never played Everquest, but my husband has. Reading some of these, it’s no wonder he curls up in a little ball and cries in a corner whenever I bring up wanting to try it :P

  6. I like weapon skill levels… just not in the Diku model :P

  7. Andrew says:

    Trope of old MMOs that I don’t miss: Hotbar combat…… on no, wait – that particular pile of crap still infests MMOs. :(

  8. Espoire says:

    @Andrew

    What pile of crap would you have replace it? As I see it, that system can mimic any other given the correct actions to put on it.

  9. Tesh says:

    I’m glad the combat trinity is behind us… er, never mind.

  10. Rhii says:

    Encumbrance is the one that really stands out to me.

    I went back and played oblivion again (not an mmo, I know, but ergh) and while the game is still wonderfully captivating…

    Just give me a g@#$d#$% bag and limit me to what fits inside. Don’t freeze me in place until I’ve decided whether I want to throw away my repair hammers or my health pots.

  11. Jason says:

    Of your listed four…

    Sense Heading was lame, but I did actually like having no maps. I liked exploring and not knowing where I was going. I liked making my own maps (and discovering my inaccuracies).

    Item Weight made complete sense, even for monks, in the beginning. Remember, in the original design of EQ, a monk was about 80% effective when naked, unlike other classes that needed to keep a spare set of gear in the bank for corpse runs, and their bare fists were the best weapons in the game when they got to higher levels. Eventually, that changed and monks became as gear reliant as everyone else, which is why weight reduction bags became so prevalent, even player crafted.

    Darkness… I miss night and day. I miss dark dungeons. Now, the sky gets stars and turns blue/black, but my viewable distance never changes. The shadows shift but never become concealing. Hello Darkness, my old friend… where have you gone?

    Now… Weapon Skill Levels I will agree with… in a game with character levels. Skill levels belong in skill based games, not class based ones.

    I’m trying to think of mechanics I’m glad are gone, but mostly I keep thinking of new ones that have driven me away from MMOs instead.

    • Gordon says:

      No maps was fine but it just meant that most players downloaded them off websites. I, for instance, and a folder full of maps printed off from EQAtlas. When players start finding ways around game mechanics then there’s something wrong with the design of the mechanic, I reckon.

      Item weight was just a bit weird especially as item size was never taken into account :)

      Darkness I do kinda miss actually because it’s was fun when spells like Ultravision and native racial abilities to see at night were an important factor. The problem is though that it makes new player experiences a lot harder becaues you can end up getting completely lost whereas veteran players will have lightstones and spells to negate the affect completely.

      • Jason says:

        Even when people downloaded maps, most people who played EQ came to know the game and where to go… games with built in maps never attain that level. People think, “game has map, no need to learn” and their brain shuts off. 6 years of WoW later and I know people who still can’t find the banks in cities they play in nearly every day… those same people learned the mazes of EQ cities by heart.

      • Lorenzo says:

        Actually I rather enjoyed having the out of game maps (granted an in game map would have been the same had it now shown your exact location). With the out of game maps you had to use them like you would an actual map and hope you were where you thought you were. I remember having a /loc hotkey I would use to navigate as I made my way around holding up a map much like I used in RL before GPS :P

  12. Peter says:

    Ok so I think I can make sense of why monks would do better without any gear. We have to think logically. Basically monks give up all of there worldly possessions so logically a Monk with all of his possessions would not be as devout therefore making him less powerful. That is how I logically see the whole monk thing.

  13. boatorious says:

    Yes! Please no more item weights ever, or skill levels that aren’t tied to something that’s actually fun to level.

    I’m glad death penalties are pretty much gone now. Missing out on the action for 40 seconds is punishment enough if your game is fun, which it always should be.

    I would say forced grouping, but instead I’ll say forced grouping the way it is always implemented in MMOs. I am “forced” to group in every multiplayer fps I play, but in those games it tends to be awesome, instead of the stressful time-wasting mess it always is in MMOs.

    • Gordon says:

      Death penalities and forced grouping are tough ones and I didn’t include them in this list because they’re actually two mechanics I like.

      Death, I believe, should be scary and strike fear into the player otherwise it’s pointless. The problem is that WoW’s penalty is probably too inconsequential to mean anything.

      Forced groupgin… well that’s tough. Technically even WoW does it because if you want any decent items then you’ve got a group. I think the balance has to be struck so the user always has the option to solo but it’s never as rewarding as grouping.

  14. Ferrel says:

    I walls all ready to come in for a rose colored glasses argument here today! Unfortunately you listed some fairly lame stuff.

    I like the lack of maps myself. At least in the sense of just giving you everything. I think you should be able to find bits and pieces through play and put a map together. There shouldn’t be a way to just import a bunch of text and then have everything. That lets you explore.

    I also kind of dig the darkness. It adds a lot to the mood and feel. Unfortunately the way it was done in EQ1 wasn’t stellar and just punished the “humans” without them getting much in the way of real benefits.

    • Gordon says:

      As I replied to Jason’s comment, I kinda liked them too (if I’m being totally honest). The problems are though that once people start finding maps offline then the reason for excluding them in-game because pointless. Likewise with darkness… if every veteran player has a way to negating it’s affect then what’s the point of having it? All it does is punish the newbie who can’t afford a decent light source :)

      • Jason says:

        Don’t use the word punish. That’s disingenuous. It’s not as if the veterans weren’t once blind newbies too. In fact, the newbies have it easier than they do because other players know the solution to the problem, they just need to ask… only, people don’t chat much in game anymore, they use spoiler sites. Lame.

        • Gordon says:

          Punish is too strong true, but you know what I mean. It’s counter-intuitive to the standard progressive learning curve and concept of challenge. Games should start off easy and get harder, not the other way round (which is how it seems in most MMOs). Plus, you want to be able to attract players and not put them off because they can never find their corpse when they die :P It also seems silly to create mechanics which become meaningless after a certain point in a player’s life. I actually think something like darkness would work more if there was no way to permenantly circumvent it and render it obsolete. If it was designed to affect higher level players only (maybe night time isn’t a problem but the tough dungeons are so dark you can’t see far which adds to the difficultly) and add to the challenge of the game then yeah, I’d be all for it.

  15. Scarybooster says:

    I’ll miss grouping. Soon MMOs will be “Public Grouping” systems. There will be no need for guilds or chat systems after that. You will pay $20 a month and have cash shops to play in a virtual “single player” game.

    Ever wonder why the new games coming out feel so empty. Ever hear anybody complain that they quit game X because nobody talked. MMOs are slowly going that way. GW2 public quests, TOR, DCUO. and many more are adding systems to remove the traditional grouping system

    • Gordon says:

      Indeed. The big issue I feel is not that there’s no forced grouping but rather that soloing is too rewarding. If grouping was 100% more efficient for leveling up then it would be the preference of choice for most players.

      Companion characters… that’s almost another blog post :) I will say though that I thought the point of them in single player RPGs was to make up for the lack of other human players so why do they exist in MMOs?!

      • Numtini says:

        Making grouping more efficient than soloing is pretty much the definition of forced grouping though. If you make it significantly better, it becomes a required minimum.

        I’ve always preferred forced grouping with easy options to find groups and sufficient activities for when one is seeking a group. EQ2 a few years in was excellent for this. I could easily find groups in the level range based channels, but if things were slow I could set up quests or craft. It’s when you sit on your bottom shouting for a group that things are horrible.

        Also, when I think of groups, I think of groups of people you will see again and have some sense of community with. I enjoyed WoW grouping up to 3.3/dungeon finder at which point I emotionally disconnected. I’m never going to see these people again, I can’t build a rep for being a good player, what’s the point–it’s the hassle of grouping with mouthbreathers combined with the social isolation of playing alone.

        • Gordon says:

          “Making grouping more efficient than soloing is pretty much the definition of forced grouping though.”

          I would disagree with that because technically forced means (or at least the way I interpret it) that there is quite literary no other way to progress. What you’re talking about is really incentivised grouping which I’m for all for. In the original EQ, for example, there was absolutely no way for most classes to solo after about level 10 and thus you couldn’t even leave a city without a group. I’d like EQ2’s model in which soloing was totally possibly but grouping was a lot faster and more efficent.

  16. kaozz says:

    I still play and I am glad to see those gone. Sense heading and the weight burden were very annoying. When I first started I was always lost and always over burdened. I remember running over bump in the ‘road’ and dying (fall dmg) because I forgot I had all my monies on me!

    While I do like to reminisce about the good ol’ days some of those things I really don’t miss!

  17. Jonathan B says:

    My only MMO experience really is DDO, so some of these things are mysteries to me. I do think companion characters serve a purpose in DDO at least (hirelings in that parlance). They let those who don’t LIKE to group do their solo thing, as well as those having trouble finding a group for the particular quest they want to do. This is particularly so in the early levels, where your squishy types often have difficulty surviving solo.

    Most of the time, I go for a group because a) I like the interaction and b) most content past the start requires a group for most classes. But grinding at early levels, it’s sometimes easier to just grab a hireling and plunge through the initial quests to get leveled up to at least 3 or 4.

    In DDO, you do have the option to just skip the initial newbie quest line after the first time one of your characters go through it. The trade-off being you get the basic starter gear but no XP and no loot. Some players do the skip just so they’re able to group with others who’ve completed it, then come back and run the korthos island quests to level.

  18. nugget says:

    1kg bandages forever! XD

  19. Charn says:

    One thing that I love now and don’t miss the lack of is, in EQ1 there was NO QUEST JOURNAL! There was no way to even keep track of quests in game. AND there was no way to even know an NPC even OFFERED a quest unless you hailed it, then started typing key words from the NPC’s conversation or even typing other things you had to guess at, have inferred, or know from lore to “get” or progress the quest.

    And you never really GOT a quest, you just talked to an NPC, they told you where to go, things you had to get, mobs you had to kill and, if you wrote it all down then got it all right, you’d go back and they might reward you with an item that might be needed for the next part of the quest and hints of what you had to do next.

    ADD to that you actually had to GIVE the items, physically, to the NPC (opening a trade window with them) and HEAVEN HELP YOU if you gave them the wrong items (or, as in my case, handed them to the wrong NPC in the quest progression) . . . you’d lose the item(s) and had to do it all over again. (At least, later on, they fixed it so you got your items back if they were the wrong items or not ALL of the needed items).

    I LOVE questing now, having played both EQ2 and WoW, but questing was GOD AWFUL in EQ1. Odd for a game CALLED EVERquest . . .

    • Gordon says:

      Yep, it was a nightmare :P I remember following instructions on websites to make sure I gave items in the correct order in case I lost them all! I think they brought out a quest journal around the Planes of Power expansion and it was a very welcome addition even if it just list all of the dialogue from the NPCs you had spoken to.

  20. [...] of articles entitled Old MMO Mechanics that I Like and You Probably Hate (which was inspired by an article at We Fire Spitfires) where I fully realized how much this genre has been so utterly devastated by [...]

  21. dresdor says:

    I miss sandboxes….there don’t seem to be many mainstream ones anymore…and with SWG closing (which I am both happy about and sad at the loss of an open world) there aren’t many left. Eve is close, but even it is seeing a reduction in numbers because of some poor development decisions…

    So in a bit of bittervet rant here’s a mechanic I’ll miss:

    Having to have any level of intelligence or skill to level in an MMO.

  22. [...] } The original interface was completely opaque and took up more than half the screen. Good Riddance To These Game Mechanics Of Yesterday | We Fly Spitfires – MMORPG Blog has a screenshot of it. The left and right columns were always visible, the bottom center 'scroll' [...]

  23. FuFu says:

    Is it sad that I can name a lot of your items? CoF, FBSS, Iksar Shoulderpads, Azure Sleeves, Pretty sure those are the +55 hp rings…Hero Bracers(?) are those the Staff of Wu’s? I can’t really tell…eh thats about all I can remember, kunark era monk gear was pretty standardized.

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